Our Families Shape Not Just Us But our Organizations

With my Mother at her 90th birthday

At our MSA staff meeting just before my recent trip to Australia, we discussed the importance of our families and how they impact our work.

Our families shape not just who we are but also what we are as an organization.

I am very aware of that as I reflect on how my mother influenced my life. I am so grateful to God for her and the ways that she helped shape all I am and do. Even in her death she continues to influence me and shape my work, MSA and the life of others. I am so grateful to the many of you who have prayed and comforted me over these days and for the encouragement from those of you who have drawn strength and faith as I shared my journey.

Here is a complete list of the prayers and blog posts I wrote during this important journey.

Am I Fully Recognized for What I am 

 Tributes to My Mother

 Heavens Gates Have Opened Wide

 Today I want to Go Home

Prayers for the Journey

Tears, Tears, Tears 

Comfort in the Midst of Waiting

Not Embarrassed to Share About Death

It’s Hard to Watch Your Mother Die 

Love Hurts But It’s Worth It


Comfort in the Midst of Waiting

Mum with service dog

I continue to sit by my mother’s bedside. Thank you for your prayers and supportiveness. Particularly appreciate this poem sent to me by Heather Jephcott

You Lord are my place of safety
Since finding you I need no other
Having experienced your shelter
I knew I need look no further

You keep me secure
locked in Your vastness

You are my maker, creator of all
the one whose giant hands
hold this entire magnificent universe

You not only made me
but gave to me a place of safety
a place where I am secure,
locked in this sanctuary
a place of peace, hope, love and joy
you not only hold the keys
but are this place

You save me from the onslaught of the dark
helping me to cope with times of sadness, difficulty
You are the rock on which I build my life
no shifting sand that varies with the days
but solid, safe, secure

You save me from the worst in me
keeping my brokenness for your use
within your kingdom
to remould it into something of beauty
where you are king and I am not alone

You fill me with hope
calmly expressing that you are
all the security I need now and
throughout the eternal ages
this hope glows bright now
becoming stronger, more dazzling
each passing day


Love Hurts – but Its Worth it.

Mum with her "kids"

Mum with her “kids”

I am back in Australia, flying down with only 48 hours notice after learning that my mother is probably in her last days. She has pancreatic cancer, diagnosed a couple of days after Tom and I returned from our last trip.

This is the hardest trip I have ever made, grieving the whole way for the mother I knew and not sure if she would still be alive when I got here. Walking into her hospital room and seeing her face light up with delight made it well worth the rigours of the journey.  Now we wait, our hearts aching but accepting what is happening.

I have never been more aware of the love of God surrounding all of us and holding us in the eternal presence. My mother and all those who love her are in God’s care. And in the midst of that comfort I catch a glimpse of the depths of God’s incredible love. God’s heart aches not just for the grief we are suffering but for every hurting and suffering person in our world. Love hurts but it is certainly worth it at least that’s what I think and I suspect God does too.

John Birch posted this beautiful prayer which has been a great comfort to me as I travel.

True healing is more
than restoration
of flesh and blood,
or knitting of bone to bone.
True healing is wholeness,
where body, soul and spirit unite.
True healing is peace,
the knowledge of God’s presence,
a hope that knows no end.
True healing cries ‘Father,
not my will but yours.’
True healing knows love
a love that casts out fear.
True healing overcomes,
for eternity.


Celebrating 90 Years

Cutting the birthday cake

Cutting the birthday cake

Yesterday was my mother’s 90th birthday, a special day of remembering, celebrating and enjoying my family. Tom and I are privileged to be able to be in Sydney for this wonderful occasion. Celebrations like this are so important. They not only connect us to the past and the rich heritage that our families provide for us, they also connect us to the future and the hopes that we have for the time that is to come.

Mum with her "kids"

Mum with her “kids”

Mum with her grandkids

Mum with her grandkids

Mum with her great grandkids

Mum with her great grandkids

Memories that Create Sacred Space.

This afternoon Tom and I head to Australia to celebrate my mother’s 90th birthday. I have never looked forward to a trip with so much excitement and anticipation. Part of my excitement has been fueled by the memories book I have compiled for her. I know she will be delighted, but what has surprised me is my own reaction. I have loved sharing with my friends, even posted the shutterfly link on Facebook.

Mum’s family boat

Mum - early family photo

Mum – early family photo

The photos go right back to mother’s childhood.

Myself with brothers Nick, Rod and Greg

Myself with brothers Nick, Rod and Greg

Mum and Dad with myself and brothers Nick and Rod

Mum and Dad with myself and brothers Nick and Rod

They embrace my own childhood.

Aroney family wedding

Aroney family wedding

And they include photos of all my brothers and their families.

Myself age 9

Myself age 9

And of course there is my signature photo on Facebook

So why has it been important for me to share? Partly I think because this is a part of my past that few people know much about. It is 30 years since I lived in Australia. Most of my friends have never met my family. Yet they are an important part of who I am. Without them I am not whole. They draw me close to my family, to the friends with whom I share and to the God who has created all of us.

Family memories are important for all of us. They shape our lives and they shape our faith. And they created a sacred space that is as precious as any other place in which we meet with God. Like any sacred space, they should not be kept to ourselves. Memories of our family and upbringing are important to share – even the painful ones – for it is often in this sharing that we find the wholeness God desires for us.


Check out the other posts in this series:

Creating Sacred Space Do We Really Need Churches 

Every Garden Needs A Sacred Space

Reclaiming a Sacred Space – Cheasty Greenspace: A Place of Goodness and Grace by Mary De Jong

Creating a Sacred Space – Stir the Senses

A Garden of Inspiration – A Story of Leo Tolstoy

Symbols and Elements that Weave Together a Sacred Space

Why Being Spiritual may be More Important Than Being Religious by Rob Rynders

What is a Sacred Space?

Celtic Spirituality – What Is The Attraction?

In the Barren Places: Finding Sacred Space for the First Time – James Rempt

A Tree My Most Sacred Space by Ryan Harrison

Sacred Buildings by Lynne Baab

We are Raising the Roof.

Sacred Space – Listening to the Trees by Richard Dahlstrom

Sharing a Sacred Space by Daniel Simons

Whatever Happened to Our Backbones?

Together with my Mum - Australia 2011

Together with my Mum - Australia 2011

Yesterday I arrived in Australia to spend some time with my Mum who has just had back surgery for a collapsed spine. She now has new steel in her back, pins and nails that have strengthened the existing structure and returned some of its youthful vitality. She looks years younger, her face looks less strained and she seems to have gained two inches in height.  It is amazing to see her walking straight and tall for the first time for years. What is sobering however is to realize that even though she has two sons, a daughter and a daughter in law who are doctors, no one really noticed what was happening or the severity of her problem.

As I thought about that this morning I wondered: Have we too lost our backbones and neither we nor anyone has noticed? Has the strength and vitality of our faith collapsed diminishing us to a mere shell of what God intends us to be? What is the backbone of our faith anyway? What are the things that contribute the iron and steel that makes us stand straight and tall in the presence of God and of those around us?

These questions seem very appropriate ones to ask ourselves as we prepare for the celebration of Advent and Christmas. i plan to reflect on them during my time here in Sydney and will post a series of reflections on what I see as the iron and steel of my faith, the pillars that give me inner strength and hopefully, enable me to shine as light for others to see:

  1. The core beliefs of my faith
  2. The spiritual practices that nurture those beliefs
  3. The actions and deeds that reflect   but I would love your thoughts too.

However I would love to hear from you too. What gives iron and steel to your faith? What provides the backbone that keeps you straight and tall?


Reading the Scriptures – Where Does Our Strength Come From?

Celebrating my mother's 88th birthday

Celebrating my mother's 88th birthday in June

I have just heard that my mother, who recently turned 88 has successfully negotiated a lengthy surgery on her back.  it is hard to be half a world away at a time like this.  In the last couple of days I have spent much time praying, reading the scriptures and reaching out to God for strength.

My personal struggles seemed so appropriate when I thought about today’s post in the series  Reading the Scriptures – How, When and Why?  .  Where does our strength come from when we are struggling or in pain?  Where do we find strength to stand when we are weak or tempted?  How do we tap into the compassion and care of God when we are confused or lack understanding?  Hopefully it is through the scriptures.

We see this most clearly when Jesus was out in the desert during the 40 days of his temptation.  He not only reached up to God but also reached into the scriptures for strength and sustenance during this challenging time.

Reading the scriptures in what I call strengthening mode is a constant necessity but I think it is only possible for us to enter into it when the words of God are firmly lodged not only in our heads but also in our hearts. The more real the stories of the bible are to us, the more we identify with the people of the bible as real flesh and blood people like us, the more we will be able to read the scriptures with this kind of an attitude.

There are certain scriptures that are the mainstay of my reading during times when I need strengthening.

  1. When I need strengthening in the purposes of God: Isaiah 65: 17-25 with its promise of wholeness, abundance and provision for all is my greatest comfort when I am struggling with the injustice and oppression in our world.  This scripture is one of the most strengthening I know for holding firmly to the promises of God for God’s yet to be fully realized eternal world.
  2. When I am confused and don’t understand the ways of God: Lamentations 3:21-33 is always the scripture that springs to mind when earthquakes, hurricanes and fires cause devastation to whole communities.  Its reminder that God “does not enjoy hurting people or causing them sorrow” is one of the most encouraging and strengthening scriptures I know.
  3. When I am tempted: Matthew 4:1-11 with its reminder of Jesus’ temptation helps me to stand firm.
  4. When I need comfort during times of physical pain or emotional turmoil I reach for the psalms: Psalm 139 is particularly strengthening for me at times like this.
  5. When I need to be reconciled with a friend or even a distant acquaintance: 1 Corinthians 13:1-11 is my mainstay.  There is nothing more assuring than the reminder that God’s love never lets go, never gives up and holds close through all circumstances.
What are the types of situations in which you need to strengthening power of God’s word?  Write down the scriptures that give you hope and nourishment during these times.  Memorize them, share them with friends.  The more we enter into the scriptures in this way the stronger our faith will become.

Celebrating the Big 60th

Today is my 60th birthday.  Hard to believe that I have been on God’s good earth for such a span of time.  And it has been a wonderful time so far.  I am humbled by the numbers that have contacted me in the last couple of days to share ways in which my life and ministry has impacted them.  I feel privileged to be a part of what God  is doing to transform the world and am so appreciative of the many friends and family who have made that possible. Milestone birthdays like this are not just a time to celebrate but also a time to remember and give thanks to God.

On Saturday we are holding a big celebration.  We are calling it  A Feast of Friends because we want it to be a celebration of those many friends who have walked with me along the way.  More than anything I am aware at this time that I do not walk my journey alone.  There are so many who have supported, encouraged and strengthened me along the way.  There are saints past and present who have been Godly examples for me, providing role models that have made it possible for me to follow God even when the going got tough.  Friends have provided a shoulder for me to cry on when I was depressed, and a loving embrace when I was in need of comfort.

So may good memories and I thought that I would share a few of them with you here in this video.  My apologies to friends in New Zealand where I lived for 5 years .  In the years of travel my photos from that part of my life seem to have disappeared.  But they are still stored in my heart.


Christmas is Over Did You get What You Expected?

Tom & I are sitting at Sydney Airport waiting to board our plane to the way back to Seattle.  We have had a wonderful Christmas season with my family here in Australia but are now looking forward to being back ho,e.  This is a good time to reflect on the Christmas season and all that has happened since we left home.  So I thought that I would share some of my thoughts with you .

Christmas Day has come and gone, even the after Christmas sales far more exciting for some than the birth of Christ, are now well behind us.  But did any of us really get what we expected?  This season, long anticipated by many of us as the celebration of the birth of Christ our Saviour, often comes with unexpected consequences.  The gifts never quite meet everyone’s expectations and leave behind mountains of wrapping paper and ribbon that will add yet more indestructible rubbish to the landfills.

The birth of Christ wasn’t quite what was expected either.  Two thousand years ago he appeared in an unexpected place and in an unexpected way. His birth was ignored by the religious leaders who were looking for a king to increase their privilege and power. It threatened the political leaders who retaliated by vengefully killing all infants around Bethlehem.  I am not sure that those who encountered the baby Jesus found what they expected either.  The Magi after their long and arduous journey must have expected far more than an ordinary looking infant born to a young inexperienced mother.  And the shepherds who experienced the incredible spectacle of angels singing in the heavens must have come looking for someone quite extraordinary.

Today too we often find in Jesus what we least expect.  Maybe we have come looking for a child born in a stable, an unassuming infant whose advent makes us feel good but does not impose difficult demands.  Instead we have found a revolutionary leader whose words and actions turned the world upside down.

Babies born in the backwater of civilization are easy to ignore.  Yet even a child disrupts the world of its parents and makes demands that turn their world upside down.  So it is with Jesus.  We welcome him as a cute little baby but if we continue to journey with him, we soon realize that he wants to turn our world upside down.  That cute little baby in the manger scene has indeed become a revolutionary leader who is slowly transforming everything we are  and do.


What is the Future of the Family?

The MSA September Seed Sampler is out.  This month’s title is The Future of the Family. There are some great articles which you can link to directly below