People are Surprising !

I have been surprised again by the incredible things that are within people.

This week  the third year C3 College students doing their Gallop Strength tests and had some coaching in this area. As they sent me their results – for a lot of them I was not surprised . Their strengths are obvious and clear cut.

For others I was totally shocked- I had not seen those strengths in them at all.

It reminded me that there is so much more to most people than we see. There are hidden strengths and talents that take some care and time to see fulfilled.

Most people are like the beautiful lilies the College staff gave me. When they arrived they were closed buds with some pretty green leaves.

But this week they have opened into the gorgeous pink blooms you see in the photo. (Next week they will be dead and messy but lets not go there !)

Sometimes we can be too quick to put people in a box or even right them off .

When really there is so much treasure within them  just waiting to be revealed.

I am convinced again – to look past what I see with my eyes. To see people how God sees them. To look for the treasure within.

I love working with dancers and artists – their eyes see beauty everywhere. They make incredible pastors and mentors.

I want to be like them-  I want to see the beauty in every person – and I want to help unlock the gifts and talents in people.

Last week was Mothers Day – and one of the most amazing Mothers ever was Mary . She saw what was within Jesus. She had the servants line up those water jars. She gently (ish ) pushed him into ministry. She launched the public ministry of the Messiah !

Who knows who we can launch if we can see what is within them.

I am so glad people looked past what they saw and gave this insecure, shy, pretty messed up girl a go.

I dont want to be shocked again by people’s strengths (or their weaknesses) – I want to have spent the time to see them. How about you ?

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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)

 

Easter Reflection

Today I had the honour of preaching on Good Friday at a stunning Indonesian Church – called Ecclesia Church . Two of the College graduates Andrew and Beth are on leadership there – I love them – I would do anything they asked me to – so today with not a little fear and trembling – I delivered my first ever Good Friday message.

As I prepared I read all four gospel accounts of the Crucifixion of Jesus and two little verses stood out to me- and I realised that they summed up all that happened on Good Friday . That before Paul could write Romans and unpack the theology of the Cross- that God had shown us what it all means in two incidents it is easy to overlook.

1. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split. (Matt 27:51 )

Why is this so significant ? We all know that sin deserves punishment- when some-one does something wrong, our society will prosecute them and punish them, it is a value deep in our culture. So as humanity we know  we are all fallen and that most days we also individually sin and do something that separates us from a Holy God.

Because of  this only the priest could enter the Holy of Holies and only after having performed the proper sacrifices to pay for the sins of the nation. This curtain it is estimated was 60 feet high, 30 feet wide and 4 inches thick – a man could not have torn it – God tore it to show that Jesus had made the sacrifice once and for all .

The curtain was ripped and anyone could approach God! I wish I could tell you how excited this makes me !!

2. “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise (Luke 23:43)

I love this little conversation between Jesus and one of the thieves  hanging on another cross that same day.

Here is why I love it – because that thief could do nothing to please God at that point. He was hanging on a cross dying. All he did was acknowledge that Jesus was king (you have to be a king to have a kingdom) – he put his faith in Jesus . Jesus said that Today he would be with him in paradise.

Why does this move me- because the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross is enough – nothing we can do can add to it. I can stop trying to please God – Jesus has done it on my behalf once and for all.

This week I remembered that the curtain that separated me from God was torn – Jesus had paid the price – and there is nothing I can do to add to it.

This my friends is Good News !! Maybe we all need to remember it today. Happy Easter !

The beautiful cross is from Phil Pringle Art http://philpringle.worldsecuresystems.com/artgallery

(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)

Keeping it Real

Ever been to a restaurant or café that is the latest big thing?

All your friends have been to it already and have raved.

You finally get there, your food come out, and suddenly you have no idea what all the fuss is about.

Your expectations were high and you are now dealing with disappointment.

When we are leading people we have to try and avoid this situation, because there is so much more at stake than the cost of dinner.

 

Here is a few thoughts on Keeping it Real in no particular order

  • We have to explain the expectations – especially when they are volunteering – people need to know how much time they will be giving, what to wear, when they will eat, what they will be doing. These practicalities communicate to people that you value them and are looking after them.
  • We have to be real with the things that we have control over. I often tell the College students I cannot get our local bus lines to put a bus route to our Campus – I have no authority over them – and I have called and asked but to no avail. I want the bus to stop outside College but it won’t help anyone if I promise what I surely cannot deliver.
  • We have to be realistic about what we can give of our time to the people we are leading. If we set up an expectation that we cannot meet, it might make us feel good when we are making the promise – but we will lose people’s trust when we can’t  deliver.
  • Help people to be realistic about people in leadership – honouring is so important – but it cannot lead to a zone where perfection is expected. People are people- they have different roles- but this side of heaven none of them are without failings and flaws. To expect perfection of leaders is incredibly unfair to them.

We have to keep it real – and still have faith in the mix. It’s a tricky balance and  depending on our personality we will tip over into either hyper faith or negativity.

When people’s expectations are not met they deal with a whole range of emotions from mild disappointment  to a total break of trust.

Lets be realistic with people- and treat them with the respect they deserve. Lets be  filled with faith but real. I love the verse that says Abraham considered his body as good as dead but still believed God. He was real and in faith!

One day I’ll get the balance right- what about you ?

(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)

 

Following is a Trust Issue

Last year I learnt some key  things about being a mentor from my Masters Supervisor ( See here  for that lesson) but I also learnt a whole lot about following.

Just so you understand for most of last year I was pretty convinced that at any moment they were going to find out how much I did not know and how much I am not an academic and throw me out of the Masters of Theology program. I did it simply because I knew it was outside of my comfort zone and so I should challenge myself. I also wanted to keep learning and growing.

So after getting a supervisor I really wanted and respected here is what I did. I did exactly what he told me to do!

I have to tell you there were times when the only reason I did what he told me was because I trusted him. I knew academically he was, and is, streets ahead of me.

One of the first things he told me to do was to read a 750 page book on the philosophy of hermeneutics. I have to tell you I could not see the connection between this work and my thesis which centred around Discipleship and Abundant Life. However I ploughed through that book with Google Dictionary as my guide because I trusted Dave.

He then had me read another 300 page book on pentecostal philosophy and around 200 pages on the New Perspective on first century Jews.

I thought I was going to be reading dense difficult books forever!

Then I started work on what was my topic and I have to tell you I still didn’t get the connection.

Seven months later I was doing my analysis and conclusions and suddenly it all clicked into place – the keys to everything I was doing was in those works. (Another bonus these books are no longer difficult and dense to me, but a joy !)

I followed because I trusted and it all came together and made sense in the end.

However academically I know I need help – often I don’t get how much I need help and I don’t always trust the leadership above me as I should.

I was so challenged to trust in a new way, to trust when I don’t understand, to trust when I can’t see where I was going, to trust when I am being asked to do something difficult and challenging.

I learnt an old lesson again, I rarely see the whole picture and I need people ahead of me and I need to trust them. As we get older it is so easy to lose the humility of trust. I certainly needed to be reminded of it again.

How do you fond trusting people God has placed in your life to lead you ? What has affected that trust?

(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)

I thought I was OK at the Mentoring/ Pastoring side of my life until..

 

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I started my MTh Thesis in March 2014.  If  you had have asked me in Feb 2014- I would have said that  mentoring/ pastoring was a strength. Until I had a year with a supervisor who was excellent at it . Going back to being a mentee under Dr David Parker was a great experience from me – and here is what he did that was so empowering

 

 

1. He believed in me

He believed I could do it more than I believed I could. He told me repeatedly I was going to get this done – and for some-one who was rusty and much more a practitioner than an academic this was a priceless gift.

2. He challenged me

He sent me emails where I had to google what the words meant before I could follow his directions.  He  returned sections I had written with extensive notes about where my holes were and sent me back to the library to keep researching – he refused to let me stay where I was and kept pushing me to learn more. It was so good for me.

3. He was so generous with his knowledge

If I had a question, he had an answer. In the end if I had forgotten to get one reference (which I did) and needed to go back to the library he saved me time and found it from his library . I always felt like I could ask anything .

4. He was available to me

As he lives a few hours away and his teaching schedule and mine often clashed we did most of our meetings over email and an occasional face to face or Skype. But I he was always present I would get emails back within hours at the pointy end of the project, when he went away he told me – I could rely on his on-going dialogue – it created so much security.

5. He was understanding of my world

When I told him he would not hear from me for a while as I was going to a US conference, coming back and going to a College Missions trip – he got it. He didn’t make me feel guilty – he gave me space and made me want to get back to studying ASAP.

It made me reflect on my mentoring roles- I am no-where near as good as Dave was – although my mentoring roles are different to a Thesis Supervisor – this experience made me want to be better at all areas of mentoring and pastoring. I saw the impact this had on my life- and how it allowed me to achieve more than I thought was possible -in the academic world that so intimidates and intrigues me.

As I travel into 2015 – as much as I learned about the topic of my thesis – one of the gems I carry from the experience is an inspiration to be a better mentor.

Anyone else had a mentor who inspired them ? Why ? Comment away.

( P.S For those of you who don’t know – my blogging has been scarce in the past few months as I have been finishing an MTh Thesis at Alphacrusis College as well as working full time- I did it to challenge myself, to keep learning and to set up my future. It was stretching, exhausting and truly wonderful. My blogs will be more regular again now – it is so nice to go back to  writing a page without a single footnote !!!)

I know I have used that photo of my little nephews  before but I couldn’t resist – its one of my favourites !

The State of the Heart

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Lately I have thought and spoken a lot about the state of our hearts and so thought I would share it here

I am convinced that the only way to navigate life well is to know the state of your heart and to be working to keep it soft and clean, and connected to God.

In the Parable of the Sower on Luke 8 , it describes four types of spoil that represent the state of our heart and over the next few weeks I am going to unpack them.

The first “soil” is that path where the seed cannot take any root and gets carried away by birds. In first century Palestine the paths would have just been hardened soil . So Jesus is  speaking of the heart that is hard. When I looked at hard hearts there are two references in Hebrews and one in the Psalms that warn us not to harden our hearts like the Israelites did at Meribah. So what happened at Meribah? We need to go back to Exodus 17 to find out.

When you read the story in Exodus you find that the Israelites were grumbling against God and asking for water while they were wandering in the desert after miraculously escaping slavery in Egypt.

At face value it doesn’t seem unreasonable to ask for water in a desert, in fact it seems totally reasonable to me! However to read the one chapter without its context is bad biblical interpretation ( if you do this C3 College has a course for you – Bible Interpretation a Online or On Campus- sorry about the shameless plug!) .

If we read the context – God had provided them water by taking bitter water and making it sweet in Exodus 15 and in Exodus 16 he had provided manna and quail for them to eat. He was providing for their needs, however in that moment they forget that God had been faithful to them and would continue to be faithful to them. They forgot the big story of their relationship with God. They were thirsty and probably hot and they wanted water then and there.

I wonder if often this is how our hearts get hard?  When we ask God for things that seem really reasonable in the moment and he doesn’t deliver them , we get disappointed. We don’t understand that in the words of the “Man in Black” in Princess Bride that “we have to get used to disappointment” and learn to process it. So to avoid disappointment in the future, we harden our hearts.

We forget to exegete our lives correctly,  we only look at the here and now and don’t see the big picture of what God is doing in our lives and even in the lives we are connected to. We take one chapter of our lives out of context and harden our hearts.

We need to be people who keep the big picture of our walk with God in our hearts – to be able to remember how faithfulness to us, our family and friends – and to not expect him to be the Big Genie in the sky – but to know he is a loving Father.

Easier said than done though – any tips ?