Tag Archives: Christian Life

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.

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.

Santa and other forbidden words…

7 Dec

ChristmasTraditions

Christmas traditions.

If you are like many of my christian friends, the word makes you boil with enthusiasm and your crafts, paints, baking utensils, homemade jar cookies and your blog posts are all a ‘tick’ away! If you’re like me, the word makes you shudder.

The build-up to Christmas is really enjoyable. I love Christmas and all the celebrations around it. Some have a christian character attached to it, like  Carol concerts, Operation Christmas box but others do not, like family coming together, gifts and cockroach-killings.

For many christian families, Christmas is also celebrating with binding traditions. Some go to great lengths to make these traditions very christian. Whether they feel that these traditions make them more Christians than others, I cannot say. But one thing I am convinced of, is that none of these traditions bring them or their families closer to Jesus.

I generally have no desire to be ‘the same’ as everyone, which comes easily: I became a christian in my 20s and I’m french. My culture and my background are distinctly not the traditional brand of Christianity we tend to read on family blogs. But nobody wants to be different in the “weird” or “less christian” kind of way. It took me great many years to come to terms with the fact that we are not enthused by Christmas traditions. It’s a taming process to remind myself that my children’s fate, whether they will live for the Lord faithfully or not, does not depend on the way Christmas is celebrated (even if Santa is included – which he isn’t – but it’s worth mentioning really… Sorry, I had a relapse)

The essence of Christmas and simply and purely celebrating the birth of Jesus. Whether you buy into the commercialisation of Christmas fully, half-heartedly or not at all doesn’t define you as a more godly person as long as you remember that at the centre of Christmas is, and is only, the birth of Jesus.

Unfortunately, my readership is not nearly big enough to have an impact but if you, like me, feel that you don’t always fit the mould, do not fret!!! God is only concerned about your first love in your heart. And it isn’t your family traditions.

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…

 

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