Flick the Fake

Recently at the annual Presence Conference that my church holds I heard a message from Steven Furtick that really resonated with me. It was a message on Jacob and how until Jacob was real with who he was, stopped pretending to be his brother to get the blessing and stopped running from conflict, that God would not bless him.

He used this great analogy that has been paying around in my mind and made me think and challenged me again.

Here is how Furtick put it

We have our Frustrating Self – the self who is in the present, the one with flaws and failings that we see, but have not yet worked through.

We have our Future Self – the one who is more like Jesus, the one we are going to be when we lose 20 pounds, figure out how to always stay calm under pressure and have memorised all our favourite verses from Proverbs.

Then we have the self that spans the gap –  all too aware of the frustrating self , wanting to be the future self and so pretends to be where we are not yet – the Fake Self.

The problem is the Fake Self cannot have a real connection with God or with People – because it is a FAKE !

I have always been challenged to be real – to not try to pretend to be anything I am not. The people pleaser in me loves to be my Fake Self to impress. The sanguine in me fears rejection wonders if anyone will still like me if I am real.

In the last 10 years especially I have learned some phrases that have helped me to be real – here they are

1. I don’t know

Whether in a class lecturing, in a meeting I am leading, at home looking after my nephews – I can express a total lack of knowledge and be OK.

2. I am sorry

I need to be able to actually admit I messed up and be OK – and then I need to go back to the person I messed up with and apologise. If I ignore it I am being my Fake Self, assuming everything I do is right – what bondage that is !

3. I am responsible

If I am being real I can take responsibility for my own decisions and actions and live with it.

 

In an era where we all image mange – making sure the photos on social media show us in the best light having the best time with the best people – there is huge pressure to be fake. (To fight this – the photo in this post is me  in my new reading glasses, getting old, at the end of a day where the hair straightener died and the make-up has long since disappeared !)

Even this week I have been challenged to be real, to admit my struggles (to people who have the grace to deal with them), to know that Future Pam is coming but right now I am stuck with Frustrating Pam – but she is the one God can use .

Fake Pam is no use to anyone !

Lets all Flick the Fake this week – and be real with where we are at. Its the only way to move towards our future selves.

Love to hear your tips on being real.

(If you would like to get my blog in your email and never have to look for it on social media again – just subscribe on the side. I can’t guarantee it will always be brilliant, I can promise it will always be real – my aim is that it would always be helpful)

 

When is Enough Enough?

Last week at my connect group I found myself in a conversation with some remarkable women and we asked the question “When is Enough Enough?

We live in a world that is saturated with a message of “More More More “. All the marketing in the world screams at us that we need a bigger home,  a new car, an expensive holiday, the latest phone – and one that is actually true – we need more shoes!

Beyond the material things, social media can make us feel like we need a new life- that everyone else’s life is better. Other people have lives that are  more glamorous, exciting and effective than ours is.

Everywhere we go there is a message that we need to HAVE more and BE more and to be honest some days that excites me and most days it just makes me feel tired.

In the midst of it all is the question how should a believer live in this type of world ?

There is no doubt in my mind that we need to be constantly expanding in some areas of our lives – we need to be going from faith to faith, we need to be seeing our character strengthen and grow and we need to have more and more love for the people in our worlds. We need to be people who are pressing on to take hold of that which Christ Jesus took hold of us for .

However sometimes I wonder if  we need to embrace a more simple life.

(I say this timidly because I live in a gorgeous place and we are currently building a new bigger deck – because the old one was rotten – and I had a family Christmas in Fiji  -I really don’t want to be hypocritical)

I do wonder though When is Enough Enough ? When do we stop buying and acquiring and enjoy what we have.  Is the answer in the words of Paul  “I have learned the secret of being content”.

I have thought about this so much over the years – and I drift in and out of contentment.

Contentment is a wonderful place to live- contentment enjoys the moment, contentment is grateful, contentment enjoys the unique life that God has given us.

I am going to keep batteling  to live content- because discontentment eats away at me and is never satisfied. I think that contentment says this is enough for today! This is the day the Lord has made- I will rejoice and be glad in it.

How do you stay content in our crazy world ?

(If you would like to get my blog in your email and never have to look for it on social media again – just subscribe on the side. I can’t guarantee it will always be brilliant- I can promise it will always be real – my aim is that it would always be helpful)

 

 

Stop and Re-Set

It’s already March and I don’t know about you but for me that means not only a change of actual season – but also a change a work cycle. The College students are back, and the mania of the first few weeks is almost over and I need to settle into a new rhythm.

In the past I would have just allowed the craziness of a change of season to run its own pace and I would play catch up – however I am old enough now to know I need to stop and spend some time re-setting.

Maybe your season has not changed, maybe you have just experienced the boundaries creep , maybe you set goals this year but you have drifted from them, maybe your kids have settled into school and now you can breathe and plan.

Maybe you need to join me in Stopping and Re-Setting – here is what I am going to do – maybe you need to do your own form of it too

  • I am going to stop and enjoy  the successes of the past season – for me a large part of the past season was submitting and passing my  MTh thesis , and the start of a new College year- don’t race past these things without celebrating them.
  • I am going to look at the times I messed up and try to see what I learned from the process – I have so much to learn from my constant mistakes!
  • I am going to look at my schedule and make sure it is aligned with my priorities – gonna make sure prayer, rest and exercise have not been crowded out in the change of season – as I know this is my default ( and a very unhealthy default it is )
  • I am going to look to God for a word or sense of what the next season holds.
  • I am going to plan to have fun – because as a sanguine I know I need to !

At the moment there are some unusual family pressures, I have so much to do at home, people to see etc etc  – like you all have- but if I don’t get down to my favourite beach one morning  this weekend , and stop and re-set – the next season will be a mess I know !

Do you need to join me in Re-setting ? Carve out the time, even if its only half an hour at the end of a busy day – and stop and allow some time to breathe.

To start the weekend -I am off to my connect group – we are just celebrating, because so many people have had significant life events – we have a baby, a big promotion, a house sold and a house bought and birthdays to celebrate and thank God for – it will be wonderful.

(If you would like to get my blog in your email and never have to look for it on social media again – just subscribe on the side. I can’t guarantee it will always be brilliant- I can promise it will always be real ! My aim is that it would always be helpful)

Gotta Get Away !

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I woke up really early this morning – I have done this since I was a little girl – waking up early the morning I go on holidays. I am excited, I love vacation. I have loved getting away even before I knew how important it was.

This year for me is the year of inexpensive local holidays – last year I had long service in America, and (cue music) I had the time of my life.

This year I need to be responsible but yet I know we all need to take break. I quite enjoy the staycation, and I will do some time doing those this year, to work on my thesis, but there is nothing like getting out of your own environment, away from the cupboards that need cleaning and the garden that needs weeding !

I believe for that for life and health and longevity in ministry, holidays are not a fun thing we try to schedule in – but an essential. Rick Warren says- Divert Daily, Withdraw Weekly and Abandon Annually (and if you are an Australian with 4 weeks holiday a year- abandon Bi-Annually if you can)

So I am off to abandon today – and I can’t wait.

Here are some things for how I am wired that are crucial for a great holiday

1. Family or Friends who are Family

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Today I am going away with two friends who are family- Annie and Leonie – we will laugh, talk, (Leonie will talk most) , be quiet, eat, drink good wine and it will be lovely. Don’t go on holidays with people you are pastoring- go on holidays with people who are fun for you.

Go on holidays with people who have similar budget, like to go at similar pace and enjoy similar things- it’s not rocket science is it? If I am on holidays exploring a foreign city – I love going with my friend Marg because we both like to see everything possible and collapse at the end of days happy and exhausted. If I need a rest like now – going with Annie and Leonie is perfect.

 

2. Creation to Behold

Margaret River

This time it will be the mountains in the top of this blog- in January with my family it was the stunning beaches of Western Australia . Getting out in creation will restore your soul like nothing else . We allow our soul to be lead beside still waters, or still mountains, or still plains. On holiday there is time for long walks on beaches or in mountains, there is time to jut sit and watch the sun set. It is fabulous.

3) Art to Enjoy

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There is something about art that will inspire and rejuvenate you. Whether it is a good book, a brilliant movie, a gorgeous gallery ,beautiful buildings, a Broadway show or a jazz gig – people expressing their God-given creativity is fantastic – and for me essential on a holiday.

In a foreign city i will always visit a gallery or get half price tickets to a show. It just makes me happy. Today I am taking an artist with me- and another artist is coming to visit – I love it . I have stopped analysing why art makes me so happy and have just decided to go with it .

 

4. Disconnecting

I will disconnect from work emails and social media – I am sure the world can do without me for a week !! I will miss posting Happy Birthday on FaceBook for 6 days but I am hoping I will be forgiven. I don’t need to see what the students are up to or what great photos of Vivid Sydney have gone up today – I can shut out all the distractions and just be for a week.

I will do some study for my thesis as to not do so would be stressful for me -and a couple of hours a day reading theology looking at mountains is relaxing  (theology nerd I know)

So that’s my holiday essentials – what are yours ? I know for families it is different but I watch my brother and his family go camping and my sister and her crew go on beach holidays and I thing the principles are the same.

Next week I am starting to get some guest bloggers – friends around the world to give you their words of wisdom – which is really exciting !

Adios people – off on an adventure!

 

Hospitality- a holy calling

This week in our combined Staff and Student meeting Ps Phil made the statement that hospitality is a holy calling. It resonated with me. I believe it is true. That showing hospitality no matter how you do it – is a way to express God’s love in a unique and important way – and have a really wonderful time.

I know that we can express hospitality in all different ways- but I think there is something really special about having people in our own homes and looking after them. I worry sometimes that in our restaurant and café culture we lose something of the joy of hosting.

I am thinking about it more too as Easter approaches- in this essentially non-Christian country we have a 4 day weekend for Easter and I have an empty house. I am trying to figure out who I can have in my home (and use the other empty part of the house I share with my brother and sister-in-law and the little nephews) . I know for sure I am having my connect group for Hot Cross buns on Good Friday after church- which will be festive.

I am not the best hostess in the world but here are some things I know

1) It doesn’t have to be expensive- Good Friday we will have Hot Cross buns, some fruit and tea and coffee – and if last year is anything to gauge it on- a good time will be had by all

2) People need to feel like we have prepared a place for them and want them to be in our homes- we may not have a 5 course menu but we have lit the candles and turned on the music and we have something for them to eat or drink on arrival.

3) Food and wine bring connection – sitting down with people over a meal or a hot cross bun or a cup of tea and a cookie – connects in a way that is almost magic.

Inviting people into our homes can be risky- one of your favourite wine glass may get broken- they may open your bathroom cupboard and find out you are not as neat as they thought – you may burn the roast or under cook the lamb (me last weekend) – but really it is worth the risk.

The last thing Jesus did with his disciples was to have a meal with them – we call it the Last Supper, and we focus on the things he said. However I wonder if the twelve,  when they looked back focused instead on how it felt to have a meal together , one last time.

At Easter- lets eat with people – lets have them in our homes – in remembrance of Him .

Yikes – I’m doing it afraid

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What I am pondering now is why the heck I just signed up to write a 30,000 word thesis when I had no intention of doing so. I am crazy. But to back track ….

Two weeks ago I promised some more on my life message on Grace. However last week I had four nights in a row out at church meetings and so by Thursday when I should have blogged , the most I was up for was sitting on the couch watching Madagascar with my little nephews. If you have taken time to read my blog – I want you to read something  worthwhile – not dribble I write, over tired. Grace will re-appear later I am sure.

Back to the thesis – I am completing my MTh and had a fairly straight forward  two courses to complete. However the College where I did my MA has recently put up a MTh and to be honest I really like studying with them. They are from the same faith tradition where the place I was doing my MTh is not, I thought it didn’t matter but turns out it does.

So I transferred back to where I did my MA. However in their course structure I have to do a thesis to complete. I am totally intimidated and unsure of my ability to do this. I am a practitioner not an academic. However I want to study with lecturers I know and trust; people who have a real walk with God and I can pick up the phone and call.

Most of all – at 50 I want to do something that I am terrified of. I want to keep challenging myself so I don’t get comfortable  – which is too easy to do.

I also realised that I can’t keep challenging my students to walk on water if I stay on the solid ground I so enjoy.  I am doing it afraid. I may well fail – but as they say in that great theological movie Meet the Robinson’s – “in failing you learn, in success not so much” .  I suspect I will learn much.

It is so important that as ministers and leaders we don’t get so good at dealing with other people’s issues that we don’t deal with our own. As my brother said to me this week “other peoples problems are so much easier to solve”.

When our biggest challenges are juggling other people’s challenges, it is an unusual life.

I dont believe I can inspire or encourage people to do something if I am not challenging myself. We need to be  good steward of the gifts and strengths God gave us. We need to keep taking steps of faith that challenge us.

For me this year (or maybe 18 months ) it is writing a 30,000 word thesis. For some of you it is something much more challenging and life changing.

Lets keep being people who walk on the water ! What are you doing this year to challenge yourself ?

 

Enjoy the Season

 

Holland in Summer

I have watched the photos on social media of my friends in the Northern Hemisphere being hammered by snow storm after snow storm this winter. It has made me reflect on my 15 winters in New York. I wish I could say that I missed a real winter but really I don’t . The first snow of the season is gorgeous and I have some beautiful memories. However I have too many snow shovelling , scraping snow off my windscreen in the freezing cold, garbage on side walks covered in what was now brown slush memories , to want to return to NY in winter. I always go in spring, summer or fall if I can now.

What I do know is that I made the most of the snow when I had it. I went skiing when I could (I am not a great skier by any means but I had fun) , I walked in the snow, my connect group would turn on the outside lights and grab our sleds at 10pm and sled down the huge block of land I lived on in Smithtown , LI until we were exhausted and freezing. I so remember a lovely afternoon living in Manhattan and my brother John visiting and sitting in the window seat of the huge Barnes and Noble on Union Square drinking coffee, reading books and chatting as the snow turned the city white.

So when I left real winters I knew I had enjoyed them – and hated them . I had taken the best out of the season.

I think it’s so important to enjoy the season you are in – the actual season and the figurative season. Too often – particularly as Western Christians – we are so looking forward that we forget to get the most out of today, this week, this month.

Single people want to get married, married people want babies, people with babies want them to be able to walk and talk , parents with teenagers want them to be independent etc etc et . Meanwhile we are missing the things God has for us right now.

In church life we are wanting the church to break through to the next level all the time and not allowing ourselves to rejoice in the current season.

Every season – even the tough ones – has gold to be mined and God to encounter.

If you can help the people, you are leading , embrace the season they are in we would have many more content people in churches. People who have learned the “secret of being content whether in plenty or in want “.

Years ago I made the decision to enjoy the single season of my life. This season has gone on way longer than I anticipated or wanted. However I am so glad I know I have enjoyed the season. I have traveled to some gorgeous places, made great friends and had incredible experiences in this season . The alternative was to be miserable – and honestly I just can’t stay there for too long.

In each season life and death stands before us – chose life people and enjoy where you are today!

(The photo above is from a fun holiday in Amsterdam in Summer – a beautiful city with beautiful friends in it )