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Full of grace, seasoned with salt.

7 Oct

A couple of weeks ago, a blog post was written about the attitude of young girls on Facebook. The writer described how teenage girls’ selfies are a stumbling block to her growing sons and that sadly, (girl)friends on Facebook who will display inappropriate photos will have to be unfriended. Her blog post went viral and created mixed emotions around the world. It certainly generated discussions in my neighborhood and was a main topic at my daughter’s birthday party (among the parents, not the children!)

The writer’s intention was not to hurt anyone’s feelings nor to be judgemental. Her intention was not – but the impact was unfortunately not what she intended. Her post was considered by some to be unkind and judgemental; for me, it made me reflect on whether it truly reflected who we want to be as Christians.

Part of our discussion here in my house was around the question: how would you have done it? Was it just a matter of tone? Should she have chosen different words?

My initial reaction when I read her post was to be angry and frustrated. I am a Christian woman and a mother and I have real concerns over what is accessible on the internet. I have two young boys and the idea of helping and teaching them to keep their mind pure is, at times, overwhelming. I have a daughter and the task of teaching and showing her to ground her identity in Christ and not in the fleeting values of this world is, at times, overwhelming. I too, feel my blood pressure rise when I see teenage kids doing the exact opposite of what I would want for, or what is helpful to my own children. I too, feel like walking up to them and say “really….???”.

But then I go back 20 years ago, and I remember that teenage girl that wore tight pants and low-cut tee-shirts. I remember that teenage girl that would have done anything to attract the boys attention, just because it felt good, just because she needed to be accepted and loved and she didn’t know any other way of doing it. She didn’t know that there was a God who loved her a thousand times more than any man looking at her with lustful eyes. If somebody had said to her “If you dress like that, you cannot be friends with my family”, she would have felt judged and misunderstood. She would have felt alone and angry. She certainly would not have tried to understand where that somebody was coming from. She would have been taken away from an opportunity to know Jesus – the one who accepts even the prostitute.

The day I gave my life to Jesus was the day I understood that He had always loved me unconditionally. And on that day, I was probably wearing inappropriate clothes.

So how would I have done it? Was it just a matter of tone and different words?

There are no words kind enough to reject the outsider based on his behaviour. There is no tone gentle enough to judge the outsider. 1 Corinthians 5 puts it so simply: “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside”. The word of God has so many beautiful things to say to those who still try to find love, acceptance and purpose in the things of this world.  I have been given a precious gift to share with the girl who is selling herself so short on her public profile. Would not the knowledge that the Lord loves her as she is be more life-changing than the knowledge that her clothes are too skimpy? It is tempting to enforce our moral compass on the people outside our faith, but how disastrous an effect it has on them.

The Lord has not called me to control their behaviour. He asks me to control my own, and He has given me the responsibility to teach my boys how to control their own. I cannot blame the girls’ dressing code for my boys’ lustful thoughts.(Would that not be a lost battle anyway??) No, my boys need to learn to take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ. They need to know deep in their heart that the lasting beauty of a woman does not only lie in her bosom (because let’s be honest, some of her beauty is in her bosom!) but more importantly in her heart where she nurtures Jesus.

I know that the responsibility is on my boys’ shoulders. However, I also know that, until my boys reach a certain level of discernment, I will monitor their online presence, unfriending people with questionable profiles if it helps them. I want my boys to grow to the point where they find the quiet confidence to detach themselves from the girls whose selfies make it too hard for them not to stumble in their thoughts. I want them to know in their hearts that the Lord values women so much that He would hate for them to have a distorted view of them by looking at their ‘sexy’ pictures and lust after them. Until they are mature enough, I have the responsibility to guide and encourage them.

If my responsibility to outsiders is to present to them how wonderful the Gospel is, a lot of thought is to be put into my online presence.The widespread online media makes it that much more difficult to act and react in a way that brings glory to the Lord’s name. Social networks are a knife with a very sharp blade. Sometimes we cut more than we intended. Most of us have good intentions for doing or writing the things we do. But sometimes, good motives aren’t enough. The only stumbling block to someone’s view of the Lord should be the Lord Himself, not our pet-peeves and rantings.

Let us be bold of the Gospel, of Jesus who forgives, of the Lord who loves, of the undeserved gift that He freely gives us.

His word will bring conviction and repentance.

Not ours.

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Compared To Her

19 Feb

This is a re-blog from another blog (Yep, no shame!) called Reflection Therapy and the article was written by blogger Kate Motaung, a fellow homeschooling mum. This is a book review, a book called Compared To Her, written by Sophie de Witt, a Brit who relocated to Cape Town a few many years ago. The reason why it caught my eye is that even though Sophie is a friend of mine and I really found her book helpful, I never thought of writing a review – let alone an interview. Why not take the opportunity of someone else’s hard work and share the article! So Kate Motaung, if you’re reading this, thank you very much! I enjoyed reading your blog post and I also think that Sophie is someone worth knowing and worth reading 🙂

Back to the book, if you are a woman, you are most likely suffering from CCS. If you want the remedy, you need to read this book. This is a GREAT read, not to be missed, not to be taken lightly.

Enjoy the article!

 

Compared to her – an interview with author Sophie de Witt [Book review]

In her new book, Compared to Her: How to Experience True Contentment, Sophie DeWitt describes what she has labeled CCS – Compulsive Comparison Syndrome.  Perhaps the title alone strikes a chord with you.  Within the pages of her book, Sophie helpfully points out how most of us as women struggle either with a ‘looking up comparison’ or a ‘looking down’ version of the same sin.  She explains the symptoms, effects, causes and treatment to overcome a life of compulsive comparison and move to experience true contentment in Christ.

In my opinion, this book hits the nail on the head.  It cuts straight to the heart of many of our inward thoughts as women – as we walk through the grocery store and compare ourselves to the clothes, hair, make-up and shoes of other shoppers; as we enter our friends’ houses and compare our own tidiness and décor to theirs; as we sit at dinner parties and compare careers, husbands, achievements, and parenting techniques to other guests.

The component that I most appreciate about Compared to Her is the way Sophie so clearly articulates the centrality of the gospel throughout each chapter.  I wholeheartedly recommend this as an excellent, easy, thought-provoking read – one that I have already bought as a gift for several of my own friends, both Christian and non-Christian.

I’ve had the privilege of getting to know Sophie and her lovely family in Cape Town over the past few years, and recently had an opportunity to ask her a few questions about her new book.

The last book you wrote was on one-to-one discipleship.  Of all the subjects you could have explored for this book, what made you decide to delve into the topic of comparison?

Primarily my own struggle with comparison over many years (being the middle of three feisty sisters didn’t help!), coupled with the apparent lack of biblical material specifically engaging with the issue of comparison and rivalry.  I got the chance to speak on the subject at a couple of women’s events in 2010 and it seemed to touch a nerve with so many women (both at the events and others I spoke to about it).  The more I continued to wrestle biblically with the subject, the clearer it became to me that the gospel has real practical help to offer sufferers like me of what I’ve called, ‘Compulsive Comparison Syndrome,’ and I was encouraged by friends to write about it to encourage others.

How did the compilation of this work help (or challenge) you personally in terms of your own spiritual life?

I think there’s nothing like ‘naming and shaming’ a sin to intensify your own battle against it!  It has been quite a hard process to analyze the depths and layers of my own sinful heart on this issue  …  and  to see how very ugly it is.  It’s all about wanting to be at the center, and I’ve seen more clearly than ever how incredibly proud I really am and how much I still trust in worldly things for my significance, satisfaction and security (like I know I’m going to have to fight the temptation not to let book sales figures or feedback affect my sense of significance in any way)!  Positively, I have found myself growing in contentment in Christ as a result of the thinking and praying I’ve been doing – it’s been so liberating to grasp that it is in Him alone that we find true and lasting blessing, for this life and eternity.  So, overall it’s been a great opportunity to grow in Christ-likeness – which is always both a wonderful and a jolly hard experience, isn’t it?!

On page 39 of your book, you write, “There is a way to know, to experience, to feel contentment.  And it doesn’t come from CCS.  It comes from finding a way to live without it.”  For those who haven’t yet read the book, what encouragement can you offer to those desiring to break free from a life of constant, compulsive comparisons?

Measuring ourselves against others based on our criteria of choice, in order to determine our ‘position’ in life , seems to offer us hope (“maybe, just maybe I’m not as much of a failure/as ugly/as sinful/as I think I am”).  But the result of these comparisons tends to be either a temporary and very vulnerable sense of satisfaction or a gnawing sense of dissatisfaction – actually often both senses together, but for different areas of our lives.  So there is great deception involved:  the higher position we crave won’t deliver the security, satisfaction or significance we think it will.

Breaking free of this destructive compulsion involves seeing through the deception and trusting that it is in Christ alone that we will find true and lasting blessing.  My prayer is that the book will help the reader apply the gospel to the problem and learn to live a life of contentment in Christ, able to truly celebrate difference and diversity rather than judge or envy it.

You’ve dedicated this book to your daughter, Molly.  What practical steps do you hope to take in your role as Molly’s mother to steer her away from the rampant scourge of CCS as she grows up?

A good, and very tricky, question!  She is now five and at pre-school and CCS is increasingly taking a hold of her.  She wants to do the extra-mural activities her friends are doing.  She wants this girl’s outfit, that girl’s puppy, the same scooter as her best friend, and so on.  We are just waiting for her to start saying ‘at least I’m better at this or that than her…’, or ‘I wish I was prettier/thinner, etc’ and then we have a full-on case on our hands!  Depressingly, this is actually inevitable because at the heart of the syndrome is a sinful, proud heart that wants self at the center and looks to idols or false gods to satisfy its desires.

When the first comments came, I told her that we all have our own lives to live and that we couldn’t afford to do the same extra-murals and that she shouldn’t be greedy wanting the same toys as her friends and she just had to be grateful for what she has.  But I realized that wasn’t actually a deep enough answer for her if I really want to introduce her to the only source of true contentment.  So I’ve started teaching her that Jesus is our Creator and our boss and He gives us all we need in life.  I’ve told her that it won’t make her a better or much happier person if she goes to sports or has a dog; God loves her and forgives her and she must live a life that makes Him smile.

But I ’m always listening out for and appreciate any help from more godly and experienced moms who have been helping their children deal with this issue for many years!

What role do you think accountability could play in combatting CCS?

It’s tricky – on one level, it’s a very personal struggle and requires lots of open-hearted wrestling before the Lord as we examine our own hearts and motives. It’s also quite a shameful one as the truth of our pride and idolatry comes to light.  But the Bible does say we need to encourage one another daily because of the deceitfulness of sin (Heb. 3:13).  We are to spur one another on to love and good works (Heb. 10:24).  We are to speak the truth in love to one another (Eph. 4:15).  So yes, accountability in the sense of sharing the struggle with another Christian friend or two is a great idea if it helps us to do this sort of honest, gospel encouragement better.

My husband helps me a lot, but it’s also great to have those friends who will call you up on your CCS when they notice you succumbing to the deception again.  “Wow!  Look at that birthday cake – she’s really raised the bar for us all.  How depressing!”  How might you help your friend at that point?  “No, friend, it’s not a competition.  She has a creative gift; she probably loves doing that sort of thing; maybe she has more time to spare.  Who knows?  But remember that this cake really is irrelevant for your child’s birthday celebrations.  Fear God not man!”

Having been raised in England, and now living in Cape Town, what do you enjoy most about South Africa, and what do you miss most about the UK?

I really love the vibe of South Africa – I love the way it forces you to engage with profound life questions and doesn’t let you get away with superficial answers.  The issues such as politics, poverty, vulnerable children, housing and sanitation, and racial reconciliation are so complex, messy, challenging and yet draw out amazing responses from individuals and communities.  It is so inspiring to see how people have stepped up to the plate here and been creative and sacrificial in addressing various needs.  It’s also inspiring to meet so many individuals who have been through so much hardship in their lives and yet still keep trusting and serving the Lord, and who are able to forgive those who have wronged them.  These encounters have enriched my life greatly.

Also, moving out of your own culture gives you an amazing opportunity to engage with the gospel and its application to our lives in a fresh way.  You realise that you have been holding on to some things and not engaging with other things, because of what is ‘normal’ around you, and this realisation gives you a great chance to grow in your faith and how you live it out.

It helps that Cape Town is probably THE most beautiful city in the world with so much to offer in terms of fun days out, arts and culture, food and wine (no, I’m not on commission from the Tourist Board – I just genuinely love the place).  Apart from missing beloved family and friends in the UK, I miss the supermarkets, free health care and central heating most I think (yes it gets very cold here in the winter, but the summer weather does compensate for this more than adequately!).

Sophie DeWitt is the author of One to One: A Discipleship Handbook andCompared to Her: How to Experience True Contentment.  She used to work with students in London, and now lives in Cape Town, South Africa.  Sophie is married to a South African pastor and they have three children.

Black Heart

28 May

3.50am and I’m awake.

I don’t suffer from insomnia. Ne-ver. Just say the word “pillow” and I feel drowsy already!

5.50am and I am still awake. Two long hours in the middle of the night makes for a lot of thinking, some praying too. Friends, just know that you were prayed for. 

It’s also a long time to reflect about what has been on my mind lately. Wrestling with deep personal struggles, questions, disappointments and realisations – about myself.

A black heart.

Face to face with the voice of the Lord. Convicted to not fret, to not seek the world’s recognition, to face my sin, my weakness, my frailty, my own helplessness. As dark as the night, I see my black heart.

And yet, in the midst of seeing the mistakes I’ve made and the wrong thinking I’ve become entangled in, in the midst of looking at my black heart, I feel the absolute Grace of the Lord. He reminds me that He chooses to use whom He chooses to use. Even me, with my I-cant-do-it approach. Even at the point of feeling like giving up (exaggerat-ingly speaking), not feeling worthy to even pray to Him, let alone living for Him, there, at that point, He reminds me that He has work for me, people to encourage, guide and love,  witness to and love some more.

With thankfulness, I keep my eyes on His grace, for His Grace is sufficient, and His power is made perfect in weakness.

Attachment Parenting

21 May

How do you feel when you look at this picture? If you are like me, this is your reaction:

***shocked, slightly disgusted face ***.

If your child can stand on a stool and breastfeed, haven’t you crossed the line!?!

The reason why I react in this way is because this parenting style, called the attachment parenting method, is not in my western christian culture – although at times, it certainly felt like it was going towards it.

Flash back 8 years ago when I had my first child.

Although becoming a mother brought me immense joy, I vividly remember all the dos and donts that I struggled with. In christian circles, we sometimes make the mistake of taking a widely accepted principle in our culture, reacting against it, opposing it and making it a godliness issue, not truly reflecting on what the Bible says about it. I wrestled with breastfeeding, routine, spanking, staying-at-home, homeschooling… you name it! I was told that breastfeeding is godly, that a lack of routine will lead to ungodliness, that no spanking is disobeying God’s word,  that working (instead of being a stay-at-home mum) might show that I do not love my children the way I should and that homeschooling is the only christian way to educate my offsprings…

As I read about attachment parenting, I realised that my reaction towards it is no different that the people saying that homeschooling is a mark of better parenting – read godly. I pass judgement on that parenting method simply because it is different from what I’m used to do in my christian culture. Some aspects of the attachment parenting make me feel uncomfortable but are they are ungodly? I cringe in my chair at the sight of a 6 year old feeding from his mom’s breast as much as my own family cringes at me homeschooling my children (They’re getting used to the idea slowly). As long as those practicing attachment parenting do not imply that their way is the only way to raise psychologically healthy children, I say breast-feed-away!

As a christian though, I would want to be careful that my children do not become the ‘be all and end all’ of my life but the Bible has never blamed any parenting methods for turning our children into idols (Rats!!! It would have made parenting so much easier!). If I adhered to that method of parenting, I would want to be careful not to alienate my fellow christian mothers who won’t or can’t do the same, by making them feel that their choice is only second best. I would want to absolutely be certain that, whatever I advise, (not the Lord), does not add any unnecessary burdens on other mums.

The driving principle of motherhood should be love: Love for God – Not love for what I feel comfortable with according to my culture. After reading and digesting this article, I was challenged on the view I hold of people that do things differently. I was reminded that in Christ we are free.

Inside the box that God has defined, I am free to make my own decisions, whether they go against the trend of the day and the culture of the time.

 

Letter from a mother…

14 May

This past Sunday was Mother’s Day.

Following my post on  (un)traditions, a friend of mine greeted me and jokingly asked if I was going to celebrate Mother’s Day in my untraditional way. Absolutely, I winked. The way we celebrate Mother’s Day is exactly the same way that we celebrate Valentine’s Day or Father’s Day. No plans, outing, gifts or gathering.

And yet, I confess that  I have the desire to feel special on that day. If  my children do not tell me how much they love me and how grateful they are that I am their mum, I feel cheated. I do. I shamefully admit that I once again feel the pressure to conform – burdening  my husband to make sure the kids have done their picture in love.

Looking at the history of where Mother’s Day come from (ahem… its main influence comes from America – Queen of traditions) and particularly how it developed in France, good old Wiki writes that while it started in the early 1900s as a national celebration honoring the mothers of large families (at the time France was alarmed by the low birthrate), in the 50s “the celebration lost all its patriotic and natalist ideologies, and became heavily commercialized”. How sad…

I absolutely resent the fact that my family is compelled to demonstrate their affection for me on the third Sunday of May – worse, that I get caught in it, as if it mattered in any way.

Bring the christian element in the celebration and it becomes catastrophic. The usher at church who wishes a Happy Mother’s day to the shocked 16 year old girl or my childless friend who wishes me a Happy Mother’s Day leaving me to blabber some incomprehensible response…

I’m linking a post that I read from a different blog. Simply, humbly and beautifully written (thank you, Amy Young).

How do we honor mothers without hurting the women who can not fit?

Maybe privately…

 

Un-traditional

10 May

I read that family traditions instill into your children your family values, strengthen family identity, connect generations, build great memories and make us stop in the bustle of the busy day to remember the important things in life.

We are not a family with traditions.

If someone asks me what our traditional “insert celebration here” looks like, I would be at a loss for words. Of course we celebrate the christian festivals for their christian meaning, and like typical kids growing up in a christian family, our children know the meaning of Christmas and Easter, details and all. But mention the word ‘tradition’ and my hair stands up in this fashion:

The reason I look like  a cat being electrocuted when I think of christian family traditions is probably because, while we do not have them, I have felt the peer pressure of having a craft ready for every occasion and an appropriate way to display it (the possibilities are endless). I have felt the fear that my kids are missing out, the fear that their creativity is not explored, their knowledge not expanded, their spiritual horizons narrowed. I panicked, I accused, I banned, ridiculed and begged (#how christians react to their insecurities)

I go through such a range of emotions because I allowed other mums (through their window shopping display) to dictate the standard of what my family should look like. The danger in comparing yourself to others is that there will always be someone ‘being more’ or ‘being less’. The comparison trap either leads to pride or despair. Personally, if I’m going to compare our “christianness” according to the activities other families do (be it crafts, songs, meals, dances or treasure hunts), then I can not measure up. Not only do I not have the creative energy for it, but I also lack the inclination for it – I couldn’t be bothered to be bothered.

So why do I have sweaty palms just thinking about December and April? The truth is that, if I’m being led by my emotions (and particularly fear), then my motives are wrong. I do not want to do anything out of fear, but rather out of conviction. If I am convicted that my kids are going to be worse off without the baking of the resurrection cookies, then I must do it. If I am convicted that receiving gifts for Christmas will take them further away from knowing Jesus, I must take the presents away.

So I calmed down.

Under the regular and rightful reminder of my husband that we resist peer pressure and submit to God’s Word only, and with the reassurance from older friends with godly grown up kids, I slowly realize that we are the family that we are, not carefully planning out the craft for Christmas, but being intentional in loving the Lord just as faithfully. Isn’t that enough?

We don’t do crafts together for Easter and we don’t bake together for Christmas. But together, among other things and in different ways, we love Jesus, we serve Him, we talk to Him and about Him. Together we fail Him and apologize to Him. And if these are the only precious memories that my kids will treasure one day, I will consider it a priceless blessing.

We are un-traditional and I make peace with it.

St James, 43 years of grace…

2 Nov

43 years of grace. Happy Birthday St James!

On Sunday, St James church celebrated 43 years of grace.

St James is the church I was converted in, the church where for the first time in my life I heard about the true Jesus, the One that loves unconditionally, the One that saves, the One that gave up His life for me, the One that brought me out of darkness into the light, the One that is working in my heart every day.

Mervyn Eloff wrote a message in the bulletin of the church about these 43 years of faithfulness and grace from the Lord reminding us of these words in Psalm 107 “Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His love endures forever…”.

How true these words are and how appropriate they are as we celebrate St James’43rd birthday. God is indeed good to us and His loyal love has been shown to us day by day, month by month, in times of joy and in times of sorrow – and this despite our many weaknesses and failings. How grateful we are to God for all that He has done. How wise it is for us to “heed these things and to consider the great love of the LORD” (Psalm 107v43); how fitting for us to “give thanks to the LORD, to call on His name; to make known among the nations what He has done” (Psalm 105v1).

Mervyn goes on reminding us of how we are to respond to “this great and glorious God who has become our God in and through our Lord Jesus Christ”.

First we are to respond to God’s goodness in Praise. We praise Him always and in many ways; in songs and through our life devoted to His glory and defined by repentance, faith and obedience.

Second, we are to respond to His goodness with Prayer. Our attitude should be an attitude of prayer and dependance on the Lord, a trust in Him where we turn to Him in good times and bad times.

Third, we are to respond to His goodness with Proclamation. If Jesus is at the center of our lives, we will proclaim His name without shame, we will communicate the Gospel of Christ with others. We will be committed to spread the good news of Jesus and when we will see the Gospel grow in the world, we will give the glory to God alone.

These three things, concludes Mervyn, should characterise our lives as Christians.

I am incredibly grateful that the Lord saved me into a church as committed to the Lord Jesus and as faithful to His word alone as St James has been for 43 years.

I insert a video clip that was shown to us on Sunday of the late Pastor Samuel Lockridge. Can we ever describe who our king is?

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