Wednesday, 29 August 2012

A Review of the Controversial "Real Marriage" by Mark & Grace Driscoll

"It's not enough to just stay together and not glorify God in our marriage. He requests more because He loves us and has more for us!"
-- Mark & Grace Driscoll

My most recent book for review from Thomas Nelson was one which has created quite a stir (this article gives you a good idea of the controversy...). Pastor Mark Driscoll seems to attract controversy (not unlike Christ??) with his point-blank statements which speak, I think, more of his personality as a man, than his heart or beliefs as a child of God. But anyway, back to the topic at hand...

"Real Marriage" by Pastor Mark and his wife Grace, has been met with the same confusion of praise and criticism. To the liberal-minded, the book is far too focused on submission and gender-roles, and they read Grace as being oppressed by her husband with illusions of being master of his house. To the conservative-minded, the book is far too tolerant in its perspectives on sex. While the silliest criticism, I found, was that Mark and Grace were far too honest in sharing their own stories and lessons in their marriage. To me, it kind of sounds like people are just on the hunt for ways to disregard the message.

Personally, I thought it was one of the better of the marriage books I've read. Honest and deep, the husband and wife authors laid bare their personal stories for the glory of God and the good of those of us who might read it and learn from it. They covered a few basics for relationshipping, like communication and forgiveness. They called this "taking out the trash" in your marriage relationship, and wrote under such headings as:
* Forgiveness is not denying, approving, or diminishing sin that is committed against us
* Forgiveness is not enabling sin
* Forgiveness is not waiting for someone to acknowledge sin, apologize, and repent
* Forgiveness is not forgetting about sin committed against us
* Forgiveness is not dying emotionally and no longer feeling the pain of the transgression
* Forgiveness is not a one-time event

"Every married couple has to continually practice repentance of sin if they hope to have any loving, lasting life together. As one writer wisely said, 'Couples don't fall out of love so much as they fall out of repentance'." (qtd. Gary Thomas, "Sacred Marriage")

The entire book was written on the premise that, "Marriage is for our holiness before our happiness. Your spouse is the most sanctifying, and often most frustrating, relationship you will have. God will use our spouses to expose our selfishness and make us to be increasingly more humble servants like Jesus Christ." And this concept was woven through every topic discussed, including the chapters on sex and God's design for it, writing that the design for sex is to teach husbands and wives to serve one another, and be united in all aspects of life. A particularly good quote: "Husbands and wives live on a continuum from selfish to servant both in and out of the bedroom. If a marriage is between two selfish people, it will be cold and functional. If a marriage is between a selfish person and a servant, the marriage will be selfish and abusive. If a marriage is between two servants, it will be increasingly uniting and satisfying both in and out of the bedroom."

Whatever side of the controversy you agree with, this book is worth a read if you are married or may one day be married. The concepts are applicable to life in general, because they are biblical concepts given to us by the designer of life. Translated through the eyes of this pastor and his wife, yes. But well-worth your thought and consideration. I would recommend "Real Marriage: The truth about Sex, Friendship, and Life Together" by Mark and Grace Driscoll. Go out and find a copy of your own! 

* *I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their [...] book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255

Saturday, 18 August 2012

The Whisper of the Wild Winds

The Whisper of the Wild Winds
by Phil Baggaley

Are we the church asleep?
Beside a winter's fire
Safe in the warm, while the storm is closing
Far from the sound of the restless waves

Is faith just noble words?
Some distance that we keep
Open your eyes for a new awakening
Open the sails, and we will set to sea

Will you answer the call whispered on the wild winds?

Awake my soul and see
The landscape of the lost
Shake off the dust of this ancient weather
The call to the saints

Will you take your cross?
Will you answer the call
Whispered out
On the wild winds?

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Sharing at The Noise on Sheppey

My trip back home for Grandma's funeral was so short because I had made plans to be back in the UK to speak at and work with a youth event on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent starting the 1st of August. I arrived into London the morning I was meant to be speaking at the evening worship meeting! With all that the previous few weeks had held, I'd hardly been able to focus on gathering together my thoughts for the event, and now jet-lagged to boot, it really was a case of, "when I am weak, then He is strong."

But God "knocked my socks off" that night and throughout our time with The Noise on Sheppey.

Charles and I arrived on the island about an hour before I was due to speak, but with all the jet-lag, I hardly felt the energy to feel nervous. What a blessing jet-lag was! hehe.

Looking good and grubby after days of serving together in the heat and grime :)
My adorable best friend Amanda serves as the leader of this ministry, after having been on the team for the past 8 years from its start. When she was setting up speakers for each night of the week long event, God started laying me on her heart. But, knowing me well, she knew I hate public-speaking and would not be keen! Still, she ventured to ask me in late June if it was something I'd be able and willing to do. Of course, I wasn't sure at first. Surely there's someone better suited for the job! I told God, and Amanda. Ha.

But when she called me to explain what she was hoping for-- a sort of testimony-type talk answering the questions "Why God?" and "Why mission?", basically just sharing the story of my journey with God, I felt Him convicting me. I had just written a post only a day or two before encouraging all of you to share your story-- that it was what God wanted from each and every one of us; that He is reaching out to each of us through one another; that we can show one another that we are not alone; that we all have stories and that His plan is to redeem every one. So... I had to say yes, and trust that He meant to speak through my faltering words, however they came out.

And He has always been faithful before. Why am I forever shocked when He does indeed take my efforts, however feeble, and use them for His glory and for my good and for the good of anyone else He means to touch? 

I just shared a bit about my journey to God and with Him. I shared a lot about my teenage years, as I was talking to teenagers, and I let them in on my personal stories-- my search for my identity and the wanders I took down the wrong roads to that end. And how He came after me and offered a hand out. And some of what He's done since I took that hand...

I was not prepared for how much the people I was speaking to would be affected or how the Holy Spirit would move in that room. And it totally blessed and encouraged my heart to see. Who am I to decide for Him what is worth being said and who is meant to be saying it? It was encouraging to me if only because as I was telling these kids about how He's moved in my life, I was reminding MYSELF of how He's moved in my life. My God is beyond incredible just in my own story, let alone all the stories of others! And how quickly I forget His faithfulness and how readily I live as if He is so much smaller than He is!

Charles and I stayed on for the rest of the week and worked alongside the youth of The Noise, doing service projects around the underprivileged community in the name of Christ's love, and putting on a sort of community fair in a rough neighbourhood in the afternoons each day. It was such an honour to get to know the youth a bit, and to get to share with their thirsty hearts in one-on-one conversations in the rest of the week what I've experienced of my Jesus. It was such a humbling privilege to get to feel that sense of purpose and being right in the centre of His will. I wish I could put it all into words.

One of the people in the community that my team did some work for really touched my heart. She was elderly and suffering with severe arthritis. She needed us to come in and do things like yardwork and changing some light bulbs (I also got to trim my first ever hedge and it felt like an initiation into true British life :)). I got to sit down with her for a few moments while we waited for my team and hear a bit of her story. She was an artist with a backyard studio in her shed, and had lived in Spain for 13 years. She admitted without my asking, that she was confused about God because of all the suffering in the world, but that she had adored her now deceased husband and because of him and how wonderful he was, she thought there just must be a God. She was darling and funny and invited me back for a cup of tea any time I was back on the island. I hope someday to take her up on that offer :) It is people like Rita whom Jesus came for, died for, and whom still haven't quite discovered this life-fulfilling hope.

And it's people whom have yet to discover this hope that The Noise on Sheppey exists to be a beacon to. And it's people whom have yet to discover this hope that we MUST share our story with. Somehow, after seeing how He moved in the youths' hearts that night I shared mine, all the heartache that went along with the things I was sharing about all became worth it. I saw in a tangible way what it means to know that He is a Redeemer. My darkest nights were redeemed in that moment, turned over into something good, because of how I can point to the hope He's given me, and the way He's changed me, and maybe give a bit of encouragement to someone who finds themselves in their own dark nights.

A few of the youth were inspired and encouraged to tell their own testimonies after that night, some of them so powerful that I can just see how God will use them every time they're told. I hope you'll be convicted to start to think about, understand, and tell your own. We all have one. And He will redeem it if you'll let Him use it...

We carry this hope in jars of clay, to a world dying to know it...
Let Him use it. As many times as He will.

Thank You, Lord, for what You are doing on Sheppey through The Noise, and also in my own heart through being encouraged by my time serving with this particular ministry. You are good, You are good, You are good. And your love for this entire world is faithful and unfathomable. I love You. Help me to have the courage to keep telling the story You have given and are giving me. And help anyone reading this to do the same. May we not let any of it be wasted. May You change this world through us. Thank You, Lord. Amen.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Happy Birthday, My Grandma

It's been such a very long time since the world has stopped spinning long enough to sit down and spill out my ponderings here.

By the grace of God, I managed to get home for my precious Grandma's funeral. It was a crazy last few days in Sweden, then about 24 hours of travel time and all night spent in airports, bus, and train stations in London to get to my early morning flight (and my sweet, chivalrous man stayed with me til 3 in the morning, even though he had to work the next day!). But upon arriving home, my Mom collected me at the airport and we went straightaway to Grandma and Grandpa's house and I went straight into my Grandpa's arms.

I'm so thankful I was home for the days that followed. I honestly don't know if I could have withstood losing my Grandma without facing it with my family. She was so loved by all of us and loved all of us so very much. She has left such an incredible legacy of love and encouragement and friendship. I miss her every day.

Her visitation was on the Friday night after I arrived in on the Thursday. I'd been managing to hold myself together pretty well after the first few days of coming to terms with her loss before I left Sweden. (Charles was there and did a lot of back stroking and holding me when I cried. I'm so thankful he just happened to be visiting when I got the news. God is too good to me.) But upon pulling up to the church with my dear cousin Jackee and her husband, I suddenly felt like I couldn't walk through those church doors. I couldn't face seeing her lying there, devoid of the life and exuberance and warmth she had always embodied to me. A few family members congregated outside the doors and hugs and tears flowed freely. And somehow, I entered the church, and started to make my way into the sanctuary and up toward the casket where she lay. I didn't feel like the 26-year-old woman who has lived and worked all over the world in all kinds of circumstances then. I felt about 6 years old and all alone and desperate for a cuddle from my Grandma, who was always perfectly proportioned for snuggling into.

I didn't stay long in the sanctuary upon seeing her. Too upset. But eventually I made my way back in and took a seat in the front row to be near to her body and to the family members milling about. Grandpa was stationed near to her at the top of the aisle of pews and remained there the whole night, speaking to everyone who came to pay respects. He would later tell me that he was up half that night with charlie-horses in his legs. With no air-conditioning, the sanctuary was very very hot as well, and we were all giving and receiving a great deal of hugs.

My darling little 5-year-old niece Emily came and sat down beside me on the pew. With quiet reflection, she looked up into my face. Then she sat up on her haunches to peer more closely at it. I don't think she'd actually seen Auntie crying before. Then, sweetly, and with such confidence, she said to me, "Don't worry, Auntie Leah. Grandma's alive in heaven, and in our hearts." Out of the mouth of babes. She then went on to say that her dearly loved cat Natalie was also in heaven and I told her that her great-grandma was probably taking care of Natalie now and she liked that idea very very much :)

The younger great-grandchildren with their limited understanding of what was happening were so sweet. My Mom saw my cousin's 3-year-old Michael trying to reach up into the casket and reach Grandma's hand, so she picked him up in her arms so he could get a better look. He asked, "What happened?" and my Mom told him that she had died. His reply was, "She died? What happened?" and it went on like this for a bit. The next day at the actual funeral, I heard Michael loudly proclaim, "She died" to the other children. I wonder if he even knows what that means, but he's so darling saying it and I just imagine Grandma getting the giggles as she watches the going-ons from heaven!

The funeral was really a beautiful celebration of her life. My Grandpa said he'd been to a lot of funerals but never one as nice as his wife's. I'm so glad he felt that way. My dad said that so many people came that it was one of the bigger funerals he's ever done. The turn out of support from friends and family was incredible and I'm so thankful, especially as it touches my Grandpa. So many flowers were sent that it created a whole wall on either side of the casket at the front of the church. My Uncle Mike gave a eulogy on behalf of her four children, and my cousin JD gave one on behalf of us 12 grandchildren. They both did such a good job at bringing across who she was to us. JD managed to mention a memory from each one of the 12 of us. It was a very tearful affair. All of us granddaughters and granddaughter-in-laws had the honour of carrying one of Grandma's hankies that day, a precious way to feel a bit connnected. Grandpa also let me wear a necklace of hers for the day. Somehow, it was very special to have things of hers as we went through the day...

Before the service got underway, my Dad the funeral director and my Grandpa the husband went up to close the casket. Grandpa nearly broke my heart when he leaned down to give her one last kiss. The last of the thousands he must have given her in their 61 years of marriage, and couple of years of courting before that! They have always loved one another oh-so-well and my heart is perhaps most tender for my darling Grandpa now...

As they covered the closed casket with a cream-coloured cloth, and placed the flower arrangement with the ribbon declaring "Best Grandma Ever" in the centre of it, my sweet little 3-year-old nephew Tucker asked loudly, "Where'd 'Mama go? Where 'Mama?" And my heart broke a bit more, but with a sort of sweetness at his innocence. He didn't like having her closed away in the coffin where he could no longer see her. I think I found it disturbing to see my Grandma's body there but emptied of HER. And it was time now to let her go...

It was imperative that I could pull myself together in time for the song I was asked to sing. "I Can Only Imagine" by Mercy Me. I was desperate for the sound to make it out past the lump in my throat and the tears in my eyes. And perhaps it wasn't sung properly, but it managed to find its way out and I'm so thankful. The message of the song is just so poignant, and so important for us to think on, to remember the paradise she is enjoying now. We so easily forget that this earthly life is not the end, and in fact is only the tiniest fraction of the promised eternal life when we believe in the grace of God through Christ. My Grandma knew her Saviour, and she is more alive now than she has ever been. And I am so glad for her...

My baby brother Jonah and my niece
Abby visiting Grandma's grave the day after
All of us grandchildren (except for 1 cousin who couldn't make it) escorted the casket out of the church and when we all moved to burial site we lined up and laid our corsage flowers on her grave, with a few moments each to say a final goodbye. Lots of tears, lots of hugs. Then we were each given a long-stemmed red rose from the flower arrangement atop her casket. A dozen roses for a dozen grandkids. She really was the best Grandma ever...

It was a hard, but healing day. We spent the rest of the day together at my Aunt Julee's as an extended family. I needed so many hugs. I'm so very very thankful I was home for the funeral and the family time.

My grandpa created this train for behind his 4-wheeler for the

I'm even more thankful that God gave my beautiful Grandma to me for the first 26 years of my life. She loved me so unconditionally. We had so many laughs and so many memories and so many hugs and cuddles. I was not ready to go on creating memories without her, and want to pick up the phone and find her on the other end of the line a hundred times a day, but I'm so thankful for the times we've had and the lessons I've learned just through knowing her and loving her...

Before I left my Grandpa's house (and how strange it is to call it that instead of Grandma AND Grandpa's) to go back to the airport the following week, my Mom slipped a ring which was my Grandma's on my finger. They had thought about burying her in it because it's her "mother ring", with the birthstones of her 4 children, and they didn't expect anyone would really want it. But I said that as it is something I have NEVER seen off her finger, I'd love to keep it in memory of her. I remember often stroking her hands, because they were so wonderfully soft, and asking about her rings, and she'd explain where she'd gotten each one. And she'd tell me which of the birthstones belonged to which of her children. I'd always try to find my mother's birthstone :) On my flight back to England, processing all that the 12 days back home had held and thinking about my upcoming speaking engagement at a youth event upon arriving, I kept finding myself gazing down at Grandma's ring on my hand and feeling a mixture of sorrow at missing her, and comfort at wearing something on my hand which she had always worn on hers... Like a tangible connection to her. I haven't gone a day without wearing it since. And every time I look at it, I'm reminded of how she loved me, of how proud she was of me.

And there is something so beautiful and comforting and wonderful about that legacy she's left me to hold on to. She loved me. She was proud of me. And I can rest in that. Thank you, Grandma. I love you so.

My grandma's ring and her hankie I carried with me for the funeral

Tomorrow would have been Grandma's 81st birthday. The extended family is getting together at my Grandpa's house to celebrate with him and remember her. I so wish I could be a part. But I'll be thankful for my Grandma and for my family from afar. Speaking with Jesus face-to-face now, I imagine this may be her happiest birthday ever, and that gives me solace...

Thank you, Lord, for giving me my Grandma. Please hold her close to you now. And please make Yourself in all Your comfort and peace so real to my Grandpa left without his other half, and to my Mom and her siblings left without their mother, and to my cousins and I left without the best Grandma in the world. We all miss her so. But we're so thankful You saw fit to give her to us...

“The loss is immeasurable. But also immeasurable is the love left behind.”
– Felicia Moran
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