Laudable Linkage

Welcome to my latest round-up of noteworthy reads around the web:

The Error of Counterfeit Holiness. “Making holiness primarily consist of externals confuses what holiness is versus what holiness does. Defining holiness by what it does leads to works-dependence. Defining holiness by what it is leads to God-dependence.

How Self-esteem Ruins Bible Reading.

Share Ministry, Even If It’s No Big Deal, Because It Actually Is, HT to Challies.

Why I Abandoned Seeker Church, HT to Challies. Lots of good thoughts here.

Difficult Relationship? Write an Action Statement.

Our Bodies and Birth Trauma This Side of Eden, HT to True Woman.

God Calls Me to Motherhood and Art. How Do I Do Both? HT to Story Warren.

The Spiritual Discipline of Driving With the Radio Off, HT to Linda. I do like the radio or an audiobook on in the car, but I need and treasure silent moments in other parts of the day.

And finally, a couple of thoughts from Pinterest:

Happy Saturday!

Advertisements

“A Heart at Leisure From Itself”

We all need encouragement some times. We all occasionally feel down in the dumps, or inadequate, even ugly. We have an enemy of our souls who specializes in tripping us up and bringing us down.

The KJV rendering of Proverbs 12:25 says, “Heaviness in the heart of man maketh it stoop: but a good word maketh it glad.” We know the blessing of that “good word” that meets us just at the right time in our moment of need. I am thankful for the encouragers among us who, sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading, specialize in thoughtful observation and uplifting words.

However, I have seen women Bible teachers express concern over the plethora of material for Christian women which is based on emotion and self-esteem: “You are beautiful.” “You are wonderful.” “You are enough.” There are a handful of blogs I only read occasionally because every single post seems to espouse these messages.

I share that concern, for a few reasons. As I said, we all need a boost every now and then. But this kind of encouragement focuses on self, and the sheer volume of these messages makes me wonder whether we are altogether too preoccupied with self. And if Christian leaders and teachers are constantly feeding us esteem-building maxims, we’re lacking the teaching we most need: that which turns our attention to God and His truth. And, just occasionally, these kinds of message are wrong: for instance, as we discussed last week, we are not enough in ourselves.

Please understand: I am not trying to heap guilt on top of other negative feelings. I’m just turning our attention to a better focus and message. When we’re bombarded by self-defeating thoughts, we need to take them captive and apply God’s truth to them.

I am ugly. “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” Psalm 139:14, ESV.  “And your renown went forth among the nations because of your beauty, for it was perfect through the splendor that I had bestowed on you, declares the Lord GOD.” Ezekiel 16:14

I am worthless. “Knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” 1 Peter 1:18-19

I am inadequate. “Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God. 2 Corinthians 3:5

I am not enough. “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:4-5

I am not lovable. God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

Personally, a lot of my self-esteem issues were solved once I truly got hold of the KJV translations of Ephesians 1:6: “He hath made us accepted in the beloved.

Some years ago at a leaders meeting for a church ladies’ group, the pastor’s wife was encouraging us to speak up when we each did our various parts during the meeting. She mentioned almost offhandedly that “Self-consciousness is consciousness of self, and we are supposed to forget self.” That was another concept that helped me turn from my preoccupations with self (which increased anxiety about messing up in some way) to forgetting self in doing what God wanted me to do in the moment, trusting Him for the grace and ability.

Last week I caught a couple of Elisabeth Elliot’s radio broadcasts, replayed now on BBN Radio, in which she was talking about these very ideas. When I stopped the car, I jotted down some notes from her broadcast before I got out to run my errands. I was so hoping I could find a transcript of the program online, but I have had no luck so far.  In searching, however, I did find the September/October 1999 copy of her newsletter in which she discussed related issues. She quotes C. S. Lewis as saying:

The very first step is to try to forget about the self altogether. Your real, new
self (which is Christ’s and also yours, and yours just because it is His) will not come as long as you are looking for it. It will come when you are looking for Him…The principle runs through all life from top to bottom. Give up your self, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it.
Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favourite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end: submit with every fibre of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will ever be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in. (She quotes from Beyond Personality, but a similar quote is in Mere Christianity as well).

She also includes a few stanzas of this poem/prayer by Anna Laetitia Waring. Two lines which most stood out to me are the author’s request for “a heart at leisure from itself, To soothe and sympathise” and “And a life of self-renouncing love Is a life of liberty.”

I also have in my files a quote from one of Elisbaeth’s old email devotionals that were sent out by Back to the Bible years ago. This one is also from her book Keep a Quiet Heart:

“His purpose in dying for all was that men, while still in life, should cease to live for themselves and should live for him who for their sakes died and was raised to life. With us therefore worldly standards have ceased to count in our estimate of any man…. When anyone is united to Christ, there is a new world (or a new act of creation); the old order has gone, and a new order has already begun” (2 Corinthians 5:15-17, NEB).

That new order is a far cry from the notion of self-acceptance which has taken hold of the minds of many Christians. Any message which makes the Cross redundant is anti-Christian. The original sin, pride, is behind my “poor self-image,” for I felt that I deserved better than I got, which is exactly what Eve felt! So it was pride, not poor self-image, that had to go. If I’m so beautiful and lovable, what was Jesus doing up there, nailed to the cross and crowned with thorns? Why all that hideous suffering for the pure Son of God? Here’s why: There was no other way to deliver us from the hell of our own proud self-loving selves, no other way out of the bondage of self-pity and self-congratulation. How shall we take our stand beneath the cross of Jesus and continue to love the selves that put Him there? How can we survey the wondrous cross and at the same time feed our pride? No. It won’t work. Jesus put it simply: If you want to be My disciple, you must leave self behind, take up the cross, and follow Me.

I also remember Elisbaeth commenting on the radio program that what we sometimes think of as self-hate is actually self-love, because so much of our thought and time is still caught up with self.

Please understand, again, all this talk about forgetting self and dying to self doesn’t mean we neglect self-care. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, and we take care of them in thankfulness to Him and for His usefulness. He wants us to glorify Him in our body and spirit. Sometimes we need help with twisted or negative self-talk or self-concepts due to abuse, or a lifetime of put-downs, or other reasons. But the best way to heal from these things is to see what God’s Word says about how He made us and how much He loves us and how He longs to work in and through us. As Robert Murray McCheyne said, “For every look at self, take ten looks at Christ.”

IMG_1106

(Sharing with Literary Musing Monday, Inspire Me Monday, Let’s Have Coffee, Porch Stories)

Laudable Linkage

IMG_0195

Here’s my latest round-up of noteworthy reads on the Web:

How to Shipwreck Your Theology. ““What is the most brilliant theology good for if it is to be shipwrecked in one’s own house?”

Maybe Women are Some of the Worst Offenders.

9 Things to Know About a Widow’s Grief.

Love Letter to a Lesbian, HT to True Woman, from a former lesbian.

“Let Me Know How I Can Help!” (This Will, Because They Won’t), HT to Linda. Practical ways to ask for or offer help in a time of need.

How Breastfeeding Changed My View of God, HT to True Woman. “God’s love for us is no Hallmark sentiment. This image is not primarily a celebration of our newborn cuteness…Rather, this verse reveals God’s hard-won, self-giving, dogged commitment to our good, a refusal to let us go—however frustrating we become, an insistence on seeing his image in us—and a painful provision for our most desperate need.”

C. S. Lewis’s Wonderful Letters to Children. I love his manner with them.

A Pathway to a Full Life.

This is cool and somewhat mesmerizing to watch: magnetism in slow motion, HT to The Story Warren:

Happy Saturday!

Laudable Linkage

Here are some good reads discovered recently:

Women: Trade Self-Worth For Awe and Wonder. Yes!

Trouble, We’ve Been Expecting You. Excellent.

Stop Trying to Make the Bible Relevant to Teenagers, HT to Challies, by which he means, you don’t have to present it in a way to try to make it “cool” to them. Its truth relates to all of us: just show them how it speaks to their needs.

Back to the Early Church? Excellent. Sometimes people idealize the early church in Acts, but it had its problems, too.

On Bible study:

What Is Bible Study?

4 Reasons Why Every Bible Reader Should Do Word Studies.

On prayer:

The Busy Mom’s Guide to Prayer. Good tips not just for moms.

4 Ways to Keep a Fresh Prayer Life.

On caregiving and dealing with aging parents:

What I’ll Say to My Children If I’m Diagnosed With Alzheimer’s.

What Caregivers Know and You Can, Too.

Her New Happy.

On parenting:

As Seemed Best to Them. Yes! Parenting is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor.

Why We Don’t Punish Our Kids. Not advocating not dealing with sin, but explaining the difference between punishment and discipline.

And to end on a smile…I saw this on Pinterest and cracked up:

Lego

Happy Saturday!

Save

Book Review: Invisible

InvisibleI sought out Invisible by Ginny Yttrup because I dearly loved her first novel, Words: it was one of my favorite books of 2011.

Invisible tells the story of three very different women who become friends. Normally I don’t just copy the publisher’s description of a book, but in this case it seemed the fullest yet the most concise way to sum them up:

Ellyn DeMoss — chef, café owner, and lover of butter — is hiding behind her extra weight. But what is she hiding? While Ellyn sees the good in others, she has only condemnation for herself. So when a handsome widower claims he’s attracted to Ellyn, she’s certain there’s something wrong with him.

Sabina Jackson — tall, slender, and exotic — left her husband, young adult daughters, and a thriving counseling practice to spend a year in Northern California where she says she’s come to heal. But it seems to Ellyn that Sabina’s doing more hiding than healing. What’s she hiding from? Is it God?

Twila Boaz has come out of hiding and is working to gain back the pounds she lost when her only goal was to disappear. When her eating disorder is triggered again, though she longs to hide, she instead follows God and fights for her own survival. But will she succeed?

Though two of the characters have issues pertaining to weight, the book is not about weight: it’s about what it means to be made in the image of God and what the implications of that are in our lives. Each character has to learn that we don’t do certain things outwardly in order to be made in the image of God: we already are. And when rightly understood, that truth permeates our being and affects our thinking and then our outward actions.

I don’t want to reveal much more about the plot than that. Though the book didn’t grab me from the first page and not let go like Words did, it still provided much food for thought and I enjoyed it.

The character I liked the most was Miles, friend to all three main characters and potential love interest of one. His walk with God and the way he sought His guidance in everyday life was very realistic to me. This is one reason I love Christian fiction: this is the missing element, the ultimate reality missing in secular stories, no matter how good they are. Sometimes people accuse Christian fiction of being a sermon disguised as a story or a story with spiritual bits put in in order to make it “Christian,” but neither is the case in Ginny’s work (or even of the great majority of Christian fiction I’ve read.) Her characters are genuine (if sometimes a bit unconventional, in the case of Twila), and though there is spiritual truth she is trying to convey, each character grapples with it in a natural and realistic way.

Here are a few quotes that stood out to me from the book:

“I’ve learned enough through the years that when God is silent, it’s my cue to hold on tight. Do nothing. Wait on Him” (p. 49).

“When I pass from the discomfort of need to the tranquility of satisfaction, the very transition contains for me the insidious trap of uncontrolled desire. Augustine” (p. 168).

“I have forgiven him and I will forgive him again. But I won’t allow him to use me or mistreat me” (p. 262).

“Oh, Lord, remind me that this confrontation is an act of love and respect for both myself and my mom. It is not retaliation for years of pain” (p. 310).

There were just a couple of things that bothered me to a degree. One was Twila’s worship experience (pp. 166-167), which seemed a little New Age-y to me but would probably be called contemplative (which I don’t know a lot about yet but am not a fan of what I do know). The other was Ellyn asking if a dress had too much cleavage and Sabina telling her it was “lovely and appropriate” (p. 326). In my book no amount of cleavage is appropriate for anyone other than one’s husband in private.

But with those caveats, this is a book I am happy to recommend.

(This will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)