What if they don’t change?

943561_483889365034192_298354512_nThis post is dedicated to my friend Jenn who cares enough to write me long emails challenging me on things  I publish and even calls from NY to clarify ! That’s her above with her wonderful husband Matt,their beautiful daughter Grace and me. I love them.

What if the people in your life never change? What if all your prayer and pleading with God amounts to nothing, will you be OK ?

We only have authority over our own lives to bring change – and even then we will not reach perfection this side of heaven. So we can pray and pray and hint and confront but people only change when they are ready and see the need for change.  So we had better get happy with the people in our world and how they are right now.

THis doesn’t stop us believing the best in people and trusting God that he is doing a good work in all of us. However I have found that God’s priorities are different to mine. I wish he would work on the annoying habits in my family/friends/ bosses/ staff/ students lives – but frequently he sees other things that are more important to him and works on them. I am sure this works in reverse, that there are people who have prayed and believed for me to change in an area that I don’t see it and may never.

I have had numerous conversations this week with people believing for people to change- and in some cases betting their future on it – it is a risky business. Better to ask yourself these questions

If he/she never gets a better job do I still want to marry them? If he/she never sorts out this issue are they the sort of person I want to be friends with? If he/she never changes their manner am I happy to follow them? If he/she never gets more skilled in this area do I still believe in them?

People have free will – and they use it. Its a glorious thing God gave us. However don’t we all wish sometimes he would override it and just sort out the stuff in people that bugs us and make our lives more simple! Ha

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5 Tips to working in the Family Business of church!


Now we all know church is the family of God and so it is a spiritual family.  However what people often miss is that church is also a family business in terms of how it often runs – as in a natural family business. Some churches are like ” mom and Pop ” stores some are like multinational multigenerational public companies – but at their heart they are all family businesses which have levels of nepotism.


 This is a good thing in my humble opinion. Why?  Because church is not like any other company , even though it runs by the relevant company law. People who work in churches cannot be separate  from their private lives because part of the qualification of ministry is to have your marriage/family/ household in order . Actually I want my Pastor or Ministry Leader to be a devoted husband or wife before they are a good minister. I want them to love, believe in and champion  their kids . I don’t want to serve some one who does not love their family.


Sometimes this may mean that they elevate their family members when we think we are more skilled or suited for a role. It’s OK – God is big enough to work with the natural bonds of family within a church and still see our hopes and dreams realised .
This does make the environment a little unique- and at times challenging – I don’t gave the answers to it all – but here are a few tips I picked up along the way. (Please note These tips won’t work for highly dysfunctional situations or where sin is being covered – these call for oversight stepping in.)


 1. You had better get on with your Pastor/ Ministry Leaders spouse – you don’t gave to be best friends – but they will be around much more than in other work places – so it’s important to connect . Their role can be ambiguous and challenging – love them you don’t know what’s it’s like to live their life .


2. A spouse also needs to trust you – and you gain trust by never giving them any reason not to trust you and always being appropriate especially if you are the opposite sex to your Pastor/ Ministry leader.


3. Connect with the kids – believe me your life will be so much richer for it- and they may grow up to significant roles in the church and you will need to work alongside them.


4. Never create a situation where they have to chose between you and  a close family member – they should always chose their spouse or child over you – so don’t even go there – find  another way to resolve an issue.


5. People can never be unbiased towards their family members – and nor should they ever be, that would be weird- so don’t expect it. We can’t expect people to turn off their love and support of their family at work especially in church life. We actually expect them to be the best parents and spouses they can be – so don’t get too bent out of shape when that has an out working you don’t enjoy. (Some people have tried so hard to not be biased that they have chosen deliberately against family members even when they are the right fit for a role – this leads to all kinds of problems)


 Obviously the Pastor/ Ministry Leader needs to put in place safe guards to make sure that their family is involved in church life in a way that is healthy and wise, setting them up for success so they are in the right roles for their gifting and character.  They won’t always get this right , when this happens our role is to be grateful they love their family and make the situation work the best we can. When we are allowed to speak into such a situation do so with much prayer and great restraint remembering points 4 and 5!
This is not a new situation – on the cross as he was dying, the one person Jesus was concerned to look after was his Mum. In his toughest hour, under extreme pressure, he remembered the earthly family he was born into.


What tips do you have in working in the family business of church?  Any points you agree or disagree with here ? I am working it out as I go along like you are!
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Say Sorry- it will set you free !


There was a sense , when I began leading things and being involved in ministry that people in leadership were supposed to get it right all the time, have all the answers and have it all together. Thank goodness those days are over and authenticity and transparency are much more valued now. Honestly that was exhausting for most people.

In among the need for leaders and ministers to be real, is a need to be able to utter three little words “I am sorry”.  I am convinced that I have to be able to say I am sorry when I mess up , when I make a mistake or when I was wrong. I have to be able to say it to people in all areas of my life.

Here are some thoughts on why sorry is so key in church life

  • When I say sorry I am admitting fault and admitting I am not perfect – which is  liberating. If I can say sorry I don’t have to be perfect. What a relief. There was only ever one perfect man and his name was Jesus, the rest of us mere mortals fall short of perfection regularly.
  • People around me normally know I made a mistake, hiding it or ignoring it actually causes people to lose respect not gain it.
  • Saying sorry allows people the opportunity to forgive me  and move on. Not addressing the issue causes resentment and anger towards me, understandably.
  • I need to humble myself to say sorry, to kill my pride and take responsibility for my actions, and this can only be good for my soul. It allows God’s grace to flow towards me because we know that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.

Saying sorry should never become a technique we use to win people over but rather a heart-felt admission of wrong, coupled with a request for forgiveness. Why? Because before we are leaders, ministers,managers or any other roles- we are Christians and thats what Jesus followers do. We repent of our sin before God and apologise to the people we hurt. Jesus tells us clearly to forgive one another- lets ask for and receive forgiveness as a way of life.

Got any thoughts on apologising ? Love you to comment.

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Be Strong in Grace



Be Strong in Grace

Several  years ago  I was in a situation that I thought was overwhelming. All my life people had called me a “Pollyanna” or told me I looked at life through rose-colored glasses.

One day it was as if someone took off my glasses and replaced them with another pair and suddenly a whole situation and particularly a person I had been very close to looked totally different. Had anything really changed – no – but my perception had changed . As daily I received more and more information from great Pastors who were determined I would see clearly, I felt like I was crumbling internally. How could I have been so deceived, how could I have been so blind?

As I began to unravel this situation I started to understand that my need to make people and situations perfect in my own mind caused me  to have a totally unrealistic, romantic view of life. As you can imagine in some ways it was like waking up from a really lovely dream and finding it wasn’t true. It was shocking.

At some point my great friend Margaret said to me “We just need more grace to make it through this.” Never have truer words  been spoken to me. I had a revelation of grace that was shallow and powerless. It stopped with forgiveness of my sins at salvation. To really deal with life, faulted humanity and my own less than perfect self I was going to need more understanding of grace.

Peter says in 1Pet 2:1 “Finally be strong in the grace of God.”
We need not just be people who are saved by grace, but leaders who are strong in the grace of God. In case you haven’t noticed yet lives, ours included are messy, our formula’s for Christian life don’t always work, good people do some really horrific things to each other and the righteous still struggle with sin and failings. We need the grace of God to live out our callings. We need grace from God for ourselves and for each other. 

Grace that is real and robust  means I know the people around me are faulted and human -and they will sometimes disappoint and offend me. I will disappoint and offend people. We are all people in need of Jesus.

When we are strong in grace we become like the palm tree that bends in the storm. More on that next week !

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7 Tips to Coping with Peak Seasons


Peak seasons – we all have them – times when we are unusually busy. For me there are three times in the year that are the main peaks; the lead up to College starting, the end of College and Presence Conference. For me they are wonderful as we welcome new students, celebrate and graduate or attend an incredible conference. They are also stressful and tiring.

In the past I have been great at achieving much in these seasons, narrowing my focus to the tasks at hand and ignoring everything else. Which sounds brilliant and probably was good for KPIs but was actually pretty unhealthy for me. I would wind up exhausted, able to schedule a migraine and with a house that was a disaster. (Any previous flat mates or roommates will tell you it is true !)

So I have learnt in recent years a better way – and most of you probably knew this intuitively – but maybe some of you are like I was.

Seven tips for coping with the Busy Season


Keep praying – long hours are exhausting,and God understands the season, but spiritual disconnection is not the answer. Apart from anything else you need His strength and wisdom.

2. Exercise
Keep exercising – we all feel like we don’t have time when we are busy but the stress relief from my morning walk with an excited puppy is priceless

 3. Eat well 

If  you are a stress eater like me you will reach for the chocolate – and in moderation it is wonderful – but believe me too much of a good thing will mess with you. I now have a fruit and veggie box delivered which helps so much – there is always healthy food in my fridge . Plan ahead for busy times and shop. Otherwise you will eat fast food and feel awful. Your body needs to be working well at these times.
4. Sleep

Sleep as normally as you can. Try not to stay up late watching Suits- oh wait that is just me !
5. Have fun

Last night I got home after two huge days and the temptation was to hibernate in front of the TV. However my brother invited me to play a board game with the family and a friend. Did I feel like learning a new game? Not at all? Do I know my extrovert self would be better for some fun with people – yes. (See my previous post on Knowing Yourself ) So I got into it and for two fun hours could only focus on getting my men up a board game mountain alive and beating everyone else. It was so much better stress relief than allowing my life to narrow down to work and sleep.

6. Clean your House /Bed room 
Keep your house in vaguely good shape – and make sure the washing is done. I am convinced one of the keys to life is a stack of clean underwear and clean sheets – somehow if I have both of those all is well with the world.

Keep laughing – don’t take it all too seriously – this season will pass and the next one is coming. Even in the midst of very tough times there are things to laugh about which will “do you good like medicine” . (This is from a girl prone to getting way too intense – it doesn’t really help anyone )

I know it is all very basic – however it took me a while to learn.
What do you do in peak times?

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First Blog of 2014 – Rocks and Days Off !

Margaret River

As we are racing into a New Year many of us feel the need to set goals and revisit dreams and vision. I have set goals for 2014 – however more than anything I am feeling the need to make sure the “big rocks ” are in place before I worry about anything else .( from Stephen Covey http://www.scc.k12.wi.us/District/Big_Rocks_Stephen_Covey.pdf

When it comes to thinking about 2014 I am challenged again to make sure I have a Big Rock in place called Sabbath. I also promised I would write about this in an earlier post. Top Ten Boundary Tips 

When I first came back to church as a 19-year-old, we were all about freedom and not following the law. We threw out anything that we thought was vaguely legalistic. Somehow in my mind that included any concept of a Sabbath. We were going hard or going home, there was time  to sleep when we were dead – we were young , zealous and actually pretty stupid.

I actually managed to live like this for quite a long time .  Then at the end of one year I felt totally exhausted and my normal vacation time did not seem to work its magic. I felt the Holy Spirit come and convict me that I needed to make sure I kept the Sabbath if I wanted to finish the race well  and feeling good and in good health

I read the verse where Jesus says  “Sabbath was made for man not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). This got me thinking in  a new way and caused me to make a major lifestyle change.

If the Sabbath was made for man, then we must need it. We must need at least one day off during the week to rest and rejuvenate. Jesus fulfilled the law but Sabbath, although contained in the law, predates law. It is a creation ordinance. God rested on the seventh day setting in place a pattern of living. Then to reinforce it , Sabbath is part of the 10 Commandments and the law.  (Interestingly as my Pastor, Phil Pringle recently pointed out – we are totally fine with a moral code based on most of the ten commandments – but not all of them, in 21st century life we struggle to take a day off.

It actually take faith to take a day off. It takes us letting go of one day of earning potential or one day of sometimes much needed paid or unpaid overtime to get the job done . It takes us trusting God that he can take care of our needs as we rest. It is letting go of some control and doing what God has set in place. As particularly western culture screams at us to work harder -particularly in a post recession world where there is more work, less money and less job security – a day off can seem foolish.

For those of us in ministry it takes trusting God with our people and our projects that He will actually be Lord as we rest !

For those who are high level lay ministers and hold down another full time job – it means making sure that you don’t commit ourselves beyond our ability to keep rest in place- no matter the desire to build the kingdom.

As you consider 2014 do you have Sabbath in place – a day of rest ? God created it for you , you are not superwoman or superman you cannot work without rest. Carve out a day off a week and see the difference.

Next week – Tips to keeping Sabbath – things that I have found work for me and maybe will for you!

(Sabbath and Vacation time are precious to me- the photo above is from a recent family trip to Western Australia- that is a my breakfast and dinner view from the place my sister took us to as a Christmas present for 3 nights in Margaret River- so blessed)

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Emotional Multitasking – not always easy but essential, especially at Christmas



I have had an unusual week – as I am sure many of you have- it is the festive season and it all gets a little nuts.

On Monday I was reading and praying at the wedding of dear friends. Yesterday I was at work, followed by a divorce mediation meeting I am part of as a Pastor. After that I picked up my Mum and sister and went into the city to see the gorgeous Christmas lights on St Mary’s cathedral  you see above.

Today I was in strategy meetings till lunch, then a church staff Christmas party and then I came home to prepare for a funeral I am conducting. Then I will perform the funeral for a good friends of mine’s brother who died too young – and later this week there are more Christmas parties  to go to and a 50th birthday – all the while doing my best to support my friend who has lost her brother and my friend who has lost her marriage.

It’s not always this extreme – but it often is like this for many of us in any type of ministry. We have to learn the art of what I am calling for lack of a better term ; emotional multitasking . It can feel very unusual as we have to slip from one emotional state to another sometimes in a matter of moments.

I remember being at a College celebration dinner while staff members who are very close to me were loosing a beautiful baby girl.  It felt very bizarre to be at a party at that time. Chatting it over with another staff member, the very talented and wise Simon Ray, and he reminded me of Rom 12:15 “Rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn” – I had never realised I may have to actually do these things at the same time. I had to rejoice with the students who had graduated and mourn for the loss of a baby girl. It was a very strange feeling!

Some of us in ministry will be walking alongside some people in very challenging situations while still trying to enjoy our families Christmas.  We cannot allow the ministry we are doing to rob us or our families of the joy we have. We have to be able to empathise and support while still fully engaging in our own families.

I have a few thoughts on how to do it – please feel free to add to it in the comments and help us all

1. Pray a lot – give the situations to God and trust him with them

2. Learn how you process and do it.  I verbally process so I will talk about how I am feeling with a few close friends (See my earlier post on friends   )

3. Know the state of your heart –  when it is getting overwhelmed – take some time out, even an hour in a café or on a beach to refresh

4. Don’t feel guilty about the joy you are feeling- enjoy what God has given you.

5. Be in the moment- really feel what is going on in that moment  – good or bad. It is part of being alive to feel. If you shut down your feelings you will become a shadow of yourself.

6. Understand that dealing with high emotion is stressful even as a support person – do the normal things you do to deal with stress -sleep, eat well, exercise , laugh etc etc

Let the dialogue on this begin- looking forward to your wisdom …..

(THis is my last blog for 2013 – going on annual leave on Friday for 2 weeks- will be visiting family in Perth and Adelaide for Christmas and New year -lying on the beach, reading lots of books, eating festive foods – as well as tasting some excellent wines from Margaret River and the Barossa Valley I am hoping ! Keeping my boundaries strong and going off line for my vacation. So won’t be back till on the blog till around Jan 9. Thanks for coming on this crazy adventure in 2013- be back in 2014 – have a Happy and Holy Christmas – and a fabulous New Year ! )