Guess who’s coming to dinner?

If you could ask someone you respect and admire (past or present) to dinner, who would it be and why?

Let me answer by telling a story.

In my fresher year as a Uni student, I became quite enamoured with the ‘carefree’ lifestyle I could enjoy being a young adult who had left home to commence a degree in the big smoke of Hobart. Armed with a bit of cash from a government studentship allowance, I regularly indulged in the footloose and fancy-free lifestyle on offer. Over time, my dulled and wearied mind began to wonder if the ‘good times’ were actually satisfying and genuinely enjoyable. This question forming in my mind led me to look around to note how my peers were managing their freedom, their studies, their finances, their relationships and their sense of self and dignity.

I began to observe the lifestyle and interactions of one of the students in the Uni residential college where we both lived. She was well-respected, handed in assignments on time, turned up to lectures ready to learn and would often be found with a bible in her hand, as she attended a study in a nearby suburb with friends.

I found her fascinating, and watched her from a ‘safe distance,’ not alerting her to my observations, or communicating with her in any way. I had never seen someone walk around with a bible in hand. I admired her courage to do so, and noted the respect and acceptance accorded her by other students as she went about her life.

I watched her for two years, all the while growing more and more weary and dismayed by the personal life choices I was making, in the pursuit of the elusive ‘good times’ offered by the ‘in crowd’.

So much so, late one night, I finally acknowledged in a raw, honest moment alone, the significant lack of satisfaction in my lifestyle choices. On a whim I will never fully grasp, I did not knock, but rather impulsively barged into her room, woke her and asked her to tell me everything she knew about God. There it was. A strange question but the right question to ask. I knew from the months of observation that she had a secret, an understanding about life that was worthwhile, giving her confidence, courage and poise. I wanted all of that and instinctively realised it was somehow connected to the God of the bible.

Her, wise and gentle response to being woken up by my passionate plea was,Come along tomorrow night to our bible study to find out more about God.”

I did! Awkwardly, hidden from all my friends, I went along each week for some months to the bible study. Over time, listening, watching and studying the bible alongside a group of fellow students, I found the answer generously and authentically alive in the hearts of those who faithfully shared their hope and truth with me. I too, found the answer in Jesus.

I have never forgotten my beginnings as a Christian. I am eternally thankful for a young woman of faith who bravely and genuinely lived her life amongst use while many of us were chasing after the whirlwind and wondering why we felt empty most days.

My answer to the question of who to invite to dinner and why, is my friend from Uni. To thank her, to celebrate her and to share our stories of life as it pivots on the axis of faith every day.

We are shaped and changed by others in significant, sometimes painful and often powerful ways. But there are those we have watched, respected and admired, perhaps emulated in some ways and they have changed our lives.

And now I ask another question for you to ponder.

Who would be inviting you to dinner and why?

1 Peter 3:15-17 TPT

..give reverent honour in your hearts to Jesus and treat him as the holy Master of your lives. And if anyone asks about the hope living within you, always be ready to explain your faith with gentleness and respect. (Even in the middle of the night when rudely roused from deep sleep!)

Fake it till you make it – or till they find out!

I genuinely couldn’t work out why or how I landed the job as a Principal of a school many years ago. I felt apologetic and embarrassed when asked what I did. I called myself a ‘small p principal’ just filling in until ‘they’ (always hard to nail who ‘they’ ever was) would realise their mistake in giving me such an opportunity. replacing me with a real Principal who would do the job so much better than I ever could.

It was not the first time I’d felt this way about myself. In so many arenas of life I perceived myself as a ‘wanna be’, never the ‘real deal’; always fearing people’s closer inspection and inevitable disappointment when ‘they’ realised, I wasn’t what ‘they’ expected. This led to an unconscious strategy come pattern of self-sabotage by withdrawing before something even got off the ground such as a friendship, further study, a new venture, a job opportunity, or any risky undertaking where I might be exposed and found wanting. It also led to a pattern of cutting and running when people got too close, or challenges mounted in a situation I would perceive as potentially unmasking my outer layer of well-constructed but fake confidence and capability.

I’ve lived with a constant undercurrent of anxiety in all facets of life. As a wife, mum, daughter, sister, friend, student, employee and so on. I’ve always felt lacking, never enough, not quite the real deal.

I’ve described it as having one foot facing in and one foot facing out of most of my life; poised, alert, ready to run for fear of being unmasked, judged and rejected. I’ve lived with a restlessness, a wariness and weariness, always on guard, anticipating, pre-empting and proving over and over that I truly am not enough.

Some years ago, while in the midst of ‘sweating all the small stuff’ in my role as the self-titled ‘small p principal‘ in a school community, I participated in a 3-year training in the Enneagram. I experienced quite a few ‘ahhah’ moments in the quiet of the nunnery where the gifted gentle trainers taught us through reflection, meditation, oral story-telling and solitude how to recognise and hold for the first time, our true self, our wounded self, our image of God self.  I recognised the Perfectionist; the good girl who strove to measure up, meet expectations yet always seemed to miss the mark. There is much more I could say and for anyone who knows and has worked with the Enneagram, you would agree it is one of the most intimate, wholistic and helpful journeys of self-discovery.

During this time, I was finally given the skill and the courage to come face to face with my ‘inner critic’. I had been introduced to him during a prayer retreat some time ago and I’d dubbed him ‘the crow’.  I recognised him as the cawing strident ugly voice who constantly criticised, condemned, compared and crushed me. Yet seemingly he also protected me, prompted me, proved reality and truth about myself and my capacity in every situation.

He came out from the dark shadowy recesses of my mind and was exposed through the course of the sessions. I wondered why God had waited over half my lifetime to expose this nemesis hidden in my mind. He had done so much damage.

But now was the time to begin the journey, the painful hopeful letting go of this friend/foe.

It has and continues to be the ‘thorn in my side’ work for me.  God has been at work patiently teaching me to daily listen for the Shepherd, to recognise, trust and obey His voice in my life. A voice of ‘perfect love that casts out fear’ every day, every day.  As I write this blog, with niggling fear, because the ‘inner critic’ condemns every sentence, every phrase and even now wants me to hit delete, I know I am not alone in this journey of ‘unworthiness’ of which ‘imposter syndrome’ is a symptom.

Freedom, love, joy, peace and abundance have for many years been elusive. I haven’t deserved them, my ‘crow’ would say, as he reminds me of all my flaws and failings.

A friend once said in response to my ‘crow induced’ self-pity and habitual moaning about not being good enough, “Of course, Di, of course you aren’t enough, nor are you worthy. That’s the whole point of the gospel. That’s what God has been saying since the beginning. We as human beings are not able to live perfect lives, please everyone, measure up, be all that every situation requires. God knows this and gave us His son Jesus to set us free, to live an abundant life now and a life with Him in eternity. It’s nothing you can earn, nothing you need to fix or do. It’s God. It’s all Him.”

Now, don’t get me wrong. I knew this. I knew this. But in that moment, my head and heart fully embraced the truth and as for ‘the crow’, well, his voice has for the most part, despite minor skirmishes from time to time, dulled, loosing his claws of control and his harsh pecking of power to steer my course.

I’m learning, still very slowly and haltingly, to enjoy being loved, appreciated, thanked, praised and equally misunderstood, criticised, judged and rejected. It’s all still happening, but how I respond is gradually shifting. I’m still hesitant around risks as I perceive them, still anxious first. But I do enjoy choosing to have a go, make mistakes, develop curiosity, wonder, awe and delight in the myriad moments of ordinary life.

I seriously could write a book. (Back off inner crow! – I could!) There’s so much to be gleaned from honest and open reflection as I have come to understand in the years of living that many of us crazy making humans are blighted/gifted with the ‘inner critic’. One thing I do understand is that this voice has given me an equal and opposite desire and hunger to hear God’s voice, to pursue a faith journey, to long for a fulfilling and satisfying life that I genuinely enjoy in all it’s imperfection.

I’m a teacher, a counsellor (a listener), a writer, a friend, a wife, a mother, a woman of God and most of all I am loved, cherished and treasured. I’m OK.

Faith beyond Coincidence

As I mentioned in my last blog, I will spend the next few weeks exploring the three most important things to me and why.

First – my faith in God

I remember a very intimate conversation with God that occurred while I was experiencing a challenging time in my life.

‘You have never doubted my existence. You doubt my interest.’ said God rather clearly and unexpectedly into my mind one quiet morning while I was enjoying my morning cuppa.

I was caught unawares by the power of the truth that He spoke into my heart in that moment. I was gently, clearly and personally reminded of being fully known, loved and accepted. There was no judgement or condemnation in the words. Instead, I marvelled at the power of the truth in them.

I have memories as a little child of mum dressing us up in our Sunday finery and walking with us to the end of our street to the solid brick building with the words, St Wilfred’s Sunday School carved in stone above the doors. Mum played the piano in the hall each Sunday morning for the crew of around 20 children from pre-schoolers through to early High School. We’d sit in rows, youngest at the front and the older High Schoolers at the back on the hard wooden pews. Each year we would graduate to the next seat back until there were no more seats behind. I guess after that it was off to big church or to other things that interested teenagers instead of the simple songs and bible stories of Sunday School.  

Each week we’d listen to stories from the bible and receive stickers in our booklets for attendance and completing the worksheets each lesson.

I enjoyed it very much. I was one of those good kids, quiet, no fuss, listened intently and loved colouring, filling in correct answers and singing. Loved singing.

One week I recall being quite fascinated by the story of Gideon who asked God for a sign that He was going to help Gideon and his people beat the neighbours across the border who were marauding regularly through their farms and towns destroying crops, livestock and pillaging the homes of the Israelites. Gideon wasn’t exactly excited to be asked by God to fight the enemies. He wasn’t the bravest of men and in order to be convinced needed God to prove He was actually up for this rather dangerous venture. What fascinated me was that God did exactly what Gideon asked and went on to use Gideon and some rather strange tactics to destroy the enemies without a battle taking place at all.

I pondered this marvellous story for the rest of that Sunday and as I went to bed that evening, I wanted to ask God to do something for me. I lay there wondering what I could ask God to do for me. I decided, as it was dark and all the birds had gone to sleep, to ask God to send a bird to call right outside my bedroom window.

I lay there in the dark for a moment, thinking what a crazy thing to ask for; when yes, just outside my window a bird called rather loudly for what seemed like quite a few moments.

I immediately leapt in fright out of bed and ran out into the loungeroom yelling, ‘God’s in my bedroom! God’s in my bedroom!’ to my startled parents.

They calmed me down until I could finally explain what had happened. I remember learning a new word that night that changed my perspective for many years to come.

‘It was only a coincidence,’ they assured me, ‘only a coincidence.’  They calmly took me back to the room, checked under the bed and in the wardrobe, looked out the window and again reassured me, God was definitely not in my bedroom. Nothing to fear here.

I wasn’t totally convinced and tucked the experience away until I had opportunity to attend a church camp some months later. I told my story to some young friends and they encouraged me to go to the Pastor and tell him. I did. And yes, he again reinforced my parent’s response. ‘It was only a coincidence. Only a coincidence.’

I remember feeling great disappointment and a bit of confusion as something just didn’t feel right about what they were saying. But here was a man who was very knowledgeable about God, so who was I to argue with him or my parents. Remember, I was the good kid after all.

I dismissed the experience and actually forgot it for a number of years.

Lots of water under a lot of bridges later, back to God’s statement to me; ‘You have never doubted my existence.’

I knew that to be true. As a young child, I believed implicitly in the existence of God and I smiled at the memory of the naïve young girl asking God for a bird to call in the late evening outside my bedroom window. I knew it was not a coincidence, but a very personal encounter with my heavenly Father who knows me, loves me and accepts me.

The second part of the message went deep into my psyche drawing out a painful wrenching sob. He touched a deep raw wound I hadn’t acknowledged or fully understood in me. Somehow along life’s way I had internalised a tragic lie. I’m not worth it. I’m not enough. I don’t rate. I don’t matter to me, to others or to God.

I, in that moment, cuppa poised in my hand, knew that a lie had crept in and robbed me of life for far too long. A light went on and I agreed with God. Yes, I do doubt your interest. I doubt. I doubt. He gently reminded me of just how valuable I am to Him. He sent his much beloved son to die for me on the cross so I can spend eternity with my heavenly Father. His Holy Spirit abides in me as a promise of an eternity to come. I am much loved and very interesting to God.

Something very powerful changed in me after that gentle and intimate conversation. I marvelled again at the power of a very present all knowing, all powerful God who desires companionship with me. He took the lie, disposing of it appropriately no doubt and reminded me of the gospel seed he planted in my life at 19 years of age. It had become buried over time, not destroyed but hidden under layers of false messages, foolish thinking and poor choices. He berated me for nothing, but invited me to yet again, return to truth and live by faith, not by sight, trusting in Him, not looking elsewhere for value, meaning and purpose.  My journey from that moment has been daily choosing to believe, trust and allow the ancient truth to grow and bear fruit in my life. God is interested in me.

Yes, what an amazing thing to consider. The God of this universe, creator, awesome in power, majesty and might calls me His own. Calls me his beloved. Calls me his bride. I am worth it because I am His and He is mine. His banner over me is love.

My faith is a who. It’s in a God who knows me, loves me, accepts me and is deeply interested in me.

I look forward to hearing your story of faith, discovered, lost, found again and held. You are worth it and you are not alone.


    The Best Season

    Ten thousand flowers in spring,
    the moon in autumn,
    a cool breeze in summer,
    snow in winter.
    If your mind isn’t clouded by unnecessary things,
    this is the best season of your life. Wu-Men

    From when the boys were little my husband and I had a habit of going in and checking on them each night before we went to bed. We would stand together at the foot of their beds and just enjoy watching them in peaceful sleep. Every time, we’d whisper to each other, ‘I wish they’d stay this age, it’s just perfect.’ But each year would roll by and we found ourselves wishing they’d stay the same in every delightful stage of their lives, except maybe late teens when we started going to bed before they did cause we could no longer keep the pace.

    But I do remember that beautiful sense of enjoying them, loving them and celebrating the season and stage of life they were at, every year. It changed constantly, of course, but we loved the learning, the growing, the adventures, the discoveries, the ups and the downs and still do.

    But there were many times and seasons when my mind was clouded by ‘unnecessary’ things and I, like many busy working parents, found myself struggling with anxiety, shame and guilt which blocked my vision, trapped me in damaging mind loops and left me weary to the bone.

    In these times of loss of flow, hope and clear thinking I found my mentors to be life changing. I valued their fly on the wall perspective, their gentle but provocative questions, their support as I learned to let go of faulty thinking and their genuine desire to see me enjoy life to the full.

    If you are clouded by ‘unnecessary’ and necessary things and desire to re-gain perspective and find the beauty in each season I encourage you to seek out a coach/mentor who can help you see that this could be the best season of your life.

    There is a gift in everything if only we’ll see it.

    More than our Mistakes

    Holidaying in South Durras is a delight. A beautiful corner of the world, beaches, sandstone rock formations, bike rides and lovely bush trails to explore.

    On one sunny morning over the Easter break we walked through the back of the shack property and down to a path that crossed a creek via a walk bridge.

    On the bridge was a father, his son and daughter. The daughter was on one side of the creek and the son in the middle of the bridge anxiously looking over the side where his shiny new rugby ball was floating serenely in the middle of the dark tea tree coloured creek. He was looking dismayed and upset as he looked to his dad who then walked to the other end of the bridge, found a long branch and stood at the edge of the creek guiding the ball back to land with the branch.

    As we walked by I heard the young boy make a heartfelt apology to his dad: ‘I’m so sorry dad.’

    It was the reply of the father that spoke volumes to me. In a quiet and kind voice he simply said:

    ‘That’s OK son!’

    Phil and I kept walking, but I pondered the scene as I went and reflected that many parents would have responded differently, either out of frustration, annoyance, anger and recrimination. I’ve heard those responses far too often and cringe as I hear parents speak harshly to their children when they make mistakes.

    It crushes something inside a child when they are regularly criticised and condemned often for just being a child and childish.

    But this father was not perturbed at all. Their walk, yes, interrupted, the ball obviously thrown, missed, who knows. I didn’t see that part.

    But I heard the genuine remorse of the child and the genuine love and acceptance of the father and it reminded me of my heavenly Father who is always kind, good and gracious to me. He is never impatient, cross or harshly judging me for my human frailties.

    Instead he lovingly accepts me and works with me to deal with the problem together, just as this Father did on a walk with his children. God is bigger, stronger, kinder and more loving towards me than anyone else I have ever and will ever know, and I am grateful for that.

    I wonder what voice you hear when you make mistakes, do you hear the voice of an angry parent, or a gracious gentle God who accepts you, loves you and steps in to work with you to put things right.

    It changes our lives when we know we are loved and accepted every day no matter what happens.

    Silence and Solitude

    Two words that can spark dread and dismissal or evoke a deep response of anticipation and acceptance.

    I vacillate somewhere between the two responses, knowing in my head that silence and solitude are helpful for me to choose from time to time just like the slack tide in the river that momentarily ceases its ebb and flow.

    This year of COVID-19 created a ‘slack tide’ season that once accepted, became helpful. I’ve noticed the value of quality time, listening and enjoying connecting with family and friends. I’ve noticed a greater awareness of the inner life, what motivates, inspires, frightens or hinders me.

    I’ve noticed a growing acceptance and love for others. I no longer require them to always understand, or agree with me, or even be like me.

    I’ve noticed a deeper faith in an unchanging good God who speaks gently into my life with patient wisdom.

    How has this season impacted you? Have you observed changes within, priorities shifting, relationships deepening? Have you found new ways to engage in the beauty of silence and solitude as a means of bringing balance to the strong currents defining life?

    A friend has enjoyed additional time of solitude in the garden, planting, pruning, tending, watering. Another friend has enjoyed the time of silence while knitting, sitting in a chair looking at the ever changing sky as she quietly prays for her family. For me it has been writing and photography as I have soaked into the natural beauty of my home state.

    This has been a season of ‘unforgetting’, finding new strength, purpose and hope. How has it been for you?

    The journey of unforgetting

    I forgot I love to play the flute, breathing, creating, flowing, soaring.

    I forgot I love being in the music.

    I forgot I love the simple pleasure of following a mountain ridge with my eye and noticing every curve, buttress, cliff and fold.

    I forgot I love noticing the moment.

    I forgot I love the warmth of a fire on my face as I wrap my hands around a warm cup of tea.

    I forgot I love being comforted.

    I forgot I love the sun shining through a window on a beautiful vase of flowers, revealing shimmering colour and curves of amazing design.

    I forgot I love beauty.

    I forgot I love watching a farmer on his motorbike with his working dog chasing, herding, delighting in being together, taking a moment for an affectionate pat and wag of tail.

    I forgot I love being appreciated for my work.

    I forgot how green the grass, how deep blue the mountains, how vibrant the golden hour at end of day

    I forgot the power of choosing silence and solitude

    Di Priest

    C-Change © 2020