Blog : change

We are called to leave Home

We are called to leave Home

For each of us and our children, the journey and challenges will be different. Whether it is issues of sexuality, career options, belief systems, self-perception, narcissism or something else, there will certainly be times in our lives when we move from “one passage to another” and if not done well, it can stunt our growth in one of these areas.

I believe a key requirement of the spiritual journey is to go out, to leave home, to “fall” or even “fail”. Yet, It seems to me as a parent I have done everything I can to keep my children at “home” or “safe”. I have looked at the Story of the Prodigal all wrong. For many years, the message always came from the perspective of the Eldest son, who did the “right thing” and stayed home. That has certainly been my own personal journey. Yet, his loyalty in doing the “right” thing, his own entitlement, his quest to be obedient is what kept him from the very “celebration” that the father prepared, even begged him to come to. It seems that in Western society in particular, we do all we can as parents and even in the Church and/or Christian Schools to keep our children  IN the fold. We have created “eldest sons” and “Pharisees” with merit stickers, who can recite the books of the bible and can quickly judge those outside the church as “sinners” who need help. We forget that these are the people Jesus spent most of his time with.  Jesus never seemed upset with “sinners”. He had more to say to those who did not think they were sinners.

For each of us and our children, the journey and challenges will be different. Whether it is issues of sexuality, career options, belief systems, self-perception, narcissism or something else, there will certainly be times in our lives when we move from “one passage to another” and if not done well, it can stunt our growth in one of these areas.

“Western people are ritually starved people, and in this are different than most of human history” (R. Rohr, pg 44)

As I ponder on my teenage years and moving into marriage and moving out to create my own home, I feel that there were “rites of passage” that I missed, that stunted my ability to move to the next season of my life. The conversations that “good” Christians DON’T have about sex and relationships, rules that must be honored. I was so busy trying to keep the rules, that once it was time to move into the next “passage”, I didn’t know how to.

Richard Rohr describes this necessary process as “discharging your loyal soldier”. “Paradoxically, your loyal soldier gives you so much security and validation that you may confuse his voice with the very voice of God. If this inner and critical voice has kept you safe for many years as your inner voice of authority, you may end up not being able to hear the real voice of God” (R. Rohr, pg 46)

Nowadays we seemed to have thrown the “baby out with the bath water” and now there are no rules. The “rites of passage” become inconsequential because there is nothing sacred to move into, as it has already been experimented with at an early age. Nothing is sacred or special these days. This is just as sad and negative as living strictly by the rules.

So, am I saying that the rules are there to be broken, that the safe house/environment is to be created only to be left and abandoned? In some ways I am…which is very hard for me to say for an “eldest son” who has stayed in God’s house all her life, although I would like to think that I have fought the system from within. It is hard for me to say as a parent with an 18 year old son who is about to leave all that we have tried to create for him for the past 18 years, to go into the world where he must journey to find who he is for himself. It is hard for me to say as a teacher/speaker who longs to see safe environments across the ages, growing and learning together and parents fully engaged with their kids on this journey.

The legalist in me honor’s the guidelines God sets, fully knowing that it is often when they are broken that we come to understand more fully His love ad grace. I am thankful for that in my own personal faith walk. For me it means the intentional “rites of passage” and the “safe places” we create are even more important. They are important because when one “fails or falls” or doubts and questions or even walks away for whatever reason, there is always potential for growth, even total transformation, because there is a safe place to process. This is a better option than hiding, growing bitter, escaping, blaming or settling and living as a victim all your life. There is way too much of that happening in families, in the church and in the world today.

But there is fine balance we walk, between teaching and living in a way that honour’s God and acknowledging that when we “fall” (and we all will) that He is a safe place to process this through. One of the “fallings” of the church /faith community I see is that we try to keep our “failings” secret. I have found as a Pastor that people don’t like me talking about my “fallings”… we must keep it all upbeat and positive. Pastors are supposed to have it all together. When we keep our spiritual walk private, we don’t have accountably. Conflict resolution, painful relationships and differences of opinions have not been handled very well in many of the church communities I have been a part of throughout my life. It is sad that we are not able to be an example to the world in the way that we live and love each other. That is a direct command from God for the community of faith that He is very clear about. The journey is meant to be done together, in true community, which sometimes means seeing “the good, the bad and the ugly,” instead of simply aiming to show our “best face” on a Sunday morning.

Some of our “fallings” as parents come when we do the same; we feel we need to present as if we have it all together, to our children and to each other. Some of the most significant times as a parent with our kids are times when we have shown them that we have messed up, made a mistake, needed to say “sorry”. I worry about parents who aren’t able to be vulnerable with their kids at times, homes that are always happy and where there are no arguments or tears. How can they ever live in a way that helps their children understand how to process difficult times?  As parents in community together, I have found the hardest people to walk with are protective parents; either protecting their own kids, or protecting their reputation. This makes change and growth very difficult. When we are spending all our energy “saving face” and not letting our kids “fall” or venture out for fear of falling, we can very rarely get to the actual issues. When we shut down, over-protect, emotionally react, close ranks, we stunt everyone’s growth.

“Sin happens when we refuse to keep growing.” St Gregory of Nyssa

When it comes to “rites of passage”, how can this help the process? I don’t know about your experience, but I am surprised by just how many opportunities and changes happen within a child’s life from the age of 0-18, let alone what happens in adulthood. There are so many opportunities we miss to move from “passage to passage,” opportunities to put “words” and “anchor points” to massive changes and growth. Almost every year in a person’s life in the early years has potential to create moments. From learning to talk to God and others, to pre-school, to friends, to social interaction, learning responsibility, puberty, decisions for Christ, significant others who speak into their life, driving, intellectual achievements, spiritual disciplines, relating to the opposite sex at all different ages, independence, gift development, conflict resolution, playing a part in the family and then in society, becoming other centered.  There is something always changing.

As a family we have found being strategic and intentional each year with key focuses have helped us navigate life together and as result we have created our own little “rites of passages” along the way. I believe these have helped form our kids to where they are today.  And, in many ways it has been about putting up boundaries and them breaking them, resetting the boundaries and re-checking our own responses over and over again, while always applying grace, love and forgiveness.

I do believe a key requirement of the spiritual journey is to go out, to leave home, to “fall” or even “fail”. The questions I must ponder as a parent and a person who is a part of a faith community are;

Do I encourage our young ones to “go” or am I pressuring them to “stay”?

When one “falls”, do they feel safe enough to share the load or do they feel they have to hide it?

Have the “passages” been celebrated and communicated well enough that our young people are prepared to move through them in a healthy way?

What can I do to be a part of creating a HOME and FAITH COMMUNITY which lives in such a way that the world will know we are His children living under grace and love and forgiveness?

It seems to me as a parent I have done everything I can to keep my children at “home” or “safe”. I have looked at the Story of the Prodigal all wrong.

Gathered in His Name

Gathered in His Name

“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

Matthew 18:20

The door opens and they drift in over time. Some bring much, some bring nothing, some bring home cooked , some bring frozen, some come late. All is acceptable and appreciated and there is always an abundance.

Some come expectant, some come ready to give, some walk in hesitant and others not sure. Some are completely oblivious to what is going on at any time and some create warmth and love wherever they go. All is acceptable and appreciated and there is always abundance.

It is the smile across the table, the comfort of a hug, it is sometimes the conversations and then sometimes simply the silence. It is listening to natter that is important for someone to voice, and then other times a pointed conversation that guides and challenges. It is knowing that whatever you bring to this safe place, there will be above all, acceptance, grace and love.

There are teens who cancel other opportunities to choose to be there. There are singles who find family when we are together. There are grandparents who love to be with the energy of youth and young people who love to make the elderly laugh. Where the widow is not only embraced, but highly valued and cared for. Where men truly listen and speak into the young men’s lives about things that matter. Where the woman teach us by the way they live out their lives with grace and humility, in the simple things of being fantastic cooks to the complexity of life’s pressing issues. They don’t all huddle together in their own age groupings, for they long to connect with everyone. There are no devices at the table, just the desire to engage, eat and share their week together.

It is simply a Sunday afternoon in my house. I love to open my house to the faith community I belong to and sit back and watch God enter as we commune with Him and each other. It is our act of worship and prayer. There was no formality, no official words… but God was there. He was glorified and we were all uplifted by being together. He brought peace, filled our tummies and souls and we are stronger by being together.

It is a prayer beyond 2 dimensional words. It is 4 or 5 dimensional. I could not manufacture this, nor could I create this, plan or organise it. The only thing I am asked to do is to open the door of my house. The only thing we are asked to do is to walk through the door, bringing what we have, big, small or nothing at all, but simply come. It is when we come, He meets us.

It has been said “Ït takes a village to raise a child”. I agree! But who decides what the village looks like? To be honest if the church doesn’t don’t take the question of “who decides what the village looks like?” seriously, then we can’t complain when someone else does. So, when 50,000 young people are leaving the church per year, when are we going to consider what the village must look like? Well, I know what type of village I want to be a part of and this Sunday was a reflection of what it means to live in a village that reflects His love. It is a village I have seen raise my children. There is nothing flash about it, it will never make the news, or probably draw thousands, but it will draw those who want to, to live deeply together and in Him.

My greatest and only sadness of that day was those who did not come, those who cannot come, those who will not come, those who are too busy to come, those who don’t accept His invitation to commune and pray together. My prayer is for us in this faith community, that we never take for granted what He continues to bless us with and that we never hide it and conceal it, for He calls us to share this love wherever we go. We are simply called to “open the doors” and “open the eyes of our heart”, acknowledge and thank Him for our time together, which gives us strength to be His light in a world that longs for acceptance, love and grace.

“Whatever you do in a state of love, communion, connection and union with God and others is prayer.” (R Rohr)

Parenting with the end in mind

Parenting with the end in mind

Sometimes speaking into a person’s life doesn’t have to be a hard thing to do, sometimes it takes simply writing a few intentional thoughts on a piece of paper.

My son turned 18 last year. A rite of passage that is to be celebrated. And we did celebrate it in a number of ways, but there was one thing that we shared as a family that was one of the most precious moments for me of his actual birth-day.

The kids landed on our bed at 8 am in the morning this morning. They have done this for many years when they were little but that did not happen that often nowadays. Usually it was because they wanted their presents.

But that was not the reason this morning. For 17 years Sam has been waiting to open his “time capsule”.

At the age of 1 we had a dedication with family and close friends at our house. We asked those that came to pray for us and stand with us as parents and would THEY be willing to walk with our child on his “life” journey. We asked each person if they wanted to put something into the time capsule that he would open when he was 18 and today was the day.

Secretly I was hoping it wasn’t going to be an anti-climax for him as I couldn’t even remember what was in the capsule myself.

Before he opened it I read from a diary I have been writing for Sam since he was only 10 weeks in my tummy, the kids love to hear stories from it over the years. This first entry spoke about the fact that even before he was born he was loved.


Then Sam opened the capsule. In it was, his first dummy, his first ball, his first jumpsuit, his first shoes and his ultrasound picture. Then there were letters and notes from the people who were present. Sam was like a child again as we all re-lived moments and memories, we laughed and told stories and then he opened a letter from his grandma (Dave’s mum) who had passed a couple of years ago.

She wrote that she knew she wouldn’t be here to celebrate this special time but she thanks him for the joy he brought to her life and that she will see him in heaven. Well, we all lost it emotionally at that point and cried together, but what a precious message from beyond the grave. A collision with his grandparent, even one that had passed away.

There were many precious stories and letters from people who are still in his life, some have moved far away, others are still close by and others who thought they wouldn’t be alive but are…but what a special morning to share together.

Sometimes speaking into a person’s life doesn’t have to be a hard thing to do, sometimes it takes simply writing a few intentional thoughts on a piece of paper. Sometimes it is consistently being there, or simply taking any opportunity to have a party with good friends. It is Intentionally marking moments and always having the “end in mind”. The wonderful thing is that this was a moment for us all, not just Sam, we will all remember that morning for a long time. It takes a little long-term thinking of setting things in place that can create moments that can become anchors for the whole family for a lifetime. On this day, although 17 years in the making, showed SAM that he was always loved and that he will always be. Our prayer as parents is that he will always have these moments where ever he goes, that they may keep him anchored in “love” for where ever he may sail next.

The key is to intentionally mark the moments and to always have the end in mind.

If you could walk a mile in my shoes.

If you could walk a mile in my shoes.

It is so easy to make assumptions, to think you know better and even to make judgements when you sit on the sidelines and observe.


 I was in a situation recently where I wasn’t leading at a camp but simply observing from the outside…..

It was a camp for troubled kids and their behaviour was very disturbing at times. This is not unusual, as I have been directing camps like this for over ten years now. What surprised me was my internal reaction to what I was observing.

For the first time in a while I found myself looking through a different lens. What surprised me was my Personal reaction when I was looking from the outside where there was no emotional attachment. I was surprised how judgmental I was at times and how I lacked empathy. I found myself getting frustrated, impatient and actually at times lacked compassion when I watched certain children’s behaviour and the way they treated the adults and other children. Not that I think bullying and disrespect should be tolerated, but I was quite surprised what it stirred up in me. I can imagine if I had been working in the camp and got to know the kids and leaders personally that my feelings would have been different. I know this because I really don’t have those emotions in the camp I run each year in July. I didn’t realise that it is only when I am integrally involved and get to know and love the kids, how much more compassion and patience I have with them.

It is so easy to make assumptions, to think you know better and even to make judgements when you sit on the sidelines and observe. And it is not something I am very proud of. But I realised how differently everything is seen when you are in thick of it, emotionally invested and willing to take a responsible role in the running of such an event, which means taking responsibility for what is happening, both good and bad. In all my years of working with children and people, I do know that “There is always a reason why we behave the way we do.” I teach all the time the importance of looking beyond the misbehaviour for the cry for help and yet I so easily broke my own rules as I piously sat on the sidelines, trying to control my emotions of frustration and judgement.

Then I wondered how many other times in life could this be true? We may watch other parents and make assumptions. We can see or read something about other churches or ministries and make judgements. We even observe other people’s choices and behaviour at times and, without knowing the full story, it is so easy to watch from a distance and “throw stones” as the saying goes. I wonder how aware we are that we are doing it!

I love living and doing life in an “Intergenerational Faith Community.” Living and doing life within our faith community has bonded us all in special ways and with that special bond comes a love and grace to know each other, the good and the bad and ugly, and still to choose to walk together, as we desire to grow more and more like Him. I understand that others standing on the outside may see it differently. I have often wondered why more people don’t want to join this kind of community. Yet, I understand why many find this threatening and choose to sit on the sidelines, possibly just attend a service on a Sunday, not get too close to many. But I wonder if that makes it too easy to find themselves like me, making judgements from the sidelines. It is easier to do, after all. It does not require any sacrifice or cost to me personally to live in such a way. I often hear people say to me: “I am a Christian, but I am not connected to any Church.” I get it. I understand it, but without trying to be judgemental, I don’t believe it is God’s design or the model we see from Jesus when He walked this earth.

As the saying goes, “if you could walk a mile in my shoes…” I wonder how differently we would live if we could really understand and empathise with others. I was challenged by this as I realised how easy it was to simply sit back, watch and commentate from the sidelines. But actually, Jesus calls us to walk closely with others, to jump in boots and all and walk more than a mile in other peoples’ shoes. It is only when we do that that we have the right to make a difference, an opportunity to truly help and as we do we can’t help but be transformed in the process.

So can I be so bold as to say… Get off the sidelines and into the actual game. Get off your Soapbox and start to do something about it.

Get off the comfortable pew and "walk a mile in someone else's shoes," and watch what a difference it makes to you and those around you.

Just a flip of a switch

Just a flip of a switch

It is a strange place to find yourself; as a parent of a teenager. To discover suddenly that what was acceptable communication yesterday is not today. I want to ask “who flipped the switch?”


It is a strange place to find yourself; as a parent of a teenager. To discover suddenly that what was acceptable communication yesterday is not today. I want to ask “who flipped the switch?”

It is no surprise and I have been waiting for it, as it is no secret that all teens go through this time when parents can do or say nothing right …but still when it happened it caught me off guard. I am right in the middle of it, with one 15 year-old and one that is 18 years old. Yet I am surprised how the rules of engagement can change from day to day or hour to hour. So, not only does the switch flip, but it feels like it is flipping up and down constantly and to navigate what position we are in at any given time is almost impossible.

I do not intend this blog to become an opportunity to complain about teenagers, especially my own, as I happen to feel I have two exceptionally wonderful teens. As biased as that is, I stand by it. This is more about what I am learning about how to navigate this interesting season.

It is hard to be in a place where your opinion is not seen to be valued. It challenges me to think about where I get my value?

I am learning to continually see myself in the image of God, and as His child, as well as continually handing my children over to Him, knowing that He hasn’t finished with any of us yet. It reminds me that this season and these challenges are not about me, but about my teens learning and growing and needing to question, to widen their circle and seek out what they believe. AND I am learning that when I do get emotional about them not valuing my opinion, often it simply shuts down the potential lines of future communication. 

It is hard to be in a place where the conversation seems completely irrational to me and when I try to bring some rationality to the situation, it sends the conversation to an ugly place. It challenges me make to think about what is the right response as a parent in this space?

I  am learning that one thing they need right now is for me to listen, listen and listen. It reminds me that they need me to empathise no matter how ridiculous it sounds as it is simply a part of the process and often the irrational verbalisation is important for them to hear out loud for themselves more than anything else. AND I have learned to apologise A LOT, for not listening and speaking too much. 

It is hard to be in a place where I am asked for my opinion, but when it is not what they want to hear, then I become the enemy. It challenges me to consider that HOW I respond can make all the difference.

I am learning not to take this personally and to see that sometimes being the punching bag is because they feel safe to vent with me. I am learning that a response like “that is really tough”, “I am sorry to hear that ” or “I am confident that you will make the right choice”, or “have you thought about talking to … (a mentor/coach/trusted older person) about this ?” is often better than them hearing my opinion. AND I have learned that this is a really important time for others’ voices in my teens’ lives. 

 It has reminded me of the importance of coaches and mentors for both myself and the kids. I am thankful for the people in my life who have walked this road before, who listen to me and help me see the funny side of some of the conversations, because sometimes all I can do is to laugh it off and let it go. I am thankful for a wonderful husband and life partner, which means I am not alone and that we get to walk this season together. We often find that when one is weak the other is strong and together we get there eventually. I am thankful for the men and woman in my teens’ lives who they can go to and hear the same advice I would give, but that they will actually listen to. I encourage anyone with younger children that NOW is the time to start being strategic about placing the right people in your kids’ lives so that when they become teenagers the trust is already there for your teens to go to them.

This season challenges me to stay the course, keep the end in mind, keep short accounts of conversations, let go, draw closer and talk (sometimes cry) to my perfect Heavenly Father. ABOVE all, do whatever it takes to keep the lines of communication OPEN. Irrespective of whether the switch is up or down … because while it can flip any second … open lines, unconditional love, a calm and listening ear, wisdom from above and a willingness to say sorry… will get us through this season.

I have to believe that. I am not there yet … I will keep you posted.

The key is keeping communication lines open with your teens.