Wednesday, 9 December 2015

We are called to LEAVE HOME

I believe a key requirement of the spiritual journey is to go out, to leave home, to “fall” or even “fail”. Yet, It seems to me as a parent I have done everything I can to keep my children at “home” or “safe”. I have looked at the Story of the Prodigal all wrong. For many years, the message always came from the perspective of the Eldest son, who did the “right thing” and stayed home. That has certainly been my own personal journey.  Yet, his loyalty in doing the “right” thing, his own entitlement, his quest to be obedient is what kept him from the very “celebration” that the father prepared, even begged him to come to. It seems that in Western society in particular, we do all we can as parents and even in the Church and/or Christian Schools to keep our children  IN the fold. We have created “eldest sons” and “Pharisees” with merit stickers, who can recite the books of the bible and can quickly judge those outside the church as “sinners” who need help. We forget that the "sinners" are the people Jesus spent most of his time with.  Jesus never seemed upset with “sinners”. He had more to say to those who did not think they were sinners.
For each of us and our children, the journey and challenges will be different. Whether it is issues of sexuality, career options, belief systems, self-perception, narcissism or something else, there will certainly be times in our lives when we move from “one passage to another” and if not done well, it can stunt our growth in one of these areas.
“Western people are ritually starved people, and in this are different than most of human history” (R. Rohr, pg 44)
As I ponder on my teenage years and moving into marriage and moving out to create my own home, I feel that there were “rites of passage” that I missed, that stunted my ability to move to the next season of my life. The conversations that “good” Christians DON’T have about sex and relationships, rules that must be honoured. I was so busy trying to keep the rules, that once it was time to move into the next “passage”, I didn’t know how to enter the next phase well.
Richard Rohr describes this necessary process as “discharging your loyal soldier”. 
“Paradoxically, your loyal soldier gives you so much security and validation that you may confuse his voice with the very voice of God. If this inner and critical voice has kept you safe for many years as your inner voice of authority, you may end up not being able to hear the real voice of God” (R. Rohr, pg 46)
 Nowadays we seemed to have thrown the “baby out with the bath water” and now there are no rules. The “rites of passage” become inconsequential because there is nothing sacred to move into, as it has already been experimented with at an early age. Nothing is sacred or special these days. This is just as sad and negative as living strictly by the rules.
So, am I saying that the rules are there to be broken, that the safe house/environment is to be created only to be left and abandoned?  In some ways I am...which is very hard for me to say for an “eldest son” who has stayed in God’s house all her life, although I would like to think that I have fought the system from within. It is hard for me to say as a parent with an 18 year old son who is about to leave all that we have tried to create for him for the past 18 years, to go into the world where he must journey to find who he is for himself. It is hard for me to say as a teacher/speaker who longs to see safe environments across the ages, growing and learning together and parents fully engaged with their kids on this journey.
The legalist in me honours the guidelines God sets, fully knowing that it is often when they are broken that we come to understand more fully His love and grace. I am thankful for that in my own personal faith walk. For me it means the intentional “rites of passage” and the “safe places” we create are even more important. They are important because when one “fails or falls” or doubts and questions or even walks away for whatever reason, there is always potential for growth, even total transformation, because there is a safe place to process. This is a better option than hiding, growing bitter, escaping, blaming or settling and living as a victim all your life. There is way too much of that happening in families, in the church and in the world today.
But there is a fine balance we walk, between teaching and living in a way that honours God and acknowledging that when we “fall” (and we all will) that He is a safe place to process this through. One of the “fallings” of the church /faith community I see is that we try to keep our “failings” secret. I have found as a Pastor that people don’t like me talking about my “fallings”... we must keep it all upbeat and positive.  Pastors are supposed to have it all together. When we keep our spiritual walk private, we don’t have accountably. Conflict resolution, painful relationships and differences of opinions have not been handled very well in many of the church communities I have been a part of throughout my life. It is sad that we are not able to be an example to the world in the way that we live and love each other. That is a direct command from God for the community of faith that He is very clear about. The journey is meant to be done together, in true community, which sometimes means seeing “the good, the bad and the ugly,” instead of simply aiming to show our “best face” on a Sunday morning.
Some of our “fallings” as parents come when we do the same; we feel we need to present as if we have it all together, to our children and to each other. Some of the most significant times as a parent with our kids are times when we have shown them that we have messed up, made a mistake, needed to say “sorry”.  I worry about parents who aren’t able to be vulnerable with their kids at times, homes that are always happy and where there are no arguments or tears. How can they ever live in a way that helps their children understand how to process difficult times?  As parents in community together, I have found the hardest people to walk with are protective parents; either protecting their own kids, or protecting their reputation. This makes change and growth very difficult. When we are spending all our energy “saving face” and not letting our kids “fall” or venture out for fear of falling, we can very rarely get to the actual issues. When we shut down, over-protect, emotionally react, close ranks, we stunt everyone’s growth. 
“Sin happens when we refuse to keep growing.” St Gregory of Nyssa
When it comes to “rites of passage”, how can this help the process?  I don’t know about your experience, but I am surprised by just how many opportunities and changes happen within a child’s life from the age of 0-18, let alone what happens in adulthood. There are so many opportunities we miss as we move from “passage to passage,” opportunities to put “words” and “anchor points” in massive changes and growth. Almost every year in a person’s life in the early years has potential to create moments. From learning to talk to God and others, to pre-school, to friends, to social interaction, learning responsibility, puberty, decisions for Christ, significant others who speak into their life, driving, intellectual achievements, spiritual disciplines, relating to the opposite sex at all different ages, independence, gift development, conflict resolution, playing a part in the family and then in society, becoming other centred.  There is something always changing.
 As a family we have found being strategic and intentional each year with key focuses have helped us navigate life together and as a result we have created our own little “rites of passages” along the way. I believe these have helped form our kids to where they are today.  And, in many ways it has been about putting up boundaries and them breaking them, resetting the boundaries and re-checking our own responses over and over again, while always applying grace, love and forgiveness.
I do believe a key requirement of the spiritual journey is to go out, to leave home, to “fall” or even “fail”.  The questions I must then ponder as a parent and a person who is a part of a faith community are;
Do I encourage our young ones to “go”, or am I pressuring them to “stay”?
When one “falls”, do they feel safe enough to share the load or do they feel they have to hide it?
Have the “passages” been celebrated and communicated well enough that our young people are prepared to move through them in a healthy way?
What can I do to be a part of creating a HOME and FAITH COMMUNITY which lives in such a way that the world will know we are His children living under grace and love and forgiveness?
We are called to leave home.....it's a "necessary" rite of passage.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

I get knocked down, but I get up again



The song “I get knocked down but I get up again ...you’re never gonna keep me down” (Tubthumping by Chumbawamba) – as fun and catchy as it is – on the surface can feel like a vitriolic song that states that we are strong, because no matter how many knock backs we get, we will keep getting up. I do resonate with this, and yet often I feel like life has thrown curve balls at me, for which I would like to stay down and simply give up.  Still, I have certainly learned more from choosing to get back up. There’s an emptiness in lost dreams and disappointments that is hard to escape, but again I am learning that is is more about the way we view the things that happen to us and around us more that the actual events. For me a “statement” that can and has been a “limiting belief” in my life is … “I am a failure.” It is easy to start blaming circumstances, other people, the fact that “life sucks” or even God for where we find ourselves or what we don’t have, our lost dreams, our disappointments, our failed “salvation projects.” But instead I have chosen to sing, “you’re never gonna keep me down”... with an English accent, and try to continue on being brave, or maybe listening to wise people like Nelson Mandela when he says,
“Don’t judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”





There are times when this is a great help.
But when we look deeply into the silly song I began with, we see that the song is loosely based around a short story about a boy who beat all the odds in life and never let things get him down. Yet, the approach to “keeping on” reads like it is one big night on the town, where the singer seems quite happy about the fact that he keeps getting knocked down, because he is so drunk on whiskey. I am not passing judgement here, I am simply reminded that a lot of the times when we get knocked down in life, we can’t blame anyone but ourselves, our own poor choices, our mess ups. This reminds me that I have probably deserved at times to get knocked down, that there are many times when the failure lies squarely on my shoulders.
I was encouraged as I sat with a dear friend a while ago as he shared… “I desperately wanted to be empty so Jesus could fill me, but I never expected He would really do it.”  We laughed together and I appreciated his honesty as we reflected on the past 30 years of ministry and where we are, where we thought we would have been by now, the “failed salvations projects” as we have sought to serve Him, but have found ourselves lacking and needing to come to His feet again, simply to surrender and acknowledge our emptiness.
Another colleague said to me recently, “There is no such thing as failure...only feedback” (Brett White, 2015)
Viewing failure as feedback is probably really important, but it is still really hard. The pragmatist in me says, “let’s be honest and call it what it is.” But Brett is also talking about a mindset here. Whether you want to use the word “failure” or “feedback,” the mindset is really important. The scary thing for me is whose “feedback” are we listening to?  Richard Rohr gives us another “f” word. He would call this “falling” and says that somewhere in our western mindset we have lost the spiritual value of “falling.” In fact, the “falling” is actually necessary for any sort of growth.
“We grow spiritually much more by doing it wrong than by doing it right. That might just be the central message of how spiritual growth happens: yet nothing in us wants to believe it” (R. Rohr, ‘Falling Upward”, pg XXII)
It is one thing to get back up again in your own strength and sing with gusto, because you are so strong and amazing or maybe just plain stubborn. It is quite another to see that when we are knocked down through life’s events, some beyond our control or some due to our own wrong choices,  it is there in the “falling” that we often find a new truth from God’s perspective. In fact it is only because of the “falling” that we can discover His truth.
It is a change in mindset, a God-set, if you will. This mindset change is so freeing. He changes our perspective and we are not the same again. The courage comes in getting back up again and choosing to view each life event that has or hasn’t happened in a way that we might have otherwise viewed as a “failure” as a chance for growth and transformation to be more like Him.
“The genius of the gospel is that it included the problem inside the solution. The falling became the standing. The stumbling became the finding. The dying became the rising. The raft became the shore.” (R Rohr, “Falling Upward. Pg 159)
2 Corinthians 12: 10 – “It is when I am weak, He is strong.” I get knocked down, and He helps me get back up and I am stronger for the experience. Thank you, God, for in my “falling” your feedback says ... I can be stronger for it because I surrender to who You are and what You have done.

Monday, 16 November 2015

The Bus Stop


It is a beautiful spring morning, the sun is shining, I drive my 15 year old daughter to the bus stop which is maybe a 10 minute walk (at most) so she can catch the bus to school. As I drive up two other cars come from other directions at the same time to converge onto the bus top where more high schoolers jump out. I say out loud, “Oh, look at all of you cotton wool kids” ... to which she smiles, jumps out of the car, looks back and says “Well, whose fault is that? Bye. Love you, mum.”
And again she is right. Whose fault is that? I ponder this as I drive the 2 minutes home. Well it is my fault. I know the answer. I ask myself, “Why do I drive her to the bus stop when she she is old enough to walk and it would be good for her on so many levels?” 
There is this challenging fine line between loving your kids and loving your kids too much! There is the deep desire to want to do things for them, because you can, and then the deep desire to see them want to do things for themselves and others, because that has been modelled to them. As a parent, I find myself asking this question daily. How do I prepare my kids to be all they are created to be and yet show them the unconditional love that hopefully models “love” in a way that helps them see how much their HEAVENLY Father loves them.  And in the everyday matters of life, when does tough love kick in and where do you simply love because He called us to serve?
Man, it is only 8.44 am in the morning ... probably all a little too heavy for one small 2 minute drive to the bus stop. My daughter would be rolling her eyes right now saying “Please, Mum, don’t write a blog about it?” But it is in these times when we stop, even for a moment, that helps us recalibrate the “whys” the “whats, the “whens.”  Why do we do what we do as parents? What is really important here? What do they need to learn? What is the end in mind?  When do they need to learn certain things? When do we stop doing things for them and start doing things with them, to then watch them do it themselves? When do we make changes to help our kids grow up into all that they are created to be?
For every parent the whys, the whats, the whens will be different. There are some guidelines which are helpful and there are definitely wiser people around who can help you along the way, as well as a million books you can read. But no one can parent your child, or can help them grow up like you, because this is the charge you have been given for the short time you have them in your care. The important thing is to actually think about it, re-think and recalibrate, have a plan, scratch the plan, make a new one and then re-think again. It is a moving target, one with no sure answers, but worth the daily effort.
This is you playing a part in developing a “fulfilled life,” a created being, in your care for a short time to nurture. Parenting is the daily walk that sometimes seems like a life sentence and then in a moment you look and your child is 15, wearing your clothes, making the evening meals for you and having deep conversations about what she wants to do with her life.
As a parent I must accept the blame for “cotton wooling” my kids many times. The question is when to take the cotton wool off, bit by bit, until they are exposed and ready to face whatever the world will throw at them. Surely that is worth stopping for moments to check if we are on track? It is not about blame or judgement; we are all guilty of falling short.
“Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” (Winston Churchill.)  So, you might want to ask the question of me.  “Will you drive your child to the bus stop tomorrow?”
My enthusiastic response is, “What do you need to stop doing for your children, to start doing with them, to then watch them do themselves in your own parenting?” Only you can answer that for yourself?

Thursday, 5 November 2015

The quest for "Happily Ever After"


Why is it that in movies and books we want to see the “happily ever after” and when it doesn’t happen we are disappointed?  Or when it does happen, we still feel disappointed because it is over and we wanted to see more.  We want things to finish up “happily ever after” but are disappointed that the end has come. It is a case of “the grass is always greener.”
I am reading Revelation (the final book of the Bible) and it is a difficult read, yet it talks of heaven and how it is all going to end well.  The visions that John describes in Revelation probably don’t even come to close to what it will actually be like.  One one hand I trust that if God says that He will live among us, that it will be perfect like the Garden of Eden, with no suffering, pain or  sadness.....then it will be so. But on the other hand because I can’t imagine living like that for eternity (which in itself being perpetually happy is so foreign to me), there is a part of me that wonders and doubts at times that it is it even possible.   I want the happy ending but then even when it has been promised to me I am already feeling a little disappointed.
Am I the only one who gets conflicted in this way?
I don’t think so because...   There are many people who simply cannot believe in a “happy ever after” because they cannot fathom it.  They would rather believe that we simply eat, live, have fun and die and that’s the end.
I don’t think so because... Look at the number of movies that keep pushing our ideas of the end times and what happens when the earth is destroyed. i.e A band of warriors inevitably rise up to start again and make things better.
I don’t think so because.... How many people spend their life trying to find answers in science, nature, spiritualism?  They are seeking to work out the answers themselves, thinking they must be able to do a better job than anyone has done in the past.
It is interesting that the book of Revelation was written in a time when the Roman Empire had claimed itself as the divinely intended ruler over the earth, with Caesar Augustus’ rule proclaiming in both political and religious terms:
“it has been ordained that the most perfect consummation for human life is by giving it to Augustus, by filling him with virtue for doing the work of a benefactor among men and by sending him, as it were, a saviour for us and those who come after us, to make war to cease and to create order everywhere.”  (The Books of the Bible, New Testament, Biblica Inc, 2011,pg 425)
Not much has changed and for us to be surprised by the changes in government and culture in Australia today as it heads towards changing the foundations of what is considered “true”, “ethical” and “moral”, is naive. We can be sad about it but not surprised.  In the light of this John wrote to the Christians who acknowledged a different saviour to the world.  John speaks about a God who’s plan has always been for a “happily ever after”. He encouraged the believers that God has the “happily ever after” all sorted out and to hang in there when times get tough and when the culture of the day brings pressure to  compromise or walk away from His truth.
We all know that as a story draws to an end, the final challenge is often the hardest to endure even for those who do get their “happily ever after”. We applaud this in movies like the "Hobbit"  and "Hunger Games". In God’s Big story it is even better because the happy ending will not be because of anything we have done, but rather what Christ has done for us.  It is a GIFT and yet so many still won’t accept it. 
We love to watch the climax unfold on the big screen and squirm as it seems impossible that any good can come from the tragedies and situations and yet by the end of the movie all is well with the world. We love to read about those that overcome and those that we consider heroes and quickly forget that to walk a mile in their shoes during the time when all seemed lost, would be too much to bear for many of us. We want to hear all about the “happily ever after” and yet God has been revealing this “happily ever after” from the beginning of time. Why is it that so many would rather ridicule the concept of a “prefect heaven” and choose to make their own plans rather than to see the HOPE that has and always will be there for those willing to accept His love?  Is it because we can’t imagine what a “happily ever after” really looks like? And if we can’t imagine it or see it then we find it challenging to believe!  He is calling us to simply have faith and trust Him that the “happily ever after” is more than we can even imagine.
John had seen Jesus which is why revelation is so HOPEFUL for him.  Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."  (John 20: 29)
“Then Jesus spoke; I am coming soon! I am the first and the last, the beginning and the end. Anyone who wants to can come to me and they will be forgiven; and those who are forgiven will be happy. They will live in the city of God and enjoy life. Anyone who wants to can come and drink freely for the water of life. I am coming soon”  (Bible.now, Anno Domini Publishing, 2013, pg 318)

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Back to the future

Yesterday was the 21/10/15, the year that Marty McFly and Doc Brown flew the Delorian 30 years into the future from 1985 and landed here, in the future. Of course, the funny thing is the moviemakers didn’t get much right about what they thought today would be like. As I sat with a group of kids in an afternoon program we run and talked about what 2045 might look like, which is 30 years from now, I must say the kids didn’t have a lot of positive thoughts about what it might be like. It wasn’t very HOPEFUL. Like the movie makers who didn’t get much right, let’s hope the kids are not correct in thinking that 2045 will be bleak and not very HOPEFUL. We live in challenging times. 30 years is not long. A lot can certainly happen as CHANGE is happening faster as each day goes by.


I decided to have a “back to the future” night with my family. We spent the night around the dinner table, eating together and thinking about what it might be like in 2045.  My husband would be 82 and I would be 77, so we were hoping we would simply be around. Our kids would be the age we are now, so that was an interesting thought. The kids couldn’t imagine being as old as us and what they might look like when they are approaching 50 years of age.


What was more interesting was that when I thought about where I was 30 years ago on this day (1985), I realized I was 17 and doing my HSC, just like my son is doing today. I pulled out the photos of me in the school quadrangle and as it is the same school as my kids go to today, they were fascinated to see their school and me in the school uniform 30 years ago, doing exactly what my son is doing today. My husband was my boyfriend back then and so there were pictures of us dating and being together in 1985. It only seemed like yesterday ...boy, does time fly.


Being a writer even back then, I pulled out letters I had written to friends and my boyfriend (my future husband), my family and generally my thoughts. I loved reading the letters/poems and getting an insight into what I was feeling 30 years ago.


We laughed and talked together as a family about what the year 2045 might look like, what wouldn’t exist?  What would NEVER change!  What we HOPE would change and where we see ourselves in 30 years. Each of us shared what we hoped for in 2045. It was special to think that the things that were most important for us ALL were family, to be happy and to love and serve God with all we have. These things need never change no matter what year it is. They are values that are timeless and they were important to us all. The children shared first and they led the way on these values. It is my daily prayer that these things never change but continue to grow in us all.


I brought out a box and some paper and we all decided we would write to each other and to ourselves to be opened in 2045. Given that there may not even be paper and pens in 2045, we thought this might be a novel idea. My Daughter will be the keeper of the sealed box until 2045 and if we are all around we will open it together. Being the writer/talker she is, her letters will be the longest so it makes sense she will oversee this process.

THEN WE WATCHED BACK TO THE FUTURE 2 TOGETHER AS A FAMILY.

It was a fun night, we talked about the future and the past, but what I loved most about it was the PRESENT. The time we spent together, the conversations, the laughs, the jokes, the listening, the jesting, the challenges, the sharing of fears and dreams, the hearing of each other’s heart, the things that were said that will be forever remembered and the memories we created around the dinner table on the 21/10/15.


Time flies by very quickly. My encouragement to you all is that you take whatever moments you can TOGETHER, be intentional, use every excuse to get together and share life. If a movie made 30 years ago, can help create a night like last night, anything can. What can you plan to do together TODAY?

Thursday, 15 October 2015

True Community


There is something precious that happens when woman of all ages hang out together and are truly comfortable with each other. It is a beautiful thing to be with girls aged 15 and woman aged 70+ for a weekend, and for there to be a spiritual connection, respect, acceptance and love between us all. As we all explored seeing Life through the eyes of a child (Mathew 18:3), the deep conversations and learning that happened for everyone in the room was amazing. There is true joy when walking through life together across the ages yet speaking the same language.
When we have eyes to see, God gives us glimpses of His love and joy and deep sacrifice. The afternoon was spent in laughter and adventure and a visual I may never get out of my head. As Laura was eating snacks she used two of the crackers to make duck bills, it was hilarious and all the girls got into the act. Then the very next morning, those same crackers were used for communion. I got the giggles to think of the visual of the night before, then a joyful smile as I felt prompted by God. I felt Him saying... “I will use the foolish things to bring glory to me. I will use the simple and the ordinary to bring not only joy and laughter, but also to cause you to remember the depths of my love.” Through the ordinary and simple, (communion) many will remember my love. And through the simple and ordinary things (me), He will fulfil His Purposes.
That morning’s worship was lead by the youngest of our group, who chose a song that has touched her heart recently, “man of sorrows”. It touched the older hearts in the room, in its words and sentiment as the song is also almost “hymn-like”, yet with the youngest, almost celtic voice (as described by one of the older ladies), her voice brought all ages together in worship to Him. There is nothing more beautiful than when the ages collide together and draw close to him. Age, gender, culture, upbringing, whether your have more or have very little, it is irrelevant in this space.
As we discovered throughout weekend, for some their childhood was full of wonderful memories, for some there were no positive memories at all. But for ALL their childhood was significant, and whether their family brought pain or joy, all was important to who they are now. For ALL, there was a time in their life, many of them when they were young, where God broke in and changed them forever. For me it was the consistent reminder of how family is a key influence for everyone. I long to see families thrive and be all that Christ desires for them. Pope Francis says “the home is the domestic church.” This particular weekend was the bringing together of the “females” in a number of domestic churches, and as we joined together there was harmony, peace, joy, acceptance and stretching.
The gift of the elders in our community is that they get the value of being, they understand the depth of God’s love and they live in a way that it naturally overflows from them. The gift of the young girls in our community is that they bring joy and passion and energy. They are empowered to question and share and they know how to really listen when wisdom speaks, and they were open. The gift of our community is that there is freedom, respect and true value and acceptance. Here God is at work. Is there any better way to spend a weekend?
My answer is YES, for when something is so wonderful, I ache for those who have never experienced this kind of love and acceptance across the ages in God’s presence. I long to see more and more households and people see that nothing is more Important. I believe God longs for this to be more than a couple of days a year, but for it to be every day, as we walk with HIM and together in TRUE community,
The sadness is that many choose NOT to walk in true community ... and they miss out.
We finished the weekend by asking the question - Is this the life-pattern you want for yourself? And how does this life-pattern affect those close to you?
My continual prayer is “How can I be a part of a movement that helps others see that within the busyness of life and the distractions that are ever present, nothing else matters but walking with HIM and others.
As God simply commands us.....
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and Love your neighbour as yourself” Luke 10:27

Thursday, 8 October 2015

HOPE-LESS?

I was excited and felt privileged to attend to a HSC drama performance dress rehearsal this year. It had been a challenging day with a few things that had, let’s say, “pushed my happiness scale,” but was looking forward to seeing some talented year 12 students perform their monologue and group pieces before they actually perform them for their HSC in a few weeks. While their talent was outstanding, I walked out of the theatre feeling more depressed and lacking a sense of HOPE. I have always believed (and still do) that the “creative arts” is a powerful medium to not only communicate the issues of our current culture but to also bring a voice into society in ways that other mediums can’t.

And while I know this was only a small cross section of pieces from one school, but it saddened me to think this even “might” be an accurate reflection of what our young people feel and believe as they venture into society as the next generation to bring about change.

Throughout the night the dramas and monologues sought to address deep issues of misogyny, abuse, marriage, motherhood, identity, politics, good and evil, drugs and sex. There was a lot of swearing, anger, laughter and vulgarity but no real HOPE or answers. It just left the audience with many questions. There was not ONE POSITIVE portrayal of marriage, relationships, government, youth or parenting and certainly nothing positive about God. I felt deeply disturbed as I left the theatre and still do today as I process my thoughts of why all I want to do right now is eat a kilo of chocolate and chips and cry.

The irony of it is that many of these students would possibly feel I was crazy to believe in God and the HOPE He brings to my life, much less the joy I feel when I join with others in community and worship Him. But I can honestly say I that can’t remember ever walking out of a gathering of Christians, be it Sunday or otherwise, and feeling as dirty and hopeless as I did last night.

It really does prove that what we allow into our Psyche can affect us. Moreover,  what we focus on or listen to creates a platform whereby it can effect what we believe or the choices we might make. I believe that is why God says it is important to be in the world and yet not of the world, because the world we are OF will influence who we become.

There are so many directions I could go from this point on. The questions fly around in my head as I ponder the issues last night has brought up for me.

Q: Who are our young people listening to?

Q: How important are the voices of older generations, those who have walked the road before, as our young people open up these issues?

Q: When we live in a post modern world where truth is relative, it is natural that these deep issues are expressed with no answers or real HOPE. The question is how can they be ok with that?

Q: How much do our young people need to expose themselves to this before they get pulled down into an abyss of anger and depression?

Q: How much do we protect and guide our young people without “cotton wooling” them into not being able to have an answer when these issues come flying into their face?

Q: Where are the role models of a BIGGER, healthier Hopeful story and why do we not see more of this in the Christian community as a light to the world?

But in your hearts honour Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15).

So with gentleness and respect and a heavy heart for the world I am in but not OF … I can only pray the words of one greater than all that I don’t understand. I know His response would be ...
Where there is NO HOPE and only questions, He says

I am the way the truth and the life (John 14:6)
I am light of the world (John 8:12)
I will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13: 5)
I have come to set you free, by giving my only son to pay the price of all sin (John 3:16)
I have come to bring life and life to the full (John 10:10)
I made you with a purpose, to give you a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11)
You are beautifully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14)
How often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing (Matthew 23:37)
There is hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began. (Titus 1:2)
But, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(Romans 8:37-39)

Thursday, 1 October 2015

How very "un-churched"

McDonalds the restaurant has fascinated me over the last decade as I have watched the incredible changes it has made to connect with its audience and meet needs in the community.  McDonalds in Australia has changed completely in the past 10 years. I would never have imagined walking into a McDonalds, looking around and seeing mainly adults enjoying a cup of coffee and sweet snack, reading a paper on soft chairs. I would never have imagined seeing other people being served at their table, a self-created burger on a lovely wooden board with French fries in a cute stainless steel basket. I would have never imagined that if I was trying to eat something that was low in calories, I could go to McDonalds and have a grilled chicken salad and it would be reasonably heathy. I would never imagined seeing a sign saying "Maccas" instead of McDonalds. I would never have imagined that McDonalds would have an add campaign like  "How Very un-McDonalds". To even admit that, let alone make it their new catch phrase, was intriguing for me. 


McDonalds has changed so much that now it is a place where not only you can take your kids for a cheap meal and a play in the playground, but the whole family can come and there is something for everyone. In effect, it has extended its clientele to just about every age group. This is very clever in business terms and I dare say in terms of profit as well, but ultimately it means more and more people, and different types of people are coming through the door. 
I have to be honest. I would very rarely choose to eat at McDonalds over other options, unless I am on a long road-trip and have no other options (now there's another blog) but I went into a McDonalds the other day, because quite frankly I was intrigued with the new advertising and the ability to create your own burger. McDonalds still has the Big Mac and happy meal, the original menu has not changed and neither has the heart of McDonalds changed and yet ... it has become "very un-McDonalds". I was surprised to see very few children and mostly adults in there at the time.

I may be crucified in saying this, but I couldn't help think that the church has a lot to learn from McDonalds. When the facts are clear that Australians are decreasingly NOT going to Church any more, and many churches are ageing and decreasing rapidly, surely we need to be asking,  as I am sure McDonalds did many years ago, how can we attract a wider clientele and meet the needs of the community, so more people will come, taste and see that the Lord is good? The church’s mission and heart has not changed over the years, but what if our new catch phrase was "How very un-churched"? 

What would that look like? What would need to change in the church, for young people to walk in and meet Jesus? What would need to change for a struggling, broken family to walk in and meet Jesus? What would need to change for someone who has all they need and can provide for themselves and their household, but still feel that they need to belong to something bigger than themselves, who long to serve and make a difference in life? What would need to change for someone who had preconceived ideas of what Church is like, for them to be open to coming into the house of God again or maybe for the very first time?

For like me just recently, I just HAD to go in and check out what was "very un-Mcdonalds" about McDonalds NOW, and I was pleasantly surprised and impressed. I just HAD to order my own 'Create your own burger' and it was a good experience. What would the Church need to do to create an environment that was "very unchurched" so that many more people would be open to walking toward Jesus's love and not stay away because of their preconceived ideas, valid or not, about the "church"?

It was very enlightening to chat to a McDonalds employee, who when asked about the new "create your own burger" promotion, crinkled her nose and said "oh, everyone hates it at work because it is too much hassle".  I can understand that feeling when the process has been a certain way for so long, to make such a change is a hassle. It is why "change" rarely happens. The thing is if the Church doesn't change there are many that simply won't exist as they are now for very long.

Jesus calls us to change, to reach out, to open doors, to do what ever it takes that they might be saved. Surely this is our calling, our mission, our quest, as leaders of the Christian faith, to do whatever it takes to break down the walls, the assumptions, the negativity that stops people from meeting Jesus firsthand, to taste and see that the Lord, (God's love) is good. I long to see people who have not been into a Church in long time, if ever, walk into a church environment and say "wow, how very un-churched". To me this means walls and assumptions and negativity are beginning to break down.  This is when people can be more open to His saving grace, love and forgiveness which has never changed, but has often been lost in translation, packaging or the communication of the church today.

If you asked these questions in your church/faith community...what would need to change?


Saturday, 12 September 2015

To live out loud, walk tall, breathe free


We set of for a weekend of camping with dear friends for a lovely “Father’s Day weekend” and there would be many that might of viewed it as the weekend from hell. We set off and got caught in deep conversations and missed the turn off to Newcastle, which sent us into the city before we could get back onto the right road to head north. But that was fine by us because we were happy to be away together and we were to busy chatting and laughing to watch where we were going.

We arrived later than expected and had 50 minutes to set up before it got dark. One of the teenagers opened the car boot and two boxes of stuff feel out and smashed all over the ground. We all laughed...The boys went to put their tent up and they had no poles.... they smirked and decided to sleep in the car. Deep down I think they were happy not to have to set up a tent at all. The other family brought one chair...luckily we brought 5, we forgot a table to cook on, luckily they brought a large one for us all to share.
 
We got the main tents up; just in time to watch the sunset, then to discover that the light we brought didn’t work and the light the other family brought was nearly out of batteries with no charger.... we laughed. But by this time, a nice cup of tea would have helped. We set up our primus to find it would not work either and the other family didn’t bring anything to cook on because they were going to use the camp kitchen at the camping ground that we just discovered we should have got the key before office hours closed.  So we would have to wait till tomorrow to use the kitchen. The other father is a chef, but he didn’t bring a sharp knife, luckily I brought two. What can you do but laugh. We did have power...but nothing much to plug into it!

The men decided to go out to the beach and find a communal BBQ to cook the meat and we made some salads by a torchlight that we knew would go out at any time. We did find one torch that could be charged so it sat charging waiting for its turn to light our space.

The boys came back and we had just finished eating and the lights went out...so candle light it would be, which set a lovely mood, we sat and chatted and laughed together. The stars were so beautiful that night, there was no wind and the candlelight was peaceful. The teens wanted to play silly “rhyming games”, the conversation was loud and the laughter was real.

The forecast was for rain all weekend so we were ready for it with a waterproof tarp over the communal eating area.  When we got up in the morning the sun was shining...so we were all excited, but we really wanted a cup of tea. We had to wait till 8.15 am to get the key, so my girlfriend decided to go knocking on caravan doors and find a jug to boil some water. She was successful, as I went to get the key to the camp kitchen, she made us all a cup of tea and then she went to give the jug back.  The chef decided to get everything ready for us to go and cook a BBQ breakfast and in his excitement, he knocked over her cup of tea. It went everywhere...through the eskies, all over the table and the breakfast ingredients...She got back and we were all laughing as we drank our cup of tea and she had none.

In all this time I can honestly say that there was no tension, mean conversations, yelling or crying. Two couples with two teenage kids each, 8 of us were simply happy to be there, together, relaxing.... no rain, sun shining, the sounds of surf in the background and two days to do nothing but relax and be together.

I am sure this should/ could be a reminder of the importance of being prepared. I know that much of what was happening didn’t need to, if we had been better prepared. But what struck me on this weekend was that it didn’t seem to matter. I loved to watch the teenagers going with the flow, problem solving on the spot with us as adults and quite frankly being quite happy without.

The day was perfect and relaxing and as night fell so did the, as promised rain. I actually love being in a tent in the rain. It feels so snugly and with the chef and his snoring next door...the rain meant that we couldn’t even hear him.  So all was well…until the rain started to drip on our head.... 2am in the morning.... the sprinkles began. The flood was coming into the front of the tent, the seams over our bed were too old to handle the heavy rain and no matter where we moved the bed to escape from the rain it found us. My husband dammed the front door, we stacked everything on top of each other to prevent as much as we could from getting really wet...put the doona over our heads to mask the drips and waited it out till morning. What else could we do? We couldn’t escape to the car; the boys were lovely and dry in there.  We couldn’t escape to the other car; the chefs’ wife was in there to escape the snoring. . Oh well, “Happy Father’s Day”.... I say! We smiled at each other and tried to get a little more sleep.

The sun rose and there was a break in the weather enough to give the men their presents, for the kids to go and cook a beautiful breakfast for us all, as we madly pulled down our dripping wet tent and threw it into the trailer. We got most things packed, before it bucketed down again. We left it all there and went and had a lovely breakfast...why not!


“Happy father’s day weekend” wasn’t quite as we planned, maybe that’s because we should have done more planning.... or maybe it really didn’t matter?

When you are with the people you love, when you don’t have an agenda, but to be together, maybe then the adventure of whatever happens is actually the fun bit! It was quality time with my family, in close quarters and not much else to distract us from being together. It was a chance to be in nature, in God’s creation, where walking, swimming and discovering is all we needed/wanted to do. The kids were saying, “Do we have to leave?” I know the feeling...life is way to full and hectic. When you get the chance to NOT plan and just GO with the flow, for me it was actually refreshing. I think that was why no one was worried about all the things that we didn’t have

Brian Mclaren says it better than I ever can:

.              “What we all want is pretty simple really. We want to be alive. To feel alive. Not just to exist but to thrive, to live out loud, walk tall, breathe free. We want to be less lonely, less exhausted, less conflicted or afraid, more awake, more grateful, more energised and purposeful.”(We make the road by walking, B. Mclaren, pg xiv, 2014.