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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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 !

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Rest, People Pleasing and Ambition !!

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So as I mentioned last week it has been a tough few weeks in my family. I was really feeling it and so I decided to take a day off and escape to the mountains . I was scheduled to leave at 1pm last Sunday. At around 10.30 am on Sunday I got a text inviting me to be involved in a very cool ministry experience that night.

My 52 year old self  declined. If I was to tell you I declined without the thoughts crossing my mind – what a bummer, wonder if that opportunity will come again, wonder if I have let anyone down – I would be lying.

However decline  I did. I declined because I needed rest more than ministry. I needed to look after myself more than I needed to please the people who requested. I had been snapping at co-workers, sleeping badly and feeling like I could cry at any moment . I knew a place I could go to rest that would release the pressure valve. I had a great pastor suggest to me that I needed to do it, and I knew he was right.

However I knew my 32 year old self- and to be honest even my 42 year old self – would have immediately begun re-arranging things to take this and every ministry gig that came my way.

I am not proud of this fact. I am not proud of it, because it lacks faith.

It means I have to say yes to please people as if they are in the place of God. I have to say yes, because a tough God will see me saying no, and passes me by, the  next time his eyes rove across the earth to find those whose hearts are fully committed to him.

It lack faith in a Good Father who loves me and values me no matter what I do. A Father who makes me lie down to rest beside still waters (or mountains) when he sees me struggling.

Sometimes we just need to die to our people pleasing and our personal ambition – have some faith and look after ourselves.

Now as I type this I know there are some of you who will take this and make it justification for not ever stepping out of your comfort zone, and for being self indulgent. I am not talking to you – you probably need to say yes.

I am talking to the people like me, the driven, people pleasers who sometimes lack the faith to rest well. Sometimes too our sense of responsibility means we keep going way beyond where we should.

We should always say yes more than we say no- however we need to know when to say no.

We need to know that rest and recovery are crucial to longevity. I want to still be being fruitful and enjoying life at 80 and it won’t happen unless I look after myself now.

Tough times teach you so much, and reinforce old lessons. So I packed up my mum and the dog and went and stared at mountains, cooked, walked, played scrabble, finished my book , prayed and pondered. It refreshed my soul. Wish my 42 year old self could have done that too – she might have been healthier and more fun !

(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!)

The Job of Saviour of the World is Taken

At the moment there are some people in my extended world who I am watching making some pretty interesting decisions. As I have pastored for over 20 years (officially) I have spent a lot of my life watching people make decisions and then observing the consequences of these decisions . I am a professional people watcher !

I have celebrated with many people who have enjoyed success and joy from those decisions. I have also watched some pretty spectacular crashes, and sometimes been privileged to help people pick up the pieces and rebuild.

(I have also been in both those categories. I know I have often caused people to scratch their heads in bewilderment at some of the decisions I have made.)

Right now though, when I think about a few people I know in particular who are making decisions that I can see will not end well for them, I feel incredibly concerned for them.

I want to help them avoid mistakes I have made. I want to rush in and give them lots of wisdom and advice and I want them to change the direction they are going in. I have seen these patterns too many times, and lived these patterns, to know that they can be avoided. I want to fix these situations before any more damage is done.

However at Easter, more than any other time, I need to know there is only one Saviour. His name is Jesus, and he did not resign and give me the job.

My responsibility is to pray, to support and help where it is asked for, but it is not not to be their Saviour. I cannot take responsibility for another person’s life.

I cannot jump into that sacred place between a believer and their God.

I have to remember that each person’s life is a  journey of making decisions. It is part of the joy of being human, made in the image of God. It is what theologians call free will. For believers it is a journey of walking with the Holy Spirit to make those decisions.

As a pastors and leaders we can so easily get saviour complexes. Our care can become a burden we were never meant to carry.

We need to pray, believe and love people but ultimately we need to let Jesus be their Saviour.

He is the only one with shoulders broad enough to carry that load for all humanity.

At Easter I am so grateful that Jesus is Lord and Saviour of all!

The job of Saviour of the World, was and is, His to do. How magnificently he fulfils that purpose.

Happy Easter Everyone!

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Painting by Phil Pringle used with permission. http://philpringle.com/artstudio

Leading Yourself 5 – Decisions

I have been pondering lately hard and soft decisions. We have to know the difference and have the ability to lead ourselves in the area of decision making.

Hard decisions are those we will hold too no matter what. They are the decisions we make that are set in stone.

Soft decisions are those that are more fluid and we will mostly likely uphold them but our commitment level is much lower.

Hard decisions are predetermined and they guide our lives.

Soft decisions should be the ones that are the optional extras.

So often we make the things that should be hard decisions soft,  and the things that should be soft decisions hard.

Hey before you click back onto FaceBook let me explain from an example in my life.

For a long time exercise was a set decision for me – I knew it was important and notionally I decided I needed to do it, however the decision was soft. It depended on what finances I had available, weather, energy levels and some days whether the planets were all a lined correctly. I went in spurts.

However now I have made it a hard decision in my life. I have determined that I am going to be 80 and still swimming laps. I may slow down and have to helped out of the pool but I will still be swimming. . Currently I am committed to swimming 30-40  laps 3 times a week. It has become a hard decision.

I now budget time and money towards it and as it is a hard decision, this guides me to do it. On my swim days I don’t wake up in the morning and decide whether to swim . I just wake up , walk the dog and pray , eat breakfast and go for a swim.

The same goes for a bunch of decisions in my life. I don’t wake up and wonder if I should go to work during the week or church on a Sunday – it is a hard decision I go.

Conversely there are some decisions that I have determined are soft. How I spend leisure time is a soft decision, I have found when I create a hard decision in this area I box myself in and that doesn’t work for my personality. I know people who always go out on a Friday night, or always rent a movie on a Sunday night. I have tried to be like that but it doesn’t work for me.

When I make the decisions that should soft into hard decisions, it feels like bondage.

When I make the decision that should hard into soft decisions my life goes off track and get a little aimless.

Lets lead ourselves by making the right decisions hard and the right decisions soft.  Apart from anything else it’s exhausting to keep remaking decisions that need to be hard decisions that are  made once !

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Leading yourself 4 – Fight to be in the Moment

In January I had a few days up the coast at a gorgeous place called Woolgoolga, with my friends Kerry and Marg – and some of Marg’s family. It was lovely.

At the time there were some pretty challenging things going on in my family which were causing me concern.

I also knew that I would be going back to a very busy time at work.

I felt these pressures trying to rob me of my usual holiday joy.

So I made a decision to fight to be in the moment. It didn’t mean I stopped caring about my family. It  did mean that I savoured the moments that would fill my soul and bring rest to my mind, so that I can keep on caring.

Leaders know how to fight to be in the moments of refreshing despite pressures, concerns and problems.

So I walked on the beach,swam in the ocean, played 500, drank champagne as the sun set, and relaxed.

One of my favourite moments was where I took the beach photo, and got the fresh revelation that turned into this post. There was an outdoor shower at the beach. After I had a surf I would stand under cool fresh water in a shower looking at the view. I loved those moments. I determined to not worry about anything but to just soak in the pure joy of cool water , warm sun and a stunning view. To take the moment to thank God for his stunning creation.  To just be right there in that moment taking it all in.

We have to be people who can take every thought captive, we can lead our own minds and hearts to peace and joy in the midst of big lives.

Even in the midst of challenges and heartache, that we can stop and enjoy a moment. We can allow our soul to be refreshed by these moments.

I am convinced that leading our souls in this way will cause us to be able to run the race set before us for the long haul.

Lets be people who can be in the moment – and lets let those moments colour our worlds.

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Leading Yourself 2 – Your Money

As leaders I don’t think we necessarily have to have investment and property portfolios, I do believe however there are some areas of our finances that we need to lead.

1.Giving

We have to have the giving/tithing/ offering questions resolved in our minds and be regularly giving. We need to be giving to our local churches, and to our friends on mission fields, to building funds, to charities and disaster relief . We need to do it within our budgets but it has to be a regular part of our lives. We can’t ask people to give if we are not doing it.  It is part of being Christ like- he gave his everything and if we are like him we give.

2. Generosity 

We have to be generous people – yes with our time and property but also with money. We can’t be the people who are known for skimping out on our part of the dinner bill or never contributing to group gifts. God has been so generous to us, we need to have a generous heart.

3. Pay Bills 

Leaders are people who, except in dire, unforeseen circumstances,  pay bills on time. We are good stewards so we avoid late fees. We also avoid the stress of creditors chasing us down. Leaders who never have any credit on their phone because they haven’t paid the bill are hamstrung in the 21st century.

4. Live within a Budget 

Leaders live within what their current circumstances are. I once ran up a large credit card debt and I will never do it again. It took me way too long to get out of debt and that sucked the  joy out of those purchases. It also meant I paid ay too much in interest and I could have done something useful with that money. The only area I have large debt these days is my home – and unfortunately that is just part of life in Sydney.

I know this is all really basic – but unfortunately some of this took me too long to get. I also see grown people in their middle age thinking spirituality is praying and coming to lots of church meetings, and their finances are a mess. They wonder why people don’t respect them and God doesn’t use them. We don’t need to be wealthy – but we do need to be wise.

A real relationship with God brings a generous heart. I am off to have a glass of wine now- because I have a generous flat mate who buys and shares NZ Sav Blanc !!

(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!)