Australia, Fasting, government, Prayer, Uncategorized

Day 17: “Pray for Your Nation”

australiaIf you live in Australia, you love your laid back culture and your mantra when facing a problem is “no worries, mate.” BBQs, beaches and sunshine exemplify your weekend experiences and you bleed Green and Gold. Your nation is peaceful and prosperous for the most part with few world enemies.

You’re blessed.

Remember that your government is in place because God has allowed it. Recognise that no matter what’s going on in politics, which party is in power, or how much housing prices have risen, your God is in control.

He has you where he wants you and expects you to be a good citizen. He loves engaging with your prayers. As you lift up your country today, ask Jesus to bless your elected officials. Ask him to bring peace to your nation and to allow wisdom from above to guide its decisions. Don’t lose sight of your role nor the power of your God. Ask for Christ to be revealed throughout your nation.

And, no matter what the landscape of your life looks like as it relates to your culture and position in your country, learn to embrace it fully and to be content.

“Actually, I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am” (Philippians 4:12-13).

Australia, Social problems, Uncategorized

Emily’s Voice

baby-in-womb

The issue of abortion is one of the most polarizing subjects of our time.  People’s strong opinions on both sides of the issue make it difficult to have an open and honest dialogue.  Usually, someone’s agenda is at stake.  Politicians have votes and money on the line; doctors and abortion clinics do too.  Women in crisis have emotions, fear and stress affecting their judgement.  And, many Christians have a “holier-than-thou” judgemental mindset that widens the gap between those who consider themselves “pro-choice” and those who are “pro-life.”

We celebrate medical technology advancements like intrauterine surgery to save a baby’s life on one day; and the next, we see medical professionals advocating killing a “fetus” that’s the same age or older in the name of Women’s Rights.  The prevalence of lies surrounding the subject is one thing.  The absence of truth is another. I believe if most people are given the facts on both sides of an issue, they are competent and capable to make a wise decision on the matter.  When rhetoric and emotion are involved, this is hard to accomplish.

The facts are that at LEAST 80K babies are aborted annually in Australia alone.  And, there is a MAJOR lack of information and resources out there to actually help women (and men) facing a crisis pregnancy situation.  Contrary to popular belief, more than half of abortions are for social reasons, not because a mother’s health is in grave danger or because the baby suffers with a disability. 97% of aborted babies are PERFECTLY HEALTHY.  (Click here for references or to read more facts about abortion.) Sadly, abortion is often the only option a lot of women feel is available to them. We want to help change this in our community.

We have recently personally partnered with an amazing organization called Emily’s Voice which exists to help Australians fall in love with the unborn.  Motivated by love for the mother and her unborn baby, Emily’s Voice uses a clever and beautiful marketing campaign (30 sec commercials, bus ads, billboards) to portray real life stories of people who were faced with an unplanned pregnancy or with the news that their baby had a disability.  Sometimes the ads just remind us that “long before our first steps, first haircut and first heartache, the journey’s already begun in the womb.”  By highlighting beautiful facts about our unique features like hair, feet, or hands, we are reminded of the miracle that is LIFE.

Sadly, one in three Australian women will have an abortion.  This means one in four pregnancies are terminated.  However, 70% of women who had an abortion say they would have continued the pregnancy if a significant “other” had encouraged them. We believe Australians mindsets about abortion will change over time.  Much like the major government marketing strategy to highlight the dangers of smoking (no one actually thinks it’s a wise decision to smoke due to the influx of truth about this disgusting habit), Emily’s Voice will help Australians become aware of the fact that abortion is bad for more than just the baby who loses its life.  The emotional and physical ramifications for the mother are dangerous too.

Because of our own personal experience and passion to see these stats and mindsets change, Greg and I want to help others affected by this issue.  We have a vision to see a crisis pregnancy centre in our city which will provide education and support to women facing difficult situations. After all, if we really care about women’s rights, they deserve to have emotional support and correct information to make their CHOICE.  If you would like more information about Emily’s Voice or to partner with them now, click here.

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvelously made! Psalm 133:13-14 (MSG)

Australia, Inspiration, Uncategorized

How Big is Your World?

world

If you have ever been around pre-school kids, you know they are full of questions.  Their minds are always turning and thinking and they are SO LITERAL! I get the most joy out of chatting with my four year old daughter lately.  She is very clever and NOTHING gets past her.  A few days ago, we were driving and she said, “Mum, is Australia bigger than the world or is the world bigger than Australia?”  I laughed as I tried to give her a geography lesson and I was hit with some deep revelation.

In her mind, Australia is everything.  It’s home.  It’s school.  It’s church.  It’s family and friends.  Shopping and eating, sleeping and traveling.  Her whole universe is what’s right in front of her.  It’s hard for her to imagine anything bigger than her “WORLD!”

The sphere we live in is much smaller than the actual Earth, isn’t it?  I realized as I explained how big the rest of the world is to my sweet girl that nothing outside of her reality really mattered much.  She sort of looked at me with glazed over eyes and moved on to the next topic.

As adults, we are very similar.  Oh, we might understand geography and topography.  We might know demographics and populations.  But our worlds don’t go much beyond what we experience each day either.

Think about it… if you’re like me, your prayers mostly revolve around your own issues and needs.  Your schedule revolves around your priorities.  Your conversations are always about your life.  It takes a conscious effort to actually think about something other than yourself.  To remember

THE world is so much bigger than  OUR PERSONAL world.

I’m encouraging myself today to think about something other than myself!  Let’s all do it and make THE WORLD a better place!

Praise the Lord, all you nations;
extol him, all you peoples.
For great is his love toward us,
and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. (Psalm 117:1,2)

Australia, church, Church planting, Lift Church, Uncategorized, Video

Launch Rewind Video

So thankful for our talented volunteers!  This awesome night was captured beautifully on video.  Check it out:

ARC, Australia, church, Church planting, Inspiration, Lift Church, Newcastle, Uncategorized

Grand Opening

launch team2

Well, this amazing journey of church planting is now entering a new phase.  Last Saturday, May 11, we officially “launched” Lift Church!  This just means we pushed all of our marketing (radio, mass mailers, FB ads) towards this ONE BIG DAY in order to create some critical mass.  And, guess what?  It worked!

Prior to last weekend, our core team has been holding great services with anywhere from 30-60 people in them.  Saturday, we had 161 in attendance and most were first time guests.  Friends and fellow pastors drove from Sydney, Maitland, and Nelson Bay to celebrate with us.  The service itself was very special and we sizzled some sausages while kids ate sugar and ran laps through the jumping castles afterwards!

Most importantly, one lady made a decision to become a Christian and many of our guests experienced church and God in a fresh way that was upLIFTING, pardon the pun, and actually surprising for them.  Many will return and begin this journey of understanding their Creator alongside us.  Now, we have a great foundation on which to build.

On a personal note, I have to share what meant the most to me on the day…

Our family moved to Newcastle 11 months ago from Texas; we didn’t know anyone here.  We came with amazing training from ARC on how to plant a church, money we had raised from supporters in the States, some experience in pastoring, and that’s about it for the tangible pieces.  Everything else we owned was all tied up in the secret places of our hearts.  Our dreams, vision, and burden was alive in us but we felt very alone.  We believed strongly that God had called us and sent us here; however, we really had NO IDEA how we would get our first members.

One family moved here from TX to help us and then suddenly in July, one more approached us and asked if they could come along (which we thought was quite funny as we really weren’t in a position to say NO!)!  Over the next month, we gathered a couple more people which allowed us to begin “living room church” with five families.

As the weeks went on and one by one we added to this core team, shared our vision, and began putting systems in place and holding serves, a significant shift began to occur.  What was once only in OUR hearts, poured out and took root in OTHER PEOPLE’S HEARTS.  What I saw on Saturday, and what made me weep on and off all day (and again as I type), was a group of about

40 “LIFTERS” who were absolutely SOLD OUT to our vision.

They came early and stayed late.

They moved equipment and decorated.

They shopped and planned and cooked and cleaned.

They practiced playing their instruments and singing.

Their kids joined in the labour of love that was about to “LIFT-OFF!”

The enthusiasm was electric and each and every one of them invited friends and family and were so proud of what they, with God’s help, had accomplished.

This, to me, is God’s Church at its best.  Unity and enthusiasm working hand in hand.  A dying to ourselves and a willing sacrifice in order to provide a place of refuge and hope for the lost and hurting.

When we place our gifts in God’s hands and allow them to be used in the local church, there’s no greater example to the world of Christ’s love and character; and THIS, my friends, is why I love the church.

Before Jesus was captured and crucified, he prayed a beautiful prayer for his followers.  Tonight as I reflect on all that is good in my life, I am praying a portion of this same prayer over Lift Church and our amazing team:

“I’m praying not only for them
But also for those who will believe in me
Because of them and their witness about me.
The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind—
Just as you, Father, are in me and I in you,
So they might be one heart and mind with us.
Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me.
The same glory you gave me, I gave them,
So they’ll be as unified and together as we are—
I in them and you in me.
Then they’ll be mature in this oneness,
And give the godless world evidence
That you’ve sent me and loved them
In the same way you’ve loved me.” (John 17:20-23, MSG)

Australia, Fun, Pictures, Uncategorized

My Christmas Letter

This year, my usual Christmas schedule was “off” since we moved to Australia! Here are some highlights from our year that you might have received in a Christmas letter if I had sent one:

disney

Disney World trip: It was amazing to go to Disney for a week before we moved! I still miss Mickey and dream about another trip to Florida with all three kids.  We left Sammy in TX so he wouldn’t slow us down this time.  It’s only fair to him that we go again ASAP! #wheredreamscometrue

beach

Moving to Australia: We love where God has called us! #newcastle

furniture arrival

Furniture arriving: Our furniture left TX on April 10. We moved into our rental house on June 1.  Our furniture arrived around July 20.  Camping out in our house was old news by the time our shipment arrived.  We were so happy to have our own beds and more than 6 suitcases worth of clothing for the five of us. #stuff

hillsong conf

Hillsong Conference: There’s nothing like worshiping God in an arena with 25,000 people from all over the world. #spectacular

bcc

Getting Brett into Belmont Christian College: God provided a way for Brett to attend the great private school at the end of our street.  This has helped us all in our transition. #education

rob and ang

 

Meeting Robyn and Angie: My two neighbourhood friends who make me feel at home everyday.  From early morning runs, to “happy hour,” baking, and special celebrations for birthdays and holidays, these two girls are already like family to me. #friendship

lift first

 

First Lift Service: Having our first service in our rented church building was indescribable.  We never thought we would be as far along as we are in building a team in 2012. #blessed

spelde

 

Our First Aussie Members: We were surprised the day this beautiful couple came to us (after meeting at Hillsong Conference) to say they felt called to join Lift Church.  They lead worship too! #answertoprayer

blackmores

 

Running Blackmore Half Marathon: I trained throughout winter to run this race so I could experience the beauty of Sydney in a different way.  I ran across the Sydney Harbour Bridge and ended at the Opera House. #lovetorun

anniversary

 

Celebrating 13 year anniversary:  I love this man more than words can say.  I am so proud of the Godly leader he has become and cannot believe the journey we are on with our three amazing kids. #truelove

God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us. (Ephesians 3:20 MSG)

Australia, Contentment, Inspiration, Uncategorized

Santa, Beach, and Blessings

santa

If you follow my blog, you know about many of my “Australian struggles” like driving on the left, shopping in the grocery store, and learning the slang.  Christmas brings about a whole new set of issues for me albeit minor in the big scheme of things.  The most wonderful time of the year yet so many of my memories and traditions are an ocean away.

America, as you know, is in the Northern Hemisphere.  So, it’s cold.  I’m not used to swimming and drinking iced coffee at the beach in December.  Buying our kids things like flippers, boardies, and sunglasses isn’t usually on my shopping list.  There are no chestnuts roasting on an open fire.  No jack frost nipping, or chance of a white Christmas.  As a matter of fact, Santa in a red wool suit with big hot black boots seems even more ridiculous when you live on the beach.  We have no peppermint, pumpkin spice, or gingerbread lattes.  Our house has no fireplace to hang the stockings.

Last week, I tried to make my chocolate goodies that I always make for friends during the holidays.  I threw out two batches of messed up fudge and one still sits squishy inside my fridge.  No nestle 12 oz bag of chocolate chip morsels was available for purchase here.  My good friends who usually take a cute family photo of us weren’t available for hire.  I didn’t even make my annual card with a letter.  As a matter of fact, I think I got crossed off everyone’s list for mailing me a Christmas card as well.

So far, I have received ONE.

I haven’t bought my kids any fancy Christmas outfits.  No frilly dresses and tights for Sydney.  We haven’t taken any evening drives to go looking at Christmas lights.  If we see a house with a lot of lights, we actually do a double take and sometimes even turn around to get a better look since those are few and far between.  Anyway, it’s daylight savings so it’s not dark until after 8pm.

There’s nothing wrong with a little nostalgia and sentimentality for things that “once were” but we can’t stay there.  Life is moving too fast and we will miss out on what’s ahead if we linger too long.  I’m not prepared to lose something right in front of me all because I want my old kitchen and Christmas fudge back.

I LOVE going to the beach and pool everyday in December.  I have “flat white” coffees in little cafes while watching the ocean.  I get to try new foods and bake new things while having a good laugh.  Plus, I can only “go up” from here with my Christmas treats for neighbours!  We live a mere two hours from Greg’s family so will be able to drive there on Christmas day and spend a few days with them.  And, God has brought many wonderful neighbours around us; we are forming our own new traditions.

We can’t move forward in life if we are always looking behind us.  I look at the families with whom we are connecting already and I see the impact Lift Church will have in their lives and I can’t imagine not being here.  My kids are healthy and happy.  My marriage is good and God has provided everything we need.

In light of the terrible tragedy last week in Connecticut, my momentary struggles are shaken up into a stark reality where I can only thank God for this wonderful life I live.  Missing my Mercedes and shopping at The Domain is ridiculous compared to the unimaginable grief of someone tragically losing a child.

There is only ONE who can mend a broken heart. His name is Jesus. Psalm 34 says, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted. He rescues those whose spirits are crushed.”

My spirit is far from crushed this Christmas as I reflect on the goodness of God and all of my blessings.  For many, holidays are a reminder of a loved one lost, financial stress, and loneliness.  The best thing we can do is reach out to those in need and pour our lives into sharing the love of Christ with those whose hearts need mending during the holidays.  Let’s all focus on others and what’s good in our lives this Christmas season.

“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:28 (NLT)