As we come to this third article in our series on work, we need to remember again the question that we’re seeking to answer: what place does our work have as we seek to follow Jesus in God’s world? What I have been arguing up until this point is that this question is actually not quite right. A better question, in light of the gospel, is “What works should we do as followers of Jesus in God’s world?” (more…)
I’m single. I live in Sydney’s east with my two flatmates and my cat. (The crazy-cat-lady litmus test is that you know you’ve become one and you don’t care.) I’m in my late thirties. Many of the struggles that surround singleness are my struggles too: tossing up between living on my own (and being lonely and possibly broke) or living with flatmates (and regularly having to find and get used to new ones); turning up to things on my own all the time; feeling the unvoiced wonderings of friends, who think I’m too fussy, or gay, or weird; feeling surprised and disappointed that I’m not married by now, and wondering what’s wrong with me. I tire of all of those things. (more…)
Sometimes I feel so unlovely.
Sometimes it rises up and sickens me: the horror of my lovelessness, the ugliness of my self-absorption, the scandal of my greed. How God hates my impurity and despises my pride and abhors my complaining (Psalm 26:5; Proverbs 6:16-19; 1 Cor 10:10; Ephesians 5:5).
I’m left gasping for breath, as if the possibility of God’s love has been sucked from the air. My sudden self-awareness squeezes out any sense of God’s grace. Stripped of my defences, I’m naked, ashamed, exposed.
“Who am I? … I don’t know. I guess I have a lot of things to ponder.”
-Derek Zoolander, speaking to his reflection in a puddle, in Zoolander.
In an interesting twist on the Narcissus fable, the really ridiculously good-looking Zoolander neatly sums up one of the main pressures of the adolescent years: the search for identity. Teenagers have a lot of things to ponder! (more…)
I was talking to a friend lately who struggles with eating issues, and she told me that one of the techniques she is using to combat her anxiety is something called acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). If I’ve understood her correctly, ACT is when you try to keep your thoughts focused on the present instead of allowing them to drift off in all sorts of unhelpful directions. So, for example, when she gets a craving for a cookie and starts to think that she couldn’t possibly get through the afternoon without one, she acknowledges that she’s had that thought, points out to herself that what her brain is telling her is a lie (i.e. that she can get through the afternoon without a cookie, and she knows that because she’s done it before), and then moves on with the rest of her day.
I was walking along, praying about my Ministry. I was praying for the wisdom to know which Ministry to do, how much energy to put into certain Ministries, and when to stop one Ministry so I would have more energy for other Ministries. Suddenly, like a bolt to my brain from the rather grey sky (it was the fading end of a Melbourne winter), came the word ‘service’.
A few years ago our women’s discussion group asked a friend to talk about sex within marriage. Someone brought a cake, and I remember lots of laughter—perhaps a little too much!—as we chatted about how to love our husbands sexually. The discussion leader answered our questions honestly and helpfully, but when someone asked about masturbation, she said, “I’d have to ask a guy that one”. The question this raised for me was, “Why? Is this really only an issue for men?”
This article has been edited by the author from the version originally published. (January 2019)
Getting Real: Challenging the Sexualisation of Girls (more…)
Is the coffee hour after church your favourite hour of the week? If it fills you with more dread than root canal, then Introverts in the Church: Finding our place in an extroverted culture (InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, 2009) is the book for you. Adam McHugh, a Presbyterian minister and one-time hospice chaplain, shows how introverts can survive and thrive in the Christian community without succumbing to anonymous isolation or burnout. (more…)
Jennie and I are pursuing a series on self-knowledge in the context of godliness and ministry, and we have been looking at personality tests as a kind of ‘idiot’s guide’ example—a way to begin cultivating the kinds of non-biblical (but not anti-biblical) knowledge and thinking that will promote a good understanding of ourselves. Last time around, Jennie looked at some of the strengths of such tests—the kind of issues they can flag for us, and hence the kind of resources they can offer.
However, it is one of the perennial features of sinners like us that there is no gift that God gives, however powerfully good or however prosaic, that we cannot pervert and turn into fuel for further sin. And personality theories, like more serious psychology in general, often generate certain characteristic abuses of what is offered. These are the weaknesses of personality theories, and without a serious engagement with the problems inherent to personality theory, one cannot use the tool properly; one has to understand the limitations and problems, as well as what it can do, to have any chance of using it in the service of the glory of God.
So over my next couple of posts, here are a bunch of weaknesses to do with personality theories—again, not an exhaustive list, but a list designed to prompt the kind of thinking that makes us self-aware about the limitations to the self-awareness that such tests can offer.
Ever since my early 20s, I’ve struggled on and off with anxiety and depression. In the last few years, the struggle has become particularly acute. I often wake at 4:30 am and pretend that it’s just the call of my bladder, but I know it isn’t. I know that as soon as I wake, I won’t go to sleep again. My body feels tired—like I’ve been running in my sleep—and my brain whirs away like the hard drive on my computer. I wake up with a thousand questions in my head—none of which seem solvable—and, at times, I’ve been so exhausted, I’ve just curled up in a ball on the floor and cried, wondering if the emptiness will go away soon. I have suffered mainly from anxiety, with periods of very low mood thrown in for good measure. (more…)
I’m sitting outside a cafe at a wobbly iron table, my pen moving lazily and messily across my notebook as I dream and write, dream and write. I sip from my mug-sized chai latte. A European wasp hovers hungrily above the frothed milk. (more…)
From as far back as I can remember, I’ve been the kind of person who feels a strong desire to please people. I want their approval and praise for the things I do. Sometimes I’ve even wondered if I have a kind of addiction to the brain chemicals that come with receiving affirmation and acclaim! Mark Twain famously said that he could “live for two months on a good compliment”; I’m not sure I could last that long, but I can certainly relate to the sentiment. (more…)
Should Christians talk sex? Should preachers preach sex? There are compelling reasons why, despite the difficulty, the answer is ‘yes’.
I’m writing this article anonymously not because I am embarrassed about preaching on sex, or because there is something in particular to hide. I’ve preached on it many times and think it’s important that we address the topic regularly. It’s just that many people are embarrassed in preaching on the subject, and I would like to help others to address that difficulty, rather than find myself pigeon-holed as the preacher who will come and give a talk on the subject when your minister or women’s worker feels the topic is too hot to handle. It is a hot topic, that’s true; but that is just one more reason for addressing it head on from a biblical framework rather than avoiding it.