Know your red flags

I can’t think of any real-life situations where I’ve come across a red flag warning — traffic cones though, I’ve seen plenty of those. Maybe NZ prefers high-vis orange as its warning colour? But for those sea captains, sailors, and race-car drivers out there (I’m sure I have a large audience amongst those groups), you’ll be more familiar. A red flag means WATCH OUT! DANGER! SLOW DOWN! STOP!

While I don’t seen many literal red flags, metaphorically I’m seeing them all the time. They’re those familiar patterns of behaviour and those familiar phrases that either fall from your lips or reverberate around your head, and they all mean WATCH OUT! DANGER! SLOW DOWN! STOP!

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Happily ever after

I remember this moment of sweet sisterhood in the bath. It was near the end of a run of sick-days for the eldest, and I was really ready for her to go back to school. I’d had a good whinge about it earlier in the day, cultivating discontent as I compared my reality with what I had hoped for (happy not-snotty children, patient AND productive mama, ideal mothering AND ideal working, tidy stylish house, blah blah blah). But in the early afternoon, as they played in the bath together, I was struck by the thought: One day I’m going to look back and think “those were the happiest days of my life”.

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children's book picture of Martha angrily baking

Martha, Martha

I often feel that Martha gets a bad rap. After all, she’s just trying to cook up something amazing for Jesus. But she turns into a stressed-out hostess, trying to make sure it’s all perfect, but poisoning the atmosphere with her grouchy attitude… that sounds a lot like me in the hours leading up to a daughter’s birthday party. If you haven’t witnessed that scenario, firstly be thankful, and then secondly (re)acquaint yourself with Luke 10:38-42.

She works hard, she gets grumpy, she complains to Jesus, and Jesus tells her to chill out.

Anyone else identifying with Martha here?

I hear the rebuke, the redirection towards peace and connection, but I’m still left wondering, What about dinner? Who’s going to take care of that?

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Problem? No problem.

If there’s one thing I miss about primary school, it’s maths. I loved those exercise sheets you were given with a long list of maths problems. Clearly I was a nerd, I’m not disputing that.

They came to mind yesterday as I was listening to a great word from Ps Sam Monk at the ACTS Europe conference. He was talking about how in leadership problems are inevitable, but having problems don’t mean you’re in trouble.

I realised that too often my thought process goes something like “oh no, a problem, I must be doing something wrong.” When problems are a sign that you’re moving forward, extending your capacity, actually doing something. The trough might be dirty, but that’s because you’ve got oxen, so count yourself blessed (Prov 14:4).

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Jesus feminist

There are some bits of the bible that you trip over when you’re reading, thinking, “hmm… that’s a bit weird”. And then stumped you think, “oh well, better move on”. But if you sit with them a bit longer and exercise some patience, eventually some other things slot into place and a glimmer of insight appears.

One of this tripping points for me was this moment in Luke 11:27-28, where Jesus has been teaching the crowd and doing his miracles thing, when a woman cries out, “Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you!” 

Now that’s a weird heckle.

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Do the things you know you need to do

I don’t know about you, but I have something of a stubborn streak… I can just hear my parents and my husband scoffing: “something?!”. OK, OK, a significant stubborn streak.

It’s not all bad; that stubbornness has enabled me to stay the course in some tough times, I’ve persisted when I might have given up. But sometimes that stubbornness sees me sabotaging myself. I don’t like to be told what to do.

So in recent weeks when my husband has been persistently nudging me to go down to the pond for a moment’s peace, I’ve come up with all the usual “I’m too busy, blah blah blah” excuses. Even when I started thinking that actually it would be quite nice, I resisted solely because he was nudging me. Stubborn. Stupid.

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Love is patient

You know how when you’ve read something too many times it starts to lose all meaning? Just pick a word and write or speak it out repeatedly and very soon you’ll find yourself wondering if it is even a word at all, the letters and syllables have dissolved into nonsense.

The most familiar passages of Scripture get a bit like that too. They’re just words – our eyes glide over them, they slip past our ears – and while we might murmur our assent at their familiar tones, their meaning doesn’t touch our heart.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 has got to be one of the most often repeated Scriptures. Hands up if you had it at your wedding, or if, like me, you purposely didn’t have it at your wedding because everyone else did. It was like Pachelbel’s canon in the 90s, poor overused and under-appreciated Pachelbel.

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(No) shame on you

I’m hoping this doesn’t come as a surprise to my parents, but as a child I was a little light-fingered for a time. I don’t think I ever shoplifted, but I distinctly remember pilfering these fancy stickers that my mum had. What a treasure! But where to hide them? I know… down the side of my bed, no one will ever find them there! Until mum changes the sheets duh. I recall being embarrassingly slow to confess, pretending I had no idea where they had come from. Ah kids… I’d like to think it was just a phase. I’ve certainly grown out of it now.

Well, parental karma is a thing, and we’ve had similar phases with our kids. For one daughter though it is dragging on longer than I’ve got patience for. And it’s happening at school, so there’s this public dimension to navigate as well.

I know better than to shame myself — it’s no reflection of my poor parenting — and I’m going to resist the shaming of others (“you never expect it to be the pastor’s kid”). But I am a little tempted to shame her.

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Moments and memories

When I was 5, I fulfilled one of my life-long goals: we went to Disneyland. I don’t remember a whole lot about it now, more just snatches of memory and delight, but this I do know, it was all-round awesome. 

Earlier this week, however, I talked over the experience with my mother, and her memory was quite different. She said something like, yeah it didn’t go that well, you were both so tired because of the jet lag, you just wanted to be sleeping. We were on our way to Norway you see, and Disneyland was a side trip. I guess we were tired, and I bet I melted down multiple times, and I’m sure I was hard work – but I don’t remember any of that! For me, it was one of the highlights of my short life. 

I’m so glad I had this conversation with my mum early this week, because over this week we’ve had more than our fair share of memory-making experiences that have simultaneously been hard work. 

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Pretty good pencil drawing of a cat

You have to be willing to be bad at it

Earlier this year my 6 year-old came home from school with some pretty AMAZING cat pictures. She showed them off, and we all oohed and aahed over her talent.

The next day, however, I found another picture from a few days earlier, her first attempt at a cat. It was languishing crumpled at the bottom of her bag, but this picture made me even happier: it was a CRAPPY cat picture.

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