Why scrubbing loos is a good idea

cleaning_the_toilet_s

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 😉

Advertisements

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.

A journey of faith

As I’ve mentioned before, our church is in the process of buying the lease on a council-owned building. We’ve been in that process for over three years now. It has been a long, hard road…

It started with what seemed like a miracle. We were given the heads up about a community hall that is based right in the centre of the borough we meet in. And then, amazingly our (now retired) pastor was offered it at an incredible price (they were almost giving it away), he shook hands and walked away believing we had just acquired a home for our church.

You can imagine the celebrating that Sunday! We couldn’t believe how, after quite a few months of searching, that God seemed to have delivered something straight into our laps. What a blessing.

Then we heard back from the lease owners to say they had decided to open the process up to others. What seemed like premature celebrations ceased and we started to wonder why this had happened. And, of course, some of us doubted whether it was the right building. We also had comments from some of our members asking why on earth did we need a building anyway?

What followed was an intense period of fervent prayer and nail-biting waits. We lost out twice during bidding processes, pipped to the post at the last minute with bids only just above our own.

At the end of each of those processes we should have been automatically disqualified, and yet both times (praise God!) we were invited to continue on and bid again with an ever-smaller group of bidders. Finally, after an interview process where I was suddenly asked to help pitch (yikes that was scary), we were picked to be the next leaseholders.

I have to admit I have found the whole journey incredibly emotional. It has stretched my faith almost to breaking point at times. I can still remember the sinking feeling I had when we found out our first bid hadn’t been enough to secure the lease.

The very next morning I was at a women’s breakfast and I can still remember thinking “I don’t want to go. I don’t feel strong enough for all the questions there will be, all the disappointed faces. I can’t get my own head around it, I certainly can’t carry anyone else.”

To read the rest of this piece please click here.

The weight – and joy – of leadership

Have you ever wanted to just hide away and not go to church? That’s how I felt on Saturday evening. The thought of getting up early in the morning and speaking to dozens of people, of worshipping God even (yes, it was a low moment) and of feeling the responsibility of needing to be stood next to my husband in the front row all weighed heavily on me.

I just needed a break.

I’m sure I’m not alone in this – and I know it is right to take time out at times.

But one of the burdens of leadership is living by example. And just hiding under my duvet when I don’t feel 100 per cent is not setting a good example. So I shot up a quick prayer asking that God would refresh me and I was immediately reminded of the Sunday before.

On that day, I was suffering from such severe back pain that I hadn’t slept all night. I was playing the main instrument in the worship team and we had a visiting speaker from Nigeria, who we were hosting a lunch for after the service. On that particular Sunday the whole of me was screaming “It isn’t fair! Why should I have to carry on? Why can’t someone else do it?”

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

A picture of God’s faithfulness

As a church this month we celebrated our 10th anniversary – I can’t believe how the time has flown by (yes I know that’s a sign of getting older!). It was rather hilarious to watch clips of our launch service, spotting those who have been with us since the start (and noting how much younger and slimmer we all looked!)

We had a fantastic anniversary service, praising God for bringing us this far and re-dedicating ourselves to His vision. We then enjoyed a feast of international food prepared by everyone in the church. But what has struck me most during this time of celebration is how faithful God has been throughout the journey.

The church almost lost two of its leaders before we even really began as our marriage began to unravel. I remember my husband saying to the pastor who was mentoring the team at the time, ‘but what about the church?’. His answer? ‘God will build His church – you focus on your marriage.’ Wise, true words.

To read the rest of this post please click here.

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.

Taking a break

It seems a little ironic that I’m talking about taking a break from posting here. My blog entries have been sporadic at best over the last year. I’ve found juggling my increasing workload alongside my son (who has only been in nursery a few hours each morning) rather difficult at times, and it has meant that anything other than the bare essentials has had to take a back seat. But I’m hoping to get back to regular posts from September/October time, when I will also have more time to expand my work and church commitments further.

I’ve got mixed feelings as we approach the autumn. I’ve spent many moments looking forward to it, feeling it will ease a lot of my stress. But I am sure that the new season will bring stresses of its own. And it is also beginning to dawn on me that I will no longer have pre-school age children. While I may be relieved in some senses (I had a reminder this Sunday of what it is like to juggle church and a baby as I was looking after a friend’s baby during the service), I also have a little pang of how quickly they grow up (I NEVER thought I’d be one to say that!) I have been very intentional about not taking on much work for the summer, as I want to enjoy focusing on my kids for this, the last summer before my youngest starts full-time school. If I’m honest, so far it has been a bit of a struggle. The kids are very emotional, and my son seems incapable of playing on his own with his toys for longer than two minutes (so there is a constant ‘what can I do’ going on in the background). But we will be taking them abroad for the first time soon and I am hoping (and praying vehemently!) that getting away from it all, and having a break abroad, will be great for us all. As a couple that is so busy with church activities we need this time to hide away and focus on our family before the next term’s changes. Not only is our son starting full-time school, but we will have a building project to plan and undertake as our offer has finally been accepted on the building our church has been trying to purchase for two years! With only my husband working full time for the church it is obvious that the coming months are going to be intense, to put it lightly.

I think what we need most of all in this time away is rest. Fun and rest without distraction and pressing needs. Rest that allows us time to draw near to God to hear his voice directing our paths in the coming days. There are so many big decisions coming up we need to hide away and hear him as all wisdom and knowledge is found in him. That’s what I’m hoping for most during this break time. As well as enjoying time with my family – that part certainly won’t be quiet! 😉

Giving it all… whatever the consequences?

It was only a few years ago that I fought against my husband’s calling. I didn’t want to become a pastor’s wife and, at the time, wrapped up in my own depression and sin, I didn’t love the people he felt called to. I certainly didn’t want to be involved at all…

But then God did a deep work in me, and made me view the church as He does – full of wonderful, complicated, imperfect individuals who are each on their own journey with Him. I began to love with His love and count it a real privilege to be serving among them.

Today I realised that I was beginning to lose some of that viewpoint. As I struggled with frustration and annoyance it suddenly dawned on me that I was getting upset because of things that were having an impact on me – on my time, on my pocket and on my emotions. But if, as the song I’m listening to says, I’ve ‘given it all to Him’ then those things aren’t my own anymore are they? So, however what I am doing is received, whether my efforts are appreciated, my time and point of view respected, shouldn’t matter. I should be continuing to give my all because it isn’t about the consequences, it’s about offering myself as a sacrifice daily to my God and King. And if part of that is pouring myself out for those in His church, then so be it.

I would rather be a doorkeeper…

My body and mind are still trying to process the amazing, but frantic, week of conferences I had last week. I was at the HTB Leadership conference, then the ‘All that we are’ conference for women at the Christian Resources Exhibition and at the end of the week we travelled to Nottingham to hear Dave Fellingham speak on deliverance ministry. I had such a blessed week and learned a great deal. I had hoped to blog about my thoughts throughout the week, but it was all so intense I know I’ll simply be filtering through the things I’ve picked up and am mulling over during the next few weeks. And so much has already been tweeted and blogged about that I’ve decided to avoid going back over old news now!

Today I woke up feeling pretty under the weather and, in a manner so unlike my usual busy Martha self, I surprised myself by deciding to send the kids off to school with my husband and crawl back into bed with my bible. I just felt that small, still voice, pointing out that yes, I only had a couple of hours free before my son would need picking up but no, there was nothing I desperately needed to get done for work so I could actually simply relax and spend time catching up on a little bit of sleep and then catching up with God 😉

The passage of scripture that really struck me today was from Psalm 84:

How lovely is your dwelling-place,
Lord Almighty!
My soul yearns, even faints,
for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cry out
for the living God.
Even the sparrow has found a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may have her young –
a place near your altar,
Lord Almighty, my King and my God.
Blessed are those who dwell in your house;
they are ever praising you.

10 Better is one day in your courts
than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
11 For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
the Lord bestows favour and honour;
no good thing does he withhold
from those whose way of life is blameless.

I realised that yes, my soul was yearning for that place of rest only found in Him, and that I can trust His provision for me personally. The mention of the sparrow immediately made me think of the passage in Matthew that urges us not to worry, reminding us that the birds of the air are looked after by God and the flowers of the field dressed more finely than Solomon. That is certainly a challenge to me as I am naturally a worrier. I’m learning to lean more on God though as the amount of stress we’ve been under recently would have caused me to explode otherwise!

The next part of the passage that really spoke to me was the part about being a doorkeeper. I was really challenged by that – would I rather be a doorkeeper in God’s house than be someone more noticed and important elsewhere? One of the things I’ve been wrestling with recently is where my role lies and exactly what I’m supposed to be pouring my time and energy into. That was mainly borne out of the tension of trying to support my husband while he works as the only full-time member of staff and looks after the church, as well as me working and being a mum. As I said, we’ve had a particularly stressful few weeks so that has caused me to think about everything I do – and both of us to realise we need to take a long, hard look at our priorities. Another part of it, though, came out of a disappointment over a long-term freelance job I went for. It was something I felt led to by God, something we prayed about and agreed I should go for, and also something I was told I almost got. So, understandably, I felt some disappointment, also questioned myself – and asked God a few questions too! I also saw many women at CRE last week who have a higher profile than me in the writing and editing fields and, while I know in my heart I’m not running after recognition or position, it is a lot easier to get work when you are ‘known’. I loved catching up with all the women I saw, but I also knew I had to let go. Let go of any striving to get to a certain place, to be a certain type of person – and to trust that God knows my future, knows where I am going and only asks me to be faithful with what I see put before me each day rather than worrying about what work I may or may not have two months down the line.

I was really encouraged by particular words I received last week that affirmed some of my heart’s desires – I had been getting to a place of wondering whether God was asking me to lay down my dreams for now in order to concentrate on building the church alongside my husband, but that burden has now been taken off me. A lot of what is on my heart does involve my ministry within the church, often working alongside my husband, as well as encouraging and equipping people in the wider Church through my work but I realise now that God is cheering me on in all of that. And, while I don’t know what form it is all going to take, I do realise that being a doorkeeper in His house is far, far more precious than trying to be something I’m not. I may never be as ‘recognised’ as some of the other people I work with – but that’s okay. I have my Father’s approval and today I’ve realised I am actually totally content with that. 🙂

Can’t settle down to work…

Ever have one of those days when you simply can’t seem to settle down to anything? I am today – I can’t believe I only have half an hour left before I pick up my son from nursery and I’ve achieved nothing so far (apart from bagging a free book for my hubbie – yay- and having email conversations with publishers). I have managed to do my bible reading for the day. I’ve been finding reaching back into the Old Testament really interesting and thought-provoking, but today, when I read about a man sacrificing his daughter, all I could think was ‘really?’. My brain couldn’t go further than that!

Both my husband and I look and feel shattered. It has been an exceedingly long couple of weeks, partly because our church is in the process of trying to buy a building and there have been endless plans and letters to formulate. But today is submission day – so we’ve done all we can. Now, as well as praying earnestly, we need to turn to what else needs our attention – him to his preach and me to my writing. But I think we are both simply too wrung out. I am usually incredibly focused. I’ve been doing this work-from-home freelancing thing for a long time now, and I am always determined to utilise the first few hours of the day really well as that is my only child-free time. But today I’ve been meandering through the windows on my computer – looking at the drafted book I have almost finished and the half-written ideas file for a magazine editor. I can’t quite seem to actually get down to doing anything. But I think that may be because my body needs a little rest – it’s done so much already this week. The fact that I can’t focus on anything is my body revealing I need to slow down a little and take it easy today. This is really unlike me, but I’m finding I’m telling myself that it’s okay if I don’t actually achieve that much today. There is always tomorrow… 🙂