Sing a Brand New Song

 


Last Saturday I needed to nurse my wife’s car home from Sydney to Melbourne for repairs. Under the mechanic’s instructions I couldn’t drive above 80km. Need I say more. With three kids in the back seat it was a long, long, long day.

On such a big trip all kids are going to have their “moments” and yes, I did resort to some additional screen time for my backseat passengers. But on such trips, or even shorter ones around Melbourne, here’s something I have discovered. The kids are at their best with each other when they are taking it in turns to pick a worship song.

They all have their current go-to tracks. Imogen will choose Hillsong’s beautiful new track Who You Say I Am, while Ada will do her best to remember some of the words to Chris Tomlin’s Good Good Father. Come Arli’s turn, he will belt out his finest version of Reckless Love, while I smile in the front seat realising that neither I or my youngest boy have been graced with singing voices. But in his beautiful innocence Arli gives it his all:

“And oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God. Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine. And I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give yourself away Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God.”

As they were singing many times over last weekend I was struck again by the difference praise can make in our lives. Opening our mouths and declaring praise to our God changes our context. Opening our ears and minds to the sounds of worship can have a profound impact on each of us in our day to day lives.

Last week as I stood with more than 20,000 people from around Australia and the world at the Hillsong Conference I was reminded of the effect that worship has on us.

Here I was, a created being, offering a “brand-new song” to my Creator – and I was struck again by God’s perfect and beautiful design. The Scriptures remind us that God loves to receive authentic, heart-felt worship and that we have been created to express such worship.

 

The reality is that we are all wired to worship.

Let me encourage you to ponder that truth again today. The yearning to worship is innate in all of us. We either worship our Creator God or we worship other things – other gods or the “idols” of today’s culture, such as money, celebrity, power, sex, relationships, or even ourselves!

When my kids lean in and their minds focus on words of worship I see the work of the Spirit in their lives. Without even knowing it they are doing something good for their souls (and for their Dad’s peace of mind on a marathon road trip).

As we open our mouths in worship ….

  1. We are rightfully positioned

    In a world where we are seduced with the me-first messages, worship positions me afresh to see God for who He is. Positioned right, everything beckons me to praise.

    “O Lord, our Lord how majestic is your name in all the earth. Your glory is higher than the heavens.” [Psalm 8:1] “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it. The world and all who live in it.” [Psalm 24:1]

  2. We gain valuable perspective

    Whether standing on the ‘mountain top’ or moving through the ‘darkest valley’ in life I have learnt that praise always gives me a new and fresh perspective. In the hardest seasons of my life I have discovered that even when my mind says I have little to praise God for, my heart can enable me to see life through a different lens.

    At such times I realise that as I open my mouth in praise I see the world differently. I realise afresh that I am not alone; I am not bereft of hope. I have a God who lavishes His love and grace upon me. I have a God who is with me each and every step of my life. I have a God so worthy of praise.

    I remember a comment that my former Pastor Marty McCrindle would often make: “Praise changes the atmosphere.”

    Today if you are doing it tough in life can I invite you to dare praise and see what happens. Your circumstances may not change, but your attitude and perspective will change as you allow the Spirit of God to give you a ‘brand new song.’ Is it time to change the atmosphere?

  3. We embrace both peace and power in our lives

    As we praise God we are actively co-operating with the work of the Holy Spirit, who wants us to experience more of God’s peace and power in our lives. Yes, praise brings both comfort and confidence. As we declare praise we experience ‘the peace’ that only God can bring into our lives and we step into the power that Jesus has for us in life as His followers.

  4. We open the door to new possibilities

    In Matthew 1 where Jesus’ ancestral line is listed we read in verse 3: “Judah was the father of Perez.” Older translations say: “Judah beget Perez”. I love the picture created here. Judah in Hebrew means “praise”, Perez means “burst forth”. What a powerful reminder for all of us. Praise leads to new things bursting forth. Praise leads to breakthrough. Praise leads to new possibilities in our life.

Today, you may find yourself in the midst of battle and the Bible would remind you to stand firm and praise. The battle isn’t God’s final word. He is with you! Today, you may be yearning for breakthrough. Don’t give up. Don’t believe the ‘brand-new day’ isn’t coming. Praise opens the door to new possibilities.

Do you need to take your eyes off circumstances, challenges, hopes and dreams and refocus your eyes on your good, good Father; a God worthy of our praise – a God worthy of all we have to offer him?

Last Saturday my three kids started singing worship songs and the atmosphere in the car changed. Today where does the atmosphere in your life need to change? Are you being called to praise? Are you being called to a brand-new song?

 
Psalm 96 (The Message)

Sing GOD a brand-new song!
Earth and everyone in it, sing!
Sing to GOD—worship GOD!
Shout the news of his victory from sea to sea,

Take the news of his glory to the lost,
News of his wonders to one and all!
For GOD is great, and worth a thousand Hallelujahs.
His terrible beauty makes the gods look cheap;
Pagan gods are mere tatters and rags.
GOD made the heavens—
Royal splendor radiates from him,
A powerful beauty sets him apart.
Bravo, GOD, Bravo!
Everyone join in the great shout: Encore!
In awe before the beauty, in awe before the might.
Bring gifts and celebrate,
Bow before the beauty of GOD,
Then to your knees—everyone worship!

Get out the message—GOD Rules!
He put the world on a firm foundation;
He treats everyone fair and square.
Let’s hear it from Sky,
With Earth joining in,
And a huge round of applause from Sea.

Let Wilderness turn cartwheels,
Animals, come dance,
Put every tree of the forest in the choir—
An extravaganza before GOD as he comes,
As he comes to set everything right on earth,
Set everything right, treat everyone fair.

Scott Pilgrim

Cannonball!

 


My kids love swimming. They love getting wet. Even in the middle of a Melbourne winter they look forward to swimming lessons each week.

Last week as I sat poolside watching my youngest child, five-year-old daughter Ada, memories came flooding back of similar experiences I have had with all my kids. There she was “cannonballing” as she likes to call it as her instructor invites her to dive in. In my childhood days it was “bombing” but Ada looks at me as if I am speaking a strange language. “It’s cannonballing Daddy” as she smashes into the water with little grace, but a huge smile on her face.

As the instructor wipes the water from her face, suddenly I’m picturing PJ, my almost 22-year-old, discovering the joy of deep water when he was Ada’s age. It’s something I’ve experienced with all my kids. They all love the water. They’ve taken after me.

But they’ve all started in the same place; in the comfort and security of the wading pool!

Why did they love the wading pool? They felt safe. The water was shallow. They could touch the bottom. They were in control. There was no risk. There was nothing to fear!

But then things change. Suddenly shallow water no longer satisfies. The big pool beckons. The deep water calls.

Yes, there was PJ – probably about three – at the mighty Lambton Pool in Newcastle. I’m already in the water. He stands on the verge of deep water of the Olympic Pool. He pauses a few times as he prepares to take the big leap. Adventure overtakes nervousness and fear and he jumps. He goes under. Water surrounds him. He quickly makes his way back to the top and he looks at me with a smile I will always remember. He is alive! He has done it. And what are his first words to me ….

“Dad I want to do it again!”

Many years later nothing has changed for Ada Rose. When she is at the pool her favourite activity is jumping in the water. She no longer needs her bubble on. She feels “all grown up” and time after time she cannonballs her way under the water.

All too often in life we can be satisfied with “wading pool” experiences. Life is safe. It is predictable. We like to be in control. We like life on our terms.

But I know for me – and I am sure for most reading this post – the predictably and safety of “shallow water” experiences never fully satisfies. There is often a yearning for more. There is an innate beckoning to experience more of life; to live a more purposeful, adventurous, exciting and impacting life.

Yet sadly all too often we can choose safety over surrender. We can choose to live as we are, even with regret, rather than embrace risk.

And here’s where the big pool comes in. Just like PJ, or Ada for that matter, I’ve learnt that to truly experience and appreciate “the more” that God has for me in life requires faith and risk. Ultimately it requires faithful abandonment.

Yes, the Scriptures call us to live “deep water” lives; to be people who abandon ourselves in faith to a God who has plans and purposes that extend beyond our vision and dreams.

And seizing such opportunities always starts with taking a first step. I love the quote from Martin Luther King Jnr: “Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.”

Today when you think of your hopes and dreams – when you think of new possibilities and opportunities, when you think of new doors God may be opening, when you think of the mark you would like to make, when you think of something you might try if you thought you wouldn’t fail – what things come to mind for you?

Opening the door to a new vocation or new business venture, chasing a new ministry opportunity, a restored family relationship, a marriage that looks so different to what it is today, a life free of addiction, a life where fear no longer holds you back, a life where complacency and procrastination are left behind; a life where you are passionately pursuing things you know you are called to and created for!

Today is it time to leave behind shallow water in some areas of your life? Is it time to dare to embrace deep water anew in your life?

It’s hard to believe the first half of 2018 is behind us. Time flies by. It has been eighteen months since Megan and I and some of our children moved to Melbourne to join the Crossway team. Accepting the invitation to join the team here was a big jump into deep water. It wasn’t easy to leave Newcastle, particularly loved family members and friends. I was in a great job but I knew God was stirring change within me. We were very comfortable in Newcastle. Life was good, but Megan and I knew that God’s Spirit was opening a new door of opportunity. Humanly it was scary, but faith calls us to unchartered territory.

And here’s what I have learnt over many years and certainly through our southern move. When you step out in faith in life, when you embrace deep water, God is with you every step of the way. It doesn’t mean the path will be easy. It doesn’t mean there won’t be tough days, even doubts, but our faithful, loving, robust, caring, good God will provide you with all you need. He’s the God of deep waters!

So often in life it comes down to this – faith or fear. We see this tension, this stark choice throughout the Bible. Today where is God calling you to step out of your comfort zone? Where is he inviting you to embrace new possibilities? Today are you ready to “cannonball” and experience more of what God has for you in life?

Scott Pilgrim

Just Talk

 


I was running this week with a colleague and he needed to stop for a breather. Now I could seek to skite and say he couldn’t keep up with my incredible pace, but in reality, he was a novice runner and I was pushing things a bit too hard. Within a few kilometres I would also need to rest at that pace.

We stopped running and started to walk and talk. We started to learn more about each other’s story. The task of running soon gave way to good conversation.

Reflecting on the experience, it has been a great reminder of the power of simple conversation in our hectic world. In the midst of busyness and noise we live in a world at risk of losing the art of conversation.

When I was out with one of my children recently we sat together having a coffee and hot chocolate and I asked Imogen what she wanted to do. Her quick reply: “Just talk”. Quickly the words “but what do you really want to do” came to mind, but I am thankful I didn’t speak them. I should have been celebrating. I should have been thankful she wasn’t on a device, she didn’t want to be entertained, she wasn’t requesting activity – she wanted simple conversation. Suddenly I was struck by how quickly we can embrace the default position of busyness and information overload at the expense of a good old yarn.

In our 24-7-365 culture where time is a precious commodity, talk can become “cheap”. I keep reminding myself of the vital need to reclaim the art of good, rich, life-giving conversation.

In my previous work with BaptistCare – a large Christian care provider – I met many people doing life on the margins; lonely, isolated and vulnerable people. So often in a success-driven world these people felt voiceless. They often felt their stories didn’t matter. I soon learned the power of sitting with such people and letting them chat. The simple art of conversation validated their story. It opened doors to dignity and worth. They were no longer on their own – well at least for a short period of time.

I always remember one man – let’s call him Fred. He was in his late sixties. His wife had died. His family had left him behind. He struggled with mental health issues. He lived alone. He struggled with isolation and loneliness, two of the biggest hidden ills in our society. He would come into one of our community centres five days a week. He didn’t ask for help. He never wanted money or food. But he yearned for companionship. He yearned for conversation.

If I was to do my job well managing a large suite of community services, I was reminded that if I didn’t have time for Fred then I wasn’t really putting my organisation’s vision into practice. Fred kept me real. His key need – a ten-minute meaningful conversation where he was listened to, where his story was validated.

In all areas of life, I sense we need to be intentionally reclaiming the art of conversation. It is good for the soul. It is good for us and others.

We live in a world where we can email the person ten metres away in the office rather than walk and chat from time to time. Where families can go out for dinner and all sit on devices and rarely make eye contact. Where we can travel long distances but determine not to talk to the person beside us. Where fear can stop us reaching out to a stranger, particularly one from another culture. In such a world, many of us may need some “re-training” in the simple art of talking to other people with a sense of genuine interest and curiosity – with no other motive needed.

Research suggests that this key challenge begins in the home, where so often in the busyness of life couples can spend less than thirty minutes a week in quality communication and where parents, particularly dads, can spend even less in face to face conversation with their kids.

In the Gospels I am struck time and time again by Jesus’ interest and engagement with ordinary people. He came to a diverse range of people and His interest in their lives validated their worth and story. Behind many Gospel encounters I am sure is a library of rich and purposeful ordinary conversations.

My experience this week has reminded me of the importance of reclaiming the art of good conversation.

What might that mean for you?

  • · Maybe it’s an intentional 15-minute sit down every day with your partner
  • · Maybe it’s building in “distraction-free date and conversation time” with your kids
  • · Maybe it’s dropping in with a cake and having a cuppa with someone you know who struggles with isolation
  • · Maybe it’s opening your eyes and heart to someone who seems bereft of company in your local community
  • · Maybe it’s downing tools more often in the workplace and getting to know your colleagues

I was on a tram recently heading into the Melbourne CBD and a young man opposite was in tears having just ended a phone call. My heart said start a conversation. My head said mind you own business. Thankfully I went with my heart! For twenty-five minutes he shared his story and the pain of breaking up with his long-term girlfriend. He was on his way home to his parents. He needed to hug and chat with his mum – such a good thing to do. We approached my stop and I apologised that there wasn’t more I could do.

He jumped up – he gave me an unexpected big hug – and he said: “Mate, you’ve done heaps. You took an interest and you listened to me!”

Simple, caring, attentive conversation – it is a gift we can give to others. It is a gift we give to ourselves.

Scott Pilgrim

The Lens We Look Through

When Dr Oliver Eslinger was invited to become head coach of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) basketball team in 2008 he knew what he was getting himself into. He went into the job with eyes wide open. You see the Caltech Beavers hadn’t won a championship game since 1985. In fact they had clocked up a 23 season losing streak, considered the longest in US sporting history.

Turning such a culture around wasn’t going to happen quickly. Eslinger was looking through a long-term lens. He was looking through the lens of potential. He saw the team as they were, but also as they could become.

It would take three years from when he arrived at Caltech to get that famous first win after 310 consecutive losses. The one-point victory made national headlines across the USA.

Eslinger is now into his tenth year at Caltech and has built a highly competitive team. He is not finished yet and a championship is not out of the Beavers’ grasp. He continues to look through the lens of potential.

In all spheres of life, the lens we look through impacts our thinking and actions.

Every day in life we choose the lenses we look through. We can choose challenge or opportunity. We can choose despair or hope. We can choose pessimism or optimism. We can choose problem or solution. We can choose self or others.

During our recent Family Series at Crossway I sought to highlight the big difference between seeing life and relationships through an expectation lens compared with a Kingdom lens.

I shared with our Crossway community about people who have made a lasting impact on my life. While they were all unique individuals – all very different people – they shared one thing in common; they saw me through a Kingdom lens. Such people see others as they are, but also as they can be. Thankfully they looked at me as I was but could also see beyond. They saw potential, they cheered me on, they loved me unconditionally, they stood by when I failed and celebrated my successes.

They saw me with the eyes of Jesus!

The reality is that in life we all carry around a “box” inside us – a box full of our hopes, dreams and desires. We all have such a box. It will look different for each of us. There is nothing wrong with the box. It is good to have these things in our life. The challenge is what we do with this box.

As Andy Stanley insightfully reminds us, all too often we take our hopes, dreams and desires box and we look to others around us, particularly those close to us, to meet these. The box becomes an expectations box and this significantly impacts our attitude.

Here are some common markers of looking through an expectation lens.

  • We focus on self: “It’s all about me!”
  • We see weaknesses in others
  • We are quick to criticise
  • We become blinkered and we see that others need to change
  • We become circumstance focused

When we constantly look through the expectation lens we foster disappointment. We drain energy from relationships. We are not fun people to be around. We water the seeds of selfishness and resentment.

We see the world very differently when we look through a Kingdom lens.

  • We focus on the needs of others
  • We see strengths and potential in others
  • Rather than criticise, we are quick to encourage
  • We take off the blinkers and ask: “Where do I need to change?”
  • Rather than circumstances, we focus on Christ and all that is possible in his strength

Kingdom lens people are encouragers. They are people who make us better people. They shine the light of Jesus in practical ways – they shape a Kingdom legacy. They are people we want to be around. They water seeds of potential, faith, leadership, forgiveness and resilience. I’m so thankful to God for the impact Kingdom lens men and women have had in my life.

Let me encourage you today to consider your sphere of relationships and influence. Consider your closest family relationships, your friendships, your professional relationships. What lens are you looking at others through today?

We can all too easily pick up the expectation lens and then we wonder why our relationships are not what we want them to be. But things can be different. With the Holy Spirit at work in our lives we can seek God’s help to each day become more Kingdom oriented, seeking to see others as Jesus sees us.

A few years back I met Bob, a man celebrating his 100th birthday. He became a follower of Jesus at the age of nine. He was married to his late wife Bessie for 60 years. As we chatted I asked him what were some of his “relationship secrets”. Here’s what he had to say:

  • We learned the importance of thanking each other every day
  • We loved generously
  • We forgave quickly
  • And we realised we couldn’t do it on our own

It was clear to see how much Bob loved his late wife and the difference faith made to his life. At 100 he was still keeping his eyes firmly on Jesus and he saw the world through a Kingdom lens. He was an inspiring man.

Today let’s be thankful for those who have seen us through a Kingdom lens. May we do the same – it will make a big difference in the lives of others!

 

– Scott Pilgrim

Reframing Our Perspective

 


You couldn’t hold back my six-year-old son’s delight when a special delivery of Richmond Tigers AFL supporter gear arrived at our place this week. There was a new jersey, a hoodie, posters, pencils, drink container and more. He was one very happy young Tigers’ fan.

But what made this lovely surprise more special was the valuable perspective lesson that came with it.

The delivery was arranged by a former work colleague of mine who has always shown interest in Arli’s development, particularly with some of the challenges he has faced. She mentioned Arli’s passion for the Tigers to her Melbourne-based brother-in-law with some Tigers’ connections and he went beyond the call of duty.

In short, John is not a well man. He has some significant physical health challenges. He is visually impaired and can’t drive. He has one prosthetic leg (which Arli couldn’t believe was in Richmond colours). John could easily choose to focus on his own challenges, circumstances and setbacks. He could easily find reasons not to look to the needs of others.

But that isn’t how John is wired. He’s a man who looks beyond his circumstances and challenges. He has seized opportunities. He is a businessman; he is actively engaged in the community; he has a soft spot for others with special needs; he understands the importance perspective brings to life.

Perspective is such a powerful thing. The older I get the more I see its power. Perspective is all about focus. What we focus on so often becomes our experience.

If we are focused on our circumstances and challenges – as difficult as these may be – we will undoubtedly become weighed down, bogged down emotionally in the mire. We will find it hard to think positively and have our eyes open to beauty, good and positive things, ways we can serve others.

I’ve found it helpful in my journey to hold on to these three simple truths. They allow me to keep refocusing, to reframe my perspective.

 

Others Centred

The first practical truth is that there are always people in more challenging situations than mine. And as hard as life can be at times, when I take my eyes off myself and on to others, my perspective changes. Seeing the needs of others and serving others is good for the soul. It doesn’t mean we don’t care for ourselves or get the support in life we need, but an others centred view of the world changes our perspective for good.

That’s the perspective that saw John go out of his way for Arli.

It is what I see in my wife, when in the midst of challenge – she so often is there for others. Even when she was battling cancer some years back she was cooking and delivering meals for those in tough seasons.

I remember when I was going through one of the hardest times in my life I received a phone call to go and sit with a young woman from my former church who was dying from a terminal illness. The doctor told me she probably wouldn’t make it through the night. Ruth had little contact with her family and she requested I sit, hold her hand and pray. I did – and what a privilege it was – to be by her side for the last seven hours of her earthly life.

I walked out of the hospital at 5am, exhausted, in need of coffee, but most of all with fresh perspective. The others centred life is the way we were shaped to live.

Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.
– Philippians 2:3-5 (NIV)

 

Opportunity Centred

I think the second game changer when it comes to perspective in life is all about seizing opportunities.

There will always be challenges in life, but again I am struck by the choice people make each and every day. Some choose to always see challenge and that impacts their attitude and actions. It narrows their window to experience “more” in life. It can all too quickly lead to negativity, self-pity, even resentment.

Now don’t get me wrong – some people face Everest-type life challenges on a regular basis and we all have bad days, tough seasons. We are human.

But go back to John and again we see someone who is not only others centred but also opportunity centred. He has chosen to intentionally focus on opportunities in life rather than challenges.

We see this perspective when Israel are on the verge of the promise land. They send out a reconnaissance party of twelve spies. They all see the same things – massive challenges to overcome and generational life-changing opportunities to seize. Ten can’t get past the challenges. Two – Caleb and Joshua – can see the opportunities. We will come back to their response shortly.

But for now, let me ask you. Where is your focus today? Have you become so focused on challenges that you have lost sight of opportunities – whatever these new possibilities might look like?

I heard on the radio a few weeks back an interview with Julie Cini, a woman who lost both her babies to a rare genetic muscle wasting disease. Within months of the loss of her second child she also lost her husband in a car accident. I had tears in my eyes listening to her story.

How did she respond to these tragic events? Yes, she grieved. She didn’t know if she would make it. And yes, she still grieves. But she got back on her feet with the determination that researchers should find a cure for this deadly condition and that other families grappling with this same experience should receive greater support and care. She formed a charity and ten years on her passion for the cause is stronger than ever.

An opportunity focus has reframed her perspective, as it will ours.

 

Faith Centred

The third and most important re-frame for me is the difference faith brings to the table. The reality that God is for me, that God will never leave me, that God is with me in all seasons of life, turns my eyes upward.

Going back to Joshua and Caleb, Old Testament scholar Alan Redpath penned that when looking at the challenges before them they faced a stark choice.

They could focus on what seemed humanly impossible, or on that which was divinely possible.

This a key re-frame for each of us, whatever we face in life. I like it because it doesn’t seek to trivialise the big and real challenges we face – relationship crises, health issues, financial challenges, disappointments and setbacks.

Redpath reminds us that authentic and robust faith takes our eyes off what we cannot change or control and invites God to give us the strength, courage, resilience to stay the course, to step out of our comfort zones, to seize new opportunities, to sometimes just hold on tight until the storm passes. It’s re-framing faith. Faith that changes our perspective.

This week I’m thankful for John. I’m thankful for the rich reminder about the power of perspective.

Today, do you need to catch your breath and refocus? Maybe it’s reaching out to another in need. Maybe it’s seizing a new opportunity – big or small. Maybe it’s coming back again to a God who will never let you down!

Scott Pilgrim

Women of Influence

 


Last weekend as we celebrated Mother’s Day at Crossway we took the opportunity to intentionally focus on women of influence. We took the time to reflect on and be thankful for women who have made their mark on our lives; women of example; women of encouragement and inspiration.

Let me ask you today, as you think about women of influence, who would be on your list? Who are women over the different stages of your life who have made a big difference in your journey? Who are the women who have shaped who you are today?

You may like to share in a simple exercise as I have done this week and over a cup of coffee or tea sit and jot down the names of women of influence and reflect on what qualities you saw in them.

I always find this is a challenging exercise because it makes me consider afresh my attitude and example and the influence I am having on others.

Here’s just some of the names from my long list:

  • – Mrs Box, a faithful Sunday School teacher who made a big impression on me in my early childhood years
  • – Mrs Pickering, a Primary School teacher who helped me see potential and build self-confidence and belief.
  • – A passionate youth group leader Wynette who nurtured leadership in me.
  • – An encouraging Pastor Joy who mentored and coached me; who was brave enough to let me at 17 preach my first sermon.
  • – A high school teacher Anne who encouraged me to pursue my love for words and writing, opening the door to a career in journalism
  • – My grandmother Elva – one of the most loving and generous people I have ever met
  • – My aunty Ellen who has been a source of constant encouragement in my life and my late Aunty Judy, who always spoke potential into my life
  • – A visionary boss June who opened the door to new career possibilities
  • – Female colleagues who encouraged me, cheered me on, stood by in different seasons of life
  • – My mum, who has modelled unconditional love throughout my life
  • – And my beautiful wife, who has stood by me in the highs and lows, who continues to invest in me and my hopes and dreams and makes be a better person.

There are so many qualities captured in these strong, courageous and inspiring women. There is so much about these women that I want to model in my life today.

Last weekend at Crossway I had the privilege of interviewing four women across our Mother’s Day weekend services. It was encouraging to hear some of their personal stories and also invite them to share about women who had influenced them.

As they spoke about different women who have spanned their lives over the past seventy plus years key words kept echoing through these stories – words like love, faith, grace, authenticity encouragement and generosity.

It’s easy to read those words quickly, but can I repeat them again today. Can I invite you to pause with me and consider afresh each of these character qualities and the difference they make in the lives of other people.

Love – something we all yearn for and were wired to give and receive

Faith – that inspires others; that reflects Jesus; that keeps us going when life is tough

Grace – that keeps believing in people and seeing the best in others

Authenticity – that mark of genuineness that we yearn for in life

Encouragement – that powerful fuel for the soul in a world that so often be harsh and critical

Generosity – that life-giving response from those who are free to serve others with their time, heart, hospitality, finances and spirit.

At the end of our panel interview last weekend I asked each of the panellists to nominate some words to describe how they would want to be remembered. I love asking that question.

Yes, it’s a challenging, sobering question – but’s it’s also a powerful reminder that we are shaping a life legacy here and now. We don’t leave a legacy at the end of life; we shape one throughout our life.

As Gary Vaynerchuck writes: “Please think about your legacy, you are writing it every day.”

Vaynerchuck is spot on and that ought to cause us to stop and take stock of our attitudes, actions and priorities.

The reality is we are all people of influence and as an old mentor of mine used to say there is no “middle ground” here – we are either living as a positive influence in the lives of others or we are a negative example. We are either life-giving or life-taking.

I see that powerfully with my little kids. They see me as I am. There is little I can hide from them. They can call me out. They are taking in all of me. And they model me – the good and the bad.

This past week it has been wonderful to again celebrate influence – to celebrate women of influence; it has been good to again take the time to remember and thank God for women who had made a lasting impact on my life [and there have been plenty of men as well].

It’s also been challenging to again take the time to consider my own example. I am thankful that God isn’t finished with me yet. I am a work in progress. There are still many rough edges to work on, but at the same time I am shaping a legacy today. I am writing my legacy in the ordinary and mundane, as well as the extraordinary and eventful.

Can I invite you to take time this week to celebrate women of influence in your life. Can I encourage you to take time to consider your example and influence and what matters most. Are these the things we are pursuing most passionately in our lives? Are we making the most of our opportunities to shape a legacy that lasts!

Scott Pilgrim

 

Investing in the Lives of Others

 


My six-year-old son Arli has recently started AFL Auskick and while I’m still learning the ropes of the game I’ve put my hand up to join the local coaching team. I’ll be spending some of my spare time in the weeks ahead getting my head around a range of kids’ skill drills and I’m looking forward to sharing with Arli in his new sporting adventure.

As I was supervising a group of kids going through their paces on Saturday morning, memories of my first football (rugby league) coach came to mind.

Al Gearing isn’t a name you will have ever heard of! He’s not listed in the who’s who of Australian sporting history. But in my books Al is a coaching legend. He was my first sports coach and more than four decades on I still remember some of his coaching maxims. Truth be told, with hindsight on my side, they could probably be better described as coaching clichés – but they worked a treat in the 1970s with a group of novices to the code.

Coach Gearing came alongside me when I was a quiet and shy boy and week by week he helped me grow in confidence. He taught me things about myself that went well beyond the footy field. It has been more than four decades since his mentoring advice over half-time oranges at Kentish Oval in New Lambton but here’s two things I still remember about his coaching style.

He coached with care – he was a coach with a heart (even for six-year olds who often didn’t listen and kept making mistakes, like the day one of our team members ran the length of the field to score, but alas he had run in the wrong direction and scored on our own try line!).

He coached with purpose – in his case it wasn’t about winning premierships, it was all about bringing out the best in young charges. He knew what mattered. Most of all he wanted to instil in us a love of the game.

Almost 45 years on I think there is still much to apply from Coach Gearing’s simple approach when it comes to investing in others

 

Care and Purpose

We all yearn for care. We all yearn for purpose.

And as I look back at people who left an indelible mark on my life, these two qualities are at the heart of their leadership and “coaching” approach. People like:

  • My parents
  • A Sunday School teacher, Mrs Box
  • A year 3 school teacher called Kath
  • Youth leaders like Wynette, Arnold and Joy
  • A youth pastor called Ross
  • A mentor and confidante called John
  • A relationship coach called Richard
  • Bosses like June, Ross & Rob
  • A trusted colleague like Mary
  • Friends that have gone the distance like Steve
  • An uncle called Trevor
  • My current boss Dale
  • And the list could go on!

There is absolutely no co-incidence that all those on the list above – beyond their intelligence, leadership and skill – share one core thing in common. Their lives have all been shaped by the love, values and ethics of Jesus. And this makes such a profound difference!

 

Shaped by Jesus

Yes, I have been blessed over the years with good people who have chosen to invest in me – they have enriched my life in many different ways. I am thankful for men and women who have stood by me, believed in me, inspired me, challenged me and helped me unlock potential.

Timothy Gallloway writes: “Coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximise their own potential. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them.”

This was the model of Jesus. He chose to invest himself in a small group. He saw this circle, this team not only as they were – but as they could become. He didn’t call them to behaviour modification. Rather he invited them to imitation. Jesus intentionally chose to model a caring and purposeful relational investment strategy.

Jesus didn’t seek to pull a big crowd – but rather he first and foremost sought to invest himself personally in the lives of a small group of people he believed in – people others may have pushed aside for a variety of reasons. He chose to journey with this small band as leader, coach, mentor and friend. And he left them with the challenge to model and multiply this life-transforming coaching model. And they did with passion, care and purpose!

Those who have made the biggest mark on my life have been people – ordinary men and women – who have taken up this same challenge. They have come alongside me, they have believed in me. They have seen me as I am, but more importantly, as I can become! They have accepted me “warts and all” – as my former youth pastor Ross Britza used to say – and still loved me. They have beckoned me to new possibilities, they have held my hand in dark days, they have expanded my vision, they have been caring and purposeful!

 

The Power of Perspective

I don’t remember too many of Al Gearing’s pre-game pep talks, but one does remain in my memory. We were taking on a team from a pretty rough and tumble neighbourhood in Newcastle and as we lined up to run on we were all talking about how big the opposition were. We were scared. The more we talked, the bigger the opposition were becoming in our minds. Soon they would be giant killers! Coach Gearing gathered us in a huddle and offered us this gem: “You can keep looking at them or you can remember how good you really are!”

Yes, coaching and mentoring changes perspective. Coaching reframes challenging contexts. Coaching repositions us to get through tough seasons. Coaching helps us discover our true potential! Good coaches and mentors don’t try and wave a magic wand and make the tough days disappear. They don’t try and take control. They don’t try and fix everything. But they do remind us our goals, strengths and capacity. They do help us develop a “game plan”. They motivate and inspire. They remind us we are not alone.

Across Australia in communities large and small there are people yearning for others to go the distance with them – to make that intentional relational investment choice!

We all have something to offer others – in formal and informal roles – as coaches, mentors, encouragers, confidantes, parents, family members and people of influence. We have all life experiences and lessons that others can benefit from. We all have the potential to make a real and tangible difference in the life of another person.

And the amazing truth, the unexpected upside, the win-win; as we intentionally invest in the lives of others, we ourselves grow – we become better people – we discover new things about ourselves, we “rise by lifting others” as Robert Ingersoll writes.

Here’s to those who have made their mark on our lives! Here’s to us doing the same!

Scott Pilgrim
 

The Art Of Breathing

 


I took the above picture last Friday while on a walk with one of my boys on the beautiful Mornington Peninsula. The walk came at the end of a very big and busy week. As I sat by the creek near Bushrangers Bay I was thankful for time to catch my breath! I celebrated a “mini sabbatical”, as Leonard Sweet so wonderfully describes such soul-filling moments.

It seems very appropriate to reflect on such a theme on a Monday, the start of a new week. No matter what our age or stage of life the week ahead for most of us will likely already be filling up with family, work and social appointments and all the other little things that make up day to day life. Just as I started to write this post, I was reminded of the need to add into my calendar reading time in my daughter’s prep class this week.

Yes – we all know the pressures of busyness in our 24-7-365 world where all too often we live at too frantic a pace.

As blogger Randy Willis writes: “Life is busy. We live in a world of fast food, microwave ovens, smart phones, and things like Gogurt (yoghurt for those on the go). Life is so busy that it’s easy for our lives to get out of rhythm!

In such a fast-paced world all busyness can become a badge of honour, particularly in high-performing, success-oriented workplaces. I was only recently chatting with a friend grappling with the pressure of a “first in and last to leave” culture in his workplace, which is so detrimental to healthy life rhythms and relationships.

Over the past decade I have been greatly encouraged by Leonard Sweet’s imaginative and intentional approach to sabbatical rhythms. As he writes: “Sabbath does not come just once a week. Every day needs a holy hiatus. Every day and each week needs to be well ventilated with sabbaticals.”

The root of the word Sabbath means “to catch one’s breath.”

In the Scriptures and in many religious traditions the Sabbath is seen as a “day of rest”, but in today’s busy world it’s essential that the Sabbath concept is embraced as a way to live; that it becomes part of how we do life day to day.

At the heart of such a lifestyle is rhythm.

 

Build a Rhythm

There is a time for busyness. There is a time for long days. A time for advance, a time for stretch. But increasingly we need to also build in times to “catch our breath” and what I am learning more and more is that this takes intentionality and creativity. We all need times of retreat.

It’s about building rhythms into our lives that appreciate the need to slow, the need to do less, the need to be refreshed, the need to practice soul-filling habits.

It could be a ten-minute walk in between work meetings.

It could be creating margin, so you can walk to pick up your kids from school rather than the last-minute dash in the car.

It could be a bath and a good book; knowing that what’s on the to-do list will still be there tomorrow.

It could be turning off the TV or iPad and going for a walk and listening to Scripture or worship in your ears.

It could be a day in the bush every now and then, or like me on Friday, a long walk on the coast.

It could be a monthly spiritual retreat day.

It could be a quarterly weekend marriage sabbatical.

It could be any one of a million things as long as it works for you – allowing you to catch your breath in a hectic world that all too often can squeeze the life out of us.

 

“Be Still and Know that I am God”

In Psalm 46:1 we read “Be still and know that I am God”.

Here is a call for all of us to heed in our busy lives. Here is the art; the practice; the discipline of slowing down – of cultivating sustainable rhythms. Ecclesiastes 3 reminds us there is a season for everything. That creation and life itself was designed by God with rhythm.

In Luke 5:16 we see Jesus modelling intentional rhythm. “But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.

As Randy Wills writes: “Rhythm is about knowing when to play and when not to play. It’s learning when to be on and when to be off. It’s the difference between making music and just making noise. When we don’t have rhythm, our life is less and less music and more and more noise.

My life is full of noise and I was reflecting on that as I sat by the creek last Friday.

Reagan and I had walked about 5km to get the isolated and beautiful Bushrangers Bay. The walk took us through diverse terrain. Some parts were easy and the views spectacular, at other times we negotiated some rough terrain, there were hills, stairs and some obstacles to avoid, even an unexpected tiger snake on the track. As I sat by the creek catching my breath I was struck that so often hikes can typify life – the highs and lows, the wonderful moments and the mundane, challenges that call for endurance and times of uncertainty, risk and fear. And things – like tiger snakes – that just come out of nowhere in life!

It was so good to sit by the creek and just breathe. To be still. To pause. To turn off the noise of the world. To intentionally be still, quiet and thankful. To have my soul refreshed.

This week, what sabbaticals do you need to call? What needs to change in your day to day practices to allow you to make more music and less noise?

Scott Pilgrim