It’s Been A Year: the future of Sarsrose.

summer---landscape_19-128037Today marks the one year anniversary since my first blog post!

What a year it has been! I’ve written 110 posts, received nearly 40,000 views, been followed by over 260 people and been viewed in more countries than I can count.

This has been a big year for me in other ways too. While continuing my teaching job, I’ve also begun writing a book with my senior pastor at church, and launched my website bookclassifications.com. My own book, the project that inspired the launch of this blog, has long been on hold. All in God’s time.

I’ve decided, with all the busyness in my life and my ongoing health problems, that I need to cut back a bit, though I am loathe to let this blog go all together. I’ve decided to take a few weeks off, in which I will re-post some of my posts from the last year that were either favourites of my readers, or favourites of mine. Following that I will reduce my postings to one per week.

I have so enjoyed my time in the blogging community and have appreciated so many of you who have faithfully read my posts, liked, commented and shared your lives with me.

I would love to have some feedback on what you have liked about my blog, what you have not liked so much, and what you would like to see in the future.

I hope you have a very blessed Easter,

Love,

Sarah

What I learnt at my first Passover

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Last night was Passover. The full moon shone on me as I drove across the city to the home of a man I’d never met. A friend of mine had invited me to come and share Passover with a group of her Israeli friends, and I happily accepted.

As I drove, I felt the weight of what I was about to do. I was about to participate in a ceremony that has been passed down generation after generation for thousands of years; a ceremony instituted by the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; a feast steeped in tradition, but not just any tradition, tradition that is close to my heart because of the people who carry it and the God who gave it.

When I arrived, I was (strangely) expecting Australians with a bit of Jewish heritage. I got Israelis. I was instantly captivated by the elegantly set table, and the babble of Hebrew language around me. They were fabulously friendly, and quickly welcomed me, an outsider, into their circle.

Close to 9pm everyone had arrived and we sat around the long table and began the Passover feast. For the first half hour, we didn’t eat. We read in Hebrew from a book (reading right to left) that fortunately had English translations. Sometimes they asked me to read it for them in English and then exclaimed in delight over and over about how good my English was and how great it sounded.

Sometimes they sang the lines in Hebrew, quite disharmoniously, and everyone would laugh and argue and say ‘stop, it’s my turn!’ It was quite clear at times that they had no idea what they were doing, but we ploughed on until finally we were allowed to eat something. First a stick of celery (bitter herbs- not sure of the connection) and then some unleavened bread with raw Chinese cabbage and a ball of what tasted like walnuts mixed with dates and spices.

After the first lot of formalities were finished (we’d passed wine, dipped wine, broken bread, hidden bread, sung and read, all with a good amount of laughter and shouting) we could finally eat the meal. There was fish in a buttery garlic sauce, and eggplant with tahini. We ate potato salad, tuna salad and green salad, and some kind of mince wrapped in onions. We ate and talked and ate and argued and eventually everyone was full. Some people went outside to smoke and others started to clean up. The rest of the ceremony was forgotten as people lay on couches and ate fruit. The rest of the ‘cups’ were never drunk, and the hidden bread was never found. And that was that.

I’m pretty sure that as far as Passovers go, mine wasn’t particularly ‘Kosher.’ But I did learn a couple of things:

First, I’d somehow always imagined that everyone in every other religion was devout. I knew it wasn’t strictly true, but I’d kind of believed that Christianity was really the only one that had multitudes of people who claimed it by name, but really had no idea what it was about.

These people were certainly Jewish. They had Jewish mothers and Israeli citizenship, but I didn’t get the impression that they really understood what they were doing. They knew I was a Christian and assumed I had been born that way and were confused when I said that my belief system was basically Jewish except that I believed that Jesus was the Messiah. I’m not convinced that some of them realized that they were waiting for a Messiah.

The second thing I learnt was that Jesus was so much more the Messiah than I’d ever realized before.
The Jews are (supposed) to drink 4 cups at Passover. The first is called the Cup of Sanctification, the second the Cup of Judgement or Deliverance the third the Cup of Redemption and the fourth, the Cup of Restoration.
When Jesus was celebrating Passover with his disciples, he came to the third cup and said ‘This is my blood.’ His blood was our redemption. He then said that he would no longer drink of the fruit of the vine until he drank it with his disciples in His father’s kingdom. He didn’t drink the fourth cup. Restoration was still to come.

At the beginning of the Passover ceremony, three pieces of unleavened bread are taken. The middle one is broken in two. Half is placed back between the original two, and the other half is wrapped up and hidden away somewhere in the house, for the children to find later. While this may be a somewhat strange ritual for the Jew, for the Christian the depth of the meaning is amazing. When Jesus broke the bread he said ‘This is my body.’ He is the second piece of bread between three, broken and hidden away.

My experience of Passover is limited to a rather unorthodox rendition of the feast. It didn’t have the weight of tradition and sanctity that I was expecting, but to me it was profound.

I may disagree with them on my most fundamental of beliefs, but I have a deep respect for these Jewish people, who, sometimes without even knowing it, have faithfully passed on and preserved the laws and traditions of the God who led them out of Egypt. These are the same people, and the same God, who brought forth our Messiah, so that we, irrespective of race, may be brought into the family of God. May they one day see their Saviour for who He truly is: Their Passover lamb, the broken bread and the cup of redemption.

Why I travel as much in books as I do on planes

granada-alhambra_19-137430When it comes to traveling, there’s nothing quite like the real thing.

The experiences that you gain stay with you for life. The dingiest of hotels, the smelliest of trains and the most bizarre experiences become part of the fabric of who you are, growing only more legendary with time.

It seems strange then, that I’d even consider comparing my ‘book traveling’ with my ‘real traveling.’ But I can. As a traveler, I’ve stood before the Eiffel tower, seen Mount Everest and floated in the Dead Sea, but each of these things had one thing in common: I experienced them as me. And I’ll tell you something, being me is pretty ordinary. I’ve done it my whole life; it’s not very magical.

That’s why when I travel through books I travel as much as I do on planes. In books I’ve raised my children in Paris and lived in war-ravaged Kabul. I’ve been an early Australian pioneer, and I’ve risen from the deepest slums of India. I may not have lived their lives in reality, but through them, I’ve experienced much more than I ever could have on my own.reading_28819

And the marriage of the two is perfect, because as I walk down the cobblestone streets of Düsseldorf, I feel the shadow of a woman over me. As she glances into a shop window, I sense her fear that the Nazi’s grip is growing tighter and it becomes more than just a town, and I am more than just me.

Jesus didn’t come from Burnside

Every city, I imagine, has their ‘posh’ and ‘derelict’ areas. In my city, one of the most stereotypically posh suburbs is Burnside. This is where housing prices exceed a million dollars, people drive Mercedes and shop at the ‘Burnside Village.’ Living in Burnside is a symbol of success.

About thirty kilometers to the north of Burnside lie a collection of suburbs with the worst reputations in the whole city. Rather than Mercedes and foie gras, these suburbs are stereotypically known for beat up Commodores, crime and drug abuse. There’s a lot of socioeconomic stigma surrounding the northern suburbs, as if not much good could come from there.beautiful-home-interior-picture-material_38-6251

The other day in Church, one of our pastors reminded us that people said that of Jesus’ home. “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” they asked, surprised that the Messiah would originate from such a place. And it hit me: Jesus didn’t come from Burnside.

If my city took the place of ancient Israel, Jesus would have come from the northern suburbs. He came and dwelt amongst those who could most clearly see their need for him. He came to those who were broken. He came to give grace to the humble, and he opposed the proud.

It’s easy for the wealthy to imagine that Jesus would have been just like them. That he would have lived amongst them, and seen the world through their eyes. But He didn’t. He saw it through his Father’s eyes, and the father looked at the heart, not the suburb.

Do you keep promises to yourself?

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We all love people we can trust. As a kid, I could always trust my dad to keep his promises. He’d even keep promises he hadn’t officially made. Sometimes in the morning, we’d ask him, “Dad, can we go for a bike ride tonight when you get home from work?” He’d inevitably respond with some variant of “We’ll see” but more often than not, when he got home, he’d tell mum “I promised the kids I’d go bike riding with them tonight.”

Things like that have a lasting impact on kids. You respect people whom you can trust. But can you trust yourself?

I was talking to my class this week about goal setting. It is often the case that in order to get to where you want to be in life, you have to have a plan. But more important than having a plan, is having the ability to stick to it.

I asked the students: If you promise yourself that you’re going to do something, do you actually do it?

Making promises to myself is something that I take pretty seriously. It’s hard to respect a person who doesn’t deliver on their word, so how can we have self-respect if we’re constantly letting ourselves ‘off the hook’ when we’ve previously determined to do something?

If you want to be a trustworthy person, you’ve got to keep your promises, and not just those you make to other people. If you tell yourself you’re going to do something, do it!

Are you really anti-abortion, or are you just trying to sell products?

Dear Elevit,

I was surprised the other day, as I was watching TV, to come across your advertisement for Elevit with Iodine.

So much of what we see in the media plays down the value of life in the womb, and it does so because that’s what people want. They want to feel like abortion is okay. They want to feel like it’s not really a person in there, that it is scientifically ‘just tissue’ and that they, therefore, have the right to choose what happens to their body. They want to feel that way, because life is tough, and sometimes things happen, and they want a way out that doesn’t come laden with guilt and shame.

So that’s normally what they give us.

Which is why, Elevit, I was surprised by your ad. This is how it began: “When you’re trying to get pregnant, by the time you find out you are, a little person is already coming to life…”

Hang on. ‘Before you know you’re pregnant.’ So that’s within, what, the first six weeks since conception? And you’re saying it’s already a little person? That’s a big call Elevit, a big call.

And I’d commend you, except I’m wondering this: Do you really believe that, or are you just trying to sell tablets to women who are ‘trying to get pregnant?’

Because sometimes I wonder whether we change the meaning of the word ‘person’ and ‘life’ to suit our agenda. And that’s not cool with me.

When Richard Dawkins admits the possiblity of intelligent design…

882672_81892904Some time ago I watched a fascinating documentary by Ben Stein about the shocking prejudice existent in universities around the world towards scholars and professors who believe in intelligent design. (Here’s the link for part one of Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed )

What astonished me more than anything in the entire film, was when Stein interviewed Richard Dawkins, the world’s most prominent atheist.

Dawkins’ answer to one of humanity’s biggest questions regarding the origin of life was both refreshingly and shockingly honest. While ‘science’ allows us to believe they can explain the existence of the universe apart from God, Dawkins brought to light this fundamental truth. THEY HAVE NO IDEA HOW LIFE BEGAN!

When questioned, Dawkins had to concede that it is possible that life on earth may have been designed by another life form of very high intelligence, and that evidence for that designer could be found.small

He did go on to qualify that (as he does not believe in any god) this supremely intelligent life form must have somehow evolved (only moving the problem back a step.)

Either way it seems that modern science can offer us these two things about the origins of life: That they have no idea how it actually came about, and that intelligent design is a plausible option that would answer a lot of questions.

What a shame that people who believe in the latter are condemned as un-scholarly, when all that remains for the ‘scholars’ to cling to is the former.

Here is the 2min clip in which Dawkins accepts the option of intelligent design.

Ducks Don’t Need Satellites

smallThere’s a song I really like by Kate Miller-Heidke called ‘Ducks Don’t Need Satellites.’ Weird name for a song I know, and the lyrics don’t do much to redeem it from obscurity, but despite that, or maybe because of it, it really resonates with me.

She croons that ‘ducks don’t need satellites… they probably don’t know they’re up there… they most likely think the sky ends blue.’

When I need to pray about something that is really weighing on me, I take a walk down by the river near my house. I sit on a footbridge and look out at the water and the trees and the ever-present ducks.

While my life is in turmoil, theirs never is. They are not bored, or lazy; they’re busy but it’s a calm rhythmic type of busy. I look at them, and I wonder if, somewhere in the simplicity of their minds, they believe in God

Matthew 6 says  to ‘look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.’

I feel a sense of calm as I look at the ducks, who are provided for daily by a God they likely have no capacity to conceive of. I see the trees which stand tall and strong, roots deep in the earth, nourished by a system set up by their creator… and it makes me wonder if we might be better off if we didn’t need satellites either.

What if you got to Heaven… and God wasn’t there?

Golden-CrownHave you ever asked yourself whether you’d still want to go to heaven if God weren’t there?

I’m really not into rap, but I just can’t go past this song by Shai Linne:

“Would you be satisfied, to go to heaven, have everybody there in your family that you want there, have all the health and restoration of your prime and everything you disliked about yourself fixed, have every recreation you’ve ever dreamed available to you, and have infinite resources and money to spend, would you be satisfied…

… If God weren’t there?”

This question hits me pretty deep, because to be honest, there’s a big part of me that thinks I would be satisfied; there’s a big part of me that looks forward to and longs for heaven because of all of those things.

But that’s not what I want for my life, nor for my eternity.

May it be my ever increasing desire to say along with Linne and King David that:

“I don’t wanna go to heaven if God is not there.

Whom have I in Heaven but You (nobody), And earth has nothing I desire but You. My flesh and my heart may fail, however – the Lord is my portion forever… forever… “

I’m having to remind myself this week that my hope and my treasure is not in a place or in things, but in a person. Heaven is not heaven without God. May He be the sole desire of my heart.

Beauty in the Strangest Places

IMG_1272464560519683A friend of mine posted this picture a while back, and I saved it because it captivated me. It’s clever, it’s funny and it’s beautiful.

It reminds me of the last time I was in Germany. I regularly saw huge paintings like this on the side of buildings. In a country in which the skies are often grey, things like this can really lift your spirits.

We live in a world that can so often become monotonous. Sometimes it feels like all we do is eat, sleep, work and commute. The cares of this world can weigh us down, and the never-ending power lines, roads, skyscrapers and reams of paper can prevail in sapping the beauty out of life.

But the beauty is still there.

I encourage you, as you go through your day, to look for something beautiful; it can be found in the strangest of places.

What beauty have you seen today?