Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Gift

How was your Christmas? I thoroughly enjoyed time and gift giving with family, getting to sing out loud in the supermarket as the carols were playing, and reading a great book by Beth Moore called 90 Days with the One and Only – Jesus. It was perfect timing as we celebrate our Saviours birth.
I had been reflecting on the fact that the way we celebrate Christmas is just a shadow of its true meaning when I heard one person refer to the season as ‘Giftmas’, and sadly this is true for most people. Sometimes Christ does not even feature in our conversations, our motivations or even our thoughts.
But there are some aspects of how most of us celebrate Christmas that help draw our thoughts back to The One and Only meaning of Christmas.
How do you prepare for Christmas? I love giving gifts and enjoy each aspect of the process – planning the gift, purchasing the gift, preparing the gift, placing the gift, presenting the gift and seeing the person’s response. And in our process I see glimpses of God’s process as he purposed to give us the greatest gift ever.
I have a Christmas App on my iPhone which helps me keep track of who I would like to buy for, what present I will buy (including pictures, store and price) and whether it is bought, wrapped and given. I like wrapping but am happy to employ the services of a charity to wrap my gifts more beautifully and with a lovely bow and tag. I love to have the gifts placed under the tree and at just the right time I excitedly deliver them to the intended recipients. Although my gift giving is not dependent on their response, I do love seeing them open the present I have carefully chosen for them.  
Before creation of the world you were chosen to receive a gift (Eph 1:4). God knew that mankind would sin and would not be able to enjoy eternity with Him unless He intervened and so at just the right time, God sent His Son Jesus to be born, to live, and to die so that we might live eternally with Him. (Rom 5:6)
It was at a great price that this gift was given for you. God Himself came to earth in human form. And the greatest ransom in all of history was paid when God the Father had to look away from God the Son as He died on the cross. But that price paid the way for freedom. Jesus rose from the dead, defeated the enemy and death, and now this precious gift is available to all who will accept it.
God’s gift didn’t come to us in a way we would have imagined. People were expecting a king, a warrior, a deliverer. But God chose to bring his gift carried by a teenager, wrapped in rags, lying in a manger, surrounded by shepherds and animals. For those who looked closely, they also saw Him heralded by angels and overshadowed by a star.
Jesus was placed for all to see, but only some truly followed. His message was for all to hear, but only some truly listened. His sacrifice was enough for all to be saved, but only some will truly accept. God’s gift to you has been planned, purchased, prepared, placed, and presented. The only thing that might be left unfinished is your personal response to what He has done for you. How will you respond this Christmas? How will you respond this year?
The gift is there waiting. It has been lovingly and painstakingly prepared just for you.

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Monday, December 24, 2012

From Plasterer to Prime Minister (Re-post)

It was Christmas Eve 2007, and I had just finished showing Santa to his milk and apple Hannah left out for him, oh, not to mention the carrots, oats and water for the reindeer. But before I hit the sack myself (haha, like that pun?), I have a little something to share...

Our move to Bundy 5 years ago came up a lot in conversations at the time - chatting to parents of preschoolers, people waiting in line and customer service operators on the phone. Whenever the topic of 'next year' came up, I always had to say we are moving, and they always seem to ask why. Now I'm not sure if it is because 'pastor' is an uncommon job description, or whether I mumble...but this day...for the second time...the conversation went something like this...

insurance lady: so why are you moving to Bundaberg?
me: my husband is going to be a pastor at a church there.
lady: oh wow, he must be a specialist in what he does
me: umm, i guess so, he just finished studying...
lady: {uncomfortable pause} oh, dear, I'm so silly, you'll never guess what i thought you said...
me: {here it comes again} no, its alright, what was it?
lady: i thought you said he was a plasterer, that he was going to plaster a church.
both: {laughing}
lady: well i guess he is a specialist in more ways than one!
One other humorous conversation, on the other end of the scale went something like this...

Hannah (5): we are moving to Bundaberg
lady: is your daddy going to do something special there?
Hannah: yes but i cant remember what
lady: is he going to be a minister?
Hannah: oh yes...the prime minister!
Somewhere between plasterer and prime minister, Bryce is going to serve the people of Bundaberg, but this story reminded me of another man who made a similar journey (ok its not similar, its a far stretch but stay with me :) ).

Tomorrow we celebrate the birth of Jesus.
Born a peasant in a barn,
living as a carpenter,
speaking like a prophet,
dying like a criminal,
rising from the dead as King of All.
A man but also God.

Oh I really hope he has your attention tomorrow. Please don't just get wrapped up {ooh theres that pun again :) } in family and food and fun. Think about the baby who was king, the carpenter who formed the earth, the man who died to take the penalty for your sin and the risen Lord who has conquered death so we can spend eternity with Him.

Please remember that we open presents tomorrow to celebrate the gift that God gave to us. We share with our family and those who have no family tomorrow because God freely included us in His family at no cost to us. We go to church tomorrow not just because its the done thing, but because it was the most important thing ever done in all of history.

"Today, in the town of David, a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord." Luke 2:11

Read Luke Chapter 2 today!

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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Who's Side Are You On?

With the State of Origin games and school athletics carnivals there has been a lot of talk about sporting teams and people everywhere are becoming passionate about their team. They talk about it, wear clothes representing it, have signs on their cars, paint their faces and sing crazy songs. Most people are very proud of the colours they wear and cheer on their team and defend them at any opportunity.

I came under a bit of heat recently when I wore a red shirt to a sports carnival. The problem was that I am actually in the yellow team, but didn't have a yellow shirt ;). The yellow team wasn't happy that I had absconded due to fashion, and the red team weren't happy because I wasn't wholeheartedly supporting them. I think they were a little offended that I was wearing their colour and not a true supporter at heart! Even though I prefer red, and red was winning, I was quickly reminded "You can't 'prefer' a side, you are either a supporter or not!" You don't support a team while they are popular or support them while it makes you liked. A true supporter will still be a proud supporter in the midst of opposition and attack from rivals. (I think they like the banter!)

People are often known and remembered by what they are passionate about. And even more so when they pass that passion on to others. Leaving a legacy is living by our convictions, not our preferences.

Preferences are subject to change: changes with mood, with peer pressure, with what 'works for me' at the time, what makes me feel good and what makes me happy. Convictions remain the same and provide an anchor for feelings, emotions, and decisions even in the toughest of times.

Being a follower of Jesus is not about preferences. You won't last very long on the journey if you are committed to having your own needs for happiness fulfilled. If you pray when you need something, serve when you're saluted, give when you are shown gratitude, obey when it suits you and love when it feels good you are sitting out, missing out and selling out.

Being a follower of Jesus is a life changing, eternity altering, exciting adventure but it is not for the casual supporter. You are welcome to be a casual supporter with a season ticket to Sunday services, but that's not even a glimpse of the camaraderie, conviction and calling of the true adventure of a life with Christ. I am wearing my colours proud. I will be a graciously outspoken follower of Christ.

I will not dis' your decision but I'll excitedly tell you how Good it us to be on This side. I will unashamedly invite you to join us. And I will pray my heart out that you do.

Who's side are you on?

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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Taming Turtles

If you've been around here for a while, you might remember this photo, taken about half an hour from our home.

This little turtle was in the middle of a dirt road, with his head stuck right out. He wasnt very happy at all when we stopped to help him off the road and was looking like he might bite me if I picked him up.

So I took this photo as a momento and we drove around him, hoping that not too many other cars would come along the dirt road before he decided to move off.

But I've always wondered what would have happened if I had have picked him up. What did I miss out on because of my fear? It would have required a lot of courage, as he looked pretty scary, but what exhiliration and accomplishment to master the evil turtle. Ok it might not have been that amazing, but I always wondered. And I made a little pact with my son. Next time we see a turtle, I'm picking it up.

What's the worst that could happen - it would be a great story in the ER as I got my stitches ;) I want to be ready.

In Paul's letter to Titus he encourages him to "Remind the people to respect the government and be law-abiding, always ready to lend a helping hand. No insults, no fights. God's people should be bighearted and courteous." I want to be ready to do good. I want to be big-hearted, prepared to go out of my way to help others (not just turtles).

Occasionally in the car Josh will remember the turtle and we will chat about it. And I always say - next time we see a turtle, I'm going to pick it up! We need to be having chats about those other things in the car too - respecting the government, obeying the law, helping others, not insulting or fighting, and being ready to help others. Then when those opportunities come up, we are ready in mind and body to take up that opportunity and make a difference in the world.

Last week, I had one of those opportunities. I grabbed the turtle by the shell and changed his little world.

My kids were amazed when I stopped on the busy road, ran out and picked this little fellow up. We drove him to a nearby waterway and watched as he scooted off into the water. It felt so good to finally make up for not being big-hearted that first time.

I hope to have more of those conversations from now on. And with those things in the back of our minds, I pray that next time an opportunity pops up to do good, that my kids will jump at the chance.

We made the world of difference to this turtle, and God might have some world-changing assignments in store for you soon. If you have missed some of those in the past, dont let it discourage you, be even more determined to take up the next opportunity.

This turtle sure appreciated it, and I think this time he really is smiling for the camera!

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Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Fob Off

(this post was written a couple of years ago and has been hiding in my drafts folder
so it is safe to assume that I am not talking about you,
or if I was, we are friends now so its all good ;)

I walked out to my car after having a nice chat to a friend of a friend.

You know how there are some people you meet and you think "Wow, they are really lovely!". I have met a lot of those ladies, and most of you I have managed to snavel as friends. But one lady recently has declined my kind offers of cappucino and cake. She is a very busy lady so I can understand it being hard to schedule in coffee with a new friend. Sort of. I'm sure she has tonnes of friends so probably isnt really needing another social engagement in her week. But... well... ooh I wish she would! :)

I had been second guessing myself because I was thinking "Surely you can't be THAT busy".

Until today.

I'm so sorry.
It totally wasn't intentional.
I really was flat out and had lots on my to-do-list.
Today I realised that last week... I fobbed someone off. They asked me to have coffee with them, and I declined, saying I had too much on at the moment.

The Collins English dictionary describes to 'fob off' as "to appease or trick (a person) with lies or excuses". That sounds a bit nasty - I'd like to say, it wasnt intentional, I was feeling overwhelmed with all that I have to fit into my weeks now that I am studying full time and working just a bit and keeping the house and health of my family in order. But, I'm sorry.

I ran into the said fobbee today (If that were a word it might be defined as "the person who is appeased or tricked with lies or excuses"). I had a lovely time chatting and she gave me a warm hug at the end. I said goodbye and walked to my car and right at that moment it dawned on me. I had fobbed someone off after being fobbed off myself!

It is definitely OK to say No when you have other things on. It is even OK to say No just so you can have margin in your life, or if something is not the right timing. But if Im honest, I was saying No because I didnt want to invest the energy into it. And if I'm really honest, I was showing favouritism.

If a good friend had have come and asked me to have coffee, would I have fitted it in? If someone important invited me to a meeting would I have accepted?

Like Christians through the centuries, we need to heed the words of James in the New Testament;

"My friends, if you have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, you won't treat some people better than others. Suppose a rich person wearing fancy clothes and a gold ring comes to one of your meetings. And suppose a poor person dressed in worn-out clothes also comes. You must not give the best seat to the one in fancy clothes and tell the one who is poor to stand at the side or sit on the floor. That is the same as saying that some people are better than others, and you would be acting like a crooked judge."

James 2:1-4 (CEV)

Its not about saying yes or no to invitations to catch up. It was about my heart. Its always about our heart!

So next time you do the fob-off just remember the verse (and maybe even the story). You could be missing out on coffee with me!

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Thursday, March 1, 2012

You Can't Judge An Umbrella By It's Cover

A friend of mine received an umbrella from her husband for her birthday. She had asked him for a nice girly umbrella and so while she very much appreciated that the present was just as she asked, she was slightly disappointed when she opened the wrapping to see this black umbrella as her treasured gift. He earned serious husband points however, when she opened it to find this...

We all know people who seem to be carrying big black umbrellas. Bad things happen to good people, and our heart aches for the grief they have to go through. But how amazing is it, when we get a glimpse under their umbrellas to see THIS! Blue Skies!

What do you see when you look at what you have in life? Are you consumed by blackness or can you see the blue sky placed there just for you? How do people still have a smile on their faces and joy in their hearts when they are in the midst of dark clouds?

A little snippet from the Old Testament gives me a glimpse...

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:
Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”
The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him;

Lamentations 3:21-25

Even in the midst of trouble, God is there. And if you ask anyone who knows Him, they will tell you that He has been there for them, ESPECIALLY in the midst of trouble.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD,

“plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Jeremiah 29:11

So if you feel like you are surrounded by darkness, reach out to Him. He has great things in store for you, and if you look up, you might see He has already provided a glimmer of hope, or better yet, blue skies on the horizon.

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Saturday, February 11, 2012

For Granted

I had been super busy with lots on my plate. I was loving studying for my bookkeeping qualification, almost managing to keep a tidy house most of the time, had been cooking a few good meals each week (as opposed to the kids eating breakfast cereal for dinner), enjoying work as a bookkeeper for a few hours a week, and getting the kids to school on time, amongst other things. {that may have been the only week I could actually write all those things!}

I had also had quite a few opportunities to help people. Nothing life changing and no super accomplishments, and they hadn't even taken much of my time or effort. A friend was concerned that I might be doing too much and said "Make sure you don't get taken for granted".

I am grateful for the concern, but I think I might dare to ponder the question of whether we are in fact MEANT to be taken for granted?

One definition says to take for granted means that you fail to appreciate the value of a person. A literal translation might be, 'to be used for free, without receiving anything in return.'

But the Bible says "If you love only those who love you, what reward do you have?" (Matthew 5:45) and The Message Bible puts it this way:

"Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you dont make a performance out of it. It might be good theatre, but the God who made you wont be applauding. When you do something for someone else, dont call attention to yourself...When you help someone out, dont think about how it looks. Just do it - quiety and unobtrusively. That is the way your God, who conceived you in love, working behind the scenes, helps you out." Matthew 6:1-3

And Jesus experienced the epitome of being taken for granted - he came to die for the sins of people and they ridiculed and killed him with thieves and murderers.

I have heard it said "God wouldn't want me to feel like I'm taken forgranted". I beg to differ.

God doesn't want you to feel resentment for the things you are doing,
but he may want you to keep doing them!
He doesn't want you to stress out,
but He may still ask you to give that last bit of time to help someone else,
that last bit of money you had put aside, or that last bit of effort in a relationship.

He will give you everything you need when you are serving Him. If you are doing it for Him, you have His appreciation, encouragement and praise.
I know it wears you out being taken forgranted. But be encouraged - "for it is God who works IN you to will and to act according to His good purpose." (Phil 4:8) Did you catch that... he gives you the desire and the ability to do what He has called you to do. And He wont be taking your service for Him for granted.

Having said that, if you see someone faithfully serving, thank them for their service for God. God might send his appreciation, encouragement or praise through you!

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Sunday, February 5, 2012


I'm trying to work out the science of making excercise not seem so hard. One of my problems, apart from procrastination, is the hills. They just seem to take so long to overcome.

I had worked out that if I look straight ahead, the hill seems longer because I am always focusing on how far I have to go. So I had been keeping my head down, just looking a couple of meters in front at a time, hoping to suprise myself by ending up at the top of the hill before I knew it. But I found out two things this week which helped me nail my hill.

Yesterday I went walking with a friend, and I didnt even notice my hill cause we were chatting! (except we had to slow the chatting down in order to breathe)

And today I noticed that if I look UP, it also seems to take way less effort, and is much more pleasant scenery to look at than the concrete slabs I see when looking down.

I think I'm going to try the same tactics in life. Walking through life with a friend makes life seem less hard, and looking up to a Friend definitely lightens the step and makes the scenery much more enjoyable.

Jesus came to earth, lived, died and rose again so that the One you look up to, could also be the One who walks beside you. Ill be chatting a bit more to Him next time I go for a walk. We'll tackle the hills together.

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