Wednesday, 30 April 2014

"Frozen” Parenting - Snow is soft but ice can hurt - Part 1





Frozen the movie has been a BIG hit for kids and families this year, and rightly so, it has everything, humour, adventure, romance and friendship, fantastic music, all set within a wonderful winter setting. But the deeper themes are so powerful for parents in particular, let us NOT let it go....without seeing it as a powerful reminder of the journey of life and the role we play as parents to either empower  or “overprotect” our children from becoming all they can be.

 The older sister has a gift, a talent. She can make soft snow which creates beauty and fun, for her and her sister Anna to enjoy. But, like any talent or gift it can be our greatest strength or our most powerful weakness. When, she accidently hurts her sister, the parent’s choose to lock her up in order to protect both the girls. To protect them was ONE choice but not the only choice.

 There is a strong need in us all as parents to protect.  It is a beautiful thing to want to protect our innocent children, to make sure they don’t have to go through any pain and in Elsa’s case, protecting others from being hurt as well. But, Instead of helping Elsa to learn to control her feelings and her powers, the parents choose to “Cotton Wool” her. By doing this, she is cut off from the world and those that could grow to love her, but are never given the chance. This disempowerment begins a long line of incidents and problems, and naturally the situation goes from bad to worse.

As parents, we don’t want them out of our sight. As educators, we’re concerned about liability and feel we need to avoid risk. We believe we are protecting our future by protecting them. In reality, we may be harming the future” [1]


One of the most challenging issues our children and teenagers face today is they are not prepared for LIFE.  So many are not prepared for stepping out and facing the world in such a way that they can contribute and see the challenges as something to learn from. Many are afraid to FAIL and yet falling down is one of the best ways to learn. Many are still at home long into their 20’s and do not know what they want to do with their lives. It is a growing problem in western society.

Today as a parent, it is much harder to protect as Elsa’s parents did, locking the doors and closing the windows is not that easy anymore. The internet comes right into our so called “Safe places”. Again our response should not be to protect or shut it all out, it doesn’t prepare them.  Princess Anna is a great example, she is shut in so much that the first man that smiled at her, she was willing to marry. She was not a good judge of character and she was not prepared for by anyone to deal with love and so much more.

There are many aspects of Technology that we all must be aware of, but we must empower rather than always protect.  In the SMH, there was an article called “Msg to MUM: don’t panic” Professor Boyd says “Statistically, facebook is less dangerous than the mall, which is less dangerous than the home. What most parents fail to realize is that the young people who are at risk in the mall and on facebook and those who are also at risk at home. These are youth that are surrounded by abuse, addiction, and mental health struggles. They look for attention in all the wrong places.”(SMH, April 5-6, 2014, pg32)

I understand this desire to protect, I don’t want my kids to get hurt or hurt anyone else. I have always felt if you provide a stable, safe and strong environment that my children will learn to fly and be all they can be. But this doesn’t happen without a few falls, without a few challenges and without a few bumps along the way. I have learned the hard way to STOP saving my children in the little things, in hope it prepares them for the BIG things that will come their way.

They have gifts and talents that need to be harnessed and developed. The home is the place where they spend most of their time when they are young. It needs to be a place where they can come to know who they are, and why they are here on this earth and what can they contribute to this short life. I believe we are called to “live life to the full” (John 10:10), as parents, in God’s strength and guidance what are you doing to help your children to become all they can be?   Are you protecting or empowering them?

They can’t spend their whole lives playing in the snow, one day it will become ICE and the question will be “Are they ready?”


[1] Tim Elmore, iY Generation, pg 22

Friday, 25 April 2014

What’s your bowl of stew?


I consider myself a reasonably self disciplined person and yet I found myself challenged again by the story of Jacob and Esau (Genesis 25). Esau was the eldest and had the birthright of being responsible over much because he was the first born.  This position was a privilege and huge responsibility and set him up for life really. One day he was so hungry that he was willing to give that away in the moment for a bowl of stew. He was willing to trade the immediate for the Ultimate. “You might ask who in the world would do something as stupid as trade their birthright for a bowl of stew? If you think about it, you already know the answer. We do it every single day?”(Altar Ego, Craig Groeschel, pg 55, Study Guide)

SO, I am teaching this to a bunch of girls one Sunday afternoon and think it is a great question to challenge THEM with.  You know the joy of teaching is that God mostly challenges YOU in the process. As I challenge them to think about “What’s their bowl of stew?”, the question continues to ring in my ears as I leave for home. As I begun by saying, I consider myself a reasonably disciplined person, in things that really matter, so I am feeling reasonably good about this question. I feel I know deep down what is of “ultimate” importance in God’s kingdom and I am pretty good with not giving into the “immediate” in areas like my relationships, my ministry and most of my parenting. So, I sit down to watch a movie and 5 Lind’t chocolates later, I am not feeling to good. I think “why am I eating these, I feel sick and can I really turn off the Movie?”....Of course I can answer this easily “because I LOVE lindt white chocolate and because I would rather escape into a movie, than talk to my kids or husband because right now I am too tired for all that that, effort requires”. Hello, they are my bowl of stew ! 
Ouch.....that didn’t take long. And so what, you might say, there is nothing wrong with chocolate and a movie! And that is true in moderation. But they are my IMMEDIATE temptation and I can see over my life how “over eating” and “escaping into movies” have taken me away from the ULTIMATE, at least for a time. In some ways the fact that they only seem small, is what makes them so dangerous. They are socially acceptable, they don’t cause anyone else damage, they are not sinful acts in themselves, so it is easy for them to become something I can justify. But, If I am honest, I have been battling eating the wrong things for years now. At the beginning of each year I set goals and I generally achieve most of my goals each year, but there is one about losing weight that has been there for 16 years now, it is the only one that has never been achieved.  As for watching movies and TV series, well I suppose the size of my DVD collection may give away that obsession. You know you have a problem when you can’t walk past a DVD store, and even without buying one, you find great pleasure in just flipping through the titles. My family are always dragging me out of those stores.
So, although not a shocking admission, I know. Today I was reminded that even something that seems harmless and socially acceptable can become a distraction from the ULTIMATE, if we are not willing to be honest about answering the question “What is my bowl of stew?”  I am a believer that what is hidden is what becomes dangerous. What is public, is easier to gain accountability for. I also believe that it is only when I go to the SOURCE, to the one that HOLDS me that I have any chance of making better IMMEDIATE choices.
As I work with these Beautiful teen girls about “what is their bowl of stew” I long to create a place for them to be honest with themselves and to feel safe enough to share, to confide and ask for accountability.  But more importantly we might not so easily trade the ULTIMATE for the IMMEDIATE if we knew HIM and HIS ULTIMATE love and purpose for US.  Thanks God, for the reminder today and every day.
What’s you bowl of stew ?

Friday, 18 April 2014

Fresh Eyes


I have had two youth interns over the last 12 months, one from New Zealand, one from the UK. They came to live, serve and learn amidst our faith community.  They both came from positive and vibrant large church communities and strong Christian families. I have to be honest that apart from the opportunity to come to Australia (which I totally get), I wondered what we could possibly give to them, other than a chance to serve in another type of ministry. At first it was a challenge for them both to be in an inter- generational faith community where we did most things across the ages. This was a culture shock to them.


But there’s nothing like fresh eyes to help you see what we have come to take for granted.  After 3 months the first intern said to me with tears in her eyes “I feel like the people of ICentral know me better than anyone knows me back home in the church I have been going to for 6 years”. Her mother came to visit around that time. The 3 of us had been at a conference all week. On the final night’s celebration, our people from ICentral came to join the conference. Her mother saw a difference in her that night, something she hadn’t seen all week and when she asked her why she seemed so happy she replied “My community is here”.

The second intern also said something profound after the first month of her time with us. When I asked her what she had learned so far, she said “I am having a revelation that being a Christian is more about a fun way of doing life with others compared to a Sunday chore” and more recently she said “I feel I have never really walked with Christians before”.
As a result they also blessed and gave us, and me personally so much. By bringing their gifts and time to us, they created a special place in our hearts. Even though they live in other countries, we will always consider them a part of our community. That's the power of true COLLISION.

As a faith community we seek to do life together, not just Sundays. We desire to reach UP to God, IN to each other and OUT to those who do not know God. We have aim to create REAL COMMUNITY in all we do. We have done this across all the GENERATIONS, and found there is so much more we can do together, rather than in separate silos.

We have simply asked the question “What does it take to create environments where the generations can collide?”

Who knew these two youth would reflect back to us so brightly the values we hold so deeply. We can sometimes take them for granted when we are heads down and simply seeking to live them day to day.


Each weekend the females of our community go away for a weekend. The ages range from 7 to 89 years old. I believe only God can bring together such diversity and differences and create an environment of love, acceptance, trust and joy. There was laughter, adventure, tears and growth, wise words, listening hearts and great food, all in 48 hours of temporary community. It doesn’t take much to create an environment like this, just willing hearts and open and FRESH eyes.



2000 years ago Jesus created environments with a community of people. He created spaces for His community where there was food, adventure, inspiration and opportunities to serve others. Jesus led as a great example of living a “Godly life”, He didn’t just talk about it. This was not Sunday centric, but daily. The experiences the disciples had with Jesus became the strength of their community and they knew how to carry on even when He was gone.

What environments are you creating, where the generations can collide? I believe we are called to communities where growth, love and wisdom flow and people of all ages are known and loved and can enjoy doing life together.



To read more about this read “Collide” the book by Tammy Tolman (www.tammytolman.com) or go to www.colide.net.au

Sunday, 13 April 2014

What’s in a name?

I have never really liked my name “Tamara”, I always preferred Tammy. I like Tammy, it is soft and not common, but I always felt like I was in trouble when people called me “Tamara”. The other thing I didn’t like about my name was the meaning.

           

Tamara – Palm tree


It was always so discouraging. So meaningless.....which was highlighted when we began to run a camp for underprivileged children.  We wanted to lift them up by helping them see the importance of their name. Leaders would spent time researching a name and speaking into the child positive things about their name. It reminded me that mine was very unexciting. It just wasn’t good enough for me.


For many years now I have struggled internally with NOT feeling good enough. Inside I don’t feel “good” enough, even though in some ways I feel like my whole life I have tried to be a “good” girl. As I have grown in God I know that in him it is not about being good enough, but simply being his child. And yet the internal wrestle continues and does have its consequences.  This “lie” deep inside does all it can to deter me from God’s paths, God’s dreams. It has affected my own self care, as I use this lie to overeat and basically not like myself.


Over my life the wrestle has continued, being amplified over the past 15 years. Lately, I have been sick of going over and over the same issues. I have wanted to be able to move on from them weighing me down. For those who say God is not real and does not guide us I say “do you have eyes to see and ears to listen. God is always speaking, you must learn to listen”.


Let me tell you what I have discovered when I had eyes to see and ears to listen.  (Acts 28:27) I believe if you have an open heart , God puts opportunities in your path, but you have to be able to see them and be open to them. At a time when I was really seeking Him on this matter, I just happen to met up with a friend for another matter all together. She had just come back from becoming a director of a counselling process called NLP. I never heard of it, but when she heard how I was struggling, she offered to work with me for free on my issues. When something is free you don’t pass that up, but mostly I was willing to try anything, even though honestly I was a little sceptical.


I spent 3 hours with her, with my eyes closed and I don’t know where the time went. It was very painful and hard, yet peaceful. One of the key phrases that came out for me was that I couldn’t say out loud “God thinks I am beautiful just the way I am and I am good enough”...I realised that I really, deeply believe that I am not good enough for anyone or anything.


That was a Friday, the next day I went to a woman’s retreat, where the reflections were all about seeds and trees. I saw myself as a grown tree, one that was too old for new growth. I had already felt not good enough to do anything new, I was feeling old and established and maybe it was my time to produce shade for others (not that there is anything wrong with that). I went for a walk and all I could see was old trees, wrinkled, hard, stretched, weary, and burned through fire, stressed. I took photo after photo

As I got closer to them I began to see the beauty, the strength in something that had survived the hard times and was still growing new branches. I saw new trees growing into the old trees as the old trees held them up. I saw the majesty of the old tree, the foundations had not been rocked even when the fires had tried so hard to destroy. At one point I had to back track and God knows I hate to back track (going over old ground). As I did I saw new things and I saw a tree that had seeds all over it.  I felt like God said “you are a seed maker”, I would have missed that if I didn’t back track.



           Something unnamed is being called forth in the depths  ....ah yes the truth takes time to be named and even more time to be accepted.



I was thankful for this time and felt very affirmed in God’s love, even open to something new ...but deep down still feeling like I am still not really good enough.....


The next weekend I was at a summit for something different again where a word was spoken over me. A lady who didn’t know me said she saw “Deborah under the palm tree”. Great, I am thinking, Deborah was a strong leader, she heard from God, she was used in a mighty way. I can be open for that. But she continued to say....”it is something about the Palm tree that is important, but I don’t know what”. A palm tree, are you kidding......I have always hated that image, it is what my name means, boring...sure after the weekend before I was loving trees and seeing trees in a whole new light..but a palm tree.....


The next morning as I decided to study Deborah and the palm tree. I am blown away with what I was seeing. How can I have never seen it before? I have been down this track before. I have read this story before. I loved the strength of Deborah, but why she was under a palm tree, what is the significance of the palm tree in Biblical times....I looked it up.....it means.....

                                   

                             Signifies Good....affection of Good

                            Wisdom which is good from the Lord.


So what’s in a name? Does it really matter! But what I do know is that God can answer our deepest questions, our deepest fears. He longs to guide, to heal, to empower if we are willing to listen. He will use anything, from experiences, peoples words, to nature, even your name to get your attention. He will not stop till you know that you are His and you are good enough!





Sunday, 6 April 2014

Holistic discipleship - Part 2



Let's continue to look at this important passage in Luke 2, early on in Jesus life, so that we might be reminded of the deep and lifelong journey that TRUE discipleship is. We find Jesus in the Temple with the religious leaders, while mum and dad were on their way home. Once they realized he was missing, they came back looking for him.


Vs 48–50  - Jesus said to his mother “Didn’t you know where I would be?”  The parents didn’t understand what He was saying,


I like this statement. It reminds me of the faith of a child in direct comparison to the adult mind that often works by rules and expectations. They were probably feeling a little irresponsible at the time. They needed to pull out the “parent card” and prove they really were the “bosses” in this situation. As a parent, I get that. I would have felt the same. Jesus’ innocent response was priceless, I can just hear His sweet voice, “didn’t you know where I would be?” I can hear the apology in the tone, and yet I can hear the blind faith, that Jesus felt, as He just HAD to be at the feet of those talking about His father.

I am reminded of the "little one's" in Matthew 18:6 as Jesus as a man called them. He used them as an example of the ones being "teachable" and "growable" according to Him. 

Ever been in that situation when your children see things so much clearer than you. If we are open, this will happen often. I am sure we all have a story of when children have had a much more simple view than us that has challenged our belief structure or worldview. I remember asking a young girl I have been mentoring for a long time, why she thought of "all" the girls we had seen come and go over the years, why had she stayed? Why was it that she had got stronger and stronger in her faith, when the others hadn’t, even though they had the same opportunities as her? The inner struggle for me as a leader, wanted to know the answer to this question as I long to see more people walk closer with God. If I can just find the formula, then I would use it to help all children (people) not fall away. Selfishly, I was thinking she would say, the loving environment, the teaching that I had given her over the years etc… was why she was so strong.  What she said still puzzles me to this day and messes with my belief system as a leader and what our role is on this journey. She said “I might be way off base here, but I think from a young age I have always been open to God, when others haven’t. I would often say to them to turn towards God when they were struggling, but many didn’t, they made other choices”. Too simple?  I have to be honest, I didn’t like that answer. The adult in me wanted to dispute this simple view. But I didn’t and it still makes me assess, what we are called to do as leaders/mentors and what we must let go of and let the Holy Spirit do.

When we are never together on the discipleship walk when do those opportunities present themselves to have the conversations and listen to the simple faith of our young ones?


Vs 51  - Jesus went back home and lived obediently with them.

Jesus was respectful and obedient of His parents. We don’t see here a disrespectful, cocky young man who clearly had insight that his parents didn’t have. This is not often the case with our young people today unless……. there is “relationship” and “collision together” often enough to build a strong repore across the ages.  There are older people in our community, that initially you might easily write off as “grumpy old men”.  I have watched our young people give them respect, even when they are grumpy at times, and treat them with open hearts and kindness. As a result, it has gone both ways, as I have watched the grumpy men soften as the young people listen lovingly to their stories. We need to create more holistic environments where this can occur. It not only is what Christ talks about when he speaks of TRUE COMUNITY, but it also strengthens everyone’s “discipleship” walk with God.

Vs 52  - Jesus matured, grew up in both body and spirit, blessed by both God and people.

In a sentence you see the holistic nature of how Jesus grew up. Notice that it doesn’t say “He learnt the Old Testament scrolls off by heart” or “He learnt the skills of being a great preacher” or “He followed the path of a good Jewish boy, and his credentials gave him credibility to become the Son of God.”  No, His discipleship was holistic and intergenerational, a balance of learning and doing, with others and with God. What could that look like today as we seek to disciple the people we are called to walk with, in the lifelong journey of Discipleship?

Discover more with those that continue to ask this question at www.collide.net.au






Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Anyone feel a “Pity-Party” coming on?


Paul is in a Prison cell. Paul was held under conditions like those of convicted killer. Bound by heavy chains, that bruise and lacerate. Chained in a cell where his bed was also his bathroom. It was wet, dirty, cold and rodent-infested. He was probably not allowed to wash or dress himself. He was lonely, as everyone who loved him had deserted him when he was on trail, no one stood up for him or his innocence. 

It is at this time that he writes his last letter to Timothy, not knowing it would be his last letter, before his own death at the hands of a crazed Emperor, Nero, but he must have known the time was drawing close (2 Tim 4:6)

In this state, what letter would you write?

As I look back over my journals and see the things I write to God in times when I am having a bad day, I can only imagine If I was Paul I might start this letter by saying……



“Why have you, My God, abandoned me?
All my friends have gone and I feel so alone.
I have tried to serve you faithfully all these years, and now I doubt if I ever heard God’s call in the first place. What has been the point of it all, I have failed you,
I have failed God and am clearly being punished.
I will rot in this jail till my death, alone.
Will someone please pray for me and help me!”



But in the light of knowing the context of when this letter was written, I re-read 2 Timothy, from beginning to end, the way a letter is meant to be read and am again floored. I am amazed by Paul’s faith, his resolve, his strength, his perseverance, mostly his JOY.

2 Timothy is filled with GOLD, which has become EVEN MORE precious when I begin to understand the circumstances in which it has been written.  We take away the power of God’s word when we pull out a single, individual verse and use it as comfort without fully understanding when, where and why it has been written.

For it is in 2 Timothy we read incredible statements like….

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power and love and self-discipline.” (2 Tim 1:7)

“Do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join me in His suffering for the Gospel, by the power of God who has saved us and called us to a holy life” (2 Tim 1:8-9a)

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness” (1 Tim 4:7)

Paul begins and ends his letter with statements of thanks, grace and peace. He praises God and prays for those who have abandoned him as well as those who have helped him over the years, equally. And sandwiched in between this thankfulness are the words of a man, passionate and determined to encourage and lead those who will listen. Urging them to “Keep the faith”. But don’t take my word for it, take 10 minutes and read this letter yourself.

When you are having a bad day, and the pressures seem too much, and you wonder why it is all happening to you, I challenge you to picture Paul writing this letter to you. It certainly, stopped my “pity-partied” heart today!