I changed my mind about being a leader ~20 years ago. Being identified as a leader is not a popular choice in Australia, especially for women of my generation. My impression of leaders was of big, forceful personalities, carrying huge loads of responsibility, who attracted large numbers of followers along with vocal detractors. Not really a feminine ideal, nor a match with my personality! However, a new understanding of different styles of leadership and the potential to lead for communal good, caused me to put my foot forward into that ring eventually.
Leadership, at its simplest, is having someone follow you. On a sports team, the leader can be identified as the one with the ‘ball’, who must show leadership at that moment by deciding who to pass it to next. Hence, the leadership is constantly changing and becomes a shared commodity. Parents lead their children until they are able to make their own wise decisions. There are many leadership styles, from the upfront, charismatic type we tend to think about first, to the leader in the midst who quietly invites, organises and guides others. This ‘Dorothy-style’ (Wizard of Oz) of leadership resonated with me. Fortunately, I am a part of the Uniting Church which practices a consensus style of leadership of inter-related councils and welcomes women’s leadership. (I suspect these two factors are related!) As one of the leaders of the Church now, I find I can make a greater impact for good, than if I had continued to deny my leadership qualities.
It is disappointing when leaders use the trust and power invested in them just for their own gain. It runs counter to the whole concept of good leadership, which is to help others be their best for the sake of our whole society and planet. However, it is understandable leaders may make poor choices when they are constantly criticised, feeling they are unappreciated and there is ‘no win’ for their efforts. The detractors have a place in keeping them accountable, but this needs to be balanced with thankfulness for those who have offered their skills to lead with integrity. Is there someone you could sincerely encourage with your thankfulness? Might you be a leader still in hiding, who can make a bigger contribution to the world? As always, I am happy to discuss it with you.
Anne shared this piece on our Wednesday Weekly Walk yesterday. I hope we can be as wise as geese in the way we treat each other!
Fact 1: As each goose flap its wings it creates an “uplift” for the birds that follow. By flying in a “V” formation, the whole flock adds 71% greater range than if each bird flew alone.
Lesson: People who share a common sense of direction and community can get where they are going quicker and easier because they are traveling on the thrust of one another.
Fact 2: When a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of flying alone. It quickly moves back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front of it.
Lesson: If we have as much sense as a goose we stay in formation with those headed where we want to go. We are willing to accept their help and give our help to others.
Fact 3: When the lead goose tires, it rotates back into the formation and another goose flies to the point position. Lesson: It pays to take turns doing the hard tasks and sharing leadership, as with geese, people are interdependent on each other’s skill, capabilities and unique arrangement of gifts, talents or resources.
Fact 4: The geese flying in formation honk to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.
Lesson: We need to make sure our honking is encouraging. In groups where there is encouragement, the productivity is much greater. The power of encouragement (to stand by one’s heart or core values and encourage the heart and core of others) is the quality of honking we seek.
Fact 5: When a goose gets sick, wounded or shot down, two geese drop out of formation and follow it down to help and protect it. They stay until it dies or can fly again. Then they launch out with another formation or catch up with the flock.
Lesson: If we have as much sense as geese, we will stand by each other in difficult times as well as when we are strong.
“Lessons from Geese” was transcribed from a speech given by Angeles Arrien at the 1991 Organizational Development Network and is based on the work of Milton Olson.
She approached our group nervously, a newcomer. Spotting her early, I moved towards her and smiled. ‘Are you looking for our walking group?’ Somewhat relieved, she answered, ‘Karen?’ Five minutes later she was absorbed in conversation with her new companions. By the end of the event, eyes shining, she volunteered how she loved the whole experience and would be back next time. Moments like these never fail to strike joy to my heart.
Recently, I had the privilege of meeting a young man who deeply desired to become a Dad, despite having no current partner. The surrogacy process involved was long and very difficult. I was moved by the details and felt privileged to hear of his unusual decision and journey. Seeing the delight in his eyes as he held his baby, became my joy as well.
Each one brought their natural elements to the table with their own stories of appreciation, of loss, and of hope restored. The depth and variety of their reflections amazed me! Here were honest stories, gently offered for us to hold with respect, some raised to God too.
These are just a few examples representing the joy found by people sharing life together. There is something unique about shared moments of joy that defies rational explanation. From my perspective, God inhabits these encounters, and they enliven my spirit. These connections are sensed with the ‘heart’, and sometimes an exuberant light can be seen in people's eyes. I believe we are designed to be in community – bringing joy to each other with our genuine sharing. When God is felt to be present, it brings an even richer dimension.
Loneliness is the lack of such interactions, especially when their absence is felt. It’s always a challenge to enter a new group of people. Life contains many risks and we need to embrace them to enable positive changes in our lives. If you feel lonely, is there an activity you would enjoy doing with others? Or could you encourage someone to find new friends by accompanying them somewhere new? I am willing to help you connect with other people. Lane Cove Community Chaplaincy host intentionally safe activities where newcomers are welcomed. Or maybe I can help you begin something else you enjoy instead. Meeting you and hearing your story, will be my privilege, and hopefully a blessing to you too. Contact me to make that connection.
Veena Sahajwalla is a woman quietly making a big difference in our world. Raised in Mumbai, Veena was fascinated from a young age how almost everything was ingeniously recycled. When she moved to Australia, she found a very different story and dedicated herself to fixing it. Now an engineer, Veena inspires teams of people with her unflinching and creative determination to find solutions for hard to use waste products. Veena was recently featured on ABC Australian Story: The Tipping Point . As I admire new, creative solutions that produce a positive outcome, Veena inspires me. I also love her modus operandi: a quiet, unselfish determination to do some lasting good for all. Veena dedicates her life to this passion. She doesn’t complain, but there is an underlying sacrifice required for the intensity of her mission.
Who or what inspires you? Answering this question helps to counter the bombardment of so much dark news. Is it a sports person, an actor, an activist, natural beauty or your Dad? What is it about them that inspires you to be a better person? You could reward them by telling them what they mean to you.
For many people throughout the centuries, inspiration has come from God, augmented by the associated writings which help them understand a little more about that often -mysterious Source. Like all inspiration, belief in a higher power beyond ourselves, gives us hope. The Easter story is one of sacrificial love of God for all people. Beyond even Veena’s passion, Jesus’ absolute passion was for humanity’s reconciliation with God, a passion worth sacrificing his young life for. As a result, millions of people have been inspired to find and enact their life’s purpose to benefit the world.
Inspire! is a new gathering being designed to give hope and inspiration for those who desire to explore following God through Christian practices, readings and community. Outdoor contemplative practices such as Dadirri help connect us to creation and our place within it. Deeply spiritual Communion encourages our connection to God, augmented by prayer. Communal creativity engages our unique expression in combination with others. I am expecting peace, reverence, joy and hope to emerge. Contact me to know more.
We are all called to find out and express the inspiration we have been given, for the benefit of all.
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (The Bible, John 15:13 NIV)
Quietly spoken Dr. Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr, captured my attention in her ‘2021 Senior Australian of the Year’ acceptance speech, when she spoke of the greatest gift to our nation. She named ‘dadirri’ as that gift. Dadirri (da-did-ee) is a term from the Aboriginal peoples of the Daly River region, referring to the ‘deep spring’ in all of us and the ability to tap into it. ‘Inner, deep listening and quiet, still awareness’ is required. Miriam-Rose assures us: ‘The contemplative way of dadirri spreads over our whole life. It renews us and brings us peace. It makes us feel whole again…’ This renewal extends to healing from grief and other forms of pain we encounter. Whereas she finds her stillness by a riverbank and in other natural spaces, it can be found in the city too, as we listen quietly to one another.
Although my roots are Anglo-Celtic, I resonate with Miriam-Rose. I respectfully practise dadirri and lead others to do so too, in bush settings in or near Lane Cove. It is harder to slow down and find that deep, inner spring when engaged in city life – but so very important. It is an antidote to rushed lives, allowing spiritual wisdom to surface that can otherwise be missed. ‘Be still and know that I am God’ (the Bible, Psalm 46:10) is a treasure I have long respected from my Christian tradition. We struggle to ‘be still’ at our own peril. So many of us have lost the ability to ‘simply be in God’s presence’, but Miriam-Rose tells us that Aboriginal people feel close to their Creator easily.
Does Miriam-Rose go too far in describing dadirri as ‘our most unique gift’ and ‘perhaps the greatest gift we (Aboriginal peoples) can give to our fellow Australians? There are gifts of understanding the Australian bush that indigenous people possess, which could be utilised to reduce bushfires, preserving water sources and so much more. Yet, I suggest this wisdom has come from this same deep source within, originally. Quiet observation of this land and its inhabitants over thousands of years, observing its response to challenges, combined with a deep inner knowing, has created a unique depth of wisdom. Let us respect and seek that wisdom from Aboriginal people and learn to engage it for ourselves through the practice of dadirri.
Quotes from Miriam Rose Ungunmerr can be found in their full context at
Standing above the clouds on a Nepalese mountain was sublime. Our party had climbed from sea level over several days to this point, making it even more special for the exertion expended. The wonder of that wild place is etched into my being. Surrounding mountain peaks poked through the clouds, creating a surreal landscape reminiscent of islands in a frothy sea. Times of wonder such as these, are spiritual experiences, which I attribute to a Creator who revels in beauty.
Eco theology was a recent topic of study for me, focusing on the relationship between God and ecology. It is a relatively new, and increasingly urgent topic, to inform a practical religious response to benefit our planet. A motherly role, that seeks to nurture, protect and restore the created order, is suggested. One that listens to incorporate the wisdom of indigenous people, who have lived lightly on the Earth for thousands of years. One that hears the suffering of the most affected peoples on Earth, (who have contributed least to the problem) and seeks solutions with them. One that seeks to work together with scientists and all who stand for our Earth and its creatures.
Given the vast destruction industrialised humanity has wrought on our planet, a new world view is needed. We are a co-dependent part of the whole of creation, rather than mere utilisers of its ‘resources’. Some of our dependencies have become apparent while others are still to be revealed. We humans are a needy composite of creatures anyway! Our microbiome of bacteria, fungi, protozoa and viruses protects us against pathogens, breaks down food to release energy, and produces vitamins.
Recognition of our role to nurture and tend our planet as a co-dependent creature, naturally leads to lifestyle adjustments. Consume only what we need and use everything acquired. (Indigenous people kill an animal and use it all, nose to tail). Choose local, minimally processed and packaged goods. Recycle as much as possible. Walking, bike riding, using public transport or even carpooling reduces our carbon footprint. Political activism to keep carbon (e.g. coal) in the ground, rather than the air, may begin to have an impact. Stand with those communities already disaffected by global warming e.g. in low lying Tuvalu (see www.unitingworld.org.au/paradiseandpain ) and Torres Strait Islands. Encourage creatures native to your area to thrive, by providing water and safe homes for them. Start a vegetable garden. Join our walking groups!
Embracing our wild connection to Earth and Creator enables hope and healing for us too. Is there a way you can begin now?
Descending from the busy highway, waves of refreshment wash over me as I enter the quieter, natural space below. It’s so close, but it seems like a different world. I retreat from the frenetic pace above gratefully. Lane Cove is delightfully rich in such experiences, with its beautiful gullies and preserved bushland. It’s common to hear kookaburras laugh amongst a variety of bird calls. Seasonal native flowers attract my eye and bring a sense of wonder. Recently, I spied a large stingray gliding gracefully along the edge of Lane Cove River and glimpsed a shy wallaby bounding away on the other side. Being amidst such diverse creation is good and restful for our souls.
As we head into the New Year, I hope you’ve had the opportunity to rest and be refreshed for the year to come. What refreshes you? What brings joy to your soul? It’s important to take regular opportunities to rest, so we can be our best for others and the demands of life. It’s written into our design according to the Bible. The seventh day was made for rest from the very beginning and longer periods of rest are advocated too.
Whereas productivity appears to be the enemy of rest, as we are urged to work relentlessly on, it’s a false assumption. To be efficient, productive and especially to be creative, we need to be in good working order. Even machines need to stop and be serviced, so how much more do people, who are also psycho-spiritual beings? Our body, mind, spirit and relationships, all need good care. Creating this balance in our lives is challenging, but it is our own responsibility. Whereas no one else can do this for you, an ally or two can be found. I have a bike riding buddy, a tennis four, a book club, and a mentor who all help me keep doing the things that refresh me. Who can you bring into your corner?
I may be one of those people for you potentially! If you enjoy walking in nature or want to experience soothing meditation, join a book club or a spiritual discussion and practice group, or just want to chat over coffee or dinner, I can help you. Contact me here .
Take action now to get the rest you need to keep you in good working order for 2021 and beyond. We will all be so pleased you did!
‘You’re one of us now’ indicates inclusion, often through an initiation. My daughter’s partner longs for the day Australia includes him via citizenship. It will be a huge milestone, passing from stateless to citizen. Less formal initiations hold significance for us too: acceptance into a social group, a sports team, or a local community group. Then there’s the darker side – the groups we reluctantly fit into and find hard to leave.
Christmas is founded upon God generously becoming one of us, with the incarnation of Jesus, the God-man. Born into humble, risky circumstances, this young family soon ran for their lives, becoming refugees. No longer ‘one of us’ but ‘one of them’. Surprisingly, Jesus didn’t come as a ruler, but identified with various disenfranchised people. Joan Osborne pictures God as ‘just a stranger on the bus’ in her song One of Us . That’s a long stretch from some of our ideas about God, but captures the common humanity of Jesus well, with a subtle, (very biblical!), implication to care for the strangers around us too.
Hence, Lane Cove Community Chaplaincy was created to intentionally enable people to become ‘one of us’ without major barriers. A Chaplain has been provided by Lane Cove Uniting Church to be welcoming, supportive, available and non-judgemental for anyone in our community. This can be simply a chat over coffee or as part of a group. Being ‘one of us’ can look very different to attending a Church service these days. Contact me (details below) if you are interested.
We were designed to be in relationships which bring mutual richness to our lives. Christmas should be a time of joyously giving and receiving love. Hence, this Christmas, I encourage you to prioritise your relationships, to build on the ‘us’ you may have been blessed with. Others are not so fortunate. Can you help to welcome someone into your circle? Especially this Christmas when many are stranded away from their loved ones. Alternatively, donate to others who are providing Christmas hospitality like Wayside Chapel .
It’s been a tough year, so let’s be gentle with ourselves and gracious to others.
‘Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other’ – Jesus
Wishing you a joyful Christmas and a refreshing break from all of us at Lane Cove Community Chaplaincy.
I recently attended a full week's teaching on the topic of Eco theology. It is the Church's contribution to face its responsibilities in our current ecological crisis. Global warming and other damage to our Earth is a 'wicked problem' requiring an inter-disciplinary approach. Communities of faith have a unique role to play, which we were trying to uncover. This is all very complex and I am happy to talk with you about it, rather than unpack it simplistically in a few words here.
We were given an interesting exercise to do, which incorporated many themes of the week for me. Not everyone will appreciate the exercise we were given - to apply an eco-feminist view point to a Bible passage of our choice. But others have appreciated it, so I share it with you. I chose Psalm 23. You can find a more standard version here.
Psalm 23 (KPV😉)
Creator God is my shepherd,
Balancing my needs amongst all creation,
I have all that I need – but no more.
She let’s me rest in green forests, desert landscapes, amazing coral reefs, under the blue sky,
To renew my strength in grateful communion with them.
These are right paths of peace,
Honouring the Creator and all creation.
Even when I walk through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid,
Because God is already there, inhabiting his Creation.
Loving Creator, we will continue to listen to your voice,
Attending to your principles,
From those wise ones gone before,
And from the living Earth,
So we may discern good from evil.
Then we may all share in the feast you have initiated,
Having confronted Earth’s enemies and destructive powers.
Let all creation live in harmony,
Honouring every part,
So these mutual blessings may go on and on
For all generations of all creatures, land, water and sky,
Who you the Creator love and will live amongst forever.
‘I did but see her passing by, yet I will love her till I die,’ – these are words former Prime Minister Robert Menzies used when making a speech to the Queen when she first visited Australia. We’ll never know if the Prime Minister was genuinely swept away by the Queen’s aura as he gazed at her or if he was making the most of a chance to ingratiate himself with her. But we know of other similar stories which may be less ambiguous: for instance, the Renaissance author Dante Alighieri when he caught sight of the beautiful Beatrice, was so carried away by the sight of her that Beatrice became his model for characters in his famous writings even though the two never met again.
My point is that every moment of ordinary life can be seen to be rich with special, even sacred meaning - full of spiritual meaning - if only we have the eyes to see. Jesus himself says: ‘Let anyone with ears to hear, listen,’ [Mk 4:23] and he asks, ‘Do you have eyes and fail to see? Do you have ears and fail to hear?’[Mk 8:18] and finally, [‘What I say to you, I say to all, “Keep awake!” [Mk 13:37]
Just recently, I noticed an item on my screen encouraging the viewer to take time to observe momentary and unexpected events of special beauty or appeal in the midst of ordinary life and to commit that small observation to memory so it could be recalled and savoured at a later time.
I have also heard Catholic Franciscan Priest, Fr Richard Rohr advise much the same thing, only he says to observe the event for at least 15 seconds before letting our attention move away because we need that length of time to commit the moment to memory for later recall.
The point of both observations is to remind us that today’s ordinary everyday life, even for those who have retired or are unemployed, can be rushed and stressful. We experience vast amounts of stimulation coming in to our minds all the time and this makes it very difficult to stay in the moment. In being held constantly mentally busy, we lose touch not only with ourselves but with the transcendent world unavailable to the passing glance. So it becomes important to rediscover inner stillness to put us back in touch with that world. We can do this at least in part by stopping to pay attention to and savouring the world around us. Pausing to notice small events happening around us is a way to reduce anxiety immediately and also to provide at the very least, some pleasant moments for reflection at the end of the day. And even better than that, these experiences can become a focus for thanksgiving for the blessings of life, or to reality, or to the universal consciousness or to God – whichever your view of what is ultimate might be.
It goes without saying that such quiet reflection later in the day on the small but lovely or fascinating events we come across is a fine way in to meditation. More prosaically, recalling to mind those events which make us smile in wonder and delight can be a very useful antidote to those times when we can’t sleep in the middle of the night. That 2.00 – 3.00 a.m. wakefulness is often supercharged with anxiety as we worry about all kinds of issues, past, present and not even here yet and about which – at that moment – we can do nothing. How much more calming and positive it can be to recall the good things!
But going further than that, I would suggest that experiencing such ordinary/extraordinary moments through our senses as we relate to perhaps a beautiful sunset; the song of a bird at dawn; the taste of a meal lovingly prepared; the perfume of a dry landscape suddenly wet with rain or the silky feel of a newborn’s skin are also reminders that God is in everything. Our response of awe or delight is but a reminder of that divine mystery which surrounds us.
And if we walk this rediscovered path with God as our companion and become newly aware that it is in God that we live and move and have our being, who knows where our path will lead us. It may not be to writing famous novels, or becoming influential leaders or martyrs for a cause, but we may become a source of hope, courage and new life to those we meet.
Now, while our chances of having a major life-change may be limited, we may have had a moment which gave a silver lining to the clouds of our day or even changed us in some way. Let’s think about that and give thanks.
Hi! I'm Karen, the Lane Cove Community Chaplain. I am pondering life here and in general. Some of my blog articles are originally found in our local paper, The Village Observer, and are repeated here because I would love to hear your response too.