Thursday, 25 June 2015

Who was the real "neighbour:?


I am sure I am not the only one that has gone to the shop with the intention of buying one thing and coming back out with an armful. Today I had a good excuse, there was a great deal on kid’s crafts and I got a huge box full for an upcoming camp with 70% off. What I forgot was that my car was parked far away, but I was so excited about the deal, I felt like superwoman and was determined to carry them to the car anyway. About half way, I realised I probably was a little bit hasty in thinking I had the strength to do this. The box was awkward in size and meant I probably looked like an accident waiting to happen as I walked down the street, but I persevered as I continued to reveal in the great deal I had scored. 

While stopped at the lights, a man said to me, “Have you read the Word today?” Holding a tract and very keen to give it to me, I smiled and said, “No thanks”. But he persisted. I am not sure how he thought I was supposed to take the tract from him, but I could tell he was not going to take, “No” for answer. The “no walk” sign still shining so he had me cornered. I decided to pull out the “Christian” card and said, “Thanks, I am a Christian.” Immediately it became clear that this was not going to stop him either as he continued to question me further. I jostled the box backward and forward trying to showing him that I was actually struggling with my load. The light finally went green and I was able to escape further conversation, thank goodness. 

Arriving at the next intersection, I could see my car, the end was in sight, when an older lady walked up to me and asked me if she could help me with the box. I explained that my car was only a few more metres away and thanked her very much for her offer. She made me smile, what a lovely gesture on her behalf. 

This reminded me of the religious scholar who asked Jesus for a sure fire ticket to eternal life. This man had clearly read the Scriptures and knew it read, “Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence—and that you love your neighbour as well as you do yourself.”(Luke 10: 28-29) “Good answer!” said Jesus. “Do it and you’ll live.” Looking for a loophole, the scholar asked, “And just how would you define ‘neighbour’?”

Jesus proceeded to tell the story of the Good Samaritan, a story many people still know well, but probably need to live out much more in our daily life. Today, that lady on the street was my neighbour and she probably wasn’t even a Christian. I am part of a movement called “Here2stay” that seeks to look at what it means to help people become lifelong disciples of Jesus. It has been said of Here2Stay (here2stay.org.au) that its focus is too much on DOING and not enough on The Gospel as WORD. We emphatically believe that both are important. I love God’s Word and all it teaches and encourages me, but today reminded me of how important DOING can be to daily life. How easy is it to stand and exhort people to read God’s Word but miss the opportunities to show love in very practical ways.  

We talk about INFORMATION + FORMATION = TRANSFORMATION

They are both important. Some may disagree with me, but I think the church has focused too much on INFORMATION and too little on FORMATION. Both are needed for TRANSFORMATION but the lady who was willing to simply lend her hand and help me, exemplified Christ to me. Through her actions she not only brought a smile to my face, but reminded me of what type of TRANSFORMED disciple I want to be. Would I have done the same if I saw ME struggling down the road with a big box? Or would I have just walked on by? As I sit and write this, I am aware that I can easily and very happily sit in the comfort of my room upstairs at home and read and study God’s Word, write blogs and messages to speak out God’s word as Gospel. Can I easily fall into the trap of becoming like the man on the corner asking people have they read the WORD today and miss the chances to BE Christ to those I encounter.

If we are going to see TRANSFORMATION in people’s lives, it must start first in us. What kind of neighbour are you? In a world that needs God’s love and “Word” more than ever, how can we be a part of the TRANSFORMATION we long to see?

To read more about what it means to be "Here2stay"…….click this link.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Parenting with the end in mind


My son turned 18 this year. A rite of passage that is to be celebrated. And we did celebrate it in a number of ways, but there was one thing that we shared as a family that was one of the most precious moments for me of his actual birth-day.

The kids landed on our bed at 8 am in the morning this morning.  They have done this for many years when they were little but that did not happen that often nowadays. Usually it was because they wanted their presents.

But that was not the reason this morning. For 17 years Sam has been waiting to open his “time capsule”.

At the age of 1 we had a dedication with family and close friends at our house. We asked those that came to pray for us and stand with us as parents and would THEY be willing to walk with our child on his “life” journey. We asked each person if they wanted to put something into the time capsule that he would open when he was 18 and today was the day.

Secretly I was hoping it wasn't going to be an anti-climax for him as I couldn't even remember what was in the capsule myself.

Before he opened it I read from a diary I have been writing for Sam since he was only 10 weeks in my tummy, the kids love to hear stories from it over the years. This first entry spoke about the fact that even before he was born he was loved.

Then Sam opened the capsule. In it was, his first dummy, his first ball, his first jumpsuit, his first shoes and his ultrasound picture.  Then there were letters and notes from the people who were present. Sam was like a child again as we all re-lived moments and memories, we laughed and told stories and then he opened a letter from his grandma (Dave's mum) who had passed a couple of years ago.

She wrote that she knew she wouldn't be here to celebrate this special time but she thanks him for the joy he brought to her life and that she will see him in heaven. Well, we all lost it emotionally at that point and cried together, but what a precious message from beyond the grave. A collision with his grandparent, even one that had passed away.

There were many precious stories and letters from people who are still in his life, some have moved far away, others are still close by and others who thought they wouldn't be alive but are...but what a special morning to share together.

Sometimes speaking into a person’s life doesn't have to be a hard thing to do, sometimes it takes simply writing a few intentional thoughts on a piece of paper. Sometimes it is consistently being there, or simply taking any opportunity to have a party with good friends.  It is Intentionally marking moments and always having the “end in mind”. The wonderful thing is that this was a moment for us all, not just Sam, we will all remember that morning for a long time. It takes a little long-term thinking of setting things in place that can create moments that can become anchors for the whole family for a lifetime. On this day, although 17 years in the making, showed SAM that he was always loved and that he will always be. Our prayer as parents is that he will always have these moments where ever he goes, that they may keep him anchored in “love” for where ever he may sail next.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Mentoring with Jesus 101



A few of Jesus disciples were back fishing only a week after Jesus had died and risen again and had even appeared to them.  It is natural to go back to what you know when you are not sure of the future and stick to what is familiar.  Our human nature will do this even when it is very destructive for us. It is during these times of uncertainty that the right mentoring and coaching is vital to anyone’s life. 

So the disciples are fishing, they have gone back to what is known, what is sure, can I even say…. “easy”.  It seems to be an acceptable thing to do, to go and get a job, provide for your family and try to make ends meet especially after three years of travelling with the “miracle man” was over.   It is interesting that this is even after they have seen Jesus in the upper room and they know He has risen.  I would have thought this would have been a time when they would have been the MOST excited about the future. I wonder if they were a little scared.   They were forging into new territory and were not sure what it all meant; so they went back to what was familiar.

Peter must have been carrying a big dose of guilt and shame and the prospect of facing Jesus, his master and mentor would not have been easy after all that happened only a week ago.  However Jesus shows himself to be a caring, loving mentor and makes a very strong point by his deliberate actions.  He does not lecture, or lay out a guilt trip or start a condemning conversation.   It is often in what is NOT said, even if tempted to do so, that qualifies a good mentor or coach.   When I ask our kids if we can have a chat with them, their first response is often, "What have I done wrong now?" Boy, have I failed in mentoring 101!

Jesus is strong yet gentle, firm yet loving, strong on actions and symbolism, rather than put downs and “Ï told you so”. He says, “Did you catch anything for breakfast?” (John 21:5)  When the response is “NO”, he doesn’t say, “Well that’s because you shouldn’t be here......what the heck do you think you are doing?”  He says, “Try the other side”. The nets are suddenly full reminding them of an incredible visual of the first time they meet Jesus. It shows that He will provide our basic needs if we trust him. His actions may have even wanted to let them know “If you want to go back to fishing, I will still look after you.”  I do believe he was also recreating an experience of when He first said called them to become “fishers of men”.  This was an anchor point that would ground Peter in his ultimate calling.

What visuals, actions, experiences and anchors are you creating for those you mentor that help them stay the course?    I believe God creates these all the time for his disciples and maybe our call as mentors and coaches is to bring people back to this place time and time again in various ways.

Peter knew who the stranger on the beach was. I love the fact that Peter jumps out of the boat immediately at a time when he could  have felt like he couldn’t possibly face the One he had let down so badly.  Instead he runs to Him!  This challenges me as a coach and mentor, as I find often when people feel that they have messed up they try to avoid me. There is so much I need to learn from the way Jesus mentored and coached his disciples.

Jesus ever so gently, but firmly, addresses the “elephant in the room” or more correctly on the beach. Jesus chooses to address what must have been an awkward situation, head on.   He does it by breaking bread with them and sharing it, just like he did the night before he died. He uses symbolism, past experiences and reminders to create an environment that allows a “safe” conversation. There is something powerful about breaking bread together. As coaches we can create rituals and moments shared over and over again that become safe places, anchor points and places of trust where difficult and constructive conversations can be had. 

Three times Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me?” (John 21:15-21)  There are so many layers to this conversation however the layer that challenges me most as a coach and mentor is the manner in which He makes his point without “over saying” it or heaping on the guilt.  He knows when NOT to tell a story, a parable or a life lesson but rather by His simple actions and questions, over a simple breakfast, He releases Peter to move on and leave the past behind. Through His love, Jesus empowers Peter to leave his past failures behind and move forward.  What should our focus be on as coaches and mentors? What do people hear from us?  Most of us are acutely aware of our own fears and failures, we don’t often need to hear or feel them again from someone else.   What we need is to sense the love and grace that empowers us to move through them and know that we are not alone in that process.

Jesus finished the breakfast with the call, “Follow me.”  Peter immediately loses focus and asks about someone else and what is going to happen to them and Jesus replies, “Don’t you worry about them, you simply follow me”.  The call has never changed even though at times there will be uncertainty, dark nights and empty nets. Others will fall away, get distracted and stop following.  Opportunities and old habits will be tempting and we may trip over, but a coach and mentor walks with you through it all and helps anchor you to the call.  We all need this type of coach/mentor.  We all need to be this type of coach/mentor to others.

“If each new generation of disciples follows this example, centuries from now apprentices will still be learning the way of Jesus from mentors, so they can become mentors for the following generations”
(B. McLaren, We Make The Road By Walking, pg 219)

Thursday, 4 June 2015

It is good for us to be here....


When Jesus went up onto a mountain peak to encounter God, Peter’s first response was to say, “It is good for us to be here.” (Matthew 17:4)  His next statement was, “Shall I build a tent (tabernacle/a tradition/temple) here?”  He never got an answer.  Being in the very presence of God stopped him from talking.  All he and his friends could do was fall to the ground knowing that they were in His Holy Presence.  All they could do was tremble. The experience was such that as they were coming down from this place, Jesus urged them not to talk about this for a while. 

This peak experience was not something they could have manufactured, planned or created. They certainly couldn’t re-schedule or make a revival or a tradition out of, in and again; heck they weren’t even able to talk about it.   However, it did happen and it was a formative piece in their discipleship journey.

Like many of us, I long for moments like this and I tell myself that I long to stay and live there in these experiences.   It is interesting that when Peter went to speak and share his excitement, he was silenced by God’s Presence. All he was able to do was throw himself onto the ground, facedown.  Often the challenge with peak experiences is that they are your experience and are very hard to explain to others. It reinforces the fact that each of us must have our own. There is a danger when we endeavour to make a formula out of our experience.   We have been known to create a service, a prayer sequence, a space where God is moving, that people can attend and get the same experience we had there.  I wonder what Jesus would say about that? Remember when Peter was about to do the same he was silenced! I can just hear him thinking, “If we put up a tent/shrine here then others can come, touch this space and they will sense God like we have.  This will help others know God is real. This will validate our ministry and all that Jesus has been saying.”  BUT he was silenced and asked not to speak about it again for a while.  We need to be careful that our peak personal experiences don’t become a formula that gives us validation to lead others.

Very quickly they knew it wasn’t about them and their depth of spirituality because when they got to the bottom of the mountain they weren’t even able to help someone in need. When they asked Jesus why not he answered them, “How long will I put up with you? You have so little faith!”  The peak experience was all about God revealing who He was and so little about them.   They must have found it very sobering to come down from a PEAK experience very quickly.....or did they?

Peter said, “It is good for us to be here”, and it makes sense that we would want to manufacture, re-visit of create spaces where we have peak experiences with God all the time. But another question could be are we seeking the wrong experiences? I hear so many people talk about not “feeling God” or not feeling like God is not there. We long for the amazing, the “wow” factor that makes us feel all gooey inside. We comprehend  this passage as Jesus and the disciples having to come down from the mountain, implying that we can’t stay up on the mountain. But do we fail to see that it was at the bottom of the mountain, in the real world that Jesus was able to heal the boy before their eyes. Is this not also a peak experience?  Is this not just as “formative” in their faith formation?   Seeing that Jesus has the power to heal and being confronted with the fact that their faith was lacking. At this low time is where reality hits.  It’s not about them it is about God. Is this not a peak experience? Seeing someone healed, seeing Jesus changing lives, realising that is not about us and what we can and cannot do, but all about who God is and what He does! Can it even be a peak experience to be rebuked by Jesus?  It is said that “whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” and we know that when we are weak He is strong. These times might be low times personally, but they can be peaks when we learn that we are a part of a greater story.  We can’t do the impossible, but we serve a powerful God and He can!

As we follow Peter’s life through the Gospels it is one big rollercoaster of “highs” and “lows”.  But I would rather call them ALL peak experiences, moments where God was revealed for who He is, where Peter’s faith was formed and grew in preparation for him to become the “rock” that God built His church upon.

We must be careful of seeking out “peak” experiences.  God wants to meet us anywhere, anyhow, anytime.  Often we can’t plan them and find them difficult to describe or explain to others. I believe God longs for EVERYONE to have their own experience.  I believe they are life changing, personally formative and necessary for the lifelong journey with God. I believe we must keep our eyes open, hearts soft and seek FIRST the kingdom of God and peak experiences will be all around you.

Q: Are you open and expectant for God to reveal himself daily? Q: Are you teaching and leading others to be open and expectant for God to walk with them daily?
For more reading on Encounters with Jesus and Peak experience's go to....Here2stay.org.au