10 000 Reasons

I’m sure we are not the only ones to find our great family routines around worship and prayer occasionally get dry and flat. We pray with our kids at my personal witching hour- when I can barely keep my eyes open and our kids start parroting my own words back to me.. how they think that if I hadn’t gone to bed so late the night before then I wouldn’t be as grumpy… It’s a glorious thing, watching your children become just a smaller version of yourself… but I digress.

Tonight, as we played Matt Redman’s “10 000 Reasons” for what I’m sure is the 10 000th time, my mind was wandering… and I think actually the Spirit wandered me right over to some God-given inspiration. I grabbed some paper and textas and wondered aloud whether we could come up with 10 000 reasons to bless the Lord, rather than just singing about blessing Him. And so with worship songs playing in the background giving some ideas, we just wrote reason after reason after reason. The things my children came up with astounded me, and I felt my heart swelling with love and pride. I couldn’t get them to stop- “just one more!” came the repeated refrain.

And then we used the pages to pray. Not to ask for anything, but to thank the Lord for what He has done and to worship Him for who He is.  Oh. My. Hat. I felt the presence of God fill the place, as my children worshipped God from their hearts, and I was able to as well. Sometimes we simplify worship and Bible stories for our children, and that’s ok and appropriate for some times and places. And sometimes we treat them like younger adults and in that place, just occasionally, the little God-lovers show us the way to the Kingdom again.

We didn't quite make ten thousand... but we are going to stick this up in our home so that others can add to it as well.

We didn’t quite make ten thousand… but we are going to stick this up in our home so that others can add to it as well.

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The Master Rule-Breaker

How interesting to read the Bible with children and see it through their eyes- and to look at it from the perspective of a parent! We’ve started reading Mark with our girls in our family prayer time and we have discovered the Jesus is the master rule-breaker. Not the usual role-model parents would choose for their children! Customs, traditions and rules- Jesus messed with them all. He works on the day of rest- healing and allowing his disciples to pick grain. He eats with “disreputable guests” and allows his disciples to skip their religious fasts and to feast instead! Surely this isn’t what the King looks like? Surely a good ruler would keep His own rules! Understandably, the religious fanatics were furious.
Thankfully, Jesus allows us to literally get to the heart of the matter… and truly, it is the heart that matters! What good is a rigid following of rules when the heart underneath is evil? Jesus looks at our heart, not at our religious observations, and challenges us to allow Him to change us from the inside-out. He asks, “what kind of action suits the Sabbath best? Doing good or doing evil? Helping people or leaving them helpless?” (Message Version) Reading it today, when our own observations of the Sabbath are so casual, the answers are obvious. But we are in danger of becoming religious nutcase ourselves if we don’t take a step back and ask whether our own religious observances are for good or for evil. I think of how a few weeks ago, in the midst of our busy church-filled lives, we failed to realise our next door neighbour was unwell and in hospital. Jesus’ kingdom is an upside-down kingdom- where rules and religious customs are never for their own sake but to free us to love God and love others. And any time we don’t see love as the fruit around us we need to check our nutcase meter- are we measuring at the Pharisee level or closer to the Jesus level? I know which side I’d prefer to be on. My King, “search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” Amen. (Psalm 139:23-24, NLT)

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Making the Vision Visible


We’ve been pretty blessed to be trained by people doing church longer than us and who have “paid the stupid-tax” (made the mistakes!) for us to learn from. While we were at our latest training week, we were challenged to think about vision, and we found ourselves questioning how visible our vision was. Despite our desire to never ambush people- to make sure we were authentic and transparent in why we do what we do- we discovered that our vision of “building families and friendships across the generations” actually had a hidden agenda. Not deliberately- just not communicated.

Our heart for the world around us is that people would find themselves part of a bigger family- an extended family who purposefully do life together- but that’s not enough. The reason we want people to find themselves in a healthy and whole community is because God is inviting people into His family. And in His family, we find the healthy and whole life that He has for us. Our family isn’t special because of our parenting or our fantastic kids or the fun we have together- our extended family of friends who do life together is special because with Jesus at the centre, we learn how to love and forgive, to serve and to sacrifice, to find peace and hope and joy despite all the crap we bump against in this life. And we really do want other people to experience the kind of life that Jesus has given us.

So our vision now is that we would build families and friendships across the generations so that people would encounter our best friend, Jesus. No hidden agendas. You’re welcome to be a part of the life He has given us- come join our family. We have cookies.

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Don’t just go to church. Be the church.

Have you ever got stuck trying to pray? You know you should but you don’t know where to start? Or perhaps there feels like some kind of wall, a blockage, something preventing you from coming close to God. If this is you, you’re not alone. In fact, our individualistic society has created a world in which we are all experiencing similar emotions and situations- separately. We are not unique in the depth of the feelings we are all experience – grief, joy, love, frustration- but we feel like we must handle them on our own. Unfortunately, the cult of individualism has also permeated the church- and our relationships with God. We tend to think it’s all about me- and all up to me- it’s me and God, doing it alone. However, the Good News of Jesus is that He has made us His Body- He has brought us together and created a new thing- He has made us one- one with Himself and one with one another. I think that means we’re not supposed to walk our Christian faith alone. I think it means we’re supposed to rely on the church body- not just for spiritual feeding once a week but for close relationships and friendships, for mutual support, to be able to pray and worship together. If you struggle to do the Christian walk alone, I think it’s because we’re not meant to do it alone. Do you meet with other Christians during the week? Do you have someone else you can pray with, talk with, eat with? I hope you do. Because when you don’t know what to pray, someone else can pray and you can agree with them as they pray. And another time you might have something you’ve read in the Bible to share that can prompt you both to prayer. And what a gift it is when a close Christian friend can gently and kindly call you out on sin or blockages in your life and walk you back to the road of righteousness. My prayer is that you would see church as more than a Sunday meeting, but as a collected group of individuals who need each other to live this life together. And that if you don’t have anyone to journey with, that God would give you the courage to reach out and connect- or the courage to respond when someone reaches out to you.

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A Pain in the Neck

To fix my ongoing neck pain and headaches, I have to re-learn how to stand and sit properly. I’m working on it, and having to pay a physio weekly is making me more motivated to change my posture for good. But changing a habit is so hard! My body goes that way naturally now and I have to make it go a way that’s not comfortable or easy. Sometimes we think whatever our default is, must be correct. We were made that way, right? But unfortunately our default in so many things is not the best for us. We want to eat things that are not good for our bodies, we want to slack off when exercise boosts us mentally and physically, and spiritually…Well. I’m sure there’s a lesson here around spiritual disciplines.

Discipline… disciple… Those words are similar for a reason! We’re pretty happy to throw the word disciple around but way more cautious with the word discipline- and with good reason. Any word that’s been used to damage people carries baggage and we have to be careful with it. If the simplest definition of a disciple is a learner, then a discipline could be something that we do to help us learn. I want to fix my posture- I must discipline myself to do certain stretches every day. I probably need a few reminders stuck up around the house to remind me to sit up straighter (near the beanbag would probably be a great place, and also highly likely to be deliberately ignored!) To change a habit- to learn a new thing- to be spiritually disciplined- we would need to take into account the same things.

Identify the thing that God is putting His finger on for you today. What is He asking you to do differently? What is He asking you to start or stop? A disciple is simply one who hears God- and obeys.

What disciplines could you put in place to help you change that habit? Be realistic. Don’t decide you’re going to get up at 4am and pray every day for two hours. You already know that’s not going to happen!

How can you help yourself remember to do the new thing? The whole point of a habit is that you don’t think about it- so by definition a “new” habit isn’t a habit at all- until you’ve done it long enough. Do you need to set an alarm in your phone as a reminder? Notes around the house? A friend who texts you to see if you’re doing the new thing? Is there someone who you can do it with? We weren’t meant to be alone and our faith was never supposed to be only an individual thing.

Identify the places that you already know you’re going to struggle. Like my bean bag. It might not be a physical thing, but a person or an environment. Think through how you can work on your new discipline when it’s going to be the hardest, and set yourself up with reminders or accountability around that thing.

Be kind to yourself, and celebrate the small wins. Eventually they’ll become big ones if you keep on going. And ask the Holy Spirit to help you. It’s His job to do the work of sanctification in you. Partner with Him and follow His lead.

In the long run, fixing the pain in the neck now is always going to better for us (and far less costly!) What habit are you currently trying to change? What spiritual discipline do you feel God asking you to start? Maybe we could do it together.

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How to Care for a Grieving Friend

I’ve had this article in mind for about six years now. It’s a change from my usual posts, but someone needs to write it. Because death happens more often than we like to think it does. Sometimes it’s sudden. Sometimes we know it is coming. Occasionally, it is welcome, but more often, it is tragic, shocking and heartbreaking. Western culture doesn’t have a good set of rituals around death and mourning, and so we rarely know what to do or say when death comes close.

Here are five tips from my experience on how best to care for a friend who has just lost a loved one. Perhaps you could share any other ideas or your experiences in the comments section at the end. Let’s help each other get better at supporting people who are grieving.

1. Acknowledge and separate your grief from your friend’s grief.

When your friend loses a loved one, you will probably feel grief too, even if you never met the person or knew them well.

When someone dies- whether you knew them intimately or only heard the story in the news- however close you are to them, you may experience grief. Unworked grief from a previous loss may rear its ugly head. A story of a child tragically dying may evoke empathetic grief for the family. It may even cause you to feel regret for not valuing time with your own child. The death of a friend’s parent may spark emotions of anticipatory grief as you consider the inevitability of the loss of your own parent. If an acquaintance dies, you may feel varying levels of grief, loss and even regret for the time you didn’t get to know them well.

Acknowledge your own grief. Then try to separate it from that of those closest to the person. Your friend may well need someone to cry with them. But they don’t need you so overwhelmed by your own grief that they find themselves needing to support you through it. Find your own outlet- find another friend disconnected to the situation, and share the depths of your feelings, regrets and sorrow with them. Then be strong with your grieving friend. I found myself, in our time of grief, holding up weeping bodies, my shoulders were wet with their tears, trying to comfort my friends. Thinking to myself- this is the wrong way around! Find a place to deal with your grief and don’t dump it onto your friend at this time.

2. Honestly assess how close you are to the family, and whether your presence will actually be a blessing.

Many people in a community are affected by the death of a member. But that doesn’t mean every member of the community suddenly should become best friends with the family who have lost a loved one. Take a moment to take stock and check how close you truly are to the people closest to the deceased. Are you close enough that it is normal for you to rock up to their house? In the midst of trying to deal with sudden tragedy, we had the strangest people turn up on the doorstep to offer their condolences. Ex work mates (and the boss) of my dad from years earlier came over on the first or second night. When people who you haven’t seen in years turn up, the occasion becomes a very awkward social gathering- and the pressure is put on the grieving family to entertain. If it is normal for you to come over, make yourself a cup of tea or get in there and do their dishes, then you are the person that might be helpful to have around right now. If you can be honest enough with yourself to say, “I’m not actually that close,” then save your condolences and visits for a few weeks or months later. It’s not that we don’t want to see you. We just can’t handle having to entertain visitors right now in the earliest days of our loss.

3. Do remember and acknowledge the loved one

Don’t turn up on the doorstep that week- but do make an effort to remember to visit or send a card or flowers once the worst is over. It can be a pretty crazy couple of weeks when dealing with a death- whether expected or not. There will be a funeral to plan, relatives to contact and sometimes make space for if they have to travel to get there for the funeral. The thousands of cards and flowers that get sent in that time might not even get noticed. But the people who remember once the initial shock is over will get noticed. I think a good idea is to put a note on your calendar for six weeks in advance, and six months or a year if you are really committed to showing you care, and send flowers or a card or visit then. When the funeral is over, it often seems as though everyone else has moved back on with their lives- but for the person who has lost a loved one, they now need to renegotiate their life- life will never be the same. Acknowledge that their grief still continues. Allow them to remember their loved one. Remember and commemorate occasions- birthdays and the anniversary of the death. This speaks far louder than all the well-intentioned flowers or cards sent in the midst of the chaos.

4. If it is a sudden and unexpected death, people can be in shock. People who are in shock don’t eat!

 Meals provided at this time may just get wasted. If you are going to cook a meal, consider something ready to be frozen (in an appropriate container), or think about cooking a meal after the turmoil of the first few weeks. After the funeral!

5. Platitudes. Don’t say them.

“They’re in heaven now.” “Maybe it’s for the best.” “God just wanted them to be with Him.” “God knows what He’s doing.” “Everything happens for a reason.” “At least you’ve got an angel looking down on you now.” “God never gives you more than you can handle.” Post the other platitudes you hate in the comments!

We all do it, when we don’t know what to say. We say these awful little cliches. But they grate against the soul! Simple, pat answers for life’s most complex and incomprehensible questions don’t help at all. If you don’t know what to say, say nothing. You can’t fix what has happened, and your words are not going to make a grieving person feel better. Have you ever known someone in the depths of despair to wipe away their tears and say, “You’re right- God’s so lonely in heaven that He wants my child/partner/parent more than I want them here, and I’m 100% ok with that. Let’s get on with life.” When someone is mourning, let them mourn. Don’t try to make it better or give answers. As healing happens, they may come to a place of being able to say, as I can, “I don’t know why this happened, but I’m still able to trust God with my whole life.” But that can take a very very long time. And that is 100% ok. Be there with them in silence. Listen with love.

These are not hard and fast rules. Everybody is different and I can only speak from my own experiences. Use your judgement- or ask your friend what would be the most helpful! I’ve done all these things wrong myself, until I was in the position of the one grieving. And even now, I don’t always know what to do. But I do try now to think very carefully and intentionally about how best to care for that friend who has just received the worst news of their life. I hope you will too.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments.


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“Family On Mission” Interview

A while ago I was interviewed by a friend, Kathleen Ward, who also spends a lot of time thinking, writing about and exploring in practice a better way of being the church. Her concept of ‘Church in Circle” is an umbrella term our missional community fits neatly underneath- a way of doing church where everyone contributes and every voice is valued. Where you don’t need a million dollar theology degree to hear from God or to share what God is saying to you.

A circle is a two-way interaction. Both parties are given a voice, a value and an impact. God’s people are empowered to connect, learn and grow together. Adults are encouraged to be active learners, not passive listeners. The leader stops performing and starts facilitating. The congregation stop being a critical audience and become a connected community.

-Kathleen Ward, from her Church in a Circle blog.

Check out the interview here and take some time to read her blog and explore her ideas.

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Too tired to be missional?


I’m a textbook introvert. In the course of my work and in our family and missional community, I am often what I think of as being ‘on’- needing to constantly interact with people. And when I’ve done that a lot during my work day and then in the evening and on the weekend and then repeated over and over during the week, I just get exhausted. I need some space to myself, some time with a good book, to recharge before I feel like I can face the world again.

But recently, the thought of being a missional person- of being good news to community, of even having a conversation with another person, made me feel tired to the brink of tears. And as I ran through a mental checklist, I realised that I had enough me-time and in fact hadn’t seen many people at all recently- so what on earth was going on?

This is where the triangle LifeShape (Read more about Life Shapes from Mike Breen, 3DM, here) came into its own for me. You may have seen it- it’s the picture of a balanced life. UP- our relationship with God. IN- our relationship with one another. And OUT- our call to make disciples- to be people on mission. If getting time alone hasn’t helped me as an introvert, what else should I consider?

In that moment, on the brink of tears, I ran through the triangle in my head- UP- how’s my relationship with God? Not bad actually, I’m reading the Bible and I feel like God is really taking me on a journey of teaching me to trust Him. Good. IN- How’s my relationship with other people who love me and encourage me, who pray with me and for me? Uh oh, I managed to get work and church stuff done, and time out by myself when I was exhausted, but I had no decent time lately with my husband or my closest friends to process and share life with them. Well there it is. As the triangle runs from UP to IN to OUT, if my IN is out of balance, then no wonder I don’t feel able to look OUT.

We are made to be know and be known, to love and be loved. To be part of a family and a community. We can only give from what we have. We get filled up- first by God’s Spirit pouring into our lives as we invest our hearts in His. Then from the family that God has given us as blessing and an encouragement- His family. And out of that fullness we can give, we can love, we can connect fully with others.

Are you living a balanced life? Is one area out of whack and needs adjusting so that you can live more fully the way that Jesus has called you?


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Lowering Expectations

You may have seen this meme floating around the Internet- it is originally from the Stuff No One Told Me blog.



This picture has stuck in my mind and I think about it often. I’m a woman, so it’s the woman’s side of things I’m reflecting on here- although both characters are reflecting on the way our culture has shaped our expectations of what makes a good life. Fish don’t notice the water they swim in (- thanks Fr Malcolm for pointing that one out to me!). We don’t notice the air that we live in. And until we are taken out of it, we are often not aware of the culture that we swim in. When we were overseas some years ago for Christmas, we were really forced to consider what made Christmas worth celebrating when we were the only people celebrating it and you took away the celebrations, the tree, the presents… We often don’t question the way our culture has shaped our expectations, our values, our hopes and our dreams, until we don’t get what we expect that we would have- what we think we should have! Our cultural artefacts- the things our culture has made- are the things that show us what it is our culture believes and strives for. Disney movies and pornographic materials are just two of our cultural artefacts of the last century, but t.v. shows and books also give us a picture of the water we swim in, the air we breathe.

What has Disney movies, as a product of Western culture, taught me about life? Sure, I learned to believe in a Prince Charming. That love will always come to you (in the form of the perfect man). But the Disney culture also taught me to expect that if you really believe, your dreams will come true. That the ‘wishes that my heart makes’ will come to me. That only bad guys die and that heroes come back to life. That justice is always served. That everyone lives happily ever after.

I’m sure part of growing into adulthood is unlearning these things. It was a rude shock to discover that even if something is a deeply held desire- for a spouse, or for children, for health, for the job of your dreams, or for someone you love to live and not die- that wishing, hoping and believing really can’t make those things happen. Our Western world prefers to believe in the Disney lie instead of giving children a more realistic picture of life- where life has suffering and sickness as well as good times and happiness. That not every one finds their Prince Charming as soon as they are ready to. That it’s ok to be single. That death happens- that everyone dies, not just the baddies and not just when you are ready to die.

As I have struggled to let go of the Disney lie I have found it’s given me the space to relearn truth and find freedom there. That God’s goal for my life isn’t just for me to be happy, or to have everything I want. If that was what God really looked for, then most of the world over time and space would not be glorifying God in their lives. Most people don’t get long, full lives with all those they love and every thing they need supplied at all times. No- in this world you will have suffering! Death has lost its sting… but hasn’t been removed yet! No, God wants for me to know Him and to find myself in Him. God wants to live through me on this earth. God wants my greatest desire to be Him and Him alone… and He  is ok with removing the other desires that get in the way of our desire for Him. As I contemplate Easter this week, I remember His suffering, His pain, His death. For me. His resurrection. To show me what I can expect. That death is not the end. That this state of disappointment and loss is temporary. That all the glories of this world will pass away. Easter- the great remembrance that we were made for an eternal home and an eternal relationship.

I do love Disney’s latest animation picture- Frozen-  as it seems to be the first steps in undoing the damage it has done to the last few generations.  Instead of spruiking love at first sight- marrying the first person who makes your heart sing and whom you are attracted to and who ‘likes’ you back- we see the re-working of the definition of true love. Instead of eros love, for the first time we see love for a sister- and this love is agape- sacrificial- completely for the other person even though they have been hurt and abandoned. Well done Disney for starting to teach our children wider definitions of love than what we’ve seen in the past. The Easter kind of love.


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Reverse Karma

I don’t believe in karma, but I’ve decided I believe in reverse karma. Yeah, I just made that up, and I will explain. Karma is the idea that ‘what you give is what you get’. I read a news article on social media recently about a young man who stole a car, and at the end of a police pursuit he crashed it into a tree and subsequently lost his leg. The comments under the article were filled by people gloating at the success of karma in this situation- the bad guy getting his just desserts. And as we know, the philosophy of karma works both ways- that good rewards will eventually come to those who do good. The more good we do, the better our chance of having a good life come to us.

However, we live by the rule of ‘reverse karma’. Instead of, ‘you get what you give,’ we operate under the philosophy of ‘we give what we have been given‘.

We have seen the goodness of God. We have experienced and received health, life, children, family, community, provision for our daily living, salvation and hope for the future. God has gifted us with everything we have. How could we not pass on the goodness that we have so freely received?

We don’t give in the hope that we will get any reward.

We give because every good thing we have has already been given to us as a gift.

When Jesus walked the earth, He didn’t just speak messages of hope- He embodied what it meant to “be good news”:

To the blind he gave sight- He was good news!
To the leper who could rejoin his family- He was good news!
To the shunned prostitute who was welcomed into a community- He was good news!
To the hungry that Jesus fed miraculously- He was good news!
To Peter who denied his best friend but found forgiveness anyway- He was good news!
To the woman caught in adultery who Jesus prevented from being stoned to death- He was really good news!
To those afraid of death- Jesus’ resurrection was, and still is, the best news ever!

We don’t want to only have words of hope to offer (by themselves these are empty platitudes), but we want to be good news too. So to those without family or community, we are good news when we invite them to be part of our family of friends. We can be good news to the lonely when we spend time with them. To the elderly, we bring our children for them to enjoy playing with and we listen to their stories- and for them, that is good news.

The Good News Himself has shown Himself to us, and showered us with all the Goodness of God. We, who call ourselves by His name, can only do the same.

Have you experienced Good News? What would it look like for you or your family to be good news in your street or your community?

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