Saturday, December 15, 2007

A Picture of Winter

“Winter preserves and strengthens a tree. Rather than expending its strength on the exterior surface, its sap is forced deeper and deeper into its interior depth. In winter a tougher, more resilient life is firmly established. Winter is necessary for the tree to survive and flourish.” (Richard Foster, Prayer, p 66)

Can you relate? Maybe this is true for you at work or in a relationship. Either way, its core is the picture of our soul. When the beauty of a good relationship at work, home, or with God is pealed away, who I really am is revealed.

Last night I was working late on an article for a Christian writing course – and hopefully a Christian magazine. I’ve struggled all week with this article. Finally, it was flowing. Then an interruption comes from little feet. It was a wintry scene. Cold and bare. Howling wind from me, precipitation from the eyes of the little one.

In the past, I would have felt like a total hypocrite from the experience. Somewhat like the speaker at a writer’s conference who confessed he wrote an article for a men’s health magazine from a donut shop. But I’m learning something from this winter freeze I’m having in my soul these days.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

In the past when I’ve prayed “God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven”, I think that part of eternity in my heart thought that if everything wasn’t just right then God’s will wasn’t happening on earth as it does in heaven. I don’t think I really believed that prayer was possible in this world as it is. I thought I was praying for a future event.

Not so! Psalm 24 says the earth and everything in it belongs to God. We already have a little of heaven on earth. As Steve Robbins spoke at Vineyard some time ago, each time we pray for healing or for anything in God’s will, we are praying for a little more of heaven to be experienced on earth right now.

My quiet times have become more important to me in this frozen time. I’m realizing that in those moments I can have a peace that my heart longs to experience for eternity. And for just that little bit of time – whether it is 15 minutes or 2 hours – I am experiencing heaven on earth.

I encounter a bit of hell through the rest of the day. But I am reminded that the earth is the Lord’s. Because of my short periods of heaven on earth, I’m confident that He will restore all creation completely one day.

I’m not a hypocrite. My green leaves get blown off once in a while and the truth of my imperfection is revealed. But it is in that nakedness that I learn to rely on my source of strength. Without those naked moments, I would never have the beauty of the emerald covering.

“Dear Lord Jesus, in my better moments I want nothing more than to be like you. But there are other moments…Help me to see how good conformity to your way really is. In my seeking for you may I be found by you. I love you, Lord. Amen.” (Foster, p66)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Manger Scenes and Holidays

After reading about

  • the melting of Arctic ice - as if the scientist concerned know all the cycles throughout the billions of years they assume this earth has existed;
  • six Las Vegas high school students shot after getting off the school bus; and
  • threats posted online between Denver shootings of Christians;

it was nice to read the surprisingly sensible wisdom of Ohio Governor Ted Strickland via spokesman Keith Dailey regarding the manger scene in state parks. “The governor believes that Nativity scenes are an appropriate part of our traditional holiday displays,” said Dailey.

As people argue about Christian displays on state property, I often wonder, what do people think the legal holiday is about? What would happen if we truly separated all things related to the Christian tradition surrounding Christmas from all public and government venues?

Oh, the United States is that strange country that spends astronomical amounts of money and takes a day or two off to live out the fictional story of a man in a red suit who lives at the North Pole. Oh no! The ice at the North Pole is melting. What will Santa and the reindeer do? We must start a fund to help Santa – after all, a major part of the economic health of our nation depends on this guy.

Maybe we should do away with Christmas as legal holiday all together.

Sorry for all those who already have to work on Christmas Day – no more holiday wages for you. That goes for all the plumbers and house repair people too. You can no longer charge me more if I call you to repair my drain on Christmas Day. Charging me a higher rate might be discrimination against my beliefs. I’d feel like you were trying to push your beliefs on me. Heaven forbid, oh wait, earth forbid you would take a strong stand about something you believe gives meaning to all creation.

If we throw out Christmas, we have to throw out Easter. And, well, all this makes July 4th and New Years questionable too. They are not Christian holidays but, you know, I just don’t like all the noise. It interferes with my spiritual quiet time. [Just kidding]

I like City Council member Chris Rodriguez comment about the nativity scene, “Personally, I think people should get over it and stop being so smug about their rights. It’s freedom of religion, not the freedom from religion.”

If you don’t believe Jesus is the Son of God, then the decorations including a celebration of his birth should be no different to you than decorations of Santa Claus. Oh, sorry, that is unless your religious convictions are somehow tied to that guy.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems there would be no Christmas holiday if Christians weren’t celebrating the birth of Jesus. So even if you don’t like it, may I suggest you worship that manger scene for the paid day off or holiday wage it gives you and the philanthropy of all people this time of year.

There were sheepherders camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God's angel stood among them and God's glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, "Don't be afraid. I'm here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David's town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you're to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger." At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God's praises: Glory to God in the heavenly heights, Peace to all men and women on earth who please him. ~ Luke 2:8-14 (MSG)

The good news is for all people. That’s why I celebrate His birth.

Click here to read the Biblical account of this baby we celebrate.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Team Development Part 4

Work with What you Have

Do you have big dreams, visions maybe, for the potential growth of the women in your church? But when you share those dreams, you receive only blank stares and no volunteers. That doesn’t necessarily mean those dreams are not from God.

For the visionary developing a team, “a day is like a thousand years” takes on new meaning. If God has given you the vision, why isn’t everyone jumping for the chance to be part of this great plan?

Change is generally exciting for the visionary. Not so for everyone else. But change is inevitable and visionaries are the ones cutting the path. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said “do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” This is the mindset of a visionary.

Even so, we can’t create that path alone. I love the story of Elijah in 1 Kings 19. This is just after his display of confidence against the prophets of Baal in which he greatly impressed King Ahab. Queen Jezebel, on the other hand, was not impressed. She planned Elijah’s death.

In chapter 19, Elijah is crying out to God “I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” God proceeds to show Elijah his power along with his protection and asks Elijah again, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

Elijah, impressed by God’s power but now turning his thoughts back to his circumstances, cries out again “I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

From there, God gives Elijah direct instructions and assures him that he is not alone. Let me assure you, you are not alone. God has not manifested his power in your midst without plans to carry out the vision he has given you.

Look around you. Who is God bringing into your path? Instead of trying to make them fit the idea you have for God’s vision or, even worse, rejecting them because they don’t fit, take time to get to know them. What gifts has he given them? How does God want them to participate in this adventure with you?

Be a leader, not a task master, and watch God blaze even greater trails before you.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Why the Cross?

“Jesus replied, ‘If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching… I will not speak with you much longer, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold on me, but the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me.’” John 14:23, 30-31

Have you ever tried to make contemporary sense of the crucifixion? I can give you plenty of “Sunday school answers.” You know them too. He paid the debt for my sins. There had to be a blood sacrifice greater than the animal sacrifice of the Old Testament. I don’t doubt those responses but I found in the above scripture something that makes sense for today’s culture.

Although the prince of this world is making some advancement otherwise, basic human nature values life above anything else. Our instinct is to protect our life.

Jesus chose death not because he devalued life but because he wanted us to learn how to trust the Father completely.

Does the prince of this world have a hold on you? The Father will ask few of us to go through death like Christ but none of us have seen the glory of the Father like Jesus had. Many of us have, however, experienced the peace that passes understanding.

I’m not currently in that state of peace. I’m in the garden asking if there is some other way. I feel the sweat even as I type. I’d like to return to the place of peace. I know it is worth the agony. Will I follow the example of Christ and trust the Father by doing exactly what He commands?

If I am to be a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ, I will.

Friday, November 30, 2007

The Little Way

“It is, in short, to seek out the menial job, to welcome unjust criticisms, to befriend those who annoy us, to help those who are ungrateful.” (Foster, Prayer, p 62)

I am slowly making my way through Richard Foster’s Prayer – Finding the Heart’s True Home. The pace is due to the desire to apply his insights to my life.

Today’s segment of reading is on a classical approach to Formation Prayer. Looking back at the beginning of the chapter I am reminded that “the primary purpose of prayer is to bring us into such a life of communion with the Father that, by the power of the Spirit, we are increasingly conformed to the image of the Son.”

With that thought in mind, read the opening quote above. What opportunities come to mind for you to be increasingly conformed to the image of the Son?

Jesus, you came to provide all the power we need for life and godliness. Why do I busy myself with the big things when you more often showed love in the little ways? The woman at the well, the woman caught in adultery, the woman healed by touching your clothing, blessing the little children around you. Who have I not entered into relationship with because it didn’t fit in my schedule or my expectations?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Rich Minds, Rich Rewards E-Newsletter / What are you most grateful for?

I heard Valorie Burton speak at a conferenece in May 2005 and have been reading her e-newsletter ever since. Click here to read Burton's life coaching for this week, Week #47: What are you most grateful for? November 19, 2007

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Dry Spells and Power in Prayer

“None of us will keep up a life of prayer unless we are prepared to change. We will either give it up or turn it into a little system that maintains the form of godliness but denies the power of it – which is the same thing as giving it up.” (Richard Foster, Prayer – Finding the Heart’s True Home, p 57)

How’s your life of prayer these days? Is it powerful and alive or an uneventful routine?

I think we all experience dry spells – I’m in one right now. These can be great opportunities for a deeper relationship with God or cause us to drift away.

It’s like trying to get in touch with a friend you talk to daily. If she doesn’t respond to your phone calls, do you just keep making phone calls or do you try something else? If the friendship has any depth at all, you will do whatever it takes to get in touch with her, first, out of your concern for her. Then out of your concern for the relationship.

I’m convinced God draws us into dry spells to help us keep our prayer life alive.

Are you having a dry spell in your relationship with God? What are you going to do about it? Maybe you just need to change the routine. Maybe God wants you to make some changes personally so that the relationship continues to deepen instead of growing stale.

Here’s a good evaluation tool I came up with as I did a search on “form of godliness.” Pull out your Bible or click here to read 2 Timothy 3:1-7. Slow down with each word or phrase in verses two through five. Ask God to release his power in your life over anything that distracts from your relationship with him.

Today I will assess everything I do with the question Lord, am I a lover of myself? When I respond with anger or become tense in relationship with a friend, family member or store clerk, is it because I am a lover of myself? Tomorrow I will ask, Lord, am I a lover of money? and so on with each item listed in 2 Timothy 3.

If you join me in this, you will have almost 20 days of new topics to discuss with God as you live out your daily activities. Let prayer jump start your day and impact every aspect with power rather than checking it off as part of your routine.

Jesus, you have called me friend. Let’s keep in touch throughout the day. I want your friendship to continually change me. Let my relationship with you be more than a routine. May I learn to expect your power and when I don’t experience it, to seek you out with all my heart until I find the direction you are leading.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Prayer of Abandonment

The words of Charles de Foucauld:
“Father, I abandon myself into your hands; do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you: I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only your will be done in me, and in all your creatures –
I wish no more than this, O, Lord.”
(Richard Foster, Prayer - Finding the Heart’s True Home, pg 55)

What is distracting you from being fully surrendered, abandon into the hands of God? What has God called you to do and you are saying, “I can’t because…?”

This morning I wrote down a few items that are distractions either for me or for my family. After each short phrase, I wrote “You are sovereign*” as I abandoned each into God’s hands. Try it. Acknowledging the sovereignty of God brings peace.

O Lord, there are so many things that seem like obstacles and distractions. But you, O Lord, are sovereign. Nothing distracts or hinders you.

[*] Sovereign – with complete power, having supreme authority or power.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Sorrow in the Garden

Then he [Jesus] said to them, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me." Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will." Matthew 26:38-39

Rich Nathan, Vineyard Columbus, stated last night the only fear we should have is the fear of being separated from God.

Reading Richard Foster’s Prayer- Finding the Heart’s True Home this morning, I was challenged to read the account of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. As easy as it is for us to think it was the physical suffering that Jesus wanted to avoid, I was reminded that it was the agony of being completely separated from God that caused Jesus to fall to his face and pray for some other way to restore mankind to God.

Since my own “Garden Experience” a few years ago, (see The Power of Love) my life as changed. I know there is something much greater than any physical suffering. Because of Christ, I will never have to be totally removed from God’s love.

Ponder on that thought a moment. Everything you see and experience in this physical realm has the essence of God in it in some way. He created everything and everything he created is good.[*] Now, imagine an existence without any of that.

Thank you, Jesus, for not only dying a painful physical death but for experiencing the death of your soul so that I don’t have to.

[*] Even the evil we experience is simply God’s creation or ideas twisted by the selfishness of man.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Speaking of Hope...

Rich Nathan at Vineyard Church of Columbus presented an exciting perspective of hope last weekend. I highly recommend it for believers and seekers alike.

Click this link to listen online --> The Difference Hope Makes

or go to to download the October 28, 2007 audio sermon.

The Golden Compass

Ah, trouble is brewing in a most delightful way. Not only an avowed atheist, the author of the books on which this movie is based has been quoted as stating “my books are about killing God.” Sorry, but I find that rather humorous.

No, I most likely won’t take my kids to see this movie but I don’t take them to see a lot of “children’s” movies. By the way, we don’t do the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, or Santa Claus. Why? Because I don’t believe in them. So, this author doesn’t do God because he doesn’t believe in him. Have you given anyone a reason as to why you believe?

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. ~ Genesis 50:20

Instead of bashing this guy for his unbelief, how about praying that God will use this movie to change the apathy in our Christian culture that seems to present God as just another fairy tale to believe in or not believe in. Then sit back and watch for the opportunities God places right in front of you to give a reason for your hope.

For more on this topic check out

Monday, October 22, 2007

Fruitcakes and Other Things

Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in obedience to him. You will eat the fruit of your labor; blessings and prosperity will be yours. Psalm 128:1-2

I get so upset with my kids. I want them to do the right thing all the time without me having to constantly remind and correct them. I’m really upset with myself for not staying aware of what they need to be doing.

Once again, at bedtime Sunday evening, my children remembered they have homework. I’ve tried to get them to empty their backpacks and look at what they need to do every day as soon as they get home from school. Some days I remember to remind them other days I’m too busy in my office trying to finish up other things.

It is times like this that I question whether I need to even be attempting those other things I’m working on. I enjoy being with my kids most of the time. As I was writing in my journal I realized that it is not when they are in a good mood that I enjoy being with them, it is when I am relaxed and in a good mood – not busy with other things.

Funny, that is exactly what I tell them all the time. “Your happiness does not depend circumstances or on other people. It depends on your attitude.”

So how do I live what I preach? Seems God gave me the answer in Psalm 128. The fruitfulness of getting along with my kids, being a good mom and accomplishing the “other things” all depends on where my focus stays.

It is the testing of my faith – not the testing of my abilities – that develops perseverance. (James 1:3) Will I place my faith – my assurance of what I can’t see (Hebrews 11:1) – in my abilities or in the Lord, my strength and my provider?

I’m seeing this reoccurring struggle in my life. I want to quit everything and “just enjoy life.” God seems to keep telling me to persevere. I also know that I’ve lived in that picture of “just enjoy life” and it really isn’t all that great. It is equally as frustrating as trying to accomplish great tasks on my own abilities.

The fruitfulness comes in relaxing with my eyes fixed on the one who is all powerful and all loving. He has all the plans for the fruitful life. I like fruit. It’s very refreshing. I want to be fruitful in whatever I’m doing.

Oh God, may my attitude reflect my trust in your unchangeable and unfathomable greatness. In you, my efforts are fruitful. Without you, I’m just a fruitcake.

Monday, October 08, 2007

A touch of humor for today's struggles

Below is an excerpt from Glen Schneiders’ Fax of Life/LIFemail - A Monday Morning Service to the Business Community for October 8, 2007. Schneiders is Lead Pastor of Crossroads Christian Church in Lexington, KY (

“At a conference last week, Francis Chan described a critical person as an appendix in the body. The Bible compares the church to a body, with every member functioning in their created role within the body. Done well – everyone functioning as they are wired - the church (body) is highly effective.

"Chan noted, ‘Some people are an appendix … They don’t really do anything, but they could explode and kill us!’ Any appendixes where you work?”

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Do you fear evil?

When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an evil spirit came from the tombs to meet him.... No one was strong enough to subdue him…. When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. He shouted at the top of his voice, "What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Swear to God that you won't torture me!" For Jesus had said to him, "Come out of this man, you evil spirit!" ...The demons begged Jesus…. He [Jesus] gave them [the demons] permission…. From Mark 5:2-13

Wow! Can you picture this scene? A man who no one could restrain, came and fell at Jesus feet. This man was the manifestation of many evil spirits. Do you know anyone that evil?

Look what this evil man did not do. He did not charge at Jesus. He did not argue with Jesus. He did not run from Jesus.

Why do we fear evil? Evil fears Jesus!

If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. John 15:7

These are the words of Jesus. Do you believe him? Are you in Christ or do you settle for just having his words in you? There is a difference.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

How God Works

My journal entry three days ago included a discussion with God on scripture from Mark 4:11-12

He told them, "The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that, "'they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!'"

I’ve often wondered about this passage. Lord, don’t we want everyone to turn and be forgiven? Why speak in parables so that some may never perceive and never understand?

A couple weeks ago, I recommitted my voice as a speaker to “sing always, only for my king.” I have a strong sense of incompetence in the speaking arena. My greatest fear whether speaking to one person or a thousand (in my dreams), is that I will be misunderstood. The lesson from God on Wednesday was for me not to worry about how his word is received. He will handle soil preparation. I need to be like the sower who realizes that not all seed will fall on fertile ground.

But that didn’t really answer my years of struggle with the passage in Mark 4.

Yesterday, I pulled out “leadership encouragements” material from Moms in Touch and chose to follow the “Personal Quiet Time” on “Listening to God Speak to Me.” It is the basic read a passage of scripture until you sense something jumping out at you. There is an ancient term for this but I can’t think of it right now. If you know it, please leave it in the comments.

The passage was 1 Kings 18:16 through 1 Kings 19:18. I got as far as the second verse, 1 Kings 18:17 “When he [Ahab] saw Elijah, he said to him, ‘Is that you, you troubler of Israel?’”

I’m familiar with this story from 1 Kings because I co-led a retreat based on Elijah’s exciting confrontation followed by his immediate exhaustion and fear of people. So I didn’t need to read all of it to hear God remind me once again don’t worry about how others respond to what I give you to say.” I’ve already been seen as a “troubler” and asked not to participate in one women’s Bible study. I’ve also been called a fanatic. My closing words to God in my journal entry yesterday were “My desire is to Always, Only do what I see you doing, Lord.”

As I glanced at those words this morning, I heard God say that’s why some are always seeing but never perceiving, always hearing but never understanding. It was one of those “huh?” moments. Then it started making sense.

Those who have “ears to hear,” as Jesus says in Mark 4, do understand. But he’s not talking about physical ears. Of course, most of you realized that a long time ago. But wait.

Some years ago there was a popular study called “Experiencing God.” I’ve heard a lot about this study but never read it. What I’ve heard most often is “go where you see God already working.” That’s a fine thought but the problem is many times we are seeing but not perceiving. Do you get it? If you were in my little office right now, I’d be bouncing around as I tell you what’s on my mind.

I’ve rejected the concept of “go where God is already working” because I believe God is working everywhere. And that is the difference in seeing but never perceiving, hearing but never understanding. I want to see what God sees with his eyes, not just what I can see with my physical eyes. I want to do what I see him doing even if no one else around me sees it. If I were to read Blackaby’s material, I would probably have learned this lesson a long time ago.

So why do some people see and others don’t? Well, that’s still somewhat of a mystery but I think it has to do with humbling yourself to God as everything and man (all man including yourself) as nothing without him. With him, does not make me greater than others. But with him, I have life – ears to hear, eyes to see, reason to live a physical life because of the spiritual life.

I will keep sowing the seeds trusting that God is preparing the soil ahead of me. I may get discouraged if I look at what’s growing along the path. So I’ll keep my eyes on things above and consider carefully what I hear.

Are there things you don’t understand about God? Keep listening. Sometimes God leads us through a game of connect the dots so that we can perceive and understand.

“‘Consider carefully what you hear,’ he continued. ‘With the measure you use, it will be measured to you--and even more.’” Mark 4:24

Monday, October 01, 2007

Need Help?

I lift up my eyes to the hills-- where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.
Psalm 121:1-2

My help comes from the maker of heaven and earth! Think about that a minute.

I confess, I have a hard time asking others for help. Can you relate? These two verses overwhelmed me today. God, the creator of heaven and earth, wants to help me. He has chosen to be available to help me in everything I do.

  • Volunteer responsibilities… he keeps me focused on his plans.
  • Housework and parenting… he helps me prioritize and empathize.
  • Unhealthy thought patterns… he is right there to redirect.
  • Need encouragement… he sends a friend, an email, or a scripture.

Do you need help today? Lift your eyes not to the hills but to the one who created the hills.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Team Development - Part 3

Flipping the Organizational Chart

If you’ve missed the first two parts of this series, you can read them by clicking the links below:

Team Development Part 1 - Praying for Clarity of Your Purpose

Team Development Part 2 – Your Spot in the Big Picture

Flipping the Organizational Chart is more of a mindset than an action. But, it is an essential part of establishing a team that has a strong foundation. It is also helpful to get this picture so that you can cast the vision of where the ministry is actually happening.

The traditional organizational chart places the leaders over those they lead. In this picture, you have the ministry dangling from the grip of leaders. I suggest you view leadership from a different perspective.

Picture a garden. A seed is planted. A root system then develops to nourish the flowers, fruits, or vegetables. God has planted you to develop a team that will feed a ministry and bloom into a beautiful garden for his glory. The produce from this garden will nourish a multitude because many seeds will be carried to other gardens.

Are you losing your grip on the ministries you oversee? It’s much easier to support from below ground. Letting go allows others to grow up to their potential in Christ instead of depending on your strength to hold them in place.

Let your roots grow down into him and draw up nourishment from him, so you will grow in faith, strong and vigorous in the truth you were taught. Let your lives overflow with thanksgiving for all he has done.
Colossians 2:7 (NLT)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Holy Discontent by Bill Hybels

“Friends, the trouble with contentedness is that, when lived out in isolation, it can be lethal! If you’re not careful, you will become lulled into a state of satisfaction, safety, and serenity, and you’ll altogether neglect needs in the world that should elicit deep discontent when you see them going unmet.” (Bill Hybels, Holy Discontent, 29)

Apparently, I am not the only person who struggles with whether to walk away from things that don’t seem right to me – even in the church –or to do something to change the situation? Is change really worth being inconvenienced?

I grew up with the attitude of “just enjoy life.” Don’t worry, be happy, be content. Life should be fun, easy, relaxing as much as possible after earning your wages. Oh don’t get me wrong, I was taught to help others but it seemed I was to help others if it was convenient.

Please keep in mind that I don’t think my parents intended to teach this to me. It’s just the way I interpreted it with my personality and giftedness.

I’ve discovered over the past few years that contentment is not about how full or empty my calendar is; how much I’m doing for others or how much time I have available for family and friends. True contentment comes from living out the giftedness and passions God has placed in me.

In Holy Discontent – Fueling the Fire that Ignites Personal Vision, Bill Hybels points out that there are times we should walk into our area of dissatisfaction instead of away from it. He refers to Moses’ frustrations with seeing the Israelites mistreated by the Egyptians. Moses confronted and killed an Egyptian out of his frustration. It is safe to say, that is not the desired result of Holy Discontent. However, witnessing the mistreatment fueled God’s purpose in Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt.

I can relate to this story. I recently dealt with frustrations on an individual basis causing more harm than good. Looking back, however, I can see how my dissatisfaction with the situation ignited my passion to do more in the area of my giftedness. Hybels puts it this way, “what wrecks the heart of someone who loves God is often the very thing God wants to use to fire them up to do something that, under normal circumstances, they would never attempt to do…. You (yes you) can join God in making what is wrong in this world right! And it all starts with you finding your holy discontent; it begins with you determining what it is that you just can’t stand.”

Need a little help finding your holy discontent? Pick up this 149 page book for some inspiring examples of those who have devoted their life to their holy discontent. Ask God to open your eyes to the wrongs he wants you to help make right. Then start living a life that is truly life. (1 Timothy 6:18-19) It really is worth the inconvenience.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A New Kind of Normal by Carol Kent

“Why did God let this happen?” Have you ever found yourself asking that question or maybe someone is asking you that question about their life.

Carol Kent, in A New Kind of Normal, does not attempt to give cold answers to that tough question. Instead she invites the reader to see how she eventually was able and continues to choose to trust God with all the emotions that emerge in an unexpected, undesirable life-changing event.

But it’s not all about her. She includes personal stories written by seven other women in various circumstances. Each one is vulnerable and authentic. Kent’s husband also contributes from his personal journal which allows us to see that men are not immune to the emotional strains of life change.

In this book you will find hope more than answers. And perhaps the greatest encouragement will come in finding that you are not alone. You may not have what you once had but you may discover, as Kent has over time, that some parts of your new normal are better than your old normal.

Click here to view the motivation for this book.
Please visit Speak Up for Hope

Monday, September 10, 2007

Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller

“What I believe is not what I say I believe; what I believe is what I do.” (Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz, 110)

I have walked through a life of discovery with Donald Miller in reading Blue Like Jazz – Nonreligious thoughts on Christian Spirituality. I have also revisited some of the places I walked in my years of doubting God’s existence and wondering why it is often easier to be with non-Christians than it is to be with Christians.

In the midst of my wandering years I found non-Christians to be more authentic. If they were caring, they were more genuinely caring. If they were angry, they didn’t try to hide their anger. If they were laughing, they were enjoying the laughter completely. It is much easier to be around people who are genuine than it is to be around people who are trying to be something they are not.

The most enjoyable element of being in a group of unchurched folks is that they generally don’t expect anything of others. This, I think, is the most enjoyable attraction to not attending church. Ah, you think that is a cop out?

In my early twenties, I organized a volleyball night at my church. The first few weeks the only people that came were co-workers – several of them unchurched or at least not big into church like me. We had a blast. We didn’t care who won or how well anyone was playing. We just had fun.

Then couples from my church started coming to play. And, well, the volleyball nights didn’t last much longer. The couples bickered with each other, picked on others from the church and pretty much made the fun disappear. It didn’t help that the church leadership blamed our unchurched guests and their children for messing with some stuff in the basement of the gymnasium. Truth was, the unchurched kids didn’t wander away from the volleyball court because they didn’t know the church.

Miller talks about love and community in this book a lot. We all need to feel loved and we can’t experience love without community – it’s impossible. The problem is that for many Christians, “love” means making people behave a certain way or behaving a certain way themselves.

This book has made me look at myself and remember how I used to feel about Christians. Am I what I used to hate? Do I “do” what I say I believe?

Blue Like Jazz is a good eye opener for Christians and an authentic look for non-Christians at one man’s discovery that true Christian spirituality is like jazz music. It’s something you feel. It’s something very difficult to get on paper. “But it is no less real, no less meaningful, no less beautiful” when it is lived out authentically.

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Friday, September 07, 2007

How Faithful are You?

I have done nothing to earn or deserve God’s mercy. For six years I fought against him and led others away from him. I don’t deserve his blessings. I don’t deserve the opportunity to participate in his divine nature.

Even after I turned to him, I entertained thoughts and let my curiosity lead me in areas of darkness.

Today I am still far from being as faithful as God.

I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, "The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him." Lamentations 3:19-24

How faithful are you?

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Psalm 117

Praise the Lord, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples. For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Psalm 117

Yep, two verses. That’s all there is. Not exciting enough for you? Ok, read it in The Message version.

Psalm 117

Praise God, everybody! Applaud God, all people! His love has taken over our lives; God's faithful ways are eternal. Hallelujah!

Enough said.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

A Busy Day Ahead

I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me. Psalms 3:5

This verse jumped out at me today. I have a lot on my mind. My desire is to make right choices and get all the things done that I’ve committed to do. This verse reminds me that I wouldn’t even exist if it weren’t for God. He is the creator. I am his created. I woke up this morning because the One who created me wanted me to wake up. That’s rather exciting, don’t you think?

Lord, you sustain me. May I never forget that every breath I take is because you want me to breathe. Forgive my notions that I have any real choice in my existence. Just as a brand name on a toy often speaks of its quality, may your reputation be evident in the quality of my life today.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Cravings that Satisfy

I used to worry about getting my son to eat healthy when he was just starting to eat table food. He seemed to eat very small amounts and ate only strawberries and cheese. My mom would tell me not to worry about it. “They will eat when they are hungry and their body will crave the foods they need.” Wisdom she had gathered from a pediatrician when I was young.

Apparently this is true with pregnant women too. While on nearly six months of bed rest I watched America’s Health Network…uhm… a lot. One OB/GYN was talking about why pregnant women have strange cravings and even eat very unusual things like dirt. Amazingly, God has designed our bodies to know what it needs even if our mind hasn’t learned this information. Did you know dirt has nutritional value for people? Makes sense, I guess, veggies are healthy, right?

I don’t fully understand what makes a pregnant woman eat dirt. Maybe she fell over and couldn’t get up and discovered dirt didn’t taste so bad. I’m guessing she also took a nap while she was down there. Anyway, the term for the behavior of eating dirt is called soil pica. It’s interesting research but I’ll leave the details for your own internet surfing enjoyment.

Lisa Bevere in Discover Your Inner Beauty was concerned about a different type of hunger for her children.

One morning as I prayed for my family, I asked God to increase my children’s hunger for Him. Deep in my spirit I heard His response, “If your children are not hungry, it is because they are already full….” To develop this spiritual hunger I will need to fast all that is not of God that tries to fill me. (Lisa Bevere, Discover Your Inner Beauty, 70)

Ouch! Did that quote hit you like it hit me? Why don’t I let my kids fill up on sweets and junk food (or dirt) before dinner? Of course, I want them to be hungry for the healthier (hopefully, tastier) food.

The same applies to my desire to hunger for God. If I want to be hungry for the things God wants to put in me, then I need to stay away from the junk. What an awesome concept, don’t you think? Why satisfy my hunger with potato chips and candy bars when God has a banquet prepared for me. I’d say his appetizer is more like strawberries with a chocolate fountain. But don’t go overboard in the fountain. Just wait ‘til you see the entrĂ©e. It is a display like nothing you’ve ever seen – even on a cruise ship. The aroma makes your taste buds stand up and begin dripping with desire before each tantalizing bite reaches your lips.

I’ve found this to be true. When I approach my quiet time with God out of a hunger for him, it is a satisfying meal like none other. When I approach him because it’s time to sit down to be with him, well, it’s not all that exciting. My mind wanders to what I’m going to do when I’m done. Just like my kids do at our supper table some days.

So maybe the key to being hungry for God isn’t forcing yourself to stomach scripture that you don’t understand or attempting to pray in a way that puts you to sleep. Maybe the key is as Bevere suggests - fasting from the things that are not of God. If you want to eat healthy meals, don’t have a bag of candy sitting at your desk all day. If you want to taste the richness of relationship with God, don’t settle for relationships that are negative and exhausting or virtual relationships like the internet or TV. Allow yourself to be lonely, hungry for something more so that your soul will cry out craving what it needs to be truly satisfied.

Honey seems tasteless to a person who is full, but even bitter food tastes sweet to the hungry. Proverbs 27:7

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Team Development - Part 2

Your Spot in the Big Picture

In Team Development Part 1 we sought out our individual calling/purpose in our role as a team leader. Now it’s time to take that piece of the puzzle and figure out where it fits within the bigger picture. Why has God called you to this particular church or organization? How will your role connect your area of responsibility to the rest of the picture?

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Philippians 2:1-2

Before you begin building a team, you need to be clear on the vision for the full body of Christ within your church and you need to be comfortable with what part God is calling your team to play in that bigger vision. Don’t expect the leaders of the bigger picture to tell you your role. You need to be able to tell them what God is calling you to do so that all of you are moving in the same direction with Christ.

Here’s a bit of my philosophy of women’s ministry. I picture women’s ministry as somewhat of a service station along the highway. To be fully effective as part of the church Jesus prayed for in John 17:20-23, women’s ministry cannot be viewed as a separate entity from the rest of the church. God calls us to be united, not segmented. Therefore, women’s ministry should always aim at meeting the unique needs of women so that they can better function in the full body of Christ.

The church where I served as volunteer women’s ministry director had an exciting vision to be a church for those who were turned off by traditional churches. As with most churches in that era, they had the three letters that represented the various aspects of ministry. Basically those areas in any church relate to introducing Christ, discipleship, and getting involved. The twist for this church was to make the message of Christ hit the needs of people who wanted more than to be known as someone who attended church. (Yes, this church was located in the Bible belt where that mattered.) Many, including me, had a history of being skeptical or disenchanted with church. They still had questions but wanted answers that go beyond what I call “Sunday school answers.”

The task for our women’s ministry, then, was to anticipate the unique questions women ask in each of the areas of finding Christ, discipleship and getting involved? You can adjust the question to fit the unique vision of your organization and your team. The point is to focus on what God is doing in the lives of those around you then allow God to use you to blend your specific ministry into this bigger picture.

Here are some ideas for finding your ministry’s spot in the bigger picture:

  • Read the mission statement for the church.
  • Discuss the vision with those who are most directly involved in determining the direction for the church. They may not call it a vision. You may want to word it this way, “If everything goes as you expect, describe the people that will make up this congregation a year from now, five years from now, ten years from now?”
  • Develop a relationship with the decision makers. Even if you are a volunteer, create a plan to meet regularly one-on-one with the staff position responsible for your ministry. Keep this person informed of what is going on and what dreams you have for the ministry. Find out what dreams he has for his bigger area of responsibility. What would he like to see happen in your area of ministry? Pray with this person each time you meet.
  • Be an observer. Ask God to open your eyes to what he is doing in your church. Who are the women in your church? What God-potential do you see in them?
  • Listen as an advocate. If you were the typical women in your church (not a leader), what questions, thoughts or actions would the weekend message stir in you?
  • Put it on paper. Either in words or with a picture, show how your ministry fits in the bigger picture. This may be parallel list showing each of the areas of ministry then a column showing how the church meets that need and another column showing how women’s ministry meets a unique need of women in that same area.

Don’t expect instant change. If you are leading an area with a long history, don’t be discouraged by the slow pace. God will lead you in the specifics day by day. As the leader, he has given you the joy of a glimpse of the big picture. Remember the leaders of the Old Testament listed in Hebrews 11 – Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses’ parents, Moses, Joshua and Israel, Rahab and many more.

These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect. Hebrews 11:39-40

Next month we’ll look at the organizational chart and how it serves as a lure in casting vision.

Are you hungry?

Even though Hannah was honored by her husband with a double portion, she could not enjoy it because she was so tormented by her adversary. How could God allow this? Notice it was God, not the devil, who closed Hannah’s womb. Why? I believe God closed it to create a divine hunger in Hannah, one greater than a child could satisfy, one only He could fulfill. (Lisa Bevere, Discover Your Inner Beauty, 65)

How long have you been hungry for the things you ask of God? Has your hunger changed? Are you seeking a temporary satisfaction or are you seeking to be filled by God?

Bevere’s quote above easily applies to women longing for a child but it can apply to anything you are seeking from God. Are you seeking relief from or answers to your pain or loneliness? To the unjust actions of others toward you or toward someone else? What do you see as the outcome of your request?

Year after year she [Hannah] prayed for a son. At first her motive might have been, “God, give me a son for my husband’s name sake.” Then it may have changed to, “God, give me a son because of my adversary.” But when it became, “God, give me a son, and I will give him to You,” God gave to her the desire of her heart. (Bevere, 66)

Watch out. You may be tempted to read that and think “oh, if I pray and say I will give this child (or whatever it is you are asking for) back to God, he’ll give it to me.” As I tell my kids, it’s not your behavior, it’s your attitude that makes a difference.

Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

Yes, I believe God wants to give his children the desires of their heart. As a mom, there is no better joy than seeing my kids excited about getting something they have longed for. But when their desire is against God’s will, I pray they will not receive it because I know that the struggles that follow will be much more painful than the shallow desire of wanting it. And it may not be the object itself but their motive for wanting it that makes all the difference.

What are you hungry for? Is your desire bringing you closer to God? Are you childishly demanding your way or are you seeking to know God more intimately through your growing hunger?

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Are you working for God or with him?

“When we work for God instead of with God, we lose sight of God’s character, nature and perspective. Our motives become distorted and mixed. We become religious (serve God our way instead of His), legalistic (by the parameters and restrictions of man), judgmental (critical of all outside our understanding) and proud of our own accomplishments (‘look how hard I have worked’).” Lisa Bevere, Discover Your Inner Beauty, 62

Have you been there? I have. Maybe I can help you recognize it.

Are you often stressed out because you can’t get everything done? Are you trying to save the world? “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Read Matthew 19:23-30

Do you see people as the battle and obstacles to your efforts? Our struggle is not against flesh and blood. Read Ephesians 6:10-18

Is God’s saying “no” more than “go”? Read James 4:2-4

I’ve been in church all my life. I have been active and growing with Christ for over 16 years. My husband and I have attended and been leaders in a variety of church affiliations. But it wasn’t until seven years ago when we began attending a seeker driven (that differs from seeker sensitive) church that I realized how I had been trying to work for God rather than working with him.

Seeker driven churches are not trying to make truth comfortable. They simply bring up questions that many traditional churches have quit asking.

It was in this setting that I looked around me and realized that regardless of where any of us are in our relationship with Christ, we all desire the same thing. And that is to understand our role in this world – we are all seeking truth.

I miss the conversations of the seeker driven church. It seems that anyone I talked to – believer or not-yet-believer – we asked questions of ourselves and of God. We were always open to learning something far outside the box of man’s traditional ideas of who God is and our relationship to him. In the seeker driven church I attended, there was always a sense of experiencing God in unexpected ways.

Ok, maybe I’m “painting pictures of Egypt” (great lyrics of Sara Groves). Maybe I’m only remembering what I want and leaving out what God wants to show me where I am today. Confession: it’s not what was lacking then, it’s what I’m lacking now – community.

Here’s the point I’m wandering around: when we live as seekers of God instead of servers for God, we fall in love with Christ instead of ourselves.

So, are you seeking God or are you seeking accomplishments? Do you want to impress God with what you do for him or do you want to walk hand in hand along a sunny beach with Him – listening to his dreams for your life together?

Be his Bride and enjoy the romance.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Is Jesus Coming for a Wife or a Bride?

I love this question posed by Lisa Bevere in Discover Your Inner Beauty. She uses an entire chapter but I can’t wait to blog about this one section of comparing Adam and Eve to Christ and his bride.

Here’s some snippets:

“John [Lisa’s husband] did not ask me to marry him because I was a good cook, a great mother, a good housekeeper, a wonderful helpmate or financially responsible…. He married me for one reason – companionship.

“God brought Eve out of Adam’s side for this same reason…. God put Adam into a deep sleep and removed a rib from his side, which God used to create Eve. Then God presented her to Adam. Eve had been hidden in Adam all along.

“In the same way, the Father has prepared us as the bride of Christ. The death of Christ…brought forth His bride, the church. Now we, as the bride, anxiously await the marriage supper of the Lamb where we will see Him face to face and be joined together with Him forever.”

I’m not doing so well in the areas of housekeeper and helpmate these days so it is refreshing to be reminded that my husband did not marry me for those qualities.

The same thought can apply to our relationship with Christ. He didn’t die so that we would serve him. As Bevere points out “we can do nothing of eternal value apart from Him, so it is foolish to think we can do anything for Him. We only produce what is acceptable and life giving when we work with Him.”

When there is laundry in the dryer or a dish washer that needs unloaded and my husband is sitting on the couch after a long day at work, sitting beside him for companionship is much more enjoyable for both of us.

Is your relationship with Christ like the joyful days of engagement before your wedding or is it more like the tiresome days of raising a family and keeping a house? We are only a bride for a short time. But the wedding that is coming will be like none other. Once we are the wife of God’s only begotten son, there will be no more sorrow, no more dirty laundry.

Enjoy the engagement!

the mission:
PROCLAIM the good news; HEAL the sick and oppressed; BRING JUSTICE
~ Luke 4:16-20

Anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing (John 14:12)
~ Jesus 

Copyright 2005-2010 Lisa Biggs Crum
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