Wednesday, June 30, 2010

archives: coping with difficult seasons (1) practicalities

The women in my Bible study have been going through a difficult time recently. Every family has had a run of illnesses, from colds to gastro and flu. Most of the women are suffering from sleep deprivation, with young children and babies waking up many times a night. This post is for them - and for you!

We all have to cope with busy, difficult seasons of life. Pregnancy brings persistent nausea (don’t I know?!), aches and pains, and sleepless nights. New babies come with constant demands, breastfeeding difficulties, and those 3 or 6 o'clock moments when you’re forced out of bed feeling like you’ve been hit over the head with a sledge-hammer. Older children catch gastro, colds and flu, and generously pass them around the family. PMS can cause despondency or anger every month. Grief, sickness and depression steal time and energy from the rest of life.

How do you cope as a mother and homemaker during those times? Here’s some ideas.*

1. do only what’s necessary
The main thing is that your family has something to eat and wear. If you've fed your family off clean plates and put clean(ish) clothes on their backs, you've done what needs to be done.
2. simplify your tasks
Order take-away, take clothes to the laundromat, use the dryer, pay for a cleaner if you can afford it. If you must clean, clean only what you can see or smell.
3. let the real priorities surface
Care for your husband, cuddle your kids and let the rest slide. Dust balls and dirty sheets won't kill you. People matter more than places and things!
4. do what works
When I have a new baby I often let guilt do the talking: “I should settle my baby this way.” “Breast is best.” There are no rules in the Bible about these things! Do what works for you and your family. You might need some help to set up routines or encourage a child to sleep (feed-play-sleep is a simple and flexible approach) but remember these are just suggestions which may or may not work for you.
5. do the next thing
It's hard to drag yourself through your tasks when you're feeling sick, exhausted or discouraged. You don't have to do everything: just do one thing. Often that will get you moving so that you can do the next. But just one thing is good!
6. be prepared
This isn't always possible, of course! But if you know a difficult time is coming - a new baby, an absent husband - plan how you'll cope. Cook meals, or ask someone else to cook meals, and freeze them (a personal favourite!). Ask for help in advance. Work out what you'll do (e.g. call a friend) when things get tough. Organise babysitting or company if you need help with managing hormone-driven emotions. You need to do these now, while you’re thinking clearly!
7. sleep when you can
If your new baby or sick child is sleeping, it's probably not the time to be racing around tidying. Get some sleep, put your feet up or go for a walk.
8. ask for and accept help
You weren't made to do it alone! Ask your husband to do the shopping. Ask a family member to vacuum your loungeroom. Ask a friend to cook some meals. Accept help when it's offered. God made you to be part of a community which serves one another: have the humility and wisdom to accept help.
9. trust God for the things that don’t get done
This is a great opportunity to remember that you’re a creature, not the Creator, and to learn to depend on God. Don't expect to be able to do everything: you're not God. Trust God for the things you have no time for.

* I've taken many of these ideas from these helpful posts, which you might like to read:
Carolyn Mahaney and daughters A Busy Woman's Survival Manual, managing busy seasons and busy time survival
Jess' post collected thoughts for new moms from Making Home
Nicole's post when my kids are sick from 168 hours
my post sleep deprived mamma from in all honesty

images are from diathesis & oksidor at flickr


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

archives: pride - a personal reflection

There's been great fuel for pride in my life recently. I led a couple of seminars during the last month, and they were received beyond my hopes and expectations. You know the kind of thing: glowing recommendations, people telling me how I'd affected them (or, hopefully, how God's word affected them!), and invitations to more teaching opportunities. Humanly speaking, it was a dream come true.

I went for a walk and prayed the other morning. I wept. I sat on my rock (actually, it was a neighbouring rock!) and poured out my heart to God. I could feel pride and selfish ambition creeping up on me, and I was determined to stand against them.

I sat and reflected on my insignificance. God doesn't need me. He can further his kingdom without my help. He can raise up the people he wants, when and where he wants. When I've gone to be with my Lord, others will take my place. How gloriously superfluous I am!

We are none of us necessary. Or look at it another way: we are all equally necessary to one another. No fingers boasting over toes in this body!

The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!" On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honourable we treat with special honour. ... Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 1 Cor 12:12-27
My tears of repentance were replaced with tears of wonder and joy, as I thought about God's unshakeable plan to glorify his Son (Eph 1:3-14): a plan that he graciously involves me in, but which doesn't need me in it.

I said to God, "I am yours. You may take it all away tomorrow, and that is okay, your kingdom will go forward. You may choose for me an obscure life serving a sick husband or a disabled child, and that is okay, your kingdom will go forward. I may die tomorrow, and that is okay (no, that is best!) and your kingdom will go forward."

You'll sometimes hear people say, "It's not about you". They're right. It's not about me. It's about God and his glory.

If God chooses to use me to further his kingdom, I will praise him. If he chooses to use someone else to further his kingdom, I will praise him. For "neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow" (1 Cor 3:7).


Monday, June 28, 2010

archives: teaching the Psalms to our children

Picture my husband and I sitting side-by-side on the couch in the semi-darkness, watching a DVD. There's the patter of little feet on the floorboards. A plaintive voice says, “Mummy, I'm scared, I can't sleep!” And as always, there's the same response: “Do you want me to pray with you?”


“Okay, snuggle up and we'll pray.”

It's at these moments that I'm grateful that I've taught our children some Psalms. For as I send them back to bed, I encourage them to say Psalm 23 or 121 out loud to themselves, or, in the case of my six-year-old son, to sing one of the hymns I sing every night by his bedside. I'm passing on my own weapon against fear: as a young adult, I used to lie awake, still fearful about things that go bump in the night, but with no comforting parents watching TV in the next room, and I would repeat Psalm 23 into the darknesss.

I hadn't considered that my children are part of a tradition that stretches much further back than one generation until I heard David Walter's talk on Jonah 2 at the recent MTS Challenge Victoria conference. You won't find this part of Jonah's story in a children's Bible; it's the long prayer that Jonah says while he's inside the fish. But it's probably the most relevant part of the story for children.

Jonah cries out to God for help at his very darkest moment, while inside the smelly cave of a fish's innards. But he doesn't use his own words; he prays a series of scattered lines from the Psalms—smatterings of remembered knowledge. He prays the great prayers of God he learned as a child.

When children in Israel were taught to pray, they were taught the prayers of Israel—the Psalms of the Bible. They committed the Psalms to memory. They learned the great prayers of God, and were given words to speak their own prayers.

I'm inspired by Jonah's example to continue the task I began many months ago—to teach my kids passages from the Bible while their memories are still fresh and receptive. We do it in the easiest possible way: on the mornings we get around to it (!), we read a passage out loud together. After a month or so, we all know it, from five to 40-year-old—with no testing, no pressure, no tears.

I want to soak my children's hearts and minds in the Bible. I want the word of Christ to dwell in them richly (Col 3:16). I want God's word to spring to mind when they're tempted to follow their friends into sin, when they're feeling sad and alone, and when they're anxious and afraid. I want to give them words for their prayers so that they pray prayers after God's own heart. I want God's great prayers to fill my children's minds when things go bump in the night.

reprinted from my post "Teaching the psalms to your children" published on Sola Panel last week

image is by Amydeanne from flickr


Thursday, June 24, 2010

super froggy turns 4

Well, it's official: our Super Froggy has turned 4 - for real this time! - and with another froggy cake!! Here's some photos of Andy with his froggy cake ...

and with a favourite present.

The cake was super easy.

Here's how we did it:

  • We baked a large square cake using 2 packet mixes.
  • We drew a frog on a square of paper the same size as the cake, and cut the frog shape out of the paper.
  • We placed the paper frog shape on top of the cake and used a big knife to cut the cake around it (and ate the cake scraps!).
  • We cut the mouth out of the paper frog shape, placed the paper mouth shape in the right spot on top of the cake, and iced around it with green butter icing.
  • We cut the tongue out of the paper mouth shape.
  • We put the paper frog shape (with the mouth cut out of it) on top of the cake, put the paper tongue shape inside the mouth, and iced inside the mouth with dark pink icing.
  • We filled in the tongue with pale pink icing.
  • We outlined the frog with licorice strings, and used marshmallows and licorice circles for the eyes.
I hope that makes sense! Sorry there are no step-by-step photos, I ran out of time! :)

back to the archives

Just to let you know that my bi-annual break from blogging starts in a couple of days! School holidays begin this Saturday in Victoria, and I'll be taking the next 2 weeks off blogging. During that time, you can expect to see some archives posted here - so say "hello" to those old posts! Some of you won't have read them; hopefully they'll bring back happy memories for others. You can expect one last family post tomorrow, then it's "adieu" from me.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Jenny's reflections: when all your kids go to school

And here's more reflections on the year your youngest child goes to school, from Jenny at No Reading at the Breakfast Table. I find myself going back again and again to her post What are you DOING?, about what it's been like adjusting to having no children at home. She says,

Over summer, I had a standard reply to everyone's questions about what I was going to do with ALL my spare time. I said that I planned to sit down, have a cup of tea and just stare at a blank wall for a while. In reality, it feels like three weeks ago I sat down, starting staring at the wall and then couldn't get up again - worn out from a decade (plus) of constant demands! Still haven't tidied up that play room properly yet.
That's exactly how I feel, "worn out from a decade (plus) of constant demands". My feelings are a mixture of exhaustion (and I've still got a year to go in my young-child-rearing marathon!), anticipation (how I long for a few uninterrupted hours a day!), and apprehension (how I will miss having small kids at home!).

There's a kind of hollowness too, as the thing that has defined me and filled every spare moment for so many years - being pregnant and caring for very young children - is coming to an end. Who am I? How does God want me to use the years remaining to me? Will life always be this tiring? Very mid-life-crisisy, I know! But I'm realising that these are common feelings and questions for women during this season of life.

I'd love to hear your thoughts. If you're at this time of life, with your youngest child soon going to school; or if the transition has happened for you recently, or even a long time ago; or if you're anticipating it in a few years - how do you feel about it? What's your story? What are the issues you've had to deal with?

Enough rambling. More about all that another day (and yes, I do plan to come back to this issue, so please share your reflections with me!). In the meantime, you'll enjoy Jenny's posts:

Two Days, No Kids, Very Weird
Overscheduled Kids or Overscheduled Mum
What are you DOING?
Adjusting to Change (Badly)
PS to Adjusting to Change (Badly)

HT Meredith

image is from Jenny's most excellent blog No Reading at the Breakfast Table

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

women of the Bible (3) Rahab - a remarkable woman

I met a remarkable woman the other day. To be honest, she's not the kind of woman I normally feel comfortable with. She's had an immoral past, a pagan background, and a life of change and crisis. She's brave, shrewd and outspoken. I might as well come out and say it: she was once a prostitute. But I reckon she knows more about God than any number of women from safe Christian backgrounds (like me).

Her name is Rahab. You might have heard her story—how she opened her doors to two Jewish spies (try explaining that choice of accommodation to your mum!), and hid them when the king's men came to call. The spies saved her life because she saved theirs: when Jericho fell to the Israelites, she and her family huddled safe inside her house, protected by the sign of the scarlet cord hanging from her window (Josh 2, 6).

It's a story worthy of a Hollywood blockbuster. But until you've spent a couple of weeks in Rahab's company (the way I did, because I wanted to introduce her to our women's Bible study), you have no idea how impressive she really is.

Her fear of God outshines us all. God's people saw him divide the Red Sea, destroy Pharaoh's armies, bring water from the rock and rain food from the sky. But when they got to the borders of Canaan, they shook in their shoes because of a few overly large soldiers! Rahab had only heard rumours of Israel's victories, but every other fear—fear for her family, fear of a gruesome death if her treachery was discovered—was insignificant compared to her fear of God. Here's what she told the spies:

“I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction. And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the Lord your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.” (Josh 2:9-11)

Amazing, isn't it? And here's me not telling my friends about Jesus because I'm more scared of offending them than of displeasing God (Luke 12:4-7)! I could do with a dose of Rahab's kind of fear.

If that was all, it would do neither her nor me much good: she'd be dead, buried under the rubble of Jericho. But she not only feared God like there was no tomorrow, she had greater faith in God than anyone else I've met. She didn't just cower behind those walls; when she got the chance, she reached with both hands and threw herself on God's mercy! No wonder she's become a byword for faith: our Bible teacher James (who is always one for vivid illustrations) used her as an example of true faith—a faith that doesn't just believe, but also acts (Jas 2:17, 25). I could do with more of that kind of faith—particularly when I say I believe but don't want to give up my comforts!

Another of our Bible teachers once gave us a great list of men and women of faith (actually, I'll be honest, they were mainly men), and yes, you guessed it: it included Rahab the prostitute alongside all of those mighty men, heroes, patriarchs and kings (Heb 11). If faith is being “sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Heb 11:1 NIV), then Rahab has got it in spades. This woman never saw God's salvation in Jesus, but she knew exactly where to seek mercy. She's an inspiration to me—a reason to persevere through the weary days as I keep my eyes fixed on the saviour I've never seen.

You should hear her testimony! You won't find a clearer picture of the gospel. We often think of fear and faith as opposites, but Rahab shows us how the gospel brings them together. She escaped God's judgement by throwing herself on God's mercy, hiding in her house as destruction came to all around her, just as we hide in Christ to escape God's anger. It's fear of God's judgement that drives us to faith in God's salvation. We don't lose this fear of God when we trust in him: fear of God is itself an expression of faith.*

One final thing: did you know that Rahab was one of Jesus' great-great-grandmothers? Brother Matthew shared the genealogy of Jesus with us, and there she was, along with Tamar, Ruth and Bathsheba—an unprepossessing bunch of women (Matt 1:1-16)! I guess it shows that God has little interest in using the self-satisfied do-gooders of this world (that is, I have to admit, somewhat uncomfortably, women like me) and more interest in using the downtrodden, dirty sinners who throw themselves on his mercy (that is, women I tend to scorn. But not any more, I hope! 1 Corinthians 1:27-29).

Fear of God: a fear so great that it defeats any fear of man. Faith in God: faith that trusts in the unseen and obeys. The gospel: fleeing from God's anger into the arms of his love. Rahab represents all these things to me. I can imagine Jesus saying of her, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith" (Luke 7:9b). I only hope and pray that God will give me a tenth of her faith.

* Christian fear is the fear of a son for a father, not a slave for a harsh master (Rom 8:15). Tim Chester says rightly that “To fear God is to respect, worship, trust, and submit to him” (You Can Change, InterVarsity Press, Leicester, 2008, pp. 92-93). I would add the word ‘love’. Honoria Lau borrows from Hebrews 12:25 to define the fear of God helpfully as “not daring to refuse him”. See also Deuteronomy 10:12-13; Exodus 14:31; Psalm 2:11, 115:11, 130:4; Acts 9:31; 2 Corinthians 7:1; Peter Hastie's interview with Jerry Bridges; and my posts on the fear of God.

This post first appeared on Sola Panel last Friday.

final image is from Christian Dare Art

Monday, June 21, 2010

a favourite quote: Joni Eareckson Tada on the cross

Here is the most astonishing, moving description of the cross I have ever read. You might want to print it out and read it slowly.

The face that Moses had begged to see—was forbidden to see—was slapped bloody (Exodus 33:19—20). The thorns that God had sent to curse the earth's rebellion now twisted around his own brow...

"On your back with you!" One raises a mallet to sink in the spike. But the soldier's heart must continue pumping as he readies the prisoner's wrist. Someone must sustain the soldier's life minute by minute, for no man has this power on his own. Who supplies breath to his lungs? Who gives energy to his cells? Who holds his molecules together? Only the Son do "all things hold together" (Colossians 1:17). The victim wills that the soldier lives on—he grants the warriors continued existence. The man swings.

As the man swings, the Son recalls how he and the Father first designed the medial nerve of the human forearm—the sensations it would be capable of. The design proves flawless—the nerve performs exquisitely. “Up you go!” They lifted the cross. God is on display in his underwear and can scarcely breathe.

But these pains are a mere warm-up to his other and growing dread. He begins to feels a foreign sensation. Somewhere during this day an unearthly foul odor began to waft, not around his nose, but his heart. He feels dirty. Human wickedness starts to crawl upon his spotless being—the living excrement from our souls. The apple of his Father’s eye turns brown with rot.

His Father! He must face his Father like this!

From heaven the Father now rouses himself like a lion disturbed, shakes his mane, and roars against the shriveling remnant of a man hanging on a cross. Never has the Son seen the Father look at him so, never felt even the least of his hot breath. But the roar shakes the unseen world and darkens the visible sky. The Son does not recognize these eyes.

“Son of Man! Why have you behaved so? You have cheated, lusted, stolen, gossiped—murdered, envied, hated, lied. You have cursed, robbed, overspent, overeaten—fornicated, disobeyed, embezzled, and blasphemed. Oh, the duties you have shirked, the children you have abandoned! Who has ever so ignored the poor, so played the coward, so belittled my name? Have you ever held your razor tongue? What a self-righteous, pitiful drunk—you, who molested young boys, peddle killer drugs, travel in cliques, and mock your parents. Who gave you the boldness to rig elections, foment revolutions, torture animals, and worship demons? Does the list never end! Splitting families, raping virgins, acting smugly, playing the pimp—buying politicians, practicing extortion, filming pornography, accepting bribes. You have burned down buildings, perfected terrorist tactics, founded false religions, traded in slaves—relishing each morsel and bragging about it all. I hate, loathe these things in you! Disgust for everything about you consumes me! Can you not feel my wrath?”

Of course the Son is innocent. He is blamelessness itself. The Father knows this. But the divine pair have an agreement, and the unthinkable must now take place. Jesus will be treated as if personally responsible for every sin ever committed.
The Father watches as his hearts treasure, the mirror-image of himself, sinks drowning into raw, liquid sin. Jehovah’s stored rage against humankind from every century explodes in a single direction.

"Father! Father! Why have you forsaken me?!"

But heaven stops its ears. The Son stares up at the One who cannot, who will not, reach down or reply.

The Trinity had planned it. The Son endured it. The Spirit enabled him. The Father rejected the Son whom he loved. Jesus, the God-man from Nazareth, perished. The Father accepted his sacrifice for sin and was satisfied. The Rescue was accomplished.

Joni Eareckson Tada When God Weeps

image is from stock.xchng

Friday, June 18, 2010

Andy's cute stuff

I've been collecting Andy's cute sayings. After all, you're only 3 once! Here are some of my favourites.


"It was Daddy's birthday yesterday! Am I 4 now?"


"Tommy and I are bigger and stronger than everyone else. Yeah, but not God. Me and Tommy are not faster than ourselfs!"


"It's just like Mummy's kisses. It makes it a little bit better, but not all better." (Sadly, he's getting wise to the fact that Mummy's kisses don't make it all go away.)


"Heaven is on top of the sky. The sky is in the middle of the earth." (Hmmm ... an interesting cosmography ...)


"It's not Winter. It's not raining." (Well, actually, it is Winter, it's just not raining right now.)

"Look! It's raining! It's Winter!" (I think we need to work on our seasons ... .)


Lizzy - "You can't have this cereal. You're not gluten-free."

Andy - "I am fwee!" (three)


And here are some of Andy's favourite things: "Shushi", "Neutral Grain" and "Tevelision".

Thursday, June 17, 2010

how to encourage a younger woman and be honest at the same time

Here's an email exchange between me and my dear friend and mentor Heather (some of you will know who I'm talking about!).

Her email to me is a good example of how to encourage a younger woman while being honest about life's difficulties. I've taken out some of the personal details, but Heather gave me permission to share the rest with you.

Like the women in last week's post, Heather is honest about how tough things can be; but unlike them, she doesn't leave it there: she talks about God's ongoing faithfulness to her and how he brought good out of her suffering. I was warmed, uplifted, and encouraged by her email, and God used her words to replace my persistent discouragement and doubt with hope and faith.

I'll start with my rather gloomy message to her - inspired, I might add, by the warning of an older woman in the long-distant past about how life gets harder all the time!

Dear Heather,

Thanks for your lovely newsy email. ... It is good to hear about how you are going – although troubling too, I’m sorry about all the health issues [with sick parents] ... I’ve been wondering how on earth you’re managing to juggle everything ...

Not sure how you do it. I feel like I’m drowning under life’s demands and my complete lack of organisation. This year has been really tough, with whooping cough, looking for high schools for Lizzy, and conflict and change at our church, on top of which I’ve been sick on and off this whole last month or two, so I’m pretty exhausted.

My sister-in-law says that her last year with a child full-time at home was wonderful, and I keep comparing my year to hers and feeling guilty about not enjoying my last year with Andy more! But life is what it is, and even though I think I’ve got the balance between ministry and family pretty right now, I’m still very busy (aren’t we all?) and it’s been a tough year – nothing I had any control over.

I keep reminding myself that God is in control (even when I’m not!) but it’s hard to find this reassuring. Is all this normal? I look at your life and think it’s only going to get harder! Where do you find the strength?

Love Jean.

Here's her response.

Hi Jean,

So sorry to hear that you are feeling so like you are drowning. It has been a really tough year for you guys – thank God Steve’s long service leave is coming up!!!!

In my experience life just happens in different ways to different people and some years are easy and some are hard. It isn’t necessarily the same for everyone. Just like some people have an easy time when their kids are bubs and a harder time when they are adult and others have the reverse. In my experience too those that have it too easy often don’t learn to depend on God as deeply as those who have it tough. I think all my models of Christian godliness have learned it through the school of hard knocks.

Don’t presume that my life has always been as rough as it has been over the last couple of years. My first year in Melbourne was pretty easy ( except for the self imposed stresses of settling into a new city / job etc). Things only started hotting up the following year after Andrew’s Mum had her first bad stroke.

I have often thanked God for such a stress-free year when we first arrived. I think he knew the move was all I could cope with at the time!!!! It is only since we settled into life here and built friendships and a support network that the difficulties began. God’s preservation I am sure!

Don’t look at my life and get scared. Many of my stresses are self imposed (Andrew’s change in job and the shift to Doncaster and the decision to study to enhance my ministry etc). Others are just a new life stage with aging parents – you experienced one aspect of this when David died. It’s hard, but like parenting you get better at dealing with it as you go.

I look at my life at the moment and see hardships but also heaps of blessing. [She talks about God’s mercy in bringing her baby grandson safely through a serious illness, and gives some personal examples of how grief and suffering have brought members of her extended family closer to one another and to God.]

I sometimes think I am just a slow learner and need to learn everything the hard way! But God has taught me so much through the episodes of hardship I’ve faced over the last few years that I feel privileged to have the opportunity to grow so much in my relationship with him even after about 45 years of Christian walk.

Will continue to pray for you and the family



In an interesting postscript, I sent this post to Heather for her approval. She received it at a particularly discouraging moment and wrote to me, "It is good to read this over and be once more reminded of the security God has proven time and time again that I have as I trust in him. Strange that even my own words telling of his love and tenderness in caring for us can come back and provide comfort!". So our words of encouragement to others return to encourage ourselves.

image is from InspirationDC at flickr

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Meredith's reflections: should I go back to work?

My dear bloggy friend Meredith is facing a decision which comes to most mums in time: should I go back to work when my kids are all in school? It's a decision I'll be facing myself in a year, and I've been soaking up Meredith's wise reflections. She says,

Not going to work during the last seven years was a no-brainer for me. And we have managed to make ends meet, thanks be to God. But here is the thing. We now get to decide whether we continue on like this or not. We are faced with a choice. ...

As a Christian, how do I best use the time now given to me to serve God, my family and my community, bearing in mind my own capacities and circumstances? It's not a question anyone else can answer for me. Nor is it one I can answer for anyone else. But that is the big question.

If you'd like to read Meredith's thoughts about this issue, the many helpful responses she received, and her personal conclusions about what she's going to do next year and why, check out these links.

A difficult transition

Transition update


image is by Meredith (I think)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

when boys fight

Our two youngest boys, Thomas (6) and Andy (3), love to compete. They size each other up like belligerent roosters who want to crow from the same mound of dirt in the farmyard.

"I'm the fastest!"
"No, I'm the fastest!"
"It's mine!"
"No, it's mine!"
"I had it first!"
"No, I had it first!"
"I won the race!"
"No, I won!"
"I'm the biggest!"
"No, I am!"
"No, I am!"
"No, I am!"

You get the idea.

So I taught Thomas about a new Bible verse -

Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honour. Romans 12:10
- and we started a new competition: the kindness competition. It's a competition to see who can outdo the other in kindness.

Of course, it doesn't always work. After 10 determined minutes of being "the kindest" (which involved nothing more than an absence of meanness, as far as I could see, but maybe it took a lot of self-control) Thomas boasted, "I'm the winner of the kindness competition! I'm the winner! I'm the winner! I'm the winner!"

"Thomas", I said, "to win the kindness competition you have to not say things like that. Only say kind things. Sometimes kindness means shutting your mouth and keeping the words inside."

Thomas clapped his hands over his mouth and said, "Get back inside words! Get back inside! I'll smack you if you come out! Get back! Get back! Get back! Get back, words! Get back! ...".*

I sighed, and reminded myself that it's all in the service of learning self-control - and kindness.

* His words were reminiscent of Proverbs 13:3, now I come to think of it, so maybe it's not all bad! :)

Monday, June 14, 2010

CS Lewis on longing

The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things - the beauty, the memory of our own past - are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.

CS Lewis A Mind Awake

image is from stock.xchng

Friday, June 11, 2010

face painting the Cheshire Cat

It was dress-up day at the kid's school recently, and Lizzy wanted to go as the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland. So I did some face painting inspired by this picture, using liquid face paints and a small brush. Here's how we did it, step by step, in case someone asks you to turn them into a cat!

Eyes (complete with white highlights) ...

mouth and nose ...

teeth ...

pink nose ...

fur ...

tabby stripes ...

whiskers ...

and a homemade costume (we stuffed the tail with newspaper).

Here she is at dress-up day. Beautiful - and a little freaky - just like the Cheshire Cat!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

13 ways to discourage a younger woman

I've been reading the truly excellent book Intimate Issues by Linda Durrow and Lorraine Pintus. If you're a woman and you're married, it should be on your reading list! I'd like to review it someday, but in the meantime, here's a post inspired by this book.

Here's a story from Linda Durrow and Lorraine Pintus's Intimate Issues:

I (Linda) walked away from the Bible study feeling ridiculed and put down. I had been married five years and was teaching about the priorities of a woman's life. That morning I had made the statement that our relationship with our husbands should continue to grow in every area, including the sexual. An older woman laughed and condescendingly quipped, "Linda, you're young and naive. Just wait until you've been married twenty years. Sex gets old - you'll see."
Ouch! This story got me thinking about how easily we can discourage younger women. Here's 13 statements you can use to discourage a younger woman. Please add your own ideas!

1. "You think toddlers are hard. Just wait till they're teenagers!"
(or, "You've got a good relationship with your daughter now, but wait till she's older!")

2. "It's really annoying, but my husband expects sex at least once a week. The older I get, the less I enjoy it."

3. "If you follow this program, your babies will sleep through the night. All my babies slept through the night."

4. "I've been struggling with the same sin for 20 years. I never change."

5. "Life just keeps getting harder. Your body stops working. Relationships break down. Your parents and then your friends get sick and die. Your best years are behind you."

6. "It's great that you're trying to exercise (or trying not to gossip, or trying to be more patient, or ... ), but I bet you'll give it up in a month or two."

7. "No-one ever reads the Bible or prays when they have young kids. I didn't." (or, "I read the Bible and prayed every day when I had young kids. You just have to be organised.")

8. "No man ever really listens."

9. "Godly women get up early / keep up to date with their laundry / decorate their tables every night / fill the blank ........... ."

10. "I don't know why I bother. The women in this church just aren't ministry-minded."

11. "You husband ... [insert critical comment here] / My husband ... [insert whining comment here]."

12. "Now your kids are all at school, when are you going back to work? What are you going to do with all your spare time?"

13. "I work full-time. I keep my home and family running smoothly. I lead the women's Bible study. I evangelise my neighbours. I ... "

Any other ideas - perhaps something you've said to a younger woman, or an older woman has said to you?

image is from russelljsmith at flickr

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

the myth of the super-woman

Rachael has just finished a wonderful series over at in tandem about the myth of the super-woman. If there's anything that can make women busy for all the wrong reasons, it's this one! We look at other women and all the things they do, feel inadequate, and pack all kinds of things into our lives to measure up. But the super-woman is a myth. Read Rachel's series and find out why.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

a theology of milk and other ordinary things

Last year I read this statement, tucked away in a footnote in a certain august magazine:

… Paul isn't talking [in 1 Corinthians 10:31] about just any old eating and drinking (as if there is such a thing as a godly and an ungodly way to drink a glass of milk!), but about the specific issue of sharing in fellowship meals with unbelievers.*

The bit in brackets bothered me (although, as I read on, I was reassured**) because I'm convinced that the Bible has a huge amount to say about seemingly inconsequential things like how to drink a glass of milk.

The Bible gives us a theology of insects, oceans, single cellular organisms, quarks, galaxies, the small spot on a nearby tree trunk, the unwanted hairs in my right eyebrow, and yes, the drinking of milk.

I'm not being flippant. Without this knowledge, I don't know where I'd be. So much of our lives—so much of my life!—is mundane. Mothers wipe noses. Factory workers sort parts. Children play under sprinklers (well, they used to, before rain became scarce in Australia). We're fathers, workers, teenagers, bosses, sisters, babies. We scratch mosquito bites. We walk the dog. We drink milk.

So here it is: a theology of milk.

  • God created milk good, and if we receive it with thanksgiving, it's holy, set apart for God's glory (1 Tim 4:4-5).
  • We're free to drink milk in any flavour or quantity we like, but we should use this freedom to drink in a way that honours God and is loving to others (Gal 5:13-14).
  • We should drink milk with self-control, for we should not be enslaved by anything (1 Cor 6:12).
  • Wisdom dictates that we should be careful not to drink too much milk, for physical health is of some value and may help us to serve God with greater energy and without the slothfulness of gluttony (1 Tim 4:8; Prov 23:20-21).
  • We shouldn't be obsessed with the drinking of milk, lest it become an idol. Nor should we be obsessed with the non-drinking of milk, for dieting can as easily become an idol as its opposite. Inner beauty matters more than outer beauty (1 Pet 3:3-4).
  • We shouldn't spend too much money on fancy varieties of milk; instead, we should use our money to support ourselves and those dependent on us, help those in need, and further the cause of the gospel (1 Tim 5:8; Eph 4:28).

I could keep going, but I think that's enough for now.

I'm not recommending an OCD approach to Christian living, where I mentally review a theology of creation with every gulp of milk, offer a hymn of praise every time I wipe my child's nose, or utter a prayer for wisdom before I pluck each individual hair from my right eyebrow. What I'm talking about is an almost unconscious theology—a way of seeing everything, big and small, through the lens of God's truth.

As I soak myself in God's word, it will start to transform me so that I will begin to gulp, wipe and pluck with love, wisdom and thanksgiving. As my mind is increasingly filled with the gospel, it will shape my attitudes and actions in subtle and unexpected ways, so that I make wise choices about everyday things to God's glory (Rom 12:1-2).

If I can do it with milk, I can do it with anything. And if I can do it with anything, I must do it with everything. Tucked away in my head, I need a theology small enough for anything and big enough for everything, so that I can glorify God in the mundane and not-so-mundane happenings of every day.

* David Shead, ‘Making trainees of all people’ The Briefing, #365, February 2009, p. 25, footnote 3.
** The footnote goes on to say “our call to serve Christ and the church governs the way we should conduct ourselves in everything we do, even in everyday activities like sharing a meal with friends”.

This post is reproduced from yesterday's post at Sola Panel.

images are from aboemonster, nwwildman and ibeamee at flickr

Monday, June 7, 2010

what I'm reading: success and identity from Counterfeit Gods

Every day I get a quote about the cross in my inbox from Of First Importance. It's a great way to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus.

Here's some words I found particularly helpful as I reflected on how we get our identity from what we do.

How can we break our heart’s fixation on doing 'some great thing' in order to heal ourselves of our sense of inadequacy, in order to give our lives meaning? Only when we see what Jesus, our great Suffering Servant, has done for us will we finally understand why God’s salvation does not require us to do 'some great thing.' We don’t have to do it, because Jesus . . . did it all for us ... When we believe in what he accomplished for us with our minds, and when we are moved by what he did for us in our hearts, it begins to kill off the addiction, the need for success at all costs.

Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods (New York, NY: Dutton, 2009), 93-94, HT Of First Importance

image is from OnlyByGrace at flickr

Friday, June 4, 2010


Andy (3) and I were listening to a Colin Buchanan CD in the car the other day when the word "sin" came up in one of the songs.

I asked Andy, "Do you know what sin is?"


"Sin means disobeying God. Do you know what disobeying God means?"


"It's like disobeying Mummy and Daddy. Like when we ask you to do something, and you don't do it. God wants you to obey Mummy and Daddy, and when you disobey us, you're disobeying God."

There was silence for a while as Andy pondered this new information. Then, when he got out of the car, he said,

"Mummy, I'm not going to obey you ever again."

I think he meant "disobey", but I'll take what I can get!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Tim Keller Praying your fears

Last week I told you about Tim Keller's talk Praying our Tears. Today I'd like to tell you about Praying our Fears, in which he continues his series on Psalms.

If fear is not just being scared of real danger, but also worry about things that may never happen, then I'm an expert. I've known months when there was a band of anxiety around my middle and a sensation of butterflies in my stomach. If you're an anxious person, you know what I mean.

Tim Keller talks about both kinds of fear - fear of an immediate threat, and persistent anxiety - in his talk Praying our Fears on Psalm 3. Here's what he taught me about fear.

There are 2 steps into fear.
1. Fear: a healthy response to danger, which drives us to fight or flight, and then is gone.
2. Anxiety: a lingering, generalised, undefined sense of fear which paralyses us.

If fear is a thunderstorm, anxiety is a constant, cold drizzle: the first produces green growth, the second mildew. Fear can be good for us - it gets us out of danger! - but anxiety makes us agitated, nervous and upset. Constant anxiety can permanently turn on our autonomic nervous system, which is only meant to respond to crises, and so lead to all kinds of health issues.

What causes this second, debilitating kind of fear is not a threat to life or safety, but a threat to our identity: when something that makes us feel in control is threatened or taken away. In Psalm 3 David faces both kinds of fear: the physical threat from Absalom's armies, and the threat to his identity as the beloved, honoured, upright king of his people.

But how do we escape from this second, debilitating kind of fear?

There are 4 steps out of fear.
1. Follow your thread.
David describes God as a "shield around me" (Ps 3:1): a full-body shield which curves around the body, meant not for hand-to-hand combat but for following your commander into situations of extreme danger. If you turn and run, the shield won't protect you. It's only useful when you're heading into danger. Obedience takes us not away from fear, but through and beyond our fear.

2. Relocate your glory.
David says, literally, "but you are my glory" (Ps 3:3). He says "but..." because something else has become his glory: he has built his emotional and psychological identity on something other than God. When we put our worth and security in something finite, out there in time and space, we are always vulnerable. So we need to relocate our glory: not in our talents or our role, or others' opinion of us, but in God's approval.

3. See the substitute.
But how do we know we have God's approval? David says that God hears him because of his "holy hill", the temple (Ps 3:4), the symbol of our Saviour Jesus. Our significance doesn't come from what we have achieved or what we have, but from Jesus, the one who was cut off from God so we don't have to be.

4. Remember the people.
The opposite of fear is not an absence of fear, but love (1 Jn 4:18 cf Ps 3:8). Fear is self-centred, love is other-centred. You can't deal with fear by yourself: you have to get your mind off yourself by serving others in love.

So here's the solution to fear:

  • go forward in obedience, whatever the cost
  • seek my identity in God, instead of the thing I'm scared to lose
  • look to the cross, where my significance comes from
  • forget myself in love for others.

It sounds about right to me!

imags are from stock.xchng and sentex64 at flickr

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

the princess follows her thread

Have you read George MacDonald's The Princess and the Goblin? It was one of my favourite books as a child - and a great one to read with your kids, not least for the hidden messages about trust and obedience.

In the following passage, the princess follows a magic thread that her "great-great-grandmother" has said will always lead to her and safety, but which takes the princess into the dark passages at the heart of a mountain.

But presently she came to a huge heap of stones, piled in a slope against the wall of the cavern. On these she climbed, and soon recovered the level of the thread only however to find, the next moment, that it vanished through the heap of stones, and left her standing on it, with her face to the solid rock. For one terrible moment she felt as if her grandmother had forsaken her. ... She threw herself upon the heap, and began to cry. ... At length the thought struck her that at least she could follow the thread backwards, and thus get out of the mountain, and home. She rose at once, and found the thread. But the instant she tried to feel it backwards, it vanished from her touch. Forwards, it led her hand up to the heap of stones - backwards it seemed nowhere. ... She burst into a wailing cry, and again threw herself down on the stones.

In his talk Praying our Fears Tim Keller uses the princess's story as an illustration of obedience in the face of fear. When the princess follows her grandmother's thread, it leads her into dark places and she's tempted to go back; but when she tries to go back, the thread disappears.

When God calls us to obey, there are only 2 possible responses: obedience, which is hard; and disobedience, which is impossible. Obedience may seem to take us into danger, but backwards lies disaster: and so we face our fear and go forward.

That was just to whet your appetite! Tomorrow I'd like to follow up on last week's post and share what I learned from Tim Keller's talk on fear.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

woman to woman (4a) a Titus 2 curriculum: the gospel of grace

Oops! Somehow, I lost track of my series on woman to woman ministry! Let's pick up where we left off. If older women are to teach younger women (Titus 2:3-5), what's on the curriculum?

It's all very well to say that older women should be teaching and training young women, but what are they to teach? Let's look at Titus 2:3-5 in the broader context of the chapter and see what's on the curriculum. There are four main topics older women will discuss with younger women. The first two are also taught by men to men, but the second two are uniquely relevant to women.

1. The gospel of grace
Books and talks on biblical womanhood tend to be strong on practice and weak on principle. Women's teaching often degenerates into a list of dos and don'ts—for example, kiss your husband when he walks in the door, have regular dates with your children and keep your cupboards organized. This is particularly damaging for women because many of us long for self-transformation and we excel at comparing ourselves with others. We listen to a talk on womanhood and go away with 20 ways we need to change—right now!

But Paul doesn't let us get away with rule-based teaching. Even when he addresses the specifics of godly living, he makes it clear that our behaviour flows from the gospel. It's “sound doctrine” that gives godliness its shape (Titus 2:1). It's “the grace of God” that “teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness” (Titus 2:11-12 NIV). It's our desire to “adorn” the gospel that motivates good deeds (Titus 2:10; cf. vv. 5, 8).

Only a woman who knows the gospel will live her life in the loving freedom that comes from grace, rather than attempting to meet her Christian culture's version of perfect womanhood. As we teach women, we need to constantly remind them (and ourselves!) that most of the practical advice we give isn't God-ordained, that God is patient with our slowness to change, and that we're forgiven and transformed through God's grace.

What do you think? Do women often lose sight of the gospel as we teach and encourage one another? How can we encourage each other to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus?

You can read the rest of the article at The Briefing.

image is from enggul at flickr