The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness by Timothy Keller

A few months ago I read something in a Floyd McClung book that really made me think, it was almost a throwaway line

‘Sin is not the greatest barrier to community: lack of humility is’

The biggest barrier to community is a lack of honesty about how things really are: inflating numbers, putting a positive spin on mediocre results, trying to appear more effective/in control/productive than we actually are. Probably we are all guilty at some time of what has sometimes been called ‘impression management’.

McClung goes on to say that the fact that God reveals himself through broken, fallen people is a revelation of the God that he is’. That he chooses to partner with us even though we are sinful, stubborn, scared, simple or downright stupid is a sign of God’s greatness.

So why then do we expend so much energy trying to make out we are not any of those things?

Possibly because we are so sensitive to the judgement of others?

On holiday I read a book which was hugely helpful on this score. Reading it was not a great achievement as, blissfully, it was only 50 pages long, so a mini book really, but it really packed a punch.  In The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness Timothy Keller talks about our egos and asks ‘what are the marks of a heart that’s been changed by God? Answer: the ability to be unaware, unconcerned about ourselves, what people think of us or how we are ‘rated’.

He unpacks 1 Corinthians 3:21 -4:7 where Paul says ‘I don’t care what you think of me, and what’s more I don’t care what I think of me and that’s not because I have a clear conscience or I’ve found what modern psychologists might call an inner sense of resilient self-belief (which actually is not much more than self indoctrination linked to a fierce determination to be right).  No, Paul’s sense of poise and confidence is present in the same breath that he says ‘I am the worst of all sinners’. He is totally honest, totally aware of his flaws but there is no connections between his sin and his sense of identity.

‘No connection between his sin and his sense of identity!!!!’ That’s a show-stopping statement that bears repeating. How many of the rest of us connect our failures (‘I can’t lose weight/I’m a rubbish parent/my boss doesn’t like me) with who we are as people: ‘I’m lazy, I’m unsuccessful, I’m unpopular’?  Keller (and Paul) employs the image of the courtroom and makes it clear that so many of us haul ourselves into a Courtroom every day to listen to a judgement of either our own inner self or a judgement we perceive from others but for Christians the reality is the courtroom is adjourned, the judgement has already been handed down and the jury’s gone to lunch. ‘ So what are you doing there?’ says Keller, waiting for a verdict from ‘someone’ important enough that say you are a ‘somebody’ when the only person whose opinion of you matters has already given THE verdict: you are loved, you are delightful, you were worth dying for, you are a treasure in God’s eyes and more valuable than all the jewels in the universe’.

‘The essence of gospel humility is not thinking more of myself or less of myself, it is thinking of myself less‘.

Have you ever met someone who always has a story or experience to top the one you are telling?. You get the impression they are not really listening but just waiting for the opportunity to jump in and tell you how much more they know about the subject than you do. In any situation, the matter in hand is immediately connected to something in their own experience.  It’s a very irritating habit but often the mark of insecurity, they are so over anxious to impress you with their knowledge, connections or previous experience.  In contrast, The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness is the freedom to simply be, not to have to have something to say about every situation, not to have an answer or a solution.  CS Lewis said if you ever meet a humble person you will not come away knowing very much about them but you will have been struck by how totally interested they were in you’. They are the people who can think of themselves less.

The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness is also a path to joy.  I  can do things not because they look good on my CV but simply for the joy of doing them or because I’m called to do them.

A few days ago, my thinking in this area came full circle with some words from Rob Bell which underlined the very same truths

Surrender the outcomes of your presence, your influence, your work, your leadership… they may ‘drink the coffee’. They may not. That’s just how it is. When you come to terms with this you are actually free.  In other words ‘it’s not about you’.  If as a pastor, or person, you do what you do because you feel called to it, without expectations, without needing a particular response, without hitching your wagon of joy to someone else’s reaction (or lack thereof) then you free not only yourself but you liberate others also.

A pastor who needs the constant approval of her or his  congregation isn’t free. And neither is the congregation.

You can pastor people (or parent children), you can love them. You can absolutely rip your heart out and put it on a plate for them week after week after week… and you cannot control whether they will be your friend, whether they will listen, whether they will walk away, whether  they will stab you in the  back. It’s simply not possible. But it is possible to live with the great illusion that if you do certain things you will achieve a certain result – and that’s simply not true. The sooner you come to terms with your powerlessness, the more joy you will have. 

God does not love you because of what you  do  or don’t do or how well or how badly.

God just loves you.

And  he gave that  verdict before you began your performance. 

The Rob Bell interview can be read in full at

You can read more review of The Timothy Keller book  at but my kindle version was from Amazon and cost 99p!

The ‘Phew’ Factor

Have you ever noticed how a normal day can be hugely improved simply by something bad nearly happening but not actually happening? This is what I mean by the ‘Phew’ Factor. 

‘Phew!’ as in ‘what a relief!’ Not ‘Phew!’ as in ‘What a pong!’

There have been three occasions in the last two weeks when I have smiled for the whole of the rest of the day simply because something bad nearly happened but then didn’t. For the first story I need to take you to the ladies loo.  (Sorry chaps, I’ll be discrete). Basically if you are female and you are wearing tight jeans it’s never a good idea to keep your mobile phone in your back pocket….

Nothing untoward happened as I descended onto the loo seat but on rising there was an ominous ‘clunk’. I turned round to see my mobile phone sitting on the toilet seat, actually teetering on the edge of falling in. One quick swipe and it was safe! I don’t know what the lady in the next door cubicle made of the hysterical laughter or the fact that I emerged with an insane grin on my face but disaster had been averted. It was so amazing that it didn’t actually fall to its demise that I actually looked round for the angel that caught it.

Yesterday I went to speak at a ladies breakfast. For the first time ever I used a lectern given to me by my mother, something with great sentimental value to her. The event went off fine and I pulled away from the hotel intending to fill up on fuel before heading on to the motorway. Thankfullly I hadn’t quite joined the motorway when I suddenly remembered I had left the lectern at the hotel. A speedy about turn meant that I arrived back at the venue just as the final member of the organising committee was about to depart with my lectern safely stowed in her car. Bless her, she wasn’t going to steal it,  I would have got it back somehow but as the talk was two hours from my home it would have been such a pain.

Once again, I sailed through the day with an insane smile.

And today I am much relieved and full of ‘Phew’ because my boy who threw himself out of a plane at 12,500 feet at 11.30 this morning landed safe and well not very many minutes later. Why anyone would want to do such a thing is beyond me but each to his own.

It just a small thought but these are just the disasters I know were avoided. I suspect it’s entirely likely that as I trail through each day I leave behind me a whole string of ‘near misses’, ‘nearly forgots’ and ‘nearly a nightmare’ situations. Just because I don’t see these doesn’t mean I shouldn’t remember to be grateful for the fact that they didn’t happen and that here I am at the end of another day relatively unscathed.

Help me Lord to remember this when I tempted to be grumpy.

An experience every woman understands… public toilets!

A totally frivolous post this one, but very funny…

When you have to visit a public toilet, you usually find a line of women, so you smile politely and take your place. Once it’s your turn, you check for feet under the cubicle doors. Every cubicle is occupied.

Finally, a door opens and you dash in, nearly knocking down the woman leaving the cubicle. You get in to find the door won’t latch. It doesn’t matter, the wait has been so long you are about to wet your pants!

The dispenser for the modern ‘seat covers’ (invented by someone’s Mum, no doubt) is handy, but empty. You would hang your bag on the door hook, if there was one, so you carefully, but quickly drape it around your neck, (Mum would turn over in her grave if you put it on the FLOOR!) down with your pants and assume ‘The Stance’.

In this position, your aging, toneless, thigh muscles begin to shake. You’d love to sit down, but having not taken time to wipe the seat or to lay toilet paper on it, you hold ‘The Stance.’

To take your mind off your trembling thighs, you reach for what you discover to be the empty toilet paper dispenser.

In your mind, you can hear your mother’s voice saying, ‘Dear, if you had tried to clean the seat, you would have KNOWN there was no toilet paper!’ Your thighs shake some more.

You remember the tiny tissue that you blew your nose on yesterday – the one that’s still in your bag (the bag around your neck, that now you have to hold up trying not to strangle yourself at the same time). That would have to do, so you crumple it in the puffiest way possible. It’s still smaller than your thumbnail.

Someone pushes your door open because the latch doesn’t work.

The door hits your bag, which is hanging around your neck in front of your chest and you and your bag topple backward against the tank of the toilet.

‘Occupied!’ you scream, as you reach for the door, dropping your precious, tiny, crumpled tissue in a puddle on the floor, while losing your footing altogether and sliding down directly onto the TOILET SEAT. It is wet of course.

You bolt up, knowing all too well that it’s too late. Your bare bottom has made contact with every imaginable germ and life form on the uncovered seat because YOU never laid down toilet paper – not that there was any, even if you had taken time to try.

You know that your mother would be utterly appalled if she knew, because you’re certain her bare bottom never touched a public toilet seat because, frankly, dear, ‘You just don’t KNOW what kind of diseases you could get.

By this time, the automatic sensor on the back of the toilet is so confused that it flushes, propelling a stream of water like a fire hose against the inside of the bowl and spraying a fine mist of water that covers your bum and runs down your legs and into your shoes.

The flush somehow sucks everything down with such force and you grab onto the empty toilet paper dispenser for fear of being dragged in too. At this point, you give up. You’re soaked by the spewing water and the wet toilet seat. You’re exhausted. You try to wipe with a sweet wrapper you found in your pocket and then slink out inconspicuously to the sinks.

You can’t figure out how to operate the taps with the automatic sensors, so you wipe your hands with spit and a dry paper towel and walk past the line of women still waiting.

You are no longer able to smile politely to them. A kind soul at the very end of the line points out a piece of toilet paper trailing from your shoe. (Where was that when you NEEDED it?)

You yank the paper from your shoe, plunk it in the woman’s hand and tell her warmly, ‘Here, you just might need this.

As you exit, you spot your hubby, who has long since entered, used and left the men’s toilet. Annoyed, he asks, ‘What took you so long and why is your bag hanging around your neck?

This is dedicated to women everywhere who deal with any public rest rooms/toilets (rest??? you’ve GOT to be kidding!!). It finally explains to the men what really does take us so long. It also answers that other commonly asked question about why women go to the toilets in pairs. It’s so the other gal can hold the door, hang onto your bag and hand you Kleenex under the door.

This HAD to be written by a woman! No one else could describe it so accurately. This was sent to me by Helen in an email, thank you Helen.   I was still giggling 6 hours later… Why is it we hear our mother’s voice in our heads whenever we visit a public toilet

While we’re on the theme of toilets:  this is a picture of a public toilet in Houston

Now that you’ve seen the outside view,
take a look at the inside view…

It’s made entirely of one-way glass!

No one can see you from the outside, but when
you are inside it’s like sitting in a clear
glass box!

Now would you.. COULD YOU….???   

Next here is a picture of a painted bathroom floor… you are on the 10th Floor of a high rise building, imagine you are at a party,

You open the door…

Scroll sloooooooowly.

It takes your breath away, doesn’t it.  Would this mess up your mind???  Would you be able to walk into this bathroom?


How old is a ‘Sheila’?

If all you knew about me was my name, how old would you expect me to be?

If I were an Ethel or Betty you’d probably be thinking ‘over eighty’.  A ‘Kylie’ is probably under 20? So how old is a ‘Sheila’? Well, it’s dawned on me that I am the youngest ‘Sheila’  I know. I’ve known a few ‘Sheilas’ over the years butI have only just realised that I have never in my whole life met one younger than me!  It’s as if the name Sheila became deeply unfashionable the day my parents bestowed it on me. Cheers Pops, it was your idea, possibly you were a little behind the times?  Thankfully I’ve never thought Sheila sounded old, I’ve always thought it sounded cheerful and chipper, (it helps if you say it in an Australian accent!) so it really surprised me when someone told me they thought that Sheila was an old-fashioned sounding name.   I would love to hear from anyone out there who shares my name but thinks they might be younger than me.  Who know I might be the last of the Sheilas?

So how old am I?  Well ‘only as old as I feel’ which is not great news on days when I feel distinctly creaky. In human terms Bobby, our 5 month puppy,  is a 3 year old and on our early morning walks he bounces along joyfully just like a gleeful toddler while I trudge dutifully.  I take comfort from the slogan on my coffee cup coaster: The older you are the better you are, unless you are a banana.

The book of Proverbs tells me that ‘The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day’ (Proverbs 4:18). I love that idea. I am not dwindling into the shadows of old age, life is a pilgrimage onwards and upwards out of the shadows and uncertainties towards a bright sunny day.Yipee!

So how far have I got on my journey? You can have the answer in dog years: I am 329.

(Go figure, as they say in the States!)

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society

is the title of a book by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. Published by Bloomsbury in paperback in 2009. I’d just like to say it’s FAB. Really joyous and uplifting and wonderful characters that seem so alive they almost walk off the pages. The story is set in Guernsey after the second world war and tells the story of the occupation. It is written as a series of letters.  Rarely does a book make me cry and laugh, some parts were so moving and others simply hilarious. So sad to finish reading it, I would have liked it to have gone on and on. I totally recommend it.

Dance Round The Kitchen to a great tune with a best mate

This week began with ‘Blue Monday’, the day most of us are supposed to feel depressed after Christmas but I began my week by dancing in the kitchen with my beloved. This bubble of joy was brought on by having an idea. Just the one! But it was the first one in long, long time and it felt so good to feel creative again.

I feel like I am emerging from a long dark tunnel of pain and stress brought on by having ‘tennis elbow’ in my ankle (yes, there is a more technical term but it’s a miserable condition whatever you call it) and being away at college. College is great, lovely people and stimulating lectures but I just miss home alot when I’m there. Oh yes, and did I mention a lack of waggy tail and warm wet nose? Bobby’s arrival has significantly boosted joy levels around here.

Anyway I’m not at college now! I’m home! and I can cook my favourite food in my kitchen for my favourite people listening to my favourite music (which on this occasion was Amy Macdonald, I used to listen to it on long distance cycle rides, so it brings back loads of happy memories).

Sometimes when you feel joyful, you’ve just got to dance. Even if your beloved thinks you’re mad and you have to stop first and put your arch supports in your slippers!

Go Braless, it’ll pull the wrinkles out of your face

Now that’s the kind of advice that I like! It encourages us to look good but not to take ourselves too seriously. I want to use this blog to put down just that kind of stuff: tips, advice (silly and serious), statistics, helpful info and just my views on body image in general.
The theme for the blog is ‘Live Life Loved’ and it covers all sorts of ways to make life more joyous: to look good and feel great. Tips and info will come under one of four categories.
Food – what’s good for you, what’s not, how to eat a healthy diet – also self-indulgent recipes for celebrate life
Fitness – how to keep motivated and make it fun. Sheila’s passions are walking the dog and riding her bike but the posts will cover what works and what’s new
Fashion – mostly how to look good on the cheap
Fun – ‘fun’ covers everything else but sex will surely get a mention from time to time.

So take a look and enjoy looking after yourself and your amazing body.