Wednesday, October 7, 2015

contentment (8) getting practical

Hold up your hand. Five fingers, right? Here are five steps we can take next time we notice ourselves becoming discontent, one for each finger to help us remember them easily:

Stop. Think. Turn from. Turn to. Turn out ...

Read the rest at TGC Australia.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

contentment (7) significance

What makes you feel significant? Where does your identity come from? Whose opinion do you value? When do you feel good about yourself? What gives you a sense of worth?

Maybe it’s doing well in your career, staying fit and healthy, or being in a relationship. Maybe it’s your IQ, attractiveness, or creativity. Maybe it’s ministry, being a “good” person, or belonging to a certain church or cultural group. We look to all kinds of things to make ourselves feel worthwhile ...

One of my friends was ill for many months. She lay in bed, stared at the trees outside the window, and felt useless. She couldn’t work, care for others, or even carry out the basic tasks of each day. As she lay there, she learned an important truth: that God loves her just as much when she can’t do anything for him, as he does when she can do things that feel significant.

God doesn’t love us because we have value. We have value because he loves us. ...

You can read the rest at The Gospel Coalition Australia

Monday, September 7, 2015

what personality tests can't do

I love personality tests. That’s not surprising, because people with my personality type enjoy self-analysis.

My husband, on the other hand, dislikes personality tests. Yet he still uses them in ministry training because he appreciates how useful they can be in helping people understand themselves and others a little better.

There’s a lot to be said for personality tests. But, as with any ministry tool, there’s also a lot they can’t do. ...

Read the rest at

Monday, August 24, 2015

contentment (6) security

What makes you feel safe? What makes you feel secure? If you’re not sure, ask yourself another question: What do you most fear losing?

When I found out my husband has cancer, it felt like my whole world was crumbling. When you’re married, you place a lot of your sense of safety in the person you love. And it’s not just our relationship that I fear losing. If the worst should happen, how will I provide for and protect our family? How will I raise our children? How will they cope without a father? These are real questions, but when they fill me with fear, I know I’m looking to other things besides God to keep us safe.

It’s no different if you’re single. Maybe you long for a relationship. Or maybe it’s a high-achieving career that attracts you. Or owning your own home. A young woman once told me she hopes Jesus doesn’t come back until she has a career and is married with children. I get that, because I remember feeling that way myself when I was young. But she longed for it so much that she chose to go out with a non-Christian.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting a relationship, a job, or a home – they are good gifts from God. But what happens when they become the source of our security? What if God never gives us these things, or if he takes them away? Will we still hold on to him then? Will we seek them in places or people he doesn’t want us to?

What makes you feel safe? ...

You can read the rest at TGC Australia

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

contentment (5) satisfaction

What brings you joy? What gives you satisfaction? There’s nothing wrong with enjoying God’s good gifts, but how can you tell when a good thing becomes a God-thing? How do you know when you’re looking to something or someone else for contentment, rather than to God?

One way we can tell is to ask ourselves: what happens when we lose something we value? How do we react when our friend gets the job we applied for, our quiet weekend gets disturbed, or we flush our new phone down the toilet? Of course we’ll be disappointed; but do we also react with envy, irritation or self-pity?

Or what about bigger things? How about when we have to live without a relationship we deeply long for? Or when we lose something or someone important to us? Yes, there will be grief and anguish and sorrow, and that is fully appropriate. But will we also give in to bitterness? Will we give way to despair? Will we turn our backs on the God who stole our dreams away?

Watching my son Ben struggle with chronic illness over the last five years has made me ask lots of hard questions ...

You can read the rest at TGC Australia.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

a thought about heaven

Rain drops on a fallen-leaf.I was walking down a path, enjoying the solitude, when I heard a rustling behind me and thought, "There's someone following...". I went on a few steps, uneasy, then turned around.

There was no one there. The rustling I heard was the wind running its fingers through the leaves of an oak, shaking brown leaves from among the green so that they fell slanting like rain.

It was one of those moments when you catch your breath and think, "If the earth can be this lovely, what will heaven be like?".

Where moments like this await us around every corner. Where each moment is free from even a hint of sorrow or fear. Where they slide into each other, moment after sunblown moment, until the years become one long story of joy.

image is by -Reji on

Monday, June 15, 2015

what I'm reading: why God allows evil

I was hunting through some old drafts, looking for something to post on a mostly empty blog (we have been away), when I came across this quote from Tim Keller's Walking with God through pain and suffering. Such an encouragement!
Why could it not be that God allowed evil because it will bring us all to a far greater glory and joy than we would have had otherwise? Isn't it possible that the eventual glory and joy we will know will be infinitely greater than it would have been had there been no evil?

What if that future world will somehow be greater for having once been broken and lost? If such is the case, that would truly mean the utter defeat of evil. Evil would not just be an obstacle to our beauty and bliss, but it will have only made it better. Evil would have accomplished the very opposite of what it intended.

How might that come about? At the simplest level, we know that only if there is danger can there be courage. And apart from sin and evil we would never have seen the courage of God, or the astonishing extent of his love, or the glolry of a deity who lays aside his glory and goes to the cross.

For us here in this life, the thought of God's glory is rather remote and abstract. But we must realize that the most rapturous delights you have ever had - in the beauty of a landscape, or in the pleasure of food, or in the fulfillment of a loving embrace - are like dewdrops compared to the bottomless ocean of joy that it will be to see God face-to-face (1 John 3:1-3). That is what we are in for, nothing less.

And according to the Bible, that glorious beauty, and our enjoyment of it, has been immeasurable enhanced by Christ's redemption of us from evil and death ... Because of our fall and redemption, we will achieve a level of intimacy with God that cannot be received any other way ...

And why could it not be that our future glory will actually so "swallow" the evil of the past that in some unimaginable way even the memory of the evil won't darken our hearts but only make us happier? (117-118)

Monday, May 18, 2015

learning to see

Gum tree by mathias shoots analogue, on Flickr
I’ve walked this path for ten years. I’ve looked at this tree a hundred times. I give it a mental nod as I go by, as I would a passing acquaintance. Yet I never really saw it, not till today.

Usually all I notice is the lower trunk, as fat as it is tall, knobbed with burls and fissures. In that strange alchemy of gum trees, the brown trunk gives way to white branches. They drag their weight over the path, crooked arms with broken fingers. A potbellied man warming old bones in the sun.

This morning I see it differently. As I walk towards it, the sun sparkles off foliage and catches my eye, a cockatoo screams from above, and I look up, up, up into branches I didn’t know were there, long pale limbs raised to the sky, leaves flickering in a high breeze. The grace of a dancer, the strength of bone and sinew and toned muscle.

It strikes me that we are like this. Look at us, how we grow worn and weathered. That may be all you see of me, all I see of you. But if we belong to Christ, the high glory of what God is making us into is breathtaking. He is making us to be like his Son!

We see the skin: the teenager’s awkwardness, the middle-aged woman’s closed-off face, the old man’s irrelevance. He sees stumbling attempts at love, endurance of pain, a life’s faithfulness. We see the gouges and scars on the work in progress; he sees the emerging likeness and the finished glory.

Perhaps it’s time we learned to see with new eyes.

 image is by  mathias shoots analogue 

Monday, May 11, 2015

what I'm reading: learning surrender

One of the ways suffering shapes you is that it teaches you peace. It teaches you surrender. It teaches you to trust and accept God's will. It teaches you that his love and grace will always be there, no matter what.

After four years of fighting God over my son's chronic illness - of asking him, "Why?" - of crying out with bitterness, there was a night, etched deep in my memory, when I reached the bottom of the well, that dark place where there's nothing left but surrender. And with that surrender came peace.

And so, when my husband Steve was diagnosed with cancer, there was something in me that accepted it. The day I heard, I felt angry at God - I don't deny it. But it took much less time for me to reach a place of surrender. I have seen God's love in the hardest places. It is strong, and it is real. And so I can submit myself more gladly to his will.

Which is all by way of introduction to this quote, from a women who suffered two miscarriages, and then, years later, another two. Here's what she says:
We tried again and miscarried—my fourth miscarriage during six years of marriage. My response during those days was quite different from the first two. I was sobered. I knew I didn’t have control—I couldn’t make a baby be born—and I was surrendered to that fact.
I was also at peace. I had spent the last few years preparing for another trial, and God’s promise stood true:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4: 6-7).
Surrendering to the Lord, crying out for help, and thanking him for what I did have proved to bring me great peace. God also tells us that the mind set on him will be given peace, because that person trusts the Lord (Is. 26:3). The Lord was faithful to fulfill these promises. I was at peace because he had given me peace. I was at peace because Jesus was enough for me.
Can I encourage you not to be scared of suffering? Yes, it is terrible, and it hurts horribly. But God will be there for you. You may not see it straight away; it may take years for you to see it; but it is true. His will is good. His grace is enough. He walks with us. He shelters us. And nothing and nobody can separate us from his love for us in Jesus. Be at peace.

You can read the full article by Trillia Newbell at Christianity Today.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

contentment (4) the heart of contentment

I once heard an advertisement on the radio. It went like this (you’ll have to imagine the broad Aussie accent):
I want the kids to go to good schools. I want great holidays in exotic places. I want a comfortable retirement for me and the missus. And you know what? I’m making it happen!
I must admit I tuned out at that point, but my guess is he was advertising some kind of investment portfolio.

Do you hear what this guy is saying? He’s convinced he needs three things to be happy:
  • Significance: the kind to be found in good schools and good careers
  • Satisfaction: exotic holidays and unique experiences
  • Security: enough superannuation to guarantee a comfortable retirement.[1]
Money, he thinks, is the key to all these things.

The problem is that, like most of us, he’s looking for contentment in all the wrong places. He’s like God’s people in these words from Jeremiah ... one of the saddest passages in the Bible ...

Read the rest at TGC Australia.