On wearing masks in ministry

After far too long a break, I am delighted to welcome another guest contributor to the Stories of authenticity blog series. Mark Meynell has written an incredibly honest, and exceedingly helpful, book on his own experiences of facing depression. He has kindly provided an excerpt from the book here, which looks at when it is appropriate to wear a mask – and when it is really unhelpful to do so. It is an interesting discussion around the whole subject of mask-wearing, particularly for those leading some kind of ministry, and he handles it with real wisdom and insight. He introduces the excerpt below:

I have been in Christian ministry for 25 years. And in common with practically everyone else alive, I have worn masks. Not literally, of course. At times, a mask has been the means of self-preservation, at others a ministry preserver – and even an act of generosity and service. In other words, masks can and should have their place. To some extent. But they are also detrimental to psychological wellbeing and community life. They conceal rather than reveal. They can do even more damage to the wearer than they do to those who only encounter the external presentation.

I found myself thinking a great deal about this as I wrote my book on the experience of depression in ministry. I realised it was a recurring theme and that I was never going to improve until I faced up to what I had instinctively done since before even becoming a teenager, and then dealt with it. So here are some of those thoughts from the early pages of the book, taking us back to the glory days of ancient Greek theatre…

Imagine some great theatre, a monumental seashell carved out of a Mediterranean mountainside. At the base of this banked semicircle is the circular stage, backed by a great wall of doors, alcoves and openings on multiple levels, from which actors playing gods might intervene in the drama. All the main action takes place on the central stage, however. The genius of these buildings is that the sightlines and acoustics are perfect, despite being open to the elements. An entire audience can see and hear everything. Because all the actors wear identical clay masks, however, the one skill they never require is facial expression. Their movements are rigidly stylized as well. Instead, they must rely entirely on the script and their vocal skills to move audiences to tears or laughter. But this they consistently achieve.

The purpose of these masks was to focus an audience’s attention on the charactersand not the actors bringing them to life. The effect, I suppose, is a bit like movie stars hidden by layers of prosthetics or digital animation. The mask also reminds the audience that this is make-believe; it is pretence; it is in fact a lie. All acting is lying. But here is the great paradox of drama: if these lies are acted convincingly, truth (whether about reality or relationships) gets conveyed powerfully.

We are perfectly familiar with this, and, in our entertainment-obsessed world, we applaud those who can pull off the widest range of parts.

But should we always be so impressed? The ancient Greek word for actor was hypocritēs (ὑποκρῐτής), which, at first, only implied someone who explained or interpreted something. But by New Testament times, it was more negative. It suggested someone who was untrustworthy. They pretended to be one thing while underneath being something else; they presented a good front to mask their reality.

Of course, it needs to be recognized that this is not always negative. Temporary masks have their place, and nearly all of us make use of them. On occasion, it may even be right to use them. We really shouldn’t blurt out every thought that pops into our heads. That usually does more harm than good. Self- control is an important virtue, and so this type of mask is as much for others’ protection as anything else.

At other times, it is neither appropriate nor necessary for those around us to be aware of every vulnerability or anxiety. A mask is thus a form of protection, necessary to shield emotional wounds from being aggravated, or from being exposed at an inappropriate moment. It is an act, in some ways – ‘I’m fine,’ we say – a pretence that all is well. That is not a lie as such, but an act of self-defence. As one good friend remarked to me, ‘fine’ can actually serve as an acronym, standing for ‘Feelings Inside Not Expressed!’. It is an understandable mask, and if we never made use of it, we would probably never escape those after-church conversations that already seem interminable enough.


This mask is particularly important for those in Christian ministry. As we seek to pastor and love others, especially the vulnerable, there are times when we must swallow our pride or irritation, ignore our own needs or pressing concerns, for the sake of the urgent or important. We must show consistency and integrity, of course. But when I climb into a pulpit, I may be feeling 1,001 different things, most of which would be irrelevant, inappropriate or unhelpful to mention.We have a duty to teach what is true and healthy, even if we might wish to be miles away. We act out of Christian duty, which invariably conflicts with our emotions and passions. This is true even in normal family life, where it might be necessary to park a discussion or argument because of something more pressing (such as friends coming for a meal). Unsurprisingly, it is necessary in upfront ministry as well. This is not avoidance, but finding the right moment (unless, of course, we don’t return to it).

In the strictest sense, that could be defined as hypocrisy. We are pretending. We are acting. But because of the complexity of human nature, there is a sense in which none of us can avoid being hypocritical to some degree. None of us ever has perfectly aligned motives or desires. Even Jesus found himself in great conflict in the Garden of Gethsemane – his deepest fears were militating against his determination to do his Father’s will (Matthew 26:36–46).

What matters, I suppose, is how regularly this happens when doing our duty. No-one can be expected to hold in constant balance their duty and passions, their beliefs, feelings and actions, their words and deeds. Being ‘out of sync’ is not hypocrisy – only the pretence of always being ‘in sync’ is. And this is where we begin to home in on what Jesus was so critical of. He lambasted the Pharisees for their claims to perfection and their subsequent self-righteous contempt for others:

You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness. (Matthew 23:27–28)


The issue is how honest we are about our weakness and flaws. Self-defence masks are like that. They are not Pharisaical, they rarely claim perfection, nor do they make people self- righteous. The problem comes when wearing them becomes a habitual, or even permanent, way of being. This was what happened to me. Since childhood, I had developed self-defence habits that kept me going temporarily, but which proved unsustainable long-term. It was as if the ancient actor’s mask had become glued to my face. I played a part – of the approachable, sorted, though emotionally up and down, friend, and later pastor. So, for example, after I first mentioned my depression diagnosis in public (during a question and answer session at a church retreat), a friend came up to me in shock. She remarked that had she known there was a church staff member with this diagnosis, she would never have guessed it was me.

But this mask was artificial. It concealed reality and inhibited support. Nobody who’s ‘fine’ needs help . . . right? So the mask inevitably started cracking, revealing that things really were not right.

Mark Meynell is Europe & Caribbean Director for Langham Preaching (a programme of Langham Partnership), and a part-time Chaplain in Whitehall. He is married to Rachel and they have two (almost) grown up children, He is the author of a number of books on various subjects, and is currently working on his first novel. This excerpt is taken from When Darkness Seems My Closest Friend, published by IVP.




The importance of rest


This week started off with me being interviewed on the Premier Inspirational Breakfast show about the article I wrote in Premier Christianity’s January issue on new ways to connect with God.

We were discussing the fact that so many of us are praying on the run these days, rather than actually stopping in order to spend quality time with God – and whether that means we are squashing Him out of our lives.

It was an interesting discussion, and I talked about the ways in which short, contemplative prayers have given me space to breathe and be revitalised before tackling the day ahead. I also mentioned the daily examen – the practise of looking back over our days and being aware of when we felt God’s presence – and when we didn’t, in order to learn lessons we can take into tomorrow.

Afterwards one of the presenters told me how much they had enjoyed the conversation – and commented on the fact that I was croaky-voiced. I said I was under the weather – probably partly because I’ve been so busy recently. We then joked about how I need to take my own advice (isn’t that so often the case though – we learn something, share it with others and then realise we need to take heed of it again ourselves!)

Then the following cropped up on my Facebook feed today, and it really made me stop and think. I can’t believe it was two years ago that God literally forced me to rest through an ailment that necessitated a minor op. After a month of recuperation, I reflected on what I had learned:

Having spoken to my family about the fact I haven’t felt well for the whole of January, and the impact that has had, I started thinking about what I’ve learned over the last month. Here’s what I’m thankful for:

  1. The reminder that I’m not superwoman, so I don’t have to try to be.

  2.  The enforced rest, which has taught me there are seasons to be gentle on myself rather than always pushing to do more.

  3.  A husband who, while also having his own unusual stints of being ill, has shared the load with me.

  4.  Friends who have shown they truly care – and who have reminded me that it’s okay to ask for help sometimes.

  5.  Breaking free from any preconceived notions of expectations. I’m certainly not indispensable – this time has shown me that – so who can I be encouraging to realise their potential while I cheer them on from the sidelines?

  6.  A deeper understanding and empathy for those who live with long-term conditions.


Those were important lessons, and ones that I have come back to time and time again. But I can feel God’s nudge again and it has made me realise: I don’t want to be forced to rest again – in the deepest place of my heart I acknowledge that I still need to learn how to really live in those ‘unforced rhythms of grace’ every hour of every day:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28–30)

Learning from Jesus is the wisest thing to do. After all, He had constant demands on His time, but always ensured He got away from the crowds in order to connect with His Father. Do we?


I think that our busy 21st-century lifestyle makes it hard for any of us to carve out time for rest – and God – each day – but it is so vital. And I have found over the years that leaders can be the worst at this! Looking after so many other people, with their needs pressing in constantly, means that it can be easy to forget about your own needs.

I have been researching an article on the benefits of retreats for the next issue of Premier Christianity magazine, and came across the wonderful work of Ellel Scotland. Their Operation Blairmore is specifically for leaders who are burned out and in need of healing themselves.

While the idea of a sabbatical is one I am familiar with, and have seen practised by the leaders in our circle of churches, Blairmore offers 10–14 day retreats specifically for those in ministry or business leadership.

The director, Peter Brokaar, has written an article on the blessing of rest, and has graciously allowed me to quote the bulk of it here. I think there is much we can learn from the wisdom within it.


There is an immense pressure in this world that keeps us busy, occupied, forever moving and squeezing out time for rest, space and healthy relaxation.

The Bible does tell us indeed to imitate the busy ants and most Christians agree that ‘Idle hands can be the devil’s tools.’ But what if this right need to avoid laziness gets pushed too far? It’s so easy for us to let inner pressures of fear and guilt push us into ongoing, relentless busyness. On top of that the technocentric world of today seems out to rob us of the last quiet moments we had left. We’re in real danger of losing out on one of God’s greatest blessings – genuine rest!

In between all the other voices clamouring for attention we hear Jesus’ eternal invitation call out to us: ‘Come to Me, and I will give you rest’ (Matthew 11:28). But have we heeded that voice? Or has His call too been pushed out by other, more demanding voices? A person that has found true rest – is that how we would describe the average Christian, or even ourselves?

Jesus invited us to come to Him, to live from a place close to His heart. He wants us to ‘abide in Him’, in the language of John 15, and from that place of close relationship to bear fruit for God’s glory.

But it’s almost as if the Lord’s words got lost in translation, as if His words have gone through some kind of filter. So instead of coming, abiding and bearing fruit we, as a church, seem to have misheard the Lord: Work harder and make sure you keep very busy at all times!

Of the Ten Commandments it is the fourth commandment, the one about a weekly rest day, that gets by far the most attention. Rest is important, says Exodus 20, because of Creation. God rested the seventh day and hallowed it. So we, too, should rest one day per week. But why, we naturally ask? Isn’t there a lot of good to do? Jesus answers why: “Sabbath was made for man…” (Mark 2:27).

God built a rest day into creation because of His love towards mankind. It’s amazing to think of this: after having been created, humankind’s first full day was a Sabbath day– a day spent in God’s rest. It wasn’t until AFTER that day of rest that work begun. First rest (in God), then work. That is the picture the Bible gives us.

The enemy of humankind wants to steal God-given (and even God-ordained!) rest from us and he uses the world system as well as our internal pressures to accomplish his wicked goal. He knows that as long as he keeps us running on the proverbial hamster wheel we cannot connect deeply with God in that place of rest.

Jesus, on the other hand, is still inviting us to regain that place of rest which was lost at the fall. Hebrews 4:11 admonishes us to ‘make every effort to enter into [God’s] rest’, which tells us that regaining rest somehow requires effort and goes against the grain of our sinful nature.


There’s a lot to think about there. Can I just leave you with a challenge – how are you actively seeking God’s rest?

Slowing down during Advent


I love Christmas. I love the preparations, the waiting, the build up of excitement, the putting up of decorations, the time spent devising menus. I love being involved in the music for carol services, watching our children’s excitement as they prepare for the nativity play. But, if I’m honest, I also struggle with the stress.

I see the start of Advent, and know that it’s a time of reflection – and I long to have the time and space to really enjoy it. However, I’m sad to say, the busyness of life so often crowds in as I rush to finish deadlines before the kids break up from school.

At this point in our calendar I’m focused most on getting our son’s birthday party celebrations organised, with the ever-growing list of jobs to do for Christmas weighing on my mind.

Even among all the activity, though, I can sense a longing in my soul. I am desperate to connect, to find the deeper meaning in this season. And I am desperate for our family’s experience of Advent to go beyond chocolate and calendars.

I am drawn to rediscover the meaning of waiting this Advent. Drawn to the character of Mary, and what this time meant for her. When we first meet her in the gospels she seems like a vulnerable young woman; betrothed to a respectable man in her neighbourhood. But one visit from an angel changes everything.

Mary’s response to that angel, after a few somewhat understandable questions, is simply ‘I am the Lord’s servant… May your words to me be fulfilled.’ (Luke 1:38) Incredible. I could never be that calm.

After visiting Elizabeth, Mary creates what is often referred to as the Magnificat, her song of praise (Luke 1:46-55). Through it she reveals she understands the way that God has blessed her for a special purpose. Mary recognises that God is a champion for the poor and oppressed too, and that God is fulfilling His promises to Abraham (and Israel) through what is to take place.

Whenever I look at those verses I am always taken aback. Granted, Mary has had a visitation from an angel, who has taken the time to explain things to her. Elizabeth has also recognised that the baby inside of Mary is the Lord so Mary has someone she can talk freely with. But still…

While Mary herself recognises she is highly favoured, she’s also in a time of waiting that is filled with so many unknowns. Will Joseph stand by her? If he does, will their society cast them out? And then, once the census was decreed, how will she cope with the long journey to Bethlehem and where will she give birth? (I’m sure that the idea of a stable never once entered her head!) What would her son be like? How would He make Himself known as the Messiah?

So many questions, yet the biblical account doesn’t reveal much about Mary’s state of mind. There seems to be a peace amongst the anticipation while the reality must have been messy, and deeply painful, at times. What surrounds this part of the Christmas story for me is stillness and patience; the atmosphere thick with pregnant hope.

While I pause for a moment to reflect and write this, I pray that I too can find that stillness and patience. That I too can look forward to the coming celebrations with hope, not allowing the stress and busyness that can so easily accompany this season to rob me of the precious gift behind it all.

This blog was originally published on Christian Today.

Suffragette – and sacrifice

SUFFRAGETTEOfficialUKPosterI was so excited to see the new film Suffragette last night. It was everything I was hoping it would be – challenging, inspiring, uncomfortable in (lots of) places, beautifully shot, well acted. When I take the time to ponder what those women went through I still can’t quite believe that it was such a relatively short time ago. Our generation of women owe a huge debt of gratitude to the women of that era who refused to be silenced. (But yes I do acknowledge there is still much to be done…)

I have to say, I’m not sure that I would have condoned the violent methods that were employed by the WSPU. But watching the film last night, having the bits of history literally brought to life in front of me, did make me think again. How would I have felt if I had been led to believe that there were men in government that supported votes for women, who spent time listening to women’s testimonies, only to be told in a quick announcement that nothing was changing? As Meryl Streep said in her speech as Emmeline Pankhurst, for fifty years they had tried peaceful methods. How much pent-up frustration must there have been amongst the crowd of women at that point?

suffragette film pic

I know, if I’m truly honest, how frustrated I get if my voice isn’t heard. So while I can’t say I agree with all I saw and have read about their methods, and it’s a shame the film didn’t include the more peaceful ways the suffragists, for example, protested, I don’t feel that I can sit in judgement. I can’t get the thought of the women being expected to simply accept the decision out of my mind, and the way the police dispersed the crowd using violence – and even physical abuse (ripping clothes and groping).

The film’s action is propelled by the story of a young mother, Maud. It is hugely emotive at times – she seems to be pushed into becoming a suffragette by others and I found myself finding that rather uncomfortable. But, trying not to give too much away, she gets to a point where standing up for the rights of women could cost her everything – including her family. I was really challenged by that. Is there a cause that I’m that passionate about?

Then I thought to myself: what would I do if there comes a point in my life when following Jesus could cost me my family? It’s such a painful thing to consider – and yet the Bible talks about us losing our lives for Jesus (Matthew 10:39), and there are many around the world doing just that right now.

What I was reading as part of my daily devotion today, Rachel Gardner’s wonderful book Beloved, has a line that really jumped out at me: ‘Nothing life can offer, including life itself, can compare to knowing Jesus’. Wow. I know I know that, but just reading it afresh made that truth hit me again. Wow.

Watching Suffragette made me truly grateful for those who stood up for what they believed in, and also made me question whether I ever do the same. But this morning I’ve been challenged once again to consider how much I am willing to give up for Jesus…

The value of wisdom from elders


Each one of us hopefully learns a great deal through our lifetime, but what do we do with that knowledge? Does it go with us to our graves, or do we learn to share it with others graciously, and without expectation for the way they will use it?

Looking to the older generation for advice seems to have gone out of fashion these days, perhaps partly because families no longer live with or near each other. I don’t know if it is the computer generation with its instant answers from Google (although I suspect it happened long before the internet), but the younger generation doesn’t seem to want to ask for advice and wisdom from their elders. Titus 2 talks about older women offering encouragement to younger women to live their lives well, and I think that’s a great model for us all.

While methodology may change (I still cringe when I think of some of the advice I and my friends got as young mums from older women) those who have journeyed further along life’s path can be a huge source of wisdom, and it is foolish not to tap into it. Surely that’s something of what church family is about? It is both disrespectful and arrogant to think that these people have nothing to offer us in terms of advice and wisdom, so how can we make ourselves more open to it?

And those of us who are no longer spring-like teenagers or in our twenties should also consider what our life lessons have been along the way so far. What wisdom might we have to pass on to those who are younger (in age but also in their faith)?

To read the rest of this article, please click here.

The incredible power of the gospel

Puppets2What do singing puppets, friendly face painters, church members praying with passers by and a visiting evangelist preaching the gospel have in common?

Well that’s what a recent Saturday looked like on our town’s high street. Our church had evangelist Jonathan Conrathe come and work with us for the weekend. We had plenty of gatherings at church but we also set up in town during the day on the Saturday. My husband was involved in the puppets, which always draw a crowd, and my daughter and I were face painting.

Those types of activities are almost ‘safe’ evangelism – we are ‘doing’ things so don’t have to put ourselves on the line too much (although it was good to have some fruitful discussions with parents, who were so much more open because their kids were happily entertained).

What struck and challenged me most about the time, however, was how people responded to the gospel being preached. I was amazed (and then repented of being amazed) by how Jonathan simply gave the gospel message and people responded to it there and then on the street and we had the privilege of praying with them.

Listening while face painting I can remember thinking a few times “I could never say that” and “Isn’t that rather politically incorrect – can you say that on a British high street?” Don’t get me wrong, Jonathan preached with grace and clarity, not damning fire and brimstone. And when he called for a response there were those whose hearts had obviously been touched who wanted to make a commitment to Jesus.

The experience of being on the high street that day caused me to reflect on how the gospel certainly is timeless – and it also holds an unfathomable power. 1 Corinthians 1:18 says: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

To read the rest of this post, please click here.

Why scrubbing loos is a good idea


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).


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 😉

Learning to be thankful – at all times

The new term is well under way and already I feel like I’ve been struggling to catch up. I had the most wonderful Christmas, but since then both my husband and I have been dogged with illness. New Year came and went with no let up, then the kids went back to school and life continued to seem like a blur.

Friends asked if I’d made new year’s resolutions, but I replied that I was frustrated that I hadn’t had any time or space to reflect on the previous year and pray through my goals and vision for this year (something I like to do every January). I hadn’t even got my office in order or put up a new calendar.

beach walking shot

A few days after the kids went back to school it suddenly dawned on me how down I felt. It wasn’t that anything awful had happened – and, as I’ve said, we had a lovely Christmas. But the constant pain and problems in my body, combined with a lack of sleep, were taking their toll on my emotions.

I knew I was responding negatively to people – my husband, kids, others around me – and was desperate to do something about it. But I also knew that I needed time with those who would do me good rather than just pressing through and trying in my own strength. And that meant spending time with God – and booking a lunch date with a friend who both encourages and challenges me.

Over lunch we talked and cried, and I left feeling lighter. The following morning I couldn’t get the phrase ‘For yet I will praise Him’ out of my mind as I drove back from dropping the kids off at school. I had been saying to God that I was frustrated with myself; there was so much I wanted to get done, but I still felt like I just wanted a date with my duvet.

I came home and looked up the phrase, finding it in three psalms. Here’s one from Psalm 42:5:

“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God.”

Something inside me leapt. I realised that, like the psalmist, I needed to speak to my soul and remind myself to put my hope and trust in God.

To read the rest of this post, please click here.

Are you willing to let God disrupt your life?


We are now in Advent, traditionally a time of looking forward and preparing for the coming of Christ through acts of remembrance and repentance as we get ourselves ready spiritually.

The word advent is the anglicised version of the Latin word adventus, which means ‘coming’, ‘arrival’, ‘approach’. During this time we remember the longing ancient people had for a saviour, a messiah, but also how we should be alert for His second coming.

Today, however, I’ve been pondering the consequences of one particular visit or ‘approach’ that started off the events of that first Christmas. That of the angel Gabriel visiting Mary, which I’ve been looking at in Luke 1:26-38.

I was struck afresh today what a bizarre and potentially terrifying experience it must have been for a young girl to suddenly be face to face with an angel. That itself was mind-blowing enough. And yet what about his message? To be told that you, a young, unmarried virgin, would be the mother of the Son of God?!

We obviously don’t get a blow-by-blow account of the story in the Gospels, but I wonder what your response would have been if you had been given such a life-changing message?

We are told that at the start of the conversation ‘Mary was greatly troubled at his words’ (Luke 1:29). Don’t you just love the Bible’s skill at understatement? Troubled? I think I would have either frozen stiff, screamed for help or run away. And that was before he’d even told her God’s plans…

Mary was obviously someone who sought God and made following Him a priority; that must have helped her recognise that this angelic being was indeed sent from God. I admire her courage for sticking it out, for staying long enough to hear his full message.

Pondering the passage in Luke, I do believe that God’s peace must have descended on Mary when she accepted that she was listening to His messenger. How else could she stand there and listen without having a serious freak out?

But what strikes me the most is her simple trust and obedience. Just listen to what she says when Gabriel has finished his speech: ‘I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May your word to me be fulfilled.’ (v38)

Part of me wants to shout at her: ‘Come on Mary he’s just totally disrupted your wedding plans – actually, he may well have cost you your wedding. Who is going to believe that you will become pregnant by the Holy Spirit? That just sounds crazy. Do you really think Joseph will believe you?’

And yet that side of me is silenced by the piercing effect her response has. Mary was being asked to trust an angelic being who had brought her a message that would turn her life upside down but, not only that, would change the world if the boy indeed turned out to be the Messiah they were all hoping for. What a privilege … but what an enormous upheaval that necessitated her laying down her rights to all her dreams and plans.

What this passage has made me consider, is what I would do if Jesus or an angel came to me and asked me to disrupt my plans. Not my whole life – just my week’s plans.

To read the rest of this reflection, please click here.

Lessons from the cheese box

This morning I opened the fridge door and immediately spotted that the box that we keep our cheese in had moved shelves. My family had been staying for the weekend and had looked after our kids while we were out, so they had obviously put it back in a different place. I was intrigued by my response: I was both offended and surprised.

The offence came from my immediate reaction: “What’s the cheese box doing there? That’s not where it lives!” and the surprise, “Hmm, it looks neater there – perhaps that’s a better spot”.

As I shut the fridge door I felt God whisper to me, “That’s your response when people do things differently to you”. I knew He was talking about the ‘offended’ response. Ouch.

As part of a leadership training course I’m attending, we’ve spent time looking at how well we foster new leaders. I’ve started asking myself these sorts of questions:

Do I encourage others into new leadership roles or am I fearful of what that might mean for me?

Do I always ‘need’ to be involved in new initiatives or am I happy to see others bring them into fruition?

Do I gladly embrace new ways of doing things suggested by other people or do I do so half-heartedly, grumbling in my heart that it will never work and ‘knowing’ that mine is the better way?

Am I seeking to raise up other leaders who will be able to take over the roles I am currently in, or am I holding on too tightly?

To read the rest of this article please click here.