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5 minutes with Gillian

Tell us a little about you

My name is Gillian, I live on the coal coast north of Wollongong, married to Brett with 3 delightful adult children and a wacky dog. My husband and I founded the Christian surfers movement in Cronulla in the late 70’s and there began God’s passion in us for the church to engage our communities in the language and stories of each generation (or surfing tribe in our case). Now CS is an International movement and I serve as a board member and am like an elder (one who has been around for a long time!). My parallel universe is as an educator, teaching religious education in public and independent schools. I also consult on a myriad of issues around education, constructing theological frameworks, developing cultural literacy in religious education. Oh, and how to train wacky dogs.

What's your favourite bible passage & why?

Just one? Psalm 73 - who else do I have in heaven but you, and in being with you I desire nothing on earth. My heart and my flesh may fail, but you are the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Nothing is wrong with desire per se, but I love how the word here means something like “pull”: nothing on earth ‘pulls’ me like you. So true. In all the mess, and lack of clarity, and decisions and myriad of joys, HE is the one that makes sense of my longings most, he pulls me to strength and provision.

How do you keep your eyes fixed on Jesus?

Well, I would be a nutter if I didn’t , so quite motivated.

Love my morning coffee over my bible, reading and expecting that he will show up in many and various ways. I try to live an examined life, seek to live honestly, this keeps my eyes on him and not wasting energy on who to blame, excuses, resentments, pride. He shows up in these places too. And I see his truth in many things - film, cultural story, literature - which also draws me to him. Netflix binges not so much.

What would you like the next generation of Christian women to know?

You are image bearers, and without your full presence, be it in the pulpit, the leadership team, the school yard, the home, the workplace - without your engaging presence, voice, the world will not fully see him and know him in all his characteristics. It will suffer for it.

What's one thing that you love about your local church?

They are full of grace, not easily offended, sacrificial, kind. I love our church family.

What did you learn about God at a time in your life you found hard?

When Brett asked me to marry him, the next sentence was “….and you know we will own nothing”. Oh….ok. Not a big deal when you are 22 and none of your peers owned anything either. We were in faith financed ministry pioneering a new missional work. It was about 7 years later, standing on the deck of a friends newly built house that I wobbled on this challenge. They were the last of our friends to enter this new world of homes, cars, nice things, security. I felt the weight of being left behind, the one without, little material security. I felt resentful of the ease and freedom of my Christian friends, to engage in material acquisition with little conscience it seemed. I raised it with God:- my fears for our new coming family; living a hand to mouth existence; and why I was to bear this cost and not others (just a tad of martyrdom complex). I learnt a few things about God. Firstly, he reminded me that I was free. If I wanted an easier path, we could leave Christian surfers, use our tertiary degrees and have a very comfortable life. I resisted strongly as I clearly felt called. I was not free to do anything I wanted, God had called me to this work. I sensed the issue was that if my service was given resentfully, it would be best for me and for God that I stop giving it (Marthas resentment of Mary’s freedom came to mind). He also reminded me of the conversation with Peter after their breakfast on the beach, where Jesus indicated to Peter the kind of death he would face. When Peter asked about the disciple John’s destiny, Jesus replied, ‘that is not your business, you follow me’. I have come to learn that God wants the ‘real’ me, not the ‘right’ me and in that place he helps me give a name to the sin, and then delights to set me free. And with that freedom from resentment and comparisons, I can embrace following him, and his adventure for me as a single focused calling.

What are you passionate about?

Too many things it would seem.

If I could name one, it would be when it comes to communicating Gods word, I think it is not good enough to be faithful and diligent in biblical exegesis. We must also be good at cultural exegesis. Learning to land God’s story, His truths, using the language and stories of this generation. This one thing has made a huge difference in the experience of those who have heard my preaching and teaching. Our story speaks to deep longings and desires, and we can miss it by talking great truths in alien, religious, or dated language.

What do you enjoy doing when you rest?

Well, I love learning (spoken like a true educator) so reading history, biography or mandatory bookclub novels is good.

Walking wacky Scout along the beach with or without a friend.

Staring at our backyard bush, coffee in hand, thinking!

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