Sunday, 30 March 2014

Holistic Discipleship...part 1

The word “discipleship” rolls off our tongues continually in conversations right through Christendom and yet I still feel we have often missed the depth and lifelong journey that TRUE discipleship is.

One of my favorite passages on this topic is Luke 2:39 -52. In 13 short verses it talks of Jesus life as a boy and while I wish we had so much more than was told about this part of His life, there is so much we can learn from really breaking down these verses.  Jesus, always was the Son of God, the journey of discipleship began when He was born and continued the whole of His life. Every part of it was important.  It was always seen in the context relationship with God, relationship with others, within community and never in isolation with his physical, social and emotional growth.

Vs 39-42 - Mary and Joseph had done everything required by law.
Every year they travelled to Jerusalem for the Passover, like they always did.

Jesus parents taught Jesus at a very early age that special occasions, rituals, the law and the festivals were all important. I call them anchor points, which I believe we all need to create a strong foundation on what we believe. This was not possible to be done in isolation, but rather with people of all ages and experiences. These sentences are rich with holistic discipleship. This would have been a significant time “all” together. This is what I call a “classic road trip”. It was strategic, it was a priority and it involved all ages, all together. It was quality time. I remember the many road trips our family has had and the many road trips our community has had together. They have become significant anchor points, times of learning, growing together, spaces where God has moved and challenged. We have often been very strategic during our trips, during our times of travelling to an event.  Sometimes our road trips have been especially for a conference or spiritual event or ministry, other times it has been pure holiday. God uses them all, to grow us and strengthen bonds and draw us closer to Him. Many have become “Peak experiences” we will never forget, sometimes even a “rite of passage”, often a chance to share our gifts and passions with others. They are always an opportunity to give Him the glory and the honor He deserves. What are you doing to create traditions and peak experiences on the path of discipleship?

Vs 34-45  - When they left for home, the parents didn’t know where He was, thinking He was with other pilgrims, amongst relatives and neighbors, they travelled for a whole day and didn’t know where Jesus was.

Some would say “how irresponsible”, I would say… (that is not just because I have left my child at church once and gone home thinking she was with someone else) “How cool is the extended family that parents feel safe enough to travel a whole day, knowing that Jesus was with someone they trusted.”  Their experience in the past was that Jesus was in the company of the village, they knew someone would be watching over him. Once again this is the power of a holistic experience of being a part of a Community, blessed by God and others.

Every year a large number of us go camping. We all watch over everyone’s children, as we camp in close proximity and do life together. All taking responsibility of who is in our view. There is freedom in this space, it lessens the burden and allows us all to enjoy the holiday. Western Society has lost this as we live in our isolated boxes and busy schedules, complicated by the many ways we cannot feel safe even in our own streets nowadays.

Vs 46 –47 - They found Him in the temple, among the teachers, listening to them, asking questions, they were impressed with His wisdom.

 Jesus being a good Jewish boy would have actively participated in the traditional feasts as soon as he could talk. The youngest child in the family is the one who asks the questions that prompt the father to retell the rich history of Israel’s Exodus from slavery. By the age of 13,  Jewish boys were considered men, so this important passage of Him being in the Temple with the leaders shows that he was maturing well for the task ahead of him. Jesus loved being in the temple, soaking in Gods word. Listening to his elders and in turn, they were stunned to hear what he had to say.

Sandy is 15 years old; she comes from a non-Christian family, with very little encouragement at home to grow spiritually. She comes along to our intergenerational life group and sits herself down with the older men and woman of the community and soaks up what they say, as well as shares her little pieces of wisdom.  She said to one of the older ladies last week at the end of the night “isn’t this the best place in the world to be?”  Needless to say this made the older ladies night as well.

Where are our children and why are they not sitting more and more at the feet of our wise ones, sharing and asking questions? Is it because we are not creating environments where this can happen! We are all so isolated in our own aged-programs, often listening to one person speak from the front and seldom able to ask questions. So many children don’t even feel they can enter the sanctuary comfortably, let alone ask questions. Jesus didn’t seem to have this experience of feeling uncomfortable, as a result He flourished in this environment. 

To be continued…….

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

No poo for you

I was driving home the other day and I pulled up to the traffic lights to find I was behind a truck with the signage "no poo for you" on the back. As I read the advertising I was trying to work out what exactly this service was offering. There was a web site, so when I got home I looked it up to find it was exactly what I thought. It was a service that came to your house to pick up the "poos" in your backyard, so you didn't have to. I just couldn't believe that we have come to a place where we aren't even willing to pick up the poo In our backyards, even though they are our dogs and our responsibility. If that wasn't bad enough the website wording continued to astound me.
It was entitled "Give me your poo".  The description went on to explain, "If picking up poo is not for you, then let me tell you what to do, call me and see if I can be of help to you,  I'll pick up your poo. It continued on to say " set the trend, be the first on your street and see how envious the neighbours are as you sit on the deck with a cuppa or a glass of bubbly while they search for deposits."

Then just when I thought I had read enough, it went on to ask If I wanted more ?
The website went on to explain how they were was also willing to come and take your "pensioner pants" and your "disposable baby nappies" as well as part of an extra service.
Now as enterprising as this is.....and I don't mean to put this companies initiative down, but I couldn't help but wonder what our society and culture has come to, or more to the point where will it end!
We seem to want all the joys of having a pet without any of the inevitable yucky stuff that comes with caring for an animal. And let's be honest it doesn't stop there. Basically we outsource as many things as we can, whether it be our cleaning, our children's education, our child care, the cooking, our shopping, dare I say, the spiritual education of our children.
I can see how this service Is helpful for the elderly or when you go away on holidays, but it says a lot about our society when we are too busy to clean up our beloved pets "poo". Let's face it, life is filled with poo. We don't like it, but it IS a part of life and it is often the yucky things that shape our character the most.
For many children having a pet is one of the first places where they get to learn some really important things about life and death. What are we teaching our children about life and the challenges of caring for someone else, when even the basic levels of looking after a pet is being outsourced to someone else.
What are preparing them for? What are we preparing ourselves for?
I would love to live in a world where "there is no poo for you!" But I am sorry,  we will just not experience that, this side of heaven. In the meantime if we spend our lives here on earth avoiding the POO, I fear we will not learn what it means to REALLY live.
What ever happened to "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger?" A bit of poo will not kill you, but it will be build character. We need to be willing to do whatever needs to be done in any relationship or task, knowing that there will be good and bad as a part of the package. This is one of the greatest lessons we can teach and model to our children, because believe me as we grow up, picking up dog's poo will be least of our challenges.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Store blindness

I was at a business seminar yesterday and I heard the speaker talk about “Store blindness”. It is where as the shop owner; you can be in your “store” for so long that you begin to miss what others see as obvious when they enter with fresh eyes. For example, you can be in a place so long, with a broken light, but you have lived with it so long that eventually you no longer see it as a problem. It is not until someone talks in an innocently says, your light is broken that you are reminded that needs fixing.


It reminds me of when Paul was speaking to the Jews, he tried so many ways to help them open their eyes to the changes, the “Jesus” they missed. He came against opposition from the Jewish leaders over and over again, because they were comfortable with their religion just the way it was (Acts 24:25). Paul comes against opposition over and over again, he is not asking them to NOT be Jews, but to be open to the fresh salvation that Jesus brings when He died on the cross. Open to the new freedom and expression that it brings to our faith, to no longer to live under law. He says they have developed “Calloused” hearts.  Acts 28:27 paints a strong picture as Paul quotes from Isaiah.


For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.(Act 28:27)


The word “Calloused”, comes from the original word pachuno meaning “to make fat…calloused as if from fat”. It is an expression we are most familiar with when it comes to health and exercise. So, the same principal applies to our hearts, for the Jews, religion had become more a state of mind, a series of practices, rather than a response from the heart.


The result for Paul was that he was placed under house arrest for two years. It did not stop him from speaking to people whenever he could, but for the religious Jews, he was to be outlawed.


It is like someone coming into the “shop” and pointing out a few things that need to be changed and the owner kicking them out and refusing to listen to the person with the fresh eyes, someone that might be able to help the owner to see, what they had become blind to.


My deep prayer is that I don’t suffer from “Store Blindness” and more importantly when I do I am open to someone coming in and shining the light on what might need to be seen with fresh eyes.


This one reason that I make it a priority to get out of the “store” regularly, it helps us to keep open to new things and the wind of the spirit. I am speaking about ministry now, or the role I play leading a community of faith. But this is also important as a mother, wife and friend and the work place, there is always things to learn and be open to in all areas of life. Every time I open my ears to hear and my eyes to see and my heart to God’s voice, he changes me, challenges me and transforms me. But my role is to take that first step, so I will not become calloused. As I look back over my 26 years of formal ministry, I shouldn’t be amazed at the times when I have stepped out with an open heart, how God has reshaped and helped me re-think. This has not always been met with positive responses, I suppose like Paul I to have felted imprisoned, or outlawed or persecuted at times for the message I speak when I have come back to the “shop” with fresh eyes.  That is not easy, and many times I have wished I would just be quiet and put my head down, even when the “lights” are broken and need changing. This doesn’t seem to be in my nature, to keep quiet I mean, so it is nice to read of Paul and others in scripture that have had more troubles than I would ever want to experience.


For two years Paul was under house arrest. During this time he wrote the book of Colossians.  Colossians 2:8 says…


See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.


At this time he was speaking strongly against the “deceptive philosophy” of Gnosticism, Legalism, Mysticism and Asceticism. He was addressing the faithful believers. What powerful words for us to consider or reconsider…..lest we become dependant on our own human traditions rather than what Christ calls us to.


I have learnt, the hard way, that “we” are only open to change when we are willing to ask the questions ourselves. There have many times that I have started a conversation about things that I feel people need to “reconsider” or “re-think” and have come against brick walls. I am praying God continues to soften me to be open to His leading in this area. To be open to waiting till others want to ask the question. Then they know I will go on the journey with them. Are you willing to “step out of the store” and be open to what God might want you to see?


So, my challenge to us all is…. Is the church today suffering from “Store blindness”?  Have we become “calloused” and no longer have hearts open to how God longs to see the church in 2014? Have we become captive to a structure which depends on human tradition rather than the on Christ?”. If you have eyes to hear and ears to listen, what would He say to you today about your ministry?


If you want to ask these questions…I am up for a conversation?


Sunday, 16 March 2014

Parenting ......It's more about how you finish.......

There are so many times as parent when you feel like you fail your kids, and you just wish you were stronger, more self controlled, more wise, more like....”God” really .....Or is that just me!
Last week my daughter was having an anxiety attack. She was working her way up to being very distressed and as often happens it was the same day that I had had a difficult day and was feeling like I needed space. She started as she was going to bed and I could see she was getting all worked up. We all know that when we are tired, this is not a time to have a deep conversation. As she started, I could feel myself bubbling inside and although I am mid 40's and should know better, I lost it and told her that “I couldn’t do this tonight; she would have to deal with this herself."  I closed the door and went to my room to have space.  Now there’s a "collision" of the negative kind.

As I sat in my room thinking what a horrible mum I am, there was a knock on the door. My teenager crept in and looked at me with "blood red eyes" and said "I am so sorry mummy for upsetting you, I will deal with this myself" and then she left. Now I am feeling even worse, here she is apologising to me, because I lost it and couldn't be mature enough to be there for my daughter in her anxiety issues.   
She needed her mum and I was not there for her, worse, I told her to go away. Yes, knowing when we need space and being able to regroup to be there for someone else is important at times, but what had I just done to my child?
When you collide with others, no one is untouched; it changes everyone who is a part of the collision. Sometimes this painful, sometimes it is not, sometimes it is negative, sometimes is is positive, but it always brings change.  
The word collision is defined in The Colin’s[1] English Dictionary simply as:
to conflict in attitude, opinion, or desire; clash; disagree
to crash together with a violent impact”.
 I knew this feeling that night...... but I actually believe that "collisions" can also have the potential to be life transforming experiences that create environments for spiritual growth for all involved..
In physics, collisions refer to the close approach of two or more particles or substances that results in a abrupt change of momentum or exchange of energy[2] Now that sounds better.

So in that moment I had a choice. I could sit in my room and enjoy my space alone. I could sit a cry about what a failure of a mother I was or I could grow up, put my own stuff aside and be there for my daughter the best way I could.  In God's transforming strength, I went into her room, apologized for not being there for her, we hugged and cried. I said very calmly,  "right now, what I can give you is a loving cuddle, a space to feel safe, while we watch something on the TV, but there is to be no talking, just cuddles and re-direction of our emotions, till we have a good night’s sleep and talk about all this in the morning". We spent the next 2 hours in silence, (anyone who knows my daughter knows how hard that that was for her)., in each other’s arms, watching a TV show. And that night we both slept well.
Our collision may not have started positive, but it ended well. We were both stronger in ourselves and we are closer to each other for it.  There are many times when we shouldn't run from a "collision", or even berate ourselves for not getting it right the first time. “Collisions” can be messy, always challenging,  but if we push into them, and as a result I believe we will grow and be transformed because of it.  I believe I am a better mum, when I say sorry, don’t give up, and remind myself, I will not get it right every time, but there’s always time for recovery, saying you are sorry and trying again.

[1] Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003

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