So… I wrote a book.

UntitledSome of you have been faithful followers of my blog for a couple of years now, and you may have noticed that my posts have become a bit less frequent over the last year.

It’s because I was writing a book.

It has been my absolute privilege to have co-authored the book PURE LOVE – Pursuing Purity in a Sex-Obsessed World with my senior pastor, Timon Bengtson.

We are so excited to be able to present the Christian community with this resource that takes an honest, biblical look at many aspects of our sexuality and that calls Christians to a radical standard of purity.

As a high school teacher I am so passionate about helping to inspire and equip the next generations to live out their calling to not only glorify God with their bodies, but also to be freed from the enslavement of sexual sin to discover the joy-filled life that God has for them.12071576_10153360242288143_1168645822_n

If you live in Australia and would like me to personally post you a (signed or unsigned) copy of the book, I can do so for AU$20.30.

If you live overseas and would like a copy, you can purchase it on Amazon or Book Depository or download it from Kindle.

Would love to hear from any of you who would like to read it or have already read it!

God bless you as you seek to exalt Him in all areas of your lives.

Love Sarah

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A Different Look at the Garbage Man…

662916_88280650When I was growing up, if you’d have asked me what was the lowest and least of all jobs, I’d probably have said ‘garbage collector.’

If you’d asked me again as an adult, I’d have been more diplomatic. I’d probably have spouted some jargon about every job being valuable and any aspiration being noble, but really I was just being politically correct. I mean, seriously, what a horrible job. Sure, someone has to do it, but surely not anyone I know.

Shame on me for my ignorance and stigmatising.

I have to say, that my mind has been drastically changed by the simple viewing of a TED talk. Robin Nagle challenged my stereotypes of garbage collection and radically reversed them. Never have I been so appreciative of those faithful people in that humble industry who are the lifeblood of our civilized society.

We have taken sanitation for granted for so long, we can hardly imagine the consequences of a society in which it doesn’t exist. We hold professionals such as doctors and nurses in high regard, crediting them with the management of our health and well-being, all the while forgetting how much we owe to those who are our first line of defense in the prevention of sickness and disease.

Have a watch of Nagle’s clip, and gain a new appreciation for these men and women who work tirelessly and often thanklessly behind the scenes.

Remembering that my Body is Amazing

383185_8493I spent the last five days in bed with a nasty virus. One of those ones that has you staggering home from work on the first day, crawling into bed with the quilt pulled high, and shivering uncontrollably. (And this is Australia remember, it was 32 degrees that day. Celsius)
After sleepless nights, and constant doses of Panadol, a sore throat, sore ears, (sore everything), the fever finally eased off and I had a few hours respite.

The following day the fatigue hit and I found myself almost more debilitated than when I was fighting the fever.

I had an amazing moment though as I lay, crashed out on my stomach on my bed. ‘You know what?’ I thought, ‘I don’t have to do ANYTHING.’ As I lay there I thought about what was happening in my body. It was as though a legion of microscopic soldiers were in there, primed for the cleanup job, and all I had to do was lie still and let it happen.

Somehow, completely apart from my thoughts or intentions, my body was going to clean away the rest of the virus and then gradually restock its depleted energy sources. Within a few days I’d be better. Just from lying there and letting it all happen.

And I wondered: which takes more faith? To believe that there is a God who designed and orchestrates it, or to believe it all evolved by chance? I know which one I find easier to believe.

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Your Body Can Handle More Than You Think

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I recently watched a TED talk about stress by Kelly McGonigal. (you can watch it here.)

Being a self confessed ‘stresser,’ I was fascinated by McGonigal’s premise that stress in itself is nowhere near as damaging to our health and wellbeing as we have been inclined to think. Rather, she claims, it is the mere belief that stress is harmful to our health, which causes such drastic ill effects.

As I watched the talk, I found myself reflecting on something that has always astounded me. The human body has a phenomenal capacity to endure suffering. We can handle far more than we can even imagine, it’s just that, most of the time, our body doesn’t let on to this fact. Our panic and fear-of-impending-doom responses often kick in early, as they are well designed to do, but sometimes that leaves us with the feeling that something that will cause us no harm at all, is an imminent threat.

I could immediately see connections to my faith. God has not promised us an easy ride, in fact, Christians have almost been guaranteed hardship, and yet we have also been promised that we will be able to endure. How often do we fall into harm’s way, not because we have been given more than we can bear, but because we have given into the temptation of worry and anxiety?

Perhaps taking our anxieties first to the Throne of Grace will give us greater protection from harm, than avoiding challenging situations.

The Precious Gift of Having Suffered

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The other week, I had a chance to talk to a group of students about of my journey with Chronic Fatigue. I talked about the darkness, the grief and the sometimes overwhelming feelings of despair, but I also talked about the hope and joy I have found through my relationship with Jesus.

At the end of the lesson, I was surprised when one of the students stayed behind.

“I just wanted to talk to you” he said, “because you’ve been through the same thing that I’m going through now.”

He then went on to tell me about what was going on in his life. Indirectly, he was dealing with issues of death and divorce, sexual abuse, neglect, overwork and worry. His circumstances were overwhelming, and poles apart from anything I had ever experienced.

I couldn’t understand why he was talking to me as though I’d been there too. Suddenly I realized: for perhaps the first time, an adult had opened up about being in dark places and finding a way through. My comparatively small affliction had given me credibility in a world of suffering and pain.

My illness has tattooed into me the exclusive pass code to a world where hurting people need hope. People come to me, and listen to me, because they see in me someone who has been there and survived. It is a privileged position to be in.

May God grant me the grace to see the blessings of suffering shine more brightly than the pain.

The Best Thing I Ever Learnt About Motivation

stairway-to-the-sky_18-6364Just before I started year 12, my parents convinced me to go to a three day intensive course on study habits. I didn’t really want to go, but I was sure it would be good for me, so I went.

To be honest, the whole course probably wasn’t worth the money they spent, but I did learn one thing; something simple that has stuck with me ever since. It was about how to get motivated.

I can’t speak for previous generations, but for my own, and very clearly for the generations following mine, the issue of motivation is a huge one. Students couldn’t get the assignment done because they couldn’t get motivated; people can’t exercise and lose weight, because they can’t find the motivation.

Motivation is like an elusive prize, holding us captive as it evades us.

There’s only one thing I’ve found in the ten years since I left year 12 that has worked to help me solve the motivation issue, and I learnt it at the course.

Stop thinking about being motivated, and start acting.

Or in the words of Nike, ‘Just do it.’

Somewhere along the line we have become so focused on feelings, that we can hardly do something unless we feel like it. Our lack of motivation cripples us from achieving what we really want. But we do not have to be slaves to our feelings.

Push those thoughts of motivation aside, and get started.

The Loneliness of Chronic Illness

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Chronic Illness can be a very lonely journey, even when you’re surrounded by people who love and care about you.

Often you become isolated, unable to go out with friends, and over time, those friends move on, and you’re left behind.

Eventually people stop asking about your health; and you’re glad, because there’s nothing fresh to tell them.

After years of suffering, adjusting, changing and recalibrating you settle into a new sense of normality. When you have a rough day, you don’t bother to tell people anymore because there’s nothing they can do. You get good at hiding the pain; you carry a burden that affects you every day, and while others forget, you have a constant reminder.

I have been so blessed in my illness (which has claimed the majority of my adult life) to have been surrounded by supportive friends and family, but no-one can fully walk the path with you. No-one knows what it feels like on the inside.

Everyone else can walk away; everyone except God.

He is the only one who has walked every step with me. He’s done every day at work, every night of insomnia, every holiday, shopping trip, restaurant experience, social gathering and solitary day on the couch. No-one knows what I experience every day, except Him.

The silent solitary path of chronic illness is a lonely and often isolated one, but I am so blessed to say (in the words of Matt Redman) that ‘never once have I ever walked alone.’

Flying North for the Winter: Half Empty

1338463_59722516I usually don’t travel during the school year because my health is too fragile to risk anything that could interfere with work. But this year, seeing photos of friends travelling through sunny Europe as I was sitting in South Australia feeling cold, I was itching to find somewhere warm to relax.

So I booked my trip to Cairns, imagining posting my own enviable facebook pics of blue skies, sun and ocean.

When we arrived it was raining and it hardly stopped. I think I got more rain in three days of Cairns’ ‘dry season’, than I’ve had all year in SA. We didn’t see a single beach and thoughts of going out to the Great Barrier Reef were squelched due to ‘unseasonably bad weather.’ On top of that, my body reminded me continually that I’m exhausted from the end of term and that CFS has stolen my right to be a good traveler.

I felt like a fool having bragged that I’d be posting photos of a gloriously enviable summer, and to rub salt in the wound, SA had unseasonably warm weather this week. While I was sitting in a wet cloud, they were having days of sunshine and blue skies, and some of my facebook friends actually posted pictures of themselves at the beach! In July!

As I sat on my bed on our final night, listening to the thunderous pelting of the rain on the tin roof, my phone chimed. I looked at the weather notification. “Warning: Cairns. Chance of showers.”

Because there are always two sides to a story, stay tuned for ‘Flying North for the Winter: Half Full.’

Nursing Homes: A Great Equaliser

stock.xchngelderlySome time ago Lori from lorisprayercloset made a comment that nursing homes are a great equaliser. It really stuck with me. My 91 year old grandmother has just moved into one.

She used to be an amazing woman: strong, hard working, well travelled and competently opinionated. Grandad says she could do sums in her head faster than he could do them on the calculator. Now she can’t always remember our names. When I visited last week she was sitting in a circle with others who Grandad describes as ‘pretty far gone,’ all hitting oversized balloons around like kittens swatting at flies.

Grandad pointed another man out to me, who appeared to have had a stroke. ‘He used to be the headmaster of a school,’ he said, and it hit me again. Nursing homes: a great equaliser.

Somehow in the light of this our ladder-climbing, corporate rat-racing, pride-enhancing efforts seem to fade into insignificance.

It reminds me of the latin quote “Memento homo, quia pulvis es et in pulverem reverteris,” which was at the top of a Bruce Dawe poem that I’ve been studying with my kids: Remember man, that dust you are, and to dust you shall return.

Life is short. It is certainly not without meaning. What we do in this life does echo in eternity, but before we allow ourselves to get inflated with pride over our earthly achievements, it may do us all good to visit a nursing home.