A Framework for Biblical Decision-Making

We each face many decisions in life, many are small and some are big. In most of these decisions, the Bible is clear about what we should do.

In some of them however, the right path to take might not be immediately obvious. It could be because we know the right thing to do deep down, but it’s hard, so we “wrestle” with it a bit. Or it could be because the situation is complex, involving a number of different Biblical principles.

I am in the midst of one such decision at the moment, where it is not clear what I should do. Below are some questions I am working through, as a kind of framework for Biblical decision-making. I haven’t gone through all these questions thoroughly yet (I’m taking my time with #6), but these are the kinds of things I’ve been thinking through (and talking through with my husband and friends) as I prepare to make a decision.

The Bible tells us that “[God’s] divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (2 Peter 1:3) and that “if any of [us] lacks wisdom, [we] should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to [us]” (James 1:5).

We already have everything we need to live a godly life through the knowledge of God given to us in the Bible. And if we lack wisdom about how to understand and apply that knowledge, we only need to ask Him, and he will supply it!

That gives me great hope, even though I don’t yet have the all the answers about what to do. I trust that as I seek out God’s wisdom and dig deeper into the knowledge of Him, he will provide His wisdom to me.

 


The first two questions are already answered (with help from the children’s catechism) to help set the tone.

What is the purpose of your life? To glorify God and enjoy him forever.

How can you glorify God? By loving him and obeying him.

  1. How can you best love God in this situation?
  2. How can you best love the people involved in this situation?
  3. How can your decision promote the gospel of God’s grace to unbelievers?
  4. How can you best love and serve your brothers and sisters in Christ?
  5. Which sins (of either commission or omission) need to be avoided?
  6. Which Bible passages apply here and how?
  7. Is it a decision between right and wrong; between wise and foolish; or between two equally right and wise things?
  8. What might the consequences of either decision be? (This question might not apply to your situation if it’s a question of right or wrong. When it comes to obeying God, it is not for us to worry about the consequences. But in cases where either option would be obedient to Him, then it might be helpful to consider the consequences as you weigh your decision.)
  9. What are my feelings about this situation? How might they be deceiving me?

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A prayer for wisdom:

Dear Lord,

You are so good and so merciful. You have given me everything I need to live a godly life, through your divine power. You richly meet all my needs so that I am lacking nothing.

You can see all things and you know all things. You know the depths of everything that has happened here, even into the hearts of all people involved.

Lord, my desire is to bring you glory. I want nothing more than to lead others to know your name and to praise your name!

Please give me wisdom. Please open up your word to me so that I can grow in knowledge of you. I pray that you would give me to wisdom to see what would bring you the most glory in this situation.

I pray that you would help me to obey you, even when it’s hard. And I pray that you would help me to stand firm in my convictions.

May your name be glorified in all I do,

Amen.

 

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A Year to be Thankful For

Another year draws to a close. Another set of milestones passed… 8 years married, our daughter has finished her first year of school.

This year was also really hard for us, in some very strange and unexpected ways.

I always think it’s interesting to compare my vision for the year as I look ahead (when I set goals and make plans) with the reality of the year that was. As much as I love to plan and dream and imagine what the year might look like, there are always things that catch me by surprise. There are always things that can’t be anticipated or planned for.

It really drives home the message of Proverbs 16:9:

In their hearts humans plan their course,
    but the Lord establishes their steps.

And even through all the difficult things that have happened this year, there is so much to be thankful for. So I decided to close out 2017 by making a list of all the things I am thankful to God for:

  • Another year of getting to stay home and look after these precious kids.
  • That my husband has a job which provides for us and means I can stay home with the kids.
  • My wonderful husband – all the ways he loves me, leads me and nurtures me in the Lord (could write a whole post about him, TBH 🙂 ).
  • The way God has grown my love for learning about Him and following Him more deeply this year.
  • Surviving my daughter’s first year of school (and my first year as a school mum!!).
  • My amazing friends who came through in such supportive and encouraging ways this year, through some really hard times.
  • My wonderful church and Bible study family who also supported our family through prayer, encouragement and practical support.
  • God’s mercy and grace to me – there are so many times this year when I have been aware of His mercy, of how he has actively held back worse things that could have happened!
  • God’s patience with me, even as I stumble and fall.
  • God’s provision and help in my first year as a MOPS coordinator, working through me despite all my self-doubt and lack of organisational ability.
  • For all the beauty surrounding me inside and outside of my house, for small pleasures like nice sunny days, rain when it’s needed, a quiet cup of tea before anyone else wakes up and falling into a soft, warm bed tangled up with someone I love each night.

It’s been a strange, beautiful, hard year. Here’s to the next one!

 

In the Beginning There Was Grace (Part 2)

Continuing on from Part 1, today I’m adding onto the list of all the ways God demonstrated His grace and mercy throughout the book of Genesis.

In Part 1, I looked at the ways God freely gave his unmerited favour and compassion through the creation of the world and the fall of man into sin, in chapters 1-3 of Genesis.

In Part 2, I will look at how He continues this pattern of grace and mercy to a wholly undeserving people, even as sin spreads through the world, in chapters 4-9 of Genesis.

 


  • Eve conceives and has a baby. Although her sin against God deserves a punishment of death (which will eventually come), God, in His grace, gives her the gift of life. Genesis 4:1-2
  • Cain is angry that God does not accept his offering, and yet God still reaches out and gives him the option to do the right thing. He warns Cain of the dangerous sin trap awaiting him. Genesis 4:7
  • After Cain worries about being killed by whoever finds him as a “restless wanderer”, God gives him divine protection, by marking him and cursing anyone who would kill Cain. Cain does not deserve this protection, but God gives it anyway to reveal his own merciful character. Genesis 4:15
  • Adam and Eve have another son, named Seth – Eve recognises this as the gracious gift of God, since she lost her son Abel. Genesis 4:25
  • When sin had spread through the people on earth so much that “every inclination of the thoughts of [their hearts were] only evil all the time”, God wanted to completely wipe out humanity. But in His great mercy, he decided to spare Noah and His family. The Bible says that Noah found favour in God’s eyes. That he was “a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time and he walked with God,” but this does not mean that Noah was sinless. We learn later on that wiping out most of humanity didn’t deal with the problem of sin in every human’s heart (Genesis 8:21). The grace of God is revealed here in His decision to not completely wipe out humanity, but to carry on His original plan to fill the earth through Noah and His family, despite the great pain and cost to Himself that would come later (that is, the pain caused by all of humanity’s sin and the pain of losing His only son). Genesis 6:6-8
  • God makes a covenant with Noah – he reaches out to save Noah and family, when this truly would have been impossible on their own. He tells Noah exactly what to do to be saved from the flood. Genesis 6:18
  • God remembers Noah and acts to end the flood. Think about it – what would have happened if God had not remembered Noah? If he had left him there on the ark, in a world of water? The stopping of the rain and receding of the flood waters is another act of God’s grace and mercy to Noah. Genesis 8:1
  • After the flood, God promises never again to curse the ground or destroy all living creatures because of mankind. This reveals God’s future grace – he knows that more sin is still there in the hearts of every person (“… even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood…”), but he promises to show grace. Genesis 8:21-22

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The Cure for Humiliation

How do you handle it when someone corrects you? How do you feel, knowing that they might think less of you?

Humiliation can sting, especially when it is caused by someone whose opinion we really value and respect.

I sometimes feel this way when my husband corrects some sin he sees in me (or even if he raises some sin he thinks he sees, but is ultimately false). There is the pain that comes from “I want you to like me” and “I don’t want you to see those ugly parts”.

The “sting” is how it feels when my pride is wounded. When I think of myself a certain way or I want to portray myself a certain way, and then I am lowered from that position by someone’s words or actions.

Humiliation is “the abasement of pride, which creates mortification or leads to a state of being humbled or reduced to lowliness or submission.” (Wikipedia)

One of the joys of marriage has been learning to embrace the kind of vulnerability that comes with being deeply known and seen – the good parts and the bad. The joy comes from knowing that my husband sees it all, and loves me anyway.

But I know that he can never see right down to the depths of my heart, like God can. And so there is always still that sting when he uncovers something I really didn’t want him to see.

Before God, there can be no humiliation. There can be no “lowering” of myself before him, because He already sees it all, and when I am in Christ, He already paid for it all!

Before God, my position is already as low as it can ever go. He can never learn or uncover something about me that will make Him think less of me.


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I recently watched a segment of a sermon by David Platt (on Psalm 67) that really impacted me, about whether the point of Christianity is “God loves me” or something else…. Let me quote some of it for you:

If “God loves me” is the essence of Christianity, then who is the object of Christianity? God loves… me. Therefore, Christianity is about me.

When I come to church, it’s about me. It’s about the music that fits my preferences. It’s about my life, and my plans, and my dreams, and my family. It’s about my portfolio, and my comfort-ability. What I think is best for my life.

But what I want to say to you, based on the authority of God’s word, is that “God loves me” is not the essence of Christianity.

Biblical Christianity does not say “God loves me”, put a period on it and go home. Biblical Christianity says that God loves me so that His grace, His way, His Salvation, His power, His glory might be made known in all nations. Now who’s the object of Christianity? God is.

Everything centres around him. Christianity is not ultimately about us, it’s about Him, and Him being made known in all the nations.

This is so helpful for me to remember, that the point of Christianity – the whole reason God saves me or anyone – is to bring glory and honour to His name.

The purpose is not to lift me up or honour me or make me look great.

It’s to bring glory to God’s name.

And this is the cure for humiliation.

To remember our place before God. To lift up his name, not our own. And to find our joy in seeing him glorified.

When I feel the sting of humiliation – the pain of my wounded pride – I don’t need to worry about defending myself or trying to lift myself up again. The only thing that matters is that God is lifted up.

 

Not to us, Lord, not to us
    but to your name be the glory,
    because of your love and faithfulness.

Psalm 115:1

In the Beginning There Was Grace (Part 1)

Some people talk about God as though he is two different “characters” in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. For example, “the vengeful and harsh God of the Old Testament” versus “the loving and forgiving God of the New Testament.”

But the Bible tells us that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

As I’ve been reading and studying through the book of Genesis recently, one thing that consistently strikes me is God’s incredible grace and mercy!

So I’ve decided to create a list here of all the examples of God’s grace and mercy I’ve encountered in Genesis (so far). I hope this list will be an encouragement to you as you get to (or start to) know God’s character more.

Here are the definitions of each that I use, as I know these words can have different  connotations.

Grace: unmerited/undeserved favour

Mercy: divine favour or compassion

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Bible Study Barbie starter kit 😛


  • God makes man and woman in His image and likeness. Being made in God’s image is an amazing blessing and honour, and there is nothing they (or we) did to deserve or earn that – they didn’t even exist yet when God made that decision! Genesis 1:26-27
  • God blesses the man and woman and gives them a purpose – have babies, fill the earth and rule over it. Giving Adam and Eve a specific purpose and direction in life was a gift to them. They didn’t have to wonder about their reason for being – God told them clearly. Genesis 1:28
  • God provides food for the people He made – it literally grows on trees, they don’t have to do anything! Genesis 1:29
  • This food is “pleasing to the eye” and nutritious. Genesis 2:9
  • God gives Adam a rule about one tree he may not eat from – this is for Adam’s protection (the alternative would be not telling Adam that eating from this tree would cause him to die – giving him no warning at all.) Genesis 2:17
  • God sees that it is not good for the man to be alone, so he makes a helper who is suitable for him. This is not something Adam earned or deserved because he was such a great guy – this was purely God’s gracious gift to Adam, in meeting a need that God saw he had. Genesis 2:18
  • When God goes to take one of Adam’s ribs, with which he forms Eve, he first causes Adam to “fall into a deep sleep” – this is an act of mercy to spare Adam of the pain it would have caused. Genesis 2:21
  • When Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, although death would indeed be the consequence, God showed them grace and mercy in allowing them not to die immediately, but to continue on in their mission to “be fruitful and multiply”. Genesis 3:6
  • Even though Adam and Eve have just sinned against God for the first time – rebelling against his good authority and rule – He pursues them; He calls to them. He is the offended party, and yet God is the one to reach out and seek the offenders. Such love and grace! Genesis 3:9
  • Even as God is dishing out the consequences to all the guilty parties, there is still amazing grace given to them. The woman will have pain in childbearing, but she will still go on to bear children! (Genesis 3:16) The man will have endure painful toil in order to eat, but he will still yield food! (Genesis 3:17-19)
  • God makes garments from animal skins for Adam and Eve, more permanent and warm than the leaves they had quickly gathered to cover themselves. Genesis 3:21

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This is part 1 in a series I hope to continue soon, with all the examples of God’s grace and mercy throughout the book of Genesis.
It’s my hope that this inspires you to open your Bible and get to know and love God more each day.

Friends, He is so good!

 

What’s the harm of taking Bible verses out of context?

There is a problem in the church today that has been weighing very heavily on my heart lately. The problem is a widespread lack of Biblical literacy.

One of the ways this manifests is through the misuse of Bible verses in art/ home decor/online memes etc.

You only need to walk into a Christian book shop (or look in their online store) to see examples of this.

Some “out of context verses” are blatantly obvious, like Psalm 46:5 on this shirt (and if you search “God is within her shirt”, you will find many more!):

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In this passage, the “her” that God is within refers to the Holy City, not a woman. So it is horribly inaccurate (bordering on blasphemous) to slap this verse on a shirt and claim that it applies to the person wearing it.

But other verses that are commonly taken out of context are less obviously wrong, like Jeremiah 29:11 – For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

This is another verse commonly found all over coffee mugs, posters, colouring sheets, t-shirts, etc.

It is a promise claimed by many present-day Christians as applying to themselves.

But if we zoom out a little, we can see that the context of Jeremiah 29 is a letter to the Exiles (I would encourage you to go read the whole chapter – it’s great!):

1 This is the text of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders among the exiles and to the priests, the prophets and all the other people Nebuchadnezzar had carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.

10 This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

So, we can see from reading the context that the “plans” God has in verse 11 are plans specifically for the exiled Jews, to bring them back to the land of Israel to be in relationship with Him again.

And while we understand from the New Testament that those who trust in Jesus are part of the true Israel, not everything that was written to the physical Israel can be directly applied to the spiritual Israel.

But why does this verse appear over all manner of floral and sparkly items in the Christian book shop? Isn’t it because we find comfort in the idea that God has a plan for us? That He has a good plan for us?

And even if it’s not entirely accurate to apply this verse to present day Christians, isn’t this idea basically true – that God has a plan for us, to prosper and not harm us? And if it’s basically true and it encourages us in our faith, then why not memorize it and apply it to ourselves? What’s the harm?

That’s the big question I want to tackle in this blog post…

What is the harm in taking Bible verses out of context, in ways that are more-or-less true, for the benefit of our personal faith (or even to encourage a friend)?

I think this kind of (benevolent) misuse of Bible verses is indeed harmful, and there are four reasons why.

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Hilarious example of a Bible verse out of context that I found in a local shop. Anyone want this canvas on their living room wall?

 

1. It maligns the word of God, by showing that we don’t take it seriously.

The Bible is not another self-help book that we are free to read and interpret as we wish. It is God’s authoritative word to all people. But when we use Bible verses out of context – whether by ignorance or carelessness – we are sending the message to other people that we don’t really believe that.

When we take a verse of Scripture, put it up somewhere on display because of the meaning we get from it, and then put that little verse reference on the end, we are giving it the stamp of God’s authority. Putting that Bible reference on the end is saying, “this statement comes from God” – that’s why we do it, because these Scripture quotes have the authority of God behind them. Otherwise, we could easily just write inspirational quotes for ourselves and stick those around our house.

So if we are using Bible verses because they come with the authority of God, then it is even more important that we don’t misuse or misrepresent what He actually meant.

 

 

2. We make the Bible about us, and what we can get out of it.

It’s not about us, it’s about God.

True, we learn things about ourselves (or have them revealed to us) as we read the Bible. But it is primarily a book about God. And when we pull verses out of context, it is usually because we feel it “speaks to us” or has a “special meaning” for our personal circumstance.

Here’s the truth – not everything in the Bible is about us!

Are there things we can learn from the whole Bible? Sure! Are there things that apply to us? Yes!

But the Bible was written to us, not about us.

The Bible is all about God and His plan through Jesus to save His people.

If we pull out verses for our personal encouragement (again, that are not blatantly false or evil), we are learning to approach the Bible to see what we can get out of it, or what it says about us. This is not the main reason we should read the Bible.

If you read the Bible mainly to see what it says to you, then what happens when you get to a time where reading the Bible just feels “dry”? When you’re trying to plough through the laws of Leviticus, and finding it really hard because there’s not a lot about you in there? (And even less that you can pull out and write on a mug…)

Well, you might be tempted to stop reading. You might feel like God is distant. You might give up on that book and go back to something more… relevant.

Friends, a me-centred faith is a weak faith. Don’t fall into the trap of letting your Bible reading and application be focused on yourself.

 

 

3. It is not true or accurate.

You can find many verses in the Bible that you can pull out to make you feel better (and also many that will terrify you). You could easily use it like this – as a “spiritual” reference book that you flick through and pull out the bits you need.

You could use it like that, but it wouldn’t be true or accurate.

Going back to my example above, I can pull out Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future…” – and say that it is about me. That God would never harm me and that he has plans to prosper me.

I could “claim” all that for myself. But it isn’t true. It isn’t what that passage is saying or why it is there. By claiming the nice-sounding falsehood for myself, I actually miss out on the more glorious truth in Jeremiah 29.

That an unfaithful, rebellious people are undeservedly pursued and loved by their faithful God. That God had not forgotten them and that he heard their cries.

That God is sovereign over everything.

And ultimately, Jeremiah 29 points us to Jesus – the one perfect Saviour and Rescuer of a stubborn, rebellious people.

All that is waaaayyy more amazing than just “God has a plan for me”.

Don’t settle for sweet-sounding – but false – platitudes that you pluck from your Bible. Because the truth of the Bible is far more wonderful.

 

 

4. It leads to more dangerous Scripture-twisting.

On the face of it, pulling a passage out of context to say that God has good plans for us doesn’t seem as bad as pulling a passage out of context to say that Jesus is not God (like my new JW friends did).

But I actually think the former leads to the latter.

If we begin to allow ourselves to treat the Bible as a book that is about us and which we can interpret as we wish, it acclimatises us to the practice of picking out verses that support our argument (eisegesis), rather than examining the text to understand it’s real meaning (exegesis).

It’s far better to commit ourselves to good Bible study habits from the beginning, rather than practice habits that will not yield good fruit in the long run.

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It’s a slippery slope… hahaha.

 

Friends, I don’t make these points to hold myself up as someone who studies and uses the Bible perfectly. Misuse of Bible verses is something I’ve been convicted of myself, and I wanted to share my thinking on this for the benefit of all you sisters in Christ. So please – if you see me taking a verse/passage out of context, call me out on it!

And I also feel the need to add… I love beauty. I love art. I love pretty mugs and colouring-in and t-shirts with Bible verses on them. That’s not what I have a problem with. And if you walk into my house, you will see many of these things. The issue is in which verses are being used, how they are being represented and if that use and representation is true and accurate.

Let’s do better together, as we study and apply God’s good word to us.

Scattered thoughts…

I’ve almost written a few blog posts recently, but have held off as my thoughts are not quite fully formed yet. (I’ll get there, lol.)

So here is an offering of some bits and pieces that I’ve been thinking about lately.

 

Simple Pleasures

In this season of life I have been enjoying the many simple pleasures throughout my day.

  • Playing with my kids and making them laugh heartily
  • The neighbour’s chicken that keeps getting into our yard.
  • Watching my daughter learn to read.
  • The warm sun that pierces through the cold winter air.
  • Waking up before sunrise and my children and just taking a minute to watch the light peaking over the hills.
  • My baby (toddler?) who has learnt how to cuddle.

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From Milk to Meat

When I had our third baby last year, I knew things would be crazy for a while. Not only was it hard to find time, but I also felt like my brain couldn’t quite cope with the in-depth Bible study I used to do on my own.
So, I made sure I was still listening to God in His word over that year, but it was mostly in the form of Bible verses stuck up around the house or specific passages memorised or a longer section read every once in a while.

I was sustaining myself on the “milk” version of God’s word – enough to keep me fed, but not forever.
Now, I have been enjoying getting back into the more “meaty” study of God’s word. Specifically, the book of Romans at the moment. There is just so much good stuff in there!

Reading Romans Like

I have printed out this bookmark from Women Living Well, which shows you which colours to highlight Bible verses according to their main theme. This has been really helpful for me, because it forces me to concentrate and really think about what the passage is saying.
I’m very much a pen and paper kind of girl – writing things down really helps me to take them in and absorb the concepts. I usually pull out my journal and do some kind of visual representation of what I’ve read.
Sometimes that looks like this:

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And other times it looks more like this:

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So I guess I would just like to offer a word of encouragement to my sisters in Christ – if you have been struggling to get into the Word or to really make time for in-depth study of the Bible, don’t neglect it any longer!

You can “not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Just like you take the time to feed yourself every day, don’t neglect feeding yourself spiritually.


Scared of the Dark

Our older two kids have been starting to say that they are afraid when it’s dark at night or they are scared that baddies are going to get them (they share a room).

I’m sure sometimes it’s just one tool in the toolbox of “ways to avoid bedtime”, but still, I think it’s important to listen to their heart and always use these opportunities to shepherd them towards Jesus.

So we’ve been working on memorising Psalm 27:1

The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear?

The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?

Once we go over the verse a few times, we work through it’s meaning.

If you’re scared because it’s dark, remember that God is always with you and he will be your light.

What’s a stronghold? Well, it’s kind of like a big, tall tower that no baddies can get into. When you trust in God, he will keep you safe.

What does is mean that the Lord is your salvation? Well, the truly scary and dangerous thing in life is your own sin, because being a sinner means you deserve death. But the wonderful thing is that God sent Jesus to die on the cross and come back to life so that you can be saved from what you deserve. That’s why it’s great that the Lord is your salvation, because it means you don’t have to be afraid of anything!

 

I want our kids to know that no matter what is troubling them in life, God’s word is alive and relevant to them. They can turn to Him and find truth and clarity for whatever their situation.


 

So there you go – I’m over here enjoying the simple pleasures in life, carving up a big slab of Romans and teaching our kids how to apply the Bible to their lives.

What have you been up to?

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?

The Danger of Discipline

As the middle of the year draws closer, I’ve been reflecting on my goals and my focus for the year. This year I decided to make goals with a focus on one “theme word” – discipline.

And it has turned out to be a highly relevant word for me this year.

When each of my babies have turned one, I’ve found life enters a new stage. A more predictable, rhythmic stage.

The other day I got house work done for about 20 minutes while T crawled around the house, finding things to play with.

That is quite a feat, let me tell you! And it’s quite different to the newborn stage, where you can’t really put them down and every minute is sucked into a vortex of activity.

I mean, a mobile baby brings a different kind of busy. I’m cleaning up more messes, for example, since he loves “pulling things out” but not so much “packing things away”.

The other day I sent my husband this picture (of his side of the bed), with the message “This was the cost of doing the dishes today” (baby T completely emptied his bin and pulled down half his vitamins in the time it took me to wash a small load of dishes!):

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Mmm, tasty bin tissues – good for the immune system, right?

(I did then clean it up, but I often like to share little things from my day with my husband while he is at work – the good, the bad and the hilarious!)

But as I enter this season of having a baby who is more able to entertain himself for little chunks of time, it is a season that requires greater discipline because there is a temptation to slack off.

And what I am finding as I work to apply discipline across the various areas of my life is that discipline breeds discipline. It is addictive.

I guess you could call it “habit-forming”, which in the early stages requires repetition and consistency.

I’m particularly enjoying the fruits of applying discipline to my eating habits and exercise. The result is that I have more energy, I feel good and I am actually looking forward to exercising.

Some days I have to push myself to make it happen, or pull myself away from bad food choices (that’s the discipline part). But most days, it’s not a hard choice. The more I eat healthy food, the more my body craves it. The more I exercise, the more my body wants to move.

I find this to be the case across the other areas of my life where I am becoming more disciplined as well.

But then the thoughts start to creep in… “Hey, I’m really nailing this!”, “Wow, I’m really good at this discipline thing!” or the more subtle, “My hard work is starting to pay off.”

The problem with these thoughts is that they are rooted in pride.

The more my thoughts turn towards how well I am doing, the more they turn away from how dependent I am on God’s grace.

You might think, “Well, if you’re doing well on your own, why can’t you acknowledge that? Maybe that means you aren’t dependent on God’s grace?”

And that might be true for a while. I might have a good run in being disciplined and making good choices, and seeing results, but ultimately my own strength and personal resolve will fail.

It would be like saying, “Wow, that’s a beautiful rose! It’s doing such a great job of growing and looking lovely!” while ignoring the whole bush, roots, soil and sun that all worked to make the rose beautiful.

My dependence on God is the reality. My personal discipline is the result.

To believe that I can get the result of discipline without the reality that I am dependent on God is to believe a lie.

Ultimately, this is the danger of discipline – that we set up good habits for ourselves and it fools us into thinking that we can achieve anything in our own strength, that we are pretty good people and we don’t really need God.

Colossians 2:20-23 warns about these dangers:

Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.

 

I am speaking here about self-discipline, of course. But I think this also applies to disciplining our kids.

Of course kids need to be taught obedience and morals.

But we need to be so careful that in teaching them to do what is right and flee from what is wrong, we don’t set them up to pridefully think they are good people.

I was raised in a loving Christian family, and I was taught how to obey God from a very young age. But unfortunately, this also grew a heart of pride in me.

Even when I copped grief from other kids at school and I didn’t quite fit in, I held onto this attitude that at least I was doing the right thing.

And don’t get me wrong – it’s good to love doing what is right!

Psalm 119:97 says:

Oh how I love your law!
    It is my meditation all the day.

But following God’s law won’t save you.

And when I was a child, I never really had a sense that I needed to be saved. I knew the rules. I followed the rules. And I thought that made everything okay.

(I mean, I knew Jesus had saved me – I just didn’t think I really needed it.)

It wasn’t until some events in my late teens that I truly realised how much I needed grace, and that I really couldn’t make it to heaven on my own (I might tell you the long story of that another day!).

This is an ongoing struggle for me. The struggle of falling back into rule-following and a prideful heart.

So even as I pursue greater discipline in my life, I need to be ever-mindful that it is only through God’s grace that I can make lasting changes. And it is only through God’s grace that I am saved.

It’s a change in posture from a standing tall, “you go girl” kind of self-discipline to a kneeling down, “God, please change my heart” kind of self-discipline.

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Our olive harvest the other day.

 

 

 

Should We Think of Motherhood as a Career?

Whenever I meet new people, the question is inevitably asked: “Do you work?”

I usually answer, with a grin, “Yes, I work a lot, I just don’t get paid.”

Now, there’s no hint of resentment there – the Lord provides for our family abundantly through my husband’s income. But I answer this way because I often think of my role as a mother as my career. This is my job, and I think it’s the best job in the world.

But recently I’ve been quietly self-critiquing this concept of motherhood as career. The way we think and talk about things matters, so I’ve been trying to figure out whether thinking about motherhood as a job does more harm or good – to my relationship with the kids, to my motivation levels and to how others perceive motherhood (especially younger women).

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The benefits of viewing motherhood as a career:

  • It helps me to spend my time during the day more wisely and productively. In fact, just recently, I confided in my husband that I felt one of the main reasons I was feeling so overwhelmed was that I was spending too much of my time on social media during the day, which meant that the important things weren’t getting done. In order to change this, I proposed that I implement a “work hours” policy, where I don’t use social media during specific hours of the day, and I asked his advice on what these hours should be (because, let’s face it, mothers often have demands on our time for all of our waking hours – and even some of the sleeping ones). He said 9-5 would be reasonable, so that’s what I’ve been trying to do since then – thinking of myself as being “at work” from 9-5, and not allow myself to slack off from the job.
  • It leads me to be more serious and intentional about motherhood. I make plans and I try to take advantage of the teachable moments with my kids. I realise that I am “it”, and I’m not waiting around for someone else to come and teach them all the stuff they need to successfully get to adulthood. This is the “thing” I do with my time, so I need to do it well. I guess the opposite of this would be if I just saw my kids as people who happen to be in my life now, and each moment passes by accidentally, with much thought or consideration. Or worse, if I just viewed motherhood as something to get through or something that is a hindrance to my “real life”. Thinking of motherhood as my career leaves no doubt in my mind about where my efforts should be directed.
  • It helps me to feel more valuable and appreciated for my contribution. If we can think and speak about motherhood in the language of career, it helps us to feel like we are doing something worthwhile with our time. Sometimes I have referred to my husband as the Chief Executive Officer of our family, and myself as the Chief Operations Officer.

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The drawbacks of viewing motherhood as a career:

  • The flip side of that last point is that this view of motherhood as a “job” or “work” comes from a capitalist system where people are valued based on their economic contribution to society. So there is a pressure on Stay at Home Mums to justify their existence in economic terms, or else risk being labelled a “drain on society” (as this recent OECD study said). When we talk about motherhood as a career, we are playing into this kind of thinking that people are only as important as the money they make (or save) and what they “do” for a living. This thinking is contrary to the Christian perspective, which says that people are valuable because they are image-bearers of God, not because of anything they do.
  • Another problem is that viewing motherhood in terms of a job often leads to a focus on fairness, rather than the service and selflessness that should characterise the Christian woman’s life. Let’s face it – there is so much about motherhood that is unfair. We often don’t get to go to the toilet alone or when we want to. We share our meals, or eat them cold. We have less time to devote to our own interests. And on it goes… Looking at it purely through an investment/return paradigm, we might be tempted to grow bitter about how much we “give up” for our kids, compared to how little we get back (at least in the short term). We can also be tempted to compare our “work day” with our husbands and think about how much longer and demanding our hours are (depending on what he does, of course – my husband has informed me that he too is frequently unable to go to the toilet when he wants to and often has to work through his lunch break!). Constantly thinking about whether something is “fair” or not is a sure fire way to lead to resentment or stinginess. Because even if things are fair, by your approximation, needing to vigilantly watch out for fairness will mean even what you do give is tightly meted out, being careful not to give or do too much, lest you tip the scales into “unfairness”.
  • When I think of my role as mother as my career, it can lead me to measure my success or failure based on things like how much I get done or whether I complete my to-do list. I’ve fallen into this trap before – going from elation when I get lots done to despair and overwhelm when I don’t. But then I realised that much of the work of motherhood is not measurable with pen and paper (or even Excel spreadsheets!). How do you quantify an hour spent in the sunshine, rolling around in the grass with three little munchkins? Even a note added to my list and checked off after the event – “play with kids” – seems hopelessly inadequate at capturing all that was achieved in that hour – the smiles shared, the fleeting embraces, the close examining of the leaves, the time spent watching a beetle, the discussion about why God made the trees. Some of my best “mum days” have been absolute failures according to my to-do list!

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How should we think of motherhood?

As I’ve thought through the points above, it’s become clear to me that I need to stop thinking of and referring to motherhood as my career.

Sure, I should take it seriously and be intentional about it, but I think using the language of jobs and career does more damage here than good.

So how does the Bible view mothers and motherhood?

 

Motherhood is fruitfulness:

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”” Genesis 1:28

 

Motherhood is hard:

To the woman he said,

“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;
    in pain you shall bring forth children.
Your desire shall be contrary to your husband,
    but he shall rule over you.” Genesis 3:16

 

Motherhood is a position of honour:

Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” Exodus 20:12

 

The happiness of a mother is caught up in the character of her children:

A wise son makes a glad father,
    but a foolish son is a sorrow to his mother.” Proverbs 10:1

The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice;
    he who fathers a wise son will be glad in him.
Let your father and mother be glad;
    let her who bore you rejoice.” Proverbs 23:24-25

 

The mother/child relationship is secondary to the Christian’s love for Jesus:

Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” Matthew 10:37

 

Mothers are gentle and caring:

But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children.” 1 Thessalonians 2:7

 

Motherhood is ministry:

I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.” 2 Timothy 1:5

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Deuteronomy 6: 6-7

 

Motherhood is a conduit of love:

 Older women likewise are to be reverent in behaviour, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children…” Titus 2:3-4

 

“Mother” is not my job title.

To call motherhood my career would only diminish what it is that I do.

It goes beyond the 9-5 and it is more than any list of tasks I can achieve.

It’s who I am. It’s why I was put on this earth. It is my calling and my passion and my joy to raise these little ones to know and love Jesus.

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