Coffee Talk

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Do you know what I love about coffee talk?  That when I gather with a few women over coffee, unless it’s a designated business meeting, there is pretty much no topic off the table.  We will cover pop culture, politics, and even controversial subjects.  I love coffee talk.

There is a strange thing that can happen among women, during coffee talk.  It is when we begin chatting about our husbands, children, family members, neighbors, or co-workers.  We start to share all of those things the person does that annoys us, gets under our skin.  Before we know it, and often unintentionally, our coffee talk turns into an out right gripe session.

There are times when we need to vent and blow off steam.  Occasions in which we need our friends and closest wise counsel to help us see beyond the circumstance we are currently in.  I’m not talking about those times, but rather the ones where we begin competing tit for tat over who or what is most annoying.  I’m addressing the conversations where we find ourselves grouped up in solidarity against our common foe.  Whomever that may be.

I’ve read, on more than one occasion, that the thing we find most annoying another person is usually a reflection on ourselves.  Either it is something we too are guilty of doing, or something we lack and we are envious of.  In the cases where it is a character flaw that we share in common, it amazes me that we are able to be oblivious to it in ourselves and so sensitive to it in another person.

This is why we have Matthew 7:5 drawing our attention to our natural inclination to examine the splinter in our neighbor’s eye in spite of the glaring plank in our own.  We are reminded that we need to worry less about the sins of others and more about our own.

Something I’m notice quite prevalent on Social Media is passive aggressive commentaries about others “sin”.   There is absolution because we don’t point to a person by name, use a piece of Scripture or quote from a theologian to drive home the point.  While I am one who often takes comfort in the Scripture promise that vengeance belongs to the Lord, I’m fairly certain that doesn’t mean God is going about doing our dirty work for us.

If you are using Scripture to take a passive aggressive attack against a person, you are mishandling the Word of God.   It is not speaking truth in love, and your words will betray your heart.

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Like a Berean

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When I saw this image being shared among my facebook friends, I literally laughed out loud.  First, I have been known to tell my own children they better check themselves before they wreck themselves.  Probably more times than I can count, and more times than they care to remember.  Check your attitude.  Check your responsibility.  Check your accountability.  Check that look on your face, tone in your voice, and your body language.

Second, exegesis is so incredibly important to me.  It should be to any believer, but especially those who are going to teach the Word or lead in a ministry.   If you don’t know the word, in summation it is the critical interpretation of the Scriptures.  In Acts 17:11, Paul and Silas were preaching at Berea.  They commented on how the Bereans’ would eagerly listen to the teaching, but also searched the Scriptures daily to make sure that what was being taught was accurate.

Some people may roll their eyes when they hear a Pastor say … “in the original text” or “if we go back to the original Greek word”.  This is not a statement of arrogance that this particular Pastor knows more, or his level of education is superior.  This is a statement that the Pastor has not just studied the Word for his message based on our every day understanding, but rather he went further into deeper critical interpretation.  He practices good exegesis.

The lens in which we interpret Scripture is vital.  If we get it right, we are bringing people to the feet of God to learn his ways.  If we get it wrong, we become the false teachers the Scriptures warn us about.  Not every false teacher is going about with mal intent to destroy the Gospel.  Some, have really good intentions and fully believe they are teaching the right thing.  But, as the phrase goes, the pathway to hell has been paved with good intentions.

We can stand firm that the Scriptures are enduring, and everlasting.  His message to us in the words on the page does not change, because God is unchanging.  However, we would be remiss to think that OUR understanding of a particular word has not changed over the years.  There are words we use in our every day vernacular today, that do not mean the same thing it did even 20 years ago.  There is a reason the Scriptures remind us to not lean into our own understanding.

I’ve watched too much divisiveness happen, over Scripture, because each person was looking through their own personal lens.  They define the word based on their culture, their education, and their influence.  Recently, there was a large controversy involving a speaker at a conference.  The speaker was from another country, with a different history regarding racism and sexism.  I still believe that the largest contributor to the controversy was miscommunication.  She spoke from her personal lens to an audience that received it through their own personal lens.

Words matter, yes.  Context matters most, because context helps us clarify the definition to the exact meaning of the word at the time it was used.  In critical interpretation, exegesis, we are tasking ourselves to make sure that every time we speak about the Scripture that our interpretation is accurate.  And, in doing so, we must also be willing to accept & admit that we are or have been wrong.

Peace in the Storm

Peace in the Storm

Living in Florida, during this time of year, residents are frequented with afternoon storms.  If you are born and raised her, they don’t come by surprise regardless of how heavy the rain falls or how loud the thunder booms.  Lightening strikes don’t cause concern.  Even most hurricanes will come and go, as we go on about life as normal… hunkering down until it passes and return to life as normal.

My dog, would beg to differ.  I can tell a storm is coming long before the first rain drop.  Our little weather dog has long alerted us to what he considers pending doom.  I notice that he is suddenly more alert to his environment.  Then the trembling begins. At first it resembles a mild shudder, like when one is hit with a sudden burst of cold air.  I know the storm is drawing closer when his trembling could be confused with a seizure.  It is more pronounced and uncontrollable.  And then, he assigns himself to the human that he feels is the safest in the house & hides or hunkers down.  A refusal to be alone, clinging to us for safety.  There may be safer places to hide, physically, but ultimately he finds security in our presence.

Growing up in Florida, I remember being afraid of hurricanes.  Now, I’m not.  It is not that I don’t respect the storm.  I do.  I know the damage it can do.  I lived through Hurricane Andrew, I remember the devastation.  I have friends who were displaced and never returned to their homes because of Andrew.  In later years, I recall the threat of an impending hurricane that caused our city to spray paint the names of the roads on the ground and sidewalks.  I knew what that meant, it was possible enough damage could be done that we may not recognize the area.  I never down play or underestimate what can happen.

However, I’ve also lived a lifetime of knowing not just the preparation for the storm… or what it is like to sit through it… but also the aftermath.   I know when to make the decision to leave, I prepare for the clean up not just the wait, I have lived through days upon days without electricity.  I have watched the communities in which I have lived rally together too.  One year, after a week without power, we took a drive and found on the fringe of our city a pizza place that was open for business.  Hot pizzas… all the same size, cheese or pepperoni, $5 each.  We bought 10 pizzas and brought it back to share with our neighbors.  I’ve listened to the chainsaws buzz, as everyone pitches in to remove downed trees.

When the storm is barreling our way, the thing I want the most is to be with my family.  My husband usually is the last one in the doors just as the rains begin.  He not only has our home to prep for the storm, but also responsibilities at his job to secure the site.  Last hurricane, he was helping secure their yard while I was hanging shutters in the rain.  I didn’t want him home to help me with the work load, I just wanted him with us.  There is a sense of security and peace that comes with knowing where your people are.

Life is full of storms.  There are the ones we see coming, like a hurricane, and we take all the possible measures to get out of the way or at least minimize the damage.  Then there are the flash floods that come without warning, the tornadoes that seemingly came from nowhere leaving devastation in their wake.  We will face storms that there is no way we could have prepared for.  The cancer diagnosis.  Car accident.  Abuse.  Addiction.

In these storms, as a Christian, we know that whatever it brings … that is not the end of our story.  There is an eternity that awaits us.  We cling to God, like a child to their parent’s leg, in our fear and uncertainty.  We find peace in the storm by His presence.  He is not rocked by the storm or the news, He is steadfast through it.  Strong.  Loving.  Enduring with us as we wrestle with uncertainty and doubt.

He is the lighthouse in the raging sea.  He is the voice that calms the wind.  He is the one who walks on water, and the mountains bend at His name.  To have a confidence in a hope and future, even when we don’t know the specific details of that future, gives us a supernatural peace in the natural chaos storms bring.  It is not naivety or a lack of respect for the storm, but an esteem of someone greater.

Book Update!

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An update on the book is long overdue, but truthfully I didn’t have anything new to share.  I’m learning that there is a LOT of behind the scenes parts in motion.  Within the last few weeks two major updates have occurred.  First, I received the proof of the book cover and I am in love with it!  No, I can’t share it yet, but trust me… it is stunning.  Second, I have been walking through another round of edits.  As of today, at least six sets of eyes have scoured my manuscript.  I believe there is at least one more round of edits & some internal design work that will happen before I can get my hands on a physical Advance Readers Copy.

In the mean time, I am also happy to share that I’ve been secretly working on some other books that I have already begin pitching to my publisher and others.  I will have some publisher meetings this July, as well.  It’s exciting to speak with different publishers, who have different audiences, and learn what it is they are looking for in new authors under their imprint.  Hopefully by this fall, I’ll have more exciting news to share.

As of right now, my current book on Women’s Ministry is slated for release in September 2019.  I’ll update if that changes.

Thanks to all who have supported and encouraged me to this point!

1st Time Guest Questions

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I recently read a list of questions first time guests at our churches are probably asking about their experience when deciding to continue at our church.

As our family has moved a few times, and we have had to search for a new church I didn’t find the list to be too accurate to my own questions.

Yes, I was certainly evaluating the condition of the building, and visible signage that helps direct visitors around the campus is something that matters.  Do I feel safe leaving my children is a big deal.  But, I don’t think I’ve ever expected coffee stations and questioned the quality of the coffee as part of a deciding factor of my attending there.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m a happy camper around the coffee station… but it’s not a make or break for me.  I can bring my own, or even skip it until I get home.

I didn’t get hung up by whether or not the sanctuary was outdated, or if the hand outs were printed on quality paper.  The type of music, and volume, has not mattered.  I’ve sat in services that were 100% hymns and services that equaled a rock concert.  The light levels and temperature never crossed my mind.  Technical difficulties happen.  Maybe because I have some introverted tendencies myself, I don’t worry if people greet me right away or seem overly friendly and welcoming.  I don’t mind taking time to get to know one another and have those friendly greetings.

What surprised me is what is NOT on the list.  Questions I ask, or things I look for when attending a new church as a first time visitor:

  1.   What kind of events /activities do they have for my kids or for us as a family?
  2.   Is there a Women’s Ministry or Men’s Ministry?  (MOPS/Moms groups, too.)
  3.   Is the church body giving matching the church budget requirements?  I am one who loves seeing the giving/budget statements on church bulletins.
  4.   Is there a central location where I can find the information I need to know (online, church info desk, lobby, etc.)
  5.   How many, and what kinds, of small groups or Bible studies are offered?
  6.   What is the community involvement of this church (missions, local, etc.)?
  7.   Can I access their statement of faith, and where they stand on certain issues easily?

A lot of what fell on that list is superficial, and for some people that will be important.  Especially when attracting new believers (or those who are seeking and not confessed believers).  However, those things will not hold someone for very long before the flashy finish starts to fade.  They want to see what the long haul holds.  When our children were small, Children’s Ministry mattered a lot to me… as well as a church that hosted some sort of moms’ group.  Yet, even at those earliest ages, I still looked into the future.  Was there a youth group?   Was there a Women’s Ministry?  I wanted to know that our family could not only be in the church, serve in the church… I wanted to know that we could grow in the church.

It mattered to me that the church had a clear stand on certain issues, un-apologetically, and that we knew without a shadow of doubt the beliefs of our leaders.  The financial stability of the church is a huge gauge on the health of the body.  Not that I expected every week to see an overflow of giving, but that overall the church was stable for longevity.  I wanted to find that the church offered a wide variety of studies that would be a soft landing for a new or young believer… as well as options that dug deeper so that we could spiritually grow within the church.  It was important to us that the church was present in the community versus serving inward.

Better Together

Better Together

Better together is a theme that has been a part of my life for over six years now.  Better together is what brought the Women’s Ministry Council into existence.  For six years now, Women’s Ministry Leaders from my local area have met quarterly.  Regardless of denomination or church size, we meet because we know that we can all serve the Kingdom better if we work together.  Small churches pairing up with large churches, connecting ministries/churches to local organizations, and providing training to an area of ministry that lacks support and resources that other ministries have access to.

Better together is what has prompted Pastor cohorts & leadership breakfasts.  Better together is what started movements like Christ Fellowship‘s “Church United”.  Bringing together church leadership in a way that is not only beneficial to the church & communities we serve, but something that is Biblical.  In Acts 15, we learn of the Council of Jerusalem, where all of the Apostles and Disciples who had gone out to fulfill The Great Commission gathered so that they could be better together.

They had recognized that as they went out into the various cities and towns, they were not all delivering the same details in the message.  It created confusion, disruption, and disunity among people.  By coming back together, and working through the details as a group they were able to come to a unified consensus.  They realized the value of working together, coming to a unified vision and message, and how unity would impact their credibility among the people.

Recently, my home church took a vote to join a network of churches within our denomination.  It is a church with multiple campuses, and we were given the opportunity to become part of the family & become one of their campuses.  I found this to be very appealing.  Why?

  1.  For six years, I’ve already had a heart toward the fact that we are better together.  We can do more, advance the kingdom more, reach more together than we ever can on our own.  We can move further, faster.  This partnership was exactly what I had done through the Women’s Ministry Council, on a larger scale.
  2. I’ve always recognized the value of shared resources.  Whether it be staff/volunteers, tangible resources, space, or experience … what we have, that can be gifted and shared with others, is a blessing to us all.   I experienced this outside of the church, when I worked for an international retail chain.  Many problems were solved in the ease in moving people & resources that were in excess at one location to a location in need.  It only make sense to have that in the church.  We’ve never been called to lead groups in isolation.
  3. Due to my research on the Jerusalem Council, this partnership felt like a return to a Biblical model than a departure from our identity.
  4. I could also step back and look at all the events & happenings that led to this moment, and I could see God’s fingerprints everywhere.  My spirit felt peace even among the uncertainty of exactly how and when things would unfold.

When the church gathered to vote, it was almost unanimous in favor of the partnership.  I wasn’t the only one who had recognized that we work better together.  Many were feeling the same things, and have the same excitement for our future with Family Church.  I am excited to witness not only what we glean from Family Church, but also what we are able to give to their leadership.

What God has brought together, let no man put asunder.

How can YOU be better together?

Start a cohort or group of other leaders in the same ministry field as yourself.  Determine how often and how long to meet based on what works for you.   Rotate who leads the meeting to take the pressure off one person doing it all.

Band together with other local churches to have regular leadership training, conversations, or meet local organizations in your community that could use your help in support, finances, or getting public awareness.

Be a mentor, seek a mentor, or both.  Find someone whom you can share your experience with, and/or seek someone who is willing to share their experience with you.  Being better together is not always about large groups but also one on one.

When Your World Stops

This post is unaccompanied by any flashy graphics or glorious pictures.  It just is, what it is.  I’m ok with that.  I’m more ok with that today, than I would have been six months ago.  Six months ago, I worked with excellence and with a check list.  Things were systematically executed with precision.  Six months ago, my life was a lot different.  I can easily get wrapped up in the details, or trying to present perfection lest I find myself under the judgement of whomever stumbles upon this page.

Six months ago, I didn’t have 2 extra children.  Six month ago, I didn’t have a little girl in my home that was angry.  Not moody.  Not upset.  Not sensitive.  Angry.  Uncontrollably angry.  I had no idea when the call came, when we opened our doors, that I would end up tossing everything on my calendar aside and dedicating most of my time to a child who was not my own.

I’ve learned a few things during this time.

I’ve learned that I can say no, more often than I had in the past.  I’ve learned that I have more available time than I thought.  I’ve become keenly aware of how blessed we are that our children are healthy, both physically and mentally.  I’ve seen how I have taken them and time for granted.  I’ve learned that the furniture that sat in my home & at the time felt like such a “need” and is now displaced into the garage, is the least of things I need to be concerned about.  I’ve watched my budget shift and prioritize my spending, because we have two extra mouths to feed and bodies to clothe.

In one phone call, my world as I had known it… stopped.  And, guess what?

I’ll survive the lack of blog posts and social media shares.  You have survived with out my wisdom, humor, or teaching.

I’ve learned that my friends, my circle, my tribe… they are right there when we needed them.  The meals they brought, the conversations they sat through as I vented, financial gifts that we never asked for or anticipated… but came at the exact moment we needed them…. God’s continual presence & provision during this time…

My world stopped.  A new world begun spinning.  In the end, I believe we will be all the better for it.  God wastes nothing.