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?