Tag Archives: series: people i thank god for

People who I thank God for: #8 – Role Models

This is my final installment for this series and it’s a little different from the others, in two ways. Firstly, whereas the last seven entries have looked at people that God has used in the past to shape me, this entry is more about the future. Secondly, it’s not about one person, but five separate people.

I never really had role models when I was growing up, apart from the really obvious example of my parents, who modelled a whole lot of essential things for me as I grew up. But recently, finding that I am suddenly some kind of adult, I’ve been thinking a lot about my future and what I’d like it to look like. At this point it actually would be really neat to have a role model, you know, someone who I can point to and say: “I would like to be like this person in this way”. Being a Christian who loves her job but is also open to considering doing some kind of paid Christian ministry, and also happens to be a married woman makes it hard. What kind of job do I want? Do I want a career? What kind of career? Do I want to have kids? When? How many? Do I want to stay in Sydney? In Australia? Too many questions! I need guidance!

Well for the time being, I’ve stopped stressing out about these things, because of five wonderful women that God has very graciously put into my life in the last couple of years. Some I know very well, and some I hardly know at all. Regardless of how well I know them, all of them excellently model a way to be a woman who seeks to serve God with all her life. In no particular order:

Celia was one of Matt’s colleagues at CMS. She is an ordained minister but at the moment she works for CMS helping people to work out whether they want to be missionaries. She is passionate about serving and praying for the global church but she also works hard to support the local church where she and her husband go.

Sue is my boss. She oversees all the research and advocacy work that we do at Anglicare and works unbelievably hard on the executive team to make things happen. Sue is a really gifted researcher, a really gifted writer and a really gifted manager. She is passionate about making a difference in the lives of socially excluded people and also about motivating the church to care for people.

Jan is married to Matt’s old boss at CMS. Jan and John worked as missionaries in Pakistan and raised their family there. Their kids are all grown up now and I think they are all older than me. Jan thinks that I need to get the same level of theological education as Matt if we are going to actually work alongside each other.

Leanne is married to one of Matt’s old colleages at CMS. I’m pretty sure she is working, but I’m not sure what she does. She and her husband have teenage kids and the family is very involved in serving at their local church. Leanne also thinks I should go to bible college, even if I don’t do ‘Christian work’, just because it is a good thing to do and she personally benefitted from it so much.

Jenny is married to Matt’s current boss. She also did volunteer work with my mum last year in the local primary school library, and she writes a very entertaining blog. Jenny and Rowan have 5 kids, all in primary school or preschool. She is a full-time mum, and works hard looking after her family and being part of her local community at school and at church.

These five women have very different lifestyles but they all have the following things in common:

– They love Jesus, and serving him is their highest priority
– They strive to be aware of the needs of the church, both in their local context and overseas
– They invest lots of time and energy into their local communities – with friends, at church, at work, volunteering, you name it!
– You can see the fruit of the Spirit in them (c.f. Galatians 5). All five of them seem to be loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle and self controlled.

And the thing is that this is what I want my future to look like. These women have shown me that it doesn’t matter whether or not I have a career, it doesn’t matter what I do for a job, it doesn’t matter what size my family is and it doesn’t matter where I live. God gives us strength to live for him in any situation. I hope that I just love him all the more with every passing day. Praise God for these women, who are such excellent models of what it is to live as a Christian!

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Matt me, Celia and James at CMS Summer School this year.

People who I thank God for: #7 – Matt

I thank God for Matt for so many reasons, I don’t even know where to begin. I guess the most important thing to say is that he is the best person I could have ever ended up with as a husband. He is patient, gentle and kind, we think on the same wavelength, he is wonderful to be around, and he sharpens me and encourages me to be more like Christ.

I think this is going to be the shortest installment in this series, because I don’t want this to turn into a long rant about how awesome my husband is. Instead I will close and simply say that without Matt I would have never moved to Hurlstone Park nor learnt to treat Katoomba as a second home. I wouldn’t have ventured very far out of my western-centred world view, nor had the strength or resolve to piece together a theological argument. These are very important things for me! Praise God for Matt!

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I drew this picture of Matt around the same time that Matt started giving me awesome theology books to read.
It was also around the same time that I almost lost his iconic green hat at Penrith.

People who I thank God for: #6 – Marty

Marty was a punk-rocker, he went to all the shows.
Patches on his army pants and two rings in his nose.

Over the summer between high school and uni, I was introduced to Five Iron Frenzy by some of my friends, and it turned into the start of something special. One of their songs is called Marty. It’s about a guy who refuses to acknowledge God in his life even though he knows he is there, and he keeps runnign away and screwing his life over because he is either to proud or too lazy to face up to Jesus. It’s a sobering song, but very catchy and gives you lots to think about.

Anyway, on my first week of uni, I met an actual non-fiction person called Marty. He called me because I had signed up to join a bible study group and he was going to be one of my leaders. I met Marty and the rest of my bible study group outside the Manning Building. He was pretty much the complete opposite to the Five Iron Frenzy Marty. This Marty didn’t wear army pants. He wore board shorts, pretty much every day of the year, even in winter.

Marty was a staff worker with the eu, pretty much doing the same job as Matt is doing right now. He worked closely with the arts students, and ran a handful of bible studies for the first year students, while simultaneously training the senior students in how to lead the studies. Our group was very nice, and wonderfully I am still in touch with all of them: Karen and Sarah (both geographers!), Stoney, Dave and Matt W. It was a great group, and I think the reason for that was the way that God used Marty to help us grow us as Christians.

I thank God for Marty because he taught me how to read the bible meaningfully. In that very first semester of bible study, Marty was very adamant that we had to use the same brain for reading the bible as we did for the rest of our uni life. Whenever we regurgitated an answer that we had learned at a youth group or kids group, Marty would point us back to whatever we were reading and ask us to explain our answer, crticially, from the text at hand. Marty helped me to understand that the bible wasn’t a collection of neat proof-texts to be pulled out to justify whatever I wanted to believe. Rather I came to understand the bible as a narrative, and a pretty fantastic one at that, which needs to be understood as a whole, and where each part of the story gives shape the other parts. The way Marty led and taught gave me paradoxical kind of humble confidence to read and interpret God’s word for myself, which has been absolutely intergral to the way I have grown as one of God’s children.

In the two years he was around on campus, and then also the years after that when we were at the same church, Marty was a huge blessing and a great example for me. He is a faithful prayer, and he works hard for the Lord, and he is very generous with his time and energy. And also he is super enthusiastic and he always looks happy. He is nothing like the Marty that Five Iron Frenzy sings about, which is a very good thing! Unfortunately, the timing of when I met Marty means that lame Five Iron Frenzy Marty and real life Marty are forever connected in my brain, and everytime I see Marty I involuntarily start singing about a really horrible guy with his name. Oh dear.

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A fun fact about Marty: he can fit his fist in his mouth.
Unfortunately, this is the only picture I have of him!

Wait – I found a proper photo of Marty in our wedding pictures!
This is Marty praying for Matt and I when we got married.

People who I thank God for: #5 – Brad

I met Brad in the last couple of years of high school, following his transfer from an inferior educational institution 😛 For a year or two, Brad was one of my very best friends, and then we weren’t friends, and now we are friends again. Relationships are weird things to control and Brad and I had had some kind of crazy rollercoaster relationship of awesome highs and difficult lows. But relationship crazies aside, he is still one of the people I thank God for, and this is because of his faith.

Telling stories from my own point of view complicates things here because it’s actually impossible to know what is going on in other people’s hearts (c.f. Crying Out Loud), so you will need to bear this in mind when I say things about Brad’s faith and Brad’s life. Basically what it comes down to is that back in the day when we opened up our lives and struggles to each other, Brad’s faith always stood out like a beacon. Even when he was angry at God, or confused, or really upset, somehow his faith stood strong, like this persistent thing in his life that seemed to remain even when everything else was trying to drown it out. Brad’s example has really has convicted me of the fact that faith is a gift from God, not something we create ourselves.

And now in the context of a rekindling friendship, I can still make out God working in his life in the little bits and pieces that I can see, which still really encouraging!

Of course, I also thank God for Brad because he helped create some of my favourite memories: melodramatic re-enactments of Crying Out Loud lyrics, stumbling back up to Echo Point in the dark after they turned off the floodlights at the Three Sisters in Katoomba, the time I accidently lead people on a wild goose chase to Toronto on the Central Coast and literally falling off Vroni’s couch laughing at Black Books. Hehe.

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This is Brad and I when we were on schoolies.
Brad is wearing his yellow hoodie, in the summer.

People who I thank God for: #4 – Ken

Ken is another high school friend. We were in class together in year seven. I don’t think we were friends then, though, mainly because he was a boy, and of course boys are terrifying when you are twelve. I think I can pin down the time we became proper friends to when six of us randomly got together on a music camp in year 8 to play Bach’s Brandenburg Sinfonia together. Also we were both in the Christian group, and then we were both helping to lead it.

I thank God for Ken because of three different things.

Firstly, when we were in school, Ken was really good at prodding and wheedling me into doing things that I didn’t really want to do, but turned out for my benefit. In year 9, my Christian school friends and I suddenly found ourselves in the awkward position of being the underqualified leaders of the Christian student group. Freak out! What kind of skills did we have to do that? Somehow God blessed Ken, with all the maturity of a 15 year old adolescent male, to be a very good leader, in many different ways. Generally Ken was responsible for helping me to realise my potential as a Christian leader. He did a good job modelling what it should look like, and was also very clever at making sure I (and the others too) received good training. Where he could, he would connect us with older Christian leaders who could help us, and when that failed, he just did it himself. After a couple of years of refusing to give talks to the Christian student group (out of sheer terror), Ken finally forced me into preparing and delivering a talk which turned out quite well, and became the first of many. Ken also encouraged to be very prayerful. Following Ken’s example and taking up the opportunites he gave us, we would pray heaps for each other and our school. One year we met early at school every morning for the 40 days during Lent to pray together (Ken’s idea, of course.)

Secondly, as we’ve grown up and remained friends, I’ve really appreciated Ken’s honesty with me in his own plans and struggles and passions. When he shares things that are going on for him, he always manages to point me back to the basics of being a faithful follower of Jesus, which is probably the most helpful thing that any Christian can do for another.

Thirdly, Ken taught me how to play hackey sack. What kind of a Christian would I be if I didn’t know how to do that?

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Ken doing a card trick at school.
Every now and then, Ken became an expert at something such card tricks, playing the harmonica, wining at hackey sack or performing his own versions of hit songs on the kazoo. So much talent!

People I thank God for #3: Sarah

Sarah and I went to high school together. We met in year seven because we had a mutual friend, Elwin, and then the next week we found ourselves sitting next to each other in the flute section of the junior concert band. We sat next to each other at least once a week every school after that until we finished school. Like Kate in primary school, Sarah and I were pretty close, but up until the last few weeks of school, I don’t think I ever thought to call her my best friend. How ridiculous.

I don’t really know where to begin when I think about how influential Sarah has been in the way that I have grown to love God. I think that’s because it’s not actually something you can pin down in chronolgical order. It’s more just that as long as I have known her she has just been a wonderful friend, and she has almost always done and and said (or kept silent about) the right things.

Sarah loves Jesus, and I get the impression that she was pretty sure about loving him since she was a child too. We found out we were both Christians when we met again at the lunchtime Christian group. All throughout school, and even into the future, into right now, Sarah has been probably the person who has most challenged me to keep growing as a child of God. And it’s weird, because she has done it so quietly, that I often haven’t realised she was doing it until months or years later. I had other friends at school (more about one of them soon!) who were very vocal about what they thought, and were very forthcoming with advice and suggestions for me and my life. But Sarah was never explicitly vocal about those things. She just went around, every day living out her faith in all the little things she did and kind of inadvertently providing a model for me, which I tried to follow even though I was boisterous and crazy. It always confused me during school that Sarah never stuck up her hand to take on leadership positions in the Christian group, she never gave talks or regularly ran bible studies. But looking back I realise that was doing leadership in a completely different, and probably more helpful way, by just living out her faith with integrity and being a good friend and sister in Christ.

Sarah and I also shared the experience of looking into other faiths and philosophies in the middle of high school. A group of us from our Asian Studies class had organically formed a little discussion group. Elwin, Aviea, Sarah and I would meet up every now and then to eat pancakes or hang out at the Chinese gardens and we’d dump all of our weird and wonderful philosophical musings onto each other. Sometimes we’d just share random reflections on life and death, sometimes we’d muse about the nature of God (I distinctly remember a discussion about whether or not God changes over time). We’d ask the hard hitting questions – is there any significance in the fact that Jesus and Buddha both fasted for forty days? Haha. Interesting questions, and we wouldn’t always agree (in fact I don’t think there was ever consensus on anything), but I really valued Sarah being there with me while I personally grappled with questions and ideas. She always seemed more clear headed than me, and it was really helpful to have someone there who was acurately portraying Christian beliefs.

This is turning into a bit of a grand novel, so only one more point and then I’ll stop. Sarah is amazing at rebuking me. Whenever people tell me that I’ve made mistakes or said stupid things, I get really upset and offended, even though I know they are right. BUt somehow when Sarah does it, I don’t mind. In fact, mostly she does it without saying anything – she probably doesn’t even realise she is rebuking me most of the time! It’s just that her behaviour and attitudes are such a good example for me to follow that often just the way that she lives reminds me of the things I need to change or improve. And even now and then when she does rebuke me with words, she does it so graciously and humbly and so obviously out of love that I don’t even notice it right away. I definitely do not have that gift :S

So this is how I grew up: Yiayia told me about Jesus, and Kate helped me to learn a bit more about him, and Sarah helped me to really identify as one of his followers. It’s so great the way that God has provided people to nuture me in the faith at all the right times. I thank God for all of them!

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Sarah and I at the end of year 12

People who I thank God for: #2 – Kate

Kate and I were in the same class every year throughout primary school. My first impressions of Kate don’t really exist, because we met the year before school started. I was 4 and she was 3 and it’s hard to remember everything that happens when you’re that young. Kate and I were very close friends during all of primary school, and although we were never best friends while we were at school (these kind of things had to be firmly established an articulated in primary school so technically her best friend was Liesl and mine was Eleanor!), Kate has made a pretty big impact on my life, mainly due to things that happened before we’d even turned 10.

As I mentioned in the last post, when I was in year 1 I accidentally went to protestant scripture. It was really fun there, so I stayed. We did colouring in and all my friends were there. We also learnt about God, which I thought was pretty neat. However it was Kate really got my childhood spiritual development snowballing. Right from back then in year 1, Kate was openly talking about Jesus and inviting me to things at her church. I joined her once a week at an after school kids club at the local church. Sometimes I went to holiday programs at her church in Ashfield. And one year – either year 2 or year 3 – she invited me along to a camp!

The thing that I have come to realise as I have grown as a Christian is that God gives everyone different gifts, and he uses different people with different gifts to grow the church and look after the world. And some people are really gifted at being evangelists. They talk about Jesus and are open about their faith with the people that they meet. They know how to answer questions and explain everything in a helpful way. The thing that amazes me is that back then, at 6 years old, Kate was effectively an evangelist. How on earth can a 6 year old girl be that convicted about what she believes? She faced ridicule from her friends and but she kept talking to us about God, not just for one year, but even as we kept growing. I guess it has to be a gift.

I’ve heard plenty of people – Christians, Atheists and Agnostics – saying things along the lines of how children can’t really understand or make informed decisions about religion. Personally, I can’t accept their arguments, because of Kate’s witness and my own experience as I grew up with her. Even though we were children, we knew what we were learning about and we grapsed at least some of the significance of Jesus’ sacrifice and the life he calls us to. And even as a child, Kate realised that it was something relevant for everyone, and that everyone needed to hear about it.

I thank God so much for Kate because she kept encouraging me towards Christ with whatever resources she had. By the time primary school was over and we parted ways to go to different schools, I was happy to call myself a Christian – even though I still knew I had plenty to work out.

Before I close up with Kate, I wanted to add in a little footnote. Kate and I are still friends and she is still a massive encouragement to me, and now Matt too. In fact, Kate has been a massive encouragement to a lot of people. Towards the end of high school, I went to a friend’s baptism. I’d met her through Kate, they’d gone to High School together. Before the baptism, she got up and gave her testimony. It was remarkably similar to mine in that Kate’s friendship, example of faith and invitation to church played a pretty vital role. When she finished two other girls have their testimonies and those guys too traced their turning to Jesus from the time that they met Kate in year 7! Praise God for all the ways he has used her!

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Me, Kate, Liesl and Lucy at one of Kate’s birthday parties