Everyone’s awesome… so everyone’s inadequate

I spent my afternoon at a SACE clarifying forum. I always manage to leave feeling inadequate.

At the forum, year 12 teachers get together in a room with paper cups of instant coffee and read exemplars of student work.

There are two types of people that scare me in these groups – the innovators and the ‘I-wouldn’t-have-graded-it-that-high’ experts.

We had an innovator at our table. Fresh out of University, new ideas and perfect English literary lingo flowed from his mouth. He spoke with the authority that only a new grad or a thirty-year veteran can.

I spent my time between feeling impressed, indignant and inadequate. Clearly this barely-even-an-adult was more competent than me. Thank goodness he didn’t know I’m running the faculty at my school.

The ‘experts’ were also out in full force. Irrespective of the piece, they always thought it was about two grades worse than I had. No matter that they were technically wrong, their air of superiority made it clear that their standards were higher than mine. I felt my insides wilting with the knowledge that I wouldn’t even know how to teach to their standard.

Many times I’ve felt a niggling feeling that I’m an imposter in this word of academics.

I wondered after, though, whether we’re all playing the same game. For all I know Mr. University left feeling inadequate next to the experience of the others on the table and the experts left wondering how, after so many years, they could still be marking too hard. We all put our best foot forward. We all want to look awesome. And, no doubt, we all struggle with feeling inadequate.

Christian, turn the cheek on Facebook

Today I woke to news of another terror attack, this time targeting Christians as they celebrated Palm Sunday in Egypt.

It is tragic and frightening and naturally created an emotional response in the Christian world.

We live in an unprecedented time in which a person’s opinions and responses can be publicly proclaimed through social media, and it makes me wonder… how are we using it?

I question sometimes, as I see Christians around the world taking to Facebook as a soapbox to remind the world of our rights, whether we’re getting it wrong.

I was reminded yesterday of Jesus’ command to ‘turn the other cheek;’ of the promise of persecution and of the cross we all vow to bear. What happened in Egypt is a human rights tragedy, but I wonder whether the response of Christians stems more from fear for their own future safety, than from a true understanding of what it is to live the Christian life.

Christians in Australia have experienced peace for generations, and we must admit that we have sometimes used our high and favoured position to look down at, and isolate others. Now, as the tables turn, we take to social media and condemn those who are against us. Maybe it’s time to turn the other cheek. Maybe it’s time to take up our cross with the meekness of our Saviour and use any words we have to preach His Gospel of salvation, even to those who persecute us, rather than asserting our rights.

The number ONE reason we should follow Jesus… isn’t to get eternal life

Why do we invite people to come to Jesus?

This questions was raised in my lunchtime Bible study group today, which amazingly, this year, includes two atheist students. I see reflected in it many mistakes of my own evangelical history.

Over the years I have invited people to come to Jesus for many a reason, some more flawed than others:

To some I promised a more purposeful life

To others, increased happiness.

At times it was because they were at risk of hell

And on the flip side, who isn’t enticed by the promise of heaven?

Shamefully, I admit, there were also times when I merely wanted to recruit allies; people who would see the world from my point of view and not oppose me.

Today, however, I was reminded, as I studied the Word with these students, that the number one reason that we should invite people to come to Jesus is because He is worthy.

If God is as powerful as he must be as creator, and Jesus is truly Lord of all, then people should come to him in humble worship, simply because He deserves it.

The beautiful paradox of Christianity is that God invites us to come, and then blesses us with every spiritual blessing and life eternal when we do.

It is His kindness that brings us to repentance, but we must never forget who He is or how worthy He is. We must call people to worship the giver, not come for the gifts.

 

 

 

On the dislike of teenagers

I was sitting with a group of (lovely) ladies a few weeks back and the topic of teenagers came up. Perhaps forgetting that I actually choose to work with this vicious species on a daily basis, they described them in less than complimentary terms. One lady piped up “Well, you must remember, we’re living in the age of the narcissist.”

I don’t necessarily disagree with her premise, but her accusatory tone made me feel surprisingly defensive of this generation that is both loathed and feared by much of society. Teenagers, beneath their narcissism and behind the luminous screens of their smart phones, are precious individuals who are finding their way in the world and forging a new path for our future.

Teenagers hold our future whether we like it or not, and before we despair or shake our fists, we do well to look at where they came from. If a teenager is narcissistic, who did they learn it from? If they can’t function without technology, who gave it to them? If they are undisciplined or entitled or lacking respect, who is the generation who raised them?

The last thing that teenagers need is our condescension. They are not the enemy, and if we treat them as such we draw battle lines for a war that will have no victor. Teenagers need the love and support of society. They need freedom and boundaries, encouragement and discipline. Our condemnation foolishly despises that which we, as a village, have raised ourselves.

The Western dream… no servitude

I was in year 12 when I first heard about ‘The American Dream.’ We were studying Of Mice and Men and my teacher was explaining George and Lennie’s pursuit of land to call their own as the ultimate American dream.

This goal has become the veritable ‘pot at the end of the rainbow’ for much of western society; to own a piece of land has become both the American and Australian dream. We may have masters at work, but at home we are slaves to no one. Even our political systems are built on the premise that the common man does not serve the leader, but the leader serves the common man.

As a result, one of the greatest challenges I face is that of servitude to God. No longer does my generation feel any real duty to ‘King and Country.’ In fact, if I’m honest, the concept of truly living my life in servitude to anyone seems foreign to me.

There are many who have laid down their lives for our liberty, and for that I am grateful, but I am afraid that it has created a dangerous illusion. I struggle to lay down my life in full servitude to God, because I have been falsely led to believe that my life is my own. Not only to I fail to see that I am a slave to sin or self, but I have lost all comprehension of the honour it is to serve a great master.

But I’ve been patient for a long time!

573785_35739861950403bcce628b84f7b54513_largeDoes anyone else have things that they’ve been praying about for a long time?

For ten years I prayed that God would heal me from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. For even longer I’ve had a desire to get married. For a lifetime I’ve been praying for unsaved family members.

Sometimes God answers prayer quickly, but sometimes, as I found yet again the other day, the Still Small Voice says to me ‘Sarah, be patient and trust me.’

I must confess, I responded with an indignant lament: ‘But God, I’ve BEEN patient… for a really long time!’

It felt like a valid point. How could God still ask for patience when I had already waited so long. And therein I discovered my error. Patience and waiting are not the same thing. It was quite possible that I could have waited for something for ten years and yet never actually been patient.

I looked the word up:

Patient: bearing provocation, annoyance, misfortune, delay, hardship, pain etc., with fortitude and calm and without complaint, anger or the like.

It turns out that patience is an attribute that still needs great cultivation in my life.

It’s funny how God reminded me to be patient and trust. For the Christian, the two must go together. How can I bear hardship and delay with great fortitude and calm? Because I know that my God, who holds and ordains all things, can be trusted to bring me that which is good, in His perfect time.

Gratitude and a busted microwave

When I was a teenager, my parents’ microwave broke. It seems odd to me now, but I distinctly remember feeling surprised when my dad went out that weekend and bought a new one.

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I imagine I’d reached the age where I realized that things cost money, and perhaps begun to have my eyes opened to the fact that there were lots of things that some people couldn’t afford.

A microwave seemed like a big expense, and when dad came home with a new one, I realized, probably for the first time, that my parents were rich. Not filthy rich, perhaps, but comfortable rich. I remember saying to dad, ‘Wow, it’s pretty amazing that you can just go out and buy a new microwave. Some people couldn’t do that.’

I’ve been reminded of this many times over the years when I face unexpected expenses. Last Friday my car wouldn’t start. Within an hour the RAA had come and I had a new battery. The $170 was an expense that was very inconvenient and I felt like getting annoyed, but then I remembered to be grateful.

I will still eat this week. I will still pay my mortgage and I still bought the shoes I needed. Many people can’t do that. I have to remember that any time I receive a bill I can afford to pay, it is a time to be grateful.

When people are more credible than God

16729706_10154591992678143_339497224_nIn our world, if it can be sold, there’s someone selling it and a celebrity promoting it. The marketing machine of our culture is so normal to us that we rarely stop to reflect how mad we’ve gone.

This was highlighted to me the other day when I saw this article from My Christian Daily: “Prince Harry – Do good in your local church.”

I can almost see the frenzied Christian excitement as Prince Harry, a real celebrity, endorsed the church ‘brand.’

On one level it makes me roll my eyes, on another it causes me deep concern.

First, we need to be far more discerning about whom we follow. Are Christians really holding Prince Harry up as an example of someone from whom we should take life guidance? If not, then we shouldn’t grab on to one little thing he says that happens to suit our purpose and promote the heck out of it.

Second, and more importantly, why is it such a big deal when a celebrity says something that God already said? Does that really confirm it as good advice? The Bible is the word of our creator. It is unsurpassed in wisdom and power and truth. Bono, or Lady Gaga or Bear Grylls or Prince Harry cannot come close to adding to the credibility of anything that God himself has said.

The Bible stands alone. I will celebrate if they submit to it, but I will never need them to endorse it.

The privilege of an invitation

Do you remember what it was like to be 6 years old and invited to a birthday party? You’d receive a brightly coloured fill-in-the-blanks invitation that told you where and when and came with the unspoken promise of cake and party bags!

kid-with-a-party-hat-and-party-blower_1187-171The invitation carried with it much more though, than details and the promise of fun, it told you something even more special: You were chosen.

At some point, when your little 6-year-old friend sat down to write their birthday list, they put your name on it. It was a privilege to be invited.

I wonder how our generation has lost that sense of privilege. Is it that we have so many more friends and receive dozens of invitations? Is it that Facebook culture has introduced the ability to haphazardly invite all 756 of your ‘friends’ at once? Is that why we don’t want to commit until we know whether we’ll feel like it on the day?

I think it’s sad. I know when I invite people to something, it’s because of all the people I know, I chose them. I know that there are times when being invited can feel like more of a burden than a privilege, but I try to remind myself that, irrespective of who it is from, an invitation is always a privilege. An invitation means they thought of me, and they chose me.

Let’s not take being chosen for granted.

Don’t take your convictions for granted

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How do we fall so far?

I was sitting in my Pastor Carl’s office a few months back talking about some things I was struggling with. In the midst of it all, I told him that I’d be willing to give anything up for Jesus. Wisely, he heard my words as more habitual than real, the remnant shadow of past genuine conviction.

“You need to cultivate that, Sarah,” he said. “Don’t take it for granted. Convictions must be nurtured, or they become empty words.”

It reminded me of another conversation, with another pastor, Andy, several years before. I was grieving the fact that several Christian leaders, who I’d long looked up to, who had trained me and nurtured me and developed me in my faith, had drifted away from their convictions. Instead of the passionate faith-filled people they once were, they are living their lives like cold coals, far from the fire in which they had once burnt so brightly.

“How does this happen?” I lamented.

“They lost sight” Andy said, “They stopped watching the Lamb.” (This is a reference to a song- the lyrics are here).

I do not believe that true salvation can ever be lost, but it is a certain tragedy that our love can grow cold, in the very midst of noble sounding platitudes.

I must not assume that a fire that once burned bright will continue that way without careful tending. Today, afresh, I must commit to holding only to Jesus, with a willingness to let all else go.