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 !

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Tough Times Need An Often Forgotten Fruit

Recently I went through a very challenging time . I have learnt so much from it .

It started a few weeks ago I got a call on a Sunday morning early that one of my family members was in hospital 90 minutes away. Along with the rest of the family in Sydney, I jumped in a car and spent the whole day at the hospital.

On Monday morning as you can imagine I was not at my best.

I stopped at the shops and my car door opened too quickly and touched the door next to it. The driver of the other car was there yelling at me in seconds. I promptly burst into tears, then explained my reaction was not due to the car – but rather, the ill family member and guess what happened ?

The other driver got more angry at me, continued to yell and be aggressive in a way that eventually meant I lodged a police report. (I have never done that before – it was unpleasant people )

The man had no kindness or compassion for me . He was totally fixated on telling me about his issues, which were of great concern to him I know.

Both of us needed kindness that day – but instead there was just lots of angry words exchanged.

Then in the following weeks I received so much kindness which starkly contrasted this incident. People in my world have poured out kindness in so many forms – there were so many flowers, calls, texts, meals, baking done, rides given, classes and work duties covered, prayers prayed and care given. As a verbal processor I am so grateful to family and flat-mates who listened – for hours !

Somehow in the middle of a tough time – when nerves are frayed – kindness is like balm for your brittle soul.

Last Saturday afternoon in a car park after another draining time, a lady cut me off and took my spot. Again teary, I thought – when I cut off a person in traffic, or speak harshly to a sales person, or get annoyed with a waiter – I need to be mindful that I don’t know what they are facing today.

Today, maybe if I die to my agenda a little and show kindness where ever I can – maybe I can offer a balm to a brittle soul. Maybe I can be more Christ-like, maybe I can let the fruit of kindness grow again  in my life. Maybe it will be just what some-one needs to get through the day.

In this crazy world we live in – and especially in the tough times – I realized again – kindness is not just important, it is crucial for the human soul.

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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 3 – Don’t be a Know All

Last year at College I had the honor of teaching a number of people in their 70’s. To be fair they have much longer experience of life and following God than I do. Despite this I found them to be the most open, hungry learners.

People who could have been “know it alls” were the opposite.

Then in the last week I have been in a Communications Master Class with Paul Scanlon (he’s not paying me but I would recommend it in a heart beat) and in a Leaders meeting with Ps Phil Pringle, and both mentioned that they see a teachable heart as a key to success in life.

So as I reflected on this I realised again how important it is  to lead out hearts and minds to always be teachable – to never stop learning. Once we get the “know it all” spirit we put a ceiling over our lives.

A few ways to do this -and I am sure you can think of more

  1. Decide you can learn something from everyone. Every person in your world has something to teach you.
  2. Be curious about life – don’t settle for what you think you remember about something – find out – heck google it. We have learning out our fingertips every day.
  3. Let every life situation teach you something – I look for the lesson in everything .
  4. Read, read, read. Don’t just read from authors that you know you will agree with – read people who will challenge you. Allow your thinking to be challenged.
  5. Decide, no matter how much I know about a topic, I am not an expert. I am just someone on a journey to keep understanding.

As a person involved in education and training as a job it is fascinating to watch students on a learning journey. They all get the same content and experiences, some chose to be open and teachable and their growth is extraordinary. There are always some people who for whatever reason don’t  eat what is laid out for them on the banquet table. It is so sad to me – it is especially sad when they take no personal responsibility and it is everyone else’s fault. No learning experience is perfect, and C3 College is definitely not perfect, however what we learn in any place is largely our responsibility.

Everyday we have an opportunity to learn something that will enrich our lives and help us grow. Let’s lead ourselves every day to be people who are teachable.

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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 !!

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