Monday, July 18, 2011

The biggest Miracle of my Life.

I had just left Orlando, Florida, after three years in full time ministry, to move to my new base of Chattanooga, TN. I remember walking the dogs one evening and sharing with God the deep ache in my heart. I made up my mind in the next three days, no matter what the cost, I was booking a flight home to see my family in Australia. It had been over a year since I last visited and I was heartsick.

The very next day, my friend Reggie, phoned me from Orlando excitedly saying "I wanted to tell you Nicki, I have been given two free tickets to Australia!" I was eager to share that I was going to Australia soon as well and he must come and visit me and my family, but he said, "No, I don't have a passport , I can't go." I was disappointed and amazed at the same time so I asked him if the lady who was offering them to him couldn't find anyone to give them to, then I would be happy to use them!

The next day the telephone rang and Mary asked if I would like the two tickets to Australia. I was shocked beyond words and cried with tears of joy. But I found out there were very strict rules for these tickets; I had to travel with another person and the tickets expired on a certain date in a few weeks. I soon found a friend to go with me then I telephoned the ticket operator and found out that I didn't have to leave so quickly, if I booked the dates before they expired I was still ok! So I ended up booking the exact dates I had planned in my heart.

Ame and I stopped in to Sydney to attend the Hillsong Conference. While in the presence of over 50,000 people singing, I felt like I was in heaven. My heart filled up and overflowed listening to such wonderful worship. What an incredible blessing!

Thomas Austin, born 7.2.1908
While I was in Sydney I stopped off to see my grandfather Thomas Austin. He was staying near to my relatives in a retirement home. At 99 and a half he was as sharp as a tack and still played the piano in his unique flamboyant way. I visited him several times but as I walked around the corner after the last visit I heard a voice speak clearly to my heart, "This is the last time you will see him." I knew who's voice this was and before the tears welled up in my eyes I ran back into his room and asked a friend to take a photo of us. I also asked if he would bless me and he did. This was a happy yet sad moment because I knew that by living so far away in the United States I was cutting myself off from many family gatherings and experiences I treasure so much. So I was able to say a final goodbye to my eccentric grandfather.

I flew to Brisbane and spent wonderful times with my family refreshing my spirit and filling up my tank with love. Three days before I was to leave for Los Angeles, I decided to visit my local church conference office to visit with some of my old youth pastors that meant so much to me growing up and were still good friends. While I was in the office Gilbert Cangy asked me to talk about my ministry of curating Prayer Rooms, at a pastors meeting, and after that he suggested I create a large Prayer Room for the conference coming up in three weeks - Move With The Power II. I told him I was leaving in three days and the ticket was so strict that I couldn't possibly change the dates. He literally put the telephone in front of me and told me to phone QANTAS and ask them. He offered to pay the cost of changing the ticket but he could not pay me for my work of building the Prayer Room.

I made the call and much to my amazement they said that I could extend my ticket if I wanted to pay $200. I was in a little bit of shock. I realized that God was opening a door yet there was one thing that was not quite right. I told Gilbert that God had been speaking to me lately about the difference between being a volunteer and being in full time ministry. He was teaching me that a worker is worthy of payment whereas a volunteer gives of their time and excess for free as a gift. My prayer ministry is full time work and there is no excess to give, because I give everything. God was telling me that to work full time for free was sinning against myself and not following Biblical standards. But Gilbert had no more budget. I listened to God and he told me to accept the offer. I wondered, "How can I work for free without mistreating myself?" I then had a brilliant idea that if I received a donation of $1000 to set up the Prayer Room, I would be getting paid after all. The pastors were very excited and I was at peace.

So I stayed another three weeks! The first week was running around setting up the prayer room. During that week my grandfather was in the hospital because of a fall. In a few days we knew that he was not going to make it and sadly he passed away. The funeral was scheduled for the last Sunday of the conference. I was so overwhelmed that God had kept me in the country just long enough to be with my family at this important time. I was able to support them and be supported. If I had gone back to the US a week before this happened there is no way I could have afforded to return. I would have been heartbroken.

The room was full of people praying.

I finished curating the beautiful Prayer Room. Our aim was to have the conference covered by continuous 24 hour prayer. Soon youth pastors and leaders were streaming in from 11 different countries for the conference. Speakers were flying in from the US. That Friday night I got up on stage and talked about the power of prayer and asked if anyone would like to pray through the night and sign up for a one hour slot. If they wanted a spot they had to come to the front and write down their name. I had people racing to the front to sign up for 2am. It was incredible. The prayer room was full most of the time with up to 12 people praying at 4am in the morning! They were blown away by how a simply decorated room could hold such a powerful presence of God. They also loved the unique prayer stations and how they found it easy to pray for long periods of time in these new and creative ways.

On Sunday I flew to Sydney for the funeral of my grandfather who almost made it to 100. I was able to be there for my family, a few in particular, who were very distraught. The funeral service was actually lots of fun and a happy celebration of his life and love for God. I remember my four year old nephew commenting at the graveside, when my brother told him Grandpa was going to be with Jesus in heaven someday soon, "but that is the wrong way!" It is beyond our comprehension, but I believe as the Bible teaches us, that death is like a deep sleep (Ecc 9:5), we await the resurrection of Jesus' second coming, which to the dead will be the very next thing they see! My grandpa will then be raised to go to heaven with Jesus!

Drawing Prayers.
On their way back to Townsville after the funeral, my brother and nephew, and father and aunt all came to experience the prayer room which was such a blessing to me. But the enormous spiritual warfare was evident as I was being picked up from the airport a tire blew out on our car, and two other leaders from the camp had to leave because of immediate family members passing away. But God won out in the end in miraculous ways. He showed his glory, he showed his love and his compassion. On the last day someone put an envelope in my hands and it contained $1000 cash. I cried as I hadn't even taken the time to pray for the money, I had just believed it would be provided.

My nephew Ethan saying 'I love you' to Jesus.
The Prayer Room was a wonderful experience for so many and the idea of 24-7 prayer and interactive Prayer Rooms spread to many more countries. I was so grateful to God for this opportunity to do more creative prayer ministry, for the free tickets and the opportunity to see my grandfather for the last time. God delayed my leaving so I would not be heartbroken. He allowed me to bless my family. He showed me that he is not only taking care of my body, my food, clothing and housing needs but he is taking care of my heart.

He knows exactly what we need in this life. He knows us inside out. We just have to trust him. Listen to him, follow him and let him hold us in his arms.

Psalm 17:8 "Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings."

I am planning to do it all again at Move With The Power III in Brisbane, Australia on August 12-16, 2011. These international conferences only happen once every four years! If you would like to be a financial sponsor please contact me. I also need extensive prayer covering as I make the transition to move back to Australia after seven challenging yet wonderful years in full time ministry in the United States.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Progressive Christians flock to Wild Goose festival!

By Norman Jameson   
Monday, June 27, 2011
PITTSBORO, N.C. (ABP) -- From Ontario, Seattle, Dallas, Atlanta and dozens of towns and cities between people pulled into the dusty pasture in rural central North Carolina to see if four days chasing the wild goose in community with others could crack barriers and deepen their spiritual lives.

The Wild Goose is a Celtic metaphor for the Holy Spirit. It is also the adopted name of a young organization and of the first event it sponsored June 23-26 that drew some 1,500 to Shakori Hills near Pittsboro, N.C. The Wild Goose Festival is fashioned after the Green Belt festivals in England that have drawn crowds for 37 years.

Mike Morrell, left, is publicity director for Wild Goose. Garreth Higgins, a writer and film critic from Northern Ireland, is executive director.
Far from being a Woodstock with Christian music, the Wild Goose Festival drew an eclectic crowd of various faiths, primarily Christian, who ranged in age from toddlers to totterers. While they were diverse, their common accouterments were sandals, water bottles, hats and personal collapsible chairs.
 “We wanted to create a gathering to promote justice, spirituality and art, with the hope to nurture a community of people who want to live out a more just and creative life,” said Mike Morrell, publicity director for Wild Goose.
Stages and tents dotted the 72-acre art festival and concert venue, shading big name authors and musicians. Special interest venders ringed staging areas, knowing they found a receptive crowd.

Social justice and the arrest of various evils such as torture, war, bad water and gender discrimination found articulate voice from volunteers who engaged anyone who would catch their eye.
Engaging people was easy. Beneath the shade of every tree and tent spontaneous conversations ignited with a simple look or comment about the words of the latest speaker or the song of the latest singer.
Families tossed a softball during breaks and mingled easily among friends they’d yet to meet. In one tent folks hoisted mugs and praise in the manner of Martin Luther during a “beer and hymns” hour.

The four-day international lineup would be a draw wherever they might gather. Just a sampling: Tony and Bart Campolo, Michael Hardin, Phyllis Tickle, Steve Lawson, Tom Prasada, Doug Pagitt, Brian McLaren, Lynn Hybels, Margot Starbuck, Jim Wallis, Abdullah Antepli, Nadia Bolz-Weber, Shane Claiborne, Ed Dobson, Tom Sine, Paul Knitter, Frank Schaeffer and Nancy Hastings Sehested.
Musicians such as Jennifer Knapp, The Psalters, Derek Webb and Billy Jonas kept thoughtful, fun and worshipful music strains seeping through the oaks and riding the breezes almost constantly from several venues.

Contributors were names familiar to those who just read a newspaper or watch the evening news and many more familiar to more narrowly defined niches in the well-read crowd. All waived their appearance fees.
To a friendly audience, Brian McLaren explained how he’s dealt with criticism of his work. He said he’s just glad it came when he was mature enough to handle it.
Brian McLaren said Jesus' role was to save humanity from itself and turn it to God, not to be a cleaver that divided people into a "heaven bin or a hell bin." (ABP photos by Norman Jameson)

“The Christian environment is such an unsafe place that people fear to speak their mind,” he said. “It shouldn’t be such a cruel and terrifying place.”
He’s realized that often his critics don’t even understand what he’s saying and criticism comes from “people paid to be guard dogs. When a stranger is at the gate, they’re to bark.”

Jim Wallis spoke of the “idolatry of politics” and Frank Schaeffer of the calamity of wealth concentration in the hands of a few. In the United States, he said, just one 10th of 1 percent of persons control 25 percent of the wealth.
Wallis said the problem with current politics is that it offers no solutions. Big problems have easy solutions, he said. To fix global poverty, “invest in women and girls.” To fix domestic poverty, “fix the scandal of education.” To fix the deficit “treat the budget as a moral document.”

Organizers would say there was neither “performer” nor “audience.” Everyone was either a “contributor” or a “participant,” according to Garreth Higgins, a native of Northern Ireland who is executive director of Wild Goose.

The Wild Goose board was formed just two years ago, although the idea has been percolating much longer. Higgins, who lives in Durham, N.C., was hired in March 2010. Wild Goose is chartered in Kansas City, basically because that’s where board chair Mike King lives. He and Morrell are members of an Alliance of Baptists and United Church of Christ church start known as Trinity’s Place.

“The Spirit of God flows, and we just stepped into the flow,” Higgins said.
The outdoor venue, rather than a conference center or hotel, provides a reminder not to “take ourselves too seriously,” he said. Everyone is “sweating together,” sharing food and portable toilets. Many camped in tents on the grounds for three nights.

The lone commonality among participants is likely their universal search for a spiritual reality more creative and gripping than what they’ve found in a local congregation.
“Religious institutions historically have been bad in modeling creativity,” Higgins said, while acknowledging exceptions such as Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel and ancient sculpture and cathedrals. “Too much about the way religion is done is imposing rules.

“I want this space to tap into the source of inexhaustible love, which is God,” Higgins said. “I want people to go through the next year full of love and inspiration – to love ourselves better and others more.”
Morrell said one goal of Wild Goose is to “create a reconciling space by way of Jesus.”
“Our goal is not to convince anyone of anything,” he said. “But if we all have dignity the world will be a better place.”

Norman Jameson is reporting and coordinating special projects for ABP on an interim basis. He is former editor of the North Carolina Biblical Recorder. 

This blog copied from the Associated Baptist Press at

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

An Angel Saved My Seat!

On the way to the airport I was thinking of calling my mentor and spiritual director, Jodie Howell. I really needed my mom and she was as close as I could get in Orlando. Sadly she had not had time to see my while I was visiting and for some reason I didn't make that phone call even though my heart ached for the hug of some comforting words.

I made it to the airport just in time. Boarding had commenced when I arrived at the gate but there was no reason to stress further as it was a very full flight and would take a while to get everyone seated. I was already about as stressed as someone can be. I had experienced some trauma and had lost some sleep, weight and my short term memory in the process. I was sort of in a state of shock and happy to be going home to Chattanooga. Allegiant Air has 'open seating' and I happened to have z64, so I was the last person on the plane to choose from the few remaining seats. What happened next is nothing less than a miracle.

Walking toward the back of the plane I saw one overhead locker still open with room for my laptop. As I got closer I saw an empty middle seat and pointed to it and said with excited authority 'that must be my seat' and as I looked at the person next to the window I said incredulously, 'next to Jodie! Jodie?' I was in shock with a huge smile on my face.

As I sat down in that seat I felt like I was the victim of a loving set up - like a surprise birthday party with all your family and friends invited. I thought all the angels were standing around proudly laughing at their great efforts to pull off the surprise blessing of a lifetime. I actually felt as I sat in the chair, a sense that an angel had been sitting there holding the seat open just for me. A warm sensation of peace enveloped me. This was now a sacred space, a sacred meeting, divinely appointed. If Jodie had sat anywhere else in the plane I would not have known she was even there.

We embraced each other and talked non stop for the entire flight about her finishing theology school and me starting my masters and moving to Seattle where some of her family lives, our ministries, our purpose and what the next season was going to be like, we talked of family, heartaches and shared the goodness of God.

My friend Ame dropped her off at her destination and she gave me a blessing which was very encouraging. Of all the people in the world I needed to spend time with right then, it was my mother. And Jodie is more than a mother. She is a mentor and spiritual director. She is wise and she knows me. She believes in me and see's my worth and value. Most of all she believes what God is doing through me. She loves me and I love her. I thank God so much for giving me this treasured gift. It is one of the sweetest, most miraculous and restorative gifts I have ever been given in my whole life.

God knows me better than anyone.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Floods, Hurricanes and Earthquakes. When tragedy strikes. How do we cope?

Tragedy is going to happen to us, sooner or later. So when it does, what will we do? This blog describes briefly the floods and category 5 hurricane recently hitting my family in Australia and the catastrophic Christchurch earthquake (with some links for pictures)...and my first experience with a Tornado last week. The second half of the blog helps us question if we are actually ready for these 'times of trouble', it encourages us to see how God will help us embrace the tragedy in our lives and to expect even greater challenges ahead. It also asks the question... "When people pray for the soon return of Jesus, do they really know what they are praying for?"

South Bank Beach in the
city center of Brisbane by
the river. It all flooded!
In January I watched my beautiful city, flood. It was devastating. A city so perfect, so clean, so fun, with bike paths, gardens and even a beach overlooking the city skyscrapers next to the winding Brisbane river. In the U.S. I struggled to find news or information. To be so far away from my homeland and feel so helpless is a feeling we have all felt at some time. Memories of 911 flashed through my mind. 
Queensland had been drowned with rain for the last month or two - the wettest season in 100 years. La Nina they said, causing drastic changes to the weather patterns. Last year had been a drought (the last ten years on and off) bringing with it, water restrictions of four minute showers. Everyone just lived with that. But now the dams were at 160% capacity and climbing. The rains had flooded the large towns at the top of Queensland and it seemed to be slowly coming down the coast. Three quarters of the state, an area the size of France and Germany, was under water. Then the flash flooding started, water gushing with such enormous force a whole town was swept away without warning. People were trapped and missing. Terrifying beyond words. 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Biggest Miracle of my life --- Mars Hill Graduate School!

The biggest miracle of my life is about to happen.

This summer, while building a permanent prayer room at a church in Indiana, a lot of people kept suggesting  I should do my Masters. My spirit stirred within me as a mentor suggested if I wanted to teach people more I needed to learn more… But where to study and what to study?

I wanted to do theology, to learn more about God, but as a women I realized that would leave me with the same career prospects as I have now! Full time ministry supported by donations because I do not have a call to be a pastor of a church. But I do have a calling to ministry - to see people healed and develop a powerful and intimate relationship with God. So the idea of Psychology - a large part of my undergraduate degree - planted itself in my mind. Could I, as a broken human being be used by God to help heal others?

Then came an email from Darchelle. "You have to come to Mars Hill Graduate School - you will not enjoy any other university as much as this one - in Seattle." A seminary - teaching theology AND Psychology. Sounded like a perfect match. So I went to visit for three weeks, to spend time soaking in the culture of the school, to hear the hearts of the professors and see the results played out in the lives of graduates as their ingenuity and fresh approaches to social justice impacted the community around them.

I went to classes and realized that the mission of the school was to transform YOU as a student. Not to give you a lot of knowledge to store in your mind to use later but to rework you into a more 'in touch' human being able to hold your own story so you can gently hold the stories of others. I fell in love. With this beautiful school on the harbor, close to the Seattle Space Needle. I love the core values of the school,  exploring the interplay between text, soul and culture.

(To read the rest of the story of the miracle, how God protected us from crashing, being taught by Rob Bell and how I am about to take the biggest risk of my life CLICK BELOW or KEEP READING.)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A surprising conversation with Ted Haggard

Tic interviewing Gayle and Ted Haggard at NYWC
It's not often you get called a "weirdo" by someone in the general public let alone an infamous high profile figure such as Ted Haggard! (For those who don't remember, Ted Haggard was a mega church pastor and head of the National Association of Evangelical Churches - about 30 million people - before his indiscretions were revealed on national TV) This blog explores this interesting conversation along with his recent controversial speaking engagement at the National Youth Workers Conference in Nashville. This is an example of why I passionately desire seeing the Gift of Discernment working in our lives daily and throughout every member of the Body of Christ. 

Lilly Lewin a Creative Worship Space Curator.
Youth Specialties NYWC was held in Nashville a few weeks ago, with thousands of youth workers and pastors from all over the country. I even met a couple of pastors I knew from Newbold College in England! I was so excited to be asked by Lilly Lewin, author of Sacred Space: A hands-on guide to creating multi-sensory worship experiences, to help her create the Sanctuary Space and host a workshop on Imaginative Prayer! How fun it was to be part of this quiet and holy space surrounded by all the craziness of a convention! The room hosted different worship and prayer events such as TaizĂ©, but my favorite was Nap Time. As people lay down on pillows, Micah would 'pray over them' by walking around playing his guitar and worshipping while they napped. Different I know...  Experiential worship experiences can be so creative!

The background…

Youth Specialties always seems to have one speaker who is controversial and this year Ted Haggard was it… When I heard he was speaking I wanted to hear him purely because I wanted to practice my gift of discernment. I had seen Ted before on TV, on the internet and also in the Jesus Camp movie. Even with limited exposure I had sensed a check in my spirit years ago before his fall from grace and now wanted to see or discern if he had changed and how, and whether my original discernment was still valid. Because people can change. I believe in transformation. I really wanted to see a story of redemption.

The Journey of Discipleship is all about discernment….

(Click the 'Read More' link below to see my intriguing conversation with Ted Haggard.)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Lifechanging Weekend in Leunig Cartoons

In Australia we have a poet that is rather deep and eccentric, his name is Michael Leunig. He has been named a National Treasure because of his rare insight into human nature, and his intriguing perspective of how things work here in our universe. He came from a past of negativity and darkness as were his artistic creations, but then light began to crack through his shell and he found faith, and hope and love.

My life has been similar - 21 years of Social Anxiety Disorder - a life shadowed in every way by negativity and overwhelming fear. Healing from that was a wonderful experience and for the first time in my life I could feel the emotions of happiness and sadness. I remember crying one day and being so glad I could feel the warm tears running down my cheeks. I could finally feel. I could be real. I had the capacity to grow and change and risk and love and laugh.

I have been trying to get out of negative thinking cycles for years and improved greatly. The stress and worry has been reduced yet I still had some major fears in my life. The fear of rejection and the fear of success... Till this weekend!!!!

Is this how you feel? I must admit there have been times I have felt this same way. Life can get overwhelming. Enjoy this one minute animated video by Leunig!

Wouldn't it be amazing if we could get rid of those fears and negative thoughts, our defenses and walls? This weekend I was blessed to be sponsored to go through a Foundations 1 workshop. I played very hard! I was not afraid to reach into the dark places and reveal them into the light. I was not afraid to be honest about my struggles and share some of the most painful times of my life. I cried. I laughed. I danced. I let go. I accepted.

The next two videos are my favorites... I hope you enjoy as you continue this blog...