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
 

It’s All About Tone

 


Over the past week I have again been struck by the sad state of political discourse, both on the international and local stage – from nonsensical Twitter posts to stinging, personal attacks on political opponents and shallow one-liners aimed at a media headline. Courageous, gracious, non-judgemental, kind and hope-inspiring political speeches are a rarity these days.

As I pondered this sad state of affairs, two things happened in the space of a few minutes that reminded me afresh of the power of our words and even more, the way we speak them.

Having just heard on the TV news a local MP trying to score cheap political points attacking an opponent, an advertisement appeared for a documentary on Martin Luther King Jnr, as the world marks the 50th anniversary of his death this month. What a contrast.

King Jnr, like the King whose gospel agenda drove his life, clearly understood the power of language – how words can build – be it a nation or a child living with racism and wondering whether it would ever change.

A few minutes later my wife asked me a simple question. I quickly answered her. But immediately I could see in the way she looked at me, that while what I had said wasn’t unhelpful or hurtful, the way I said it was.

It was all about my tone! So often, it’s all about our tone!

 

The Truth of Tone

As Dr Alex Lickerman writes:

“Whatever the content of the things we say, it’s our tone that communicates what we’re feeling when we say them. Our tone tells the truth even when our words don’t, even when we’re unaware of that truth ourselves. And it’s our tone to which others respond.”

This is so, so true. When one of my little kids says ‘sorry’ for something they have done wrong, I know if they mean it by their tone, by the way they speak that important word, by their eye contact and their body language.

With vulnerability, Dr Lickerman highlights how tone impacts everyday conversations. He writes:

“Several weeks ago, I was editing some video footage for a home movie and was surprised to discover how irritated, negative, and just plain mean I sounded when talking to my wife. I remember most of the interactions that were filmed but not any of the feelings I was quite clearly projecting.

Watching the movie back and hearing myself was a humbling experience, to say the least. Ironically, I’d been wondering why my wife and I seemed not to be enjoying one another’s company as much recently. The video gave me the answer. The cause was me! I needed to stop and look again at my tone and more, what was brewing deep down inside that made me speak and react the way I was.”

I am sure we can all relate to Lickerman’s experience and he points us to a key Biblical truth.

Ultimately, it all comes down to grace. Tone and grace go hand in hand.

 

Tone and Grace

Do our words and tone reflect grace? Do they reflect a generosity of spirit, are they non-judgemental, are they aimed at building up, rather than pulling down? What comes out of my mouth and the tone that goes with it, reflects the deeper things of my heart.

Jesus, who for me best reflects what gracious tone looks and sounds like, said:

Good people bring good things out of the good they store in their hearts. But evil people bring evil things out of the evil they store in their hearts. People speak the things that are in their hearts.”

John Piper writes:

“A critical heart produces a critical tongue. A self-righteous heart produces a judgmental tongue. A bitter heart produces an acerbic tongue. An ungrateful heart produces a grumbling tongue. But a loving heart produces a gracious tongue. A faithful heart produces a truthful tongue. A peaceful heart produces a reconciling tongue. A trusting heart produces an encouraging tongue. The words you speak will all depend on what’s filling your heart.”

While we are reflecting on our words and tone, let’s remind ourselves that in a literate, digital society, the challenge of tone applies equally to our written words. Email is a great communication tool, but a poorly written email, typed with haste and no care, may be just as destructive as a verbal attack.

 

 

Generosity of Spirit – at Work and Home

I’m privileged to work with Dale Stephenson, our Senior Pastor at Crossway, and Dale regularly reminds our team of the importance of tone. Be it a brief conversation with a colleague in the foyer, words we speak in a team setting or our non-verbal cues in a meeting, we are mindful that tone impacts relationships, community and ultimately organisational culture. It’s one of the reasons that “Generosity of Spirit” is one of our staff core values.

And what’s true in the workplace has even higher stakes on the home-front.

The ancient writer of Proverbs penned: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue”. I sense the writer had a good appreciation that this included tone, even if it wasn’t in the vocabulary of the day.

Today, with the words I speak to my wife and children, and with the way I speak them, I will either build up or pull down. There is no sitting on the fence. And day by day, words and tone – as simple as they can seem – shape life legacy.

 

Shaped by Grace

Here’s the challenging thought that has been on my mind this week. What if like Dr Lickerman’s experience I had a camera on me all this past week. What would it have said about my interactions, conversations, words and tone? More so, what would it have said about the things that are brewing in my heart and soul?

When someone speaks to you in a tone that is not helpful, remember it is reflecting something deeper going on in their life. Show them some grace. So often we need it returned to us. And remember that when others find it hard to get along with you, it just may be, as Lickerman found, that the issue starts with you!

That’s humbling I know, but the older I get, the more I see the need to face up to my own human frailties and seek to allow the Holy Spirit to keep shaping me more into the person he wants me to be – a person of grace – a person who speaks, acts and loves more like Jesus.

Today we have the opportunity to take stock of our tongue and tone and be reminded of the powerful difference they make in building healthy, encouraging relationships and growing community.

Scott Pilgrim
 

Running Together

 


The Commonwealth Games are here and as a sporting tragic I’m looking forward to taking in moments of “gold” over the next few weeks, as well as all the footy on offer at this time of year. As I’ve been watching some of the Games’ athlete previews, some of my favourite sporting moments have again been echoing in my mind.

Now there are many I could write about, but in today’s Fuel let me reflect on one beautiful sporting story that offers great encouragement, no matter where you find yourself at in life.

Come back with me to Barcelona and the 1992 Olympic Games where British athlete Derek Redmond was a favourite to win gold on the track in the 400-metres. Having been plagued by many injuries it seemed like this would finally be Redmond’s moment to experience Olympic glory. He cruised through the early rounds and looked to be in great form, but then it all came crashing down as he tore a hamstring in his semi-final race.

His Olympic dreams had been shattered and in physical and emotional agony, Redmond got to his feet and began to limp around the track. He was devastated – pain written all over his face and body.

Suddenly Redmond was joined by his far from athletic looking father wearing a big white Nike shirt. The father put his arm around his son and as the crowd stood to cheer them on, together they wrote a wonderful chapter in Olympic history. They walked to the finish line together, with Redmond’s father repeating these words: “Son we are going to finish this race together”!

The record books may list Redmond as a non-finisher in the race, but history has captured him as a true champion.

Recalling this great sporting moment, the words, “Son we are going to finish this race together” have been resonating deep within my heart and soul over the past week. Maybe you need to hear them in your life today.

We all experience the stress of living in our fast-paced, demanding world. When we add to that family or relational challenges or perhaps financial or health concerns, along with work pressures and other concerns, we can at times feel weighed down or stretched to capacity.

Against such a backdrop we are reminded that the Bible sees life and faith as a long-distance race – a marathon rather than a short sprint. Yes, it’s one thing to start well, or run fast and succeed, but ultimately the Bible calls us to be people who go the distance – who run the race – and finish well!

In our 24-7-365 hectic world, where so often we are challenged to think short-term and where immediacy and instant gratification are championed, we can lose sight of the importance of perseverance, a biblical value to be cherished.

As I look again online at Derek Redmond, with his arm around his father, limping across the finish line, I am reminded that I need others surrounding me if I am to run strong and finish well in life.

Redmond experienced the physical pain of a torn hamstring. We all know what it is to be ‘hamstrung’ in life by physical, emotional, relational and spiritual challenges. When times are tough it is good to know we have others to lean on; reaching out in these times is a sign of strength, rather than weakness. In my earlier years I was very quick to offer support to others, but too slow in seeking it for myself. Thankfully I am learning more of how to get this balance right.

We all need loved ones, family, friends, mentors, coaches, pastors, advisors, mates, encouragers and confidantes. At times we may need professional support as well – be that in our personal lives or family contexts.

Today as you take stock of where you find yourself at in life, your response may be to thank God for the community you are privileged to have around you. You may be challenged to reach out to another who you know is doing it tough. Your presence and encouragement may be a gift much needed by a friend or colleague. Or, with authenticity and vulnerability, you may acknowledge that you all too often ‘run’ alone and that you need to intentionally seek out the support of others.

With the words of Derek Redmond’s dad echoing in my mind – “Son we are going to finish this race together” – I have also been reminded afresh that as I seek to “run the race” my loving, gracious Creator God is right by my side, cheering me on! We’ve just come from Easter where my value to God is so clearly seen.

Yes, just as my faithful God was there in the past to pick me up when life seemed all too hard, I celebrate again today his enduring presence and strength; his deep, robust, sustaining, compassionate and caring love. He is the God of all seasons of life; there with us on the mountain tops of life and as we walk through deep, dark valleys.

Today, picture a loving God putting his arm around you, and hear his words: “Son/daughter – we are going to finish this race together.”

Scott Pilgrim
 

The Power of Loving Sacrifice

 


It’s a day I will never forget. It was a special pilgrimage, a long time in the making. It had started more than three decades earlier when each Anzac Day at my grandparents’ home I would look through special memorabilia kept in an old Roses chocolate tin.

This was a treasured tin. It contained letters, a diary, medals, a wallet and other personal tokens of war. A small train ticket, still in one piece, always grabbed my attention. All these years later, it still does.

The one-way ticket took my great grandfather Harold Stanley Butler from Newcastle to the tragedy and horror of the Western Front in WWI. It was a small, paper ticket and yet it had made its way back to Australia in his small leather wallet, all in one piece.

Sadly, my great grandfather never made it home. He never made it back to Newcastle to his wife and baby boy – my grandfather – a very special man in my life. Harold was killed in May 1917 in a Belgium trench nicknamed by the soldiers as “The Only Way”. In a letter written to Harold’s wife Edith a few months after his death, a member of his company wrote from the field: “It may soften your grief a little to know that he died as he lived, a brave soldier.”

From an early age as I ruffled through the old Roses’ tin I would tell my grandfather, Tom, that one day I would go to Belgium, to Ploegstreet Wood, to where his Dad was buried. It took a lot longer than I expected, but some 91 years after his death I made it to the Strand Cemetery. It’s a day etched in my memory.

So many emotions filled my heart and soul. Here I was thanking a man I never knew. Here I was celebrating family legacy. Here I was sharing with Harold what a wonderful son he had left the world.

With symbols and signs of sacrifice all around me one couldn’t help but consider the potency and impact of sacrifice in our lives. Suddenly the Apostle John’s words were echoing in my mind, with a new sense of meaning and appreciation.

“No greater love has any man than to lay down his life for his friends” – John 15:13

As I sat at my great grandfather’s grave, the sun reflected on a large cross in the centre of the grass cemetery. With John’s words on my mind I was struck again by the amazing love and grace of our Creator, Father God and his personal experience of enduring the pain and horror of seeing his one and only Son executed as a sacrifice for a broken, sinful humanity.

That is what today – Good Friday as we call it – is all about. It’s a day that champions love, sacrifice, courage and commitment.

It’s a day that so powerfully reminds us of God’s immense, unconditional love. It’s a day that declares we matter so much to our Father God. He would give his absolute best – his own Son for us, so that the price of sin could be paid and that we might know grace, forgiveness, love and freedom in our lives.

And in Jesus we see absolute resolve to stay true to his Father’s will, despite what it would cost him.

My great grandfather died in a place called “The Only Way”. Jesus humbly allowed himself to be nailed to a Roman cross on a hill known as “The Place of the Skull” and he did so because he knew this was the only way for his Father to redeem and restore broken humanity. That is love. That is laying down your life for your friends!

Yes, today we celebrate the power of loving sacrifice. We are reminded that we are not alone. We look again at the Cross of Christ and we are reminded that God is for us. And more we are reminded and challenged anew of the difference sacrificial others-centred living makes in a world where the default is “me-first”, selfish living.

I am sure that my great grandfather had no idea what he was getting himself into when he travelled to the other side of the world. But he went with a resolve to serve and he paid the ultimate price.

Today I am struck again by the authenticity of God’s love. It’s not feel-good love. It’s not a shallow promise. It was demonstrated for all time in an historical event when his brave and courageous Son was executed for me and you. The Roman elite and the Jewish leaders thought finally they had dealt with this rebel who threatened the establishment. Little did they know, Sunday was coming! As it is for us this weekend.

But today – here on Friday – let us take the time to reflect again on what matters most in life. Be reminded of how much you matter to your Creator God. Remind yourself of what Jesus was willing to embrace for all of us in our brokenness. Remind yourself today that loving sacrifice still changes lives, families and communities today.

At the heart of Christ-like living is others! Loving others, serving others, sacrificing for others. And here’s the amazing result. As we do just that – embrace others-centred living – we open the door in our own lives to purpose, meaning and hope. As we seek to live a life that more and more reflects Jesus we shape a legacy that will last!

Scott Pilgrim
 

Resolve

 


This weekend we mark Palm Sunday and move towards Easter. It’s a time of year when I find myself reflecting on the things that matter most, on the deeper things of life. When I contemplate the extent of God’s love seen in Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross the lens I see life through changes. I am challenged to look beyond the superficial to the significant. 

As I’ve been pondering these thoughts this week, one word keeps echoing in my mind and that is the word resolve. 

Yes, Easter is all about resolve.  

We see the resolve of a loving God to do all that was required to bring broken humanity back into a whole and personal relationship with him.  We see the resolve of Jesus as he robustly and courageously holds fast to his commitment to fulfil his Father’s will, even at the cost of horrible execution. 

These examples of resolve challenge me to consider what does it mean for me to live a life of resolve today.  

What does it mean for me to imitate this innate value and character strength of Jesus in the way I live my life, in my relationships, my work, my ethics and my priorities? What does it mean to reflect Christ-like resolve when I face challenges, when I am put to the test, when life is hard, when I am called beyond my comfort zone? What does it mean to live out this courageous resolve as I pursue vision and purpose in my life or be a voice for others in need of advocacy?  

The reality is that Jesus’ resolve was tested on multiple occasions – just as our character, values and commitment are on a regular basis, particularly when the pressure is on.  

Jesus’ resolve was tested by Satan in the wilderness. He was offered an easy way out, a comfortable short-cut. We face this same challenge often in life. The world preaches comfort, Jesus calls us to the narrow road of discipleship. 

We read in Luke 9:51: As the time approached for Jesus to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.”  

Here is a pivotal point in Jesus’ life and ministry. His popularity with the crowds is rising, but they want him to fulfil a different “Messiah script”. They can’t envisage a suffering, servant King. Opposition is also escalating. Jesus is threatening the establishment. And more, Jesus knows what is ahead in Jerusalem. His destination is a wooden cross on Golgotha hill.  

The heat is well and truly on and his resolution to stay on track is being challenged on multiple fronts. He could have so easily chosen compromise and comfort.  

But rather as The Message translation captures it: “He gathered up his courage and steeled himself for the journey to Jerusalem.” 

Ahead would be Palm Sunday and despite the cheering crowds, Jesus again is challenged to fix his eyes on staying the course. We see it again in his beautiful, deep and sacrificial courage, as he prays his heart out in Gethsemane: “If there be any way Father take the cup of suffering from me … but ultimately Father, your will be done!” 

I think this is the most powerful prayer of resolve ever prayed.  

And what a template for us. What a challenging, yet inspiring prayer and lifestyle to imitate. We are called to take up our Cross and follow Christ. 

To increasingly reflect his attitude and servant heart.
To increasingly express his values and ethics.
To be others-centred.
To live beyond our comfort zone. 
To take Kingdom risks.
To get our hands dirty in a broken world.
To invest in the cause that matters most.
To be a disciple that multiplies. 
To boldly love as he did.
To stay true to unique God-given plans and purposes for our lives. 
To persevere when we are stretched and squeezed.   

We are called to live and model Christ-like resolve in our lives – faithful, courageous, inspiring, loving, sacrificial and passionate resolve.

It’s a high bar call. It’s one I know I can’t live up to on my own. I certainly know I haven’t arrived. I have fallen short many times. But I do know the Holy Spirit wants to keep chipping away, moulding and shaping me more and more into a person who reflects the resolve of Jesus in the way I live my life.  

Easter always picks me up on my feet again.
Easter reminds me how much I matter to my Creator God.
Easter reminds me of the way of Jesus, so at odds with the world we live in.
Easter reminds me of what matter most.
It fuels me afresh with purpose. It enlivens me again with hope.  

The call of Jesus echoes anew: Just as the Father sent me, so I send you.”  

Here is the call to a purposeful, life-giving, noble, exciting, challenging, at times daunting, yet also joyful faith adventure.  

Here is a call to faith and courage; to embrace life – with all its challenges and opportunities – with Christ-like resolve. Let me encourage you to reflect on what that may mean for you in your life this Easter season.  

Scott Pilgrim
 

Fear

 


As I tucked my little boy back into bed this week after he had woken in a fright I was reminded of a time in life when fear gripped me. 

I was eleven and from the outside looking in, my life looked good. There were so many positive things going on in my life. I was blessed with a loving family and great friends. I had much to look forward to.  

But on the inside, an irrational fear of death had taken hold of me. I dreaded going to bed each night [as I’m sure in hindsight my parents did as well]. I didn’t want to go to sleep because I feared I wouldn’t wake up.  All my Sunday School lessons on the joy of heaven weren’t meeting my growing, irrational fears. The more fear gripped me, the more my child’s mind played cruel games. I was convinced I was going to have a heart attack and not wake up. I was fast becoming physically and emotionally exhausted. My parents tried all the tricks in their parenting book. They even had my GP give me a full medical check-up and a glowing bill of health. “But what did he know” my young mind said. 

 Yes – I was on the verge of paralysis – fear paralysis! 

Thankfully this painful, stretching phase came and went. Today, some four decades later that fearful childhood season reminds me of the power that fear can have at any stage of our lives. 

 It may be as you read this post today, you know that your life is being held back because of a particular fear. Let me ask: Are there areas of your life where fear is holding you back from seizing new possibilities and opportunities? Are their fears robbing you of relational growth and deeper connectedness in your marriage, family, friendships or neighbourhood? 

 So often fear is irrational, yet it can still take hold of us. It can sneak up on us when we don’t expect it.  It can stop us in our tracks. It can rob us of our potential. It can steal joy. It can squeeze the very life out of us! In essence, fear is an illusion inexistent in the physical world, but it exists in our minds and manifests in our actions. We therefore bring fear to life often without need. 

 In recent months I have chatted with people grappling with everyday fear issues – a fear of commitment, a fear of public speaking, a fear about leaving a dead-end job because of a greater fear of the unknown, a fear of not finding a life partner, a fear of separation and a fear of following in a family line of illness. 

Yes, fear can be a powerful beast – but a beast that we all can conquer!

We sing a great song at church with the powerful, life-transforming line: “I’m no longer a slave to fear. I am a child of God.” Behind that line is a great biblical truth and a doorway to life-transforming freedom and joy. 

Overcoming deep-seated fears can be a painful, stretching process, but the reality is there is hope for all of us! We can all take practical steps today to live freely.  

Here’s some things that we can all do.  

  1. Face the truth – own your fears (don’t hide from them)
  2. Let others share in the journey with you  
  3. See failure for what it is [It’s not failure that holds us back; it’s our fear of failure that can rob us of so much potential 
  4. Be willing to seek help – friends, pastoral care, professional counselling  
  5. Pray and ask the Spirit to help you take control of your mind on a daily basis 
  6. Relax and unwind – catch your breath in a crowded, busy world 
  7. Dare to take the next step to conquer your fear(s) 
  8. Invest in things that matter; that help you focus on positive things in life  
  9. Most of all – remember God is on your side! 

Books, workshops and courses, professional support, friends, daily rituals, exercise and guarding our minds are just some of the many things we can do to protect ourselves from the squeeze of fear. But none of these things match the resources of heaven that are ours to discover as we live a life of freedom, purpose and joy! 

Jesus came to pay the ultimate price, so we can overcome all things that rob us of living life the way God envisaged. Jesus came to open the door to freedom, hope, forgiveness, opportunity, faith, adventure and meaning. 

Romans 8:15: You didn’t receive a spirit of slavery to lead you back again into fear, but you received a Spirit that shows you are adopted as his children. With this Spirit, we cry, “Abba, Father.” 

As one who knows what it is to be a slave to fear I am so thankful today that there is a new freedom song in my life. I am thankful that I am a child of God. I am thankful that I have a good, good Father who wants the very best for me. He wants me to share my fears with him and better still he empowers me by his Spirit to be free of fear on a daily basis. He wants me to experience the joy of live a free and full life!  

Today what intentional steps may you need to once and for all conquer the beast of fear in your life? Your loving, gracious, powerful God is here – ready and wanting – to help you overcome.  

Scott Pilgrim