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16th September 2021
Yesterday, today and tomorrow - part two.
Where are you spending your time?
The second in a two part series on Resilience by Tracey Smith
Last month I talked about the downsides to living our lives too much in either the past or the future, and how God spends time in His word discouraging us from doing too much of either one. When we do, we try to cram yesterday, today and tomorrow into each single day, and we weren’t designed to cope with that load. God doesn’t give us tomorrow’s strength today, He gives us today’s measure and tomorrow, there will be more. Not even grace is given for the future – until you get there. God’s solution is for us to choose to live our lives one day at a time.
Yet, for many of us, staying present is a daily battle and it makes it hard to enjoy the good things when they come along.
“I try to take it one day at a time, but sometimes several days attack me at once.” Ashleigh Brilliant
In Psalm 118:24 we are told to rejoice in today, this is the day the Lord has made. It’s not about rejoicing in yesterday or tomorrow, but today, this day. If not, we’d be like a gold medallist at the Olympics who instead of savouring the moment as their flag is raised and their anthem is sung, is missing it because they are already thinking about tomorrow.
What are the tools we can use to help focus on one day at a time?
- Learn not to listen to fears
- Learn to be thankful for each day’s blessings
- Learn to trust in God’s enabling for each day
- Evaluate what matters most
- Be transformed by the renewing of your mind
Learn not to listen to fears – this does take practice. Writer Jean Williams struggled with this when in the fourth year of dealing with her son’s chronic illness her husband was diagnosed with cancer. She writes: “I lived on edge, at the point of panic, convinced that in the very next moment, my fears would knock on the door and walk straight in”. Her turning point came when she learned to acknowledge her anxious thoughts but not dwell on them. She would say to herself, “Yep, that’s interesting, another anxious thought. Another fear. But I choose not to listen. I choose not to engage”. Jean learned to give her fears to God rather than steeling herself to face them. I take Jean’s example one step further, and after choosing not to engage I bat the anxiety on to God – think of a golf swing, a tennis serve or an Aussie Rules hand pass.
“The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.” Abraham Lincoln
Learn to be thankful for each day’s blessings – this is a tool to keep you in the here and now. Give thanks for whatever home you are in right now, and for whatever you have that will help you get through this day, and this one only. I can remember it being modelled to me by my grandparents when I was a child, to give thanks for the roof over our head when it was raining, for food on the table, for hot water to shower in. I still give thanks for hot showers! Often when I am spending quiet time with the Lord I have a cup of tea in hand, and I savour the warmth of the mug, especially when my hands are sore. I can remember many times when my mind has been racing and God has encouraged me to stop and take note of all the sounds I can hear. To focus on your senses and what you can give thanks for, the things you can feel, see, hear, smell and taste helps you to be present in the moment and not be rushing ahead into the future.
Learn to trust in God’s enabling for each day – this takes practice and intentionality. Make it a habit to ask yourself if you have all you need for the day ahead, and if the answer is no, ask God for what you lack. There will be days when you may be asking for God’s provision several times a day, maybe every hour or even every minute on particularly anxious days. That’s okay. It is about practising being present with God. If you feel yourself slipping into the future and into overwhelm about whatever is coming up, acknowledge the worry, give it over to God and gently (and without condemnation) bring yourself back to the now.
Evaluate what matters most – being able to set priorities releases you to plan for the future and move on without lingering there – as that is the time that planning can easily turn to worry. Planning allows you to visit the future, but worry is what keeps you there. My daughter is expecting a baby in January and my priority is to fulfil her wishes and be with her for the birth. However, she lives in regional New South Wales and if the current Covid restrictions remain, I need to be out of Greater Sydney for 14 days prior to her giving birth so I can be with her – otherwise the hospital will turn me away. But who can predict when a baby will arrive? I need to make decisions based upon what is most likely, put the appropriate plans in place and leave everything in God’s hands – including my daughter and her bub. If planning moves into worry and I spend time contemplating any number of scenarios that could stop me being with her, I am robbed of peace.
Worry is the friend of anxiety and the enemy of faith – Arlene Sanabria.
Be transformed by the renewing of your mind – The situation with my daughter is fertile territory for the enemy to strike. He could fill my mind with the what-ifs, taunt me with any number of upsetting or disastrous scenarios. I must choose to fight his destructive thought bombs.
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5
Philippians 4:8 is a useful filter through which you can put your thoughts:
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
When you identify what contradicts this verse in your life, you can toss the offending thoughts aside and intentionally focus on what does meet these criteria right now.
There will of course be some days where it’s hard to see anything good at all – and these are the times where you ask for God’s help. Ask Him to show you one good thing you can give thanks for. I still remember a cheesecake-loving friend many years ago who shared that when he was feeling low and needed encouragement from God, He would ask Him for cheesecake. Cheesecake could be an encouraging word from a boss, a win with his kids, an opportunity to spend an hour by the water … all things that would bless his spirit. God loves to give good gifts to His children, and it’s okay to ask!
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. Matthew 7:7
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17
All the strategies outlined here have been a great help in my quest to follow God’s leading and live life one day at a time. It isn’t always easy – and even since writing part one of this series last month, new things have cropped up which threaten my peace. So, I set to practicing what I preach! I stop and ask myself “do I have what I need for today? Am I okay today?”. I ask about today, my present, that sole compartment of time that God created for me to walk within with Him. He knows about tomorrow. I can leave that to Him.
It takes practice and intentionality to live one day at a time, but like all the ways of God, it will bring you greater peace - and make you more resilient.
13th August 2021
Yesterday, today and tomorrow
Where are you spending your time?
The first in a two part series on Resilience by Tracey Smith
What comes to mind when you hear the word ‘resilience’?
For me, I am reminded of a toy I received as a kid one Christmas – it was a blow-up character as big as I was, weighted in the bottom with sand. Every time he got a whack he would bobble all over the place, sometimes even ending up horizontal. Yet he always returned to his upright position with his happy grin in-tact.
Resilience is defined by the dictionary in two ways: the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties, toughness; and the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape, elasticity. The American Psychological Association define it as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress—such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors.
What do you do when the trials and tribulations of life send you tottering – or even knock you flat? Are you resilient? Is it possible to be resilient when the blows just keep on coming?
One of the best tools I have found for resilience is to make every effort to live life one day at a time. But I can’t take credit for the concept – this was all God’s idea.
God created the world in day-length compartments of time and exhorts us continually in His word to consider each day on its own when it comes to His provision of whatever we need to get us through. Consider His gift of manna to the Israelites in Exodus 16:19-20. If the people tried to store up more than they needed for a single day, the manna would spoil. In Lamentations 3:22 we are reminded that God’s mercies towards us are new every morning. Every single day there are new mercies provided, in a never-ending supply.
“I live one day at a time, one day at a time. Yesterday’s gone and tomorrow is blind, so I live one day at a time.” Willie Nelson
I recently listened to a series on the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 by Sheridan Voysey and in that, Jesus has much to say about living one day at a time.
When teaching us how to pray in Matthew 6:11 Jesus said “Give us this day our daily bread”. What He was demonstrating was that we should ask God to cover what we need for each day as it comes – not only for food, but for provision of whatever we need. He goes on to tell us in Matthew 6:33 that we shouldn’t worry about tomorrow, because that is something the heathens do – because they don’t have God. Instead, Jesus encourages us to seek God first, His kingdom and His righteousness, and all the things we need will be added to us. And just to emphasise the need to take one day at a time, in verse 34 he acknowledges that each day has enough troubles of its own to deal with, so stick to today and do not worry about tomorrow.
Yet, how many of us when faced with a crisis – as well as the ongoing one that has engulfed the world for the last eighteen months – fall back on living in the past or worrying about tomorrow? Writer Arlene Sanabria identifies worry as the friend of anxiety and the enemy of faith.
My life has been full of all kinds of terrible events and tragedies, most of which never happened. French Philosopher
I’m sure in some way or another we have all pined for our pre-Covid lives. Yet God exhorts us in Isaiah 43:18 to forget the former things and not to dwell on the past. There isn’t much compromise in these instructions – forget, and do not dwell. And for good reason. If we have things in our past that dog us, revisiting them can stunt our growth and stand in the way of our success. The recent Olympics provided many examples of athletes who faltered, suffered injuries or failed to meet their own goals for success and yet pushed on to compete and in some cases achieve a podium finish. A case in point is Australian track cyclist Alex Porter who crashed at the velodrome when his handlebars snapped during the team pursuit. He was thrown over the bike and hit the track headfirst at 65kph. The team had been considered top contenders prior to the crash and if they had remained mired in the setback, they would have thrown away any chance to medal at all. They regrouped and managed to fight their way back through a knockout round to win the bronze medal.
But perhaps you’re someone whose focus is more on the future?
For all of us, the future is an unknown. It is never guaranteed. As the world is so accelerated, sometimes it is necessary to plan ahead, but there is a difference between planning and worrying. Plan, yes. Worry? No. When we only focus on the future, our eyes are on the possible pitfalls that may lie ahead, or we can get caught up in playing the ‘when and then’ game. When I finish studying, then I’ll start living. When I get married, then I’ll be happy. When I have kids/my kids leave home/ I retire, then ...
“The life of faith is lived one day at a time, and it has to be lived – not always looked forward to as though the “real” living were around the next corner. It is today for which we are responsible. God still owns tomorrow.” Elisabeth Elliot
Or we can play one of the enemy’s greatest hits – the ‘what if’ game. If we fail to recognise the difference between what if and what is, our daily companion can be fear itself. It’s true that bad things can happen today and on any single day, but if we focus all our attention on our distress and on possible consequences as opposed to solutions, we are putting our energy into what psychologists call ruminating. This focus on everything negative leads us to believe things are worse than they actually are, and it also has a name – catastrophizing.
The thoughts we allow to dominate us become patterns, and whenever we entertain them it’s like exercising a muscle – the more you use it, the stronger it gets. Thoughts become attitudes, attitudes become habits, habits builds character and our character determines our destiny. If our thoughts are full of ruminating and catastrophizing we will end up with sand as our foundations. The storms come to all of us as the pandemic has shown, but how we weather our storms depends largely on what we’ve built our foundations on.
So, there are some real dangers to living in either the past or the future – which just leaves the present – that one day at a time. I have been amazed at the change in my level of peace since I stopped giving lip service to one day at a time and started actually listening to God and being intentional about it. Sarah Young, in her popular devotional Jesus Calling talks about our minds being something like a seesaw, saying that when our trust in God goes up, our fear and worry automatically go down. Next month in part two of this series on resilience we will look at this in more detail as well as some other tools to help with shifting our focus from our yesterdays and tomorrows in order to find the peace that is there for the taking - today.
16th July 2021
The Power of Story
by Tracey Smith
As human beings we have an insatiable hunger for stories. They are fundamental to who we are and how we build our connections to each other.
We may think of stories as just a means of entertainment, but they are so much more. Stories connect us. When we meet someone for the first time, we usually ask to hear their story, not a list of random facts or unrelated information. Like any good book or movie, our stories will have a recognisable arc – a beginning, some twists and turns and a resolution. Our stories help us explain our differences, bridge divides between cultures and age groups and build our relationships – all of which are key to developing strong communities.
Telling stories began as an oral tradition as people sought to recreate the memory of a significant event or depict everyday life. The telling and retelling of stories was relied upon by the early church to get the message out. After the death and resurrection of Jesus, it was left to his followers to tell their stories, carrying on the memory of who He was and what He had done. They shared stories of his life and death and what He taught when He was with them, told from their own personal viewpoints. Telling their stories helped them share Jesus with others as well as helping their own understanding of Him. When telling moved to writing, they shared how Jesus used stories himself to communicate with those around him. Jesus often told these stories as parables and they served many purposes – to teach and to share his life, to answer questions and communicate truths, to condemn the religious leaders and to help those that would come after to understand Him and His purposes.
Bible Gateway says that 70% of the Bible is estimated to be stories. Everything in it is meant to be there, no accidents. If God’s Story of Redemption is the overarching theme, every piece of it – letter, parable, song, prophecy, proverb and prayer connects us as readers to the bigger whole. In the present day, these stories are still being shared across the world.
One powerful example is The Chosen, a multi-season television series about the life of Jesus which currently has the distinction of being the highest crowd-funded media project of all time. It is available to watch for free and funds are currently being raised for the third of a proposed six series. Here is how it introduces you to some of the characters and their stories:
A charismatic fisherman drowning in debt. A troubled woman wrestling with real demons. A gifted publican ostracized by his family and his people. A religious leader struggling with his beliefs. See Jesus through the eyes of those who met him.
The Bible has much to say about the importance of continually telling our stories.
We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done.
One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts.
Tell it to your children, and let your children tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation.
When Moses gave the ten commandments to the people, he gave them with this instruction in Deuteronomy 6:6-9
6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
Perhaps my favourite is where God brings Jesus and the power of story together:
Revelation 12:11a They triumphed over him (Satan) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.
He tells us that not only do we have victory with Jesus, but that our telling of His mighty deeds is a crucial weapon in our fight against an enemy that would seek to keep us wounded, helpless or broken hearted.
Our team here at Ellel recently had a time of sharing where everyone was asked to bring an item and to explain how that item fitted into their faith journey with Jesus. Everyone was different as of course we, and our stories are. In one small group alone we had a pen, a mirror, a pocket knife and a picture frame, each one illustrating a memory of how Jesus had changed our lives.
What are the stories you can tell about Jesus?
Can I encourage you to think about your story with Jesus? What item would you choose to illustrate your story? Then, give some thought to who you could share your story with. There is triumph when we share what the Lord has done! And if you find yourself in lockdown today, think about who you could reach out to and share your story. Our physical movements may be restricted but our stories don’t have to be.
Tell your story again.
11th June 2021
Are The Feels Taking You Over?
by Tracey Smith
A relationship break-up is one we hear a lot about in popular culture. Barry Gibb of Bee Gees fame wrote about it in his song for Samantha Sang in 1978 called Emotions. It went something like this:
In the words of a broken heart, it’s just emotion that’s taking me over
Tied up in sorrow, lost in my soul
Many of our songs and movies have made us familiar with the range of emotions we can experience, tugging on our heartstrings and bringing a deep emotional response. Think Casablanca, Love Story, The Shack, The Notebook. In the parlance of more modern times, a profound emotional reaction to something is called having “all the feels”.
Oxford Dictionaries defines “the feels” as “feelings of heightened emotion,” and gives several examples: … “I cried a ton because I had too many feels” … “I cry at everything, even the types of movies you wouldn’t expect to give you all the feels.”
We’re born with all the feels. You can see a child expressing emotions by laughing, crying or cuddling long before they can put a name to what they are feeling and why. In a perfect world, as we get older, with practice and good modelling to follow we become familiar with what we are feeling and why – it’s called becoming emotionally aware.
Ah – but that perfect world doesn’t exist. Most of us have experienced emotions taking us over, tying us up and feeling all the feels in anything but a pleasant way.
The reality is, emotions are normal - neither good nor bad. They come and go, can be mild, strong or in-between and tell us a lot about ourselves and the situations we find ourselves in. How we do or don’t express them can have a lot to do with our cultural background and family values, influences we have right from the get-go. A teacher can look at any group of children in their classroom and see a range of learned rules for dealing with emotions that are unproductive – such as:
Jacob ignores his feelings, stuffing them down.
Isabella always has to be happy, no matter what.
William only trusts logic and fact. Feelings don’t count.
Emma believes it’s never okay to be angry.
Jayden doesn’t trust anyone.
Olivia can’t bear to cause anyone to feel unhappy or cross.
Noah believes if others are mean to him, it must be his fault.
Ava feels frightened when people argue and goes out of her way to keep the peace.
Ethan withdraws from his classmates.
Olivia pouts and can’t let go of angry feelings.
Matthew’s behaviour is always over the top.
Madison is a drama queen – everything is wonderful or terrible, there’s no middle ground.
Daniel will do anything to fit in.
In a group of say, ten year olds, this might not seem like an unusual cross section of behaviours. You may have read the list and identified with any or all. I know I certainly ticked a few! It may also seem quite acceptable in children of primary school age. But what’s ahead? Puberty. Adolescence. Young adulthood. The times where we are making decisions and choices for our lives to come. What if we haven’t had any opportunity to change these behaviours and instead take them with us into our adult lives?
Sadly, we do.
It’s quite likely that you can think of adults of your acquaintance who exhibit these behaviours, which have now become embedded, a personality trait.
An adult expressing emotions in a negative way can fall into many traps that don’t bode well for having healthy relationships with family, friends, colleagues or significant others. You may recognise the person who because they are upset feels no filter is needed and expresses whatever comes to their mind, whether nasty or nice. Or someone who expects those around him or her to be mind-readers, immediately able to discern the reason for a change in mood.
If we can’t get on board with dealing with our emotions in a healthy way, we have no ability to clearly communicate with others in our lives, putting huge strain on our relationships. If we let our emotions build up and don’t have a safe way to let off steam, it all comes back to bite us in the end as emotional build-up plays havoc with our health. If rising stress isn’t sorted, it lingers in our bodies and diabetes, sleep issues, high blood pressure and heart disease can be the result.
Why do we let it go on?
Because we don’t know where to start to help ourselves – and if that’s us, where does it leave our kids?
We have two courses coming up at Ellel Sydney which will give you two great places to begin to unpack your emotions and get on the path to a healthier, more peaceful life. The first is a one day course on June 26 – Understanding Emotions. This will be followed on July 9-10 by Inside Out – Exploring Inner Damage and Healing.
We're bringing you two bites at the cherry to help you deal with all the feels. There's no better time to start.
16th April 2021
Where Have You Placed Your Memory Stones?
by Tracey Smith
Memories can evoke so many positive experiences and seasons from life, and nothing does that more for me than music. Gone are the days when as a teenager I would sit by the radio with my cassette recorder, my fingers poised on the record and play buttons in an effort to best capture my own personal top 40.
Today, I turn to Spotify, a boon for recreating playlists of the fabulous music from my youth. I can simply search on the song titles I want and create a playlist to suit every mood. Now when songs I had forgotten come on the radio, I search Spotify for them, adding them to my ever-growing collection of great memories. Aussie favourites, gentle instrumental, movie soundtracks, eras, single artists or groups, they are all there at my fingertips ready to be played for whatever mood takes me.
But no one’s younger years are ever free of sad memories either. I was reminded of this when recently watching the three-part ABC series Exposed: The Ghost Train Fire. This programme investigated the tragic fire at Sydney’s iconic Luna Park in June 1979 in which a father and his two little boys, as well as four school mates were killed. This was right in the midst of my high school years and I tried to recreate in my head what the world was like back then, the years when I was trying to record those elusive songs from my radio. The artists that were popular then feature prominently on my Spotify playlists, and songs well recognised today such as The Village People’s YMCA and Gloria Gaynor’s iconic anthem I Will Survive debuted in the first part of 1979. Popular television commercials such as C'Mon Aussie, C'Mon promoting World Series Cricket and Care For Kids for the International Year of The Child also made the Top 40 alongside artists such as Rod Stewart, Smokie, Toto and The Doobie Brothers, and Aussies such as Little River Band, Dragon and The Angels.
I remember the ghost train fire, as you tend to remember other significant news events from your formative years – for me, other examples would be the Granville Train Disaster and Cyclone Tracy. The stories come and go, and the amount of memory evoked depends greatly upon your level of involvement. Childhood seems to be a time when many memories have more stick.
As I watched this doco and saw the spotlight being played upon events that happened forty plus years ago, it was hard not to be impacted by the passage of the years and the toll this event has taken on each of the people involved. I would see them as they were in 1979, either through photographs or film footage, and then see them as they are now. I wasn’t surprised that those who lost family members in the fire were still distressed today, as such a loss never really goes away. But I was struck by how those with a different level of involvement – from a child pulled from a carriage at the last moment as his schoolmates went into the train before him, to the attendant who sold them their tickets, to people out for an evening of fun who witnessed the event and gave statements to the police, to those involved in the investigation and those who prepared the case for the coroner – all still carried a scar from the experience ... either from the trauma itself or that being compounded by the uncovering of how they had been misled and duped by those in authority they had a right to trust.
As I pondered on the contrast between what brings both happy and sad memories to light in our lives, I came across an article written by church planter, Andrew Lisi. God speaks many times in the Bible of creating memorials to help the people remember what was important for them and to stop them from turning to other things that would not be good for them. Lisi wrote of how God had instructed the Israelites in Joshua 4: 19-24 to take twelve stones from the Jordan river, one for each of the tribes of Israel and to place them together as a memorial to God’s mighty works in bringing them out of the slavery of Egypt and into the Promised Land. Lisi drew the parallel to his own life and admitted he was guilty of spending much of his life putting his own memorial stones in the wrong places. Instead of stones designed to remind him of the many ways God had come through for Him, his memories more often than not drifted to stones of rejection, loss, utter discouragement and abandonment. For him, these things haunted him and particularly at times when he found himself mired in bitterness, anger, self-pity or unforgiveness. These stones were definitely not the ones he wanted to stop and spend time at, and they had little to do with honouring God.
Do you do the same? Where have you placed your memory stones?
We all have those times when we get stuck visiting our negative stones and find ourselves spending a little too long there. Let’s face it, we have an enemy who every day of the week would try and sell us tickets on a bus ride to those sad and tragic places. I feel so fortunate to have had the teaching from Ellel to help me recognise when I am getting myself caught in those destructive journeys and to get proactive in asking God to get me off the bus ride to misery and back on the right pathway – the one where my positive memory stones are there to strengthen my heart.
It is through those eyes that I feel my heart so impacted by the trauma of those touched by the Ghost Train Fire. Because I have God to work through my traumas with, I have Him to help me with the injustices in life that could otherwise eat me alive, or the losses that would keep me locked in grief. It was hard knowing these victims should never have lost their lives, their families should not have to be grieving decades on, and the perpetrators should never have escaped justice. Traumas and tragedies happen every single day, and regardless of whether they make the nightly news (as Skyhooks reminded us in Horror Movie) people can remain trapped in them as if they happened yesterday. All I could think of was how on earth do you cope when you don’t have God?
What’s your Ghost Train Fire? What’s your train disaster, your cyclone, the memorial stone you have that lives in the wrong place and you too often feel drawn to revisit? If you leave it as is, you might as well be spending time creating a playlist of every song that reminds you of everything sad and negative and hurtful in your life.
At Ellel, we can help you connect to God. When you build your relationship with Him, He can help you set a new course for your life – give you a hand to get off the wrong bus and help you choose memorial stones that will bless your journey. There could even be a new playlist to go with it.
With thanks to Wikipedia Commons for image of Sydney Luna Park Ghost Train Fire Memorial Plaque
14th March 2021
All Good Gifts ...
by Tracey Smith
Recently, a member of our team presented a devotional on joy. She shared what brought her joy, and asked everyone to spend some quiet time considering the same. It quickly became obvious that the causes for joy were as varied as the people who shared them. With permission, here are some examples:
“rounding a bend in the river and looking up to see the most breathtaking waterfall, and then shortly after, jumping into the freezing cold water and feeling chills go all through your body”
“when you take someone to try ice-skating for the first time … when they move from clinging to the wall to skating unassisted … when their whole person lights up with unhindered, pure, childlike joy … that brings me joy … seeing someone so proud of what they have accomplished”
“Two fundamental elements usually exist in bringing me joy – family and friends, and being outside in Daddy’s Playground”
“Memories that make me giggle … this week I watched the trailer for the new Tom and Jerry movie and my spirit lifted with every gag and pratfall”
“Seeing my dog run at full pelt and how much she loves it”
“Getting to spend time with my grandson, him asking me to carry him, watching his delight at rocks, trees, ‘cow cows’ and trucks”
“Sitting in the sun with some good friends just laughing and chatting about life”
What brings you joy?
This question prompted me to look more deeply into joy. I discovered a lot of contrary opinion, mainly focussing on the differences between joy and happiness. The dictionary defines joy as:
“A feeling of great pleasure and happiness”
This seems to indicate happiness is something that comes with joy.
Theologian and pastor John Piper describes joy thus:
“Joy is a good feeling in the soul, produced by the Holy Spirit, as He causes us to see the beauty of Christ in His word, His work and His world”.
The Holy Spirit is the producer of joy in the soul. It doesn’t happen by magic and as Piper says of the Holy Spirit, “He doesn’t just flip a switch, and you rejoice with no mental content whatsoever”. The Holy Spirit causes us through the gift of joy to see the glory and beauty of Jesus, one of the fruits of the Spirit from Galatians 5:22-23. He helps us see Jesus everywhere – in His Word, His works and His world.
Joy is a gift to us from God.
In James 1:17 it says:
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
I see this verse reflected in an old hymn familiar to many by its first line: We Plough the Fields and Scatter. It started out as a poem written by a German newspaperman, Matthew Claudius (1740-1815) who, despite growing up in a Christian family and being the son of a Lutheran pastor, found himself turning from his faith after spending much of his time with the philosophers of his day, notably Goethe. However, a serious and unexpected illness caused him to rethink. How often does that happen to people! Claudius’s poem was published in 1782, put to music in 1800 and translated into English in 1861. It became one of the most performed hymns in the UK.
For me, I came to know it through the 1970s musical Godspell, where it appeared in shortened form as the song All Good Gifts.
The chorus says:
All good gifts around us
Are sent from Heaven above;
Then thank the Lord, O thank the Lord,
For all His love.
When I consider the words of the first verse, I am reminded of how reliant we are on God for the fruits, the harvest of anything we do:
We plough the fields and scatter
The good seed on the land,
But it is fed and watered
By God's almighty hand:
He sends the snow in winter,
The warmth to swell the grain,
The breezes and the sunshine,
And soft refreshing rain.
We see God in what He does, as well as in His people, His gifts, His creation – food, nature, songs - all the good things He gives. As I consider the examples my teammates shared of joy as well as my own, I can see God’s hand in every single one. The joy these things bring to us remind us of God’s goodness, His good gifts – and they point us back to Him. We are reminded of His goodness, an encouragement in the difficult times when we are trying to see the way He is making for us through our trials.
Yes, all the things we shared with each other made us happy. But in seeing God’s hand at work in each of them, happiness is transcended and the Holy Spirit shows us joy – deeper, sustaining joy.
What brings you joy? What are the good gifts God has given you? Why not take some time to consider this today.
12th February 2021
Love Letter to the Slow Learner
'Duh' - a word to signify ignorance or lack of comprehension.
By Tracey Smith
Ah, slowing down.
God has been speaking to me for years about slowing down – yes, years because the truth is, I have been a very slow learner. What a bonus it is that He is a patient God!
You would think the enforced slowdown brought upon us in various forms in 2020 would have afforded me greater opportunity to get on the same page with God about this. It only takes a quick look at the diversity of media that comes across my desk to see I’m not the only one in need of some help in this area. Most has something to say about how to cope with our changing circumstances and the enforced slowdown it has brought. When we are forced to cut back on just about every activity known to man, why don’t we feel more peace? It seems something of a conundrum that the most popular solution to the slowdown seems to be – crazy I know – slow down!
The difference lies in what needs to be slowed down.
We can slow our physical pace and the number of activities that crowd our days, but if our minds are still racing at the speed of a bullet train then it’s highly unlikely we will find peace, or rest … or God. It’s our minds that need to get with the programme.
So, has this slow learner found anything to help slow a racing mind?
God gave me a yardstick against which I can make decisions about culling what is cluttering my thought life and keeping me in a state of perpetual unrest – and it was this:
Stick with what will benefit you, or bring you joy.
Remind you of something?
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:8
I began to look at what was regularly filling my mind and moved to cull anything unnecessary. The first area I tackled was my emails, and I set about unsubscribing from anything that brought me no benefit or joy. I then looked at my mobile phone, cut my notifications to a minimum and did a good clean-out of any needless apps.
But finding mental peace isn’t just about cutting out the chaos. In the same way we are swept clean when we first come to faith in Jesus, allowing room for the Holy Spirit to come and fill us, I found decluttering created room for some positive content. So, don’t be surprised when I tell you that for me, this has come in the form of a couple of new apps on my phone.
We know how important it is to stay in the vine, to be reading our Bibles on a regular basis. I’ve tried to do this over many years, and I think I managed to complete a Bible-in-a-year reading programme … once. But for some reason, I have struggled to be regular and certainly have felt it more of a duty than a joy. Until I started listening to the Bible every day. Given the popularity of audio books and podcasts this may be a ‘duh’ moment for some of you, but remember, I’m a slow learner. But, better late than never to the party, I say! I am listening to an audio bible, choosing a bible-in-a year format and making it part of my mornings – and I am loving it. I’ve always wanted to look forward to the Bible and now I do, and I’m sure it’s no coincidence that since I began, my usually heightened anxiety level has been dulled down and an unfamiliar but gentle sense of contentment has begun to make itself known.
You may note that the book of the month featured in this newsletter is John Eldredge’s Get Your Life Back, with the wonderfully apt subtitle Everyday Practices for a World Gone Mad. To complement the content of his book, he created an app called The One Minute Pause which is designed to help listeners slow their minds and pause regularly to spend time with God. I have added this to my day and I am so enjoying the opportunities it brings to guide my mind in the direction of Philippians 4:8.
Last month I recommended Sarah Young’s devotional Jesus Calling – Enjoying Peace in His Presence. This book fits well under my umbrella of bringing benefit and joy. As I am writing this to you, her reading for today says this:
Let Me be your positive Focus. When you look to Me, knowing Me as God with you, you experience joy. This is according to my ancient design, when I first crafted man. Modern man seeks his positive focus elsewhere: in sports, sensations, acquiring new possessions. Advertising capitalises on the longing of people for a positive focus in their lives. I planted that longing in human souls, knowing that only I could fully satisfy it.
I know that longing.
For me, finding that positive focus in God hasn’t meant throwing away my mobile or cutting myself off from the electronic world. I can’t slow the world’s pace or impact much of what is happening within it, but I do have the power to choose what I allow into my mind. The timing, the amount, the means – I make the choices and I do it now with God’s yardstick in mind. I’ve finally given myself permission to listen to the love letter He’s so patiently written.
The fruit never tasted so sweet.
22nd January 2021
How to live your best life
It's something worth exploring ...
By Tracey Smith
As each year begins, I watch from the sidelines as our students embark upon the Explore School. As they progress I get to hear their testimonies and see the evidence of the changes that come about in their lives when they discover actual truths about God and about themselves. They come to understand themselves more, and it changes the way they see others and understand them.
Whilst pondering these changes, I encountered a Christian speaker named Lori Schumaker. Lori did what many speakers often do and introduced herself by displaying an image of her family. And what an attractive picture it made – everyone beautifully dressed, a smiling husband and wife and three children in their teens and twenties, two boys and a girl.
Lori pointed out that these are the kinds of photos we often see on social media and compare ourselves to. The perfect little family. Yet, moments like this aren’t the whole story. There’s a whole other life going on in the background and for Lori just one aspect of that is her daughter, adopted from another country at the age of five. The picture doesn’t reveal Lori’s constant battle to help her daughter erase the demons of her past, demons that Lori says have landed her girl in a pit of defiance and brokenness. Failure to do so constantly dogs her mother heart.
My husband teaches with Ellel, and as he introduces himself, he puts up a similar type of family photo. And of course we always choose the one that is the most flattering.
We all do it, don’t we?
So what is the best version of me? My family photo wouldn’t be that different to Lori’s – it would be my favourite image of my husband and I, our daughter and our son and his new wife, all happy and smiling … The bottom line is that without God and the work we have done with Him, I seriously doubt whether these five people would ever be able to stand smiling together after the camera was put away.
Any photograph is only a snapshot in time and doesn’t show the battles we’ve had to face to get to that image. The hurdles, the wounds, the clashes, the tears.
Oh, the tears.
It doesn’t show any of those things, nor the challenges we’re currently facing.
There’s so much to uncover about yourself when you’re in relationship with other people – and that covers pretty much everyone on this planet. I still wonder why I respond to things the way I do, or why some things deeply impact me yet seem to pass others by. Even though my children are grown and have left home, as I continue to explore with God there are still things I’m uncovering about myself that I pray will make me a better person, woman, wife, mother and hopefully grandmother one day. These discoveries began when I first heard the Explore teachings back in 2003 and those discoveries never end as long as I’m willing to continue that exploration with God, knowing that in the end it will produce a harvest.
I have discovered two definitions of the word explore. One is ‘to travel through unfamiliar areas to learn about them’ and the other is ‘to inquire into a subject and discuss it in more detail’. Our Explore school provides the opportunity for both. You wouldn’t think your life counts as an unfamiliar area, but there are always surprising discoveries to be made behind the carefully curated images of our lives. You have the opportunity to inquire into your life and discuss it in more detail, and at the same time you are exploring God and uncovering unknown things about Him. I wonder what your image of God might look like. A pretty one you’d be proud to frame, or one you want to snap the family album shut on? There is so much to discover about who He is, and most importantly, who He is to you.
I can see now why we love to see the photos of our students at the start of an Explore year and then see their faces at the end, bearing witness to the enormous difference God has made in them in just ten weekends. Most importantly, they see the change themselves, because they’re living it. They are different. They’re in a much better place and well positioned for whatever is to come.
So how about you?
Explore is open to everyone 18 years and over. This is your chance to rid yourself of whatever is standing in the way of you discovering the best version of yourself – the person God intended you to be. Take a snapshot now, before you enrol and put it on your fridge. When you take another one at the end and place them side by side, you’ll know the miracles, the healing, the light bulb moments and the compassion that the journey has brought you. If you sign up for the first Explore weekend, The Big Picture: Exploring God’s Foundation for Your Life, you’ll get 25% off this course!
So, come exploring in 2021. It’s the best investment you could ever make in ‘living your best life’.
2nd December 2020
From utterly lost to passionate about life...
How did I get there?
By Kate Willcox
Drinking, smoking, anorexic, depressed and utterly lost - that’s how I wrapped up 2017. It had been a tough couple of years and it seemed like the more choices I made, the worse my life became. I felt like I was drowning in my own life, with no end in sight, at least not a sight my human eyes could see. I had grown up in church, hearing the teaching of God but never truly experiencing it, not until I came to do the Year of Discipleship and Training (YDT).
2018, my first year in YDT was the year I’ll never forget, nor will my family for that matter. If I’m honest I only signed up to do the Discipleship program because I was unsure of the next step in life, yet it was the second-best decision I’ve ever made (The first was accepting Jesus into my heart). My first day of YDT, 6th January 2018 at 7am, I had my very last cigarette ever. After being a smoker for four years and struggling daily with quitting, to be able to just stop cold turkey was a true blessing from God! During the next few months, my physical appearance changed as my heart began the discipleship and healing journey. Growing out my natural hair, gaining weight to a healthy BMI, my skin brightening on the account of not drinking or smoking, the transformation in the physical was noticeable. As much as that was amazing, I must say the greatest change happened in my heart.
I never thought I was a capable person, I was very fearful and the way I viewed God was through an image of lies. I thought He was constantly angry, distant, cruel and just downright disappointed in me and because of those beliefs I struggled to connect with Him…go figure! Every Explore A School event (the school YDT students do) unravelled both me and that web of lies I had about God. It was painful, that’s for sure, but it was pain that had always been there. Pain I had covered over with drugs and other things to deal with. Yet God didn’t want to just “deal with it”. He wanted to heal it…to heal me.
In April I went home to family in Melbourne and to say they were shocked by both my external and internal transformation is an understatement. They just couldn’t believe how happy I was, even after coming off my anti-depressants. One person I know actually turned back to God wholeheartedly because of the change they saw God had brought in my life. Then because they gave their heart back to God, someone they know saw their transformation and gave their heart to God again! That’s when I knew, this YDT program was not going to just affect me, but it touches those around me and I know will even affect my children and their children.
After one incredible year of God shaking my rocky foundations of faith and beliefs, I thought I was finished with YDT. I packed up and moved back to Melbourne over Christmas, until I felt so strongly that God was actually calling me back for a second year of YDT. Now second year was tough, but incredible! God took me deeper into my healing journey, as well as to a level of intimacy I can’t describe. My first year was a whirlwind of love and affection for God, yet my second year was almost as if God was “courting” me! Through His pursuit of my heart, and my willingness to receive more of His love and affirmation… it developed a deep mutual trust and respect between me and God that has forever changed how I relate to Him. Not only did my relationship with God grow deeper, but my foundations and beliefs grew stronger – and so did my confidence in myself.
By the end of 2019, my second year, I truly believed I could do anything God would call me into to…and that’s exactly what happened. I was invited to stay on and volunteer at Ellel for 2020 doing the YDT marketing. “I love my job” is something the team here have heard me say 1000 times this year, but if I had never done YDT there is no way I would’ve had the confidence or passion to step into a role that I love. I also know that this ability to trust in God and to step into what He’s calling me into, will last a lifetime.
You know how people invest in property and years later they reap the returns? I believe that is exactly what I have done by doing the YDT. I started by investing just one year into my healing journey, discipleship and relationship with God and I will continue to reap the returns for the rest of my life. Now that’s not a bad deal if you ask me!
And now? I’m finishing 2020 in love with God, a non-smoker, off anti-depressants, a healthy weight and completely excited and passionate about life.
If you are between 18 and 25 and want to turn your life around (or know someone who does but has no idea how) then think about the Year of Discipleship and Training here at Ellel Sydney. I would not be the same person I am today had it not been for that leap of faith I took in signing up for the YDT program three years ago and I thank God every day that I did.
5th November 2020
Gillian wasn't a problem child ...
What happened to a little life when the truth about her was revealed.
By Tracey Smith
I spent some time recently doing some research on creativity, discovering some things I knew and much I didn’t. Creativity in the business world has become a hot topic. Jody Rosen, writing for the New York Times last year said the term “creative” has become a juggernaut, and the term seems to place people on opposing sides of a prickly fence. One side believes everyone is creative. The other argue there must be differentiation between creative people and those who can call themselves ‘a creative’. To be ‘a creative’ gives entry to those meetings designed to uncover the next big thing in marketing to the world’s consumers. Roger Beaty, Postdoctoral Fellow in Cognitive Neuroscience at Harvard University says scientific researchers go so far as to differentiate between little ‘c’ and big ‘c’ creativity. It appears creativity has become something of a worldly hot potato!
Yet through the angst-ridden articles emerged a story that inspired me. It came through an equally inspiring character; Sir Ken Robinson and a TED talk he gave back in 2015 asking Do Schools Kill Creativity? If the number of articles that quote his YouTube phenomenon can be believed (which at this time of writing has north of 19 million views) what he says about creativity has set a fiery cat amongst the proverbial pigeons.
During this talk he shares about his friend Gillian Lynne, a story he also chooses to open the book he subsequently wrote in 2009 called The Element – How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything.
As a child, Gillian couldn’t sit still. She was a terrible fidget, couldn’t get her homework done on time and was a distraction in the classroom. At the age of eight, her teacher called her mother in and told her she thought Gillian had a learning difficulty and needed to see a specialist. Her mother made the appointment and as they entered his imposing oak-panelled consulting room, Gillian sat down nervously on her hands, trying desperately to keep still. She was terrified of the thought of a ‘special school’ and as she listened to her mother share, she increasingly felt this was where she was headed.
The doctor came and sat next to her, thanking her for being so patient. He asked her to be patient for just a little longer while he spoke to her mother in private. As they left the room, the doctor turned on the radio on his desk, and after closing the door behind him, he suggested to Mrs Lynne that they simply watch. From an unseen window, they saw Gillian instantly get to her feet and begin moving to the music. After a few minutes the doctor said to Mrs Lynne:
“Gillian isn’t sick. She’s a dancer. Get her into a dance school”.
Mrs Lynne took the doctor’s advice and for the first time, Gillian entered a wonderful world where she met other people like her – as she described it, “people who needed to move to think’’.
This young girl who was thought to have a learning difficulty went on to be accepted into the Royal Ballet School, graduated to the Royal Ballet Company, had a successful career as a soloist and founded her own dance company. After retiring from dance she met Andrew Lloyd Webber and went on to choreograph his classic musicals Cats and The Phantom of the Opera. Her work brought pleasure to people the world over. She became a multi-millionaire and was awarded Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2014 for services to dance and musical theatre. The New London Theatre, where the original West End production of Cats played, was officially renamed the Gillian Lynne Theatre, making her the first non-royal woman to have a West End theatre named after her. Dame Gillian Lynne passed away in 2018, aged 92.
As Ken shared, if Gillian had been born in recent decades, she might have been put on medication and told to calm down. But she wasn’t. What was the difference? He writes:
“… because someone looked deep into her eyes, someone who had seen children like her before and knew how to read the signs … Gillian wasn’t a problem child and didn’t need to go to a special school. She just needed to be who she really was”.
From what I have learned through my time with Ellel, through my own journey to rediscover my creativity and witnessing countless others doing the same thing, never a truer word has been said. When we operate in our creativity, we are being who we really are. When truly ourselves, we are creative, being who our Creator designed us to be. When stuff gets in the way, when damage is caused, when someone does something to set us on a path in the opposite direction to what God intended, the person we were created to be becomes increasingly out of our own reach.
Throughout my seventeen year association with Ellel, the name Fiona Horrobin has been synonymous with reuniting us with our creativity and our creator God. I remember well her teaching Healing Through Creativity when I did the NETS training school at Ellel in the UK in 2004. Now in 2020, she has at last put into book form the gems God has revealed to her over the years for using creativity to set His people free and release them into who He intended them to be.
You can pre-order your copy of Healing Through Creativity for the special price of $44 by calling the office on (02) 4633 8102 or going to our online store. Once the book arrives here at Ellel Sydney, it will revert to the recommended retail price of $50.
As many have found, creativity can open the door to healing and help you get in touch with the person God created you to be. Fiona's book gives you a great place to start.
Image of Dame Gillian Lynne courtesy of: ItzKingFran123, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
9th October 2020
Is Your Truth an Illusion?
By Tracey Smith
In Thom Gardner’s book Healing the Wounded Heart, in an appropriately titled chapter called Living the Lies that Bind, he shares a story about his wife Carol. When she was in third grade, she had been asked by her teacher to look after a little girl visiting the classroom who was partially blind. She felt pretty special, seeing this as a big vote of confidence from her teacher. Yet after lunch, the teacher came and told Carol she was going to get someone else to look after the little girl. Carol didn’t recall the reason given, only the humiliation and feeling she wasn’t good enough. This and other similar experiences meant Carol grew up with a feeling of inadequacy and lacked confidence. She heard an inner voice telling her “You can’t do this” or “You’re not good enough for that”.
This reminded me of a similar experience in my own life. When I was in fourth grade, I clearly remember my teacher telling me I would never be any good at maths. In that same year, I was tested and gained a place in an opportunity class for gifted and talented children. Yet my belief in my mathematical inability went with me, to the extent that my grandmother was called into a meeting with my teacher to discuss it. He questioned, “who on earth has convinced this girl she can’t do maths? The results that got her here show the complete opposite!” He was the first in a succession of lovely teachers that tried to help me overcome my problem, but the lie persisted. When my own children were at school, I’d always wave them in their father’s direction for help with maths, not believing I had anything to offer.
It appears both Carol and I were operating under what is known as the illusory truth effect. This psychological phenomenon describes our propensity to start believing statements that are untrue if they are repeated often enough. Psychologist Lynn Hasher says her research team from the University of Toronto first noticed the effect in the 1970s. She says “repetition makes things seem more plausible … and the effect is likely more powerful when people are tired and distracted by other information”. A study in 2012 by researchers at Washington State University showed the illusory truth effect was behind the success of fake news, long before US President Donald Trump coined the term.
Next time you watch your nightly news, stop and consider how many concepts are reported as truth that perhaps five or ten years ago were seen as the exact opposite? Is something now true simply because it has been reported and repeated often enough to become accepted as such?
It appears the technique has been around for quite a while. Adolf Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf: “Slogans should be persistently repeated until the very last individual has come to grasp the idea”.
Journalist Paul Ratner states that the power of the illusory truth effect comes from familiarity – “it’s easier to process information you’ve come across previously”. And in case you’re wondering how we can all be at risk of falling for such lies, studies have shown that the effect is not lessened by intelligence.
If illusory truth depends upon the repetition of lies, why did both Carol Gardner and I accept the lies as truth when they were only stated once?
Enter the father of lies.
In John 8:44, Satan is described thus:
He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
Thom Gardner says “it only takes a little lie to cause a life to come crashing to the ground”. We all know what happened to the world when the serpent got into the ears of Adam and Eve with his lies. The enemy is always prowling, whispering his illusory truths into our ears without ceasing.
You can’t look after this little girl.
You’ll never be good at maths.
Did God really say …?
It’s the enemy’s job to repeat the lies so often they become truth. Illusory truth. We hear it so often we believe it’s true.
When we don’t seek the benefit of real truth, the illusion eats away at our self-esteem and we struggle to believe we are of any value. Family therapist Darlene Lancer says “the gap between the self we show others and how we feel inside widens”. We change our behaviours to suit the lies we believe, bringing about all sorts of unwanted effects such as fear, rejection, worthlessness, shame, insecurity, neediness and hopelessness.
Consider the following statements:
I’ll always be alone
I don’t belong
I’m not good enough
I’ll never be safe
What was done to me was my fault
I’ll never be good at …
Nothing will ever change
Do any of these feel true to you?
What you feel is what you’re familiar with, it’s what you know and the illusory truth effect could be keeping it true for you. Imagine the life you could have if you weren’t held back by the power of illusion.
Thom Gardner’s new online course, Possessing the Land will not only help you unmask your illusions, it will also show you how to defeat the lies in your life using God’s truth. As it says in Hebrews 6:18, God cannot lie.
I know who I’d rather believe.
9th September 2020
The unexpected cost of a well-deserved coffee
By Tracey Smith
It was 4.30pm on a day that had been bigger than most - my first day back in the workforce after ten years of being a stay at home mum. I raced home to pick up my son for rep basketball practice, another forty minute drive in heavy traffic. Seeing him safely there, I decided to take myself around the corner to the nearest McCafe for a well-deserved coffee and some downtime. Little did I know what that decision would cost me in the year to come.
I was halfway there when the traffic came to an abrupt standstill. Nothing unusual in that, particularly at this time of day, but this standstill wasn’t momentary, or even short. It continued for what felt like an eternity. I could see the traffic lights continuously going through their cycle, yet no one was moving. My heart rate accelerated and heat invaded my face, the familiar but dreaded signs of an impending panic attack.
No matter how many times I reassured myself I was safe in my car, that overwhelming feeling of foreboding refused to shift. Of course I prayed to try and calm myself, but no relief. I wanted to bolt, but was paralysed with fear. I wanted to call my husband, but he was a shift worker and I didn’t want to disturb his sleep. I had no choice but to ride it out.
To finally arrive at that McDonalds and wrap my shaking hands around a coffee was an enormous relief. Until I realised I had to do it all again to get back to the stadium.
To cut a long story short, the traffic flowed smoothly as my son and I headed home, and I chalked it up as a random nasty experience. I’d suffered a lot from panic attacks before coming to know Jesus, but thankfully now they were few and far between, though still holding the power to knock me sideways.
The next time I drove the car it was to our local supermarket, and I wasn’t prepared for it to happen again. I was in the carpark, unable to immediately move because someone stopped in front of me. For some reason, being stuck in my car had become a trigger.
This debilitating experience continued for over a year. I was forced to catch the bus to my job as I couldn’t deal with driving. The car had always symbolised my independence, and suddenly it was taken. I implored God to tell me what was going on, and His only response was to prompt me to ask my husband to pick me up from work. There was no way I wanted to wake my husband when he might only have had a couple of hours sleep. But what was the choice? I’m not big on disobeying God, so I swallowed my pride and became what I hated most - dependant.
Eventually, my phobia of driving left me. As I look at it now, I see God used it to help me overcome a major stumbling block in my life - my stubborn independent streak, something that stopped me from asking for help, even from Him. For the season it dogged me, I felt everything a person with anxiety feels – guilt, shame, pumping adrenaline, the urge to flee, failure, panic, confusion, denial and the dreaded dependence. It was a year where I didn’t just walk with God, I clung to Him like a limpet.
According to Beyond Blue, anxiety is the most common mental illness in Australia, and in the USA it’s the most common illness, full stop. Yet, there is a stigma attached to Christians who suffer with it. Often perceived as weakness, it is accompanied by judgements that Christians shouldn’t experience it, should just pray more, believe more, have more faith. I’ll give you the tip right now – none of that is remotely helpful.
God knew we’d suffer from anxiety. That’s why He said to cast our anxieties onto Him (1 Peter 5:7). He knew we’d be afraid so He told us where to put our trust when we are (Psalm 56:3). He told us what to do when we were anxious in Philippians 4:6-7 and nowhere did it include the words ‘stop it!’. God meets us where we are. If that’s in the midst of a traffic jam, supermarket carpark or full blown meltdown, He never tells us to just stop it, get hold of ourselves or any other derisive comment the world might throw our way.
Anxiety is both a spiritual and a mental health issue and as such, is treatable. If someone breaks a leg, we wouldn’t dream of telling them to simply pray more or be a better Christian to heal the break. To hold that opinion for anxiety only keeps the sufferer away from necessary help, leaving them trapped in a fearful world of overthinking, broken sleep and impending doom. Why would we do that to our Christian brothers and sisters?
God didn’t design us to live in this world full of 24/7 multitasking, hustle and striving. Yet He knew it would come, and that many of us would be trapped in its demands. He never promised our lives would be trouble-free, but points us to His son who has overcome the world (John 16:33). He calls on us to be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10), and in that stillness He speaks to us about what to do with what’s weighing us down - including anxiety.
Billy Graham once said “At its best, anxiety distracts us from our relationship with God and the truth that He is Lord of heaven and earth. At its worst, anxiety is a crippling disease, taking over our minds and plunging our thoughts into darkness”.
If you suffer from anxiety, ask God about our upcoming online course Living Free from Stress and Anxiety, with David Cross. You won’t be shamed or told to try harder – but you will hear how Father God can find a way to replace our anxious thoughts with the truth that leads to peace.
7th August 2020
What's Your Dream?
A Calling Journey
By Tracey Smith
When I was in high school, I had a dream to go to university. I was good at English and journalism seemed a good fit for a career. But sometimes, life gets in the way. The unhealed areas in us rear up and it isn’t until perhaps many years down the track that you realise the enemy was in the driver’s seat and your dream has become roadkill.
Is it ever too late for your dreams?
God didn’t think so when it came to my dream to study.
In early 2012, there was a period when no matter where I turned, there would be an advertisement for studying with Open Universities. If I got in the car, it would be on the radio. Turn on the television and up it would come. I’d see big signs on railway stations or roadsides. It got to the point of being so in my face that I knew this was no coincidence and that someone was determined to get my attention.
“Okay, God!” I said. “I’ll look into it!”
That was the start of a six-year journey studying part-time for a degree in Communications. At the time I started, I was working part-time and was a wife and mother with children in high school. It had been thirty years since I finished Year 12, and my family thought I was nuts. My children couldn’t believe anyone would willingly sign up for essays, assignments and deadlines involving study. There was lots of juggling, and decisions I made that made me unpopular. But the glue that held it all together was the knowledge that this was something God wanted for me. It’s a lot easier to walk an unpopular path when you know you’re walking in God’s will.
There were many times over those six years that I would ask God why He wanted me to do this. There had to be a purpose, right? Something I could do for Him with what I was learning? But it was never about that for Him. When I would ask, He’d answer me with a question:
“Are you enjoying it?”
Enjoyment didn’t describe it. I was in my element. I was loving it.
I came to see that this experience was about much more than what I could do for God. It was about giving me back a dream I’d thought was long dead. It was about seeing me getting pleasure and fulfilment and doing something for myself, quite apart from being a wife, a mother, an employee and the other roles I walked in.
It was about using the gifts He’d given me. The ones that had always been there, right back into childhood. The gifts I rediscovered through a course I did in 2009 called Calling.
I discovered that writing is part of the calling God has on my life. The creator of Calling, Gary Barkalow, helped me uncover the breadcrumb trail God had been leaving for me throughout my life, starting way back in childhood. It was there in the movies I liked, the books I favoured, the stories that captured my heart. It was there in the things that brought me joy. It was there in everything I did, providing reasons why some things sapped my soul and others gave me life.
Through Calling I discovered God has placed something unique within me - something only I can bring to this world.
What has He placed in you? What’s your dream?
Gary Barkalow has travelled to Australia to teach Calling at Ellel many times since over the years, and every time I have been excited for another opportunity to uncover something else of what God has implanted in me. There are always new chapters to be revealed. It is eleven years since that momentous first time attending Gary Barkalow’s Calling retreat at Meroo, and God has continued to reveal more layers, more directions, more nuances of the calling He has placed within me.
And Covid doesn’t stand in the way of that process.
Gary has been working on the best way to present Calling for you in 2020, given he can’t travel to be with us as he had planned to this year. The wonderful news is that Calling is going online!
Paul Ryan will be chatting to Gary in a free webinar at 12 noon on Thursday, August 20. This will give you a great introduction to the new online course, A Close Call which will begin soon. I wouldn’t swap the twists and turns of the past eleven years since I did Calling. Don’t let anything stand in the way of you discovering what God has planted in you for your life.
9th July 2020
A new normal?
Five lessons learned from Covid-19
By Tracey Smith
Our base will be re-opening from pause at the beginning of August, and we are wrestling through what our ‘new normal’ will look like. As we walk through a period of history unlike any other in my recollection, what lessons have I learned from this world-wide event?
A quick look around the world wide web will demonstrate the most popular lesson learned is the importance of washing our hands. My grandmother would have loved that one, along with Ignaz Semmelweis (1818-1865), the father of infection control. Sadly, Semmelweis fought an uphill battle to get the medical establishment to accept handwashing could make a difference in mortality rates, and ended up dying in a lunatic asylum at age 47 for his trouble. Despite the proof his case studies provided, it wasn’t until twenty years after his death, when the work of Pasteur, Koch and Lister became known, that he finally received credit. Hopefully, when we are presented with the evidence, we aren’t such slow learners! I can’t help but wonder how many more illnesses could be stopped if we keep the simple washing of hands at the forefront of our lives. Whether you sing Happy Birthday or recite The Lord’s Prayer as you do it, let’s keep it happening for the benefit of all.
Like most issues that have worldwide impact, the media coverage has reached saturation level – and stayed there! Journalist Leigh Sales said in her recent book, Any Ordinary Day, that “watching or reading a lot of current affairs is probably always going to leave a sense of despair and fear” and the “news is highly selective in what it presents”. In writing for Time and Forbes magazines, Hillary Leung and Alice Walton have advised us to listen to data but to choose our sources wisely, and not overdose on them. Remember - the power to turn it off is in your hands.
We are social creatures and may well all be in this together, but our personality can have a huge impact on how we cope with social isolation. Introverts who love their space have fared better - English comedian and self-confessed introvert Ricky Gervais said that Covid-19 had been like a holiday! Yet for our extroverted brothers and sisters who crave maximum social contact and human interaction, Covid has been torture. The rise in online contact has helped, but as psychologist Josh Gressel says, Skype, Zoom, and Facetime are not substitutes for the intangible ‘in-person’ contact. Gressel had done some online consulting pre-Covid, but found the increase requires greater sustained mental focus and is quite simply, exhausting! Thom Gardner speaks of ‘Zoomies’, those who, without the need to physically travel to meetings, are now meeting online, rushing from one Zoom meeting to the next, and doubling their commitments. Do we really want to be coming out of this time at a more frantic pace than we began with?
Gressel says our core issues become more visible during stress, and it’s no fun when our oldest and deepest issues surface during such a time! I wasn’t expecting this, thinking that Covid was more than enough to deal with. When our working hours were cut by half, I had no excuse to not slow down and rest – yet I struggled. If I hadn’t been blessed with this extra time, I would have remained the old me, striving to cram ‘restful’ things into my break and wondering why I still felt I was on fast forward. During our time off, God showed me that when my husband is busy on outdoor projects he enjoys, I feel obligated to drop what I’m doing and help. Each time I did that, my own plans took a backseat. I was blocking my rest by striving to please him. When I shared that with him (who wasn’t expecting the help anyway, the issues were mine), there came such freedom! Now, what I want to do is on par with what he wants to do, and even in that, God has told me to choose one thing from my to-do list and enjoy it, instead of stressing out about not getting to do everything. Thank you Daddy God for applying Romans 8:28 to Covid-19 for me, giving me a renewed approach to life.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 (NIV)
Covid-19 has demonstrated what it’s like to have little control over a situation, and I’d be going around the twist looking for answers if I didn’t go back to God for perspective. My son’s wedding has been delayed, and he and his fiancé remain apart, waiting out travel bans in different countries. People have had jobs disappear, finances dry up, surgeries delayed and any number of other difficult challenges arise. Just as some degree of post-Covid life is emerging, Victoria has once more been thrust into lockdown. How are you faring? Are you finding your peace in God, knowing that He has the answers for your today and tomorrow? When I admit I don’t have them and hand all to Him to sort, I can rest. I’ve learned to break things into manageable chunks – today, He’s with me, and I’m okay. Sometimes the chunks have been as big as a week or as small as a second, but no matter the size, He doesn’t change and is always there to reassure me.
So, what have I learned to help me go forward?
- Wash my hands
- Be wise about my media intake
- Beware busyness - don’t replace physical busy with online busy
- Striving steals my rest
- God is in control, don’t try to take the reins
What have you learned?
The promises of God are for all Christians, so ask God to show you his application of Romans 8:28 to your experience. It certainly worked for me!
2nd June 2020
Finding the Rest of Your Life
By Tracey Smith
Rest is not something I have ever found easy to do. In these times of enforced slow down, you would think that rest is easy to come by, but it isn’t necessarily so.
I have a place I like to drive to so I can have some quiet with God. It is on top of a hill with beautiful countryside spread before me, and it gives me the chance to switch off for a while from the cares of the world and to tune in to my heavenly Dad.
More often than I’d like to admit however, I ready myself to talk to God and listen to what He would say to me and before I know it, I’ve nodded off. It’s so annoying! I wake up and realise that I’ve snoozed through my time and I wail to God about what a waste it’s been.
And what does He say to me?
“You needed the rest”.
I guess I’d be foolish to argue with the God of the Universe. What it does show me is that sometimes I have to be made to lie down, that the conditions must be right for me to rest.
Our home is a property two hours outside Sydney, and we are surrounded by sheep, so I have plenty of opportunity to observe their behaviour. As I walk past their pastures, the flock will back away at speed from the fences that separate us, heading for higher, safer ground from which they can watch my every movement. I’m reminded of Psalm 23, and can’t help but wonder whether their behaviour would be any different if their shepherd was around?
The shepherd makes the sheep lie down in green pastures. You might think that wouldn’t be such a hard task – green pastures, still waters, sounds like perfect conditions to me! But research shows that to get sheep to lie down is actually no mean feat. Sheep have to be free of all obstacles to rest before they can be enticed to lie down – things like hunger, fear, pests, predators and friction with others within the flock.
Sheep are naturally skittish and easily panicked – if one runs away, the rest will follow in fright. They also have their own order of dominance, known as the ‘butting order’ and they will fight each other and even intruders to defend their place. If tormented by flies or parasites, they will stay on their feet, stamping and shaking their heads. While ever they are hungry, they will remain upright, searching for something to eat. Every obstacle keeps them on their feet, without rest.
It’s the shepherd who is pivotal in making it possible for his sheep to lie down and rest, and be content. The shepherd’s presence brings calm from the chaos, the safety to stop and breathe more slowly. When they see him, the aggressive sheep will settle and the quieter ones will relax. The shepherd makes sure they have food and is in amongst them, keeping a watchful eye for pests and acting quickly if the health of the sheep are threatened. When the shepherd has all in hand, the sheep feel safe. It is only then that they feel the freedom and security to lie down.
Aren’t we just the same?
God created us to need rest. For those of us for whom rest doesn’t come easily, it’s something we have to learn. In this season of Covid-19, the frantic pace at which are lives are lived has become so apparent when we are forced to stop. If you have struggled to rest, do you know what is standing in your way?
Today’s culture is fast-paced and results-driven. This has given rise to several fears that we can fall prey to when we think about slowing down.
If we make the mistake of buying into the culture’s need for results, we can be left worrying that we aren’t worthy of love or value if we’re not productive. Multitasking has become a badge of honour, but is it one that God wants us to wear?
We can fear what others think of us. If we slow down and take some time to rest, this will more than likely involve saying no to something. Will we disappoint others? Will we be seen as selfish, lazy or weak?
If our identity has become wrapped up in results, to-do lists and achievements, we are making the mistake of believing our worth lies in what we do and not in who we are. This leaves us open to shouldering too many demands and responsibilities, or believing everything will fall apart if we stop and rest. We become the dreaded ‘too busy’.
Perhaps you simply don’t know how to rest. Just as laying down in a green pasture doesn’t come so easily to the sheep, neither does rest if it is something you’ve not been shown, or allowed yourself to explore.
Do any of these resonate with you?
God’s heart is that rest is an important part of our lives, and He backed this up by making it a commandment. He knew we would need it in order to live well, to give us something in reserve when hard times come – even global pandemics.
Did you know that each time Jesus did a miracle on the Sabbath, He was teaching something about rest? You can explore this online with Thom Gardner in his new series called Finding Rest – Lessons Learned from the Lord of the Sabbath, starting Thursday 25th June.
Thankfully, we can seek out our shepherd when we’re troubled and finding ourselves dogged with whatever makes our rest elusive. Rest can look different for each one of us, as we were all created to be unique individuals. What does it look like for you? Not sure? You have your own personal Good Shepherd in Jesus, and if you make the time to ask, He has all the answers you need - answers that will help you find the rest of your life.
29th April 2020
By Tracey Smith
Have you noticed how the most memorable television advertising use stories to get their message across? The story is first told in a 30 second commercial, and once we are familiar with it, a shorter, edited version replaces it – keeping the story in our mind but costing the client less in airtime. One such advertisement is for Australian insurance company MLC. In the original version, we hear a woman voicing her ideal future as it is created on screen for us to see. “A house full of books and laughter and overrun by dogs, north sun, too many photos, friends old and new, drinks flowing and bread broken … “ It sounds idyllic, and we see a happy extended family at a large table enjoying a meal together. The camera closes in on the woman who has been voicing her best life as she looks to the camera and says “I just want what I have today”.
Someone drops a plate and the beautiful picture is rudely interrupted. All are stopped in their tracks and the woman says “And I didn’t want that”. We continue to see the family but this time they are filmed through the exterior of their very impressive home. The company’s slogan appears – MLC ‘Life Unchanging’.
After several weeks, the audience are familiar with this version, and the shortened ad takes its place. Now, we simply see the happy family and the contented woman saying “What am I looking forward to in the future? Well, I really just want what I have today”.
The warm and relatable images tug at the heartstrings, so life unchanging seems a worthy goal. But life is always changing. ‘Today’ could mean the lovely things depicted in the ad, but it could just as likely involve disasters, recession, war … or our present today, living through a pandemic. Like a series of plates smashing of late, Australia has experienced ‘todays’ full of drought, fires, flooding rains and now the virus of all viruses. Life unchanging is nothing more than a pleasant fairy tale.
Superannuation advertising is designed to sell us security. Insurance companies want you to see your security in money. But recent events are no respecters of security, financial or otherwise. Money can’t make it rain, hold back floodwaters or stop anyone getting Covid-19. Life unchanging ‘today’ is laughable, because this today we are living is life in lockdown.
A current catchcry designed to reassure us via our media is that "we're all in this together". How ironic that the song of the same name is presently in use to promote another superannuation provider, in this case Industry Superannuation Funds. Their campaign tells us “we all need something to hold onto. A belief. A dream. An idea. Across Australia we work hard. And for that, we deserve to be rewarded”. Whether we deserve it or not, our superannuation does not protect us from a pandemic, despite the reassuring tone of the most updated version of the ad, which began airing just days ago.
The previous ad campaign for Industry Super Funds did however highlight a crucial difference – the importance that making the right choice plays in our future. In this earlier campaign, we were invited to “compare the pair” and in a succession of ads, were shown two people supposedly the same – “same age, same income, same super contribution”. Yet each chose different superannuation funds, resulting in markedly different outcomes. The better financial return for the one who chose an Industry Super Fund was depicted by a variety of means to show upward movement – ladders, escalators, forklifts, stairways – in contrast to the counterpart whose ’wrong’ choice and movement downward mirrored that of their financial bottom line.
It’s a memorable depiction of how making a well informed choice can be a great help in life, but in these troubling times where all foundations appear to be shaken, can we make any choices that are 100% reliable?
I have had plenty of time of late to listen to podcasts, and one that captured my attention was a woman who shared her need in difficult times to exercise her muscle memory. What she was referring to was the exercise of taking the time to ponder her personal history with God, remembering all the times He had proved faithful. If you, like me keep journals, then you will have access to a record where His faithfulness and answers to prayer jump off the pages. To revisit these happenings reassures me that God has always been there for me, so what would make me think He’s going to stop now? If I ‘compare the pair’ with superannuation, I’m told that past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance, but I know the opposite is true with God. When I have struggled in my faith, I have gone back to the basics, to what I know of God’s character, to the evidence of His faithfulness and to those whose writings and words have helped me get to know Him better.
Sometimes you have to choose to circle back to go forward.
I’ve come to realise that the only thing that is unchanging in life is God. I don’t have to know every twist and turn that’s coming. I don’t need to know the way – because I am intimately acquainted with The Way. I hope the exercise of your muscle memory backs this up, because Scripture reassures us it is so. Here are 12 passages to encourage you.
GOD IS UNCHANGING
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Hebrews 13:8
“For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. Malachi 3:6
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. James 1:17
God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it? Numbers 23:19
The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever. Isaiah 40:8
Of old you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away, but you are the same, and your years have no end. Psalm 102:25-27
So that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. Hebrews 6:18
The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations. Psalm 33:11
If we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself. 2 Timothy 2:13
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. Isaiah 40:28
Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. Matthew 24:35
To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. 1 Timothy 1:17
When Jesus was teaching the Jews that he was the bread of life, the living bread, many found this difficult to understand. Was Jesus telling them they had to eat his flesh? Many were disturbed by this and turned away, not understanding his message. Jesus questioned his core group of twelve disciples, asking if they wanted to go away as well.
From the mouth of Simon Peter comes the truth that is every bit as relevant now as it was then:
Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. John 6:68.
This is a time where we are all questioning what is important to us. Our foundations, the beliefs, dreams and ideas that we as Australians, as Christians are aligning ourselves with – everything is being reassessed. In this changing life, where are you choosing to place your hope?
The stark reality is that there is nowhere else to go. If another pandemic were to visit us, no one is immune or bulletproof. We’re on a wartime footing with an enemy not bound by any recognisable rules of engagement. Whatever happens in our post-corona lives, the only thing that gives us a firm foundation, a future with a life unchanging is Father God through Jesus Christ. God made a one-time deposit to assure a future life unchanging to anyone who chooses Him. Jesus was that deposit - freely given to us all, wrapped in the tools to keep us on track – confession, forgiveness, repentance.
Jesus paid the ultimate price for us. It’s from God’s heart of mercy and love that we will never be expected to raid our super to pay for it.
Images from Pexels.
18th March 2020
Three Wise Men ... and it isn't even Christmas!
By Tracey Smith
God wants us to know we are special, right from the very beginning. But what happens when the message doesn’t get through? Our creative God doesn’t let that stop Him. Read on to discover the different ways that three wise men entrusted with this important truth have brought it to a hurting world.
Fred Rogers was host of a popular children’s television programme in the United States called Mr Rogers’ Neighbourhood. It ran from 1968 to 2001, and the extraordinary esteem in which its host continues to be held to this day amongst the American public has been brought to light by the recent film, A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood, starring another American favourite, Tom Hanks.
I was fascinated by Mister Rogers. I wondered if the impact I saw depicted in the film was real. I did my homework and discovered a man of faith who could see the amazing potential of television, and determined he could use it for good.
Fred Rogers also had a heart to reach out to broken adults – inside which he knew there was always a hurting child. In 1998, Fred agreed to be interviewed by journalist Tom Junod, a man with a reputation for using his pen to crucify those he wrote about. Junod says Mister Rogers saw his brokenness, and something in him worth saving. ‘He looked at the aching kid in all of us … he was helping us to find our way to the impossible possibility that we are loved’. The changes that Mister Rogers brought to Junod’s life form the basis for the film, told against the backdrop of the television world he created to teach children how to deal with their feelings.
Whilst the Christian faith of Rogers is evident in the film, what isn’t revealed is that he was an ordained Presbyterian minister. It is apparent that he lived and shared on both his programme and in his life, a passion to reach out to hurting people with messages that are unmistakeably God’s.
Eighteen years after his death, Mr Rogers still shines as a beacon of hope in a world overrun with cynicism and worrying complexities. In an interview with Savannah Guthrie from the American Today show, Tom Hanks said that unlike the programming of today, Mister Rogers’ Neighbourhood had ‘an agenda of nothing more than to say “you’re worthwhile, and anything you’re going through you can share with me. You are special”.
Guthrie has a five year old daughter who watches re-runs of Mister Rogers’ Neighbourhood in the car. She responded tearfully, “I think that’s Divine”.
And she meant with a capital D.
Max Lucado has been called a preacher with a storyteller’s gift, a man with a pastor’s heart and a poet’s pen. As Todd Brenneman says in his book Homespun Gospel, Max’s media, whether for adults or children is not dominated by doctrinal or philosophical arguments, but instead is permeated by his overall message of God’s love for people.
One of Max’s most popular creations for children are his books about a world of little wooden people, the Wemmicks, all created by Eli, the Master Woodcarver. The first in the series, You Are Special tells the story of Punchinello, a little Wemmick who craves the gold stars worn by the successful and popular Wemmicks instead of the gray dots he receives whenever he tries to gain acceptance. Through a meeting with Lucia, an unusual Wemmick to whom neither stars nor dots stick, Punchinello encounters his creator, Eli. As a representation of Father God, Eli helps Punchinello see that the stars and dots become irrelevant if he can believe and accept that he is special in the eye of his maker. Punchinello is reminiscent of ‘the aching kid in all of us’ that Tom Junod spoke of. It’s no mistake that Max Lucado’s aim to help children see their value to their heavenly Dad mirrors that of Mister Rogers. The message from both is that You are special.
My first encounter with Max Lucado’s book You Are Special was a bit unusual - I was an adult and had it read aloud to me. I was a mother knocking on the door of my forties with children of my own when I attended a course at Ellel where the words of You Are Special were used to present to adults the connection between their wounded hearts and the heart of the God who created them.
The effect was profound.
After that, I often played the recording of the story from the course for my children, and the voice of “The Wemmick Man” became a firm family favourite. When the four of us ventured to the UK for the NETS prayer ministry school in 2004, it didn’t mean much to my children that Ken Symington was coming to teach us on the Father Heart of God. It was a different story when we revealed Ken to be their beloved “Wemmick Man”.
Ken Symington has shared that of the many topics he teaches, The Father Heart of God is the most important. God is Father and we are His children – and nowhere in God’s word does it say that we stop being His children because we are grown up. That’s why the messages of Fred Rogers and Max Lucado have found a home in the hearts of children and adults alike.
Even though you’re grown up, you’re still one of God’s children. That’s why whatever our age, we all love a good story – be it television, movies or books. I would encourage you to become like a child again and in that place, join us online for Ken Symington’s storytelling style as he unwraps for you the gift that is the Father Heart of God.
Because just as God and the three wise men agree …
You are special.
5th February 2020
Sometimes life isn’t pretty … and sometimes love hurts.
By Tracey Smith
Some years back I was a part of a community of people who conversed online about two loves we shared – Jesus and scrapbooking. Over the years I was involved with this group, I always wondered at what seemed to me to be the high number of scrapbookers who suffered from depression. I began to think that it was almost a prerequisite to belong!
Interestingly, awareness of the depression was not usually found in the layouts of our lives that we shared. The scrapbooking was always beautiful, fun, colourful, entertaining and wonderful. Many of these girls were uber talented, with layouts regularly published in the prestigious magazines of the time. Depression didn’t live on those pages, and neither was it welcome there. Depression was, however, freely discussed online in our forums, the areas where prayer and sharing were encouraged. It was obvious there was a disconnect between real life and the pages of our albums.
I was no different.
Until the day came when God challenged me to do a scrapbooking layout on a difficult subject, and to be real about how I felt. It wasn’t about making it pretty, or acceptable to the outside world, or suitable for a glossy magazine. He challenged me to be real about loss.
Pets are precious creatures. They make our lives infinitely better, and dog versus cat arguments notwithstanding, I’m sure all owners would agree. We love having them in our lives, but there’s always that nagging reality that one day it will come to an end and the pet will die. And so it was with my little Monte.
Monte was a miniature chocolate dachshund, presented to me as a surprise gift by my husband when I was pregnant with my first child. I had grown up with a dachshund, and was delighted that my children would get to do the same. And as the years went on and I look back at the myriad of family events I photographed and chronicled, Monte makes an appearance in most of them. Then came that fateful day when he was struck down by sudden illness, forcing us into having to make the decision that all pet owners dread.
The depth of grief that enveloped me was scary. I was a grown woman, and this was a dog, surely I could hold it together? Set a good example for my kids? Just get over it and on with it?
When looking at what the Bible says about depression, Jessica Brodie describes depression as ‘a persistent, invading melancholy that won’t go away no matter how good life seems to be’. That was such an apt description of my life for as long as I could remember, a hopelessly flawed foundation from which I was trying and failing to deal with the loss of my little Monte.
That’s when God said to scrapbook the truth.
It would have been tempting to have done a beautiful scrapbooking layout of all the lovely memories of Monte, but it was the last thing I felt like doing. I didn’t feel remotely creative, in fact I didn’t feel like doing much of anything at all. To just pull the covers over my head and disappear seemed a far more inviting option.
Yet God was persistent. He encouraged me to put all the ugly down on paper, create something for Him – an audience of one. He was more interested in the real me, the fumbling, struggling, melancholy, messy me. He wasn’t hanging out for my perfectly presented recollections, resplendent with beautiful embellishments and ‘look-on-the-bright-side’ journaling. He just wanted me. The real me.
God’s heart for all of us is that He never wants us to remain in dark places any longer than we have to, or choose to. The variety of ways in which He can help us out knows no bounds – we just have to seek Him in the midst of the mess for the way out, not wait until everything is tidy and acceptable and neatly embellished.
You can connect with Jesus and His healing ministry by joining David Cross as he brings us a new online course, God’s Way Out of Depression. It will be held over three nights, February 19 & 26, and March 4. If you miss any session, we will send you the link for you to catch up in your own time. You can even listen in with the covers over your head if you want to.
Let’s keep it real. That’s what Jesus does.
16th January 2020
Another year, shiny and new.
By Tracey Smith
The new year is a perfect time to ponder upon new beginnings. Isn’t that what new year’s resolutions are all about? Another year, shiny and new, full of promise and possibilities. There are many sayings out there to encourage us into making a fresh start, and if you’re on social media, your feed will be full of memes to remind you of the new beginnings that await you. Here’s just one example, words from Theodore W Higgingworth:
A fresh start – a new day – a new month – a new year. Do you see each day as a fresh start or are you carrying yesterday into this brand-new day? See the possibilities of beginning anew.
In my role at Ellel I am fortunate that I get to listen to the words of those who have made a decision to begin anew. These are people who had decided they’d had enough of the way things were and trusted there was more to the life they were living and chose to take steps to uncover it. They hungered for a fresh start.
We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. The old skin has to be shed before the new one can come – Joseph Campbell
I have been listening to the words from our Explore School graduates, and as I heard each story, I could just imagine the sayings that may have cheered them along when they decided to start on Explore.
Janine said ‘… I didn’t have high expectations of God – I should have done, it was lack of faith. God has just blown me out of the water. Not only taking away the chronic fatigue and the depression but taking away allergies I’d had from childhood’.
If you’re brave enough to say goodbye, life will reward you with a new hello – Paulo Coelho
From Sherrinne: ‘… I knew I was a train wreck before we came here. I had an addiction to alcohol, I was broken from a broken childhood, I’d had a previous broken marriage, my family was separated from me, but all this has been restored. I’ve received so much healing, physically, spiritually and emotionally. I have no more addictions to anything. What can I say? God is good’.
Do not wait until the conditions are perfect to begin. Beginning makes the conditions perfect – Alan Cohen
Jade shared ‘… that was healing in itself, just being able to share information that’s so sensitive that you can’t share it with many people because they can’t handle it. I’ve benefitted and enjoyed being able to have a trusting environment to share’.
Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible – St Francis of Assisi
This from Mark: ‘… The most wonderful part about Ellel for me is meeting people and getting to know people, aside from the ministry we get and the ministry we give, it’s really knowing that the body of Christ is being trained and equipped in the same way – and I really appreciate that.’
God became man to turn creatures into sons: not simply to produce better men of the old kind but to produce a new kind of man – C.S Lewis
From Liesl, one of our Year of Discipleship and Training Diploma students: ‘I can definitely say I’m not the same person that came here in the beginning. God’s done such an amazing work in my life … I’m so grateful to this place for the things that it’s taught me and the healing it’s brought me’.
Though no one can go back and make a brand-new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand-new ending – Carl Bard
From Rosemary: ‘… I was very broken because I was sitting with profound disappointments and horrible grief … I just felt so empty… God is showing me that over the last 20, 30 years He has been there, the Holy Spirit has been ministering that care, compassion, concern and interest in me… ‘
Our quitting point is God’s beginning point – Woodrow M. Kroll
Syd shared: ‘… When we have the break time, especially with the guys where you might talk about work or the football, we talk about real stuff, the stuff you struggle with as men, and also what the Lord’s doing and what we need to do… you’re not treated like a leper or you’re hopeless, we’re loved in the Lord and it’s a wonderful thing’.
A time comes when you need to stop waiting for the man you want to become and start being the man you want to be – Bruce Springsteen
Sally loved that ‘… People being vulnerable has made me feel like there really isn’t anything God can’t handle, there’s nothing unforgiveable, He’s such a God of grace. It’s been amazing, and I’ve never seen Him at work as much as I have here in this place’.
Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail; they are new every morning and great is His faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23
Shane shared this: ‘…the beauty I love about Ellel the most is that they’re always constantly pushing us back to God. You don’t always hear that. It’s been a huge key for us, for our relationships and for our relationship with the Lord. This ministry has been such a blessing to us and our families.’
Genuine beginnings begin within us, even when they are brought to our attention by external opportunities – William Throsby Bridges
Mnelmy shared: ‘… I love the rawness, I love the relationship, we’re all on the same page, nobody’s trying to preach at anybody or judge anybody and I just love being in a place where I don’t feel judged.’
Every day is a new beginning. Treat it that way. Stay away from what might have been, and look at what can be – Marsha Petrie Sue
Kathryn appreciated ‘… just being able to come to a place like this and be surrounded by believers and to broach topics like trauma and the things you don’t normally get to talk or pray about in normal context … it has been really life giving for me’.
You don’t need endless time and perfect conditions. Do it now. Do it today. Do it for twenty minutes and watch your heart start beating – Barbara Sher
Words from Valentina: ‘… I just want more of Him, more of His healing, to walk more in that and in peace. I love that He never stops overflowing our desires and wanting to give us more, but thank you for this family where I felt I could be at rest and not have to give out if I never needed to or wanted to.’
With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts – Eleanor Roosevelt
As I read these words from our students, it brings home to me how much each of our stories is personally, intimately our very own. We control what is written on every single page.
“There comes a day when you realise turning the page is the best feeling in the world, because there’s so much more to the book than the page you were stuck on” – Zayn Malik
Does the chance for a new beginning motivate you? Or the words of those who’ve thrown caution to the winds, jumped into the chance for a new life and come out the other end with a truckload more blessing than they ever thought possible? Remember, the testimonies shared here by our graduates were unimagined by them when they made a decision to start afresh. It is God who is able through His mighty power at work within us to accomplish more than we might ever ask or think (Ephesians 3:20 NLT). But we need to agree with Him, partner with Him and walk the walk with Him.
To join us at Ellel for the beginning of our next Explore School on January 31 will be your act of walking the walk with God. In faith, you will step into a new beginning, the next chapter of this life you’ve been given. Your talk and your walk will become one.
There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind – C.S Lewis
The first course in this year's Explore school - The Big Picture: Exploring God's Foundation for Life will be held January 31 - February 1. If you call the office on (02) 4633 8102 when you book, ask for the taster discount and you will receive 25% off the cost of this course!
6th December 2019
Can you rewrite your life?
By Tracey Smith
No writer produces the perfect book first time around. When the world sees the finished product, there have already been countless rewrites behind the scenes. The edits and rewrites are where the craft of the writer is honed. Author Steven Gillis said:
The art of writing is in the rewriting.
It’s the same with our lives. As you step out into the world, you may know that there are things from your past that negatively impact your life today, but you make the mistake of thinking that rewrites aren’t possible, and that whatever is done and dusted can’t be changed.
Christian physician Paul Tournier was the author of more than thirty books, and renowned for his holistic treatment of patients. He looked at both the emotional and spiritual aspects to their problems, saying:
Recounting of a life story, a mind thinking aloud leads one inevitably to the consideration of problems which are no longer psychological but spiritual.
Is it possible to do a spiritual rewrite of your life?
It is if you’ve had enough of the way your story has been written, and hunger for change.
We call it EXPLORE.
Our EXPLORE school is a series of weekend events held over the year where you can uncover and deal with the bumps in the road of your personal life story. What might you find? Anxiety, stress, troubled relationships, conflict, addictions, rejection, depression – these are just a few of the plot twists that might be page turners in a work of fiction, but are ripe for a rewrite if they’re your everyday reality.
The life of a writer can often be a solitary journey, but with EXPLORE, you won’t be alone. You will journey alongside others seeking to write the newest chapter in their own stories, along with an experienced team with a heart to inspire, encourage and workshop with you.
EXPLORE is about you receiving revelation from God for your own personal rewrite of your restoration story.
There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you. Maya Angelou
The topics on EXPLORE read like the chapters in a bestseller.
The scene is set with The Big Picture as you check the foundations of your life for stability. In Knowing God you delve into His true character and nature, and unlock the power of forgiveness in your life with God’s Master Key. You get to sharpen up your red pencil and rewrite rejection in Lost and Found, and in the battle between good and evil you will be rewarded with the knowledge you need to defeat your enemy in God’s Enemy Exposed. There will be a loving excavation of your personal foundations on Inside Out, and Heart Matters will throw light on the path to restoration of inner damage. Connected will show you God’s better plan for relationships, and Sheltered will guide you out of fear and anxiety. Just like any good story, the year will come to a cracker ending with an Explore Workshop, where you and your fellow travellers will use the keys you have discovered to minister to each other, alongside our Ministry Team.
To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light side and the dark. In admitting my shadow side, I learn who I am and what God’s grace means. Brennan Manning.
Imagine the change to your life after a year of allowing God to rewrite your story?
Each EXPLORE begins on a Friday night and by Saturday night you will have shared in worship, fellowship, biblical teaching, personal reflection, group discussion and an Encounter time of prayer ministry. These are an unbeatable combination to keep the positive rewrites to your life story flowing.
I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn. Anne Frank
You can do a rewrite of your life.
There’s no such thing as a story done and dusted with Jesus. There’s a good reason why He’s called the author and perfecter of your faith. Let Him be your collaborator, so you can be free to write the best version of rest of your life.
The first chapter of EXPLORE, The Big Picture: Exploring God’s Foundations for Life begins on January 31- February 1, 2020. You can call our office on (02) 4633 8102 for a 25% discount on this course as a ‘taster’ for EXPLORE.
13th November 2019
A year of my life I will never regret.
By Sophie Castle
Picture this: a graduating Grade 12 high school student, a world of endless possibilities, and no idea what to do next. That was me. Life was finally ready to be steered in any way I wanted. But I faltered. I realized that I had no idea where I wanted my life to go (or rather, where God wanted it to go). I searched, oh, did I search! But every corner I turned, every rock I uncovered always left me even more confused than I already was. One thing I did know: I wanted to do what God wanted me to do. But I had no idea what that was. I had no idea how to come about that knowledge! And so, I was stuck.
I first heard about the YDT program in 2013. That was a few years ago. Forgotten for a long time, it was when I was struggling with my post-secondary decision that I remembered it again. I looked into it. The lure of a deeper, more intimate connection with God, lifelong friendships, and the adventure of traveling across the world was intriguing. I talked to my parents about it, contemplated it some more, and soon after was sending in my application.
I was accepted, if it wasn’t obvious.
Before I knew it, I was saying a tearful goodbye to my family and jumping on a 20-hour flight to arrive in Australia on a blistering summer day. It was really hard. I missed my family, my friends, my cat and my dog, the snow. I was thrown into a whirlwind of new experiences, ridiculously hot summer days, and people trying to pick at my shell to get to the real me. We jumped off into the deep end without wading in the shallows first. It was nothing like I was expecting it to be.
Being in the YDT program at Ellel is like being in the mouth of a nutcracker. The pressure is insane. It’s really hard. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But that’s where the growth comes. People crack when put under pressure, like walnuts. I cracked. It took me a while, but I cracked. The teeth of grueling heat, deep heart conversations, and learning what it means to really be loved cracked my hard shell to expose the softness inside. At first, I was terrified. I was so scared that it would go wrong and that I would be left hurting even more than I was before. I tried to backpedal, tried to hold the pieces of shell together so it looked flawless. It didn’t work, and soon I gave up trying to be perfect.
My goodness – when I let go… well, let’s just say that I am not the same girl who timidly walked in those front doors. I have learned so much, I have grown exponentially.
I know God loves me. I feel his love for me deep in my heart, I have it carved into my bones. I see it in everything around me, from the warmth of the sun on my back to the smiles on the faces of my friends.
I know that God is my Father, in every single aspect of the word. I know that he is my protector, the one who fights for me. I know that I can climb into his lap and snuggle into his chest and feel his breath on my hair. I know that he is the one I can play with, who I can write stories with, who I can have fun with.
I know what it means to be a woman. I love that I am a woman. I love that I am beautiful, that I am worth pursuing. I love that I see beauty in things most people don’t, like simplicity and the way bees dance around the lavender. I love that I offer a glimpse into the tender, compassionate, kind, gentle, soft side of God. I love my femininity.
I know that it is okay to cry, to let the tears fall down my cheeks, plastering hair to my skin. I can weep, like really weep. I can cry out to my Father from the depths of my spirit, so hard that my shoulders shake, and I can’t breathe evenly. I know that it is okay to grieve, that I can mourn all I have lost.
Now, all these things I know, but all these things I have yet to know. It is a life-long journey of discovering everything my Heavenly Father has to offer me, from the warm sunshine afternoons to the deep, life-changing revelations. I will never finish knowing these things. I will only grow to know them deeper, and deeper, and deeper, until one day I climb into his lap and get to stay there for the rest of eternity, watching as the stars come and go and listening to him whisper his love into my ear.
This year has been… well, words can’t even describe it. Life-changing. Foundational. Intimate. All I can say is that this is one year of my life that I will not ever regret, no matter what comes my way. I will use what I have learned, I will continue to learn, and all I pray is that I point others to our Father.
I urge you: get thrown into the deep end. Allow yourself to crack. Such wonderful things lay beneath the surface.
To find out more about the YDT or to apply for this life-changing programme, click here.
18th October 2019
By Tracey Smith
… on my own I’m so clumsy, but on Your shoulders I can see – I’m free to be me.
These are lyrics from Francisca Battistelli’s song ‘Free to be me’, and the desire for this freedom is something that resonates with so many of us. All you have to do is a simple Google search based on this one statement, and you’ll find it expressed in an abundance of ways that appeals to just about every age bracket, gender and heart. It features on clothing, and it’s contained within the titles of several books. It appears as a journal, a phone case, a skincare package, a kid’s colouring book, an extinct website, two short films, a programme to help children deal with bullying, and a tattoo design.
Why does this phrase resonate with so many people? Is it because we rarely experience the freedom to be ourselves?
Michael Mascolo Ph.D writing in Psychology Today, states that one of the great pillars of the western psyche in recent generations is the idea that we should be “free to be me”. It is a statement with origins in the social changes that occurred over the course of the 20th century. He asserts that individuals should be just that – individuals – free to make personal choices about their lives and not forced to conform to the standards of others, but such freedoms must still be experienced within the values of our society. He argues that perhaps it is more accurate to state that we search for the freedom to cultivate values to live by.
As Christians, the values we build our lives upon are those laid down in God’s Word. If we’re buying the tee shirt, the book or the phone case, the meaning for us is clear – free to be ourselves within the boundaries of the faith laid down by a loving, faithful Father God.
Christian recording artist Francesca Battistelli penned Free to Be Me after a particularly bad day which included reversing into someone else’s car. She wrote it to cheer herself up, but the song became something of an anthem for those needing freedom from perfectionism and the pressure to get everything right, because as she says, “God loves us anyway”. Despite a couple of dents in her fender and a couple of rips in her jeans, bemoaning her clumsiness and perfectionism, the overriding message for her and the rest of us through her song, is that up on God’s shoulders we are free to be ourselves.
Do you get up onto God’s shoulders much?
The reason why Battistelli’s song resonated so strongly with Christians is simply because we are not immune from the search for the elusive freedom to be ourselves in today’s world. We recognise the dents in our fenders, we remember what caused the rips in our jeans. When we, for some reason have not been able to access God’s guidance on these incidents, we will have trouble putting the pieces of ourselves together to form a whole. When you let God in, the pieces come together to complete our life puzzle; we are better able to recognise our worth and value, speak up with confidence and walk in the uniqueness we were created to display. The fact that so often we don’t doesn’t mean there aren’t answers – it can mean that we’ve become so used to feeling shy or awkward, embarrassed or ashamed that we’ve forgotten there’s any other way to be.
Better the devil you know, perhaps?
At our core we are children of God, created in His image, yet how many of us feel we are in touch with the reality of that? Can we easily recognise how we reflect the character and image of God? Do we believe it? Can we identify what excites our spirits and makes us feel alive? And if we do know, do we let ourselves go there?
God does want you to be free to be yourself, in Him. If feeling this freedom is something you’re hungry for, there is healing to be had to get you there! Our new one-day course, Free to be Me on Saturday November 23 will help you overcome the obstacles that stand in the way of your freedom.
Come and play. Get up on God’s shoulders for a while. Rips and dents lovingly repaired.
13th September 2019
Are you Creatively Challenged?
By Tracey Smith
“I have seen blocks dissolved and lives transformed by the simple process of engaging the Great Creator in discovering and recovering our creative powers”.
There was a time when I called myself creatively challenged. It was my way of making fun of myself, but underneath my banter lay a heavy truth – that when God was spreading the gold dust of creative ability amongst his children, He remembered my grandma, my mum, my best friend, even my daughter, but somehow, He had skipped me. (I still think my daughter got a double portion).
I took this mindset along with me when I studied prayer ministry through the NETS school at Ellel Pierrepont in England in 2004. Part of that school included a course called Healing through Creativity where we as students had laid out before us a treasure trove of creative activities. We were given permission over a few days to simply go nuts.
Well I did go a little nuts I guess, but not in the kid-in-a-candy-shop kind of way as many others did. I turned into a grumpy old curmudgeon, and I wasn’t happy with the results of anything I tried to do or make. What else did I expect? After all, I knew I was creatively challenged. When the time came for testimonies, and all around me waxed lyrical about what God had done, in true Aussie style I knew I had to set them all straight. I shared in no uncertain terms what an awful few days I had experienced.
It was then that the teacher, Fiona Horrobin, came up alongside me, put her hand on my shoulder and asked:
“So when did you realise your spirit was crushed?”
My spirit was what?
I was still getting used to the idea that I even had a spirit, let alone it being crushed or realising that it had any connection to the churn of emotions I was feeling. But once I got the hang of the idea and could understand how the damage had happened, I was able to let God in, and our spiritual connection was restored.
I remain fascinated with how that connection impacts our creativity. If the Spirit to spirit connection is dodgy or damaged as mine was, creativity is less likely to flow. That poor connection allows for a truckload of negative self-talk, and the soul (our mind, will and emotions) taking charge and responding with any number of defensive strategies – withdrawal, belligerence, criticism, scorn, self-doubt, envy of those more capable. Or labelling yourself ‘creatively challenged’.
But, once the connection is repaired – just like replacing a mangled car aerial with a brand new one - suddenly, God comes through loud and clear - and so does your creativity.
Creativity isn’t restricted to what we can create to put on display on our walls or in our homes. My grandmother was a fabulous cook, and with her experience as a cooking demonstrator, she was able to create scrumptious food, often without a recipe. She taught me a lot, and I too enjoyed cooking as she had done - until I had a family of my own. This toughest audience of fussy eaters did not see my dishes as creative, just something to be studiously avoided. I ended up going through the motions, having about half a dozen dishes on repeat to keep the peace, but it wasn’t long before all the joy of cooking had fled. It didn’t mean I lost my creativity, but I did make a choice not to exercise it for a disapproving audience. The opinions of those around us can positively or negatively impact our creativity.
A friend recently recommended to me a book called The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. The author sets out to take readers on a journey to discover and recover their creative selves. People ask her how she can teach creativity and she’s honest in saying she can’t. But what she can do is to teach people to let themselves be creative.
“I have seen blocks dissolved and lives transformed by the simple process of engaging the Great Creator in discovering and recovering our creative powers”.
It’s all too easy to backslide or talk ourselves out of our creative inheritance. I realise how much the enemy still hisses negativity or self-doubt into my ears – Julia Cameron appropriately labels these ‘blurts’. What a great word, it gives me a picture of mud being thrown at a window and landing with a splatter. I have to take those blurts, those lies, and turn them into a truth from God that is personal for me.
Are you surrounded by discouraging naysayers? Have blurts from others throughout your life sold you the lie that you’re not creative? Or are you your own worst enemy?
Ellel is where we deal with the blurts, and see God clean the splatter off the windows of your life. What will be released to the world when your healing frees you to create the unique piece of The Great Creator’s mighty plan, He’s always had earmarked for you?
There are gardens to be planted, houses to be built, stories to be brought to life, crafts to be enjoyed, photographs to be taken, dances to be delighted in, music to be played and lives to be lived creatively. How much better to revive your spirit, get it better connected to God and live the life He planned for you, even before you were fearfully and wonderfully made?
You have nothing to lose except your blurts.
9th August 2019
Who needs Pinocchio?
by Tracey Smith
“There are times when having a lie detector on tap would be a big help. Imagine a little Pinocchio whose nose would grow every time someone tried to catch you out with a lie. It would be invaluable, given that the Bible tells us that in the end times, even the elect will be deceived…”
When we see in the opening credits that a film has been ‘based on a true story’, and especially if it involves real people and real events, there’s an expectation that what we are about to see is the truth. Yet, behind the scenes of the dream factory of Hollywood is a business like any other. If a story can be tweaked to ensure more action, more suspense or whatever audiences want more of at the time, there will be little hesitation in massaging the truth to get a better return on investment.
A case in point would be the 2012 motion picture Rush. When the movie was released, it was promoted as the true story of the competition between formula one drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda. The film portrayed the drivers as bitter rivals, when in truth they were good friends. It seems that in Hollywood especially, truth must never get in the way of a good story.
Argo (2012) was another film based upon a true story, that of the 1979 Iran hostage crisis. The US embassy was stormed and all inside were taken hostage, except for a small group of Americans who escaped to the sanctuary of the Canadian embassy. It was ironic that the escape plan hatched to get them out of Iran, was based upon the creation of a fictitious movie company, supposedly scouting middle-eastern locations for a science fiction thriller named Argo. The Americans would be passed off as a Canadian film crew under the leadership of an Irish film director, who was in reality the American CIA agent charged with their rescue - Tony Mendez. Mendez commented that both Hollywood and the CIA were in the business of creating false realities.
Film reviewer David Edelstein praised the edge-of-the-seat climax to the movie - and I can thoroughly recommend it - but admitted he was annoyed to learn the truth; the close calls throughout the rescue in the movie’s climax were all the stuff of fiction. From its prologue, to the end credits which paired photographs of the actual hostages and other key figures with the actors that played them, the movie had assured ‘realism’. “If it seems too Hollywood to be true, that’s because it is”, said Edelstein.
There are times when having a lie detector on tap would be a big help. Imagine a little Pinocchio whose nose would grow every time someone tried to catch you out with a lie. It would be invaluable, given that the Bible tells us that in the end times, even the elect will be deceived and leave the faith because they’ve begun to believe the lies of this world. If only we could pull out our lie detectors when we need them. There’s no hell. Yep, definite nose growth. Our own goodness is enough – sounds good, but no, it’s growing again. All roads lead to God? It’s ok to mix elements of other faiths into Christianity? No stop! Poor Pinocchio, he’d have to leave the room to turn around. How about no need for a saviour? That’s done it, Pinocchio’s fallen flat on his face.
It would be great if lies were always that easy to spot, but deception is a tricky customer. It often comes wrapped in a robe of truth, presenting itself as legitimate and believable.
Lies have a purpose. In Hollywood, a twist to the truth will sell tickets. In the Garden of Eden, the purpose of the deception of Eve was to gain for Satan the spiritual authority over mankind. There was no Pinocchio to make Adam and Eve stop and think. Instead, doubt was sown. Truth undermined. Did God really say? The deception resulted in the fall, and humanity have been falling ever since. Just being human makes us prone to deception – to deceive and be deceived. Whether we are doing it to seek popularity and acceptance, to water down truth to keep the peace, because we’re frightened of persecution or are vulnerable to temptation, every one of us is open to deception – including me. All have sinned and fall short, it says in Romans 3:23.
So, what’s the solution? What can you do to ensure the true story of your life is lived in truthful triumph, not deceitful despair?
In the absence of your own personal Pinocchio, how about plugging in to a plumbline?
A plumbline is a tool used in construction, particularly in the building of walls. It’s a string with a weight on the end, suspended alongside a wall as it is being built, to make sure everything is straight and centred. We all need a spiritual plumbline with which to measure our lives, to stay straight and true, or get back on track when we’ve developed a bit of an ungodly lean. We don’t want our lives to end up as the tottering fences or leaning walls described in Psalm 62:3.
God can be your plumbline. His heart is to equip you to be able to uncover even the most subtle of lies, or hint of deception. He is all truth, and unlike Pinocchio, He cannot lie.
If you’re wanting to bathe in the benefits of truth and learn how to test what is going on around us in the world today, and if you’d value improving your ability to discern fact from fiction… join us on September 6-7 for God’s Plumbline: Exploring How to Recognise and Avoid Deception.
17th July 2019
Christianity – Living in the Crosshairs
by Tracey Smith
“…Nowhere does God’s Word promise that as Christians we’ll have a trouble-free, blessed existence… The spiritual battle we are in isn’t going to slow down. It isn’t going to stop…”
It would be difficult to be both Christian and Australian and be unfamiliar with the recent controversy surrounding rugby player Israel Folau. We live in a time where our news comes to us not only from the established and entrenched channels of old media, but increasingly from our new media - Internet driven and in our faces. The old adage of never discussing hot button topics such as politics and religion when socialising was never coined for a time when our lives would be so immersed in this whole new world of social media.
As Christians, this controversy highlights yet another way in which we are judged as out of step if we don’t bend to the world’s ever-changing grab bag of standards. Things once considered sacred – chastity until marriage (chasti-what?), heterosexuality and the sanctity of life have increasingly joined the list of things to poke fun at Christians about.
Except today, the poking doesn’t come with much fun. There is very little that is light-hearted about the jibes being delivered, and it’s becoming increasingly unpopular, even perilous, to profess Christianity – even in egalitarian Australia.
Our media has been boiling over with narrative on Israel Folau’s situation, with both supporters and detractors waging war. Why does Folau’s stance carry such angst for those who don’t believe in God, hell, or the Bible anyway?
Or as a meme doing the rounds of Facebook puts it quite succinctly:
“Imagine getting upset at someone for claiming the God in which you do not believe, said in a book you did not read, that unless you repent of the sin you do not care about, you will go to a place you do not believe in”.
A clue can be found in Ephesians 6:12:
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
We are in a battle, and it’s a spiritual one. These are the end times. If we accept all else in God’s word, then we can’t put our heads in the sand and pretend otherwise.
But that doesn’t make it any easier.
How tempting must it be for pastors today to preach messages that shy away from the tough truths of the Bible, in order to keep their congregations happy. Again, we are warned of this in God’s word - 2 Timothy 4:3:
For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.
We are being asked to compromise our faith in every direction. Christian parents now must shepherd their children through a school system hostile to God. Evolution is taught as fact. We are scorned for teaching that Jesus is the way, or that sin exists and separates us from God. We can no longer celebrate male and female as God created us. It is a sign of the times, but makes it even more important to remember the example Jesus gave us, of the shepherd leaving the safe sheep to find the lost one (Luke 15: 1-7).
The reality for us as Christians is that we have been given a gift without compare - the gift of eternal life, granted freely by a saviour willing to die a horrible death so we could have that privilege. He calls on us to share that good news with others, despite our potential audience becoming increasingly hostile. So often when someone has gone through a trial, we hear them say “If I can save someone else from going through this, it would be worth it”. If you could save one person from hell, wouldn’t you try?
You might look at Israel Folau’s journey and answer “No way!”. But nowhere does God’s Word promise that as Christians we’ll have a trouble-free, blessed existence. The same storms are visited on the house built on the rock as the one built on the sand as described in Matt 7 – 24:27. The difference for us is that Jesus has promised to be there with us in the storm.
While the enemy uses the media to ensure the storm gets all the attention, people miss out on hearing about the Jesus we want the world to know – the one who accepts you no matter who you are or what you’ve done - and gave his life to show it.
Though it is not my cup of tea, I had opportunity recently to see a PlayStation game in action, a wargame where each player aims to be the last man standing. I was surprised that players could stop for bandages or to take painkillers during gun battles – what help would such things really be against bullets? But the importance of what these pauses symbolised was key here – the need to regroup before returning to the battle.
The spiritual battle we are in isn’t going to slow down. It isn’t going to stop. Fighting it can mean unpopularity, the sacrifice of important relationships, loss of a career … that could be the price for not giving up on a lost sheep. But in this battle, we can take the time to regroup, to reacquaint ourselves with what we believe, and to receive the encouragement we need to remain true to our saviour’s call. There are some that God anoints to teach how to lead such a life, a life without compromise. One such person is Jill Southern.
On August 23-24, Jill will teach on many of the topics I have mentioned – evolution, the separation of sin, the infallibility of the word of God, the uniqueness of Jesus, the role of the devil, the worship of other gods, disobedience, deception and fear. This event will give you the regrouping and rearming you need for these times in which we live.
It’s called No Compromise.
Are you up for it?
20th June 2019
“You’re dying. We don’t know why. Go home and make your arrangements”.
by Tracey Smith
Wendy was a thirty year old committed Christian, a wife and mother of two, who had been laying in her hospital bed for seven days when she heard these words. Doctors were unable to explain why her body was shutting down. For eight years, since the birth of her first child, she had experienced escalating bowel issues which left her constantly hungry yet unable to digest food – trying to eat and then vomiting blood.
Both of Wendy’s children were born sickly, and their range of health problems were nothing short of confronting. Chronic bowel issues unresponsive to specialist treatment. Major food intolerances, asthma, eczema and extreme anxiety. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Both children were born with motor dyspraxia; daughter Sally’s affected her fine motor skills needed for handwriting, tying shoelaces or dealing with buttons, whereas son Aaron’s impacted his gross motor skills, necessary for walking, running and climbing. Aaron was also diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, a lifelong developmental disability on the Autism spectrum. Asperger’s is characterised by problems with social communication and repetitive behaviours, such as Aaron’s constant head rocking which required the wearing of a protective helmet.
As the children grew, it became apparent that Wendy now was suffering from similar issues; the food intolerances and bowel problems, even developing ADHD. All three were prescribed antihistamines and Ritalin and were placed on a strict elimination diet. Any attempt to reintroduce a new food brought a range of reactions – anything from swollen lips, nosebleeds, skin eruptions, rashes and diarrhoea, to asthma if the food contained dairy. The gravity of the children’s health issues resulted in Wendy being granted a full time carer’s allowance through Centrelink. Assistance came through the Autism Association for the myriad of specialist appointments the children needed – doctors, paediatricians, physios, speech and occupational therapists, child psychologists and bowel specialists. At the time that Wendy was hospitalised, Aaron was about to change schools to access a special needs class. The children were nine and seven.
As Wendy and her husband Paul were born again Christians, and had been in leadership roles in their church for many years, healing for these ongoing health battles had been constantly prayed for. Wendy can now see that the physical problems had a much deeper spiritual root, of which they were then unaware.
As Wendy was released from hospital on a Friday to ‘make her arrangements’, she felt a strong urging to contact Ellel and ask for a place on a Father Heart of God course beginning that night. As the weekend progressed she was confronted with a major issue concerning her own father that she couldn’t avoid. She obeyed God’s encouragement to forgive, bringing enormous, cathartic release. Whilst travelling the following day with her son to a paediatrician’s appointment, she again felt an urgent leading, this time to renounce her father’s involvement in freemasonry. In her exhausted state and fearing another rabbit hole, she argued with God.
“God”, she challenged, “I’m saved! Wasn’t all that stuff dealt with at the cross? If you want me to do this, make the paediatrician identify Aaron’s issues as spiritual. Then, I’ll get it sorted”.
Have you ever argued with God?
He can handle it.
The paediatrician greeted her with these words:
“I’ve been thinking about your situation. I think it’s a spiritual issue and I want you to go and get it sorted out spiritually”.
Astounded by the direct answer to her prayer, Wendy immediately found somewhere to go to renounce her father’s freemasonry. Despite God’s leading, she felt trepidation as such action was outside her church’s teachings, but she forged ahead. At the same time as Wendy’s renunciation appointment, Paul was at Ellel on a men’s weekend, and in something that could only be described as a God-incidence, the men worked through the same freemasonry renunciations.
Once it was done, Wendy just knew that God has been faithful and done the work. She called Paul, telling him she was going through the KFC drive-through for a chicken fillet burger and a Fanta! Just the day before, such actions would have brought powerful vomiting at the first bite. Paul feared she’d end up straight back in hospital, but determined, Wendy devoured the lot, waited two minutes and went back for another burger. She’d been starving for eight years!
“It all stayed down!” she said. “No vomiting blood, no bowel horrors, no stomach pains, no rash”. Paul couldn’t believe it.
But God’s work was not yet over.
As Wendy was enjoying her freedom meal, Paul’s parents who were babysitting the children at home, reported a marked calming in their anxious behaviours. Wendy stopped all her own medications and with the paediatrician’s blessing soon after, the same with the children. All could now eat anything with no adverse reactions. The long list of issues that had justified the carer’s allowance completely disappeared, including the ADHD and Asperger’s. Wendy was given a letter from her paediatrician for Centrelink reversing all diagnoses and the need for their help, an action completely unheard of. Both children became more affectionate, desiring physical touch and conversation. A change of school became unnecessary.
This complete healing happened 15 years ago. There has been no reappearance of any of the physical or behavioural conditions that plagued this family’s early years together. What single word describes them today?
“Thriving” says Wendy.
In hindsight, Wendy shares that during the family’s eight year struggle, the final three years after she discovered her father’s freemasonry regalia and books were the worst, by far. She hadn’t thought there was anything wrong with freemasonry, but was shocked at what the books revealed and felt compelled to confront her father with it. She could also see that along with her physical healing had come the healing of spiritual issues she had battled with - difficulty reading her Bible, praying with Paul, staying awake in church and grasping God as Father. Other striking differences were the return of good memories, and the ability to recognise and remember faces.
What were the crucial discoveries in her journey to freedom?
“Forgiveness is key, especially with family”, she reveals. “If you stay resentful or angry towards your parents or forbears, it’s like a spiritual hardening of the arteries, blocking up the generational conduit. I had cut off a crappy family line thinking I was doing myself a favour, but asking Jesus to sort out the curses clears the conduit and lets the good stuff, the blessings, flow freely - just as He intended. Whatever gunk you bring to God, He sorts it, clearing out the rubbish and replacing it with Himself”.
What would you say to others wondering about freemasonry?
“Whatever your theology, don’t argue with God” says Wendy. “If He highlights something, then sort it! Read for yourself what your Bible says. He’s already died for all of the yuck stuff – He’s just waiting for you to bring it to Him to be exchanged – life instead of the rotten and dying, joy for the ugly mess. He’s a loving Father. I don’t know why I didn’t go to him sooner”.
You have the chance to come to Him, just as Wendy did. We are running Freedom from the Effects of Freemasonry on July 12-13. None of the things that Wendy and her family suffered are God’s heart for you.
God’s heart for you is freedom.
Don’t be left wondering why you didn’t come to Him sooner.
Wendy’s story as told to Tracey Smith.
Asperger’s Syndrome – Health Direct
Asperger’s disorder and Autism Spectrum Disorder -
Dyspraxia Explained – Dyspraxia Kids Australia Inc
15th May 2019
UNHEALED. BROKEN. INSIDE.
by Tracey Smith
I wish I had known and understood then that there can be another layer underneath the difficult emotions we encounter in life – a spiritual layer that can be impacting our ability to deal with accidents and trauma in a healthy and healing way.
A few months ago, I wrote an article that looked at the trauma of grief, and in that I considered how the loss of my grandfather had so severely impacted my grandmother at what I now recognise, was at a spiritual level.
Just as I wrote of the potential power that grief and acute loss can wield over all levels of our being, I find the same is true of the impact of accident and trauma. If you are in an accident or suffer a trauma, once the physical manifestations of injury are dealt with and healing of the body has taken place, there can still be suffering locked inside that can’t be touched or measured. In recent years we have become more familiar with terms such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a term initially coined to replace ‘shell shock’ and used to describe the effects of war on serving personnel. The term has necessarily been broadened from the effects of war, to encompass anyone who suffers from symptoms following a traumatic incident.
Such symptoms are commonly grouped into clusters:
Intrusion symptoms: such as flashbacks or nightmares;
Negative changes in mood or thoughts: examples are loss of interest in things once enjoyed, feeling isolated, or self-blame;
Avoidance behaviour: such as trying to avoid memories of the trauma at all costs, often using alcohol or drugs;
Changes in reactivity: person can be more easily startled, aggressive or irritable, find it hard to concentrate or sleep.
It is important when considering trauma, to know that all the above can be brought on by a trauma happening to someone else. Witnessing it, finding out it has happened to someone close, or being able to first respond, such as emergency services workers or counsellors, can all be entrance points for suffering of trauma.
Trauma can leave us with an unhealed brokenness on the inside.
Think about that for a moment.
Unhealed. Broken. Inside.
Such words can bring hopelessness, and it’s certainly no recipe for the abundant life Christ came to bring us. Prayer ministry has demonstrated that if a trauma remains unresolved, the effects can stay locked within a person, trapping them in spiritual darkness. As it says in Psalm 143:3-4
The enemy pursues me,
he crushes me to the ground;
he makes me dwell in the darkness
like those long dead.
4 So my spirit grows faint within me;
my heart within me is dismayed.
Imagine too, if a trauma happens to a child? The child continues to grow and mature physically, yet internal growth can be stunted at the point of trauma. All the feelings, thoughts and decisions that were happening at the time of the trauma such as fear, shock, anger or abandonment can remain trapped in that broken place. Any of this can surface without warning, sometimes involving behaviours that appear irrational, or without clear explanation or link to the trauma.
Unhealed. Broken. Inside.
It is understandable then, that those who suffer in this way describe it as “I feel like I’m losing my mind”.
Archibald Prize winner Ben Quilty went to Afghanistan in 2012 as Australia’s official war artist. He has since painted some of the soldiers he met there, including the man who was then the Deputy Commander of the Joint Forces Middle East, Retired Air Commodore John Oddie (pictured, left). There was a big difference between the soldier’s public persona and the reality he was living with inside, evident by his response to Quilty at the conclusion of the sitting – “You’ve painted me exactly how I feel”. In discussing the painting (pictured, right), Oddie said “I had to actually accept the fact that there’s an apparent truth there. I wasn't always admitting the truth to myself about my life”.
If there is no opportunity to marry the effects of the trauma with healing, a disconnect will remain. Like the effects of a cancer, the trauma will ultimately make its presence felt in the everyday, whether wanted or not.
Unhealed brokenness. On the inside.
This brokenness is an unwanted puppeteer, ready to pull our strings and bring on feelings and behaviours we don’t enjoy, can’t explain and can’t control. As Christians, we must remain aware that we are in a spiritual war and the puppeteer is our enemy. The first rule of warfare is to know your enemy. God tells us we are not ignorant of the enemy’s schemes (2 Corinthians 2:11) which makes it even more crucial that we don’t willingly hand control to the one whose mission it is to steal, kill and destroy us. We will not taste victory, if we fail to deal with what is unhealed or broken within.
There’s good reason why when we explore healing for past accidents and traumas at Ellel, we call it Picking up the Pieces. The good news is that we have a Holy Physician. He specialises in both outward healing and the healing of our inmost parts – those places no one else sees but which retain the power to govern how we walk through our lives on this earth.
Come to Picking Up The Pieces: Exploring healing for Past Accidents and Trauma on June 28-29. God can put the pieces back together.
Will you let Him?
Evans, Mark 2014, Retired Air Commodore John Oddie in front of his portrait by war artist Ben Quilty, in 'A secret ceremony in Kabul marked the end of NATO combat operations in Afghanistan, but experts say it's still not safe', news.com.au, <https://www.news.com.au/world/asia/a-secret-ceremony-in-kabul-marked-the-end-of-nato-combat-operations-in-afghanistan-but-experts-say-its-still-not-safe/news-story/eea0b156fabc81f9e7c86cb368468584>
Millan, Kathryn nd, Signs and Symptoms of PTSD <https://theoakstreatment.com/ptsd/signs-and-symptoms/>
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) factsheet <https://www.sane.org/information-stories/facts-and-guides/post-traumatic-stress-disorder>
Quilty, Ben, John Oddie painting <https://outshadows.wordpress.com/2015/02/27/flight-command-by-john-oddie/>
'War Paint' - transcript of Australian Story episode from September 3, 2012 <https://www.abc.net.au/austory/war-paint/9170236 accessed 8/5/19.>
What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? <https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/clinical-resources/post-traumatic-stress-disorder>
5th April 2019
MALE; FEMALE; OR OTHER?
by Paul Ryan
Have you ever gone to fill out some kind of survey recently and found that it asks about gender - and then offers a third option?
I’ve seen the above offering a couple of times now in variety of questionnaires/surveys.
Somehow within one generation we have moved from clearly understanding that there are only two genders, male and female… to now debating if there is a third option (…some want to argue for a lot more than just three options I might add).
It appears today we are being offered a ‘sliding scale’ of gender choice - where you get to choose where you sit on that scale. (And depending on how you feel on any given day, you can move up or down that that scale to suit).
This has become such a challenging topic! The whole world seems to be in free-fall as it debates whether there are only two genders; or three or more genders; or whether gender even exists at all (?!?)
I think it is important to make a few clear points about what we believe the biblical truth is here at Ellel Ministries… especially concerning this debate that has arisen surrounding gender (which by the way… by its very definition… involves our sexuality).
However… I must begin with this Disclaimer:
The points I would now like to highlight are only going to be helpful to the person who intends taking the teachings of Jesus Christ seriously.
Firstly, Jesus believed humanity has a design to it.
The Scriptures say ‘we are made in the image of God’ (Genesis 1:27 & 9:6) — a truth that would bring so many benefits if this planet would only embrace it.
Jesus believed that gender was part of the created order, teaching that we were made “male and female”. He stated this in Matthew 19:4-5:
“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’?
In stating the above, Jesus was quoting from Genesis 1:27 and Genesis 2:24-25 (thereby upholding the writings of Moses and the Old Testament).
Now, whatever else those passages imply, what is clear is that Jesus believes gender is something woven into our created being - not something of our own choice or making. Therefore, I believe the Christian starting point on this issue has to be this:- human gender is something designed by God (…because this is what Jesus clearly believed and taught). Therefore, if that is the Biblical Christian starting point on this issue – then only by finding God’s design for us, as male or female… can we then flourish.
For Jesus Christ alone is the only one who can assure us of our true identity and worth as a person. (Gender; sexuality and identity have always been inextricably linked). In fact, Jesus Christ is the only one who can assure us of our true identity and worth as a Man or as a Woman.
However, if you abandon the truth that human gender is something designed by God… (and many already have!)… the result is this:- you will find you need to distance yourself from Scripture as a whole; or rewrite it; or reinterpret it in ways that become completely incompatible with what the word of God states. If you choose to do all that - you distance yourself from what Jesus taught. In fact, if you abandon the truth that God made us male and female, you abandon the Christ that the Scriptures point to!
As I stated before, there is nothing stopping you from choosing to abandon the Scriptures… But once you abandon the reliability of the Gospel witness of Jesus Christ and depart from the Scriptures that Jesus clearly based his whole teaching on… you will no longer have anything resembling Christianity!
Because you will no longer have anything resembling who Christ is – and no longer have anything resembling what He taught.
In fact… you will have departed altogether from Christianity!
So, to remain faithful to the Word of God; and remain faithful to the teachings of Christ; and to remain faithful to the Christian faith itself… we must accept the truth that humanity has a design to it… that God has made us ‘Male and Female’ in His image.
If any of these timeless kingdom truths resonate with you and you are interested in further pursuing what these traditional orthodox biblical views mean for us as Christians… then you are invited to our course on Godly Sexuality on 24-25 May 2019 at Ellel Sydney – where we will be exploring God’s purpose and design for sexuality and its expression.
This course will explain what the foundation for human sexuality is as God intended it to be. It will look at the importance of the biblical covenant of marriage, and will explain how sexual expression outside of this has consequences not just in our lives, but in the lives of those we relate to and the generations that come after us.
The good news is that through Jesus Christ, we can find forgiveness, cleansing and learn to walk in purity.
If any of that is of interest to you, we will look forward to seeing you at Godly Sexuality: Exploring God's Design for Sexuality and its Expression on 24-25 May 2019 at Ellel Sydney.
13th March 2019
WHEN EMOTIONS BECOME DESTRUCTIVE ...
by Tracey Smith
When I think about my grandmother, there is always one word that comes to mind.
She was five foot one and a half (and woe betide if you forgot the half), a bustling little ball of energy who, if you crossed her threshold, would feed you to within an inch (or half) of your life. My schoolfriends loved her and she loved them right back, remembering every little nuance of each one’s life and experiences. She was cheeky, politically savvy, and incredibly creative. In later life when I was introduced to scrapbooking, I created one of my favourite layouts about her, and framed it. My Grandma, My Champion. Every child deserves someone to champion them, to help them believe in themselves and give them the confidence they need to cope with life. She pretty much believed I could do anything, and when I doubted, she had enough belief for both of us.
The love my grandparents shared set the bar high for marriage. It gave me great security which as a child growing up, I desperately needed. I lived with them from the age of five until I got married at 23, so needless to say, their influence was enormous.
Just two years later however, everything changed. My grandfather died.
And it was as if the grandmother I had known and loved so dearly for all those years, somehow died right along with him.
As time went on, it became obvious that there were two Grandmas – the little livewire I had grown up with and the desperately sad, withdrawn and fearful Gran that took her place. It saddened me that those yet to come – my own children – would never get to experience their GG as the vibrant, full of life woman I had been blessed with. I grieved too, for the Grandma I had lost.
Grief has power. Acute loss can affect our entire being. It’s a type of suffering that we can’t touch or quantify, its expression can be shut down because of cultural expectations or personal inhibitions and there are stages that we must progress through – stages where there are no rules as to what is a ‘normal’ progression.
My grandparents had been married for 51 years, and they were each other’s lives. Grief is often at its most intense when a love has been deep and intimate.
My Gran’s grief was obvious in both her body and soul. You only had to look at her face, her stooped posture to see the bodily outworking, and the sadness and loss in her soul was evident from the words she spoke and the tears that were never far from the surface for the rest of her life. Such unresolved grief led into a downward spiral of what I now recognise as deep depression. If depression is the last stage of grieving before acceptance, then that was where she was trapped.
But something I read recently brought a new level of understanding.
Grief can be deeper than our soul, where our emotions come from. If our human spirit is grieved, the whole identity is affected, as if the one grieving has become a completely different person.
And the lightbulb went on.
That’s why my grandmother in her grief, became someone I didn’t know. Her whole identity changed. We are made body, soul and spirit, and whilst the impact on her body and soul was obvious to me, I didn’t understand the deeper level impact on her human spirit.
Tom Marshall in his excellent book Right Relationships explains the connection well.
“When it comes to knowing a person”, he writes, “it is our human spirit that does the knowing … In personal encounter we relate to the other, spirit to spirit … The real person is behind the feelings and behind the thoughts, and truly accessible only as we reach his or her human spirit”.
Deeper grief of our human spirit often has roots in our early life. This made sense to me as my grandmother’s younger years had been marred by occurrences that left her with deep insecurities which, despite her dynamism, she carried for a lifetime. This wounding, which occurred decades before she even met my grandfather, provided a landing pad for the ongoing spiritual carnage that would keep my grandmother locked in her grief at his passing.
I wish I had known and understood then that there can be another layer underneath the difficult emotions we encounter in life – a spiritual layer that can be impacting our ability to deal with emotions in a healthy and healing way.
Grief isn’t the only tough emotion we wrestle with. Consider anger. Disappointment. Jealousy and envy. If you struggle with any of these but find it hard to put your finger on why, or feel unable to get past them, then a spiritual element could be at work.
Don’t struggle on.
My grandma lived another 27 years with a wound that I now know could have been healed. If only I had understood how.
So, come and find out. Join us to explore how to deal with difficult emotions. We call it The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.
In Hosea 4:6 it talks about people being destroyed because of a lack of knowledge – it doesn’t have to be that way for you, or someone you love. Come and get the knowledge you need. Don’t spend your time just trying to cope with difficult emotions. Instead, invest in freedom and healing.
15th February 2019
OVERCOMING MENTAL ILLNESS THROUGH INNER HEALING
by Dr. Kam Wong
In terms of burden of disease on a worldwide basis, mental illness ranks second. It is only superseded by cardiovascular or heart disease. Though mental illness is a common scourge, yet it is a poorly understood and greatly stigmatised subject amongst the general population. The mention of mental illness often conjures up notion of madness, losing one’s mind and feelings of helplessness and fear. Sufferers of mental illness often find themselves isolated, lonely and misunderstood.
Christians often disagree as to what is mental and spiritual, and what constitutes an illness versus demonic activities. Christians who suffer from mental illness often get contradictory advice from well meaning fellow believers who may oppose the use of medication, counselling and advocate various type of spiritual exercises to get better. Some may go so far to assert that Christians should not be mentally ill. Other may say that Christian practice such as inner healing has nothing to offer the mentally ill since the former deals with the spirit and the latter has to do with the problems in the soul.
As a professionally trained practitioner in mental health with knowledge in the use of psychotropic medications and psychotherapy (talking therapy), I began my journey in inner healing some 15 years ago. This was partly motivated by my own personal needs and crisis, but also a sense of inadequacy of my own professional training mixed with curiosity of what inner healing is all about. The deeper I get into the journey, the more I learn that there are many inner healing principles which are beneficial in promoting mental health and overcoming mental illness. I also find that there are many psychiatric healing techniques that I use are essentially inner healing principles which are sanitized of Christian elements. Since then I have changed the way that I counsel my patients to reflect more of my understanding in inner healing principles. I have begun the journey of giving the Holy Spirit the rightful place in my consulting room.
During the two days seminar on 22 and 23 March, I hope to be able to share with you my own experience in using inner healing to help my patients to overcome mental illness. I will be sharing on the following topics:
- Your mental health matters to God
- How does mental illness rob us of our destiny?
- The problems with fear, loss, guilt and shame
- Some understanding of anxiety and depression
- Healing from mental illness is relational
- Inner healing lifestyle promotes better mental health
Whether you intend to come for yourself, your loved ones or your clients, you will find this seminar helpful. What if you don’t have a mental illness? Well, having a robust mental health is the best way to prevent an illness, is it not? After all, walking an inner healing lifestyle promotes better mental health!
18th January 2019
"IT'S NOT STRESS THAT KILLS US, IT'S OUR REACTION TO IT"
by Tracey Smith
I happen to be quite stressed right now as I try to meet a deadline, so it's not surprising that this quote catches my eye. I grit my teeth and wonder what genius coined this phrase and where he got his information?
As it happens, this man has gone down in history with the title “The Father of Stress”, so it seems he may have some knowledge worth sharing. Professor Hans Selye was nominated on several occasions for the Nobel Prize for his research, which made the first recorded link between illness and the responses it can bring on – responses that we would today identify as stress. In 2019 we’re more aware of what can cause stress in our lives, but in the 1930’s when the Professor began his research, this was quite a novel idea.
Current research shows that Australians are feeling more stressed than ever, and Medibank Chief Medical Officer Dr Linda Swan identifies depression, anxiety and panic attacks as more prevalent in those dogged by stress. I would have thought that “The Father of Stress” would have agreed, but here’s another of his gems:
“Man should not try to avoid stress any more than he would shun food, love or exercise.”
Ok, it’s becoming obvious that I’ve missed something here. I’m not one to shun love or food, and I’m trying not to shun exercise (necessary because of my lack of food shunning, which is another stress, er, story). But embrace stress? Yeh … nup.
Yet in the deep dark recesses of my memory, I can recall during Psychology studies in the 1980s that there were two types of stress. The bad kind, we know as distress – no definitions needed. The opposite is eustress, from the Greek, for ‘true’ or ‘good’. And wouldn’t you know it? The guy who coined both terms was – Professor Selye.
So, what exactly is good stress?
You can surf the Internet and find nifty little lists of good stressors, things like getting a pay rise or a promotion. But there are others that are up for debate. Take having a baby. For some women this is the most exciting of times, but for others (and I was one), I can’t remember being more stressed. To move house is nominated as a good stressor, and whilst I personally find this one exhilarating and motivating, my parents are currently in the midst of it, and if I suggested either of those descriptors to them right now, they’d probably clock me.
We’re all different. Our range of responses to stress are simply one example of this.
At Ellel, it is our experience that “our ability to manage every day and exceptional circumstances which we find stressful will be related to our degree of inner wholeness, inner well-being, and whether there is residual inner stress and anxiety within us”.
Prof Selye, writing for a largely secular audience more than fifty years ago was pretty much on the same page. He said:
“Almost no germ is unconditionally dangerous to man; its disease-producing ability depends upon the body’s resistance”.
What’s your resistance to stress like? Does stress equal opportunity? An adrenaline rush? Once you conquer it, are you hungry for more?
Or do you withdraw, running a speedy mile from stressful circumstances? Do you struggle to shut off worrying thoughts, or feel exhausted trying to fight them with positive thinking? Perhaps you’re short tempered, or rely on things to cope that can be harmful in themselves such as smoking, drinking or gambling?
I wonder what the Professor would have thought about social media. Today it isn’t unusual to see people using it as a stress relief, but people who can’t get enough of social media can suffer from a specific type of stress called FoMO – the fear of missing out. Yes people, this is a thing. It happens when a person can’t switch off from social media without experiencing anxiety, and it’s growing in prevalence given that one in four Aussie adults are heavy users of social media, and half of our teen population feel compelled to connect with it at least first up in the morning and last thing at night.
Stress becomes a problem when we have difficulty coping with it – its causes, its effects and sometimes even what we use to combat it. It’s also cause for alarm when it comes to asking for help - at least half of us Aussies fail to do so.
As Christians there is an expectation that because we have God, we shouldn’t suffer from stress. Jesus encouraged us to swap our heavy burden for his light one (Matt 11: 28-30) and in Ephesians 6 He gave us the armour to wear in any battle we face. Sometimes though, we need a little assistance to be able to walk in these promises. Help is available to deal with those places within you that make you susceptible to all the unwanted emotions, thoughts, words, behaviours and physical symptoms that rise up when you’re dealing with stress.
On Wednesday February 27 at 6.30pm, come and join us at Five Dock/Drummoyne Uniting Church for an evening of discovering how to gain your freedom from stress. Free entry will give you keys for freedom - the only cost to you is your time. If you’ve had enough of being held captive by an enemy who is often faceless but whose voice can be overwhelming, this is a night for you.
23rd November 2018
YOUR INVESTMENT CAN MAKE AN ETERNAL DIFFERENCE
by Paul Robinson
Interest rates at historic lows! Predictions housing prices could fall by 20% or more! Volatile share market wipes billions in one day ahead of fears of a crash!
We’ve all seen the headlines. It’s getting harder to earn a reasonable return on your investment and even harder than ever to know where to invest that is both worthwhile, ethical and safe.
We are called to be wise stewards of our money. Proverbs 27:23 tells us to “know well the condition of your flocks and give attention to your herds” which in the times that passage was written 'herds' were considered a representation of a person’s wealth.
It is speaking directly about managing our wealth well.
If you have a little money to invest, even for a short while, can we challenge you to consider an investment that will have an eternal return?
Ellel Ministries’ property mortgage is held with Baptist Financial Services who offer the ability to take deposited funds and deposit them in an account which is offset against our property mortgage.If you are not familiar with this type of account, let me explain how it works.
It allows Ellel Ministries the benefit of the interest charged on our loan being reduced by the interest “earned” on the funds invested. So instead of you as the investor receiving the interest, the interest charged on our property mortgage is reduced by an equivalent sum.
You effectively donate the interest you would have earned to Ellel Ministries so that it reduces the interest we are charged on our mortgage.
The arrangement is fully documented for your protection and the amount invested is held “at call” and can be partially or fully withdrawn at any time to any bank account you nominate.
To put this in perspective, $10,000 held in an offset account against our mortgage for one month provides a benefit in interest saved of $33.12 per month or $397.44 if invested for a full year, but at the same time provides so much more than just a financial benefit……it’s an eternal investment in changed lives for the Kingdom of God.
The scriptures tell us repeatedly what is of real value in life and Matthew 13:44-46 tells us through Jesus’ parable that the Kingdom of God is so valuable it is worth sacrificing all we have to obtain it.
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”
Perhaps the Lord is speaking to you today about this very subject?
For further information or to arrange to lodge funds in an offset account, call our Finance Manager, Paul Robinson on 02 4633 8102
15th October 2018
CAN THE WAY YOUR FATHER SPEAKS TO YOU SCAR YOU FOR LIFE?
by Ken Symington
16th September 2018
INTIMACY THROUGH IDENTITY
by Cody Butler
In the forward of Donald Miller’s book ‘Scary Close’, Bob Goff writes, “We’re all amateurs when it comes to love and relationships. I’ve never seen anyone go professional, or wear a relationship jacket with stickers all over it from corporate sponsors like a NASCAR driver. They’ll never make an Olympic event out of relationships either, although I can’t lie, I’d like to see it in the winter games. We’ve let magazines on the end caps of our grocery stores, movies at our theatres, and old boyfriends and girlfriends who have failed us do most of the talking. Not surprisingly, we’ve ended up with a distorted idea not only of who we are, but also of what it means to love well.”
I love the irony Bob uses in this passage to highlight how seemingly absurd it is that so little of our human endeavour is thrust into something as important as relationships.
Rather, we spend billions of dollars and many thousands of hours on things like sport. And yet, as Bob laments, “they’ll never make an Olympic event out of relationships…”. Don’t get me wrong, sport is an amazing connector of people, and in fact I’m a self-professed sport nut. I love watching and playing just about any sport you can think of. But if you asked me to tell you how many arguments I’ve resolved with my wife thanks to my brilliant knowledge of sport, I’d come up doughnuts. Yep, that’s a grand total of none. On the other hand I wouldn’t be able to count the number of times I have run to sport in an effort to escape issues in my life.
There is no doubt sports are healthy and fun, but they can also prove to be something we resort to when life and people are too hard to deal with. And sport isn’t alone. You could interchange the word ‘sport’ with almost anything. Work, phone, computer, cars, food, insert your word here...
God’s heart is that we wouldn’t run from relationships. Instead, I’d suggest He wants us to tackle them head on.
But what causes us to run? What stops us from tackling relationships head on?
Towards the end of the above passage, Bob suggests we may have lost track of who we are. It can be hard to do relationships well when we’re not quite sure of our own identity.
I lost myself to performance at a young age. If I did something well I would receive praise. This taught me that love was earned and not freely given. I took this mindset into my relationships, including my relationship with God. Needless to say there was no real intimacy established with people or God during that time. How could there be? It was all a performance. Some people loved me for what I could do, my talents for example, but few people could love me for who I was, because I never let myself be known at a deeper level. I feared that if I let people see the real me I wouldn’t be impressive enough. I felt the real me would be rejected.
Donald Miller writes, “Nobody steps on stage and gets a standing ovation for being a human. You have to sing or dance or something.”
While this may be true of the world we live, it is not God’s truth concerning us. We are His sons and daughters, His workmanship, His saints, seated with Him in high places, created in His image, His chosen people… We really should get a standing ovation for being a human when it’s put like that.
And that is the truth we must grapple with. Do we believe who the world says we are? Not worth a standing ovation for being a human. Or do we believe who the creator of the universe says we are? Nothing less than an extended ovation for being a human!
With that being said, I’m on a journey of discovering who I am beyond a performance, beyond a love that is earned. I’m looking for a love far more substantial than that. A love that will sustain me and assure me of who I am.
In that love, the love of our heavenly Father, I believe true intimacy in relationships can be found. It has certainly been true for me and I believe it can be true for you too.
Join us on 5th - 6th October 2018 for Connected: Exploring God’s Design for Relationships.
18th August 2018
YOU'RE NEVER TOO COOL FOR SCHOOL
by Tracey Smith
School takes up a big chunk of our lives. It kicks in from those earliest years, taking us through a tumultuous period of growth and leaving a truckload of memories behind.
Popular culture serves to keep the role of school in our consciousness long after we’ve left it, using it as the inspiration for books, television, music and film – think Tom Brown’s Schooldays, Welcome back, Kotter, Another Brick in the Wall, or Grease.
Barnes and Noble describe high school as a ‘complicated, messy time in life which one grows from childhood to the cusp of adulthood’.
A favourite book of mine set in this turbulent time is E.R Braithwaite’s To Sir, With Love, successfully adapted for film in 1967 with Sidney Poitier in the title role. Poitier plays a rookie High school teacher in 1960s London, thrown into the deep end of a tough East End high school with students who inhabit the top of the pecking order and see themselves as way too cool for school. ‘Sir’ sees the bigger picture – that they are hopelessly ill prepared for the adulthood they face at the end of their final term – and he battles to use that time to turn them around. His students sing him a tribute at graduation, asking ‘How can you thank someone who has taken you from crayons to perfume?’ ‘Sir’ had helped them grow up, recognise their worth, treat each other and themselves with respect and to see their futures from a different perspective to that spoken of by the world around them.
Teachers can do stuff like that.
Do you have a teacher you remember that way?
I am blessed to have had a few, and sadly one of those passed away just last week. Mr B was my English master, playing a key role in my six years of high school. I was fortunate to spend time with him just a few years ago as I was tasked to interview someone from a generation older that mine on their experience of growing up with cinema. I remembered him as a film buff but I was astounded at the depth of his knowledge. He could name every cinema in the Sydney CBD in the 1940s, how many seats it had and what studios showed their movies there. His first job out of school had been in the Sydney office of MGM! I remembered an incredibly gifted English teacher who made the texts come alive for his classes, but what a treasure trove of other life experience and wisdom he had to share. It was over thirty years since I’d seen him but in a single afternoon I again took the journey “from crayons to perfume” in a completely different sphere of life.
It’s never too late to learn. What an experience I would have missed if I had thought so.
When you hear the word ‘school’, it may conjure up days far behind you, but school is just a word for where learning happens. Time visiting another era with Mr B was like school for me.
If you think about your journey of faith, when does your learning finish? When does the time come that you’ve learned all there is to know about how to experience the abundant life that Jesus promised?
(If you’re already there, you don’t need to read any further - I’m sure you have better things to do in Heaven than read this).
If you’re still with me, what do you need to learn that would take you “from crayons to perfume”, from milk (remember those little school milk bottles?) to solid food in your journey of faith?
What about learning how to satisfy that longing to know God better, to hear His voice for you?
Are you looking for the answers to beating the things in your life that are holding you back – things like addictions, fears, or cycles of behaviour you just can’t break?
You may have a heart to learn how to help others in need, but struggle to give what you didn’t have in your own life.
If you’re a parent, a teacher, a youth leader or a pastor, you could be feeling overwhelmed by the depth of issues you are seeing in those you care for, and want to learn more about how to help.
Does a school exist that can cover all of that?
Yes, it does. We call it the 6 Day School.
Six days of classes, hands-on practical learning, diving into the scriptures, ministry opportunities, being restored and getting yourself squarely onto the same page of the textbook of life with God. No question too silly, no problem too big or small.
If God could create the world in six days, imagine in six days what He could teach you?
Listen to the words from some previous students …
"I came questioning everything, even if God really existed. I found that He’s not a God out there, He’s a God for me."
"I needed breakthrough but I was pretty hard ground. I was able to work through exactly the things I was afraid of, and God poured buckets of love into me. It was awesome."
It doesn’t matter to God whether you’ve been a Christian all your life or have only just been saved –every time we come to Him with questions that need answers, we are students once again. Is it any wonder that one of the biblical names for Jesus is Teacher?
Our 6 Day School is being held from Monday September 3 through to Saturday September 8.
And yes, you’re invited. Come back to school. You’re invited to come and learn. You’re never too cool for school.
It’s an invitation from the ultimate Sir … with love.
19th July 2018
HOW IS YOUR SPIRITUAL SATNAV?
by Tracey Smith
There is more than a hint of motoring madness in my generational line. My grandfather rode speedway and my parents lived and breathed motor racing, working with various racing teams over the years. As a kid, I was dragged along to many a Saturday night of racing and I guess some of that passion rubbed off as I still love to plonk myself in front of the TV and ‘watch Bathurst’ on that special weekend every October.
If we liken ourselves to a car, when we first come into relationship with Jesus it’s as if He flushes out our engines, and plugs us into the petrol bowser of the Holy Spirit, feeding us spiritual unleaded that’s much kinder to our engines and the environment around us than the old lead-filled Standard fuel of the past. However, running on the right fuel is only the beginning. If you haven’t had regular services in the past to stay in top condition, anything can happen on the highways of life, even to cars that have been well loved.
God talks about our lives as being like a race. In the world of motor racing, much of the communication with drivers about the race around them takes place via flag marshals, people well trained in using their different flags to bring correction, warn of hazards and advise when the race is taking a different turn. “Flaggies” must remain ever vigilant, there’s no time to slumber or sleep (which might sound familiar if you’ve read Psalm 121). Is it any surprise then that every flag point around the track is manned by a trinity of marshals?
In the car race of your life, have you been paying attention to the flags? If you’re missing them, there could be a connection problem housed within your human spirit.
God made us in three parts – body, soul and spirit. Our human spirit is the part responsible for our connection to God so if your spirit has sustained a scratch, a bingle or a head-on collision, this will impact the way you drive the race of life. Whilst God is a compassionate flag marshal, it is still up to each of us as to whether we respond to the flags He is waving.
If you’re a driver who can never have enough insurance, limping through the race with fear as your constant co-driver, you could be suffering from a timid spirit. You may notice a yellow flag warning of dangers ahead, telling you to slow down and proceed with caution, but even if you obey you may still struggle to get back into the race after the yellow has been lifted.
A driver with a striving spirit may need to watch for the blue flag, which signals it’s okay to slow down and let others pass for a time. If your spirit is defiled you may need to obey the oil flag, a red and yellow stripy number declaring the presence of oil, dirt or debris that is dogging your race. If the race takes an unexpected turn and the track becomes undriveable, you may see a red flag, calling you to an immediate halt for your own protection.
If your connection to the Holy Spirit is crushed, there’s every chance you’d see the ‘meatball’ flag – black with an orange circle. This flag is calling you into the pits to find the source of the problem that’s endangering you or others. Once you get help and have the blessing of the Chief Scrutineer, you can rejoin the race!
No one wants to be black flagged, but if your spirit is broken, seeing the black flag can mean all means of communication is broken too. Imagine driving the Bathurst 1000 with a busted radio and a smashed windscreen, unable to heed the warnings about the fire that’s leaping out from under your car? The flaggies won’t give up waving you down, they might even order out the safety car to slow the race around you – but you still must make a choice to come into the pits for urgent repairs – and preferably before you run out of petrol.
Did you know that God spoke to the founder of Ellel Ministries, Peter Horrobin, through a car? Peter was restoring an old Alvis sports car but it wasn’t until he stripped it right back that he discovered it had a bent chassis – akin to the spine in the human body and therefore a pretty major obstacle to full restoration of a car. God told Peter he could have his choice – to be able to fix a broken car, or through Him, fix broken lives. The birth and life of Ellel Ministries is proof that in God’s eyes, there’s no such thing as a write-off.
Knowing Me – Exploring Restoration of the Human Spirit being held on 17th -18th August 2018, is your opportunity to examine the flags in your race, take a detour into the pits and make some repairs under the eye of the Chief Scrutineer. Come and be reconnected to the Holy Spirit because He is like your spiritual satnav, vital to getting you ready for the next round in your race – be it rally, endurance or sprint.
If you follow the flags, come into the pits and get the repairs you need, you can drive with perseverance the race marked out for you, all the while fixing your eyes on the Chief Scrutineer. He’s the one with the chequered flag in His hand.
With thanks to Hebrews 12: 1-3
22nd June 2018
HOW DO YOU MEND A BROKEN HEART?
by Tracey Smith
Don't ask the Bee Gees!
I am a firm believer that there is a song for every occasion. (I’m a Believer, The Monkees 1966). See?
The heart is a favourite touchstone for pop culture, and while there are umpteen songs about love and happy hearts, there are just as many about having broken, aching and damaged ones.
How about Heartaches by the Number (Guy Mitchell 1959)? Or Unchain my Heart (Joe Cocker 1992), Sea of Heartbreak (Don Gibson 1961) or Heartache Tonight (The Eagles 1979)?
The Bee Gees asked a most pertinent question back in 1971 - How can you mend a broken heart? They concluded that the likelihood of healing heartbreak was in the same basket as stopping the rain from falling down or the sun from shining.
Not very hopeful.
Can you really have a broken heart, or is heartbreak just the stuff of songs?
Ruth Hawkey, in her excellent book Healing Emotional Wounds, identifies that a heart being broken is all too real - and that no tablets can be prescribed for its healing.
When we consult The Bible, we find that in Isaiah 61:1, it was prophesied of Jesus that He would come to bind up the broken hearted. Why would God have deemed this necessary if our hearts couldn’t break and wouldn’t need healing?
If we only looked at songs, we could be forgiven for thinking that broken hearts only happen when romance goes wrong (Don’t Go Breaking My Heart, Elton John & Kiki Dee 1976, Unbreak My Heart (Toni Braxton 1996, or Heart of Glass, Blondie 1978). But it ‘Aint Necessarily So! (Normie Rowe 1965). God wasn’t just talking about romantic love when He sent Jesus to bind up broken hearts. Our hearts, our inner core can be wounded from all sorts of life circumstances. If you’ve been rejected or abandoned, lost somebody or something important, been abused or walked through trauma of any kind, your heart has taken a battering.
In their 1981 chart topper Stop Dragging my Heart Around, Tom Petty and Stevie Nicks sung that it was hard to think about what you’ve wanted in life and didn’t receive, and hard to think about the things you’ve lost. (Tom Petty’s band was called The Heartbreakers – how Ironic. (Alanis Morissette, 1995). Emotional pain can make you feel as though your heart is being dragged around, and Proverbs 13:12 agrees, saying that hope deferred makes the heart sick, but to have a longing fulfilled is life-giving.
I did the Healing Through Creativity course at Ellel Pierrepont in the UK in 2004. I remember the raft of creative activities available, including one station that was piled high with sumptuous fabrics, ribbons, buttons, laces, sequins and pearls. People flocked to it in excitement but one of my classmates held back, seemingly rooted to the spot. She shared with us later that she had grown up in England during World War 2 and with her father away fighting, the family had suffered great poverty. She found that table of abundance confronting, and it transported her straight back to childhood where she froze, unable to deal with all the choice. Her husband was a good provider and their lovely home was a place where her children and now grandchildren never went without – yet she had never felt able to relax in this, always feeling a sense of guilt. She had been unable to pinpoint the reason until that encounter. It provided the key for Jesus to unlock the wounded, deeply buried place in her heart where deprivation had taken hold, causing her to believe she was undeserving. The brokenness in her heart was healed.
If our hearts have been hurt in the past, the last thing we might want to do is put ourselves out there and risk pain again. We can harden our hearts and swallow our tears (Big Girls Don’t Cry, The Four Seasons 1962, Harden My Heart, Quarterflash 1981). We can put up a "Keep Out" sign but it does nothing to repair the break, it just makes us the Owner of a Lonely Heart (Yes 1984). Yet, whatever you stuff down to protect yourself has an uncanny knack of surfacing later, often as physical illness. As Ruth Hawkey writes, “buried emotions can have a physical outworking”.
Yet God said: I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 36:26).
So, Where Do Broken Hearts Go? (Whitney Houston 1988).
They come to Inside Out: Exploring Inner Damage and Healing and discover that there are answers and there is hope for our wounded and broken hearts (Lord, I Give you my Heart, Hillsong 2006).
As sure as the rain falls, the sun shines and there’s a song for every occasion, so there is healing for every break and wound your heart has suffered (Hold on, I’m Coming, Sam & Dave 1966).
As Roxette said back in 1989, just Listen To Your Heart.
Inside Out: Exploring Inner Damage and Healing will be held on 20th-21st July 2018.
16th May 2018
WITH GREAT POWER COMES GREAT RESPONSIBILITY
by Cody Butler
A tall building will fall if the foundations are not first deep and strong. The same can be said of a man’s heart. However, often men neglect a solid foundation as their gaze is fixed on bigger and more impressive things.
Could digging deep prior to building big be an option worth considering?
What if God desires men who would prioritise an excavation of their hearts, removing everything that hinders their relationship with Him? As opposed to men who spend countless hours striving to build big at the cost of family, friends and relationship.
This excavation requires a choice. In fact, it requires many choices, which are made in the pivotal moments of life.
A man’s life is filled with these pivotal moments. Each moment moving him closer to the man he will become. Each moment carrying greater weight, affecting more and more people, and ultimately causing damage or bearing fruit.
Which path are you choosing in the pivotal moments of life? Could God trust you with His power in those moments, or do you settle for the easier option? Do you avoid the narrow path God has set before you?
God longs to trust the men in this world with His power, but with great power comes great responsibility.
The original Marvel Spiderman movie starring Tobey Maguire is a coming of age story. And like any good coming of age story there are defining moments, which determine who Peter Parker (Spiderman) will become.
Not long into the movie Peter is bitten on the hand by a genetically modified spider. His DNA is then miraculously reorganised affording him a new set of abilities and powers. Peter soon finds out that his new abilities have made him far stronger and faster than any human could possibly dream. He accidently picks a fight with the school bully Flash Thomson and ends up using his powers to dismantle Flash in a heartbeat. Peter feels great in the moment, but others around him are shocked and afraid of his newfound power.
Whether it’s getting married, having a baby or being promoted at work, men are often handed power before they are ready or well enough equipped to handle such power. As a result we constantly read about and hear about men who enter a role or position with promise, but end up falling on their swords. Examples from within the church have dominated headlines of late with many priests and pastors coming under allegations of child sex abuse. Similarly, but of far less public recognition is a husband’s failure to connect with his wife, or a father’s failure to love and nurture his kids, leaving wives abandoned and future generations directionless.
Dallas Willard said it best,
“The primary story of God is finding men in whom He can entrust His power.”
As men we have often been entrusted with power, but have not always used it well.
In the movie, just before he dies, Peter’s Uncle Ben offers some sage advice regarding men and power.
“Pete look, your changing I know. I went through exactly the same thing at your age. Peter, these are the years where a man changes into the man he’s gonna become for the rest of his life. Just be careful who you change into. This guy Flash Thomson, he probably deserved what he got, but just because you can beat him up doesn’t give you the right to. Remember, with great power comes great responsibility.”
Peter is convinced that his Uncle has no idea what he is talking about, because how could Uncle Ben possibly understand what it is like dealing with supernatural powers. In his immaturity Peter misses the point. Uncle Ben’s perspective is pervasive and not merely skin deep, or power deep. He is referring to the character of a man. It is only after Uncle Ben dies that Peter is able to understand and take hold of what he really meant.
Dallas Willard makes another pertinent point along the same line as Uncle Ben, “The most important thing about a man is not what he does, it is who he becomes.”
Power and influence aside, what type of man have you become? Or, what type of man are you becoming?
Our men’s event Proven: Entrusted is on the weekend of the 22nd-24th of June 2018.
19th April 2018
DEAD DOGS WELCOME
by Tracey Smith
What would you want with a dead dog like me?
We can use many terms to describe ourselves, some good, some not so much. But what would you think if someone likened themselves to a dead dog? I think I’d be calling the emotional ambulance.
The Bible teaches that our words have the power to bless or to curse, so no prizes for guessing the curses this person is heaping upon themselves.
Imagine it. A dead dog.
What an injection of rejection, every time.
Did you know that someone in the Bible spoke those words over themselves? His name was Mephibosheth. As I write this in 2018, ‘dead dog’ still seems like a perfect moniker for someone struggling with rejection and hopelessness, and underlines in big scrawl what must have gone on in this guy’s life to put those words in his mouth. I think God meant it to stand out, and it does to me, more than two thousand years later. Now that’s an author!
Mephibosheth plays a key role in the story of David and Jonathan in 1 and 2 Samuel. They were closer than brothers, swearing an oath of friendship so deep as to continue into coming generations. This friendship endured despite the enmity that existed between David and Saul, Jonathan’s father. When both Jonathan and Saul were killed in battle, David determined to keep his promise to Jonathan and in 2 Samuel 9 he seeks out anyone still living from the house of Jonathan to whom he could show his tender regard.
“Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?”
Enter Mephibosheth, a son of Jonathan who was described as being lame in both feet.
“Don’t be afraid,” David said to him, “for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table.”
And what was Mephibosheth’s response? Woo hoo? Jackpot? All my troubles are over?
What would you want with a dead dog like me?
In Jewish custom, whose son you were meant something, and not only was Mephibosheth a son of Jonathan, he was a grandson of Saul, the King! But Mephibosheth wasn’t operating as a son, a beloved son of an honoured father. He only saw his crippled feet and the rejection he had suffered because of it. He was operating as a rejected misfit, with no more value than a dead dog.
When we teach on rejection here at Ellel, we often ask the question– “who here has never been rejected?”
I don’t think we’ve found anyone yet who could put their hand up. Can you?
Research shows that rejection is the most common emotional wound that we suffer. It robs us of clear thinking, changes our behaviour, and like phobias, doesn’t respond to reason. Studies have revealed a greater risk of adolescent violence from the wound of rejection than drugs, poverty or gang membership. A word I came across when researching rejection really stuck with me – shunning. To be shunned. Do a simple Google search and you’ll find that to be shunned is to be persistently avoided, ignored or rejected. I don’t think Mephibosheth saw himself as a dead dog because of a one off experience of being shunned. I wonder how many times he was ignored, avoided or rejected? How many times have you been made fun of, passed by or not chosen?
We’ve all been there.
When we experience rejection, the part of the brain that is negatively impacted continues to be so every time the rejection is remembered. It is so powerful as to cause the same negative brain response in people who witness it, even though their experience of it is indirect. Any parent seeing their child bullied or left alone at school with no friends will know the pain. It’s no surprise that the medical profession agrees that rejection is a wound that always brings pain and always needs a remedy.
What a great word - remedy. To cure or relieve, correct or remove an evil of any kind, to heal and to put right, restoring to natural condition.
Is there a remedy for rejection?
David provided the remedy to Mephibosheth’s rejection. He accepted him and gave him a place to belong. It had nothing to do with his lame feet but everything to do with restoring him to his natural place, to who he really was.
A beloved son.
God doesn’t make mistakes, you know. Everything’s in the Bible for a reason. God wanted you to know about Mephibosheth (even if his name is a trial to pronounce!). If your life is marred by rejection, God wants you to know that there’s hope in the story of Mephibosheth, the dead dog guy of the Bible.
Come to Lost and Found: Exploring the Remedy for Rejection on 4 - 5 May 2018. Like Mephibosheth, you will find out who you truly are, and who this God is who has a heart for you, and a desire that you partake in His loving remedy.
Dead dogs especially welcome.
20th March 2018
TO KEY OR NOT TO KEY ... IT'S A MASTERFUL QUESTION
by Tracey Smith
Once upon a time my husband Cameron was a courier, going in and out of something like 120 locations nightly to deliver secure parcels. Can you imagine the size of the ring needed to carry keys for all those doors? It was the size of a dinner plate and would provide anyone, any day with top preparation for an arm wrestling tournament. Imagine though, having to drag around such a weight day in and day out? Life can sometimes feel like lugging around an enormous ring of keys, slowing us down and making lots of noise in the process.
As we journey towards healing and wholeness as Christians, an area of greatest contention is that of forgiveness. How often we skirt around it - we can’t forgive someone who’s hurt us, or the magnitude of something we’ve done makes us baulk at forgiving ourselves. If you are skating around an issue and trying everything except actually forgiving, then it’s like having a key to healing but choosing not to use it. Excuses are common evasions, especially for things that happened in our childhood. We look back with contemporary eyes … “Dad was stressed, Mum didn’t mean to say that, everyone makes mistakes” … all could well be true, but adult hindsight only papers over childhood wounds. They stay active all the while, embedded in our spirits until the door shielding them is finally unlocked and God is granted access.
Perhaps you feel you need to work through every key on your ring of life, labouring to be worthy of forgiveness? Or think of the key you might receive for a 21st birthday – it is both important and valuable, but not everyone accepts their importance or value to God enough to use it. “Surely God has more important things to worry about than something that happened to me?” Or what about the key that’s warming the bottom of your pocket, buried beneath tissues, loose change and the odd melted chocolate? A key that’s covered with life’s clutter and busyness will probably stay that way.
We also have an enemy with an arsenal of dirty tricks to stop us using the key. Haven’t we all dropped a key at the vital moment - often when it’s raining and we’re in a rush? You may suddenly find yourself thinking; “I’m a good person and he was in the wrong! Who needs that stupid key anyway?” The enemy will entice you with pride, unforgiveness and judgment, using them to keep you chained to that person and that incident. The key will languish in the mud puddle but you’re the one who stays stuck.
Often a key seems stubborn – once it’s in the lock, it won’t turn in the direction you think it should. God called those who couldn’t be led to try the opposite direction as “a stiff necked people”, stubborn, intractable. Is your way the only way? Is it about when you’re ready ... and not before?
Or maybe you see the lock as dirty, and you couldn’t possibly use a key from a holy God until it’s had a good clean? Don’t let shame stop you. I don’t recall God asking the prodigal son to take a shower before being welcomed home by his father. God said “Come!” - flies, pig muck and all.
Why are there so many possible detours away from using a simple key?
The truth is, forgiveness is never simple. Forgiveness isn’t just a key, it’s God’s Master Key. As the name implies, this is the key with mastery over all others, able to open every door. So why wouldn’t we jump at using it if it gets us to where we want to be, faster?
When Nelson Mandela walked free after 27 years a prisoner, he chose to use God’s Master Key to open the door to his future. “As I walked out of the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison”.
And that’s the key (if you’ll pardon the pun).
To use the key is a choice. If you choose not to use it, there’s no “master” about it.
You can have the Master Key in your hand, you can examine it, rub the mud or chocolate from it, even polish up the lock; but if you never put it in, never turn it, never step through the door to the healing and wholeness that is on the other side - then it’s just a bit of metal. It only becomes the Master Key when you allow the Master to meet you on the other side of the threshold, swapping your heavy burden for His light one and opening yourself up to receiving the healing and comfort you need from Jesus.
You can choose to swap your cumbersome key ring for God’s Master Key. Come to God's Master Key: Exploring the Power of Forgiveness on 6-7 April 2018. You will discover how to enlist God’s help in the use of His Master Key – the key you must choose to use to step over the threshold into a better future.
It’s a masterful choice.
23rd February 2018
DO YOU HAVE A DODGEY BIBLE?
by Tracey Smith
I watched an episode of the ABC program Compass recently, where the 500th anniversary of The Reformation was being celebrated. In 1517 the population were largely illiterate and without means to know whether biblical teaching, and that of the Church and its leaders, were one and the same. Enter Martin Luther, a German monk whose personal Bible study failed to find a biblical basis for many of the church’s practices. A key example was the custom of selling indulgences to those with the means to pay, prayers bought to absolve the buyer from sin and to ensure a rails run to Heaven. It seems that for those with wealth in the 16th century economy, Jesus’s death was unnecessary! Luther found a total of 95 such inconsistencies, nailed his findings to the church door and the list went as viral as the pre-social media world allowed. A new church movement based on biblical truth was born.
The moral of that little snippet of history? Don’t be tempted to add to the Bible!
If the Bible is the first place from which we learn about God, aren’t we blessed today to have unfettered access to its pages, easily able to look up whatever we need to know about Him, His son Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. No need for Reformation today! We’re all on the same page about God, we know who He is and what we mean to Him.
Yes, The Bible is truth. But are you aware of a nasty little bug whose sole mission is to infect the Bibles of believers to gnaw away at their grasp of its truth? Many who come to us for teaching and ministry have encountered its handiwork, leaving them with a dodgy understanding of their Bible. I have had a few close encounters myself.
No matter what Bible I picked up, whatever translation I read, this bug tunnelled in like an earworm, infecting every promise of God by adding a two-word coda to each one – ‘except me’. It made sure that in John 10:27, all of God’s sheep would be able to hear His voice – except me. It wove its way through Psalm 46 so that God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble for everyone - except me. A verse of the day would arrive in my inbox like Psalm 86:5, “You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you” - and sure enough the poisonous except me would be hissed into my ear.
There is a difference between knowing about God through His Word and knowing God personally, but if the first is contaminated, the second will suffer. For me, the constant gibes of that bug ate away at my understanding of God, and even my salvation became blighted by doubt. Except me. Those two little words changed everything. My belief system crashed, lies became truth and it was a very short trip from having a dodgy Bible, to having a dodgy God.
Do you have a dodgy Bible?
If you feel disconnected from God, unable to have a relationship with Jesus or struggle to hear the Holy Spirit, then perhaps the dodgy bug is at work? The good news is that there’s a prescription to bring you breakthrough from whatever is infecting your foundations - a life-giving transfusion of bug-free truth, delivered over 24 hours and especially prescribed to flush out the dodginess in your understanding, and reveal to you the true character and nature of God.
Knowing God explores who God really is and how you can have a genuine, healthy and honest relationship with Him. Lies will be revealed and anything dodgy sent packing as words like “except me” will be routed out of your Bible and your understanding. When you really know God, come into relationship with Jesus and become alive to the Holy Spirit, “except me” simply won’t have a leg to stand on.
It will be your own personal reformation. And that’s the truth.
24th January 2018
FOR LOVE OR MONEY
by Alex Cook
Money makes the world go around!! Or so the song says…. But there is no question that money makes up a significant part of our daily lives. Most of us spend our waking hours trying to make it, spend it, worry about it, fight about it or protect it. At some time in our lives, many of us experience a financial crisis of some sort, whether its not having enough money to pay the bills, losing money to a bad investment or lending money to a loved one that doesn’t pay us back.
In the Christian world, we tend to have a ‘love-hate’ relationship with money. We know that money can do a great deal of good, be it helping the poor, funding our local Church, educating our families or supporting our loved ones. However, we also see the harm it does, the impact that greed can have on lives, the servitude that debt can cause and the inequalities that exist.
It often surprises Christians to learn that the Bible talks about money more than any other topic, more than faith and prayer, heaven and hell. And therefore we must ask the question ‘why?’. I believe God knew how much we’d struggle with money and that it would be one of the key reasons that so many people’s relationships with him would break down. The Devil can use money to draw us away from God or make us impotent by enslaving us in debt so we cant live the generous lives to which we are called. In the Bible there are more than 2300 verses on money, wealth and possessions. Jesus spoke about money 15% of his recorded preaching and 11 of the 39 parables have economic themes. Clearly, it is an important issue that we must address in our lives.
In the Bible, money & wealth are neutral, they can be a force for good or evil depending on how they are used. The real problem with money, is not how much we have of it, but whether it has us. In Paul’s letter to Timothy he says:
For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows. 1 Timothy 6:10
Notice the problem here is not money, but the love of it. When we fall in love with money we can be drawn into doing unwise or even illegal things, be it saving too little and spending too much, cheating on our taxes, denying generosity to others, or becoming prideful or discontented.
The challenge for us is that money is seductive. The desire for more money creeps up on us and if we’re not careful, we can be seduced and enslaved it by its grip. The Devil is the master of seduction, and he has used money as a tool to take millions of people away from God.
Let’s be honest, many people struggle with money. It doesn’t help that we have a media that often gives the perception that money is complex. Financial jargon is thrown around and we hear endless conflicting points of view. One of the reasons people struggle is that they simply don’t think about money the right way. This is problematic, because how we ‘think’ about money will determine how we ‘behave’ with money.
But there is good news! Contrary to popular belief money is simple. By learning a few key principles based on God’s word and then applying them to your daily life, you can get on track to financial freedom, stronger relationships and a sense that you are getting ahead.
God desires for us to be good with money, he desires us to be set free from the bondage that it can cause. As Jesus said in John 8:32, "And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
On 23rd to 25th February at our “For Love or Money” course we will be exploring God’s word, what it says about money, how to think about it and what to do with it. We will then learn new skills that take these biblical principles and apply them practically to our daily lives. Don’t miss out!
5th January 2018
AN ADVENTURE WITH THE S.A.S.
by Cody Butler
A couple of Christmas’s ago my auntie’s boyfriend Robbie told the family of a recent anti-terrorism exercise he had participated in with the Australian SAS (Special Air Service) soldiers. He entered as a completely untrained non-military citizen acting as a terrorist. His face beamed as he spoke of the exhilaration that overran his body during the experience. He proudly displayed the deep bruising welts that covered his body from the bullets.
My initial thought was that this guy must be crazy!
The only consolation in my mind was that they must not have used real bullets. Or so I thought…
When he showed me the ammunition, I was horrified. It was a legitimate bullet with a small paint tip on the end. Hardly the consolation I was expecting. I thought they might have used paint balls, or something similar. If hit in the wrong spot they could do serious damage!
What he described whilst we sat and enjoyed our luxurious Christmas lunch seemed so foreign to me. So far removed from the comfortable city life I was living. It was all a bit hard to believe.
It can be the same for us in our walk with Jesus. Our lives can be very comfortable. Scripture talks about the spiritual battle we are a part of, yet sometimes we forget that the spiritual realm even exists. Fear and anxiety are a big part of the enemy’s plan against us as God’s people. We need to see them for the spiritual battles they are and understand that Jesus wants to set us free.
I think Robbie could see the scepticism, intrigue and fear on my face so he threw out a challenge and invited me to the next exercise. I shrugged and laughed it off. I wanted to show him I wasn’t scared ... even though I was absolutely terrified.
Eventually, with my manhood at stake I agreed.
Fear gripped me. What had I gotten myself into I thought? If I got hit by one of those bullets in the wrong spot, I could die… The hypothetical “what ifs” ruled my life for weeks after Christmas. I struggled to sleep and function properly for quite some time.
Fear and anxiety has the potential to rob us of life if we allow it to.
In every book of the Bible God commands us not to fear. Would a fair and just God command us to live without fear and not give us the ability to do so? I don’t think that is His character, unless I’ve missed something…
As the weeks rolled on I’d nearly forgotten about Robbie’s proposal. Unfortunately he hadn’t forgotten. His name appeared on my phone. Our Christmas conversation came flooding back, and with it came a ton of fear and anxiety. He asked if I was available that evening for an SAS exercise. Initially I tried to make excuses as to why I couldn’t join him, but he challenged me, and again I reluctantly agreed.
We travelled about an hour and a half out of the city eventually arriving at a large 80 acre property. In the centre sat a dilapidated three-story building that closely resembled what you would imagine a South American drug lord’s house to look like. It was surrounded by a dried up mote and thick shrub. Once inside the building I could see an array of weaponry, some average looking chest plates, a few helmets and some facemasks.
The man in charge explained that the scenario would be a hostage situation. We were given three women and a young man as hostages. They were taken away from the house into an underground tunnel to be hidden, while the majority of our faux terrorist force stayed to guard the house as a decoy. A platoon of SAS soldiers based on the adjacent property were to infiltrate and secure the hostages eliminating all terrorists in the vicinity (That was me!!).
I was handed an AK-47 rifle and two magazines of ammunition. I asked for some more ammo, but was assured that it would be unlikely I would have time to fire more than a few rounds before being taken out. How reassuring…
I was stationed on a hill twenty or so metres away from the house. Breathing heavily, my mask began to fog up. I wanted to take it off, but we were told that we couldn’t under any circumstances. I couldn’t see a thing. I had no chance! I was going to fight bravely and die very quickly. Panic settled in as I realised my vulnerability. I sat and began to ask God what he was showing me through this craziness. Actually, it was more like “God please don’t let me die here in this bush!” I felt completely alone and abandoned. I berated myself for agreeing to do this in the first place and began to blame God for my situation.
Sometimes under extreme pressure, or even a little pressure we can blame God for our predicament. This is especially true when fear and anxiety have a foothold in our lives. We can feel out of control. Perhaps you are fearful of situations in your life that you have no control over? God wants to speak and reassure you. He wants you to know He is always with you, …“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)
I heard gunfire breakout to the south of my position. If I was terrified before, I was now delirious. My heart was pounding. More gunfire rang out, louder this time. It was getting closer, and fast!
A voice came across my radio with an instruction for me to move out into the open and fire some shots to draw the attention of the SAS soldiers. The voice was clear, but I did not move a muscle. Not an inch. I was paralysed with fear. At this point I was convinced I was going to die.
This is where the enemy wants us as Christians, in a state of paralysis, resigned to let fear rule our lives. However, God wants to meet us in that place. Are you paralysed with fear? Do you avoid places and certain people based on past experiences? Perhaps prior to public speaking appointments you are robbed of sleep and are just flat out anxious? This is not how God wants His sons and daughters to live.
Again the voice came across the radio, even louder and more urgent this time with the same instruction. I’m still not sure how, but I managed to stand and pull the trigger of my rifle and fire off two rounds. Just as I did I felt gunfire coming my way. In a matter of milliseconds I was struck in the head by a bullet. I fell to the ground cushioned by my adrenaline filled body.
It didn’t hurt. I didn’t die. I wasn’t even injured. The mask took the full force of the bullet.
I felt an enormous weight lift off as I hit the ground. It was the absolute relief of surrender, however forced it might have been.
Sometimes life has the ability to bring us to our knees. All the fear, all the anxiety, all the “what ifs” didn’t even come close to eventuating for me. I’d allowed fear and anxiety to rob and restrict my life because of something that ‘could have’ happened. I wonder how many of us are overridden by the fear of hypothetical circumstances in our lives?
Do you feel paralysed, robbed, restricted or worn down by fear and anxiety in your life? Perhaps you are losing hope of getting free, or perhaps you have become accustomed to these burdens? Jesus of Nazareth has the answers you seek and He wants to set you free.
If you want to experience the freedom He has to offer, come to our Understanding Fear and Anxiety Day being held on Saturday, 13th January 2018.
24th November 2017
by Tracey Smith
If you made a movie trailer of your life, where are you in your story? Are you asking the big questions, like:-
Why am I here?
What is my purpose?
What is true?
When dark forces close in, do you know which roads to take, which choices to make? In the epic battle for your life, has the victory been won or lost?
Movie blockbusters often follow a quest. ET and Dorothy had to get home. The Von Trapps had to escape. Luke had to conquer The Force, Thor had to prevent Ragnarok and Billy Elliott just wanted to dance. Great scripts one and all, and in every great script you’ll find a turning point - that moment of transition where the hero stands at a crossroad, the dark forces are closing in and a choice has to be made. Unbeknownst to the hero, one road leads to “All is Lost” and the other to “Victory is Mine”.
If victory seems like a bridge too far, then how about enrolling in Scriptwriting 101 for a rewrite of the rest of your life?
EXPLORE is the quest is for a true connection with God, the personal discovery of His love and the application of its transforming power. God has the answers to every question you are asking - sometimes we just need to go back to school to learn what the answers are.
Set to launch in 2018, the EXPLORE school is a series of weekend events held over the year where you will discover and deal with the obstacles in your personal life story. Anxiety, stress, troubled relationships, conflict, addictions and depression might be page turners in a screenplay but no picnic if they’re your real life struggles. EXPLORE puts you into collaboration with Jesus on a major rewrite of your life so you can be free of whatever is holding you back.
And you won’t be alone … you will journey with others seeking to write the next chapter in their stories, along with an experienced team with a heart to inspire, encourage and workshop with you.
EXPLORE is about you receiving revelation from God for your own personal restoration story.
The topics on EXPLORE read like the chapters in a bestseller. The scene is set with The Big Picture as you check the foundations of your life for stability. In Knowing God you delve into His true character and nature, and embark on the quest for God’s Master Key to unlock the power in forgiveness. The remedy for the poisoned chalice that is rejection is offered to you in Lost and Found and God’s Enemy Exposed will prepare you to vanquish the one who seeks to steal, kill and destroy your life. Inside Out will take you to your very core and Heart Matters will light the path to restoration of inner damage. God’s plan for relationships will get you Connected and Sheltered will reward you with the antidote to fear and anxiety.
Of course, any good story needs a finale where the loose ends are firmly tied and we aren’t left wondering what happened to the hero. This comes with the Explore Workshop where you and your fellow travellers will use the keys you have discovered to minister alongside our Ministry Team, to each other.
Each EXPLORE begins on a Friday night and by Saturday night you will have share
d in worship, fellowship, biblical teaching, personal reflection, group discussion and an Encounter time of prayer ministry.
If you want to deal with the unanswered questions and the enemy in your life story, then come and EXPLORE God’s rewrite of your life with us.
Remember! Every good movie script has a turning point for victory.
Could the decision to come and EXPLORE be yours?
21st September 2017
The Perfect Storm?
by Janine Robinson
Ever been so scared of something that you feel like there’s a storm raging on the inside of you? Your tummy is doing flip-flops … your hands are sweating … your heart is racing? Me too!
When I was a little girl, I loved playing with the flannelgraph or Fuzzy Felt pictures at Sunday School and one of my favourite stories was the one where the disciples were in a boat out on the lake and Jesus walked on the water towards them during a storm. Peter gets out of the boat and walks on the water to Jesus and when Peter takes his eyes off Jesus he sinks and Jesus catches him just in time before he disappears beneath the waves. You can read the story in Matthew 14:22-33.
I have a very healthy respect (code for fear!) of the water and the thought of being out in a tiny boat in a huge storm raises my anxiety levels to its upper limits. But this wasn’t just any ordinary storm … it was the Perfect Storm! That reminds me ... have you seen the The Perfect Storm movie with George Clooney? Scary!! Remember that scene when they are staring up the face of that giant wall of water? No thank you!
But Is there really such a thing as a Perfect Storm? Well, apparently! It’s a storm that sets out to achieve everything it was meant to, like in our Bible story. Wikipedia describes a “perfect storm” as an event where a rare combination of circumstances aggravates a situation drastically. The term is also used to describe an actual phenomenon that happens to occur in such a confluence resulting in an event of unusual magnitude. I had to look up the meaning of confluence … it means the meeting of two bodies of water. And in the story of Jesus walking on the water, that’s exactly what happened! The Sea of Galilee, churning up the waters of the deep meets Jesus … the Living Water! Cool, hey? Wikipedia lines up with the Word of God!
When I’m afraid I feel like I’m going through a storm, I get all churned up. It brings stuff to the surface that I didn’t even know was there. Insecurity, control, loneliness, trust issues … they all come bubbling to the surface.
Maybe God allows us to go through storms because it is the only way of surfacing all the hidden stuff that needs to be dealt with so you can see Him more clearly and recognise His presence in your life. Often the difficult experiences we fear the most can bring us closer to Jesus. Just like it did with Peter. Jesus always comes to us in the storms of life … in fact, He has never left us. Isaiah 43:2 says “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.” The Lord many not come at the time we think He should come, but He knows when we need Him the most.
In the story, Jesus had waited until the boat was as far from land as possible, when all their hope seemed lost and when all the disciples’ strength had gone. When their fear was the greatest. They cried out and He heard them. He always hears you. He always sees you.
Jesus said to the disciples, “Take courage. It is I. Don’t be afraid.” At the sound of Jesus’ voice, Peter plucks up the courage to step out of the boat. He doesn’t wait for the storm to stop. He doesn't ask Jesus to stop the storm. He doesn't even ask for a guarantee that he’s not going to drown. He steps out. He took a risk. He had a choice. And we have a choice. To take a risk ... even when we are afraid. It goes against all that we believe is going to keep us safe. You have to step out to find out. In Hebrews 11:6 it says “without faith it is impossible to please God.”
In saying that, I’ve had my very own “stepping out of the boat” experience. We were holidaying with friends in Fiji and it was around the time of my 50th birthday. We hired a boat to go snorkelling. I had never been snorkelling but I thought we would go to an island and we would be near a beach. Remember I am afraid of deep water, so this option was OK with me. But to my surprise after an hour, the skipper pulls the boat up at a reef and tells us that we had arrived. I looked around. No land in sight! I looked down. I couldn’t see the bottom, even though the water was crystal clear. My anxiety level peaked!
The skipper spent a few minutes explaining the safety rules and encouraged those who weren’t strong swimmers to put on a life jacket. I put one on even though I had already decided I wasn’t taking part. My husband and friends all jumped off the back of the boat and swam over to the reef, leaving me all alone with my fear.
One of the crew saw me and said that he was going to row a small dinghy out to the centre of the reef just in case the swimmers got tired and needed a rest. He suggested to me that I could hang onto the back of the dinghy and he would tow me out and when I felt confident I could let go. Well, that wasn’t going to happen!!
But standing on the back of that big boat, I decided to take a risk. I prayed and made Jesus the Lord of the time and manner of my death. Are you laughing? I was serious!! That’s how scared I was. I had never worn a lifejacket before so I didn’t even know if it was going to keep me afloat. I took a deep breath and jumped. So far, so good. I held the back of the boat and we made our way over to the reef.
After a few minutes of wrestling with my facemask and snorkel, I plunged my face beneath the water and what I saw took my breath away. The colours of the fish and the coral were amazingly beautiful. I had never seen anything like it before. I just kept letting out these “oohs and aah” sounds. The crewman asked me if I was OK. I just gave him the “thumbs up”! I was more than OK.
And then I felt the Lord say to me “Happy birthday lovely one.” That made me cry into my facemask!
If I hadn’t taken a risk and jumped off the back of the boat, I would have missed out on one of the most spectacular experiences of my life. The same thing happened for Peter, and the same thing can happen for you.
Matthew 14:32 -33 says “And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshipped him, saying, “Truly, You are the Son of God.”
They suddenly realised who Jesus really was and that He could do what He said He would do.
Again, Isaiah 43:2 says “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.” But then the next verse, verse 3 says "For I AM the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour.” He is the One who saves. He is your Rescuer. He can rescue you from your fears.
So what are you missing out on? What fear is holding you back from experiencing everything that God has for you in your life? Jesus the Living Water wants to meet with you in the midst of your storm.
If fear is your constant companion, why not take a risk and come along to our Steps to Freedom from Fear course which is being held on 6th – 8th October 2017.
Speaking as someone who has stepped out of the boat, believe me, you have everything to gain!
25th August 2017
How much is too much!
by Sue Bailey
Are you no longer the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed person that you used to be? Have you lost your joy? Feeling exhausted? “Unfair” is in your top 10 most used words?
Burnout can wreak havoc on your health, relationships and job performance. In order to combat it early, it’s important to know what it is and what to look out for.
Burnout is that state when the levels of stress reach an unbearable intensity, with little or no let up, and the person is no longer able to cope. It is a condition that evolves slowly over time, although there may be a ‘final straw that breaks the camel’s back’, and results when both the body and mind are worn down and worn out.
Mary Andrews-Dalbey says this –
“It is not just describing a place of excessive stress, but burnout describes a complex human reaction to ongoing stress and an increasingly negative attitude toward your work and, perhaps, your life. It's feeling that your inner resources are inadequate for managing the tasks and situations presented to you. It becomes more and more difficult to recoup from hard work, to face challenges and to adequately rest. In burnout, we've spent not only our energy, but we've also used up our emotional reserves.”
Simply, it is that place where there is ‘nothing left in the tank’ you are no longer just running on empty, but barely surviving on the fumes! As a result, often a person just comes to an abrupt stop.
Early signs could be chronic exhaustion, tiredness and fatigue; anger at those making demands on you; self-criticism for putting up with those demands; resentment for having too much to do; cynicism, negativity and irritability. You may suffer from frequent headaches or gastrointestinal disturbances. You may compulsively eat, drink or shop … anything for comfort or escape, or you might stop eating because even that’s too hard. You may have trouble sleeping; feel depressed, helpless, hopeless and isolate yourself from people around you because “I’m so grumpy and miserable, who would want me around anyway?!”
So how do we avoid it or recover from it?
Firstly, are you being real with where you are at? Begin to freely admit the stresses and pressures which have manifested physically, mentally or emotionally.
We can convince ourselves that we're stronger than others, more resilient to stress and more resistant to illness. We say or think things like “Others may be falling apart around me, but that will not happen to me, I can cope! I’m stronger!” The reality is that burnout often happens to those who appear to be the most able, capable functioning people.
By rationalizing and minimizing the facts, not recognizing the warning signs and choosing to do something about them, by denying our feelings, needs and limitations; reality doesn't change. When the body breaks down, illness or burnout follow, and then all plans must be postponed and activities stopped.
Herbert Freudenberger noted that "when negative stress becomes a lifestyle, it hides in the guise of regularity."
It’s our norm. We see nothing wrong with it. It may mean some radical choices need to be made to review and reflect where we are at.
This also needs to be a daily habit. Stop during difficult times in the day and ask God …. “Lord, what are you doing in this particular situation? How can I co-operate with you? What would you have me do?”
Ask yourself: “Is my life out of balance? Even if you enjoy doing that thing (e.g. work), if you focus your whole life on it, you can burn out.
Jesus had His life in balance. He was all about doing his Father's business. He knew that he could only do what his Father was doing, so he placed the burden of responsibility on his Father. Jesus waited upon God for his leading, His timing and His power. That's what kept Jesus from burning-out. Otherwise, he certainly had all the criteria to do so: poor work conditions, excessive demands, no compensation, bureaucratic resistance and lack of appreciation. Yet he received all that he needed from his Father. Likewise, we must surrender our agendas to what Father God is doing in any given situation and follow his lead.
Jesus sought time alone to rest and to be restored by his Father. Intentionally, he would send the people away, dismissing those in need without an explanation, or disappear to a quiet place without notice. He didn't ask for permission to go, nor did he remain "on call" in case of an emergency. He didn't even feel guilty. When he needed rest, he would simply stop, retire to a quiet place, and pray. When Jesus prayed, he was at rest, surrendered to his Father.
Matthew 11:28-30 says “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
0n the weekend of 22nd – 24th September 2017, Paul Watson, Centre Director at Ellel Pierrepont, will be teaching on the subject of Dealing with Stress, Anxiety and Burnout.
25th July 2017
by Paul Robinson
What do you expect from a relationship? Not just a romantic relationship.....any relationship? A lot of the time we are unaware that all relationships come with expectations, from both sides.
For example in a work relationship with a colleague, you might find you expect them to be integrous with their time and company resources, have a good work ethic, be friendly and willing to help you out, etc.
In a social situation with friends, you might expect them to be loyal, enjoy being with you, look out for you and be sincere.
The deeper and more intimate the relationship becomes, the deeper the level of expectation becomes. We would not have the same level of expectation in a relationship with someone we have just met as we would with someone we have spent a lot of time with and have many shared experiences, good and bad, over several years.
When I was first married, my expectations of my wife were influenced by my own desires for our marriage but also my understanding of the roles of husbands and wives in marriage as modelled to me by my parents. That was my paradigm, my way of seeing and understanding things, and like all paradigms it was reality to me. My wife had her own expectations and her own paradigm built around her own dreams and life experiences. Not that we discussed, or in some ways even recognised that we had those expectations, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t there.
The problem often comes in relationships, as it did early in ours, when our expectations aren’t met. This can be particularly difficult to resolve without help when you consider that both people are unaware they even had some of the expectations they are holding the other responsible for not meeting!
Imagine for a moment that you have two people entering marriage. The husband to be comes from a family where the mother of the household was a very fastidious housekeeper, was never employed outside the family home. She almost single-handedly, and seemingly cheerfully, undertook all the domestic chores such as cooking, washing and cleaning. His father while supportive, only occasionally helped out with the chores and spent most of his time outside in the garden or shed or in front of the TV. There seemed to be an unspoken natural order, mum stays home and does all the internal “housework” and dad is responsible for the outside only.
The wife-to-be comes from a totally different backdrop. Both parents worked in jobs outside the family home, the family were all expected to pitch in and help with the chores and while mum and dad and the kids had certain tasks that were their responsibility, most of the workload was shared.
Do you think there may be differences in the expectations around sharing of domestic duties between the husband and wife in that new marriage? How much more difficult would it be if the expectations were not discussed or even recognised before the wedding day?
Unmet expectations in a relationship lead to disappointment, and disappointment then leads to judgement which is where the real problems begin. When we’re judging someone’s actions through the lens of our disappointment, we’re presuming to know what is in their heart or making assumptions about what they are thinking. “He/she obviously doesn’t love me, if he/she cared about me he/she would......”
When we make these kind of judgements about what’s in the other person’s heart it leads to bitterness and, at best, a partial break or strain or, at worst, a full breakdown in the relationship. I think maybe that’s one reason why God, tells us in Matthew 7:1-5 not to make judgements about others! In fact God tells us to look at ourselves, examine our own hearts first, before we judge others.
So maybe it’s a good time to search your heart, look at your relationships and ask God to show you where you have unmet expectations that you need to deal with. God’s desire as revealed in His word is for unity among His people, in fact it says it brings blessing.
Grace to Heal What Isn’t Real with Thom Gardner is a weekend course being held on 18-20 August 2017 which will help you learn how to deal with, and receive healing and restoration for those relationships that have been affected by unrealistic expectations.
22nd June 2017
The Great Adventure!
by Cody Butler
The great adventure is an invitation to live life like never before. It’s an adventure that Christ wants us to be a part of! It isn’t just for those who some might consider to be the spiritual elite. It’s for you and it’s for me!
What comes to your mind when you think of the word "adventure"? Does it scare you? Maybe it excites you? Perhaps you are indifferent?
I grew up in the country and adventure was in my veins. My brother and I would push the limits on our daily escapades. We’d try new things and we’d hurt ourselves on occasion, but we’d learn from our mistakes and continue to push the boundaries.
The house we lived in was old, but full of character. Raised upon stilts you could feel the cool air from beneath the wooden floorboards especially in the winter. Intrigued by the phenomenon of cool air on our feet we set out to discover more. Outside, on all fours and eyes squinting we peered into the darkness, which seemed to be an abyss, a mystery, or perhaps a great adventure!
Mum gave us the all clear, but exhorted us to cover ourselves from head to toe just in case we ran into our old mate Joe Blake (snake). Heeding her advice we covered ourselves with as much protection as was physically possible. Three pairs of socks, two pairs of pants, a few shirts and a face mask for good measure.
Erring on the side of caution we decided it was best to take a couple of M-16s and grenades (plastic of course) just in case. By the time we were ready, James Bond would have looked unprepared. All that was left to do was to take the first step into the unknown, into the abyss.
For a couple of boys at five and six years old the potential dangers ahead paled in comparison to the possibilities of discovering what lay hidden below.
Today, God wants to lead you into the unknown, into the "abyss". He wants to take you away from the comfort of your life and into the amazingly colourful life He has planned for you. He wants to be the boss. Will you let Him?
Hidden beneath the floorboards of your life is an adventure Jesus is waiting to take you on.
Curious? I hope you are!
John Eldredge said, “Men want a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue. That is what is written in their hearts. That is what little boys play at. That is what men’s movies are about. You just see it. It is undeniable.”
Similarly, he writes regarding women, “You’ll find that every woman in her heart of hearts desires three things: to be romanced, to play an irreplaceable role in a great adventure and to unveil beauty. That’s what makes a woman come alive.”
God has written the desire of adventure on our hearts. He’d prefer to be at the head of the adventure and not the rear, but unfortunately we constantly push Him further and further back.
So why does this happen? Why are most Christians living an adventure hardly worth living?
Perhaps it’s laziness? Maybe you are convinced that living a sold out life for God isn’t possible in today’s climate, with jobs, mortgages and kids amongst everything else.
Whatever the reason, God hasn’t forgotten the desires of your heart and the yearning you have to live a life worth living.
Maybe today is the day it all changes?
Maybe the cool air of God’s great adventure is slowly, but surely creeping through the floorboards of your life, peaking your interest ever so slightly until you can’t help but let go and accept His invitation into the unknown, into the abyss.
Ken Symington will be with us ön the weekend of 14 - 16 July, and his course ‘The Great Adventure’ is an amazing insight into what it looks like to live a life on fire for God, leaving behind the mediocre lukewarm Christian lifestyle many are stuck in.
To find out more or to book on The Great Adventure, click here
24th May 2017 ...
But I'm not creative!!
by Jeanette Kingston
We have heard that statement many, many times over the years, and maybe you are one of those who have said those words. You may not have the artistic ability of Rembrandt but you have been created in the image of God, so therefore ... you are creative!!
Ask a group of four or five year olds if they are artists or creative and almost every hand will go up. Ask a group of twelve year olds, and only a few hands go up. What has happened? Well maybe they were laughed at, or told to stop wasting time or even scolded for making a mess. They were not encouraged just to “go for it”! The message they were trying to express was misunderstood.
Now when we use the word “creative” - we’re not talking about being an artist, or skilled in a particular area. There are those that are gifted … have a gift or talent bestowed by God’s Spirit upon them, and there are those whose gift begins as an interest, and when developed and practiced they become very skilled and will be recognized as gifted. These people may be very creative in the area of their gifting, but we can also be just as free to have fun, try new things, have another way to express ourselves, say in our creativity what words cannot say. You don’t have to be particularly good at something to be creative.
Every one of us can create, all human beings are creative… because we are made in the image of the Creator who is very creative!
Engaging in creativity gets to the root of issues very quickly. Creativity opens up the human spirit because our creativity is part of the human spirit. Creativity has a way of by passing the mind and exposing what is really in our core belief system.
We may not understand where a certain behaviour or a feeling is coming from, but as we move into doing something creative we will often feel the fears, doubts, and hurts we hold in our spirits of past failures, disappointments or words spoken over us and then if we allow God in, He can heal those wounds of the past.
On the weekend of 22nd – 25th June, 2017 we are holding our annual Healing through Creativity course. This is four days set aside to enjoy, in a safe environment, the joy of allowing God to bring healing as we make, try something new and be creative.
This is a weekend to grow in the image of God. Giving yourself time, to see, to understand what has blocked your growth into His image while having the opportunity to allow God to feed into your heart through taking the risk of trying something new, allowing yourself to be vulnerable, and owning the stories of your life. Acknowledging where there is loss can be difficult but not as hard as continuing to run from where God’s heart is to meet us.
The weekend provides a structure yet with a freedom to choose from different activities and workshops including pottery, woodwork, dance, cardmarking, photography, sewing, making jewellery, painting, collage, music, creative writing, leatherwork, mosaic work, flower arranging and even making and flying paper aeroplanes.
These opportunities allow you to experience, to see, to taste, to feel and have a go in a safe and encouraging environment! At the same time there is great fellowship as the family of God and time to find God in a new and fresh way. This is not so much a course as an experience!
Here’s a testimony from one our past Healing through Creativity weekends -
“I couldn’t understand why God kept drawing me back to the woodwork shed when there was so many other activities I wanted to do. But as I worked on different projects guided by the loving encouragement of the older men helping there, God revealed to me that all men weren’t like my father. I kept expecting them to snap at me or ridicule me. My father was a very impatient man, but these men never criticized or discouraged me in any way. They were so patient, kind and understanding. A core lie was smashed that day. Thank you!”
This course is not about what you can bring or even what you can do. It is more about discovery!
Join with us on this special course and experience for yourself God's healing heart through creativity.
To know more, ring our office on (02) 4633 8102 or click here to book
18th April 2017
Paying it Forward
by Paul Ryan
Have you ever been asked to pray for someone and didn't know where to start? Have you ever felt like you missed an opportunity to pray for someone because you weren't sure what to pray? Don't ever miss an opportunity again!!
Matthew 28:19-20 says "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Here at Ellel Ministries, we want to see restored disciples offering restoration to others. But that requires a process.
So we are offering discipleship training and equipping over just one week with essential tools that only Ellel Ministries offers…
Over 15-20 May 2017 we are running our brilliant Ellel 6 Day School here at Gilbulla in Sydney.
It is one week of powerful teaching. It combines vital theology with a practical component on ‘how to minister to others’ immediately after every session!
The 6 Day School covers the key components of Ellel Ministries teaching in a package that won’t even stop you from attending Church on Sunday! (Begins Monday 15th May through to Saturday afternoon 20th May).
6 Day School topics include:- Deliverance Ministry; Generational Influences; Relationships and Soul Ties; Inner Healing & Emotional Wholeness; Dealing with Forgiveness; Overcoming Rejection; Dealing with Accident & Trauma; Restoring Human Spirit; Understanding Beliefs and Behaviour Cycles; Godly Sexuality; Overcoming Fear & Anxiety; and lots, lots more.
Most of those sessions will have a ‘hands-on’ Practical Workshop included showing how to minister into each of those affected areas where a person’s life can be negatively affected.
That Practical component after each teaching session will either be in the form of:-
1) Upfront Demonstration Ministry for all to witness; experience and learn from; or
2) Small Group settings (where mini-workshops will take place with an experienced Ministry Team person leading each group. That key person will provide oversight and offer demonstration ministry within that group to enhance the learning experience!)
Listen to this testimony of an interstate student who attended last year’s 6 Day School: “I came expecting to gain insights on how to pray for others back in our own congregation. What I wasn’t expecting was God to heal me of a trauma that occurred many years ago, which I had no idea was still affecting me so negatively! Praise God, I feel amazing. It’s incredible what Jesus has done! Now I will return home with more freedom in my heart, less fear, a greater love for Abba Father… plus a whole lot more to offer in prayer ministry thanks to what I learned watching the Upfront Ministry and being involved in the Small Group workshops. Thank you Jesus. And thank you Ellel Gilbulla.”
This Ellel 6 Day School is our most intensive practical training opportunity we offer.
Six days of kingdom keys imparting a deeper understanding of how to heal the sick, restore the wounded and prepare disciples to fulfil the Great Commission!
This is an excellent discipleship package that offers powerful and effective ministry training… …what are you waiting for?
Either book online here… or by ringing our Reception during office hours on (02) 4633 8102.
24th March 2017
What Does Easter Mean to You?
by Tracey Smith
I was out in the car with my husband and as we listened to the radio it was apparent that an interview with Australian champion swimmer Ian Thorpe had just taken place. The announcers were discussing the sacrifices "Thorpey" had made to achieve success, which prompted us to ponder what today is considered a sacrifice?
If you decide to be an elite athlete and go for that gold medal, is everything you do to pursue that goal considered a sacrifice? Are the years of study a medical student undertakes to be a doctor considered sacrificial? Or in both cases are the choices made the means to an end?
As you do, I thought I would consult Professor Google and see what wisdom he had to share on sacrifice. The Prof presented me with three definitions, the first of which probably comes closest to covering Thorpey’s swimming career:
An act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy.
Google also provided some useful synonyms: loss, relinquishment, forfeiture.
Thorpey would have forfeited some things that were valued by others such as sleep ins, a social life and a relaxed diet so they didn’t get in the way of him achieving success in the pool. Jockeys make similar choices, relinquishing some things in order to achieve the measure of success the racing profession deems important and worthy - riding winners.
Definition number two:
An act of slaughtering an animal or person as an offering to a deity.
Google’s synonyms this time were ritual slaughter, immolation and hecatomb. (Heca-what? Well let’s just say there’s a truckload of cattle involved but that’s another story).
It was Google’s third definition of sacrifice that resonated with me:
Christ’s offering himself in the Crucifixion.
Easter is when the word ‘sacrifice’ needs no synonyms. Jesus Christ sacrificed himself for us. When we hear of someone laying down their life for others such as a soldier may do, it is often called the ultimate sacrifice. Is there a bigger sacrifice a human being can make? But in Christ’s case, this was not only a human making this choice - this was God.
How does God die? He becomes a man so he can.
There are many other belief systems and faiths in our world but I’m yet to find any other where the one being worshipped does the dying for his followers. Jesus chose to become fully man for us. A God that made himself man which meant he could feel everything you or I could feel, and we can only imagine the torture - body, soul and spirit - that He endured at the Crucifixion.
But he chose to do it anyway. I wonder sometimes how that feels when what seems to follow is an endless succession of ungrateful generations. He sacrificed himself, knowing that many would still turn away, choose death.
When you accept Jesus Christ, His sacrifice saves your life, both in the here and now and into eternity. You don’t have to perform rituals, jump through hoops, sacrifice animals, wash yourself first or go through a priest to confess your sins – you can just open your mouth and speak to your Heavenly Dad. Receive His reassurance. Find refuge under His wings. Cry to Him when you’re hurting. Be forgiven when you’ve messed up. Get peace when all around is madness. Shout when there’s anger, injustice, pain. Confess when your cranky pants feel tattooed on. The fruit of the sacrifice Jesus made for you is your acceptance of Him and the ongoing relationship with God He opened up for you. It’s Easter, every day! (Sometimes, it’s even minute by minute).
Easter is the gift that keeps on giving. Can you get your head around it?
Don’t try. Just live it.
(Chocolate or a lamb roast is optional).
22nd February 2017
What About Me?
by Joanne Ryan
Have you ever thought this ... or said this out loud ... or even sung along very convincingly to the song with this name? What about me??
It is the heart cry of every man, woman and child from every walk of life to be accepted for who they are and to ultimately belong ... to someone and somewhere!! To be seen and valued as a necessary and integral member of a family, a workplace, a church, a community or a sporting team. It is actually part of our DNA…it was always what our Heavenly Father intended for each of us.
Our God is a relational God! And He designed us to desire an intimate relationship with Him first and foremost. For that relationship with Him to be the foundation upon which all other relationships stand. We are His kids, the apple of His eye and if we were able to grasp that truth, our deepest desire to feel accepted and to belong, would be filled.
So why do we struggle so much? What has gone wrong? How do we begin to fix it?
Peter Horrobin, the Founder and International Director of Ellel Ministries came up with four statements that we now call The Four Principles of Acceptance & Belonging. I want to quickly unpack them for you…
The first one is the cornerstone, the foundation on which the other three flow out of. If we can truly grasp this first principle, the knock on affect will be life changing!! I know it was for me!
- Accept God as He really is…or in other words “How do you see God?”
- Allow God to Accept You or “Can you let God love you?”
- Accept Yourself…”Can you love yourself?”
- Accept Others – “Can you love others?”
I was born and raised in a loving Christian family and I really didn’t think I had any issues with God. Sadly, I had no idea who my Heavenly Father really was. I didn’t know that he was my Daddy, that he adored me just because I was His. I knew in my head that he loved me but this knowledge had never dropped down to my heart. I was a slave not a son.
My Heavenly Father used my baby girl to show me what he was truly like and how much he loved me. Hannah knew that her daddy loved her. And she acted like a true daughter with him. She was bold in seeking out time with him. She knew what was rightfully hers as a daughter. And she took it!
She used to yell out to him as he left for work, standing at the door of our home when she was just eighteen months old…“Daddy…cuggle me!!” (that word was a cross between cuddle and hug!! Very cute!!) And Paul would always make himself available to her…scooping her up in his arms, loving her, blessing her, kissing her and tickling her. She loved it!! After a few minutes, she would wriggle out of his hold, look up at him with big blue eyes and say “Lub you daddy!” (her adorable way of saying love!!)
You see, she ‘got it’…she absolutely knew without a shred of doubt that she was loved, treasured and adored by her earthly father…she had a ‘heart’ awareness of this truth.
One particular morning I was watching this scene play out in front of me and it deeply impacted me…I was a sobbing mess in fact. So I cried out “God, why can’t I get this? I want to feel this kind of love for myself!!”
And He spoke deep into my spirit these precious words…”Paul is a great dad…He’s a really great dad but he’s nothing on me. And what Paul has with Hannah is exactly what I want with you!” And that was the beginning of a transformation process from slavery to sonship. Finally, I started to grasp the first principle…Accepting God as He really is…a loving, good, safe Father who loves and adores me. And then it became so much easier for me to Allow God to Love Me. Who doesn’t want to be loved by a good dad?
The other knock on consequences were that I started to like me. When you start to believe that your Heavenly Father not only sees you but truly loves you, you start to like yourself a whole lot more! And when you truly Love Yourself, you can Love Others well out of the ‘full tank’ you now possess!!
God’s heart is for you to truly know that He wants you…warts and all…because simply you are His!! Are you desperate to feel that kind of love? Are you willing to believe that it’s possible?
We run a weekend course on Acceptance and Belonging coming up on 31st March – 2nd April 2017. Please take the opportunity to come and invest in your heart…
You are so worth it!!
24th January 2017
The best Ellel course to do ...
by Paul Ryan
We are quite often asked by people “What would you recommend as the best Ellel course for me to do?”.
The answer usually varies depending on the individual needs of the person asking that question. However, there is really only one course that covers every need:- our Modular School!
I heard someone say to me over a meal immediately after graduating from this year’s Modular A School: “I began the Modular School thinking I was coming to learn how to minister to others… what surprised me was how much pain I was still carrying regarding issues I thought were dealt with long ago! But to my surprise, out of that restoration journey over the course of the Modular School, came many discipleship tools and spiritual keys that have powerfully equipped me to now minister to others. I came expecting to learn with my head… but instead I was equipped via a journey of the heart. And the added bonus is how much more I have experienced the love of Abba Father just for me! I just feel my heart is so much more at rest and so much more secure in God’s love than ever before!”.
The ‘journey of the heart’ that person was referring to was a 12 month journey on our Ellel Ministries’ Modular School.
So when someone asks me “which is the best event for me to attend?”… I could recommend our ‘Free Taster’, or a specific topic like ‘Addictions’ or ‘Fear’… but it’s really only our Modular School that takes you on a ‘journey of the heart’ that offers the full range of equipping, training, restoration and deeper discipleship.
The Modular School is absolutely the best equipping and healing course we offer here at Ellel Gilbulla....by far!!!!
There is another aspect that sets the Modular School apart… it is the powerful friendships you will establish over the year. The quality of relationships you will build on this ‘journey of the heart’ will be some of the deepest relationships you ever establish in your life. And carry forward for the rest of your life. They say that the strongest friendships are built on the battlefront of fighting for the hearts of others. The comradery built each month through the authentic ‘journey of the heart’ that every student on this school experiences, knits hearts together in a way few others schools will do.
Here’s what the 10 individual modules of the Modular A School comprises:-
- “Foundations for the Healing Ministry” 3-5 Feb 2017
- “Moving Under the Anointing of Holy Spirit” 3-5 Mar 2017
- “Acceptance and Belonging” (Rejection) 31 Mar - 2 Apr 2017
- “Inner Healing & Emotional Wholeness” 5-7 May 2017
- “Deliverance Ministry 1” 16-18 June 2017
- “Truth about Sex and Sexuality” 28-30 July 2017
- “Restoring the Human Spirit” 8-10 Sept 2017
- “Steps to Freedom from Fear” 6-8 Oct 2017
- “Principles of Care & Prayer Ministry” 17-19 Nov 2017
- “Modular A School Ministry Workshop” 7-10 Dec 2017
To entice you to come and trial the Modular School, we’re offering a special deal where you can attend the 1st Modular weekend on ‘Foundations’ (3-5 Feb 2017) at a massive 25% Discount - just for this first module of the School. So, why not come to this first weekend as a ‘Taster’ to trial and experience the Modular School?
We are confident that if you’re serious about your Discipleship and wanting to be well equipped – you will want to be part of this ‘journey of the heart’ that could transform the direction of your life forever!
To find out more information and receive your 25% discount, ring the office on (02) 4633 8102.
Looking forward to seeing you over the 3-5 Feb 2017 at our ‘Foundations’ weekend to launch the best course we run – the Modular A School!
25th November 2016
Year of Discipleship and Training (2017)
by Michael Widderich
Are you about to leave school but have no idea what to do next? Or maybe you are at Uni or caught up in a full-time job without finding any fulfilment and are feeling empty rather than inspired. If you are yearning for a closer relationship with God and a stronger sense of wholeness, why not take a year out and apply for next year's intake of Year and Discipleship (YDT) students?
Here at Ellel we firmly believe in the importance of discipleship training in order to both develop a more intimate relationship with Father God and built character that cannot be shaken. That is why we launched the ‘Year of Discipleship and Training’ program for 18-25yr olds back in 2012, to intentionally invest into the next generation who will be the leaders of tomorrow.
The YDT has been running for more than 5 years now and we have been able to learn and improve the program in so many ways during this season. I’m confident in saying that there hasn’t yet been one single student whose life didn’t completely change after 12 months. Of course this growth only comes through great struggles and challenges. But even though many have testified about this year being the hardest year of their life, they all agree that it has certainly been the most impacting and profound year too, leaving them with a strong sense of identity and self-worth. And this is exactly what they will need as foundation when being faced with whatever difficulties they find themselves in throughout their lives.
So where are you at? Can I throw you a challenge to pray about whether this is something that God would want you to do? Or perhaps God has put somebody on your heart as you are reading this? Why not get in touch and refer them to the YDT Page http://ellel.org/au/get-involved/year-of-discipleship-and-training to find out more or call us on (02) 4633 8102.
The offer is out there .... now the ball is in your court!
25th October 2016
Real men are men who are real
by Paul Ryan
Our men’s “Proven” event is fast approaching (24-27 November)!
Most men start out believing they can make a big difference in this world.
But then life happens and we get taken out…
If you’re married - kids come along and you discover you never have enough time or energy for them; career stresses continue to rise; the margins evaporate and all your time is taken up; cracks in the marriage begin to appear. It’s usually at this point a man finds himself in over his head… and it takes everything he can muster just to hang on!
And if you’re a younger single guy… you know that something is missing deep within when you feel fear in the presence of a beautiful woman. Why does she make you feel inadequate… like you won’t be enough for her? Or perhaps you feel like you're failing under study or work pressures. Where does that lack of worth and shame originate?
With all of those situations… you've got to ask what is going on? How as men did we end up here?
For most of us, there are stages of development in our younger years that we never offered to us, simply because our dads did not know how to invest into us everything our hearts needed. We have been raised essentially ‘fatherless’ to be quite honest.
By ‘fatherless’ I don’t necessarily mean ‘without a father’, but rather to say that few of us were blessed with dads who were able to give us significant time, nurture and investment over the formative years of our upbringing. That ‘fathering’ investment also should have included arranging other male mentors to have input into us. The result of those 20 odd years of intentional fathering by our own dads should have led us to know deep within that we are a beloved son, who has what it takes, no matter the challenge.
The reality is for most of us, we did not receive such intentional fathering. Therefore, for most of us, we have not received much of the above input. There are gaps in our development as a man.
Many well-meaning dads who love their sons, gave of their best… but most of those dads would’ve had no idea how to offer the above-described intentional fathering.
It’s unlikely our dads got that kind of investment; because their fathers before them would not have received that kind of fathering either. This generational fatherless-ness has left us unfinished as men, if we are honest. We know this to be true when the storms of life come and we fail to cope with life’s stresses. Such pressure causes us to topple like fallen trees… only later do we find that that our ‘roots’ were not set deep enough and our undealt with inner issues became the ‘termites’ that ate away at us from the inside… weakening us… guaranteeing our failure when the pressure mounted.
Those pressures of life surface a man’s shame, his anger, his passivity, his drive-ness and his addictions. Such symptoms reveal we are carrying wounds - though if asked, most men deny they are wounded. Why? Because we fear we will be tagged as a ‘lesser’ man if we acknowledge our struggles and failures.
A man knows something is missing deep inside him every time he is confronted by a frustrated wife (or angry girlfriend) or a wayward child. Every frustrated father knows the feeling of shame that follows after venting his anger uncontrollably at his child. (Where is that anger coming from? What are we really angry at?)
Sadly, as men we have capacity to do great damage to those under us when we get it wrong. (It’s usually our women, our kids and maybe our employees that suffer under us)
Listen to how Dallas Willard puts it,
“The primary story of God is trying to find men in whom He can entrust His power. The story of most men is being entrusted with power and it bringing harm to themselves and those under their care”.
The real issue lies with the fact most men do not have the character to handle the roles of authority and responsibility we find ourselves in… and we have no idea how to fix it!
Abba Father, I believe, is inviting weary and hungry men to stop building… and instead start digging!
Listen to Morgan Synder from Ransomed Heart Ministries on this concept: -
“What if instead of trying to ‘build big’ in what we do, we gave permission for God to begin digging deep!… By that I mean deep excavation of our hearts - removing the rocks, stumps, rubble and debris that prevent us from laying the foundation required for God to build us into the men, husbands, fathers and leaders that this world will need in the days that lay ahead”.
What if Father God was inviting us as men into a decade of being apprenticed along the narrow road that few choose to walk. An ancient path, in fact.
Our “Proven” men’s event aims to identify what was missed in our masculine journey. There are certain Stages within that journey that cannot be skipped over. Those stages of the journey that we skipped (or had stolen from us) can be rediscovered. This Masculine Journey that every man is meant to take can still be found. Most of us have just never been shown what that journey looks like.
“Proven” is designed to re-set your compass towards that ancient path (Jeremiah 6:16). This event is designed to help find men find direction for their hearts again.
It’s not just another men’s conference telling you what you have to do for God… but rather you will be invited to come and hear what Abba wants to do for you!
“Proven” will explain how God wants to ‘father’ us and restore us to be worthy frontline warriors.
But this journey is not for religious men… it’s far too costly and demanding for ‘pretenders’. This journey will require something of us that only a desperate, humbled and surrendered man would dare pursue. This event is only for those men willing to take the road less travelled… the narrow road. An ‘ancient path’ (Jer 6:16).
“Proven” will be held at Ellel Gilbulla over 24-27 November (4 days - Thurs evening to Sun lunch).
If you want to register, or find out more call the office on (02) 4633 8102 or click here to book
28th September 2016
You Are Creative!!
by Paul Ryan
I find it very interesting that many of us as adults today profess to have no creative ability!
Ever heard others (or perhaps yourself) say, “I am not artistic”… Now to be specific… we’re not talking about being ‘artistic’. We’re talking about being ‘creative’. It’s true to say we don’t all have an artistic gift, but the truth is actually that anyone can be creative! How do I know that? Well God’s Spirit brooded over creation at the birth of this world and that same Holy Spirit has crafted us into the image of God… so if we have been created in the image of God and He is The Creator… then to be made in His image must mean by definition that we have some creative ability.
Even so, most of us still hold to a belief system that says “I am not good at that sort of thing”… however, you never see a child having difficulty with being creative! Every kid loves to cut out and glue, paint, draw, play with building blocks, have fun with play-doh, plasticine or crayons, and kids love to experiment with musical instruments!
If all children, who have a natural leaning towards creativity are encouraged and affirmed in their efforts – regardless of how messy things get or unharmoniously the music sounds – they grow in confidence to enjoy a freedom of expression that can be carried throughout their life!
When children are encouraged to be creative they receive a sense of fulfilment, joy and fun that they can carry with them as they mature, which can provide a God-given confidence to pursue and develop creative giftings in other fields. Such pursuits could offer a delightful hobby or leisure activity that carries into adulthood or even possibly develop into a chosen career!
Bottomline … Creativity is meant to be FUN! And because it is primarily an activity where we have to engage our human spirit… creativity is a pursuit that connects us to God!
So how would the enemy interfere with that?
Let’s imagine that a child’s creative efforts are not encouraged or affirmed? What if you did a drawing for a parent and they dismissed it? Ignore it? Or laughed at it? Or picked out all the mistakes in it? That child assumes their efforts are of no value. They could be embarrassed or crushed. They determine they cannot draw well, so they stop drawing. They may even believe that any time spent being creative is actually a ‘waste of time’ or ‘not productive’.
Sometimes if a child’s creative efforts are criticised regularly for being inferior to everyone else’s, they may try harder to please next time. When a child starts trying to earn approval with their creative efforts, it is very easy to become achievement oriented… then the joy and fun is lost. Perfectionism then takes hold! We don’t try because perfectionism leads us to believe … we cannot fail! We become afraid to fail.
From this point onward, the enemy can establish strongholds in our thinking that can hold us captive to unholy patterns. These patterns are not easy to break.
A classic tale we hear often is when a young person has spilt the paint at home or knocked over the cordial, and a parent has exploded at the resultant mess. The strong message we receive is that we aren’t allowed to make a mess. From that crushing there comes a fear, a restriction and a control that can engulf us. A parent who doesn’t allow a kid to make a mess, ensures that child will grow-up to become a parent to the next generation who will never allow the freedom to fail, make mistakes or just have fun.
Our Healing through Creativity Course (6-9 October 2016) is simply one of the best events we run all year! It has the least amount of teaching of any long weekend event we offer, yet its impact is profound!
All we do is set up lots of stations all over the ground here at Gilbulla where you can do clay modelling, leather work, woodwork, glass work, collage, card making, painting, musical workshops… we’ve even offered fly casting instruction and ‘How to change the oil in a car’, plus ‘Dance for the terrified’, drama classes, making paper aeroplanes, etc, etc! No matter what the form of creativity you come to participate in, Father God is always present to begin healing the crushing and neglect our human spirit has received!
We even have a “Mess Shed” for those who are game enough to have a go at making a mess with a promise that they will not get in trouble! (The shed is especially set up to deliberately throw paint around!... just for fun!). The testimony time at the end of this weekend has to be heard to be believed!
This event is not so much a course… as an experience! To know more, ring our office on (02) 4633 8102 or click here to book
23rd August 2016
You are Invited!
by Paul Ryan
We are constantly looking to introduce new people to Ellel Ministries and the life changing truth that Christ offers to restore, heal and disciple.
For most people who have never heard of Ellel Ministries or never been to our Ellel Gilbulla centre, they are understandably a little cautious about coming to check us out.
Well, in September, we have two events that are very non-threatening, have no registration fee, and are very low-key introductory events.
Firstly, on 3rd September we have a ‘Free Taster’ one day event that covers some basic Ellel topics and is an absolutely brilliant event to introduce a first-time friend to Ellel Ministries teaching! The day carries great foundational subjects like acceptance and belonging, forgiveness, etc; we provide lunch; and it’s all free of charge. We can’t make it any more attractive than that! If you feel that’s of interest to you or perhaps a friend you could invite to come… then go to the following web link to find our more info: https://ellel.org/au/events/2016/09/free-taster
The second opportunity to bring a first-time friend to Ellel Ministries is during our Open Days over 17th and 18th September. This event is even less threatening than the Free Taster Day! It is our once a year opportunity to open up ‘Gilbulla’ to the public and simply show off our slice of the Macarthur family heritage centred in the very birthplace of Australia’s agricultural belt. There are self-guided tours of the historic “Gilbulla” Homestead (c. 1899) with its beautiful gardens in springtime and walks amongst the Cumberland Woodland forest. There will be Devonshire Teas with the best scones in the shire; a sausage sizzle; and for the kids we’ll have a jumping castle, face-painting and petting zoo of baby animals!
Come and enjoy a great family day out!
Adults are asked to pay a $5 donation at the entrance to the property. (Children 16yrs and under are free). No need to book ahead… Pay at the Gate!
The Centre is open on both the Saturday and Sunday from 10am til 4pm each day.
Looking forward to seeing you at either the Free Taster Day or the Open Days.
For more information, ring the office on (02) 4633 8102.
22nd July 2016
Healed for a Purpose
by Paul Ryan
So many folk want to be healed, trained and equipped as fast as possible!
What is the best way to do that?
We have a Modular School which runs from January to December each year. It's ten weekends spread over a whole year. The next one starts in January 2017. But understandably, some people may feel that they are unable to commit to that length of time.
But what if the best of the Modular School and all it has to offer was jam-packed into just one week? Would that interest you?
And what if that one week’s teaching didn’t just offer the vital theology, but also imparted the practical outworking of ‘how to minister to others’ as you are learning? Would that grab your attention?
The 6 Day School covers the key components of Ellel Ministries teaching in a package that won’t even rob you attending Church on Sunday! (Begins Monday through to Saturday).
6 Day School topics include:- Deliverance Ministry; Generational Influences; Relationships and Soul Ties; Inner Healing & Emotional Wholeness; Dealing with Forgiveness; Overcoming Rejection; Accident & Trauma; Restoring Human Spirit; Understanding Beliefs and Behaviour Cycles; Godly Sexuality; Overcoming Fear & Anxiety; and lots more.
Plus, most sessions have a ‘hands-on’ Practical Workshop showing how to minister into each of those affected areas! (Those workshops will have an experienced Ministry team member present to oversight and offer demonstration ministry in each group!)
This Ellel 6 Day School is our most intensive practical training we offer. Six days of kingdom keys imparting a deeper understanding of how to heal the sick, restore the wounded and prepare disciples to fulfil the Great Commission!
What are you waiting for?
You can either book online here or by ringing our office on (02) 4633 8102.
24th June 2016
Steps To Freedom From Fear
by Paul Ryan
No one is completely fear-free. No one.
And there is only one sure cure for fear … a deep and intimate relationship with Abba Father!
Because when you trust in Father God for 1) your protection; and 2) your provision… what do you have to fear?
For too long I lived in the unreality of believing that I was living free of fear. But under close examination of how I reacted when life’s circumstances turned against me… I would suddenly get anxious; followed by the need to control things in the hope that I regain some sense of security by my own hand!
The way we interact with others and how we respond under pressure – all of that eventually gives us away. From phobias to obsessional tendencies; fear of rejection; fear of authority; fear of dying; etc… every one of us suffers from some form of fear or anxiety in some measure.
The only true antidote to fear is a deep and intimate relationship with Abba Father!
On Saturday 16 July 2016 our one day event on "Overcoming Fear", and then a weekend course on the 29-31 July 2016 called “Steps to Freedom from Fear” will look at what has gone wrong in our early formative years where broken spiritual cover; trauma and other incidents have caused us to become vulnerable to fear and anxiety… leading us as adults today not to trust our Heavenly Father.
These two events will examine the root causes of our fears. It will uncover our sinful responses to the wounding we suffered when we were traumatized or left unprotected and it will offer clear steps that toward a journey that may one day lead to life that is indeed without fear.
Either book online by clicking on the highlighted events above or ring our office on (02) 4633 8102.