Understand Yourself – It’s Your Responsibility

Painting

 

One of the things I have learnt in life and ministry is that it is so important to understand stand myself and how I function. For a long time I thought it was self-absorbed to spend time figuring myself out . However I now see it is part of loving the people around me.

If I don’t understand how I work- I will emotionally vomit all over people, I will not function properly when people are depending on me and as a leader I will create an environment that is insecure and unstable.

So don’t think of it as naval gazing and for Heavens sake don’t get lost in working yourself out for years before you do anything – however along the way learn about how you function and how you are gifted so you can be most effective. I consider it an outworking of the parable of the talents- we need to work our talents and gifts – but how can we work them if we don’t know what they are.

Our  gifts and talents function within our physical frame , our personality and our unique wiring. To best steward who God has created you to be – you need to understand what are your optimal conditions !

Here are a few things you need to know about yourself (some are very simple)

  • How much sleep you need . I know I am an 8 hours a night girl. In peak times , or highly festive seasons I can do 6 hours for about 3 nights, any more and I can schedule the migraine.
  • Are you an introvert or an extrovert. I know I am an extrovert – so a week’s holiday on my own sounds great in theory but in practise will send me into a downward spiral.  However I know I am really happy exploring cities, seeing shows and going to art galleries on my own – in fact I LOVE it. Doesn’t make any sense with the rest of my personality but there it is. (the photo above is from the Met in NY one day in June)
  • Know your personality weaknesses. I know I am a sanguine personality and so my greatest fear is rejection. Understanding this means I stay off Instigram when I know there is an event I am not invited to. Seeing the photos will hurt – I know I should be bigger than this by now but I am not. So better to guard my heart.
  • What are your strengths . I did the strength finder test a few years ago and found that I am an achiever. I like to get things done. So even on a holiday week or rest day I will feel better if I achieve something. So I have learnt to turn finishing a book, cooking a great meal, watching a movie or hanging with friends into an achievement for the day.
  • What is your love language. Mine is quality time. Knowing this helps me to talk myself through some tricky situations – even in my family. Just because they are not spending time with me does not mean they don’t love me! That is my love language not theirs.
  • How do you handle stress – under pressure I turn into a choleric personality it’s not really pretty. I apologise to my staff in advance of big events. Knowing this makes me stop and deliberately soften my approach. One day I hope to be able to stop apologising and be kind under pressure – I am a work in progress.

(Wow just read that back- hope I haven’t  scared you all away from my blog by my glaring flaws!)

Those are a few areas I think are important.

Any thoughts ? What did I miss ?? What else is important to understand about yourself ?

Upgrade Me

Birthday Photo

Well its been a most wonderful week- my family, friends and students spoiled me incredibly and now I am the proud owner of some stunning pearl earrings and a pearl necklace which came in a little blue bag . Three friends and one sister flew from interstate to help me celebrate , there were conspiracies and surprises, good friends and lovely gifts and I was overwhelmed.

Then I launched straight into the College production week and so it has been a week of late night rehearsals.

So I have not had time to write- so I am posting a blog I wrote for the College Alumni about 2 years ago – because being so spoiled last week made me think of it. Won’t make a practise of recycling forgive me I won’t turn 50 again !

Upgrade Me

Last week my first (and to date only) experience flying business class . I’m a late bloomer!

I used my frequent flyer points and flew business to Brisbane. I loved it!

I loved the extra leg room. I loved the little hot towels. I loved the real plates and glasses. I loved getting off the plane first. I really loved the food and wine.  I had a blast and enjoyed every minute of it.

However none of those things were what impressed me most. What impressed me most is the difference in how you get treated in business class. The staff knew my name and called me by it. They asked me if there was anything I needed at the end of the meal. They went out of their way to meet and anticipate my needs.

The bizarre thing is this, after about half an hour of this it started effecting how I felt. I felt respected and valued, and the way the lady sitting next to me spoke to me was entirely different to other conversations I have had on planes. But I am still me- and I am the same me who a few weeks earlier was jammed into a full economy flight for 30 hours on the way back from Europe with no little hot towels or wine in a real glass!

I started to think how easy it is to make people feel better about themselves- just by treating them with respect and giving them value. (And giving them a little hot towel if you have one handy!) We have the chance every day to give some-one’s life an upgrade.

Jesus constantly upgraded people. He discussed theological concepts with an outcast woman getting water at a well – when other men of the town would have shown contempt. He asked a despised tax collector to have dinner with him. He extended grace and mercy to a woman who was sleeping with some-one else’s husband. He valued people no matter what their circumstances.

I loved business class – but it ended for me in 90 short minutes. Wonder if we followed Jesus’ example by upgrading some-one’s life today if it could last a whole lot longer?

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50 is the new 30. Really ?

50

 

So today I am 50 – there I said it !

As I post this – thanks to the wonders of technology I will be having dinner with my family- enjoying a view of the harbour bridge and a great bottle of red wine (thanks Jordan and Lisa !) . All my siblings will be together;  my sister is here from Perth, my brother from Singapore as well as the Sydney family! It will be a sacred time (unless we get into an argument which could happen in our family but probably not on a birthday – and either way there will be much love in the midst of it all !)

In the last few weeks to encourage me about my advancing age – some people have said – don’t worry 50 is the new 30. I know they mean well and are being kind. However I think I am just going to embrace the season ! I am 50 – I am not 30 – I loved being 30 but it is long over- and so I am going to love being 50 !

I wonder why we are all trying so hard to hang onto our youth – and why we can’t just go with getting older . One of my favourite scriptures is  Philippians 4:12 “I know what it is to be in need and I know what it is to be in plenty, I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” . I guess the key to this scripture is that it is a secret – not many people find contentment in the season they are in. I want to be a person who is content in this season of my 50’s.

I wont lie to you and tell you that my life is perfect. I have cried some tears over dreams I thought should have come true by now – turns out God and Walt Disney have different views on life !

I may also have been slightly offended when I heard some of my students thought I didn’t understand their fashion choices because I am “older”. On reflection I realised I have never really understood fashion , it has nothing to do with my age. (It also has to do with the wisdom you get as you get older on when and where to show off the great legs God gave you ! )

 

However my life is rich and wonderful. I have an incredible family, amazing friends, a job I love, a church with a vision I am passionate about and the list goes on.  Right now I am sitting on my front deck looking out at Long Reef on Sydney’s Northern Beaches while my little nephews play on my iPad .

I am a blessed woman.

If I slip out of contentment I just need to look at the world around me – there are people in the Philippines now who are struggling to survive, who have been made orphans and homeless by a typhoon. My issues are light and momentary.

Getting old on this earth is a privilege. I am going to do my best to enjoy every moment !

50 is not the new 30 – it is 50 and it is fabulous !

How do you find contentment ?

(The photo is from my surprise birthday in NY in May,  who was expecting a birthday party 6 months early?  It was wonderful and humbling – and so incredibly kind – dont’ believe the stories NYers are some of the best people on the planet )

 

 

Pam’s Top 10 Practical Boundary Thoughts

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We are all wired differently and so different ways of keeping healthy boundaries work for us.

Here are 10 things that are working for me   – in no particular order,  except the first one.

  1. Sabbath is not part of the law. It was part of the original plan of God. As Jesus said – Sabbath was made for man. We cannot survive without at least one day of rest in a week. If God needed to rest on the seventh day so do we. Stay tuned for a whole blog on this.
  2.  Get into somewhere green or blue whenever you can – find a beach to walk on, a river to stroll by, a park to sit in, a mountain to stare at – as often as you can. When we spend time in creation we re-connect with the Creator.  Try not to take your phone – the world will survive without you for an hour as you nurture your soul. (The photo above is my beach -so blessed).  Disconnects you from work in a way few other things can.
  3. In ministry there will always be more work than people and money – no matter how big the organization you work for is. So get use to going home and switching off without having completed everything, it is life in the kingdom. I love to complete tasks and it has led to many late nights in the office – but I have realized that in church life there is never any real completion. There is just a kingdom that is ever-expanding (And how exciting is that )and so I can’t gauge my success or progress on completion.
  4. I am responsible before God to look after my own life. If I am physically run down, emotionally exhausted and spiritually dry – it is not the job of my Pastors to step in.
  5. If I have no margin – emotionally, financially, spiritually, physically because I have no boundaries and live right out to the edge of the page of my life – I cannot be a good Samaritan to the people in need I come across in my life.  If I am so tired and cranky from not having enough sleep that I don’t even see the needs around me –  what use am I?? Might write a whole blog on this too!
  6. Even introverts need people and extroverts need alone time. We are just wired to get energy primarily from one or the other – not to negate the other one in our lives. I am an extrovert – but if I don’t have come potter time regularly I get a little crazy.
  7. Holidays are never at a good time,but we have to take them. They have to be times of disconnecting from our normal work and where possible our normal lives. As Rick Warren says – Abandon annually. I actually think Abandon annually is the barest minimum – take your vacation people and really disconnect.
  8. I am not the Saviour I know that is obvious but the way we work sometimes you would think the government was upon our shoulders – the government is upon His shoulders.
  9. The faster I respond the faster people will expect me to respond. If I reply to an email at 10pm at night people will grow to expect it.  I will create a rod for my back that is not sustainable. I now turn my emails off on my phone when I leave work and don’t turn them back on until at least 8 the next morning. I was waking up and doing work emails before I got out of bed – ok in peak  – times really bad for a sustainable life!
  10. I can say no to things with no reason apart from I am too tired, I need some space or I just don’t want to do it. Jesus withdrew to lonely places often throughout the gospels even though the need around him was huge. Ponder this one !

These are the things I am learning – at very nearly 50 I have lived a life that at points has lacked good boundaries and I have suffered for it; relationships have suffered, my health has suffered and worst of all at times I have modelled a life that no-one wants !

I was doing it all for Jesus –and really he was saying – Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest!” He wanted to show me a better way AND  I am finally getting it. I think I will be getting it for the rest of my life.

What is your best boundary tip ? I need all the help I can get in this area !

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The B Word – Boundaries !

I have a sneaking suspicion that the way women are wired makes us  prone to having boundary issues. I am not sure it is about lack of self-esteem, abuse in our pasts or people pleasing so much as it is just what makes us women. It is our strengths turned against us.

Women are wired to mother. My Pastor Bernie Kelsey has a great saying- “You don’t have to give birth to be a mother”. The very essence of mothering is to care for some one else’s needs in a way that is sacrificial. Whether it is a screaming newborn or a friend in distress, our mothering kicks in to ignore our own needs and provide for the needs of another.

These things are strengths in women’s lives but as we all know our greatest strengths can be our greatest weaknesses. People we love and respect can unfortunately exploit our ability to self-sacrifice sometimes unknowingly. This can be an issue for women in general but for women called into an area of ministry it is way too common.

For women who are single and in ministry this whole area can be incredibly problematic as they are no natural boundaries in place.There is no husband or children who are demanding time and attention.

If we take the call of God seriously then we have to create a lifestyle that is sustainable –with good and healthy boundaries. If we don’t we are modeling a life that will at it’s worst lead to total burn out and at its best be very one dimensional and not reflective of our creative and incredible God.

I have lately been pondering this thought ; what is an abundant life? If Jesus came to give us life and life more abundantly (Jn 10:10) – I am pretty sure he was not just talking about having full churches and more meetings. I am also sure he was not talking about the best houses, cars and shoes that money could buy- otherwise our third world brothers and sisters could not receive it. When we look at the meaning of that greek word abundantly – we get clarity – it is about having a life that is “superior, extraordinary, surpassing, uncommon”. Now that is the sort of life we all want.

When I have no boundaries and live a life that is all work- even if that is ministry work – my life honestly does not look superior, extraordinary, surpassing, uncommon.  It does not seem to be a life where I could say to other people – follow me as I follow Christ.

In fact I have had people tell me, in times where I was all work and no play- that if this was what ministry was they didn’t want it. These were not antagonistic non believers – these were sincere Christians who felt a call of God on their lives.  I don’t want to ever hear that again about my life – so I have set about putting in place some boundaries that protect me from it – it is a work in progress

More on the practicalities next week ! How are your boundaries people ??

You Gotta Have Friends

Friends

Recently one of my students was describing the situation her parents were in as Lay  Pastors- she said they don’t have friends because they are Pastors and can’t really be honest with anyone. This made me really sad.The lie that Pastors and leaders can’t have friends is one that was prevalent when I was a young In ministry. We have all heard the maxim  “it is lonely at the top” .  Yes there are areas of our  work that we cannot talk about due to confidentiality . But really when we think about it – doctors, psychologists, social workers, politicians and many other professions are in the same position.We all need friends. We need friends we can laugh with and cry with. Friends who understand our sometimes crazy lives and are willing to make the effort. Friends who are not people we pastor or lead and who are not expecting us to always have all the answers.

In a recent situation in my own life I was struggling emotionally with a few areas of my life. To be honest I was really upset about two situations and felt like I should be handling them better. My girl firends helped me understand why I was feeling the way I was, listened, prayed for me and my emotional outpouring did not change our relationship – except to make us closer.  They did not run off to a Pastor and tell them Pam is falling apart,  you need to pull her from all leadership- they loved me and shared my burden thus fulfilling the law of Christ. (Gal 6:2)

Letting people into my struggle did not change it , it just made me feel less alone. Knowing that other people understood made me feel more connected.They told me I wasn’t crazy. They allowed me space to process .

 I did not tell everyone – just a couple of people.  It just made me so grateful for long term friendships- people that love me no matter how much of a mess I am.

Recently we had Ps Mike Connell in our church and he talked about Jesus in his hour of greatest emotional and spiritual distress in the Garden of Gesthemene wanting his three closest friends to be with him. Was there anything they could do for him? No. Would anything they said or did change his situation ? No, Jesus just wanted  friends to be there with him.In tough times and good times we all need friends . It is a lie that leadership has to be lonely. Yes there are times to be alone with God, or alone to process, or alone in making some tough calls, but we were created social beings with a need for community.

We need soul friends who can hear our deepest pain. We need friends who we have fun with and laugh with. We need travel buddies and movie buddies and people who like to eat the same food we eat. We need old friends and new friends. We need friends who are older than us and friends who are younger. We need take risks and connect with people and let them into our hearts. Will every person become a best friend – no – but our lives will be richer for having made space for another person.

When God said ” it is not good for an to be alone ” I don’t think he was just talking about marriage -I think he was talking about life!

How do you nurture friendships ?

(The photo above is one of my favourites from my Long Service leave- high tea with three of my NY girls – friends for over 20 years – precious)

Serving Jesus 2- The Tough Stuff

I am a little afraid that after reading this blog many of you may say “this teaching is too hard” and run for cyber safety – but what can I do – it’s all I got ! This is a longish blog- promise they won’t all be this long!

In the last blog I talked about the importance of knowing whom we are serving – it is Jesus and now here are a few areas I believe it is crucial we keep this in perspective

1. Finances

Ps Stephen Hickson from C3 Manhattan said to me one day about his long term service in the C3 movement  “Church cannot pay me for the extra hours I have willingly done, so I am trusting Jesus to reward me. “ It totally shifted my perspective. C3 Church is not the supplier of my needs – Jesus is. C3 Church is not my security and does not hold my future but Jesus does. If I chose to work overtime I am serving Jesus and building his church and my reward will be eternal. (More about boundaries in a few weeks!)

If C3 Church decided to terminate my position tomorrow I know would be incredibly disappointed, sad and possibly angry for a season but I have to keep positioning my heart so that a loss of role does not mean I walk away from serving Jesus.

2. Our Emotional Connection to Leaders

In holding the people above you in the correct place in your life it is key that we do not allow them to take the place that only Jesus should inhabit.

When men and women serve a person first, the tendency is to have expectations of that person that are unreasonable and we set them up to fail in our eyes. When I serve leaders through my service to Jesus, I understand that he alone is perfect and infallible, everyone else is flawed and fallible.

Over the years I have watched people deify a leader. They do everything the leader wants faster and more effectively than the rest of us mere mortals, they are agreeable on everything the first time, they are at every single meeting and it all seems wonderful. However in conversation over time it become clear they are holding a leader in a position he or she never asked for or wanted. They start justifying the leaders human preferences with scripture and creating doctrine out of culture. They allow the leader to hold a place in their affections that is inappropriate.

With women in difficult marriages this causes tension in the home, as husbands cannot possibly live up to this perfect pastor. For single women they become the man against whom all men are measured. It is frequently based on a one-dimensional understanding of who the leader is. These situations often end in disappointment and disillusionment; sometimes with the leader, sometimes then with the whole church and in the worst cases it causes people to walk away from God entirely.

There is only one man who was perfect, and his name of Jesus. There is only one man who we should be serving as our first priority – his name is Jesus. To put any other man or woman in the place where Jesus should be is incredibly unfair to that person and dangerous to our souls

As a member of a church planting team in Long island, New York this was tested for me when the Senior Pastors Mark and Bernie Kelsey were called home 8 years into the plant. They are incredible, godly, empowering leaders – but they had not called me to NY – Jesus had. So after much prayer and soul searching I didn’t come home to Australia when they did, I stayed for another five years until I felt the release from God to leave. I have to serve him first.

The Disclaimer

Now as a local church girl who has served in the same movement for twenty five years and in only two churches in that time, I am not advocating a individualistic unteachable Christianity that wont serve a leader or a church and uses as an excuse for a rebellious spirit that “I serve Jesus alone”. When you serve Jesus you serve the men and women he places above you, you serve you local church and you sacrificially give to build the church of the Living God. You just don’t expect any leader to be perfect, your church to be the supplier of your needs or your ministry role to fulfil every hope and dream in your heart. These are matters for Jesus.

The problem is it is so much easier to see the church and the leaders in front of us – so we have to keep going back to the secret place and placing Jesus on the throne of our lives.  In my life this will be a lifelong journey of constant re-alignment so that I can healthily serve for the long haul. How about you ?