Why scrubbing loos is a good idea

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What is it about the human condition that makes us look around the people we come into contact with day to day and compare ourselves to them? It is something we have to work really hard not to do, which means the comparison culture inevitably infiltrates our church communities too.

I’m sure we’ve all had those moments: times when we’ve see others in a role that we wish we had and felt slightly jealous. Perhaps we even feel entitled to that role – or think in our minds that we could do a much better job than the person currently doing it.

 Or perhaps we end up in the mindset that thinks we have to contribute to the service each week – by bringing another word or reading another portion of scripture out. Why do we do that? A desperate need within us to connect with God, or a deep-seated desire to look more holy than those around us?

I think we need to ask ourselves those difficult questions regularly about our motivations for serving within our church communities. None of us is immune to selfish ambition and desires, but it is much easier to nip them in the bud early rather than letting ourselves get carried away with them.

Indeed, in Philippians 2 we are told: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (v3-4).

Jesus had some really harsh words to say about those people who put on a show of holiness in church: “Everything they do is for men to see” (Matthew 23:5) and “Woe to you … you hypocrites!”, which he repeats in verses 13, 15, 23, 25, 27 and 29. With that amount of repetition I think we can see Jesus really wanted to get his message across!

Speaking about the teachers of the law, it was the difference between their public show of purity and piety and their everyday lives that angered Jesus the most. Indeed, He instructed His disciples and the crowds “you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach” (v3).

Ouch.

Harsh words or the simple, honest truth?

To read the rest of this post, please click here – where the reason for the title will become clear 😉

Leaders need to look after themselves too!

Earlier this month my husband and I were able to enjoy a weekend with the other leaders from the network of churches we are affiliated to. It was a great time catching up with those we know but don’t often get to see. But the thing that struck me most was what a privilege it is to be led by such honest, trustworthy and transparent leaders.

The first session covered something the speaker said isn’t often spoken about in conferences: a leader’s health. He talked about the fact we have a responsibility to ensure we are spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically fit so that we can continue being passionate as we work out our calling throughout life’s seasons.

Obvious huh? But actually we don’t talk about it much – although I think he probably got every leader’s attention when he said that very few leaders finish the race stronger than when they started.

This is actually taken from my latest Help! I’m now a pastor’s wife! column for Christian Today. To read the rest please click here.

My new column

Sorry for the plug – actually, I don’t know why I’m apologising because I’m really excited about this! I’ve just started writing a column for Christian Today called Help! I’m now a pastor’s wife! It will be appearing on the second and last Wednesday of each month. Please do check it out – and feel free to add comments, ask questions or start discussions in the comments area at the end. I’d love to see you there 🙂 To read the first one click here.

Thanks!

Claire x

Women in worship

At the end of last year I had the privilege of putting together an article on women in worship for Woman Alive, which has just been published. As a worship leader myself, who is definitely in the minority as a woman amongst a male-dominated worship team, this is definitely a subject that is on my heart. I was in contact with some great worship leaders that I’m sure you will recognise. I’ve pasted the images of the article below, but they can also be found on the page of my site that includes other examples of my work: writing. As I know there are many women out there who need an extra boost of encouragement to carry on going I am hoping to develop this idea further. So I’d love to hear from any other female worship leaders about your experiences – and also from any women in local congregations. What is your experience of sung worship at your church? I hope and pray that all your giftings are encouraged and given space to be expressed 🙂

Is my life about promoting God…or myself?

I have steered clear about directly commenting here on the raging debate that occurred as a result of Driscoll’s interview in Christianity. I have written a few comments on other people’s blog responses, however, and it is the whole idea of celebrity Christianity that has stuck with me, and many others too. As a newbie writer I am held in that tension of wanting/needing to promote myself but it is far too easy to get caught up in the whole process of trying to get yourself known. As a Christian isn’t that beside the point? It’s all about dying to self and revealing the wisdom and glory of God through the way we live. I know when you make your living from an industry that hardly ever takes notice of unknowns there is an inevitability about trying to promote yourself to a certain degree. But the celebrity culture we have in western Christianity today is quite strange and there is something in the recent debate that we should probably be very grateful for – it has made a lot of us uncomfortable and made us turn to look at our motives once again.

Here’s what I wrote in response to one helpful blogger (and then thought it could quite easily be a posting on my own blog…so here it is! 🙂 ):

As a new-ish writer I’m always so excited about new contacts I meet, but also get really frustrated when I see what a small world the Christian media world can be – and because I’m not that known I can be overlooked. I was having a little moan to God about this one day when I was suddenly stopped in my tracks – I read something a well-known worship leader wrote a few years ago but it was as if God himself was talking to me, reminding me that I’m called to be faithful where I’m at. Chasing after status can so easily distract you from the needs that are right in front of you. As a busy mum, church/worship leader, school governor etc I come across needs all the time. Am I doing all I can to serve those right in front of me or have I started to get impatient when someone starts taking up too much of ‘my’ time? Time I could be spending researching and writing? And why do I get disappointed when I read someone with a ‘name’ writing on a subject I know I could write on easily – or have pitched similarly in the past but was turned down? I have to remind myself to be grateful for every single opening God does provide for me, and juggle that with my other responsibilities closer to home. And yes, when you do have a platform of any sort at all there comes an added responsiblity. I have been writing about family issues, marriage and worship leading in the last week. But if I take a look at my own marriage, family, worship of God and discipleship of the worship team I am responsible for do those hold up to the same scrutiny I’m asking other people to do in my writing? The last thing I want to be is a hypocrite – and yet I think there are times that I am.

I think perhaps the thing we all need to bear in mind is that our lives, and our works, will be refined through the fire – and those things that were not of lasting, eternal worth will be burned up. Are we seeking after and promoting those things that will stand up to that test? God says that when we feed or clothe one of the least of them we are feeding or clothing Him – is that something we always remember or are we eager to get through that aspect of our ‘ministry’ so that we can turn our attention back to something that we feel will benefit us, or our careers? It is horrible to write that down in black and white and then read it back – and I’m sure that is not how any of us set out. But, honestly, when I’m tired and juggling too many things my patience and humility is in short supply and I guess there is a small element of that in the way I perceive things. If this whole Driscoll episode causes some of us to re-evaluate and re-prioritise then some good will have come as a result. Whether we agreed with him or not, were offended or not, isn’t the point. Can we look at our lives and be happy with the way they are going in terms of promoting God and His kingdom, rather than our own statuses and agendas?

 

‘Googling your mind’

Last Saturday I had the privilege of attending the Association of Christian Writers’ (ACW) 40th anniversary. Adrian Plass was the guest speaker. As you may expect, he was amusing, challenging and, for me, a little controversial at the same time. I have come away, however, fascinated by one of the exercises that he got us to do. The concept is ‘googling your mind’. He said that we are so used to researching on the Internet these days that we often forget we have a wealth of knowledge and information inside of ourselves. Sometimes it is a really useful exercise to ‘google’ our minds by thinking of a subject and brainstorming it – writing down everything that immediately comes to mind without thinking about it. He got us to choose one subject (from a selection of ‘home’, ‘ACW’, ‘church’). I decided to google ‘church’ and was very interested in the list of contradictions/opposites that came out! I think it truly reflects my experience as a pastor’s wife – rightly or wrongly this is what church is for me today…

Family, My life, A safe haven, Work, Expectation, Pressure, Worship, Fun, Hard work, All ages, A place for the community, Inescapable, Neverending problems, People with attitude desperate to share…
God’s hope for the world – His choice. There is no back-up plan…
Where I belong.
Those who put their shoulder to the wheel next to me versus those along for the ride.
God’s bride – being made beautiful.
A place of beauty and of pain.
Somewhere to be myself – even when I don’t want to be.
Broken people needing God.
A place were we can achieve more together than alone.

It really made me stop and think. The church isn’t perfect, but that is because it is made up of human beings! However it is God’s vehicle; the way He has chosen to reach a desperately needy world…

If you have never ‘googled your mind’ why not try it yourself today? It would also make a really interesting icebreaker at a small group – you can choose anything to get people to brainstorm. I’ll leave you with another couple of subject suggestions from Adrian: ‘Am I the only one…?’ or ‘Long ago at school…’.

A pioneering woman, pt 2

The second part of my interview with Wendy Virgo:

How did you juggle supporting your husband and being involved in ministry while you raised such a large family? What were the biggest challenges?

Very early in our marriage, Terry and I redefined what we meant by “ministry”. Everything in our lives was to be seen as under the umbrella of serving God; there was no distinction between “sacred” and “secular”. So my ministry to God included loving and supporting my husband, loving and training my children and creating a godly and peaceful home and all the domestic activities involved in that. It also included praying, worshipping, seeking God for gifts of the Spirit and teaching and encouraging others. So as it was all ministry, I didn’t feel I was having to juggle home and ministry! But I did have to fight for time to study and pray, and I learned to pray while I was doing other things.

I found there were seasons in life, so that consistent times of prayer and Bible study were difficult after the birth of a new baby in the period of night feeds. I had to learn to talk to God while I was ironing or driving to the supermarket. There wasn’t much time for reading so I would learn to “feed” on a few verses of scripture. I also drew strength from being with others in prayer times etc. A young mum can feel very alone, so it is important to make time to meet with others.

As you said above that you had to fight for time to study and pray, could you share what you have found most useful for your own personal devotional times?

I have used different methods of personal study over the years. Sometimes I have followed a year plan; sometimes used daily notes. (I actually write for CWR’s excellent “Inspiring Women Every Day” series). I particularly like using the Bible Speaks Today series of commentaries edited by John Stott. I prefer to work through a book of the Bible rather than to jump about. That way you get a much more in depth understanding of the development of Biblical truth than if you just hop from one topic to another…although topical study can also have its place.

As the children grew up of course, the rhythm of life kept changing and now Terry and I are in the happy season of being able to pray together every day, which we really love!