Friday, August 30, 2013

CS Lewis on ambition

I just read this in a letter by CS Lewis. If there's anything in you that longs for success or recognition or  admiration - in fact, if there's anything in you that is tempted to value anything more highly than God (and surely that's all of us!) - then this is for you.
From the age of sixteen onwards I had one single ambition (becoming a successful writer), from which I never wavered, in the prosecution of which I spent every ounce I could, on which I really and deliberately staked my whole con­tentment: and I recognise myself as having unmistakably failed in it. I feel that I have some right to talk to you as a man in the same boat.

The side of me which longs, not to write, for no one can stop us doing that, but to be approved as a writer, is not the side of us that is really worth much. And depend upon it, unless God has abandoned us, he will find means to cauterise that side somehow or other. If we can take the pain well and truly now and by it forever the wish to be dis­tinguished beyond our fellows.

And honestly, the being cured, with all the pain, has pleasure too: one creeps home, tired and bruised into a state of mind that is really restful, when all one’s ambitions have been given up. Then one can really say for the first time, “Thy Kingdom come.” For in that Kingdom there will be no pre-eminences and a man must have reached the stage of not caring two straws about his own status before he can enter it.

Think how difficult that would be if one succeeded as a writer: how bitter this necessary purgation at the age of sixty, when literary success had made your whole life and you had then got to begin to go through the stage of seeing it all as dust and ashes. Perhaps God has been specially kind to us in forcing us to get over it at the beginning.

At all events, whether we like it or not, we have got to take the shock. As you know so well, we have got to die. Cry, kick, swear, we may: only to come in the end and die far more painfully and later.

I would have given almost anything—I shudder to think what I would have given if I had been allowed—to be a successful writer. I am writing as I do simply and solely because I think the only thing for you to do is absolutely to kill the part of you that wants success.

CS Lewis They Stand Together: The Letters of CS Lewis to Arthur Greeves 379-340

online meanderings

How big is God’s love? - How long? How high? How wide? How deep?

When life feels uncertain - Waiting on God in times of uncertainty.

When God calls us "sheep", it's no compliment. - Our Shepherd cares for poor, lost, not-so-smart sheep like you and me (so why do I try to pretend I've got it all together?).

10 ways to be a better listener - Excellent, simple, convicting.

Not hating your husband's ministry - A helpful post for ministry wives.

The mummy wars - I'll never be "coupon mum", or "craft mum", or "organic food mum", but "imperfect-completely-loved-free-in-Jesus mum" - now that I can do.

Don't give teens unrestricted access to the internet What's you teen doing late at night on their smartphone or tablet? A needed warning.

There’s Jesus, lifting the head of a woman of the night and sending her away into the light. There’s Jesus in a crowd, healing a woman desperately trying to cover the shame. There’s Jesus at the well, transforming a woman tossed aside by multiple men. Trevor Wax, "I Weep for Miley"
Through the years, we have had numerous people leave our church feeling that their needs as believers had not been met, and frankly, many of them had legitimate complaints. Yet what grieves me the most is that never during those years has anyone so much as complained about our ineffectiveness as a mission. Many have left for personal reasons; none have departed because we failed to care for the lost. Randy Pope

To see more links and quotes, click here (Facebook) or here (Twitter)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

sometimes I love the internet

Sometimes I love the internet.

Sometimes I feel swamped by all the posts that come my way. I go away wondering, "Why do I do this to myself?". But sometimes I go away encouraged and uplifted. There are times I'm very grateful for this extended family.

I came to my computer with a thirsty heart this morning. And yes, I have read my Bible. And no, I haven't yet prayed (let's be honest here) - haven't had much of a chance, really, what with waking late after a restless night, and getting 4 kids to school at 3 different times. But I did manage 10 minutes in front of a screen while the boys (ready! amazing!) played.

God spoke to me through a few different posts today, written mostly by people I've never met. Here are three of them.

When I'm not perfect...
I wanted to be the perfect wife, the perfect mum, the perfect woman because I wanted everyone to like me and no one to be able to find fault with me. I was trying to create glory for myself by being "Super Woman". But what is worse is that I was trying to steal God's place and erase His picture of grace in my life. Because with the perfect image of self as my god, there was no room for grace. My definition of failure equaled "not perfect." The mantra of failure, failure, failure rather than grace, grace, grace washed over my heart daily. Hannah Lannigan
When I wonder if my kids will turn out okay with my very imperfect parenting...
God is sovereign and he alone writes the story of our lives. He does not give parents the ability to write their children’s days for them. You plant, you sow, and you commit them to God. And you rejoice in his mercy if they come to faith and you pray till you reach glory if they haven’t. Deb
When I'm going through a time of difficulty and change...
We go through seasons within ourselves. There are times of spring, full of creativity and intense production and newness, summers where our souls feel full, warm, relaxed and relishing. Autumns bring their contemplative reflection, and then there are winters, when we burrow into either a sweet or a menacing darkness to prepare for the newness ahead or to recover, to die down, strip back, withdraw. It never feels like winter is a productive time; by all appearances it is dead. These winters of the soul are the hardest to endure, particularly when, unlike nature's seasons, we don't know when they will end or what will be the fruit of their barrenness. We can only ask for strength to look for beauty in the icy winds, grey skies and pervading bleakness. ...

I love Psalm 90. Within a picture of an eternal, changeless God who 'has been our dwelling place for all generations' comes a prayer to God, to 'teach us to number our days that we may gain hearts of wisdom'. Life's seasons are held in an eternal hand, and even in a temporal sense this life so quickly passes away. Through Jesus the future is secure, there is light in darkness. These truths are rich, ready fuel for warmth through the wintering of our souls. Cath
Thank you, friends, for writing.

Monday, August 26, 2013

what does double-mindedness have to do with anxiety and suffering?

Ever noticed how the same idea pops up in different places? You get the nagging feeling someone is tapping you on the shoulder, trying to get your attention.

Recently for me it's been double-mindedness. I didn't know it had anything to do with anxiety. Although Matthew 6:19-34 might have given me a clue. Ed Welch says,
Whose kingdom are you seeking? Do you trust the King who is also your Father? ...The real issue behind worry is that of spiritual allegiance. 

Our answer? "Sort of...a little...usually." We sort of want the kingdom, and we sort of want to trust the King - until life gets precarious.

When everything is going well and the storehouses are full, we trust him. But when there is nothing for tomorrow, we panic and track down the address of another god who can give us enough for tomorrow and the next day too. ...

Whom do I trust? Where is my faith? ... All of us already know the answer. Our trust is divided. We don't put all our eggs in one basket - even God's - because that's too risky. Our trust might not pay off in the way we hope.

We are reluctant to simply say to our Father, "I am yours," and stop worrying. ...Fear and worry reveal that our faith is indeed small ...

You trust God for some things and not others. You trust him for heaven but not for earth.

And as if that wasn't enough, here's Paul Grimmond on double-mindedness and suffering.
I remember talking a number of years ago to a young medical student who was thinking about the possibility of missionary service.

As we talked, he was refreshingly (if sadly) honest: "I know God's glory matters. I know people need to hear about Jesus Christ. I know my own comfort isn't everything.

"But what if it's all a lie? What if Christ didn't really die? What if God isn't really there? I'd have given up everything for nothing."

I think he said what many of us harbour in our hearts but are fearful to say. We are secretly worried the world might be right. ...

We live with a foot in both camps, afraid to leave Christ behind but terrified of what might happen if we wholeheartedly planted both feet at the foot of the cross. ...

It is only as the things of this world are dimmed by the glory of God that we will be able to live and to suffer for Christ [and, it seems, trust him.]

From Ed Welch
Running Scared 109 and Paul Grimmond Suffering Well 149-150, emphasis mine.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

online meanderings

A tantrum for my transformation - When the dryer breaks and I get a flat tyre and the two year old chucks a wobbly ... God is still in control.

What's the silver bullet in Muslims getting to know Jesus? -  Prolonged exposure to the Bible and prolonged exposure to Christians. Anyone can do that!

Why we don't share what we believe and 3 ingredients for an evangelistic church - Good reads for pastors and the rest of us.

When the wife is a natural leader and the husband isn't - A godly reflection.

Statistics on porn and the porn industry in graphic form.

“If it sounds like writing … rewrite it.” - 10 rules of writing. 
God cannot be reduced to a formula. We cannot manipulate God, but we can trust him, and that is far better. JD Greear

If you have had your bellyful of sin and you feel wounded and it seems like nobody cares anymore and your heart is broken because you are experiencing the bitter aftertaste of death, Jesus Christ does not say to you, “I told you so.” He says, “Come to me, and I will give you rest.” Ray Ortlund

The best Christian friends will learn my patterns of sin and rather than wait for me to call them, they will call me. Probably when I least want to hear from them. Paul Martin

To see more links and quotes, click here (Facebook) or here (Twitter)

online meanderings for parents

There have been some great posts for parents lately. I thought I'd gather them into one place.

Nice mamas don't sell their kids - I laughed and laughed, and went away encouraged.

3 lessons in parenting
Lesson 1: You control the input but you do not control the outcome.
Lesson 2: You cannot make your children want what you want for them.
Lesson 3: You must hope the best for your children even when you see the worst.

Getting real about your kids - Don't do "perfect family" parenting. Teach your kids you, and they, are sinners. Welcome their confessions. Don't be shocked; be very glad.

3 things you don't know about your children and sex - An uncomfortable must-read article.

3 styles of parenting - Who wouldn't choose the upturned funnel?

Choosing a school - A fair comparison of public / private / Christian / home schooling (with one proviso: kids can be trainees not just pawns when it comes to sharing our faith).
I look at my children, and I wish for them enough opposition to make them strong, enough insults to make them choose, enough hard decisions to make them see that following Jesus brings with it a cost - a cost eminently worth it, but still a cost. Don Carson
A mother's job isn't to wave a wand make her kids instantly sinless but to help equip and train them to fight a long, hard battle against their sin, and set their feet on a long, slow journey of growth in godliness. Nicole Starling

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Friday, August 23, 2013

a good children's bible for older kids

Ah, yes, children's bibles. Love 'em or hate 'em, most Christian parents read them to their kids. If you've ever tried to buy one, you'll know how many there are!

Most are collections of bible stories picked with an eye to "things kids like and can relate to". These range from good to indifferent. You'll probably want a few on your shelf for different ages. I reviewed lots in this post (recently updated).

Some kids' bibles are more interpretative. They give kids a biblical theology - an overview of God's big saving plan - and show how every bible story points to Jesus, which is brilliant. There are two excellent bibles for younger children that fit this category - The Big Picture Story Bible and The Jesus Storybook Bible (I reviewed them here).

A couple of years ago, another children's bible was published that shows how every story is fulfilled by Jesus: The Gospel Story Bible. I've been reading it with Andy (7) and Thomas (10). The writing is clear but dense and the ideas challenging, and it's not highly readable - it's sometimes a little over Andy's head - so it's more suited to older children than the two I just mentioned; but it's still a good choice.

My friend Deb says, "It’s much meatier than most children’s bibles. It is not straight text – it is still a re-telling of the story – but it sticks closely to the text and doesn’t add in too many imaginative details." We read to our whole family from a complete bible too, but it's helpful for my younger children to hear the fuller story in an accessible format.

At the end of each story is a paragraph explaining how it's fulfilled in Jesus; these are mostly excellent. My kids particularly enjoy the 3 discussion questions that go with each story - a great way of revising the story and driving the point home. The pages are bright and glossy (a bit hard on these old eyes, but the kids love them!) and the pictures unusual and eye-catching.

So if you're looking for a children's story bible for ages 7-12, one that will show kids how every story points to Jesus, you might have just found it.

If you want to find out more, check out ...

my review of children's Bibles
Deb's review of children's bibles
this detailed review of the most popular interpretative children's Bibles

Thursday, August 22, 2013

when you feel resentful about homemaking

Last week I shared my friend's question with you:
I was wondering if any of you have any advice, or could recommend a talk or book, that could encourage me in my role as homemaker.

I have been becoming increasingly irritated and resentful about doing all the housework lately (as well as finances, admin, handy man stuff etc). I'm also the one who is training the children to do it. Maybe I need to share it with my husband more, I don't know. 
(My friend has several young children, and every week she has 2 child-free days that theoretically free her up to do housework. She says, "I am hesitant to add more to my husband's workload when I have 'extra time'.")
Here's my response, with a few suggestions from mutual friends scattered through (you'll find some more responses here). You can skip to the practical points at the end if you like!


You'll need to figure out the "why" behind what you're feeling before you know what to do. There are five main reasons I can think of that this happens for me:

1) because I am extra tired, and tiredness brings out my anger. One of the ways I know I'm exhausted is that I start to feel angry at my husband. It's a warning sign I've come to recognise. It might mean I need a day off (maybe he could mind the kids and let you go away for a night?), or need to remember all he does, or need to ask for more help, or, when it’s not under my control, just need to recognise it, pray for grace, and be patient until it passes.

My friend adds,
When I have found myself getting annoyed, resentful or frustrated in the past, I have found praying through 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 with a focus on the specific person triggering the response helpful. This has proved to be a great aid to forgiveness and a great assistance to recovering a Christ-like attitude in difficult situations for me (and for others who have also tried it). It is especially helpful when prayed in the light of 1 John 4:7-12.
2) because I'm losing sight of why I'm doing this: it’s my job, and one I willingly accepted. That's where reading books has really helped me. Carolyn Mahaney's Feminine Appeal helped me see my role this way years ago, and her book Shopping for Time is a great help in living it out. But I think you’ve already been there, done that! I've found that talking with godly friends in similar situations, sharing our difficulties, helping each other keep our eyes on the goal, and praying for each other, also helps a lot.

3) because I'm unwilling to ask for or accept help, perhaps because I'm proud or stubborn, or like to do things my way so I can control the outcome. (For example, when my husband does the dishes he leaves them until later, but I like to get them done before I relax. Or he shops and doesn’t buy the exact things I want. Or, when it comes to child rearing, I think I can do it better.) I need to loosen up and let him help!

My friend adds,
In terms of sharing the load, it helps to give specifics and perhaps to set a time in the week for doing them if that helps the husband remember them. Also, set up a back-up system for when the wife is feeling overwhelmed. We have also talked about which jobs we prefer and have found that often they differ and we can do something that we prefer that the other hates. 
Another friend says,
The issue might be your husband's lack of involvement in family responsibilities. It could be that his brain is in a different place and he hasn't noticed how much he's dumped on you, but finding the balance is important for making it through the long term. I would start by talking with him about it and maybe suggesting he chat with a more experienced person about gaining a balance between the responsibilities of home and work/ministry/study.
 4) because I don't take time to rest, perhaps because I set my sights too high (e.g. every mother has to train their kids in this way, pray with their kids that way, keep this clean, collect these memories...), so I'm getting burnt out. I’ve learned I need a day off during the week – weekends don’t do it, they’re just a continuation of my week’s work – so I take most Friday mornings off and go to a park to read, write, walk and pray. I have to remind myself that caring for our home and family is my main ministry so it’s okay not to be doing heaps of other things! Books like Tim Chester’s The Busy Christian’s Guide to Busyness and Arch Hart’s Adrenaline and Stress help me here.

5) because I've lost sight of God's grace, all he's forgiven me for, and all he willingly gives me, so I feel bitter and resentful about serving. I haven’t read it yet, but I’m hoping that Gloria Freeman’s Glimpses of Grace - a book about the gospel and homemaking (it looks really good, not at all twee or predictable) - will help me here. Or Tim Keller’s King’s Cross or any other book on the cross would do. Or just some time spent in God’s word, reading over Psalm 103 or a gospel or a letter and meditating on God’s character and all he’s done. (Another good reason for asking for a day off to rest and refocus.)

Anyhow, here are some specific ideas, depending on what the issue is:
  • communicate what you’re feeling with your husband, and see if he has some perspective and what he offers. You might be pleasantly surprised. (I say "if" because it can’t be assumed, and sometimes we need to accept our husbands the way they are, forbear, forgive, and remember to be thankful for all God has given us in them. But the conversations need to happen first, and regularly if possible, so that resentment doesn’t build up.) 
  • ask for help in specific ways, and accept help when it is offered. You probably know by now the things your husband is more keen to help out with, or more capable of doing; perhaps you could hand over some of these things, at least temporarily. 
  • lower your standards. Are there things you are doing because you think they need to be done rather than because God demands them of you? You might need to sit more lightly to them (e.g. I’d love to still be learning Bible verses with my kids, but the demands of life have meant that we only did that for a year - of course, we keep teaching them the Bible, just differently).
  • take a morning or weekend off to recuperate and reflect and re-energise. Do it soon! Take a regular day off during the week. Talk and pray with godly friends in a similar situation 
  • as you suggest, read some good books: God’s word, something on your role, something on self-care, something on God’s grace 
  • pray about what you’re feeling. I should have put that first! ;)

Please keep adding your ideas to the comments. Just click here. Thanks to those who've already responded!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

online meanderings

Satan's lies about singleness - An excellent article.

Jesus' temptation is not '3 tips for ...' - "He’s not telling us to DO anything. He’s actually doing it FOR us."

Seminary wives: 10 encouragements for the journey - This is very helpful.

An atheist writes about Christianity - Well-informed and challenging.

Don't waste your years - A sobering look at the cost of pornography.

Offering H-E-L-P to the suffering - A great little mnemonic - and a H-E-L-P-ful reminder (oh, dear!).

Extroverts, introverts, and ambiverts - This explains a few people I know.
How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. Annie Dillard

Your heart will follow your money. Randy Alcorn

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Monday, August 19, 2013

what I'm reading: a book to give someone while they are suffering

There are lots of good books to read to prepare you for suffering (Don Carson's How Long O Lord is the best).

There are a few good books to read while you're suffering (Joni Eareckson's When God Weeps is excellent, but it might have to wait till you can see things more clearly).

Here's that rare thing - a book I'd gladly give to someone deep in suffering, for that moment when they can begin to read again: Nancy Guthrie's Holding On To Hope.

It's devotional, based on the book of Job. It's written out of great pain (the loss of a baby, and the coming loss of another). The readings are short and clear. Each explores one idea - "Loss", "Despair", "Tears" - with understanding and biblical wisdom.

I'm reading it at the moment. As I read, I find myself going, "You too!", about specific and unexpected aspects of suffering. Then I read on and find an answer from God's word that speaks to my need, and an exhortation to cling to faith and hope.

Here's one bit that jumped off the page.
Sometimes what God has allowed into our lives is so bitter that we're hurt and angry and don't even want to talk to him about it.

But where does that leave us?

On our own. No resources, no truth to dispel the despair, no hope.

The truth is, there is no comfort to be found away from God; at least, there is no lasting, deep, satisfying comfort. Revenge, ritual, retreat - they don't bring any lasting relief from the pain.

Only the truth of God's Word, the tenderness of his welcome, the touch of his healing presence bring the kind of comfort we crave. Only his promises of purpose in this life and perfection in the life to come offer us any kind of real hope to hold on to.

Do you find yourself wanting to leave the faith you've claimed now that it has been put to the test of adversity? So where will you go? In your discouragement, where will you find the comfort you so desperately crave? ...

Even though we don't understand, and it is so dark we cannot see to take a step forward, we can choose to hang on, to keep trusting, to keep believing God's Word.
 "So where will you go?"

Nowhere else but here.

Nancy Guthrie Holding On To Hope 46-47 (my emphasis).

Friday, August 16, 2013

family catch-up (and about time too!)

So, how are we all going? I'm sure I heard you ask.  

Steve is busy with talk-writing - three talks a week at the moment, two of those repeats (thankfully!). We're looking forward to things quietening down in September. He did some wonderful talks on judgement at our mid-year conference. You can listen to them here.

I am recovering, slowly but surely, from a brush with anxiety and panic late last term. Unpleasant. It's taking rest, and sleep, and exercise, and some sensible reading - Arch Hart's The Anxiety Cure and Ed Welch's Running Scared - but I am slowly getting better. Now we have less doctor's appointments, I'm enjoying having the energy for a bit of extra ministry: mentoring some girls in our university Christian group and hosting a church Bible study in our house once again.

Lizzy and I have been poring over year 10 subject choices - very exciting! She is choosing a range of subjects, from Visual Communications, Cooking and Community Involvement to Literature, History and Chemistry. I love that she's interested in so many different "pathways" (that's what they call it now). We tell her she can study anything she wants at uni, as long as she does a degree in Christian Union!

Ben was at school between 2 and 4 hours every day the whole first month of term. I was so proud of him! He's still in pain most the time, but he perseveres at getting better. A nasty cold meant he just missed a week's school: we're counting that as a God-given mid-term break.

Thomas recently turned 10. I love this age, when children come out of the "middle childhood wobblies" (that's how I think of them) and grow in responsibility and independence. It's good to see him growing up so well.

Andy has been sick a lot lately - sore tummy, a bout of flu, and now he's coughing hoarsely from a cold. So he's been a bit grumpy and miserable. Picture us sitting on the couch while I read piles of old favourites: Shirley Hughes and Lynley Dodd. Lovely!

online meanderings

Indispensable - An autistic young man shows that every part of Christ's body is needed by the rest. I wouldn't recommend the sermon; but what a wonderful story!

Grief, anxiety, and the balm of God's word - "In addition to grief, I’ve been fighting some troubling anxiety and racing thoughts." Good to know I'm not alone.

10 simple ways to increase happiness - Sensible secular wisdom.

An atheist writes about Christianity - This is really worth reading.

Christian romance novels: should we read them? - Simone starts an interesting series.

5 back to school basics - Whatever the time of year, whatever our situation, we could all learn from this.

On looking - What happens when you learn to see a familiar city block through 11 different sets of expert eyes? Fascinating.
Sometimes an act of encouragement might seem very small - but it might end up being the grandest of all gestures. Meredith

Whatever you do, never allow yourself to get a neuroses...But it can be avoided. Keep clear of introspection, of brooding, of spiritualism, of everything eccentric. Keep to work and sanity and open air - to the cheerful and the matter of fact side of things. We hold our mental health by a thread: and nothing is worth risking it for. Above all beware of excessive dreaming, of seeing yourself in the centre of a drama, of self pity, and, as far as possible, of fears. — CS Lewis to Arthur Greeves 1923.

To see more links and quotes, click here (Facebook) or here (Twitter).   

Thursday, August 15, 2013

God’s gifts in suffering (5) Suffering shows us what we truly fear to lose

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6-7)

I’ve been listening to my fears. I’ve been imagining dire possibilities. Every medical article, every story of hardship, every description of suffering, seems a pointer to our future, a list of what-might-be. There are times when I lie face down on the carpet, sick to the gut, held down by a blank, black dread. I knew that I would cry, but fear? It seems a strange accompaniment to sorrow.

I don’t feel safe anymore. I think it works like this: in suffering, one of the things you most feared has come to you. And if it has, there’s no longer any guarantee that such-and-such won’t happen. That so-and-so won’t be taken away. Life has been shaken to its roots, your comfortable expectations scattered like fallen fruit.

There’s a moment I remember clearly. I’m standing at the end of the hallway, holding my baby son, cocooned in wraps and ready for bed. I gaze at his face, soft and crumpled with newness, and suddenly all that he might become, all the glowing possibilities, flash before my eyes. There is a world of potential futures in this tiny bundle.

Chronic illness has stolen so much from us, things most parents take for granted, school days and childhood play and time with friends. It has the potential to take away so much more. Once I lived with the comfortable illusion that my decisions and carefully protected goodness could control the outcome. Now I know how vulnerable we are, how easily the things we hold can be taken away, and I am afraid.

Look closely at your fears, and you’ll see the mirror-image of your idols, what you count as happiness, what you hold most tightly. The things we think we can’t live without: security, success, control, peace, usefulness, happiness. The places we look for them: family, money, health, career, friendship, children, marriage. Suffering threatens and thus reveals the things we trust in. It loosens our grip and invites us to cling to God instead.

My son is now twelve years old. I’m standing on a bridge alone, and hoping to stay that way. People pass, but I keep my back to them, hiding my face. I lean on the rail and my tears drop into the river. They travel downstream with the twigs and the bubbles and the little eddies around the stones. Once again, my dreams for my son’s future flash before my eyes, but this time I take each one, let it fall, and watch it float away until it’s lost to view around the bend.

It feels hard but good, this giving up, this letting go. My dreams belong where all dreams belong, in the hands of God. My fears belong there too (1 Pet 5:6-7). My future – our family’s future – is in his hands. The things I think God owes me were never mine to begin with. The things I thought I could hold on to were never under my control.

I’d like some guarantees: this much, and no more. Instead, what I have is this: the assurance that a sovereign God has ordained every one of our days, that nothing else counts compared to knowing him, that what matters is not our comfort, but his glory. It’s not a convenient knowledge. It’s not easily come by. But I choose to believe that it’s enough.

And as I choose to believe, here in the dark, he opens his heart to me. The one who gave up his Son for us is tender and generous in his love, not capricious or cruel. He rejoices over his people with singing (Zeph 3:17). Our names are written on his hands (Isa 49:16). He shelters us under his wings (Ps 91:4). We are never out of his thoughts.1 I begin to know – I’m just at the beginning of knowing – that, whatever happens, we are safe here with him.

1. A few books bring this home to me: JI Packer’s Knowing God, particularly this quote; Cs Lewis’ “He’s not safe, but he’s good”, from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; and Ed Welch’s reminder of “God’s generosity and attention to detail” in Running Scared (p. 109). ↩

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

online meanderings

When helping helps - A woman writes about cancer, what kind of helping helps, and what doesn't. Moving, confronting, encouraging. 

Are you needed in your church? - "Who would say they have the spiritual gift of changing diapers?" Sometimes the need for a servant is greater than my need to use a specific gift.
6 steps to fight worry - from the excellent David Powlison.

Grace at work in dementia - When dementia affects someone you love: a post about grief, patience, reconciliation, love, and God's grace.

Grieving forbidden - This is troubling.

A baby changes everyone, not just everything - "It was like our daughter Julia was more herself now that she was a big sister, not just a little sister."

How not to be a book glutton - Discern, throw away, lend - and accept attrition. Challies.

On looking - What happens when you learn to see a familiar city block through 11 different sets of expert eyes? Fascinating. 
We are conformed to what we admire. Jon Bloom

If your story is limited to the blessings of the here and now, you are in trouble, because your vats bursting with wine will also run dry. But if your life in this world is only the title page to your eternal story, and God also gives you some barns and vats for the present, okay. Just be sure you set your heart not on the gift, which will certainly fail you, but on the Giver, who will certainly never fail you. Ray Ortlund

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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

a question for you

Here's a question from a friend whose husband is busy with full-time work / study (no personal details here!).

I thought you might like to help me answer her, and she's keen to hear your thoughts too.
I was wondering if any of you have any advice, or could recommend a talk or book, that could encourage me in my role as homemaker.

I have been becoming increasingly irritated and resentful about doing all the housework lately (as well as finances, admin, handy man stuff etc). I'm also the one who is training the children to do it. Maybe I need to share it with my husband more, I don't know. 
(My friend has several young children, and every week she has 2 child-free days that theoretically free her up to do housework. She says, "I am hesitant to add more to my husband's workload when I have 'extra time'.")
 We'd love to hear from you. You can respond by clicking here.

Monday, August 12, 2013

what I'm (re)reading: the first, wonderful chapters of Knowing God - and a cure for worry

My friend told me that her friend told her to start Knowing God half way through.


Or at least take time to read the first 3 chapters. Here's why I love them:
  • chapter 1 taught me to meditate on God's word: to preach it to myself until it makes an impact on my heart and mind (see my quote here)
  • chapter 2 taught me to hunger after true knowledge of God - not just head knowledge but heart knowledge
  • chapter 3 is about the fact that God knows us, which ... well, read on ...
My mind has been a bit "pressed out of shape" by anxiety lately. These words gave me perspective:
Absurdist tapeworms and Antoinette’s fever are ills from which, in the nature of the case, Christians are immune, except for occasional spells of derangement when the power of temptation presses their mind out of shape - and these, by God’s mercy, do not last.
And these words reminded me that there really is no reason to worry, because God knows me intimately and cares for every detail. Read it s-l-o-w-l-y and let the words wash over you.
What matters supremely, therefore, is not, in the last analysis, the fact that I know God, but the larger fact which underlies it—the fact that he knows me.

I am graven on the palms of his hands (Isa. 49:16). I am never out of his mind. All my knowledge of him depends on his sustained initiative in knowing me. I know him because he first knew me, and continues to know me.

He knows me as a friend, one who loves me; and there is no moment when his eye is off me, or his attention distracted from me, and no moment, therefore, when his care falters.

This is momentous knowledge. There is unspeakable comfort—the sort of comfort that energizes, be it said, not enervates—in knowing that God is constantly taking knowledge of me in love and watching over me for my good.

There is tremendous relief in knowing that his love to me is utterly realistic, based at every point on prior knowledge of the worst about me, so that no discovery now can disillusion him about me, in the way I am so often disillusioned about myself, and quench his determination to bless me.

There is, certainly, great cause for humility in the thought that He sees all the twisted things about me that my fellow-men do not see (and am I glad!), and that He sees more corruption in me than that which I see in myself (which in all conscience, is enough).

There is, however, equally great incentive to worship and love God in the thought that, for some unfathomable reason, He wants me as His friend, and desires to be my friend, and has given His Son to die for me in order to realize this purpose.

Magnificent, isn't it? I read that bit 3 times through the other day, just so I wouldn't forget it.

the quote is from Knowing God p 45-46

Thursday, August 8, 2013

online meanderings

Caring for an autistic child - I was profoundly helped by this post.

How is too hard - A woman writes with insight about life after the loss of a baby, and how hard it is to answer the question, "How are you?".

A faltering devotional life - What starts - and stops - us spending time with God.

The failure of Christian tenderness - What happens when Christian compassion is replaced with sentimentality? This really struck me.

Should my boyfriend's porn addiction be a relationship deal-breaker? - I think this is fair.

Helping your child through year 12 - Sensible wisdom for any year at school.

Introverts and extroverts - I love the couple of paragraphs on brain chemistry near the start.

Top 10 writing mistakes - If you write, you owe it to yourself - and the rest of us - to read the whole thing.
You must translate every bit of your theology into the vernacular. This is essential. It is also the greatest service to your own thought. I have come to the conviction that if you cannot translate your thoughts into uneducated language, then your thoughts were confused. CS Lewis

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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

the best advice ever

No hide, no Christmas box.

Right now, your face is blank. Unless you're among the privileged few who has heard this phrase before. Think about it for a minute... Got it?


Well, think of it this way: No courage, no reward.

There are mothers who raise their kids with oodles of cuddles and lashings of sympathy. There are mothers who raise their kids with a hands-off, you-can-do-it attitude. And there are mothers who raise their kids with pithy sayings.

My mum, like her mum before her, was one of the last kind (the first kind, too). I've had no cause to regret it. Present me with a sticky situation, and you can be pretty sure that one of my mum's sayings is on the tip of my brain, rescuing me from my not-so-carefree personality.

The other day, I asked a sales assistant to take half the price off a half-way-through-the-year Tolkien calendar, and she did. I'm not the type to approach a stranger and ask for something, so I've got my mum to thank for the extra money in my wallet. No hide, no Christmas box.

Here's another. Imagine your son is the saddest-looking clown in school, not having a shiny wig like all the other clowns, just a random collection of drooping clothes from his sister's dress-ups. Not that this would ever happen to me. But if it did, I might happen to say, as my mother said to me, It's not the end of the world. Because it's not.
I was once on the tram, scrambling for my ticket, when something embarrassing and *cough* feminine may or may not have fallen out of my handbag, in full view of the passengers. It must run in the family: my Grandma carried out an entire conversation with the milkman at the door ignoring the underpants around her ankles, the elastic having given way thanks to a bad case of pregnancy belly. Oh well, You've got to laugh or you'd cry.

You know those little phrases that get handed down like a family fingerprint? Every time my mum and I set off on a mother-daughter outing, the seat belts would click and she'd say, Well, this is fun! Much to my daughter's annoyance, it pops out of my mouth (I can't help saying it! I have to say it!) when we set off anywhere. I tell her she'll say it to her daughter one day. She tells me she won't. We'll see.

Now let's put them together.

Let's say, theoretically of course, that your boys are behaving, as boys will, with maximum noise and falling-about, right in the middle of Myer, despite all your tellings-off, and they pull over, of all things, a rack of expensive suits, and the women at the counter gives you a dirty look when you apologise, and says, in a fierce hiss, "I'll fix it", when you offer to put them back ...

It's not the end of the world. Now you're feeling a little better.

You've got to laugh or you'd cry. Now you're giggling.

Isn't this fun? Now you're talking like my mum, and all the better for it.

Written, very, very late - with apologies, but holidays are important, people! - in response to Meredith's writing challenge.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

what I'm reading: how well do you know God?

On my mornings off, I go to a cafe and pull out a book. I read a chapter, slowly and carefully. I drink it in, along with my spiced chai.

It's one of the highlights of my week. That slow, meditative reading feeds me, reshapes me, and fills me with thoughts of God and Jesus and the cross.

I've just started a new book: JI Packer's Knowing God. Or maybe I should say an old one. I've read it before. It's one of the greatest Christian classics of all time.

You might like to join me! Let me know if you'd like to read Knowing God along with me. I'm sure a few quotes and reflections will make their way onto this blog.

Here's a quote that helps me realise how much I need to grow in my knowledge of God.
I walked in the sunshine with a scholar who had effectively forfeited his prospects of academic advancement by clashing with church dignitaries over the gospel of grace.
“But it doesn’t matter,” he said at length, “for I’ve known God and they haven’t.”

The remark was a mere parenthesis, a passing comment on something I had said, but it has stuck with me, and set me thinking.

Not many of us, I think, would ever naturally say that we have known God. The words imply a definiteness and matter-of-factness of experience to which most of us, if we are honest, have to admit that we are still strangers. ...

Would it occur to us to say, without hesitation, and with reference to particular events in our personal history, that we have known God?

I doubt it, for I suspect that with most of us experience of God has never become so vivid as that.
Nor, I think, would many of us ever naturally say that, in the light of the knowledge of God which we have come to enjoy, past disappointments and present heartbreaks, as the world counts heartbreaks, don’t matter. ...

Those who really know God ... never brood on might-have-beens; they never think of the things they have missed, only of what they have gained. ...

What normal person spends his time nostalgically dreaming of manure? (Phil 3:7-10) Yet this, in effect, is what many of us do.

It shows how little we have in the way of true knowledge of God.

Time to get reading! Let me know if you want to read this Christian classic with me.

Friday, August 2, 2013

online meanderings

Comfort in, dump out and Encouragement and the languages of love - Simple but profound.

Seeing in the dark - "How could there be beauty in a boy that would never whisper his love to me?"

9 reasons why Christian leaders struggle to pray - Challenging, yes, but also helpful.

Exercise and anxiety and Controlling our worries- I've found techniques like these help turn down the emotional "noise" so I can begin to remind myself of God's truth.

Ode to the Whole Duty of Parents and 5 things every parent should say to their child as often as possible - Good food for parents.

Bible versions as Star Wars characters - Funny and insightful (and why I don't love the ESV, even though I like Yoda).

By the book - An interesting interview about books, atheism, and science.
When I am tired and feel that I must have time for myself, I am free to give a bit more.
When I think the finances won’t go any further, I am free to trust and be generous.
When I think I am being mistreated, I am free to eat that mistreatment for the sake of another.
When I think I am under appreciated, I am free to continue to give my all regardless of who sees.
When someone has truly wronged me, I am free to fully forgive them. Wendy Alsup

He shows up in big and small ways. He meets us in those moments of defeated silence, and He moves us from despair to strong hope in Him. Michael Kelley

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