Monday, 30 May 2016

Known and Loved

There came that moment in the office when some tidying and cleaning became necessary. To be honest, I actually enjoy ordering things, filing and tidying things up. I find it very satisfying. 

So, this day I had plenty of old files that simply needed to be thrown away. They were over 10 years old and it was just becoming a clutter in my filing cabinet. As I sorted through the files, I came to folder after folder of kid’s registration of a camp we run called ‘Southern cross kids camps”. These kids come from broken homes and are recommended to us by case workers in the government system. So much of the content of the forms is personal and private and therefore I needed to rip up (shred) each form to make sure that the details were unreadable. So that took time and as I was doing that I was seeing the names of the kids and started to remember the kids and wondered where they were and what are they doing now. Some names I remembered and could put a face to, but some were just a name to me.  As I was ripping up their details on the paper into small strips, I actually started to feel sad. The bin was getting more and more packed, filled with ripped up paper, and I was struck by sadness. 

Yes, I know this was a necessary job and it really was a functional thing I needed to do office-wise. But I was surprised how the ripping up of these children’s files and tearing up their names had such an effect on me. These children came to us damaged and broken and they often believed they were rubbish. Here I was, ripping their information up and throwing them in the bin.

In God's eyes these children mean so much more than simply being thrown into a bin to be discarded. And even though these forms were 10 years old and to me personally they were largely only a memory, if that, God still knows where they are today and is only interested in building them up and not tearing them down.

I found myself beginning to pray for them as I continued to rip up their forms, resting in the peace that even though to me they are now only a piece of ripped up paper, to God they are still His children, perfectly and wonderfully made, known and loved. 

I continued to pray that wherever these kids are today - God knows and God loves them. 

Romans 8:39 “Nothing can separate me from the love of God”

I continued to pray that whatever they are doing, they remember ‘Southern Cross Kids camps” where they learned that they are known and loved, that they are not rubbish, that He has not discarded them, they have not been forgotten, that He knows their name. His love has never changed.

You don’t have to have live long to think of all the people you have known and even loved over the years. The ones who were so close at one time in life and now you don’t even know where they are. In your world, they have been discarded. Maybe you feel like they discarded you, maybe deliberately, maybe not, maybe by necessity. Maybe it was not of your choosing, but life has simply moved on. It can all seem so pointless, so fragile, so momentary, so futile ... unless we truly are a small part of BIGGER story. A part of a story where the author always knows our name, where nothing is wasted and what we do here, although so fleeting, can have eternal value.

“Even before He made the world God loved you and chose you” (Ephesians 1:4) 

I know I am part of that bigger story, and it gives me great comfort. I know that everyone has that choice and that those we have loved and known at some point, we may get to meet again. But mostly, even though they are just a name in a bin or a distant memory to me, to God they will always be Known and Loved.

To find out more about serving in an amazing ministry to children that are loved and known by Him see

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

suffering from a "Good" heart

There is a BIG difference between a “good” heart and a “God” heart. It is just a matter of dropping an “o” when you write it, but to walk it in your daily life, takes alot more thought.
Mark 1:35-39 says... 
While it was still night, way before dawn, he got up and went out to a secluded spot and prayed. Simon and those with him went looking for him. They found him and said, “Everybody’s looking for you.”
38-39 Jesus said, “Let’s go to the rest of the villages so I can preach there also. This is why I’ve come.”
Everyone wanted Jesus. The disciples wake up to find Jesus is gone and there are people crowding the small village looking for Jesus. Their good hearts wanted to respond to the need and there was so much to do right in front of them, but Jesus says “Let’s go...for this is why I have come”. He had a “God” heart. He had spent time with God and knew what he was called to do. Yet, with people right there wanting to hear what He had to say and be healed, why didn’t He start there? It must have baffled the Disciples. I personally would have felt guilty walking away. That’s the difference between a “good” heart and a “God” heart.  
I know I suffer from it and wonder about all the things I have done in the name of a “good” heart that God actually never asked me to do.  A good heart can be swallowed by needs and we end up doing things we are not asked to do, but worse, that we are not “called” to do.
Knowing what God calls you to do, is not something I have found to be always easy to navigate. Knowing His commands is pretty straight forward, but walking with Him and hearing His voice is quite another. I have sought to hear His voice for most of my life and as I reflect back on my life, I wonder how many times I have got it wrong. It is understandable that when in doubt, we default to simply doing the “good’ thing. So we choose to serve with a “good” heart and with the best of intentions. I don’t think God punishes us for that, in fact He can bring “good” out of anything, but we mustn’t be fooled into thinking that even the best of people can’t be taken out by a “good” heart. If the enemy can’t distract you with addiction, or sin, or laziness, or apathy he will keep you busy doing all the “good” things you can so you can’t do what God actually called you to do. 
The hardest thing about the “God” heart, is that it is not often very logical, so some things  God calls us to do, can seem not to be the “good” or even “wise” thing to do.  We admire those in the Bible who serve with a “God” heart, but would we make the same choice if in their situation?  Abraham taking his son to the altar, David not killing Saul when he had the chance, Daniel being thrown in the lion’s den because he would not bow down to the King’s Idol, Joseph helping the butler and the butcher and still ending up in jail, Ananias going to see Saul who killed Christians on sight, Paul being thrown in jail for refusing to stop talking about Jesus. The list goes on, the difference between a “good” heart and a “God” heart makes a HUGE difference to what we “DO” and “DO NOT” do.  The only way we can walk this path is to learn to listen to HIS voice. And yet many of time I have heard someone say “God told me,” and personally I have wondered what planet they are on.  Yet, if I am honest, I have so many doubts as I reflect on my past. I have wondered how many times I have suffered from the “good “ heart . My prayer is that I so don’t want to be taken out by a “good” heart, but rather live long and make choices out His heart, a “God” heart.

I am thankful for the words of Thomas Merton who is not only much older and wiser than me and yet still prayed....
“My lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me.  I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself. And the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in everything I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire and I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road. ... I will not fear for you are ever with me.”
Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude

Monday, 16 May 2016

Gathered in His name

The door opens and they drift in over time. Some bring much, some bring nothing, some bring home cooked , some bring frozen, some come late. All is acceptable and appreciated and there is always an abundance.
Some come expectant, some come ready to give, some walk in hesitant and others not sure. Some are completely oblivious to what is going on at any time and some create warmth and love wherever they go. All is acceptable and appreciated and there is always abundance.
It is the smile across the table, the comfort of a hug, it is sometimes the conversations and then sometimes simply the silence. It is listening to natter that is important for someone to voice, and then other times a pointed conversation that guides and challenges. It is knowing that whatever you bring to this safe place, there will be above all, acceptance, grace and love.
There are teens who cancel other opportunities to choose to be there. There are singles who find family when we are together. There are grandparents who love to be with the energy of youth and young people who love to make the elderly laugh. Where the widow is not only embraced, but highly valued and cared for. Where men truly listen and speak into the young men’s lives about things that matter. Where the woman teach us by the way they live out their lives with grace and humility, in the simple things of being fantastic cooks to the complexity of life’s pressing issues. They don’t all huddle together in their own age groupings, for they long to connect with everyone. There are no devices at the table, just the desire to engage, eat and share their week together.
It is simply a Sunday afternoon in my house. I love to open my house to the faith community I belong to and sit back and watch God enter as we commune with Him and each other. It is our act of worship and prayer. There was no formality, no official words… but God was there. He was glorified and we were all uplifted by being together. He brought peace, filled our tummies and souls and we are stronger by being together.
“Whatever you do in a state of love, communion, connection and union with God and others is prayer.”           
(R Rohr)
It is a prayer beyond 2 dimensional words. It is 4 or 5 dimensional. I could not manufacture this, nor could I create this, plan or organise it. The only thing I am asked to do is to open the door of my house. The only thing we are asked to do is to walk through the door, bringing what we have, big, small or nothing at all, but simply come. It is when we come, He meets us.
It has been said “Ït takes a village to raise a child”. I agree! But who decides what the village looks like? To be honest if the church doesn’t don’t take the question of “who decides what the village looks like?” seriously, then we can’t complain when someone else does. So, when 50,000 young people are leaving the church per year, when are we going to consider what the village must look like? Well, I know what type of village I want to be a part of and this Sunday was a reflection of what it means to live in a village that reflects His love. It is a village I have seen raise my children. There is nothing flash about it, it will never make the news, or probably draw thousands, but it will draw those who want to, to live deeply together and in Him.
My greatest and only sadness of that day was those who did not come, those who cannot come, those who will not come, those who are too busy to come, those who don’t accept His invitation to commune and pray together. My prayer is for us in this faith community, that we never take for granted what He continues to bless us with and that we never hide it and conceal it, for He calls us to share this love wherever we go. We are simply called to “open the doors” and “open the eyes of our heart”, acknowledge and thank Him for our time together, which gives us strength to be His light in a world that longs for acceptance, love and grace.  
For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Matthew 18:20)

Monday, 9 May 2016

I didn't sign up for this?

I went to a wedding on the weekend where they had written their own vows. It was very real and raw and after a series of beautiful statements and some challenging ones they said “even when you disappoint me”. I noticed there was a bit of an awkward giggle in the crowd, led by a loud outburst from one of the groomsman, as the statement clearly took him by surprise and it certainly left an impression on me. Don’t misunderstand me it was a stunning wedding and the couple were deliriously in love, but as I have pondered over this the past few days, I was very encouraged to hear a young couple start their marriage journey stating that they know it is going to have its tough moments as well as it’s wonderfully joyful ones.

Marriage is always very challenging, especially in the first year and it is natural when we disappoint each other or even feel like it is all falling apart to think “hey, I didn’t sign up for this?”. But, to put it bluntly ... Yes, we did. We stand at the altar and speak out our vows and state our commitment to each other in sickness and in heath, for richer or for poorer. We say these vows in the romantic space of a wedding ceremony, as a bride looking beautiful in our dream dress; lovingly gazing into the eyes of the one we love, never imagining at that moment that he could disappoint me or that I would disappoint him. We never expect that months into a marriage these vows will actually be tested.

According to Mark McCrindle,” The rate of marriages has dropped by over 40 per cent since 1968.” I sense that many today are choosing to not go on this adventure at all. They are making the decision not to sign up at all. So in this climate I understand many choose to run, escape, or quit. I understand when things get tough why couples who feel like it is all falling apart might feel like “this is not what they signed up for!”. It is in these spaces that our commitment is not only stretched but also has the potential to be strengthened. The sad thing is the number of relationships today that don't get past this space to see the beauty that comes from riding the storms together.

If we go into any relationship, be it marriage, work, friendship, a faith community, having a child, being a family etc... Without our eyes wide open to what we actually signed up for ...we set the relationship up for failure. 

This newly married couple were brave enough to aim to start with a realistic view of what was ahead. It seems to me the only way we can begin to tackle these mountainous challenges is to start by acknowledging that this is what it is, a big adventure that will have many challenges and as many high points. 

One of my kids' favourite stories when they were children was "We're Going on a Bear hunt." It would continually say ..."We're going on a bear hunt, we're going to catch a big one. What a beautiful day, we're not scared"... and then as they ventured out and they came across obstacle after obstacle after obstacle they would say..."we can't go over it, we can't go under it. Oh No, we've got to go through it" ... and off they would go, facing each obstacle head on each time. If only life was as easy as a kids’ story book. 
"We're Going on a bear hunt" by Micheal Rosen

I mean who “chooses” to go looking for bears with such joy and determination, knowing full well it is dangerous and will be challenging? And yet the truth remains; relationships, especially marriage, is one big adventure, and we will face obstacle after obstacle if we are going to go for the BIG one. Like the book, we need to venture out knowing exactly what we signed up for, expecting obstacle after disappointment after frustration and together choosing to go through them. All worthwhile adventures have them. We can't go under them, we can't go over them, oh no, we just have to go through them. It is only when we go through them that we have a better chance of catching the BIG one. 

After 28 short years of marriage, I can attest to it all, and that it is definitely worth going through it all, even though there have been many times when I have felt like… "I didn't sign up for this!"

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Tammy Tolman : If you could walk a mile in my shoes

NEW BLOG : If you could walk a mile in my shoes: I was in a situation recently where I wasn't leading at a camp but simply observing from the outside. It was a camp for troubled kids ...

If you could walk a mile in my shoes

I was in a situation recently where I wasn't leading at a camp but simply observing from the outside. It was a camp for troubled kids and their behaviour was very disturbing at times. This is not unusual, as I have been directing camps like this for over ten years now. What surprised me was my internal reaction to what I was observing. 

It is so easy to make assumptions, to think you know better and even to make judgements when you sit on the sidelines and observe. And it is not something I am very proud of. But I realised how differently everything is seen when you are in thick of it, emotionally invested and willing to take a responsible role in the running of such an event, which means taking responsibility for what is happening, both good and bad. In all my years of working with children and people, I do know that “There is always a reason why we behave the way we do.” I teach all the time the importance of looking beyond the misbehaviour for the cry for help and yet I so easily broke my own rules as I piously sat on the sidelines, trying to control my emotions of frustration and judgement. 

Then I wondered how many other times in life could this be true? We may watch other parents and make assumptions. We can see or read something about other churches or ministries and make judgements. We even observe other people's choices and behaviour at times and, without knowing the full story, it is so easy to watch from a distance and "throw stones" as the saying goes. I wonder how aware we are that we are doing it! 

I love living and doing life in an “Intergenerational Faith Community.” Living and doing life within our faith community has bonded us all in special ways and with that special bond comes a love and grace to know each other, the good and the bad and ugly, and still to choose to walk together, as we desire to grow more and more like Him. I understand that others standing on the outside may see it differently. I have often wondered why more people don't want to join this kind of community. Yet, I understand why many find this threatening and choose to sit on the sidelines, possibly just attend a service on a Sunday, not get too close to many. But I wonder if that makes it too easy to find themselves like me, making judgements from the sidelines. It is easier to do, after all. It does not require any sacrifice or cost to me personally to live in such a way. I often hear people say to me: “I am a Christian, but I am not connected to any Church.” I get it. I understand it, but without trying to be judgemental, I don’t believe it is God’s design or the model we see from Jesus when He walked this earth. 

As the saying goes, "if you could walk a mile in my shoes..." I wonder how differently we would live if we could really understand and empathise with others. I was challenged by this as I realised how easy it was to simply sit back, watch and commentate from the sidelines. But actually, Jesus calls us to walk closely with others, to jump in boots and all and walk more than a mile in other peoples’ shoes. It is only when we do that that we have the right to make a difference, an opportunity to truly help and as we do we can’t help but be transformed in the process. 

So I say... Get off the sidelines and into the actual game. Get off your Soapbox and start to do something about it. Get off the comfortable pew and "walk a mile in someone else's shoes," and watch what a difference it makes to you and those around you.