Discovering Me

Let’s talk about sex

I’ve recently been listening to some podcasts about talking to your kids about sex, by Doug Hammack (well worth listening to). I thought I would share some particularly interesting things that I have gleaned from listening to them.

In one of the podcasts Doug talks about the Greeks having many words for love and that an understanding of these types of love, can act as strong building blocks that help to build healthy sexual relationships.

Mania; this describes the overwhelming feeling of thinking constantly of the other, a consuming love, it’s something that generally happens to us; ‘we fall head over heels in love.’

Eros is where we derive the word erotic from. It describes the passionate, romantic and sexual side of love. These chemical types of love help us form attachments, when vasopressin and oxytocin are released they bond us together.

Pragma love; this is the deep attachment we create as we build our lives together; we become attached to one another as to the lives we have created together. As our lives interact through work, family and general activities and we cooperate to reach common goals and make things work we become more self aware, we grow in understanding and empathy. As this type of love develops it gives staying power to our relationship.

Pragma love provides a firm foundation on which a secure relationship can be nurtured through the ups and downs of romantic love and it’s where agape love evolves.

Agape love, the highest form of love, is an unconditional love that has connections with mania love where we overlook the flaws of the other, it’s generous and constant, regardless of the circumstance.

The types of love summarised above, can all weave together to create strong bonds with our mate. Not only that, as we progress through these stages of love, they often change us and as our sense of self expands, we become better able to connect with others and so agape love enlarges towards others too.

Eros and mania are basic, primal types of love yes, but that means they are also intrinsic, it is how we are made biologically and perfectly normal and healthy stages of love. What matters is how are young people are educated in these matters.

While society in later years, has normalised sex and conversations have been opened up, the media has swooped on that by focussing only on erotic type of love (because sex sells) to the detriment of relationships and many, many societal problems. Religion on the other hand, has ignored the opportunity to talk about sexual desire within a healthy context, and the record has often stayed stuck on ‘God says’.

Ancient ideas such as these types of love, demonstrate that sexuality is a journey that needs to be mapped out and this give us a framework in which to place good sex. As we present the big picture in this way we can educate our children in a way that is relevant. As Doug Hammack says so well, ‘If we are going to be heard,…we are going to need to present ancient wisdom using non religious language, in a non religious framework… We are going to need understand and be informed by and draw from the wisdom of biology, psychology, physiology and social analysis.’

To find out more listen to the podcasts!

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The Word

If we want to know who God is can we look at the Bible as the final word? Do we have to try and wrestle scriptures together to form a picture of God that may end up looking complex and even confusing?

Scripture itself, seems to point to something higher, the early church reveals Jesus as God’s final word.

He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being. Heb 1:3

Jesus is described as the word (Logos) of God. Jesus, the word made flesh, reveals God’s way of thinking, he was the exact representation of God. Jesus said ‘If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the father. ‘

The Bible speaks of a God who dashes baby’s heads against rocks and who destroys entire nations, men, women and children. In contrast to this, in Luke’s gospel, when the disciples suggest praying for the destruction of a village who rebuffs them, Jesus rebukes them saying (in some translations!) that he has not come to destroy but to save men’s lives.

If the bible were a jigsaw puzzle depicting who God is, then I think, if we looked closely we would find that many of those pieces don’t actually fit as much as we’d like them to.

In the last few years I’ve read books about the history of the bible, and found it interesting to read how a group of scholars, with varying biases and backgrounds, decided which texts should be included in the bible. Some of the texts that were dismissed are actually referred to, in what was decided to be the Bible. Then you have many translations of the bible, which differ considerably from one text to another, depending on each scholar’s viewpoint.

The jigsaw pieces that have been placed in the God box have been decided upon by human hands just as the bible has been written by them. While I don’t think they form a complete picture of God, they do piece together a wonderful story of mankind’s pursuit of God, even though he was in us all along, we just couldn’t see it.

What would Jesus Do?

Remember that cheesy popular Christian phrase? It might be worth remembering this next time we are looking at the bible. Let me explain;

In Matthew Jesus says the greatest commandment is to, ‘… love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind,’ and ‘… love your neighbour as yourself.’  He then goes on to say that ‘on these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’

Jesus life on earth, personified these commandments. Jesus definition of neighbour  includes our enemies and he demonstrated this kind of love for us in his death. That is where the story climaxes magnificently and what we hinge our faith upon. Understanding this, we can read scripture through the lens of ‘what would Jesus do’ to identify God’s voice in scripture.  What would Jesus do? Love people! Where love is evident we can hear God’s voice.

God is love.

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Book Reviews

book cover

Tim Hall, Chaplain of St David’s College, Llandudno

“Discovering Me” is a beautifully written book by a mum and a teacher who is able to express so vividly her own discovery about the truth about God and the truth about herself. It is a master class in teaching young people about Biblical Truth. The book contains some of the best explanations of complex Christian doctrine that I have come across. In an age when Biblical Truth and Christian doctrine are so rarely taught, this is a must read, whether it be by a parent to a 6 year old child, or by a teenager. The simplicity of the examples that give explanation and understanding to difficult ideas for a young person, are brilliantly chosen and written. Given the brevity of the book, it is remarkable that the writer is able to cover such a comprehensive overview of the essentials of Christian teaching. The real art form, however, is that the read is compelling and the creative activities fun, so that the reader or listener is gaining such self affirmation and grounded teaching, without them even realising. It is heavy but light, deep but real, general but personal; it is skilfully and wonderfully balanced.”

Mr A R Bignell

I haven’t given this book to my kids yet purely because I have absolutely loved reading it myself. Every little chapter reveals the love of God and the goodness of our humanity. I believe children will feel excited about the relationship with the Trinity that this book communicates. There is no hint of behaviour managment that other children focus books offer and leave them feeling fearful of God. This book will show children how safe, encouraging, present and loving God is and how much he wants to participate in their lives. “Discovering Me” really is the ideal title of this book! It isnt complicated but it also isnt patronising. I have 3 children (8yrs, 10yrs and 13yrs old) and I can’t wait to see their response to this book. I hope they will write their own review shortly!

Thank you for a book that I trust with my children.

EJH

What we loved about this book in our household – my daughter is 7 – is the personal angle the author takes in introducing a God of relationship. Children often have a hard time conceptualizing God but this interactive 30 day journey reveals a God who is not punishing or ‘out to get us,’ but rather a kind and loving God who seeks relationship. The author shares her own relationship journey with God, which makes this book accessible and engaging. The interactive exercises are fun too.

J.D.

This is a fantastic book, so full of the truths you’d want your older primary age child up to early teens to, really, get a hold of. It’s, so, easy to engage and interact with, as well. Truths about who they are, why they were created and what Papa truly believes about them. It will change a child’s perception to who they, truly, are. We’ve bought five copies so far, for our children and for friend’s children. Everyone loves it! Well done Rachel, first class!

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We dont label people like we used to …

I grew up with a very black and white idea of what a Christian should look like. I suppose I had this mental checklist and these were the glasses through which I viewed myself and others. At times I got quite stressed by it. I remember going to a conference where I met some people who didn’t fit my mental checklist and boy that bothered me! ‘Were they really ‘Christian?’ I cringe now thinking back.

I’ve just finished reading a fascinating book called Living Non-violent communication by Marshall Rosenberg, and as I was reading one chapter in particular I thought back to this old way of thinking (not that I never, ever think this way sometimes now!)

Here’s an excerpt from the book;

We have learned to think in terms of moralistic judgements of one another. We have words in our consciousness like right, wrong, good, bad, selfish, unselfish, terrorists, freedom fighters. And connected to these is the concept of justice based on deserve – that if you do one of these bad things, you deserve to be punished. If you do the good things then you deserve to be rewarded.

In my last post I wrote how we are fed from the tree of good and evil for much of our lives, this becomes our conscience. Could it be that as we compare ourselves with others we create our own God, the God of our conscience?

The book continues;

The process of non-violent communication is an integration of thought, language and communication that brings us closer to our nature. It helps us to connect with one another’s well being.

 From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; 2 Cor 5:16

And all of us, as with unveiled face continued to behold as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are constantly being transformed into His very own image in ever increasing splendor and from one degree of glory to another…(2 Corinthians 3:18 AMP)

God invites us to see things from his perspective, to discard those human glasses of good and evil.

When we view ourselves and others from God’s point of view, our response reflects that which we behold. God communicated his love for humanity so powerfully when he gave himself up while we were at our worst. His forgiveness not retaliation presented us with a new way of communicating; and it is the mirror through which we can see our true selves.

Through his death we have been cleansed of an evil conscience. His resurrection reveals our union with him.

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Where is God?

Is God out there somewhere? Are we really separate from him?

If God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit created the universe, out of their very being, then how can we think that humanity could exist apart from them?

So where does the idea that we are separate originate?

In the garden of Eden story we are taken into the mind of humanity, and there presented with the temptation to ‘be like God’ through knowing good and evil. Could it be that this was such a powerful deception because it was so close to the truth; that we are made in his image and like him?

As thoughts of separation pervaded man’s mind like dusk falling, when it was dark, we perceived ourselves to be alone.

Sadly the idea that we are separate from God, and that knowing good and evil will bring us closer to Him, is the lie that was sold then and has been perpetuated ever since.

Throughout Sunday school, bible stories and sermons we are fed from the tree of good and evil. The good and bad tree is the ladder we use in our attempts to climb closer to God.

However, Jesus came that we might eat from the tree of life. Jesus came to reveal the mystery hidden from the beginning, he came to open our eyes that we might see that God is in us and with us and always has been.

Why do I think this is important to know? I think it strengthens our relationship with God to know that we have always been with him, that we are his children. It’s inclusive and diminishes the us/them mentality. The idea that we have to invite him into our hearts, puts the onus on us, it makes God smaller. God has done it all, and had it all in hand before the creation of the world. Knowing this makes God bigger.  Believing simply accepts that this is already done. It’s all of Him and none of me. Nothing can separate us from the love of God.

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Extract from my book – ‘Discovering Me,’ a 30 day interactive journey exploring God for young people.

Sometimes I feel a bit like Alice in Wonderland where she jumps in a rabbit hole and discovers a whole new adventure. In part of that story Alice drinks a potion that makes her shrink and suddenly she has a different view of everything!

Just like Alice I’ve had the opportunity to look at things in a different way. I have always believed in God but my thoughts and ideas about him have changed a lot since I’ve grown up. I feel like I’ve been on quite a journey in my thinking in the last few years, and there are a lot of things that I have discovered that I really wish I’d known when I was younger. I’ve realised that it’s okay to ask questions as you think about who God is. In fact, through this, you may discover that what God thinks about you is a whole lot better than what you first thought.

This book is about you, and I want to invite you to explore your thoughts and discover God for yourself because knowing him is not about believing certain things, but about relationship.

I hope that as I share things that have encouraged me over the last few years they will also encourage you, and that you will enjoy using this book to help you on your own journey of discovery.

There are 30 chapters in this book and so you could do one chapter every day for a month. You might like to read through each chapter with someone else and discuss it with them. If you’re doing it on your own you could write down any thoughts, feelings, ideas, dreams or questions you have—because those are all a very important part of your journey

Your thoughts and feelings count, after all they are part of who you are—and even if they change, that’s okay, it’s all part of discovering me/you!

There’s only one you and you are amazing.

You’re chosen and special.

You are beautifully and wonderfully made.

(More information about the book can be found here.)

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Family Meeting

Holding a family meeting sounded like a good idea. It’s something we’ve done before at random but we often have them around New Year to share our hopes, dreams and ideas for the coming year.

I’d been listening to a parenting podcast recently and on it they recommended a book by Stephen Covey (7 habits of Highly Effective Families) and talked a lot about his suggestions for family meetings.  So with enthusiasm I noted down the ideas and armed with chocolates, poster paper and colouring pens I chaired the family meeting after lunch one day.

However the suggestions didn’t mention what to do if certain family members disagreed about what was to be written down, or if a peaceable agreement couldn’t be made about what colour pen should be used, let alone over who’s turn it was to write!  Nor did it mention anything about family members who no longer wished to be a part of the family meeting and whom although there in body were most certainly not in spirit!  MEETING POSTPONED!

If only someone created a manual of exactly the right thing to do in every possible parenting situation with every possible personality of child!

As much as I’d like to have this parenting lark all sussed out, I don’t.  What I do know though is that love wins! So I’ll keep on loving as best I can; myself as well as my family.

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Discovering Me

I’ve written a book!

In 2013 I started writing a book, and in January 2014 I set a goal of 30 chapters. By May I’d accomplished that, but felt very unsure what to do with it next, I was hoping for some guidance from someone and began imagining tentatively getting my book published.  A few months later a friend mentioned they’d met someone who was running a writers workshop and that it might be worth me getting in touch.  That was when I met Emily and Simon, my publishers who have been SO encouraging and helped me to edit and complete my book!  Thank you so much.

So what kind of book is it?

It’s a 30 day interactive book, exploring thoughts about God.  It’s aimed at young people aged 9 and upwards and can be read alone but I think it’s great if it can be read with someone else, like a parent, to promote discussion.

Often people grow up inheriting beliefs without questioning them.  I hope this book will help to set aside preconceived ideas about God and inspire the reader to explore their own beliefs and develop their own personal relationship with him.

Why did I write this book?

I wrote this book to uplift, encourage and make the reader feel good about themselves, is the short answer!

The long answer is that in raising my girls I got tired of the moralistic messages that much of children’s Christian literature is made of.  That’s good to a degree but I believe that knowing and experiencing love is a much more powerful influence in our lives than merely knowing right and wrong.  I found the type of books aimed at older children (tweens) were often more about critical self analysis, focusing on what is lacking rather than encouraging self worth.  I remember how self analytical I was at that age and these materials just reinforce that focus instead of building self worth. When we feel secure in our own sense of value we don’t feel the need to compare ourselves, without a sense a lack we feel at peace not only with ourselves but also with others.

I’ve heard it said that we can focus too much on God’s love but I disagree.  After all love produces, gives and sustains life, what could be more powerful than that!

So for anyone who wants to feel loved I hope this book is for you!

book cover

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Experiences that inspire

I find it amazing how we evolve in our thinking over time, through the experiences we have and from the knowledge we gain.

I was reading a blog post the other day entitled ‘An open letter to new mums’. Of course, I thought back to myself as first time mum and, as I’ve thought many times before, how different I am now to then in my thinking. How I’d like to go back and tell myself a few things!

I remember those first four months after the birth of my first daughter were such a struggle for me; a combination of tiredness, shock at a whole new life and loss of freedom.

How different to the second time around. With my second baby daughter I was actually able to enjoy the experience and why was that? I think I was more prepared. This time I’d read up on real life experiences of breastfeeding in advance as well as having been there before.   I now knew that the tiredness would pass and that things would get easier. I knew that, yes, the baby probably was hungry again or just wanted some comfort or sleep. I’d thrown away the books, gone with my instinct. Sometimes we co-slept sometimes we didn’t and my motto was if in doubt give her the boob!

Even though my second daughter actually woke more frequently during those first few months, I felt so much better! I was enjoying my baby much more. This time I could see the light at the end of the tunnel and so it wasn’t nearly as dark in there!

So if I could go back and talk to myself as a first time mum, I’d say forgot the housework and stop stressing about how much sleep or when the last feed was, just savour the moments and relax!

Would I have taken that advice on board? I don’t know, but hopefully I would have been encouraged by the sharing of the experience of the tiredness and difficulties but encouraged that it does get better.

Likewise two people can have similar events happen in their lives yet experience them so differently. One may experience God in that time and another not, yet that’s not to say that one is right and one is wrong.

The definition of faith is a belief in something. I realise that having faith is not about having all the answers. I cannot know for sure whether there is a God or not. These days I am no longer relying on that, but rather resting in the knowledge that I have felt and experienced his love. I’m finding freedom in the motivation to share love and encouragement to others, rather than needing to prove that he exists (which was probably more for me than others anyway).

Do our honest experiences connect us and draw out our true selves? At times it’s a scary place to be. I’m so glad God accepts us where we are.

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Attachment Parenting

I learnt recently that during the first few months of an infant’s life, a mother and baby bond through taste, smell, body temperature, touch, voice tone and looking at the face.

The early development of the right side of the brain (the Right Orbital Prefontal Cortex for those interested!) occurs from birth onwards.  Its development is strongly influenced by the emotions experienced during those early stages of bonding or attachment with the primary caregiver, usually the mother.

What I found most interesting is that most of the neurological development that happens during the first 18 months of life, influences that part of the brain that controls the way we handle situations and cope with things later in life. This development is largely determined by the type of stimulation an infant receives during that time.

Strong evidence of this has only recently become available through brain imaging technology, which allows researchers to see what part of the brain is activated under various conditions and how different activities stimulate the brain.

What the brain imaging studies have shown is that during this kind of bonding, the mother’s pleasure and interest in the baby triggers changes in the baby’s unconscious state.  For example babies love to look at faces, and a mother and baby will spend many hours of a day gazing at each other, and from a very early age they will perceive information from that activity.  When the mother’s joy and interest in the baby is perceived, endorphin levels, feelings of joy, have been shown to rise in the baby’s brain. Very often the feelings are mutual in this bonding process too.

The left hand of the brain discerns words, but the right side of the brain listens for voice tone in the bonding process. Just as with faces, the baby will mostly respond to the tone that communicates interest in them, a tone that indicates a desire to be with them.  The joy that the baby experiences not only motivates them but is also shown to be essential in brain development, and increases the ability to deal with stress in later life. This type of bonding also causes a baby to be like the person who demonstrates great pleasure in them.

Although the greatest growth in the right side of the brain occurs in the first few months of life and then stops, it’s quite cool to know that the area in the right side of the brain that is related to joy and bonding, retains the same potential to grow throughout your life as it did when you were born, given the right stimulation.

Why am I writing all this?  Well the other day I was thinking about my motivation for writing a book.  As with the ‘mother daughter diary,’ my intention is that the reader will feel loved and feel good about themselves. Through my writing I want to create pictures in the mind, of the love that God has for us, that ‘pleased to be with us’ love that produces joy.  The day I was thinking about that, I came across this information about how joy stimulates the brain and strengthens you.

We were designed to be loved and accepted as we are. I find it exciting to think that the perceiving of those feelings; that we make another feel good by just being ourselves, is what makes us who we are. Our identity is intended to be found in the one who is pleased with us!

To feel and experience unconditional love is powerful and transformative no matter what age we are. We can only bond when we realise God’s desire for us and his pleasure in us.  He always wants to be with us, no matter where we are, he always delights in his children.

Further reading:

http://alwaysloved.net/2012/01/26/you-are-valuable-beyond-measure/

http://www.lifemodel.org/download/ICBC%202000%20developing%20capacity.pdf

http://allanschore.com/pdf/SchoreAttachHumDev.pdf

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