Monday, 18 February 2019

The Grass is always greener ...or in this case browner!

Why do we always want what we don't have?  Why can’t we be happy with who we are?  

It is a challenge to really learn the art of “contentment”.  As Paul says …"Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6)

When in Cambodia the greatest joy I have is to hang out with some of the most wonderful Khmer people I feel privileged to call friends. In fact this trip we went on a little three day holiday with a Khmer family. We went to the beach each day, ate and laughed and hung out in Kep. It was always interesting in such a hot country to find that every time we went to the beach us Aussies would sit out in the sun as long as we could to get as brown as we could, because the bronzed Aussie dream is clearly still alive in our family. While the Cambodians covered themselves completely with clothes and stayed in the shade all day. When one of little ones was not allowed to play on the sand with us one day, I asked why.  The mother said, “I don't want her to get any browner”, to which I replied, “but her skin is beautiful, she is such a beautiful colour”. She pointed to me and said, “No, it is your skin that is beautiful. I wish I had a white baby.”  Meanwhile, my daughter continually dreams of having a “brown/black baby”. I feel like I’m saying the wrong thing even to say the word “black” baby nowadays, as it’s so politically incorrect, and yet I often look at their brown/black skin and think it is stunning. My children come to me at the end of each day and say “Do I look brown, Mum?” or “Look how brown I am” and I am jealous because my blonde haired, white skin is the way I was born and will never be called “brown”. 

If I am going somewhere special I will even get a spray tan so I feel better about myself. But in Cambodia, in their rooms I am constantly finding “white” foundation, as the Khmer wear this to make them look more like us. At times they look downright pale, and I can’t work out for the life of me how they find that attractive because I wish I was as dark skinned as them.

It just goes to show “the grass is always greener’ or in this case “browner”. The reality is we are all the same, aren't we? Always wishing we had what others had in order to feel better about ourselves. Now I know I will offend many who love to say over and over again “just be yourself”, “you do you, and I’ll do me”. And while I totally agree, I am confessing that if we are honest, we are all guilty at times of looking at others and wishing we were more like them. Now for you it might not be the colour of your skin … but what is it?  Your size? Your income? Your job? Your skills and gifts? Your Abilities? Your House? Other bodily features? Whatever it is, I can guarantee that while we might say and do all the politically correct things in public, in quiet places where no-one sees we all have thoughts of discontent and wishing we were someone or something else!

Sadly, our thoughts are often the most dangerous places, where so much damage is done. The self-talk, self-doubt, self-loathing, the self-denigration. The places we make agreements with our thoughts, that become truth and then become our new reality.  Often they are then confirmed in our culture, and it takes being in another culture to see that what we think is truth, is relative. 

One of the most powerful things about walking with God, surrendering your life to Him, is that it is in the quiet places, the places that no one else sees, my inner most thoughts, that can be easily hidden from those closest to me, God is there. I cannot escape Him. I can try to hide, try to pretend, try to say the right things, but He sees it all, knows it all and He can’t be fooled. It is in those places that He restates His truth to me, recalibrates my thinking, allows me to experience His undeserved grace and love and helps me see that “I captivate Him”. When I want to venture into the comparison game, the wish list of what I want to be like, or what I wish I had, He reminds me that I am His beloved, created child. He longs for everyone one of us to grow into a deep inner contentment, that only ever sees ourselves through His lens. Surely, then the “grass will always be green enough.” 

I haven’t got even close in the first half of my life, but now at 51, I pray that I do the second half better, always with my eyes on Him and how He sees the world and all that is in it.

Sunday, 10 February 2019

The Drivers Seat - A new perspective

I have been privileged to grow up all my life camping on the Shoalhaven River, with my Daddy’s green speed boat, “Shadrack”. Camping, water-skiing, tubing, knee boarding with the family and close friends, has been a formative part of my life and one I hope to never lose.  

“Shadrack” is now a vintage boat. My Daddy built it with some friends when he was in his twenties. It was his pride and joy and he loved to drive the boat and teach people to ski.  There are many people who tell the story of being taught by Dad to ski, which involved much yelling and yet also a lot of patience.

Growing up in the boat, when I was little I would sleep under the front while Dad drove.  The hum of the motor would put me to sleep. As I grew I would be in the boat whenever I could; either in it or behind it. My favourite place in the boat was in the front right bedside my Dad. He would smile and wink as he drove along, sometimes all day towing and teaching people to ski. He taught me at a young age how to observe and how to be his sidekick in the boat while he drove, and I liked that position. I took it very seriously. Being an observer means you have to watch the skiers and let the driver know when they have fallen off. It means you get to watch all the fun that is happening with the skiers and also look at what is happening on the river. 

Dad only let a few others drive. He taught my brother and husband to drive, that was mainly so someone could drive while he skied. I might be biased but he was a fantastic skier and skied right up to the age of 70. I loved watching him.

When he unexpectedly passed away 14 months ago in an accident, the Shoalhaven and “Shadrack” suddenly became a place of solace for many of us to feel close to him. I had never considered learning to drive, as I’d always felt that he would always be there to drive. Being a vintage boat, it has its quirks and ways of being treated. There were certain things only Dad knew how to fix and that’s the way we all probably wanted it to always be.

When dad died, I made the decision that I would get my driver’s licence and this Christmas I would drive the boat. While I knew it would be an emotional experience on many levels, I certainly felt very close to him driving this year. And my greatest regret is that he didn’t teach me, but I was thankful that this was something I could do with my brother and husband, who taught me all that he’d taught them. It is one thing to drive and then it is another thing to tow a skier well. Dad did it well, and this is not something you learn about when you get your license. 

What I didn’t expect to learn is how much the driver can’t do. The driver cannot watch the skiers. The driver cannot really watch much at all. The driver can’t have an idle chat to someone in the back of the boat while we are going along. The driver is always looking forward and watching the river, the other boats and making sure everyone is safe. The driver is in control of a fast boat and at any point if they are not watching everyone can be badly hurt. 

I didn’t expect to find that driving was a completely new experience for me. For someone who had been in that boat all her life, it was like seeing the boat through my father’s eyes for the first time. I had always simply enjoyed the fun of being in the boat and never understood the seriousness of captaining the boat.  I had gone for the “ride” all my life without truly understanding the requirements of taking charge, the responsibility of it all, not to mention if anything were to go wrong, what I was going to do! I had no clue. 

I didn’t expect to learn that while you are driving you are completely reliant on the observer to tell you what is happening, because you have other responsibilities. I didn’t expect to learn that when everyone is laughing at what’s happening with the skiers or knee boarders, the driver largely missed out on that, because he/her eyes need to be facing forward. 

I imagine after driving a boat for more than 40 years, Dad was able to do much more than I could do on my first drives, but it was a perspective I had never experienced before. It gave me a greater sense of respect for my father and the sacrifice and part he played all our lives in order for us to have fun. I learned that because of the deep trust and comfort I always had when Dad was driving, there was so much I never had to think about, while ever he was in the driver’s seat. Now, I was in the driver’s seat and I felt the weight of it.

There is something beautiful about having someone in the driver’s seat who you can trust, someone who gives their everything to lead/drive in such a way that it provides the environment for others to have fun and be free to live life to the full. I have been privileged to have people in my life that have provided that for me all of my life. I have had that in my earthly father and my heavenly father. 

Lord, help me to lead/drive in such a way that allows others to feel free and able to live life to the full and thank you for the examples in my life who did it so well that I never really appreciated how much freedom and life I have been given because of their sacrifice and diligence in driving so well. 

Monday, 28 January 2019

No room in the INN

The last two months of 2018, in our house felt a little like "there was no room in the Inn". “Air BnB Tolman”, were the words that were floating around, with a laugh. The week leading up to Christmas it was a "full house", with 12 people sleeping over Christmas night and 16 for Xmas dinner. Which doesn’t sound like a lot, but that was all last minute. Maybe we should have been called "last" rather than "Air BnB Tolman".

There is a difference between being invited and people landing unexpectedly. Of course, we had ample sufficiency, and plenty left over. It was not about the food, just the fullness of the house, which usually I love, but this time it was beyond my control and that is always a little challenging.  When you have to start making a roster to use the kitchen just to get things made for Christmas day it gets a bit hectic. Then when you do get a chance to cook, opening the fridge to find the things you’d bought for Christmas dinner had been eaten or taken without you knowing, can bring the worst thoughts out of you and I must say even a few choice words. 

With that many adults living in the house, the kitchen is always full of dirty dishes and I can’t seem to find things as people always put them in different places to me. On the positive side there are more people to clean, cook and there is someone always offering to make me a cup of tea. Netflix is constantly going, but not always what I want to watch.  Quiet time is hard to find, but I have my office to escape to when I get desperate. Oh, that’s right, there was someone staying in there as well over Christmas. Doh.

There was just no more room in the INN.

As I reflect on Christmas just gone, I feel I start the beginning of the New Year apologising and having to eat my own words. On Christmas Eve, I led our community in the reminder that in all the busyness of Christmas day we must remember that Christ is central. Yet the very next day I found myself feeling not only that I was simply surviving Christmas, but more than that, the worldly celebrations of eating, partying, drinking, presents and people crowded out “Jesus” so that He hardly came into my thoughts. 

How did you do it Jesus?  You came into the world, in a crowded, partying town, where the Inn was full. The world around barely stopped to notice that you were there, but still you came. You didn’t demand, you didn’t make a fuss, you simply came to serve. 

Lord, I want to be that kind of light in this world, in my home, in my community. But I find, when the going gets tough I simply want to hide in my room and hope it all goes away. I thank you that your birth was an example of how you planned to live and how you desire us to live. We are called to live in community, to open our lives and houses to those who need it and sometimes it will be uncomfortable and feel crowded.  You gave us a picture of the way the Church is meant to look ... The saviour of the world, the one to bring unconditional love, surrounded by smelly animals, lowly shepherds, two humble parents not sure what is really happening in a town that hardly knows or cares that you exist. 

Not that the people in my house are smelly animals ... well we won’t go there ... ha ... just kidding, but like any community, being uncomfortable, things not going to plan, and not always being able to find what you are looking for, is all a part of the territory. Help me to face the challenges with love and grace and not run and hide. Sometimes my hiding is even behind the serving or the smile and that is not good enough either. But also, thank you for the reminder that even in a lowly manger, in the shed behind the Inn, with the world passing you by, you still shone, and that’s all you ask me to do as well. 

Bring on 2019. Whatever challenges it brings, help me to make sure Jesus is always at the centre, no matter what is going on around me.

PS: This has been published with the permission of those living in my house at the time.

Monday, 18 June 2018

A "Royal" Mission

The recent Royal Wedding captured so many of us around the world; the true fairytale” in so many ways. Much of the world stopped...I watched it on a laptop during my lunchbreak at a conference. The castles, the carriage, the dress, the tiara … it was all beautiful and brought joy to so many people, of course much more to Megan and Harry. In Australia it seems worlds away to have castles and guards and open-top carriages, marching bands and titles like queen”, King”, Duke” and Duchess”. 

When we think of castles, we think of wealthy, privileged and blessed. Positions (titles) and opportunities where people are treated in a special way. The perception is that princesses” and princes” have all they need, can do all they want, when they want. While there is some truth to that, we all know that to a much greater extent, with much power comes much responsibility” and there are a lot of challenges in these positions. But let’s just stay in the fairytale for a minute. 

I said to someone in passing while watching the Royal Wedding that In Australia we don't have castles.”  I know, like myself, many little Australian girls long to be a “Princess” and many boys a King or ‘Prince”. Nearly every Disney movie has the same theme and they keep bringing them out because it captures something for us all that we secretly long for. Harry and William, and now recently Megan have helped this as they project such an amazing life, or so it seems. Then it struck me, maybe we do have castles and princes and princesses in Australia. They just look different. 

I saw a vision of the castles many of our children in Australia have around them. They have their own spaces, bedrooms/playrooms, filled with every toy and thing they desire, with servants (parents) hovering around them, cotton wooling them” to make sure they are safe and don’t get hurt. Our houses are often surrounded by walls/gates sometimes with an alarm, to make sure they are safe. Education is easily assessable to them, yet they endure it. If they are sick, they have the capacity/resources to get help, even having elective treatment for cosmetic/exterior (non-essential) procedures because they can and need to keep up with their friends.  May I go even so far as say they have security guards (Parents) making sure that they are safe as they venture out to do ballet, drama, soccer, art, speech. As they are chauffeured around, there is little they have to do without; food when they are hungry, entertainment at their fingertips, every form of opportunity to learn all forms of the arts” and more. We create stages for them to perform on and no matter how untalented they are, they are told how wonderful they are and get awards for giving it a go, protecting them from the truth in fear that we might hurt their feelings. At the end of every transition of education and/or extra curricula activity there is a ceremony, where they pretend to be the princesses” and princes” they long to be. This is starting even at the age of 5 in some places as they transition from Preschool to School. It is sometimes hard to keep up with and get to all the occasions. 

I know this sounds like a very negative slant on our privileged life”. I know that we have only done all this out of a desire for the best for our kids.  But if it was BEST then why are our kids so Troubled? Entitled? Bored? Depressed? Stressed? Suicidal? So many sit on top of their ivory castles, looking out at the world, and although they have everything they are lost.  I walk with many of them and it breaks my heart to hear their daily struggles and how they see the world. 
It scares me to hear that the highest rate of suicide is in some of the more opulent suburbs of our country. 

What a castle we have created for our children, in the hope that they will be happy and safe and yet all we have created is a place that traps them from exploring the adventure of life, to discover that happiness comes through conquering adversity and that true growth comes from falling down and getting back up again.

Church leaders add to that as we create another place for them to be entertained, safe, comfortable, in hope that they feel loved and a sense of belonging. I wonder what we can teach them when we are wrestling with the same lostness” at times.  Recently, a children's ministry leader, when hearing about how children in poverty see Jesus as their hero asked, “How can they be happy and see Jesus as their hero when they are poor?” The lady working in these poor countries graciously said, “It is not in what we have but who we are in Jesus that gives these kids cause to call Jesus their hero.” The Western worker was stunned. If we as adults, parents, leaders in the Western world don't get the key to real and fulfilling love and life” then we will keep protecting our kids, saving them and shielding them from this important part of growing up. We think that building castles around them is actually the right and loving thing to do, but it is weakening them from the inside out.  

What good is a castle if it doesn't build strength and security and a positive hope for the future? What good is all the privilege and opportunity in the world if it doesn't lead us to freedom and empowerment to be a part of positive change in the world around us?

The fact is we ARE all a part of His royal family. He has gone to prepare a mansion for us. For so many children in Australia, even the incredible blessings we do have here on this earth NOW are being wasted, because it is either not enough or we have believed the lie that we deserve more.  We are busy building our castles and Jesus is wanting to break in and help our children see the simple truth, that none of this will matter in the end; what you do or don't have. What will matter is what you did with what you were given and how you used it for something greater than yourself. We are called to be “producers” not consumers” in this world. A good King” or Queen” knows that is the end goal. How can we help our kids come out of their “castles” and experience life to the full? I want to be a part of that “Royal” mission.

Monday, 28 May 2018

The Forest for the trees....What are you missing out on?

I have always dreamed of turning left on the plane instead of right and being (just once) in those business class beds. It’s kind of on my bucket list. I have always felt it would be such an experience to lay down flat on a plane and sleep the trip away. However, I feel very blessed and privileged to do a lot of travel for my job/ministry. I do love travel for many reasons and I don't even mind the long plane trips because they are a means to an end and a great chance to catch up on movies. However, I have always been very jealous of those who can sleep on a plane. I watch people, sitting upright, eye-patch on and away they go. I get very little sleep on the whole, travelling, so movies help me pass the time as my legs go crazy, my bottom is aching and I feel like I am constantly moving and tossing. I don't need much sleep to function, so basically it is not a big deal and I always seem to catch up. 

But this trip, I had just finished a 15 hour haul from Sydney to Doha and it was midnight. The next flight was a short leg, 6 hours through the night, to land me in the morning in Budapest for a conference that was to start that day. An opportunity came up where I could be upgraded and this never really happens to me. I was so excited. Finally I would be able to experience lying down and sleeping. It was perfect timing. I would be fresh, ready to go to conference AND fulfil a dream I had had for a long time. They announced the boarding, I was internally busting with joy and anticipation. They boarded everyone and left business class till last. They were robbing me of minutes of this experience. I only had 6 hours …”come on, come on” my tired restless soul was saying. Then they finally called me and we were put on a separate minibus to be taken to the plane. There were only two of us. We drove to the other side of the tarmac, past the big planes, past the middle sized planes, past the smaller planes, to come to a very small plane. It was our plane and immediately my heart sank into my stomach. As I walked up the gangplank I was greeted so happily by the attendants. I turned RIGHT to find that it was just a glorified chair, a bit bigger than the normal economy seats.

Well, I have to be honest and say I cried and cried and cried. The attendant was trying to help me with my bags as he could see that I was upset. Eventually he said he would give me some space as it looked like I needed it so he left me with a wine menu bigger than most restaurants and the food menu. Still, I could not stop crying. People were passing us to go to their economy seats in the next section and goodness knows what they thought. I could not stop crying. I was so disappointed, so deflated, so embarrassed. If they knew why I was crying, they would think I was pathetic and rightly so. 

The attendant approached me carefully and asked me if I wanted a hot towel. No thanks. Did I want a drink? No thanks. Have you looked at the menu? No thanks. We’ll serve it to you anytime you request? Can I get you anything? No thanks. Here’s your beautiful, fluffy, ‘purple’ blanket. I didn't want to eat, drink or be served. I WANTED A BED, and nothing else would suffice. 

It was clear he was not going to give up. He was doing all he could to make me happy. When I opened the menu, it was a 4 course meal. So I did what many girls like me do when they are upset, they eat it ALL.  At 1am in the morning, this was the last thing I needed, on so many levelsbut clearly I wasn’t going to sleep, so what else could I do? There didn’t seem to be a screen for movies, but I was crying too much to think about it anyway. And then the service began. They put a table cloth over my little table, put the little (cute) salt and
pepper shakers on one side, a basket of hot breads to choose from, a real knife and fork, the whole deal. Every time I finished my cup of tea, in a real cup, they filled it up, just the way I liked it, because they remembered and aimed to serve me very personally. The meals looked like a chef had prepared them and I just kept eating and CRYING.  I felt so sick after the meal that I still couldn't sleep or get comfortable. They asked when I wanted to be woken (as if I was going to sleep) for breakfast and then left me.

After a while I got up to peek into economy and saw that they all had screens and where watching movies. This can’t be right, why didn’t I have one? Then with a bit of exploring, through blurry eyes, I found there was a small screen in the arm of my chair. I couldn’t understand why the back of the chair in front was a blank floral design, but a big space. WHY wasn’t there a BIG screen there? There were only 7 movies to choose from. Through blood shot eyes I tried to watch something and it wasn’t long before the table cloth came out again and the full service breakfast began. I was so full of food, but I was still upset … so maybe an omelet with mushrooms and tomato would help.

I got off the plane first. I’ve never done that before. I was so worried they were going to ask me why I was so upset. I mean, what would I say? I got to customs first and walked right through and you’d think I’d be happy and see all these “firsts” … but I stood at the baggage claim still crying. Just when I felt like I had composed myself, I turned my phone on to see David’s (my husband) message “How was Business Class?” to which I fell apart again. 

I know this is ridiculous. I am ridiculous. I mean, who cries when being served a 5 star meal on a plane and being treated so well  … when all I wanted was a bed! How ungrateful I was. What was wrong with me?  There’s a saying that goes “you can't see the forest for the trees.” I was so caught up in what I wanted that I couldn't enjoy the things that were all around me. I work with people and kids all the time and get so frustrated at the things they simply can’t be happy for and instead hold onto the one thing they want and can’t have. Well, that was me! I couldn't believe how paralysed I was by my own selfish wants, that I just couldn't get past it. There are some things going on in my life that could justify my ridiculous response, but even so, it was still a case of being so blinded by “selfish” wants that I simply couldn't enjoy any of the experience at all. And that is a sad reality. This is not a good way to live. 

What did I learn from this experience, other than the fact that I am ridiculous, is that that there is no point trying to reason with someone while they are in this state, or trying to help them see how blessed they are. It will fall on deaf ears. I learned that the steward did the RIGHT thing. He didn't try to reason with me, but gave me space and kindness. I learned that self-reflection after the event is a good tool to get perspective and this is the place and time to learn from the experience. God made sure I learned that as on the plane trip home I walked past ALL the beds to get out of the plane from Economy class, and I was able to smile about it. I learned that even saying it out loud to someone helps you see the silliness of the situation and helps you begin to see the “forest for the trees”, so walking alone is never a good option. No one is perfect, there will always be something that happens when you least expect it and at times you will respond inappropriately. Forgive yourself quickly, but learn from it and make the changes necessary to move forward. If you don't you will miss the beautiful forest that awaits you. What are you missing out on? 

Thursday, 5 April 2018

The "Parent" Dance

In England, there is a famous “ritual” called the “Changing of
the guard”. It is a very clear signal of change. The old guard forms on the north side and the new guard forms on the south side, a royal salute signals the handing over of the old guard and the new guard. There is a sequence, everyone knows, there are no surprises, nothing unsure. The march is set and the change is clearly complete. It is full of intentionality, ceremony, celebration and pride. It is done with expertise, precision and it is very clear, the old guard is OFF and the new guard is ON.  People travel from all over the world to see it, but it is more than ceremony, it is fulfilling a very important job of protecting the monarchy of England. 

There are many times as a parent, that the duty is clear, the “march” is set out, the change is obvious. The times in life where your child starts school, moves from primary school to high school, when they can drive, from a legal perspective when they can drink alcohol, when they are legally able to go to a club, when they move from single to married. These are obvious signs of the “change”, the old has gone the new has come, things have changed. We (or maybe it is just me) like to live in the black and white zone … knowing what is right and wrong, what is a YES and NO, what has come and gone, where we stand, basically on everything. It is so much easier. 

And YET… parenting is more often than not, a DANCE, rather than the “Changing of the guard.” I can just see the comical portrayal of what the “Changing of the Guard” would look like as a dance; a back and forward, teetering from ‘yes’ to ‘no’ to ‘yes’ to ‘maybe’ to ‘are you sure’ to ‘YES’ to ‘rack off’ to ‘if I have to” to “no.” I probably lost most of you then, but that is the dance that goes on in my head as a parent of teenagers learning to become adults. 

The challenging, yet never boring “dance” of a parent who longs to walk alongside their child, empowering them to become an adult and yet never quite knowing which step to take at times, to lead them towards the end goal.  Never quite knowing when we are leading or following, coming or going, listening or speaking, stepping up or stepping out, and at any time a quick “change step” must happen, which often takes you by surprise.

I wonder what that looks like in your world?   For my world, it’s the time where she wants her independence shopping, until she wants me to go to the toilet with her, or when she wants me to pay for something. It’s the time when he wants to stay out late as long as he wants, until he needs a lift home and we are to drop everything and go and get him. The time when she can drive and have independence until she crashes and needs saving to get back on her feet again. The time where he moves out, until he gets stuck and needs to save more money so he wants to come back home. The time when you can’t touch her or say anything, until she snuggles into you or wants you to say she looks great, and you clearly didn't get the memo. We have all been there. Oh, the dance we dance, when “no” is not always “no” and “yes” is not always “yes” and more importantly when “no” is actually “yes”.

I have recently had the privilege of being intricately involved in the last week of a young woman getting married, the last night in the house before moving into her new house with her new husband, the many preparations of the ‘changing of the guard”, from single to married. And while the changes are clear, the ceremony is well rehearsed, there is pride, celebration and joy, yet it is not without the ‘dance’. It is an interesting place as a parent to say goodbye to your child to marriage, to understand that the rules have changed and to navigate the dance well.  I have watched this family up close. It has been a privileged and a blessing to get this glimpse, before I will dance this particular dance myself in the future. 

That last night in the house, the final signals that a change is about to happen, the joy and sadness all mixed in together. The look of confidence on the new bride as she has everything organised and ready, until one thing goes wrong and she looks at her mum with eyes that say “fix it”. The beauty of dad walking (marching) his little girl down the aisle to the new man in her life and the words she utters beforehand - “don't look at me and I won’t look at you” - for they know they will both be crying with deep emotions that will distract them from this moment. That first dance, as a new bride and groom, which signals the last dance for Daddy to dance with his little girl. Of course, she will always be his little girl, but on this day some things have defiantly changed. Even on this day, where the “changing of the guard” is clear, it’s still a “parent’s dance”, it is exhausting and not easy to do well. But when done well, like any dance, it is beautiful, graceful and a joy to watch.

For a parent, I am not sure if it ever stops. For me this dance has only begun in the last few years, so I am still learning how to navigate it well. But one thing I do know, it is worth it, learning to dance it well. The cost is too high, not to. I have seen too many times when relationships and connections are lost because parents could not dance the dance well. 

I think it helps to name it, talk about it and acknowledge the “dance”. It is a start anyway. It is great to learn and watch others who have gone before and know that even when we mess up the steps, we can still choose to dance again. While I have seen it first-hand recently, it has reminded me of how well my mother and father danced the dance and the strong foundation that has given me over the years. I am so thankful for them and what they have taught me. The challenge is to simply keep getting better at the dance, and that requires practice, practice and practice. So, stay in the dance and never give up. Your relationship with your children is worth it and the gift you give them is a strong foundation to dance their own dance in time.

Friday, 22 December 2017

Low batteries this Christmas......

You know when the battery on your phone is starting to go and it just doesn't have the power it used to have.  You continue to charge it but it doesn't last the day, it seems to lose its power much quicker as each day goes on.  I have heard people say that’s when you need a new phone or new battery, the old one just doesn't work the same anymore.  Many people have no problem with throwing away the old and getting the new, latest one. I grew up with a dad who always lived in such a way that he held onto things and used them right up until they didn't work anymore. He would revive and refresh and re-fix everything over and over again. But what if it can’t be fixed? What if there are some things that have to die and new things that must be made new?

This year I limp into Christmas, with a broken heart that just doesn't seem able to re-charge. It is 8 weeks since my dad suddenly died and left me with a very big hole in my life. Right now, no amount of work, cheer, distraction, friends, family and even food seems to fill the hole for very long. The battery is low and as Christmas day looms, my “charge” grows weaker.

I think so many of us run so hard all year, that we limp into Christmas Holidays with a low battery. Sometimes that is self-inflicted and then other times it is due to circumstances and events that are beyond our control. And yet as a Pastor/Minister it is up to me to put a smile on my face and lead others in the message of Christmas. The message of love, joy, peace and hope. 

I can’t help but wonder if God’s plan for love and peace and joy and hope was thwarted so many times that His battery got so low that he decided the world needed something new, that something had to die for new hope to be birthed.

Jesus coming to this earth as a baby was such a new story, one the world had never seen. God in the form of a human, living and giving in the most extraordinary ways, until He chose to die on a cross and rise again for our us, in order to bring love, joy, peace and hope. And this new thing all began that very first Christmas.

Some things cannot be revived, refreshed or re-fixed. The batteries will just not charge like they used to and sometimes we do need something new. My dad is gone and he will not come back. I miss him every day, all the things that he fixed, remade, refreshed, revived over the years are now being thrown away and eventually the traces of my dad will be only in our memories. I know I am blessed to have such beautiful ones. It is a painful process saying “goodbye”. I believe that Dad is already refreshed, revived, renewed … but we have to go on.

So where does that leave me? I choose joy, love, hope and peace. I choose to be reminded this Christmas of the wonderful story where God came into this world to do a new thing, so that we might leave the old and step into the new. I choose to believe that God’s plan has never changed and that, like my father’s faith, I hold onto it, even when I am limping. If Dad were here he would be pragmatic enough to accept that God has it all in hand and that we have to simply do the best we can for the time we are here in these mortal bodies. I am not sure if he would be able to throw the phone out. I am sure he would try to fix it, but, hey, maybe 2018 it will be time for a new phone. Or at least I certainly hope it will be a year where HIS joy, peace and love will sustain me and help my batteries to re-charge.

I pray if you are limping into Christmas and your batteries are low, that the message of Christmas will re-charge and revive you. There is hope, joy peace and love to be found in the birth of Jesus.  You simply have to choose it.