Penny Wilkinson

I'm married to Andrew over 30 years, 3 adult children, 2 grandchildren arriving 2022, God willing. We now live in an apartment near the city after giving up a lovely home in the mountains.

We came back to Sydney to develop and open a free, all addictions treatment centre providing effective group therapy. It was a dream God planted in 2006. I had opened Overcomers Outreach after my own addiction was overcome to create a supportive community within a Christian context but most who came needed treatment. It is so hard to find effective, accessible, sustainable treatment for addiction.

What I have learnt is that following God's dreams are always better then following my will - HE knows us. Andrew and I attend the Healing Service on Wednesday Evenings at St Andrews - a mid week service for broken people - it has been a blessed community within the body of Christ for us since 2006.

The new treatment centre at Gladesville is called The Overcomers Place. I also work in private practice as an Addictions and Trauma Recovery Specialist at Gladesville. Andrew is semi-retired and has now taken on much of the administration and support role for The Overcomers Place after a 40 year corporate career.

Tell us about a ministry you love

Overcomers Outreach began as a support group for anyone who was struggling with addiction - it was created as a safe space to share the struggle - and to assist followers of Christ to move into 12 step groups and find recovery. Many came who needed more than support and this led me to retrain and open The Overcomers Place last year as a treatment centre for addictions.

Do you seek to have a daily 'quiet time'? If so, what does this time look like?

I meditate as soon as I wake up to get my brain and body to connect and then I make a decision to hand over my day to Gods will and not mine. This practice started as an on and off thing since 2003. I added in the meditation in 2015 after researching the impact of trauma which in essence splits the body and brains connection. I rarely miss a morning that I don't surrender. There are many more moments during the day that I have to remind myself of that morning intention and decision to surrender all. At the end of the day I recite the first 18 verses of John's gospel especially focusing on v. 12 reminding myself that I have a right to be called a child of God because of the grace that allowed me to receive Jesus Christ into my heart when I was converted in my mid-30s.

How do you read the Bible?

I'm all over the place with bible reading. I spent the first 15 years of my Christian life going to KCC talks and Summer School and a church that taught through the scriptures - so i have a solid foundation in the word.

This year I've started a practice of reading the psalms one by one again and asking three questions - what does this psalm say to me, what does it say about God, what does it say about me - which I love - but it's hit and miss.

What practices have you found helpful for engaging with the Bible?

I listen to sermons on my walks 4-5 times a week - my fav would be Tim Keller - there is not much he has not preached on in a clear cultural context. I also love series, at the moment I'm enjoying the St Andrews' Isaiah series.

What does your prayer life look like?

Morning and evening and during the day when I remember how desperate I am for God's care.

Do you make use of any catechisms, liturgies or pre-written prayers?

Rarely - I use AA's pre-written prayer - particularly step 3 and step 7 - the liturgies remind me of all the shame heaped on sinners like me - mostly I hear liturgies in the tones of sinful punitive male leaders which have hurt so many I have worked with and listen to in my counselling practice - so it's sadly become very hard to hear the goodness in the original intent of these ancient prayers.

It took me almost 40 years in a church to hear the gospel through liturgy so I'm not a fan. But once i heard the gospel in 1999, I went back to check it was actually in the liturgies. Today I have the freedom of grace in my life and from this place I can serve and love others.

Do you have any sabbath practices that serve you well?

Communion - breaking bread.

Do you journal?

On and off.

Do you fast?

No - diet is a huge part of mental health - and I need to eat three regular healthy meals to sustain my mental wellbeing to serve others.

Do you practice silence and solitude?

No - I am one who needs the attachment of others. My wounding was in my attachment wiring and so i regularly need connection with others. Saying that, I do enjoy walking alone and communing with God in nature outdoors.

Do you memorise Scripture?

Absolutely - this is the lifeblood to my soul - meditating on the word - I heard a Women's Katoomba Convention (now OneLove) sermon on Psalm 119 that explained this - and I loved memorising before then - but this gave me more reason for it - chewing the cud of God's Word in my inner being.

Do you make use of any other devotional practices? If so, what does this look like and how have they benefited you?

I read extensively - challenges me at lots of levels. I read widely from Don Carson to David Powlinson to Brene Brown and Max Lucado - but Tim Keller would still be my favourite.

How have you failed or struggled in these areas? What has God taught you as a result?

My selfish and self-seeking behaviours are so deeply wired into my DNA that I can see so much failure daily and yet God continues to bring humility into my life as I remember how finite my power to change is and how infinite is HIS power to change me.

What routines, habits or rules of life have you found helpful?

Daily surrender to God's will, not mine be done.

Who has been an example to you?

Dr Bob Smith, the cofounder of Alcoholics Anonymous - led an inspiring life of service to a very complicated population and pastors who lay down their life like the Good Shepherd.

What wisdom would you share with a younger Christian?

NEVER GIVE UP - God won't leave you alone.

Surrender or suffer.

God's promises are ALL true - Phil. 2 He who began the good work in us will see it through to completion.

Expect to struggle - the Cross came before the Crown - its not an easy path to surrender but the fruit from your talents cannot be buried!

What have you found helpful when you feel spiritually dry?

The Word - so easily accessed now through online resources - what a gift. Parables, music, wisdom and compassion from others who know struggle.

Are there any other resources you would recommend?

Tim Keller's sermon list, KCC's list, CMS Summer School talks - I still have all the tapes!

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