Like a Child

Today we were driving to the shops, and my daughter said, “Oh no! Someone left their Old McDonald’s wrapper ON THE GROUND!”

“That’s not good, is it, honey? People should pick up their rubbish,” I said.

“I know!” she said immediately. “We could have a garbage hunt!”

And so – when the weather improves – we plan on having a garbage hunt. Walking around our neighbourhood with a garbage bag, picking up all the rubbish we find.

I don’t know if this is something they’ve done at school before, but I’m fairly certain her teacher has talked to her class about the environmental impacts of leaving your rubbish lying around. She has come home from school before talking to me about how rubbish that washes into the water ways can cause fish to choke and die.

And just the other day we were walking back to the car and she stopped to pick up someone’s empty juice popper “so we can put it in the bin at home”.

For her, it is so simple… Rubbish pollutes the world, so we should pick up rubbish and put it in the bin.

Belief = action.

We call this integrity, when a persons actions match their beliefs.

But I don’t think it’s so simple for adults.

We know that littering is bad for the environment, yet most of us would quite happily walk past someone else’s rubbish because we don’t want to touch it or be seen touching it or it’s not our fault.

Our actions don’t match our beliefs.


 

The other day, while I was having an internal ultrasound, I had the opportunity to explain the gospel to a stranger – the ultrasound technician (now, don’t tell me you find it uncomfortable to talk about your faith…).

He asked what the difference between Catholics and Protestants was, and I proceeded to explain that the main difference is that Protestants believe that the only way to be saved is by having faith in God, not your own good works.

This is the good news of the gospel – that salvation is a gift, from start to finish, and there is nothing we can do to contribute to that.

It’s very good news, but it does cause problems with our human nature.

Because some of us hear that and think, Great! I will just trust in Jesus and then get on with my life, doing whatever I please, because I am saved anyway!

This is why James needed to write in the Bible:

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

Yes, faith in God is all we need to be saved. James is not arguing that our good deeds somehow contribute to our salvation, like an add-on to faith. Rather, he is saying that deeds are the evidence of faith.
We can’t say that we have real faith – a living faith – if we don’t act on it.

 

If we say we believe that Jesus is the Lord and the only way to God, but we don’t worship him, our faith is dead.

If we say we believe that only those who trust in Jesus will go to heaven and everyone else will go to hell, but we don’t tell people about Him, our faith is dead.

If we say we believe that living life God’s way is best, but we don’t obey him, our faith is dead.

Faith without action is nothing.

In fact, it’s worse than nothing – it’s hypocrisy.

 

Maybe we have something to learn from children here.

They have no gap between their beliefs and their actions.

Let’s have a real, live faith.

A child-like faith.

A faith that cannot help but act.

 

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When You Don’t Want to Change

 

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Every morning when I dropped my daughter to school, I saw this beautiful tree in the car park.

I was drawn to it’s bright red leaves. I loved the way it was still clinging to them despite all the other trees having dropped their leaves weeks ago.

I guess it was a picture of resilience to me – a lone tree clinging to beauty in the face of bitter frost and fog.

But the other morning I saw something different.

I saw defiance and rebellion. I saw one little tree recklessly holding onto “same” when it was time for “change”.

 

It made me reflect on life’s seasons, and how sometimes I can stubbornly cling to one season, even long after the fog and frost has arrived. Refusing to let go of the warmth and colour of autumn, even when the time for winter is here.

You see, I really hate change.

I’m like, okay, so this is the season we’re in? Great, let me make up a schedule. Let me find what works. Let me finesse our routine.

See? I can totally do this. Everything is running smoothly. Life is just gre…

What? A new season already? But I just… *sigh*

 

So I really relate to that little tree with it’s brilliant red leaves. It’s just got the hang of autumn. It’s rocking autumn. And it just isn’t ready to deal with a new season yet.

The Bible says that just like the seasons in nature, there are seasons in life.

Ecclesiastes 3 puts it like this:

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

And just as there is a season for everything, it is God who directs the seasons and determines when it is time for each activity.

The passage goes on to say that “He has made everything beautiful in its time.

When I cling to the last season, unwilling to let it go and move into the new season of life, what I’m saying is that I believe my fears more than I believe God.

I’m saying that my own worries about what the new season might bring are bigger than the God who guides the seasons.

Which is ridiculous!

I think of Jesus walking on the water, calling Peter to walk out of the boat, across the water to Him. All Peter could see was his fears (and to be honest, logic!). Logic and experience says that if you step on water, you will fall in.

But Peter forgot Who was calling him.

The very One who made the water with all of it’s natural laws! He had no reason to fear, because Jesus was the one who made and controlled the whole realm of nature.

When God calls me into a new season – when He says “it’s time for something else” – there’s no reason for me to fear because He holds the seasons in His hands.

He is the just as much the Lord of autumn’s brilliant hues as he is the Lord of winter’s frost and fog.

And whatever season my life is in, I can trust Him.

 

 

 

Sexiness, Modesty and Daughters

I’ve written about modesty before, way back when I started this blog. And I’ve written about modesty as it relates to breastfeeding.

But as my daughter gets older, it makes me think about these things in a different light. Specifically, what do I want to teach her? What do I want her to learn by watching me?

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Sometimes we wear matching outfits (by accident, lol).

So here are some of the thoughts that have been swirling around in my head:

  1. Modesty and Shame
    I’ve read several things lately saying that when we teach young girls to “dress modestly”, we are teaching them to feel shame about their bodies.
    This article being the most recent one I have read on the topic (and there are actually some good thoughts in that article too!).
    The Mum in the article says, “Focusing on what is or isn’t OK for other people to see of our bodies, in my opinion, leads to shame. ”
    Is that true? Does talking about how we dress affecting others really lead to shame?
    I saw another story pop up on Facebook the other day about a woman who claimed to have been “body shamed” because she was asked to leave the apartment complex pool because her swimsuit might “excite the young boys”. Now, I have no comment to make about the story or the swimsuit, but what caught my attention was a comment left on Facebook where a woman said something like, “This is ridiculous. Even if she was naked, she should have been allowed to stay at the pool and it would be the responsibility of the young men to control their own thoughts.”
    And I just thought, really? You really think people should be able to walk around naked if they want, and no one else is allowed to have a problem with that?
    But that is the logical end point of the “everyone can wear what they want” argument!
    I’m always skeptical of these “modesty standards lead to body shame” arguments because I was raised with certain standards of modesty and yet I can’t remember ever feeling like my body was shameful.
    (Actually, that’s not entirely true – I remember one time when a cool boy sat next to me on the bus and I felt very ashamed of the fact that I hadn’t shaved my legs. I spent the whole (30 minute!) bus ride self-consciously hoping he wouldn’t look down at them!)
    The clear message that came from my parents (in spoken and unspoken ways) was that our bodies were beautiful and good, but certain parts of them were private. There was never any teaching about our bodies being inherently dirty or shameful. And there definitely was teaching about how certain parts should be covered appropriately.
    Feeling ashamed because someone sees your private parts is appropriate shame and is not the same thing as feeling ashamed of your private parts.
  2. Modesty for little girls
    If we make modesty all about the effect on others (not leading men to stumble in their thoughts, etc.), then it makes no sense to have any standards of modesty at all for little girls. Most men are not sexually attracted to little girls, so there would be no risk of exposed flesh or even genitals “causing someone to stumble”.
    Which then leads you to a situation where little girls can wear whatever they like, and it’s only when their body becomes more “womanly” that you start telling them to cover up. I can see how that would lead to shame. I can see how that change in standards would lead a girl to think that something bad or dirty was happening to her body.
    You can see this in cultures where they do have different standards of modesty for pre-pubescent and post-pubescent girls. The emphasis is entirely on how they appear to men, so they arrive at: little girls’ bodies are not arousing, so they don’t need to be covered but women’s bodies are arousing so they do need to be covered.
    Whereas, if we pull the focus back to questions of “what is private and needs to be covered?” and “what is appropriate to have uncovered?”, then there is no need for different standards of modesty between little girls and grown women.
    (Of course, there are some practically different standards regarding the fit and shape of clothes. But theses differences also apply between women of different shapes and sizes, so it’s not a girl body vs. woman body thing. For example, certain tops may be appropriate on someone with small breasts, but not someone with large breasts.)
    This is why we teach our daughter to dress in a way that is modest even at this young age. (Since we choose her clothes, at this point it is mostly behavioural things like “be careful not to show your undies when you sit in a skirt.”) Not because we’re worried someone will be aroused by her, but because we want her to learn how to dress appropriately in a way that respects the privacy of her body.
  3. The Desire to be Sexy
    Wanting to be sexy and have our bodies look appealing is a very natural and normal thing. I also think it is the cause of many “modesty problems”.
    I remember growing up it sometimes felt unfair that I had to wear slightly different things to my friends. A couple of times I remember being teased for always wearing t-shirt underneath single strap dresses.
    As I grew into the teenage years and girls in my school started to wear more overtly sexualised clothing, the difference between us became even more apparent. I mean, there were a few outfits I had that I would not wear if I could go back and change things, because they were pretty revealing (does anyone remember my purple slinky pants?? Mum?). But mostly, my clothes were a lot more conservative.
    Now, by the time I was a teenager – especially the late teens – Mum and Dad did much less controlling of what I could wear, and my modesty standards became my own.
    But even though I dressed according to my own convictions, it was still really hard sometimes.
    I remember wishing that I could look sexy and get as much attention (even some attention!) from the guys as other girls did. Sure, I didn’t want attention from all the guys, but I definitely wanted to look good and have others notice that I looked good.
    One thought that helped me to cope with this sense of “missing out”, was that I used to tell myself that one day I would be married and I could be as sexy as I liked and wear all the revealing clothes I wanted to for my husband. After I turned 18 and my husband and I began dating, I even began (secretly) collecting lingerie items and saving them for marriage.
    Now, as a married woman, I do get to be as sexy as I want – in the bedroom – but I still keep to my personal convictions of modesty in public.
    If I’m wearing something in public because it makes me feel sexy, then that is the wrong motivation and I probably shouldn’t wear that thing. This is where I (we) need to be really honest about our motivation.
    The desire to be sexy is natural, but it is for a certain time and a certain place – the time is after marriage and the place is anywhere private.

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So these are the things I’ve been thinking through lately regarding modesty and our daughter. I honestly think with many of these things, a lot of the teaching is subconscious and comes about by what our kids observe.
Sure, direct teaching and training is important, but ultimately what they see in our homes and marriages will form the basis of what they think is normal.
I hope our daughter learns from living in our home that God made our bodies beautiful (in all the different ways they come). I hope she will learn that some parts of our bodies are private, just for sharing with our spouse. I hope she will learn that a wife carries herself differently around her husband compared to in public.
I hope she will learn that whether she marries or not, her body was made in God’s image and for His glory, and that everything the Christian does with their body should be in pursuit of that goal.

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

How I Learnt to Love Exercise

Here is my latest post on the MOPS blog…


The burn and how I learnt to love it.

26 June 2017

What had sounded like a fun date together during our blossoming romance ended in tears (mine) and bewilderment (his).
“I never want to do that again!” I said, with more drama than a room full of five-year-olds in Elsa costumes.
I sat there, my chest heaving with each breath and pain shooting through my lungs. My (then) boyfriend sat there next to me, looking at me like I was dancing the Macarena while speaking Klingon.
What was this terrible date we went on? A bike ride. To the end of the street.
But I was so unfit at that point that I (quite literally) felt like I was dying. Exercise was torture. And people who enjoyed it were very, very strange.

Fast forward 10 years, and we are now married (I guess he overlooked the crazy) and I thoroughly enjoy getting my heart rate up and getting a bit sweaty.
So what changed?

 

Continue reading here: http://mops.org.au/archives/7750

Because He Cares…

I wrote a note on my Facebook page the other day as I reflected on the recent Grenfell Tower Fire. My reflection was that the truly terrifying thing about the whole situation was the apathy from those in charge of the tower when concerns had been raised about the safety of the building in the months leading up to the fire.

The residents of that tower were in the vulnerable position of living in a building that wasn’t safe, and their vulnerability and need was met with a lack of care from those who had the power to solve the problem.

And as I watched the tower go up in flames (along with the rest of the world), I felt so upset for those people trapped in the tower. All those people who died because no one cared enough to really listen to them and make the required changes.

It’s a very deep kind of pain you feel when you reach out with your worries or fears, only to be met with silence or to be fobbed off – especially by those who are meant to care for you.

You might not be living in a dangerous situation at the mercy of some corporate body, but perhaps you’ve felt this way before with a parent or friend… Perhaps you have felt the sting of disappointment when someone you thought would care, didn’t.

This morning as I thought over these things, 1 Peter 5:7 came to mind:

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

I was really struck by how amazing it is that God actually cares for us and how this should lead us to pray to Him honestly.

Prayer is not some kind of venting ritual, where we get things off our chest and that process makes us feel better.

It’s actually giving our burdens to a real Person, who has real power.

It’s throwing all our worries and fears in front of God, because He cares for us.

That changes everything.

It means we always have someone to turn to with our anxieties and concerns. Someone who will not minimise our feelings or fob us off for something more important.

Of course, God will not always answer in the way we want or expect. But He always hears and He always answers.

When you bring your burdens to God, you will never experience the pain of apathy.

Cast all your anxiety on Him, friends – because He truly does care for you!

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Turning Around a Bad Start to the Day

This morning arrived with a stuffy nose and a pounding head ache. I’ve been suffering through recovering from a head cold for a few days now, and I’m still not quite sure if I’m over the hump yet.

In another life (one without responsibilities, ha) I would have just stayed in bed.

Sometimes I just have an “off” day, whether due to lack of sleep or getting over a cold. It can be easy to just go with that frame of mind, and let the whole day spiral down into a vortex of gloom.

But I usually find that with a bit of self-awareness and some little changes, I can nip that bad mood in the bud and turn the day around. Here’s what I do:

  1. Light a scented candle. My favourite is Watermelon Lemonade. I don’t have any of these at the moment, but I do have a box of supplies waiting to be made into candles! (Anyone want to join me? I keep procrastinating from this task…)
  2. Put on some uplifting music. Lately I have been really enjoying the album “Mighty” by Beckah Shae. Her music is so upbeat, her lyrics are Bible-based and she has seriously good hair:
  3. Write my thoughts out to God in my prayer journal. Ask for His joy and peace.
  4. Go outside and sit in the sun. This is especially lovely now as it is winter here. The birds are out, the air is crisp and the sun on my back is delightful!
  5. Run around or wrestle with the kids. Their little giggles are infectious!
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  6. Do some colouring in – I like to colour in Bible verse pages and then hang them around the house.
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  7. Have a cup of coffee. I like to have my coffee first thing, before anyone else wakes up, while I read my Bible. Some mornings (like today) I press the snooze button so I don’t have time for my coffee before school drop off. So when I do get to have my coffee, I try to take the time to really savour it. Something about coffee just makes the whole day go better.
  8. Do something productive. Could be making something simple or tidying a long-overlooked area of the house. But I find getting one productive thing done at the start of the day can make me feel good about my acheivement and have a cascade effect on the rest of the day.

These ideas are quite simplistic, but they work for me (most of the time). How to you turn a bad mood around?

Going to Church with Little Kids

Strategies and suggestions to help things go more smoothly.


Before we had kids, my experience of church was involved, but fairly laid back. We would arrive 5-10 beforehand, chat to some friends and then find a pew somewhere around the middle to front region. When it came time to sing, we would stand and sing. And when it was time for the sermon, we would sit and listen. I always enjoyed taking notes – writing down verse references to look up later or phrases that stood out to me. Or even having a good old doodle to keep my mind from wandering. Then, when the service finished, we would turn around and have a chat to whoever was in the pew behind us or catch some friends. All before leaving when we were good and ready.

Ahhh.

Don’t you feel so relaxed reading that?

Because going to church after you have kids is a little different…

Now, we tend to arrive on time (yay!) or 5-10 minutes late (better late than never, so… yay!). We find a seat towards the back of the hall, in order to minimise disruptions to everyone else during one of the 50 million times we will get out of our seats. During songs, we spend about half the time singing the words, and half the time whispering to an inquisitive child what the song is about or telling a child to face the front or disseminating snacks. The two older kids go out to Kids Church during the sermon, but we keep the baby in with us and let him crawl around in the general area in front of our seats. I’m lucky if I can hear an entire sermon these days, let alone process what has been said. And how long we stay at the end of church is determined by the battery life, I mean tiredness, of the youngest members of our family.

So if you’re in a place where going to church just seems too hard or you’re thinking about giving it up, let me encourage you to keep going! Keep trying!

And maybe some of these practical tips will help you out… (And please add your own helpful tips if you’ve “been there, done that”!)

 

Babies

  • When you arrive at a new church or before your baby arrives at your current church, take a moment to suss out a place where you can change a nappy and a place where you can go if the baby gets too loud. Ask the person at the front door if you can’t find somewhere suitable. It’s best to find these places at the start, otherwise when your baby starts crying in the middle of the service, you might get flustered and just leave!
  • When breastfeeding, I prefer to sit at the back of the church. I find that people can’t see much from the front of me, but they might “catch a glimpse” if they are sitting behind and to the side. So sitting right at the back of the church provides the most comfortable place for me to feed. (Our old church – pictured below – had two big red lounges at the back of the church specifically for nursing mothers. It was fantastic!)
  • When our babies were little, we always tried to line up one of their naps to be during the service. We would either put them down to nap in the pram or with one of us using the baby carrier. This often involved one of us going outside or into the hallway until the baby fell asleep. Sometimes this worked well, other times they would either not fall asleep at all or they would fall asleep, but wake up immediately upon entering the church hall again. Which leads me to the next point…
  • Have a plan, but be prepared to go with the flow. Babies often run on their own schedule (and sometimes that lines up with ours). It’s okay for them to miss the odd nap (provided they don’t just scream until the next nap). It’s okay for them to have a shorter nap than usual on one day of the week so that you can make it to church. Our kids never napped for longer than about 30 minutes in the pram or carrier, so we just accepted that they would need the next nap to be a bit sooner.
  • Don’t feel like you need to rush out of the church hall every time your baby makes a noise. There are happy noises and there are not so happy noises, and both of these can be equally disruptive to the church service. We tend to wait a minute or two to see if the baby settles down, and if they keep being loud, one of us will take the baby into the back room (where Kids Church meets) or into the hallway to the side of the church. We have just accepted that we will miss parts of the church service for the time being. It’s just a season – not forever.

 

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What screaming baby? I can’t hear any screaming baby…

Toddlers and Preschoolers

I’m lumping these two together because there is a fair bit of over lap.

  • Scout out the location of the toilets and somewhere you can take the child for “time out” if they need it. Like I mentioned with babies, it’s best to find these locations before you sit down so you know exactly where to go, should the need arise.
  • Bring snacks. We still bring snacks for our 5 year old, but I’m sure that will stop some time over the next year. I pack a little bag of things like crackers, raisins and nuts and give them to the kids right at the start of church. Morning tea is provided at the end of the service, but that’s too long for them to wait when they have eaten breakfast at 7-7.30, and church starts at 10. (Actually, bringing snacks applies for older babies too!)
  • Explain to them what is happening and your expectations. It might seem like they don’t understand, but they will eventually. Use simple phrases like, “Now we are talking to God. We close our eyes to help us concentrate”, “Now we’re singing a song about God – we read the words from the screen” and “Now it’s time to be quiet and listen to the person speaking at the front”. Over time and with consistency, they will learn what happens in church and how they should behave. (But it won’t be instant!)
  • In the school holidays, when the Kids Church program takes a break, our church hands out colouring sheets and pencils for all the kids to do during the sermon. We also bring along a sticker book each for the older kids, as we find this helps them to stay quieter during the sermon. It might mean we don’t actually hear much – we are busy holding the book steady and peeling off stickers and finding the right page for them to go on, but this is more for the benefit of others around us – so they can hear the sermon.

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Some Bible verses for reflection

“Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”” Matthew 19:14

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.Hebrews 10:24-25

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 honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” 1 Corinthians 12:21-27


 

What strategies have worked for you? What hasn’t worked? I’d love to hear from you!