Have we lost our manners? I blame the Mobile Phone !

So this  blog may cause some fireworks !

In the last few years  I have noticed an alarming decline in old-fashioned manners . Now maybe its just my friends or the Northern Beaches of Sydney – perhaps too much time in the ocean has water-logged our brains. I fear its wider spread than that though , I blame the mobile (cell) phone !

Here are a few examples of things that have happened to me or people I know, that show the state of affairs I am talking about . (I may have no friends after this post – however the people who think they are the culprits never are )

  • A friend was cooking dinner for 40 people and some people who had RSVP’d – YES – didn’t come – no text, no call , nothing !
  • Texting to say you are leaving the house at the time when you had agreed to meet, when the place you had agreed to meet is 40 minutes from your house !
  • Not RSVPing at all – I blame FaceBook for this one. Who invented the Maybe button on an Event – really !!!
  • Getting a  better offer!! Now single friends know that a date with Mr or Mrs Dreamboat means we can all be flicked – but apart from that or meeting the Queen/Prince William and Kate/ Brad Pitt/ George Clooney / or Free Coldplay tickets  – is it really a better offer when you hurt a friend ?
  • Texting a regrets on dinner an hour before – yes we all love left-overs – but this can be an expensive one!

You get the drift. Why do I blame the mobile phone ?

I blame the mobile  phone because it enables us to text when before we would have had to call and speak to a person and hear their disappointment or anger that we were not coming to an event. We also had to show up where and when we said we would because otherwise people would be waiting with no clue about what was going on, feeling anxious and stressed about our well-being.

Am I blameless in this – of course I am not. I have done some of these things too. (Sorry Zack Evans if you are reading this)

It is still not right.

As many of you who read my blog are pursuing leadership of some kind or another – this will really undermine people’s respect for you .

We need to be people who let our yes be yes and our no be no. We need to stick to our commitments even when they require sacrifice. We need to learn how to say no up front as well so we don’t end up in situations where we are pulling out of many things last-minute because we have overcommited  and are exhausted.

There are always circumstances we can’t avoid –  illness, emergencies etc etc – which cause us to legitimately have to pull out of things. I recently had to say no to a funeral of a dear friend’s father because my Mum needed to go to the doctor urgently.

However very rarely are the circumstances so bad we can’t at least send a text or make a call !

Let be people of our word, who respect other people enough to communicate!

Lets also keep having grace for people who do these things – we can only work on ourselves !

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Reducing Stress in 2017

So another year begins and many of us love a fresh start to reset and hopefully do things a bit better than we did in 2016.

If I am honest I realised that I didn’t deal that well with the normal end of year stress in 2016 for a variety of reasons. (Hence the absence of my blog !)

If you are like me, you want to find a way to live with less stress and every year you come up with a new strategy – often for me  which involves sitting on a beautiful beach for hours, great plan but not always achievable.

I have just returned from a few weeks holiday (vacation) and I did just that – lots of chilling , on beaches or by the harbour. While I was relaxing one of the books I was reading was the  The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp . I can’t remember the last time I cried as much in a non fiction book . This book has much to say – and much that is challenging me . However as I process the challenges there is one thing that stands out to me right now .

Its Chapter Nine called the Miracle in Your Pocket that Breaks Stress.

In this Chapter, the Yale and UCLA study on Acts of Kindness is unpacked.

Turns out one way to reduce your stress is to do  a small act of generosity for some-one else ! Apparently overall we do one or two acts of kindness a day as a matter of course but when we increase this at all,  we see a tangible benefit to our well-being . Helping behaviours seem to lower stress. ( CBS Report of UCLA/ Yale study )

I love that science is showing us what the Bible has told us for centuries in so many verses –  here is a favourite “A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” Prov 11.25.

I know we still need to exercise, eat well. delegate better, turn off emails at night etc etc to reduce stress  – but it turns out we can also just do a simple act of kindness to another person, once more than usual, in a day and we will feel better. I love it ! What a classic win/win.

Before we get too sincere and want to only give to others without benefit to ourselves lets consider our design.

What if we are created in the image of the God who IS love – and that love is expressed in giving?

What if the God of the Universe created us to be giving beings?

What if the only way we really function in a healthy way is when we are being kind and giving?

What if giving to some-one else takes our eyes off our own problems long enough for us to see a solution, hear the still small voice or reconnect with the Prince of Peace?

Imagine a world where everyone just did one more act of generosity a day, a world with reduced stress and increased kindness (little John Lennon I know but bear with me), sounds to me like a world where the Kingdom of God is increasing.

Its simple and basic I know – but isn’t it the loveliest way of reducing stress in 2017?

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#Blessed – What does it mean ?

Lately I have had quite a few conversations with people who’s lives have not followed the traditional pathways. They have followed Jesus into incredible adventures and callings but they have not ended up with a spouse, three kids and a their own home. (or some combination thereof)

There is some regret and sadness in this that is very real – however I wonder if  much of it is caused by our perception of #blessed.

Now I am not picking on people who use #blessed to describe the amazing things in their lives. I know they are expressing gratitude and a humility that understands that every good gift comes from above.

It does cause me to ponder though on what we perceive as a blessed life.

I also wonder how much this is shaped by the Australian/American/ “Add in your western nation’s” dream – and very little to do with a life following Jesus.

Now I am also not saying that a  financially blessed traditional life is not the will of God (heck that would be hypocritical as I part own the gorgeous house you see in this post ) .

However I am wondering what blessed means in a new way.

Jesus said some fairly outrageous things about #blessed . Things like “Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted” Blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God “.

I am far from figuring this out – but I am on a journey to discover what does #blessed actually mean.

Can #blessed feed into i-will-be-happy-when/ ?

I am wondering if we settle for a traditional life  and we don’t risk it all for the adventure sometimes.

I am wondering if we allow the external #blessed to satisfy when the internal journey of becoming pure in heart is what we need.

Golly  these are all very deep thoughts for a Thursday night – and I don’t really have an answer yet .

However this I know. I want to understand more what a Jesus blessed life looks like.

On thing I am sure of – it looks different for every person and is attached to their calling and purpose and the journey in their heart to see God.

Stay tuned !

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I will be Happy when …….

I have often fallen into the trap when pastoring people and when dealing with my own life to think that if some external circumstances change happiness will follow.

However the older I get the more I realise that happiness is fleeting and contentment is not based on external circumstances.

Now I am not talking about tragic or incredibly difficult situations. These obviously effect our emotional well-being. As does chronic pain, mental health problems, isolation and long term stress.

However I know that as a younger believer I was often  thinking that when X happens I will be content, then life will be good.

These days,  I often have students in my office upset because they thought that by 21 they would be married, or the next Darlene Zschech or –  add in your own dream or goal.

There is nothing wrong with having goals and dreams, however they cannot be the source of our contentment.

We have to learn how to find purpose and contentment no matter what circumstance we are in. If we don’t we will spend our lives chasing the next thing, and nothing will ever satisfy.

I get the angst. Being in my 50’s and being single is not what I dreamed for my life. However one day after a lot of tears I realised – in the words of Joshua in the Old Testament – that life and death stood before me- and I had a choice.

I could stay in bed and  be miserable and depressed or I could stand up and choose life.

I decided that I wanted to choose life. I wanted to be content where I was and not wait for some-one or something  else to happen to make me enjoy my life.

I was going to acknowledge the tough parts of the circumstances but heck I was going to enjoy my life. I was going to work really hard to find the secret of being content no matter what the circumstances.

We all have bad days, but we have to be careful we don’t believe the lie that we will be happy when … when we get the new job, the new house, the new whatever. (Mind you some new boots right now would honestly make a big difference 🙂 )

Contentment knows that we have been graced by God for the season we are in. That this grace is enough for us. Contentment comes from a heart that is grateful what we have and is not constantly comparing our lives to everyone else’s gorgeous Instagram photos !

I know its not easy – believe me we have to fight to stay content – however its a great place to get to . I am so inspired by the Apostle Paul who was content in shipwrecks, floggings and stonings, as well as then he was feted and abundantly looked after !  When I grow up I want to be like him !

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What I learned about Grace from the Snow

So I am not naturally athletic. I started to learn to ski at 16 and it took me about 20 years to get it. Ask Josh Kelsey, who as a 12 year old ended up skiing with me one day in Massachusetts . Every single time we got off the chair lift I crashed and I took him with me. He would be so patient, coaching me – “this time you are going to make it Pam” – yeah I never did.

The problem was we were skiing on ice. And the problem I had whenever I went skiing was that I skied in icy conditions. Ice is very unforgiving. You fall on it and it hurts.

A few years later I had the joy of going to the stunning, Crested Butte in Colorado with family and friends. Every morning it snowed. Every afternoon we skied on a foot of fresh powder. Powder is very forgiving, you fall into it and it doesn’t hurt.

Here is what happened to me – I finally got skiing. I am never going to be brilliant at skiing , however by the end of the week I was skiing from the top of the mountain with my brother and sister -in-law.

I got it, because I could make a mistake, fall over, and it didn’t hurt like hell !

The powder meant I didn’t worry about falling and so I wasn’t afraid to make mistakes, and so I got better. Instead of creeping down the hill terrified of falling I was free to have fun, and learn . (My brother shouting instructions from chair lifts above, like the voice  God, me also helped !)

Recently I have made some mistakes. Sometimes I have encountered grace from people. It feels like falling into powder – I am still on the ground, but I fell into something soft that meant I have been able to get back up unscathed and carry on.

I have also encountered a lack of grace. It felt like crashing onto ice, not only was I embarrassed by my mistake, but it hurt and damaged my heart.

I have also been around people extending very little grace to others. It feels sharp and brittle.

Grace doesn’t say its OK that you keep falling down, but it creates the environment, that enables you to get back up, keep trying until you don’t fall as much.

We have all been forgiven much, so surely we need to be people who extend grace. Grace does not say ” keep messing up” . It says “we all mess up, let me help you up”.

One of my favourite Jesus moments is Jesus with the woman caught in adultery. He asked her where her accusers where after they had left and then he said to her  – “Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more”.

She fell into powder that day – and it changed her life!

I want to be a person who creates powder for people – I know I am often ice – and I don’t like it. How about you ?

(If you would like to get content like this  in your email regularly and never have to look for it on social media again – just put your email address in  the subscribe section . My goal is to help you avoid some of the mistakes I have made and to encourage you on your journey, to be real and to be helpful!)

I’m Doing Something I never Thought I would Do and I like it !

I am not only doing something I never thought I would do, but I am also doing something to be really honest I have  judged other people for doing !

I am doing something I thought was for people who are spiritual light weights – or people who have no freedom and flexibility.

OK so lets start at the beginning of this story!

About a month ago I was at the C3 Service Manly Connect Group I run at Frankie and Ben Dawes home. (They are incredible hosts, every time we meet and eat dinner the table looks like its set for Christmas.)

One week Ben Dawe wanted us to watch an interview between Bono and Eugene Peterson on the Psalms . I am a serious U2 fan who has seen them live in my 20’s, 30’s and 40’s, our connection is deep. Also having been an early adopter of the Message for my personal reading – I knew this interview would be good – and it was.

Somehow in the midst of the interview I started to wonder if there was a Devotional by Eugene Peterson, and the thought was still there 2 weeks later. So I google searched it , then opened my Amazon account and with one click, it is on my various Apple devices.

I have become one of those Christians who reads a devotional as their regular Bible reading ! To be honest I am shocked.

I thought devotionals were for people who were not serious about studying the Bible. I thought they were for people who liked to be locked into a rigid schedule . I thought they were for people who didn’t want the Spirit to guide them and lead them.

Turns out I am incredibly wrong – and was very judgmental (again !)

This devotional is the perfect thing for me right now in my life. I am learning things from the Bible and pondering things I haven’t in a long time. It has also refreshed my connection with the Word of God – and totally separated my “work” class prep Bible reading from my personal reading. ( It might help that I don’t have to fill in a little booklet with lines- my scrappy left-handed handwriting never worked well with those. It also doesn’t have dates so if I miss a day, I don’t mess up the schedule and feel guilty.)

It is working for me. Devotionals may never work for you but trying something new frequently will.

We all need to stay open to new experiences in every area of our lives. This really is only a small one which only cost me $12 and one click. However if I had have stayed locked in my judgments I would have missed out on something pretty special.

I wonder how many other areas of our lives God is trying to lead us into new and wonderful places but we have decided for a multitude of reasons “I don’t do that!”

Now I am starting to get convicted about other things “I don’t do”  – so better sign off quickly !!

(If you would like to get content like this  in your email regularly and never have to look for it on social media again – just put your email address in  the subscribe section . My goal is to help you avoid some of the mistakes I have made and to encourage you on your journey, to be real and to be helpful!)

Sometimes its OK to be Not OK

In recent months  I have had a few moments of driving home from work thinking – “I am not OK” .

This is a weird concept for me because as a person with areas of leadership responsibilities I am used to pulling myself up by my bootstraps and carrying on.

However here is what I have discovered in this season, that most of you already know I am sure.

If I admit to myself I am not OK – then I can then start to do something about being not OK.

If I continue to tell myself and the world, its all good, I am OK, then I don’t do anything about what is going on and nothing gets resolved.

There were times when Jesus was not OK. He wept when Lazarus died. He withdrew when John the Baptist was beheaded. In the garden of Gethsemane his soul was overwhelmed ( this is an extreme example I know but you get the point)

Jesus did not bottle those emotions and say “Don’t worry people ! Its all good” .

No he dealt with the pain in a real and honest way.

As people in areas of leadership and ministry, we have to be able to deal with what is going on in our world in a healthy way. We have to be able to say to the people closest to us  “I am not OK at the moment “. We have to be able to say to ourselves ” I am not OK at the moment – and I need to stop and do something about it” .

We need to be able to look at the dashboard of our lives and see which gauge is dropping through the floor, and then know how to go about remedying that.

Some times life just knocks the stuffing out of you – as my friend Vicki Simpson said to me the other day – and you just need to know that and be OK with it. You need to know that with time you will be OK again.

Sometimes when I am feeling not OK, all I really need is a few early nights with a good book or some good food and good wine with good friends. Sometimes it is more serious.

We will never know unless we can admit to ourselves, “I am not OK “.

Most importantly if we never say to God “I am not OK”  – we can never allow him to fill us with what we need. We can never make the great exchange with him of our ashes for his beauty, our worries for his peace, our weakness for his strength and our pain for his comfort.

Now that’s a great motivation for getting honest with yourself right there !

(If you would like to get content like this  in your email regularly and never have to look for it on social media again – just put your email address in  the subscribe section . My goal is to help you avoid some of the mistakes I have made and to encourage you on your journey, to be real and to be helpful!)