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Posts Tagged ‘women pastors’

Jo 17Recently, the women of our church held a ‘Quarantea Party’ via Zoom. All sixty or so able to participate were mailed a teabag, along with a few questions. Then on the day, we were to be at our computers or tablets or phones with our tea, ready to connect.

It was fun to watch everyone turn up and to greet one another. One screen on my laptop filled—then two—then three! Initially, one of our pastors shared with us all and then we ‘zoomed off’ into our smaller ‘breakout’ groups which had already been organised.

But at that point, something went wrong so, then and there, our Zoom organiser needed to reallocate us all into groups, person by person. As that happened, we chatted and laughed together, but then we noticed people disappearing from our screens. One by one, little black squares were appearing where someone’s face had been a moment earlier. They had been allocated to their breakout group and had zoomed off!

As the number remaining became smaller and smaller, someone joked, ‘This is like being picked for a sports team when I was at primary school! I feel like calling out “Pick me! Pick me!’” I could identify with this and laughed along with everyone else, but my mind also headed in a different direction. In fact, I had found it quite disturbing to watch all those lovely people I had not seen for ages disappear from the screen, one after the other. One moment those vibrant faces were there, the next they were not. One moment, they were laughing and chatting—and the next, all I could see was a black square.

Soon after, those of us remaining were organised into one final group and we enjoyed a special time together. But later, I still could not get that image of those black spaces on the screen and the sense of loss as each person departed out of my mind. Was God perhaps challenging me to think about my own life and to realise that, in the big scheme of things, I too appear somewhere on that huge screen of world history for only a brief moment in time? Was God reminding me to seize the moment and do the things I have been called and gifted to do?

We are each given a life to live. We have that one opportunity to connect with others, to shine God’s light as best we can and to make an impact in this world. Then our time is over. All around us in our world at the moment, we see lives being snuffed out in such an unexpected way. And for many of us too, all our best laid plans for this year have gone awry. How much we need then to take to heart James’s warning to the early believers:

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. James 4:13-14

Our lives. A mist that vanishes. A zoom in and a zoom out. May we all use each moment well for God.

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Jo 12Our grandson has a wonderful way of keeping me humble—and this skill of his came to the fore recently when I tried to help him complete his Maths homework. He is only in Year 2, yet sadly I had great trouble understanding some of the questions he had to answer about shapes. What on earth were ‘cuboids’, ‘vertices’ and ‘edges’? I had no idea!

‘I don’t think you have that answer right,’ I told Zain at one stage, as I stared at the cube alongside the first question. ‘I think it has six edges.’

‘No,’ he told me firmly. ‘You’re counting the faces, not the edges!’

I was unconvinced, but decided to go along with him. We counted those edges together and somehow I came up with eight, while he found twelve—or was it sixteen? Another interesting discussion ensued but, in the end, he wrote down my answer of eight. Later, we wrote the same answer for a cuboid—which of course Zain knew straight away was a rectangular prism! Surely everyone knows that, his look implied.

We proceeded then to travel through what for me was the even rockier, more dangerous territory of cylinders and cones and square-based triangles. But when it came to answering an interesting question about whether cylindrical shapes could be stacked, we differed again. While Zain maintained they could not, if they were lying with their curved surfaces lengthwise, as they were on his homework sheet, I maintained they could if they were standing upright on their flat bases. In the end, I felt Zain worked out a clever answer to this one—‘Maybe!’

Eventually, I enlisted my mathematician husband’s help and asked him to check our work. And guess what his first comment was?

‘You have two answers wrong here!’

Yes, I had been wrong about those ‘edges’—and Zain had, I think, been right from the beginning. But, when I told Zain this, to add insult to injury, he responded: ‘Well, you’re just an old lady!’

Now that put me firmly in my place.

Later, as I pondered Zain’s words, I decided that, while I may be ‘just an old lady’ to him—and there is nothing wrong with being an ‘old lady’—I know I am more than that too. I have done many things in my life. I have two tertiary degrees and a couple of diplomas. I have worked in a variety of occupations, including high school teacher, editor and pastor. I have written eight books. I have spoken publicly well over two hundred times in recent years. Along with my pastor husband, I have raised three children. I have had an interesting and varied life and am grateful for that.

But the best thought that came to me was this. Even if I had done none of that in my life, I would still be of such worth in God’s eyes. Whatever my age, I am still God’s precious child. Through Jesus, I have been born again into God’s family. I belong to God. Jesus loves me, this I know.

That’s what really counts in the end, don’t you think?

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! 1 John 3:1

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Don’t you love it when everything fits perfectly into place – when you put that last piece of the jigsaw puzzle together with a satisfying ‘click’ and the whole picture emerges, or when you plan that overseas trip where you’ll be moving from place to place and all the transport and accommodation arrangements work out exactly right? It makes us feel good, doesn’t it? We have actually done it – we are cleverer than we thought!

In the last few weeks in particular, I have realised again how good God is at putting things perfectly in place. Nothing is ever wasted with God, I believe – and that has certainly been true in my own life.

I began my working life as a high school teacher – apart from a regular holiday job in a music store. Many years later, after staying at home looking after our three children, I returned to teaching for a while, but then obtained a job as an assistant editor of teaching material for Christian schools. I could not have obtained that job without my high school teaching experience – and I could not have managed the role I took up after my editing job as office secretary for the community ministry arm of our local church without this editing experience. I needed to be able to use a computer for my secretarial role at a time when computers were just coming into their own – and I had learnt at least the basics of computing in that editorial job.

After a few years, I went to theological college, eventually obtaining my theology degree. Then I was appointed as one of the pastors at our church, a role I could not have undertaken without the experience gained in my teaching years of speaking in front of a large group or without the experience of working in our church office. When I left that role, I began my writing journey – something I could definitely not have done without my knowledge of the English language gained through teaching foreign languages. Also, without the experience gained in my ministry role in our church, I could never have spoken in churches and other places as I do today, promoting my books in the process.

Yet in recent weeks it has dawned on me that something else I learnt and practised in my college and ministry years is now bearing fruit in my writing career. I have always loved mentoring younger Christians. I have written and conducted mentoring courses and still mentor younger women leaders today who are doing amazing work for God. Now the time has come in my writing journey for me to take up the opportunity I have been given to mentor others in aspects of writing.

What an amazing dovetailing of all my skills, knowledge and experience gained to this point! What’s more, even as I mentor others in writing, God is still very much part of the picture in what we talk about and the way I approach this mentoring. Lately too I have been able to offer writing workshops, which for me bring together so much of who I am – a teacher, a pastor, an author, an editor.

Only God could do this, don’t you think? Only God could weave the threads of our lives together in this way and enable all the pieces to fit so perfectly. Only God, the perfect, loving Shepherd, could have led and enabled me to do what I’m doing today, gently guiding me, encouraging me, showing me the way forward.

As for God, his way is perfect, Psalm 18:30 tells us – and I believe that totally. How about you?

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