Reading Scripture with the Right Spirit {and Free Printable}.

When I sit down for some time reading the Bible, it can be so simple. The words are there, the Spirit is within me, my mind is capable – I read, I absorb, I believe. Sometimes, of course, there are passages that I’m not sure about. But there are very reliable sources I can turn to for help as well as my lovely, learned husband. As a someone commented on another post of mine the other day,

“God doesn’t want His will for us to be a mystery.”

And that is so true. That is why we have this blessed book called the Bible! It is His breathed out will, written by men, inspired by His Spirit. Surely that means God’s Truth can be known? Surely the pages we hold can be understood – and not only by those who are learned, or studied in theology – but for regular believers, like myself?
So why then, my heart ponders in confusion, is there so much debate out there? Why can so many of us just not agree? How can particular passages divide strong believers, Christ-like followers? Why are there so many “interpretations”? If this is confusing for me as a Christian, I can imagine what it is like for those watching in from the outside. No wonder the Church has so little integrity in the world today.
Call me naive, but I do believe the Bible is to be taken – in general – as it is read. And when I say, in general, I mean that we in our post-Christ age read the Word with Gospel eyes.  Of course there are elements of Israelite law that just do not apply to us anymore because all of the Law’s promises have been fulfilled and have their their “Yes” in Jesus {2 Corinthians 1:20}. And cultural context does come into play when we look at the New Testament {as in, life is just different now}.
But surely God knew this when He put the Bible together? Did the Middle Ages with serfdom and plagues and monarchies take Him by surprise? Or the Reformation or the Enlightenment or the Industrial Age or our Post-Postmodern world with it’s terrorism and gender-nuetrality and sexually obsessed culture?
When Paul sat down and wrote this letters, did God not know ahead of time the issues, the cultural differences, the wars, the history, the people that were to come?
Of course He did. Paul didn’t know what was to come. He just wrote what the Spirit guided Him to, having lived and learned with Jesus, alone, for three years {Galations 1}. What Paul wrote he learned directly from Jesus, something none of us can ever say. So why do many people just not accept or believe or want to obey some Scriptures?

 

Again, call me naive, but this is my simplified observation: the way that we believe and live out Scripture stems from the way our hearts approach God’s Word. Now I don’t want to say how others approach Scripture, I just want to write about how I want to approach Scripture: with the right spirit.
A quotation that inspired my heart to write this post was written by a Christian man from long ago. His name was Thomas A Kempis and he loved the Lord during the 1400’s. In his devotional, The Imitation of Christ, Kempis wrote:

 

“Every holy writing ought to be read with the same spirit wherewith it was made.”

The same spirit wherewith {in which} it was made.

 

 

 

What kind of spirit did Moses have? Or David? Or Isaiah? Or Paul? Or Peter? Did they have a spirit of arrogance or conceit? Did they want to write what they wanted to? Did they write with a spirit of falsehood or with a chip on their shoulders?
Yes, every single man that God used to write His Word was that, a man. But that doesn’t mean we cannot trust the Bible. We can trust it because each of these men were filled with the Spirit of God and it was His Spirit that caused the words of their hearts and minds to flow out. This is why we can believe that the Bible is inerrant {not wrong} and all we need {2 Timothy 3:16}.
So if we know that the spirit the writers of the Bible was God’s own Spirit, then we know that their intentions were: honourable, righteous, meek, loving, God-seeking, Christ-glorifying, selfless, and in fear of the Lord.
Because we are fallen creatures, we will never read the Bible exactly as God intended it to be read. This is the biggest reason why none of us can agree. But, we are responsible for how our heart’s are when we come to God’s Word. James tells is that we are to receive the Word “humbly” {James 1:21}.

Is my heart humble?

 

Is my heart meek?

 
Is my heart truly wanting to please God and obey what He wants?

 
Is my heart clouded by own desires or preconceptions?

 
Is my heart darkened by worldly lies?

 
Is my heart seeking God’s truth even if it costs me?

Finally, is my heart reading the Holy Scriptures with the same spirit that the original writers had when they wrote the very words of God?
When I think on this thought, when I think of what God was thinking when He wrote the Bible, I want to want Him. I want to want His ways, even if it chafes with something in me. I want to remember that if someone has to be wrong between God and I, it’s me! 
 
Perhaps, just perhaps, there would be less confusion, less strife, less broken churches and broken people if we had a right, humble spirit in respect to the Bible.

 

 — Free Printable —
Will fit 8’x10″ frame

 

 

The Importance of Wild and Free Outdoor Play for Boys.

Outdoor play. The term is bustled about in education circles, but how many people are listening? How many young children, especially boys, are being let down by being cooped up in classrooms all day long? What happened to hours and hours of wild, free, and outdoor play?
 As a mother living in a suburban city, I see how much lack there is for children to just roam nature and climb trees and explore bushy areas. Plus, with a very active, rumbunctious and high-energy three-year-old boy, I see the vital importance of outdoor play for him. Of course, spending time outdoors is of vital importance for both girls and boys. But recently, in the study of my own little boy, I see a direct correlation between outdoor play and the whole-being of a boy.
 

Here are some of my current thoughts.

importancewildfreeoutdoorplayboys

Boyhood Today


I really believe that we are in an era where boys – and much of what makes them boys – is squelched out of them. Their desire for rough and tumble; their need for deep male friendships; the way they learn as opposed to the way they are taught; their need to be heroes and warriors and rescuers; their desires to be leaders; their innate instinct to protect {gasp! yes, protect women}.

Boyhood today is not the boyhood of yesterday. Today, we have domesticated our little boys. And one massive area of boyhood that has been domesticated is the greatly needed realm of wild and free, unstructured outdoor play.

And this lack and decline isn’t just because we live in cities. There are many factors that have contributed:

  • Our children are in educational institutes from a very young age, corralled into areas with tens of other children, confined to playing with man-made play equipment.
  • When the school day is over, boys are being put into constructive and defined extracurricular activities.
  • We’re also terrified of them braking arms or hurting others and lawsuits from occurring.
  • There are school games – like bull-rush in New Zealand – that are deemed too dangerous so are banned.
  • From a young age, we rely more and more on technology to entertain children {especially boys}.
  • We ply them with ready-made toys {and lots of them}.

In the last fifty years, but more from the late eighties, a boy’s childhood has become more and more confined, controlled, timed and planned out. Our culture’s view of boyhood has become more feminine. We have allowed fear to rule our parenting. So altogether, our boys are domesticated.

{v} domesticate: to tame

We have tamed our boys. But so much research is showing the need for children to be free, wild and outdoors. Having plenty of time to play, build, explore, imagine, role-play and just run around crazy outdoors has social, health, educational, and behavioural benefits.

 

Why Outdoors Is Needed

This study from England delves into the need children have to be outside, and a study by the American Medical Association quoted in a Guardian article showed that:
“Children will be smarter, better able to get along with others, healthier and happier when they have regular opportunities for free and unstructured play in the outdoors.”
If parents are worried that such unstructured play isn’t learning {because our culture is so obsessed with education and being succesful before children even reach puberty}, it is both obvious and proven scientifically that play is learning for the child.

“It is difficult to differentiate play from work in the child, as according to nature play simply is a child’s work – the work or exercise of body and mind required to prepare for coming life.” {source}

And that makes sense, doesn’t it? From birth, babies are continually learning. We don’t put them into classes to learn how to crawl, or walk, or feed themselves. They learn organically by playing, by experimenting, by trial and error. And as older children, that hasn’t changed.

As a boy climbs a tree, or runs as fast as he can down a slope, or finds as many crab shells as he can to fill a bucket – this is all learning. And many boys learn through activity, building and breaking with their hands, digging trenches, dropping sticks from a tree hut, seeking out rabbit holes. Boys in that kind of environment learn quite differently to a boy in more domestic environments.

 “…it is obvious that outdoor play experiences contribute to children’s physical development, in particular to motor development. Less obvious is the learning that happens as children test their strength, externally and internally: how high can I climb? Why does my heart pound when I run? Am I brave enough to jump from this platform?” {source}

In the homeschooling sphere, the education philosophy of Charlotte Mason encourage nature study and outdoor pursuits, especially in the early years. Charlotte Mason said that children should be outside for many hours each day, in unstructured play, but with a parent observing for necessary help and habit training.

 

My Own Little Boy

As a mother, I have found all of the above to be true. I think though, more significantly, I have found changes in my son’s behaviour depending on how much time he has to be free outside.
Since bringing him home from kindergarten, Josiah has just blossomed. The attitude and behaviourial issues we were having with him have decreased greatly, and he is more gentle, more loving, more adventurous, more imaginative, and more helpful and kinder to his sister {and everyone!}. Aside from being home with his family more, I do believe this improvement has been because I have taken him out at least three times a week for walks in the buggy to spaces where he can just play.

In both pictures above, he is wearing his favourite costume: a hooded towel {his Batman cape}, his rocket socks and rocket boots. He loves zooming around the house as a superhero and he loves running here, there, and everywhere on our walks. He expends so much energy. He uses so much imagination. His mood elevates. His cheeks are flushed and his eyes are full of joy.

He is wild and free and living.
Though the kindergarten we had him at was great with an amazing outdoor space, there is just something very different about acres of land, park space, pathways in forest walks, creek beds and bushy hideaways. Though our city was devastated by earthquakes a number of years ago, where we live is now blossoming into green space because all the houses are gone. This is where I take the kids to roam free and it has just been the best of blessings.
If your son is struggling, is moody, emotionally up and down, more troublesome with you and siblings – try sending him outdoors. Take him several times a week to a place that is big and wide and green for him to run around in. If he’s absorbed in dropping stones down a drain, just let him. Don’t hurry him a long. Forget about the time, things that need to be done – just let him have space and live.

Your little boy needs to be a boy and it is your job as his mother to understand this and to provide opportunities for him to have that avenue of free exploration in God’s green earth.

 

How to Trust Your Instincts As A Mother

When we become mothers, we’re given a lot of advice. Momentous amounts of it. Some of it blessedly helpful, and some not so much. From family members, well-meaning grandmas at church to fellow mothers further along the parenting track. Everyone has something to say.

Oh, and the professionals. Did I forget to mention the doctors and teachers and psychologists who know exactly how to solve your parenting dilema?

I remember one of the contributing factors to the postnatal-anxiety I suffered through with my son was from listening to every single person and getting completely overwhelmed. One person said one thing, another said the opposite, and then the books – the books! So much information, but only one baby to implement it on.

In my less than three years experience as a mother, I can offer you the best piece of advice I have been given and which has steered me well:

Dear mother, you can trust your instincts and make good decisions for your family on your own.

Did I mention that you can do this without following the status quo or despite what professionals say?

As I stumble along this parenting path, I am learning to believe firmly that a mother and father know what is best for their family. I believe this because only you, the person God chose to nurture and raise His children,  know the characteristics, habits, weaknesses, strengths, idiosynchrasies of the people in your family.
The times in my mothering so far when I have felt most overwhelmed, stressed and emotional have been when I haven’t been trusting and doing what I know is good for my kids. I listen to everyone and get ridiculously lost. I go along paths of books and blogs and parents and — well, you get the picture. It isn’t helpful.
And many times, during this whole time of “searching” there is a feeling settled in my gut. I tentatively think I know where to go or what decision to make, but I don’t feel confident enough to do it. This is especially so when it is a different path to others and you struggle with being a people pleaser {just so me}.
If you’ve been following my blog recently, you’ll know that Tim and I have pulled our little boy out of kindergarten. It was a really difficult decision and I really needed some courage to make it. But boy, I am so grateful we did. Hopefully I’ll post an update soon, but let’s just say, being home has transformed our boy. It is a blessed relief.
So how can we trust our instincts and be confident making decisions?
1. Pray and seek the Word.
2. Discuss the in’s and out’s with your husband and seek his thoughts on the matter.
3. If more information/advice is needed, seek out one or two close mother-friends, preferably older and more experienced.
4. Pray more and seek the Word more.
And then, just do it. If everything is pointing one way, step out in faith and do it.

If you’re offered more advice or thoughts from others {or in books etc.}, you take what you hear with humility and a grain of salt; then you look at your children and you think, “What is best for them?”

Another instance in our parenting where we followed our gut was putting our babies on formula. We did it at different times with them both and for different reasons. But both times, it was pretty immediately clear that it was the right choice. Rosalie, for example, had a slight dairy intolerance and I wouldn’t have had a clue if we hadn’t followed our judgement.

This isn’t to say that we can’t be wrong. Oh my, we totally can be. But thankfully, our God is a God of grace and redemption, and, our children are very forgiving!

I do believe, however, that we have all we need for this parenting gig with prayer, our Bibles, wisdom from elders and conversations within marriage. 

So, mother, you can do this. You can make choices for your family even if they’re different, controversial or different between each child. Just trust God to show you the way as you seek Him. He really is listening and He really will direct your steps and give you wisdom.

“In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps.” Proverbs 16:9 

“I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With Him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” Psalm 16:7-8 

Birthing Babies: Grace In A Fallen World

“Children are a heritage from the LORD.” Psalm 127:3

I am a mother by the grace of God. As part of His plan for my life, and my husband’s, He has given us two children. And as I have said in my page about me, it looks like our two little ones are it {at least, biologically}.
My youngest turns two in a few weeks and I was thinking yesterday that it’s been so long since I have been pregnant. It still feels as strong a relief as it did the moment she came out. But, I long for another one. I would like to have another baby.
Yet, I shouldn’t have another baby.
As Christians, we love rules. We love adhering to a standard and making our stand on it: “Yes. This is God’s way. We all must be this way.” No, I am not saying there is no absolute truth, of course there is. Morally. But on many life issues, the Bible offers principles. And on child-rearing? Children are a blessing, plain and simple. That is why those who love the Lord ought to pro-life. God loves children and His hand is on the origins of every human being. They are not tissue or just a fetus.
But, I digress.
Children are a blessing. It is good to have children. It is part of our mandate as we rule over creation {Genesis 1:28} and it is a beautiful part of married life, and being one flesh {Genesis 2:13-25. And yet – it is not always as simple as we would like it to be.
Before Josiah, we had two miscarriages. I wondered if I could ever carry. Then, blessedly, Josiah was born. My body did okay with pregnancy, though I developed one blood clot in the later stages, and birth left some stitches. Then, I had a really rough bout of anxiety/postpartum depression that was really, really hard on this first time mother. But, once I got some help and pushed on through, life looked brighter.
Rosalie was born sixteen months after Josiah. Her pregnancy was hard. My blood turned to sludge and I developed nine blood clots during my third trimester, with strong prelabour from thirty-two weeks which involved two hospital admissions. I was on daily blood thinners and her birth worsened what was damaged from my first. When she came out, I cried, “It’s over!” And I wasn’t meaning birth. 
Pregnancy for me has the real possibility of being dangerous. It would be a significant risk for me to get pregnant again. I find that really hard, and I have wrestled over the chasm between my will for another child and the reality of what it means to have another child.
Birthing babies has taught me more and more that everything on this earth is tainted and destroyed by sin. Nothing is like it was before the Fall. It reminded me that we have it easy today with hospitals and medicine and life-saving operations. A close friend, if she had been around one hundred years ago, would have died with her first baby. She literally has no room to push a baby out so she must have c-sections. 
We are blessed and we are cursed.
Some Christians forget this dichotomy. I know why they do for, a part from loving rules we also love God’s ways and it is God’s way to have children {as opposed to our children are a burden/are despensible culture}. The only trouble is when well-meaning Christians make mandates about how many babies we ought to be having they forget that we are made for perfect, but perfect isn’t here yet. It is coming. But until then, we’re just waiting in a world that is groaning like in the pains of childbirth {Romans 8:18-23}.
Some women can have many children and, though it is hard, can do it by God’s grace. Some women can’t, or have a few, and do it by God’s grace. God, above and overall, is in control and all births and deaths are in His hands {Psalm 139}. And really, we ought to mind our own business and live a quiet life {1 Thessalonians 4:10-12}.
If I were to discover tomorrow that I were pregnant, I would be over the moon. Children are a blessing. I haven’t always felt that way, but I have always thought that way. My struggle would be entrusting my body to the Lord, knowing the great risks, but accepting His hand on my life. Life or death, I am His. But, we are not looking to get pregnant, in grace.
So if babies or pregnancies are a difficult issue for you; if you are frightened to have another one; if you want to but can’t; if birthing babies breaks your already broken body more – – drink in grace. God doesn’t condemn you for a broken body. He broke His own so that one day you will be perfect. But right now, we’re having to do this all in bodies, in minds, in places, in a world that is decaying.

As Charles Spurgeon said,

“It is grace, and nothing but grace, from first to last.”

Rock of Ages: A Hymn of Gospel Love

I am a great lover of hymns. In my life, God uses the depths of the words, the echoes of the music to stir in my soul a love for Him, worship for His Name, and a passion to share Him with others. This hymn, “Rock of Ages” is my favourite hymn. It has special meaning for my family; my husband sings in beautifully; I hum it to myself when I feel especially close to the Lord, or, when I do not.
“Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;”
God is our Father, and He alone in this changing world is where we can put our feet and know we won’t fall. There is nothing and no-one that can save us, protect us, rescue us from the death that is our sin and the sickness that is in our souls. He is our hiding place.

“Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be for sin the double cure,
Cleanse me from its guilt and power.”
God is our hiding place only because of Jesus, the man who was God, and who died on a cross for those he loved. He was wounded, pierced in the side from which blood and water flowed {John 19:34-37} to fulfill the scriptures from hundreds of years before {Zechariah 12:10}, to save us both from the guilt we have as sinners and the power it has over us.

“Not the labour of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,”
It is in our very nature to do all that we can to make ourselves good. We make ourselves nicer, more giving, more patient, more loving – anything that save us from who we truly know we are inside. We know instinctively what is right and wrong – God’s laws – and we try to do “what is right”. We expend all our energies and have the highest zeal to the point of weeping – 
“All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.”
There is a point we get to in our “holiness treadmill” when we realise that there is simply nothing we can do to save ourselves. We see inside and despair. Nothing we do can make right what we do wrong {in our hearts and with our hands}. We are broken, hurting and hurtful, people. Only Thou – God in Jesus – can save, only Him alone.
“Nothing in my hand I bring;
Simply to Thy cross I cling;”
When we realise that we are actually nothing without Jesus and that we can do nothing to make ourselves right with God, we come to Him with open hands. We see the bloodied Cross before us and know that it is the lifeline for our very breaths. In all the storms of life, in all the pain and sorrow, in all our deepest failures – it is the Cross we cling to.
“Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
Stained by sin to You I cry;
Wash me, Saviour, or I die!”
Everything about us is stained by sin until we are given the clothes of righteousness that Christ has purchased for us. Like newborns, we can do nothing with Him – we lean towards Him, desperate for the mercy and the grace that washes us clean, that gives us a new life to live, that enables us to breathe again.

“While I draw this fleeting breath,
When my eyelids close in death,
When I soar through worlds unknown,
See Thee on Thy Judgement Throne,”
In our moment of life and in our moment of death; when we are taken to that which we cannot see; when we face that which we have always taken in faith; when we see that what faith we have has been given to us and not what we have created – – then, before the judgement throne of God, we will finally see Him. And not just with our eyes – which so few have done before – we will actually see, clearly and fully and with perfect understanding, Him and all of our life’s purpose, in Christ.

“Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee.”

The only way we can face the Judgement Throne and come away with mercy is by crying out to God, through Jesus Christ, and asking Him to cleft to us – to hide us away, forever, washed in the blood of Jesus on the Cross. And, we must ask – not presume – for Him to let us.
***
This hymn was written by Augustus Montague Toplady in 1763, considered one of the four top Anglican hymns. Traditionally, it is said Augustus wrote this whilst taking shelter in a cleft of a rock during a storm. In his Psalms and Hymns For Public and Private Worship, he labels this song simply,
“A Prayer, living and dying.”