Church planting, Inspiration, Leadership, Newcastle

Plucked or Planted?

treeMy community is strewn with uprooted trees and fallen branches after massive cyclonic storms ravaged our region last week. Trees have crushed cars, houses and power lines. I have been shocked to see massive gums lying sideways on the ground with their entire root balls exposed like this one in the photo I took at the end of my street. It’s like the giant from Jack and the Beanstalk came around and pulled up the trees like you and I would pull up a weed.

I couldn’t help but think of some of the beautiful tree imagery found in God’s word as my Facebook feed was bombarded with photos like mine. The Lord promises to make us “oaks of righteousness, displaying his splendour.” The righteous are also told we will flourish like a “palm tree” and a “cedar of Lebanon” bearing much fruit, even in old age.

I don’t know of any scriptures that refer to our beloved Australian Eucalyptus trees or of any reference to 3 metre trees being unstable and easily moved. So, I set out to do some research intending to make a correlation between trees with strong roots versus weak ones and how they might relate to us spiritually.

Much to my creative dismay, I found out all of these trees have amazingly strong roots. I mean, some go down as deep as the tree is tall. Some hardwoods have tap roots digging metres into the ground. Roots can extend sideways as far out as the canopy of leaves above the ground.

Oak trees need little water or fertiliser once their roots are established. Gum trees thrive in wet areas as their roots rest in the upper layers of the soil. Palm trees have roots that regenerate and continually jut out from all angles acting as anchors and feeders for the trees.

The roots of trees are so strong they can crack foundations of houses, lift up concrete walkways, and kill off every other living thing nearby as they take nutrients and water from the soil. No wonder God uses them as similes all throughout the Word as he paints a picture of our strength and glory in his eyes!

So, my question remains – how did these massive Eucalyptus trees in the Hunter fall over with their roots and soil in tact as if I personally transplanted them from a pot and laid them down to await their next home?

The ground around the tree became totally saturated with rainfall, making the tree vulnerable. Then, winds upwards of 100km/hr blew, ripping them out of the ground as easily as you or I could pick a daisy in our back yard. (I’m no arborist so please excuse my simplistic explanation for the sake of your personal growth and inspiration!).

I want to remain firmly planted when the storms of life rage against me, never allowing them to uproot my faith or my view of God and his steadfast care for me.

Unlike a giant gum tree who has no preference or say in where he is planted, we have the privilege of choosing in which soil we place ourselves, how much we are watered and fertilised as well as how much input we receive from the SON (pun intended).

Psalm 92:13 says those who are planted “IN THE HOUSE OF THE LORD” will FLOURISH.

I’m a church planter, so it goes without saying I’m passionate about the church. It’s what Jesus says he’s coming back for, his bride; it’s to whom most of the New Testament was written; it’s the hope of the world to bring communities together and to care for those in need; it’s where we teach and instruct; it’s a house of prayer and a place of worship to our God.

Not being PLANTED in good healthy soil as a believer is like telling that gum tree to grow on the sandy shores of Redhead Beach. Or, expecting it to flourish in a car park with concrete all around, poor drainage, and pipes cutting into the roots underneath. No one would think that’s sane! We must find the nutrient rich soil of a local church and stick ourselves in it if we want to flourish.

We must care for the soil and keep it watered by serving and building relationships. Let us never over saturate with self-doubt, fear or judgement of those around us who are doing their best to thrive too. We must stand tall in the face of trials, sending out our roots for Living Water that nourishes and protects. We have to find comfort in the canopy of other believers, knowing there is protection when we aren’t isolated and exposed.

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lordwhose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-9

Devotion, Fasting, Inspiration, Kids, Leadership, Series, Uncategorized

2015 Fasting Devotion, Day NINETEEN

Read 1 Timothy 4

As parents, we know we have a responsibility to teach and train our kids in certain areas. We train them to eat with cutlery and use a toilet when they are little. We teach them how to obey and respect adults. We make them go to school for their education and often put them in extra-curricular activities like sport and music to develop other skills in their lives.

As Christian parents, we must not forget to invest in and train our kids spiritually. In order to do this effectively, our kids must see us training ourselves. That’s why daily time in the word, prayer, and even disciplines like fasting as a family are invaluable. The Apostle Paul is reminding his young follower, Timothy, that exercise is valuable, but a disciplined life in God makes us fit for today and forever.

Whether we have children under our roof or we are just influencing those around us, it’s our life that speaks volumes – through our words, actions, love, faith and integrity. We must cultivate and immerse ourselves in these matters, placing higher value on them than physical exercise or secular education.

Practically, you can ask your kids to read a scripture with you and discuss it. When you correct and discipline, bring it back to a Godly principle and pray for forgiveness, asking God for help going forward. Have daily times when you thank God for your many blessings and train your kids to have a grateful spirit. Pray with them before school and before big moments in their lives, teaching them to lean on God in every situation.

Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for reminding me of the importance ongoing spiritual education is in my life and the lives of the young ones in my care. Help me to make it a high priority each day. I pray that the fruit of my investment would be plentiful. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Devotion, Fasting, Kids, Leadership, Series, Uncategorized

2015 Fasting Devotion, Day SEVENTEEN

Read Colossians 3:18-25 (MSG)

You’ve probably heard the mantra, “God First, Family Second, Job Third.” Although I don’t believe life can be so simple as to compartmentalise our relationships in a linear fashion, I understand this thought speaks to priorities. In any given moment, I’m loving God, my husband, my kids and my work all at the same time! However, the out working of my first love and affection being Christ means my other obligations fall into alignment. I love my husband better. Then, when we are healthy and walking in unity, our kids benefit. As our family prospers, we can invest in other areas with joy and ease.

When our jobs become more important than our kids, people suffer. When our personal expectations and image trump our kid’s feelings and struggles, we risk crushing their spirits. As employees, husband and wives, we must serve and work as though we are serving the Lord. This removes any chance of offence or bitterness when our own expectations aren’t met.

As we continue to focus on our families through prayer and fasting this week, let us commit to doing everything in our power to serve and bless those whom we influence. Keeping our priorities and investment of time, energy, kind words, and service in the right order, we not only bring honour and glory to God, but our families prosper as well.

Heavenly Father, only YOU know what the dynamics of my work and family life are like. Give me strength to do what you have called me to do to love and honour those in my life. On good days when it’s easy, I rejoice! On bad days, when life is hard and I don’t receive the respect and love I so desire, help me to focus on YOU first and honour you anyway. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Leadership, Series, Uncategorized

2015 Fasting, Day Three

Read Genesis 41

(Today’s post is submitted by Pastor Greg.)

Joseph’s story is one of rags to riches – a story of a guy who went from a pit to the palace. Joseph constantly sought after, honoured, and devoted himself to God no matter what circumstances surrounded him. Miraculously, Joseph found favour with Pharaoh and became second in command in the most powerful nation in the world at the time.

When you, like Joseph, devote yourself to God, you can expect doors to open in your life. You can have influence with those around you. Whether you are a corporate executive or a stay-at-home-mum, you can make a difference for others. People want what you have when they see the fruit of the spirit in your life. Your voice can bring the right word at the right time to encourage someone. Or, to give Godly advice in a difficult circumstance.

God, I want to know you as Joseph knew you. I pray that you will open doors for me to have influence with the people around me. Turn impossible situations in my life into miracles that will testify to your greatness! Give me influence and a voice in my city that will bring honour to you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Courage, Inspiration, Leadership, Uncategorized

Push Baby Push

colour explosion

If you’ve ever given birth, you know what “transition labour” is all about: that excruciating moment where you begin to second-guess your plans for a drug-free delivery. You self-doubt; and if you’re me, you begin to shake and cry a little, your begging eyes looking at your spouse for any sign of comfort that “this too shall pass.” You were SO ON TOP OF IT for the last 5 hours but now it seems like all your best efforts to breathe, relax and work with your body have gone out the window.

However… not long after this no-turning-back moment of insanity, the wrangling is over and your valuable prize is delivered – all slimy and perfect. The pain COMPLETELY ceases and there you are, sweaty, exhausted, and reveling in the most amazing moment of your life – the agony but a small twinge now!  Everything you worked for and more lies bundled up in your arms.

We could all use personal analogies to make my point today. My recent marathon or moving across the world to plant Lift Church would suffice. You battled an illness or a job loss. Your season of little children testing your insanity meter 24/7 while feeling sleep deprived and overwhelmed seemed like it would never end. And what did you do?

You

Kept

Going.

No matter what you’re facing, there are days when you hit a wall. Pain prevails over the promise. “Something’s got to give” and you might internally combust. Finances, health, teenagers, in-laws, husbands, commitments, jobs… they all have their say, but somehow your own voice seems silenced. You literally think you can’t stretch another centimeter or else you’re going to snap. The laundry piles up, the toilets need cleaning AGAIN, homework isn’t done, and your husband is no longer your lover but a co-labourer and fellow cab driver.

NOW is NOT the time to throw in the towel! Keep forging ahead! Get up another day and take the step that’s before you. Remind yourself of God’s word and His hand in your life. Don’t say things like, “I can’t handle this” or “If one more bad thing happens, I’m going to lose it!” Don’t quit your commitments and for the love of God, please DO NOT rant on social media!

PUSH baby PUSH!

Fight for something bigger than yourself. Don’t let your circumstances win. Those will come and go, but you?

YOU’RE HERE TO STAY.

When you feel backed in a corner, come out brawling. Maybe someone told you that you were weak. He LIED. You’re very strong. You’re quite capable. Try pushing through the pain and just see what’s on the other side. It’s VICTORY, not DEFEAT. The only way you’re defeated is if you quit.

None of my mommy friends explained the gory agony I would face postpartum. (Stitches and calluses on places you don’t normally talk about publicly to mention a few.) The cost/benefit analysis made it all worth the risk I presume.

So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 MSG)

 

Friendship, Leadership, Uncategorized

Who Can You Call A Friend?

myfriends

Throughout my life, friends have brought both the greatest joys and some of the deepest hurts. What happens when we let someone in on our dreams, insecurities, or opinions believing they “get us” only to find we were worlds apart in our understanding? They can betray us or leave us feeling rejected if they exit our “inner circle” unexpectedly.

“There are ‘friends’ who destroy each other but a real friend sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). How do we define a “real friend?” I heard a great teaching a few years ago from TD Jakes that helps put our relationships in context. Lamenting over a “bestie” who was really just a companion for a season is a waste of time. I’m sure I’ve adjusted the Bishop’s original thought but here’s my take on it:

I will visit my confidant, Teri, next week as she bravely walks through a tragic time.
I will visit my confidant, Teri, next week as she bravely walks through a tragic time.

CONFIDANTS are friends that are “FOR YOU” no matter what you are for! They love you unconditionally. They stick by your side no matter where you live, what direction your life takes or what mood you’re in. You can confide in them; they don’t judge you. You can screw up and hurt them; they forgive you. Your best moments will find them cheering. Your worst? Alongside you crying. Time nor distance can keep you apart in your hearts. If you have a couple of these in a lifetime, consider yourself blessed.

CONSTITUENTS are “FOR WHAT YOU’RE FOR” and nothing more. (This doesn’t negate their importance or value.) I would venture to say most people in your circles could be considered constituents. They come along when your kids are in the same class and you have chats over coffee after drop-off. Or, you connect because of a common cause. Maybe it’s political. Or, a project at work puts you in the same place at the same time everyday. You mesh because you’re connected to a vision or the same leader.

It’s easy to feel like “BFFs” but if your commonality changes, you might feel the relationship fade. Understanding constituents properly can help you avoid being hurt when this normal cycle occurs. I’ve often met someone new at church who’s offended because “no one reached out” to her after she left her last place of worship. (You may have experienced this in a job transfer too.)

Maybe you mis-took those friends as confidants when all along, they were constituents? 
Remember the BFF necklace from primary school? Don't buy one too soon!
Remember the BFF necklace from primary school? Don’t buy one too soon!

You were connected because you both “FOR” the same thing. If YOU chose to leave, you can’t expect the ones who are still there to follow you. You’ve detached yourself from what joined you together. You may remain connected for a season but don’t be surprised if your relationship vaporizes over time.

Constituents are great. You need them in your life! But if they go, remember they were merely “for” what you were “for.” They were never “FOR YOU.”

COMRADES are actually “AGAINST WHAT YOU’RE AGAINST!” They might be the people on the committee at school who help you fight the administration’s decision to get rid of recess. Or, you’re connected on FaceBook because you all hate Ps Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill. Caution: As quickly as you hooked up, you will be dropped because the next bandwagon is available for hire. I see these groups play out in kids sports; everyone is on the same page because they dislike a certain coach or rule. You’re allies as you rant over how YOU think things should be run. Then, when the team disseminates or you get a new coach, nothing remains to keep you connected.

Pastors, be careful of the comrades who join your church because they are against the way the last church operated. They will leave you too once you offend or refuse to bend to their demands.

Comrades aren’t always negative. They can come along like scaffolding to help you fight a fight. Once the job is done, they are gone but their impact and importance aren’t soon forgotten.

Knowing the difference between confidants, constituents, and comrades brings perspective and keeps your expectations in check. Feel free to post comments if this post helped you or you have another perspective on the matter!

 

Fun, Inspiration, Kids, Leadership, Uncategorized

What is Sinking My Boat?

who sank

Everyone knows a teeny little mouse isn’t big enough to sink a whole rowboat! But what if that boat is first filled with a cow, a donkey, a “fat-as-butter” pig, and a knitting sheep? The little mouse, last to get in, who was lightest of all DID sink the boat in the case of this adorable children’s book, “Who Sank the Boat?”

I wonder what the “straw that broke the camel’s back” looked like? It could sound like a crying baby after weeks of sleepless nights. Or maybe a teenager’s back talk on the heels of a stressful day at work? Maybe it’s the online bill paying when month after month there doesn’t seem to be enough money to make ends meet?

We can’t always predict what will cause us to feel like we are going to crumble. But, I DO believe we can work out some disciplines and boundaries that will keep us afloat even in the worst of times.

We must carefully ensure that the most important, “only-I-can-do-this” priorities come first. Only I can be wife to Greg and Mum to Brett, Sydney and Sammy. This means I can’t give so much time to friends, church members, social media, and working out that I suddenly have nothing left for the ones counting on me most.

Only I can be co-pastor of our church. That comes with certain restraints on my weekends and where I invest in relationships whether I like it or not. If you work, you’re the same. You’re not tempted to go to lunch with friends when you can’t afford it if you work every Friday. You’re unavailable! The weight of our responsibilities only feels heavy when we are spread thin and are weak in every other area.

So often, we can over-commit to pressures of life out of guilt or tradition (think family holidays) or even just disorganization. We forget to check our diaries when we say we are available to help a friend and realize on the day we have double-booked ourselves. The boat starts to rock.

Sometimes we fill our lives with things that don’t really add value. Then, when we look up at a commitment we really DO want to follow through on – like having new friends around for dinner or volunteering at school or church, it’s suddenly the despised one because it pushes us over the edge.who sank2

We have to guard our time and our gifts. Not every great cause deserves our money. Not every invitation deserves a “yes!” Instead of merely checking the time slot in your calendar when making a commitment, why not prayerfully consider whether or not that invitation keeps you on track with your goals and the other roles ONLY YOU can fulfill? Otherwise, when push comes to shove and space is tight, the loved one to whom we are responsible may not fit. We look up and wonder how the water started seeping.

Maturity in accepting our responsibilities and creating healthy boundaries comes with practice. Prioritizing takes organization and forethought. I love the encouragement James gives and I’m putting it into practice today:

Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. James 1:2-4 (MSG)