Made in God's image but struggling against the world

Girl With a Satchel SELF LOVE...

To my mind there are few words sweeter than David's beautiful Psalm for the Lord: "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." (Psalm 139: 13-14).

Sometimes, looking in the mirror, I forget these words and default to feeling yuck about myself, even though I know I am a (relatively) intelligent, creative, energetic girl of God. Those guilty feelings about feeling so silly in the first place, and so terribly female (a joyous privilege if ever there was one!) in the second, are hard to shake.

Every girl bares beauty scars – mine are focused on three areas: my nose, my legs and my stomach. Each of these is tied into some comment made in my formative years designed to strip me of my dignity and focus my energies on things I couldn't really change without a lot of expended time, money and energy.

I'll save you the details (what point to dwell?), but those things hurt. If we don't nip them in the bud early on, they can linger, fester, consume... and they can turn into self-hate and plastic surgery and eating disorders and promiscuity and a general devaluation of your WHOLE self based on your body if you are one of the vulnerable, sensitive ones, like I was...

A cautionary tale

I grew up immersed in messages about the body beautiful. If I wasn't looking at my reflection in the mirror at ballet lessons I was trying on my mum's shoes (note to mums: not a precursor for eating disorders!). My mother is beautiful and slim; I have my father's bottom and tummy (and nose, eyes, ears...). When I was 13, my mother moved out of home. I saw her fortnightly. A deep bond was hard to form.

My dad did his best but had his own struggles. The new domestic dynamic played out as I attended a private girls' school – fearful of bringing anyone home lest they see the reality of my dire situation – and watched Dad work two jobs and have a heart attack. Those were not easy days, so I escaped in books and school and dancing and other "girlie" things.

As an insecure teen, I was drawn to certain media: namely, magazines, which I pored over and collected in my bedroom, as I listened to Take 40 Australia's top hits of the week. Before I knew the Lord, they were my gospels. I lived and breathed by the dictates of first Dolly and Girlfriend, and then skipped on over to Vogue, Nylon and Harper's Bazaar (so advanced!).

Soon my vision of a career in dance became blurred by boys and social events and shopping... every girl's favourite pastime, so I thought. By the time I got to university, I was like a kettle on the boil... all those pent-up emotional issues, coupled by life's disappointments and some bad choices, a lack of sure direction and a perfectionist streak, combined to pour themselves out. I was bulimic.

Unable to control my feelings, let alone share them with a friend (a move interstate at the age of 12, coupled with embarrassment over my home situation made forming long-lasting friendships hard), I hit the books hard, barely coming up for air. I had a nice boyfriend, but knew that relationship was going nowhere. I was screeeeaming for help; but nobody could hear. Bubbly on the outside, but a mess within.

Then an angel: a psychologist who helped me vent my angst and nip unhelpful thoughts and habits in the bud, and a beautiful new friend to share life with, and a job I could believe in with a beautiful network of female support (my people, my people!). The bulimia disappeared. Life was too full of other things to participate in that physical act of controlling and self-loathing.

But the disorder lay dormant for these wonderful interim years; I was loathe to admit, but it hadn't disappeared. Those beauty scars, in my mind, were seared, along with the emotional hurts and pains. All it took to come unhinged was a radical life change.

I had absorbed information about diets, exercise and calories while working, ironically, on a health and wellbeing project for a teen magazine called "Self Respect". That was like giving a crazed fundamentalist a bunch of bomb-making instructions; but who was to know?  

Life pressures weighed down on me – who had I become? what was I doing? what have I signed up for? stop the ride, I want to get off! – and I lost a lot of weight. And very nearly disappeared off the face of the earth. Down, down the rabbit hole into anorexia I fell, grasping desperately for the Lord's help, for some saving grace. Hello, wasn't He meant to save me?

Well, He did. But before He could remake me, He had to break me.

"Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me," spoke David. "Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place... You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are... a broken and contrite heart" (Psalm 51: 16-17).

"Stop trying to reinvent what Jesus did on the Cross!" was the message I got from God, loud and clear. No striving, no want of trying, no amount of martyrdom or self-pity could heal.

I had lot to unlearn and learn all over again. I had a self-love to cultivate not based on any attributes of my own, nor on longings for a mother's love (displayed, I might add, in her own way) or a husband's approval or a fashionably slim physique, but a deep-rooted knowledge that I was God's and God's alone, and through Jesus Christ he was calling me home.

And, you know what? All the silly knowledge I had, of diets and food labels and calorie intake and such things... all that useless stuff from my slate, used to control my being and my world, was wiped clean, the more of God I gleaned and the more weight I gained. My mind became filled with God's truths and sweet promises and the other things were washed away.

"I am going to put breath into you and bring you back to life. I will give you sinews and muscles, and cover you with skin. I will put breath into you and bring you back to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord." (Ezekiel 37:5-6)

Recovery takes time. Particularly if you are disobedient, or rebellious, or intent on holding onto your old self because it's comfortable, or, heavens to Betsy!, the newer, shinier, brighter one might be ALL TOO MUCH. What a terrible shame this fear of being someone who could bring glory to His name. Of being a bit too bright. Too female. Too much reveling in God's delight. But what right, what right, to hide such light?

"This is the judgement: that light has entered the world, and men have preferred darkness to light because their deeds were evil. Everybody who does wrong hates the light and keeps away from it, for fear his deeds may be exposed. But everybody who is living by the truth will come to the light to make it plain that all he has done has been done through God." (John 3: 19-21)

The crevices, nooks and hidey-holes where sin makes its home are dusted out, one by one, as God lovingly remakes the work that was wrought wrong by the world: first sit, then crawl, then walk, then run... sometimes, you will fall down again, but as you progress you see visions of way He wants you to be, wanted you to be, before the world stepped in and mucked up the plan.

All the parts of you – the intellectual, the creative, the physical, the relational – start to sync together as you let go of your grip. And the person you become, in unison with Him, is more likeable and more ALIVE, because that person is created in God's image, not the world's.

"The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, 'Arise, and go down to the potter's house, and there I will cause thee to hear my words'. Then I went down to the potter's house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it." (Jeremiah 18: 1-4)

God knows and loves every hair on your body, every freckle on your face, every inch of your being – including your gifts, abilities and the desires of your heart. We were created on purpose, for His purpose: to love Him with all our heart, soul and mind, and the body by extension.

You and I have been made just how he wanted us, to live in unison with his will and righteous ways, but the world pulls and persuades: drop weight, wear this, zap that, run on that treadmill, pop this pill, get a better job, buy these clothes... is it any wonder it saps your energy, strength, dignity, life? It's a useless fight. But God is there, willing always to clean up your mess, take your hand and make things right.

It is such a terrible shame that we are found wanting – someone else's life, someone else's body, someone else's hair colour, someone else's happiness – when what we have been given by God is all ours to enjoy and nurture and share. But it's a project, this self-care, this walking in God's ways – but the more the self-love is cultivated through the Lord, by pressing into His word and singing his praises, the more that love outwardly emanates.

"Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewellery and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight." (1 Peter 3: 3-4).

For the first 25 years of my life, I didn't know the Lord, nor the love He had for me, nor His will for my life... and it took me FIVE whole years to know it and feel it with my innermost being. To know thy creator is to know thyself; to love the creator is to love the self, for we were created in His image... and, hello, you only have to look around this glorious world to feel awestruck at that.

To reiterate, "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." Now, that's something to celebrate!

What is 'Satchelism'? Jesus' message for women

Picture by Beci Culley
Cast off the detritus, the cultural expectations, and start thriving with Christ!

Why is it that women walk around with satchels full of stuff weighing them down? I know I did for a very long time. Too long. And I’m not just talking about all the magazines, books, makeup, chewing gum and surfeit crap that accumulates in the bottom of your bag, which physically weighs you down and symbolically represent repression in feminist circles, but the less tangible but more important emotional weight of worldly woes – disappointments, mistakes, shortcomings, hurtful words; guilt, shame, hopelessness, apathy.

It’s not a terribly liberated way to live life, nor is, as I believe, God’s intention for us. While we will no doubt experience testing times and hardships and all the pitfalls of being human, we are not meant to be sad sacks, walking around under the weight of the world, as if there were no alternative option to the cynicism, despondence and desperation often connected to just Being A Woman. Oh, no.

We have a choice.

Through Christ, God wants to lift us from the burden of sin, shame and unworthiness, those issues born of The Fall – and not unique to women, but felt all the more wholeheartedly because of how man (being institutions, the church) has crippled women to take the brunt of the burden of Eden, and because we are inherently emotional beings, looking to validation through man as if paying an eternal penance for Eve – and wielded for man’s purpose for thousands of years to keep women in a place of subordination and distance from God.

Women, I feel, in the quest for control and to put things right before God, distance themselves from their femininity, more particularly the femininity God intended for us (not weak and submissive, but powerful and productive), and who God intended them to be.

But there’s hope!

Knowing full well our human tendency towards sin and its commensurate feelings of negativity, Jesus came, “so that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Are all called to be liberated from their sin? No, just those “called according to his purpose.” When you accept Christ, you accept that he died for your sins, and you MOVE ON. You put off your cross (unload your satchel) and take up his, repacking your satchel with those things worthy of a life of God’s goodness: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them,” encouraged Paul to the Ephesians (2:10).

The Israelites, those Old Testament types trying to do right in God’s sight but getting snared by sin and unbelief time and time again, tried it and failed miserably, landing themselves in the desert for 40-odd years. “You come to the help of those who gladly do right, who remember your ways,” said Isaiah (64:5). “But when we continued to sin against them, you were angry. How then can we be saved?”

We ladies, even we Christian women, struggle to believe that a man so great as Jesus might liberate us (and the feminists amongst us rail against the idea that a man has such power over us, dismissing his gift of love in favour of their own brand of being; well, you know what, God came as a man, perhaps because of the culture of the time, which did accept that man had more authority to speak publicly about such issues).

“I’m not worthy, I’m not worthy” we chant, as we exercise and deny ourselves and self-flagellate (as if reading women’s magazines was not an act of self-flagellation!) and commit to trying harder and take ourselves off to renewing retreats flailing from exhaustion, all the while practising self-betterment in the Oprah Winfrey fashion, and experiencing momentary glee (in that horribly Schadenfreudian way we are prone to behave – “Check out her cellulite!”; “That girl is such a tart!”; “I earn more money than her!”; “She is stupid!”) but giving up miserably when we fall short of the high jump that is impossible to overcome, in the mistaken belief that these acts will set us free!

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full,” said Jesus in John 10:10.

Just stop it. Stop playing in the garbage tip when you could be in the beautiful garden of life. You are worthy. God, your creator, has made that quite clear. But you have to get into relationship with Him to experience the full essence of His glory (with Christ, you are the poetic statement of God). And accept what Jesus did for you to be truly set free.

While God calls us to a higher state of being, this is not a case of “Hey, sister, pull up your socks and get on with it.” Oh, no. To receive the healing of Christ, and to walk in his light – the fruit of which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, self-control – you have to really BELIEVE that God is so loving and so merciful and so gracious, that he wants not to harm you, but to call you into his arms.

"For God did not go to all the trouble to send His son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him,” said John (3:17).

You have to believe to your core that God cares for you SO MUCH that he sent his one and only son to DIE for you. He cares about every inch of your being – and I’m talking every detail about you, from the thickness of your hair to the shape of your fingernails, to your voice and your burdens, sorrows and dreams.

On an intellectual level, this does not always sit well. But that’s because for so long we have operated under the burden of sin, which separates us from God. And many of us continue to choose sin over the perfect and good life God knitted together for us when we were in our mother’s wombs. As David said in the Psalms, “For you created my inmost being;
 you knit me together in my mother's 
 I praise you because I am fearfully and 
wonderfully made;
 your works are wonderful,
 I know that full well.” (139:13,14)

When you recognise your value in Christ, you want to serve Him with every inch of your being. Subservience to God, unlike to man, is freeing.

What did Jesus have to say about women? His acts, I believe, said that he meets us where we’re at, comforts us, empathises us, and in his gentle, loving way, encourages us to turn back towards God.

The story in the Bible of Jesus meeting the woman at the well in Samaria comes to mind. This woman had had five husbands. He asked her for a drink. She said, "How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samarian woman?". He answered, "You do not know the gift of God. You do not know who asks you for water. If you did, you could ask me. I would give you living water".

This gift satisfies men when water cannot (and here water may represent many things: the career, the husband or boyfriend, the new diet). "Whoever drinks my water will never need more. My water will be like a stream that gives eternal life," he says.

Jesus – always empathetic and compassionate – is able to recount to the woman the facts of her life – her five husbands, and the man she lives with now who is not her husband – and shares with her – a Samarian, a "sinner", a woman! – that he is the Messiah. "I have not come to help ‘good’ people. I came to tell sinners to repent," he said in Luke 5: 32. And in that he includes us all – man, woman – who have suffered as a result of the Fall.

I didn’t realise how sinful (prideful, self-idolising, given to temptation, self-reliance and doubt) I was until I became a Christian; nor how very loved. Jesus is prepared to seek us out where we're at, that he ministers to those who are aware of their spiritual deficit (or knocks on the door until we see it), and that when he invests into us, giving us his "living water", the greatest gift one could ask for, making us infinitely more powerful to help others.

His brand of feminism is about acting in love, encouragement, compassion, empathy, support. Therefore, the GWAS brand of feminism, is about understanding the broader socio-cultural context and how that influences behaviour and the status quo; for men and for women. Because men need to be on the page with us; they are not excluded from the conversation. In fact, Jesus made some pointed pronouncements about the equality of men and women in God’s eyes.

Standing before men accusing a woman of adultery, he took a stick and made a mark in the ground; “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” He didn’t condemn her, but brought the hypocritical men down to her level. Crucially, He forgave her and asked her to repent and turn from her sin. Daily, we are called on to “cast off “everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us" (Hebrews 12:1).


Elevated in Christ to a place of worth beyond any “Love your body!” campaign, women can be powerful; they can affect change; they can see their true value and rejoice and make choices that honour that status and further the status of women. When you know your value in Christ, and also how utterly sinful and powerless (and, yes, helpless) you are without Him, you instinctively act differently; you want to please him in every way, from how you treat your body to how you react to other women and will accept being treated by men. Christian women are called to serve WITH Christian men; alongside, in complementary, not mutually exclusive, roles.

The Christian feminism practised by GWAS is about promoting a world where women thrive, not just survive, because their foundations are in love, in grace and in the value God put on each one of us when he sent his son to atone for our sins. It’s a feminism that calls on us to live the lives God intended for us – us each unique in her form and her function – free in the knowledge that we are loved, really loved, by God, even if the world, or a man, or woman, tells us we are utterly unlovable.

It’s about shrugging off the Eve Complex, The Beauty Myth, the guilt and worldly expectations and comparing with others. Shouldn't we keep a sister from falling as well as helping her up when she stumbles? Perhaps what's needed less is a feminist revolution, more a spiritual one? Less Schadenfreude, more, ‘What would Jesus do?’.

A wise man once said, “If you don’t know the purpose of a thing, all you can do is abuse the thing.” (Ephesians 6). If we don’t know our purpose – to be in relationship with God, our creator, and to serve Him only – we will operate under an immense burden, seeking our self worth through external measures; by pretending to like things we don’t; by subjecting ourselves to spirit-diminishing activities; by wanting so desperately to please others that we compromise ourselves to the point that we feel drained and worthless.

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, 
but against the rulers, against the authorities, 
against the powers of this dark world and 
against the spiritual forces of evil 
in the heavenly realms,” articulated Paul in Ephesians. “
Therefore put on the whole armor of God, 
so that when the day of evil comes, 
you may be able to stand your ground, 
and after you have done everything, to stand.”

Standing for God is hard. Because there are fibres in your being that will want to rebel; that will want to intellectualise and control and resist God’s will, or that simply can’t accept your intrinsic value because of your experiences in the world or because you’re prone to rebel. This saps our stores of energy and keeps us distracted from the end goal; to love God with all our hearts souls and minds, and to love our sisters and brothers just the same. It stuffs up the plan God has for us. Need it be that way? Need we settle for this? The life half-lived for fear of man and what he might do to us if we turn, instead, to God, instead of worldly validation? Do we lie down and go to sleep like Beauty? No, we are to awake from this slumber; to rise victorious in Christ.

"Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about 
like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour,” warned Peter (1 Peter 5:8); "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak," wrote Mark (14:38).

Be not fainthearted. Stand your ground. Stay the path. You’re not alone. All this is not in vain. Because as a believer you’re a sister in Christ. And He rose again.

“Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven." Luke 10:17-20

References & further reading:
From Bondage to Blessing: The Redemption, Restoration and Release of God's Women by Dee Alei
The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf
Half the Sky: How to Change the World by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

How I see, know, feel, hear, love God

How I see, know, feel, hear, love God

The Father of Creation. Giver of life. Restorer of life. The beginning, the end, the middle. The whole shebang. (As apposed to Carl Sagan's Big Bang).    

"I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children." Revelation 21: 1-7

Oh, the folly and arrogance of man, to believe there is no God; to occupy himself with disproving his existence; to seek to create his own God, in himself, his idols, his obsessions, his self sufficiency, his science, his technology, his partner, his parents, his job... And pity the poor man who doesn't know him, who has never heard his name, who has never needed him.

Reading the Bible, the official Word of God, we get a clear picture of God's character, though can one ever truly know the full extent of his doings, his wonders, his being? I think not.

Given that we messed up his GOOD AND PERFECT PLAN for the world (see Genesis; and thanks, Adam, thanks Eve), it's little wonder our natural inclination is to keep a safe distance from God (wrath, fear, doom!) and go about our merry way. That's a trap. Heard of Hell*? Yep, it's there. And it exists on earth (as in having one hell of an existence) and in eternity (damnation – eek, alright!).


Thank GOD, thank GOD! for his grace and forgiveness and mercy, which he bestows on even those who choose to defy him and defile his name and deliberately disobey his good and perfect laws, exchanging a GOOD life for a FORSAKEN existence. His ultimate GIFT of grace? His Son Jesus Christ, through whom – and only whom, not by one's own power or might or good deeds; even Pollyanna needed Jesus – we are put right before God.

"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast." (Ephesians 2:8)

God works in mysterious ways beyond our comprehension. BUT he also works through his Word (the Bible), the Lord Jesus' teachings, his Holy Spirit (which comes on those who accept him by faith), his church, and his people, so that we may, despite our fallible human-ness, know his wishes and his plan for us, his LOVE, his mercy, his grace, and, ultimately a better life here on earth – an awe-inspiring wonder in itself – and the comfort of knowing what's ahead when we, inevitably, die (Heaven – woo!). 

We are all a part of his picture. He's in the driving seat. But we have to choose to take our hands off the wheel and let him lead us down the road to righteousness, atonement, salvation and a full and fruitful existence through his road rules. HE GAVE US CHOICE. HE GAVE US FREE WILL(Y).

"The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever." Isaiah 32:17

Many of us never give God a second thought because, frankly, life is happy-la-de-da, thank you very much, until something untoward happens and we're, like, 'What the?'. Others go through life collecting junk – bad relationships, crappy choices, accolades, addictions, weird ideas about how to do life (and who God is or isn't) – and come to a point where life is soooo very messy that they must unload or lose the plot and give up.

Others, still, are born into sucky circumstances through the fault of man (terrible parents, poverty, war times), or are dealt the kind of blows in childhood that creates a shield of steel, guarding them from anyone's love, let alone a God who would allow such things to happen, and/or walk around with seeping wounds so exposed as to make them unable to enjoy their life (restore them to dignity, He can!).

God has answers for everyone. He abandons no one. No matter how bad you've been; no matter how many hurts you harbour; no matter how many times you've heard him knock at the door and pretended no one was home.

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." Matthew 7:7

The question is, are you prepared to leave behind what the world has made you, what you want to be, what the world tells you you should be – casting off the hurts that fuel your fire, the ambitions that drive your day, the habits that control your life – in order to make good on the awesome plan God has laid out for your life (which is better than you could imagine, though not without its own challenges)? That's a BIGGIE. That means losing control!!!!!

Not easy.

Again, that's why God has given you a bunch of tools to help you along your way, including the stories in the Bible that illustrate our Israelite and Christian forebears' experiences of God. But, more particularly, that's why he gave us Jesus Christ, who calls on us to pick up our cross and follow him.

He is the TRUTH, the WAY, the LIGHT to GOD. THE ONLY WAY TO GOD.

(Sorry to be all shouty, but this point cannot be stressed enough). BECAUSE... we are all sinners in God's eyes until we commit to follow Christ. Even those shiny-shiny wonderful people who are so good they emit flower-like scents from their pores. Without Jesus we are smelly/stinky/poopy to God.

"Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Romans 3:20,23

"For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him." John 5:22,23

The hardest part to get an intellectual grip on is the death of Jesus Christ. Like, why would God KILL his only Son; the most perfect man that ever walked the earth? The answer is within the Old Testament – check out how repulsive humankind can be and how far we all fall short of his laws! Jesus' death, scary and horrible as that was for him to bear, was the level of atonement God required for our sins. 

"Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions - it is by grace you have been saved." Ephesians 2:5

God is patient, kind, compassionate... if we choose in our hearts to seek him, he will hear the call. He takes everyone's calls. God ain't no snob.

"For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." Romans 10:12

Not all of us will pass the test; Jesus – more so his resurrection, in which lies hope – won't be a revelation to all of us, nor the one we choose to follow. But when your eyes are opened, when you see Jesus for what and who he is and when you commit to following him – despite life's crappy seasons and crappy situations and the flack you will cop because of it – Jesus becomes your salve, your goal, your EVERYTHING; daily he washes away the selfishness that inhibits your relationship with your creator GOD, the source of true joy and peace, and strengthens you for righteous, joyful, confident living among man. You will want to please him above all, and in the process gain a perspective that without God you are so very, very small.

The purpose and meaning of life, Brian? Jesus lays it out straight:

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself." Matthew 22:37; Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27

How do you do that? This love thing. It's a toughie if your ideas of love have been warped by the world, but it's easy if you first understand that God loves you sooooo much that he laid out his very life on earth for you; with that thought embedded in your noggin and your heart, you will want to honour him with every fibre of your being and bring glory to him through your work, your life, your thoughts, your body, your obedience and your gifts, talents, money and blessings.

"For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." Paul to the Ephesians 2:10

"Be careful to obey all these commands I am giving you. Show love to the LORD your God by walking in his ways and holding tightly to him." Moses to the Israelites, Deuteronomy 11:22

This generosity of heart and of spirit, of willing service to God and one's fellow man, in turn, makes life so very sweet; you become less stinky, more perfume-y. That can take time, depending on your level of obedience and willingness to give up what he tells you to it could take years/decades (the Israelites were 40 years in the desert!). But you can't out-plan God. And if you stumble and fall along the way?

"God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation." James 1:12

God is still there, in his infinite grace, and is willing to accept your transgressions in Jesus' name (you can't out-do Jesus), but Jesus himself calls on us to turn from sin and follow him in his ways, trusting that he will be blessed. God, should you choose to accept Jesus, will remake your life from the inside out. And you can enjoy a relationship with him in all your days.

"Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him." Psalm 2:12


Not buying it? Your choice. No judgement here. But you are selling yourself short. Just sayin'.

*What of his children, you ask. Do the ones taken from us very young wind up in Hell if they do not know Jesus? I don't think so. Jesus loved the kiddies. He wanted us all to be like children – nimble of mind and open of heart and clear of conscience. Said Jesus: "I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven... Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish." God is fair and just, judging each of us according to our moral understanding. You can read more on Apologetics elsewhere.

Why I practise the Christian faith

FAITH or "Why does Girl With a Satchel bang on about God and Jesus?"

If someone gifts you a lovely box of chocolates, it would be greedy to keep it all to yourself. Similarly, if another girl asks you about where you got your dress/boots/jacket/earrings, it's only fair in the sisterhood scheme of things to disclose where you got said item so she might share in this splendid sartorial find with you.

Sharing is caring, and that's how I feel about my faith – it's too good not to share. Jesus put it best when he said:

"The Kingdom of heaven is like this. A man is looking for fine pearls, and when he finds one that is unusually fine, he goes and sells everything he has and buys that pearl." (Matthew 13:44).

That said, when I do express my faith by incorporating it into this here blog, it might feel like receiving a note card with Jesus' face on it in the mailbox or a tap on the door by Jehovah's Witnesses when you're about to sit down to afternoon tea (invite them in for a cuppa, I say!).

To me what might sound good (Justin Bieber) just sounds plain silly to someone else. Hence, I try to only incorporate faith talk when I feel prompted by the Holy Spirit. That said, as Christians, we are called to spread the Gospel far and wide, and this includes the corners and crevices of the Interweb, of which GWAS is a little part.

So, without further adieu, an introduction to the fundamentals of the Christian faith as practised by Girl With a Satchel (it's a BIG read, a REALLY BIG read). Grab a cup of tea...


I grew up in a household where there was some Catholic/Protestant antagonism; my mother being Catholic and my dad Protestant. I went to a Catholic convent high school (and left in Year 10, STILL a point of contention with my mother!), where I experimented with short, frayed denim shorts on a mufty day, which attracted the ire of one teacher, and largely scribbled nonsense to my best friend through religious studies. Boring! By that stage, at the age of 15, I was a Pollyanna turning into a Madonna... the singer, not the blessed Virgin. I rebelled in all those generic teen ways and strayed from the church and God. 

Ten or so years later, God and I had a lot of catching up to do. And a lot of work to get through. In the ABC TV series The Brides of Christ, the protagonist nun, Catherine, played by Josephine Burns (who, as it just so happens, went to the same convent school I did), leaves her fiance and commits her life to following Christ. Like Catherine, I found a fiance AND then found Christ. But I didn't ship myself off to the nunnery. My then-fiance was the catalyst, though not the REASON, for my re-dedicating my life to God. I was far too feminist – and egotistical – to be wooed by a do-gooder pastor's son with an evangelical streak!

Sister Catherine (formerly "Diana") was a spirited red-head with a fierce intelligence, love of literature and rebellious, stubborn nature. She struggled to accept the teachings of the church, more particularly its opinion on birth control, as she empathised with the women in her local community who desperately wanted to abide in the church's rulings but found themselves faced with a changing society (it was set in the 60s) and circumstances at home (domineering husbands, a zillion children to care for, a lack in personal identity and no bloody Bex in the cupboard!). These women were bound up in chains. 

She felt their pain and strained to preach the church's didactic message (no Pill approval, and "getting off at Redfern" is not permitted either) to her students, more particularly the editor of the student paper, played by Naomi Watts, whose mother divorced her father to remarry. It becomes increasingly clear to me how our personal politics affects our view on religion. Vehemently in opposition to the Catholic hierarchy, the contradiction between what Sister Catherine felt in her heart and mind was too much. Ultimately, she couldn't bring herself to cooperate, couldn't submit to the church, so she parted ways with the nuns to pursue a career in writing. In the final episode, she describes the great grief she experienced afterwards.

God grieves for the church – described in the Bible as the "Bride of Christ" – but revels in its unity. Think of Prince William staring adoringly into the eyes of Catherine Middleton on their wedding day, and you get a glimpse into what God feels for the church. It has made mistakes because it is governed by PEOPLE – imperfect people seeking the will of God but sometimes, often, falling short. Many of us are burdened with the wounds left by church (or convent schooling) experiences, or look on it with all the disdain of a former lover who wronged us, either hiding away from him when we spot him in the supermarket or scrawling nasty things about him on park benches (or, as social media would have it, blogs and Facebook and Twitter).

I can see the scepticism that surrounds the church in the faces of people who squirm when I mention I'm a Christian. But I cannot, will not, deny what I know to be true. And as my faith matures me – from the free-living career girl, to the God-loving ingenue so filled with the Spirit that she'd literally SKIP to work like Pollyanna, to the paining anorexic lost in a world of mixed up theology, to a woman firm in her faith and God's promises – I increasingly pain for the church as much as I long to live a life worthy of the calling of a girl of God.

The Catholic Church, so vocal in its doctrine and therefore so publicly accountable, has felt the brunt of the anger. And in the case of pedophilia, or in any case of mistreatment of human life, rightly so. But much of our attention when discussing religion is focused on the sins of the church, not so much on the good work it has done, such as that of the life of Mary MacKillop and the Sisters of Saint Joseph. Then there's the missionary work founded out of other denominations like the Wesley Mission, which addresses the needs of the marginalised, and the Salvation Army, which does much the same. 

God is quite familiar with the human propensity to be everything he DOESN'T want us to be – a reading of the Old Testament will familiarise anyone with the results of "The Fall". He gave us free will, and it's a natural inclination, like a two-year-old yanking power cords from the wall, to do naughty things and see if we can't just get away with them. Over time, they can become habits. Sometimes they become socially acceptable. Sometimes the status quo. But they ultimately add very little to our lives; they just further complicate matters and add to the guilt/shame/insecurity we feel and thus we turn increasingly to things that make us feel better about ourselves... temporarily.

"Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial," said Paul in his letter to the Corinthians. We will not always agree with each other: some deep truths are revealed to some and not to others. Others are motivated more by fear than love. But I do know that while the good intentions of some Christians are mislaid, still more have brought about positive social change with liberating messages, such as Martin Luther King Jnr, and a refusal to let sleeping dogs lie when there are predators on the loose.

"I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life,” said Jesus to the Pharisees who accused him of falling short of God's law. "You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one. But if I do judge, my decisions are true, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me."

Sister Catherine describes beautifully the process of coming to know and live in Christ: it's like an onion stripped away of layers, becoming a newer, shinier, onion. In my personal spiritual walk, God has gently, ever-so-lovingly revealed to me – stubborn, determined, controlling, selfish, foolish, prideful, look-at-me! me – the errors of my ways. The 25-odd years of pent up anxieties, misinformation, longings and knowledge. Habits, ambitions, doubts. Hopes, dreams, let downs. We have gone over the same turf many times, but I didn't get anywhere until I understood that I am completely and utterly helpless and hopeless without Christ.

Christians can't out-do Christ – he was a man made perfect by God who took away the sin of the world when he died, and then rose again to give us everlasting hope and confidence in his Godliness. When we strive to abide in God's law, in our own desperation to be good/perfect/better/best, as I did for a long time, we fall short and then come under those condemning voices - masquerading as God - that say, "Pull your socks up, girl!". God is a disciplinarian – he develops Godly character, self-control and strength in love, not to spite us – but when we finally accept that God finalised the deal between man and himself through Christ, we can get on LIVING righteously much more easily.

Many of us carry around a lot of shame and guilt that keeps us at a distance from God's love. The church is full of those sorts of people, just as much are our pubs and clubs and workplaces and schools. The outworking of that can only be discord, disunity and dysfunction. If you don't know you are loved by God, accepted UNCONDITIONALLY by him, saved from your sins and able to walk freely in the eternal security of that LOVE, then you won't live it. Hell hath no fury like a lady (or gent) lacking in love. Feel my wrath Twitter!!!

In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul emphasises the importance of doctrinal truths and the practical application of Christian principles. But, he says, behaviour follows belief. I didn't start to truly live in the freedom of Christ until I realised his spirit lives within me; this gives me the comfort, power and strength to carry out daily Christian living according to Gospel truths; to shrug off the old Erica and put on the new shiny one.

On those days that I revert to Old Self, I flail and wail about like a beached whale (beached as, bro'). Self-inflicted disobedience gets me nowhere – thank the Lord for his good grace in helping me get back on my feet once I turn to him and repent, for holding my hand, like a loving daddy, on those days that I feel weak and fragile, and for showing me that I don't have to do life alone. Ever.

A maturing faith requires pressing into God for answers, which he reveals through his word (i.e. the Bible) and through his earthly foot-soldiers (church leaders, fellow Christians). But you have to be able to discern, through the Spirit he's given to accompany you in your walk, truth from untruth. It can be a slow reveal. It takes time. And dedication. Maybe a nunnery. Many good texts, including Watchman Nee's The Normal Christian Life and Bob George's Classic Christianity, illustrate how to BE a Christian; how to DO your faith, but also the liberation to be found in Christ and living the Christian life. I try to elucidate some of these issues through Girl With a Satchel, too. 

But to put it simply, you will walk in God's love – and find joy in abiding by his teachings – as soon as you realise you don't have to earn it; you just have to accept it with good faith and humility. The respect for the church, the daily Christian living thing, automatically flows from that indwelling knowing. And the fruit that this produces in your life simply cannot compare to any worldly pleasures, procedures or principles.

The more I've got to know God, and to shrug off those festering bugbears and replace them with God's grace, the more "me" I have become, and the more I delight in living in service to God and others. That's a gift for which I will be forever grateful, forever thankful.

Faith is putting your knowing into action.

The Normal Christian Life by Watchman Nee
Classic Christianity by Bob George

What I know about Jesus Christ

Jesus Christ - what I know

MacGyver, Indiana Jones, Chuck Norris, Gilbert Blythe (Anne of Green Gables), Westley from The Princess Bride... all VERY cool guys in my eyes. But in terms of male supremacy, no one can compare with Jesus Christ.

So, who is he and why am I a follower (aka 'Christian')? And exactly what does this have to do with pop culture and glossy magazines?

To cut a long story short (for the full story, please pick up a Bible), Jesus was a carpenter by trade who went into full-time "ministry" in his 30s. He was sent by God to earth in the form of a man, the embodiment God himself whom he called his son, so we could be shown a model of humanly perfection to aspire to (as apposed to the glossy perfection Vogue would have us aspire to)."This is my Son in whom I am well pleased," said God (Matthew 3:17).

He healed the sick, gave hope to the marginalised and oppressed (including women), shared meals with the scum of society, condemned the ungodly (ostensibly righteous) practises of the "religious" and showed mercy to sinners. Sensing our scepticism, he also performed a bunch of miracles and fulfilled some prophecies to give us the sort of evidence we need to believe something in the absence of faith.

Then he made the ultimate sacrifice by subjecting himself to a painful death on the cross so our sins would be forgiven. That part, I've found hard to accept. But the Bible, again, is testimony to that truth. Essentially, Jesus took it upon himself to atone for our sins so we could return to living in a way that pleases God, unencumbered by our faults and failures. But, importantly, Christ rose again. And he continues to live within those who follow him – the outworking of that is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance. When we accept Jesus, we accept that God's way is THE way.

To help guide us in the absence of Christ on earth, God has given us 'The Holy Spirit' (that inner compass that helps us navigate our way through the day making decisions), the Bible (the ultimate guide to a more righteous, God-pleasing life) and the church (for support, comfort and a place to safely praise him).

However, we still have free will.

When you become a Christian, it becomes glaringly obvious how 'free will' can lead you down the wrong path, while following God's will generally (actually, always) leads you to more fertile ground. Because that's how we were created. By God. Durr. He wants us to enjoy a rich, peaceful, abundant, 'righteous' life on earth, fulfilling the individual purposes he created us for (to serve in some way, use our gifts and love our fellow man). The aim of the game is to do our best and pass the test, so in Heaven we can rest.

Christianity is often viewed as a crutch for people who have nowhere else to turn, like those who're suffering from terminal illness, or for the weak and easily led. As a former hardened cynic who came into the faith at a great time in my life, I'd say that's not entirely true. Also, being a Christian isn't easy. The world conspires to trip you up. YOU conspire to trip you up. Abiding by God's laws and the leading of his Holy Spirit is no easy feat. But when you're in sync with God, the creator of all life, life is infinitely sweeter. You don't have to go it alone.

"I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6)

"For by the blood of Christ we are set free, that is, our sins are forgiven. How great is the grace of God, which He gave to us in such large measure!" Ephesians 1:7