#Write31Days Challenge – Post 27 – God on My Mind

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Some days are just tough, mentally we are at our max capacity.  Our stress levels are high, our emotions are running wild, and our energy is running empty. 

Then there are the days that are just, busy.  It’s not that you are overwhelmed emotionally or even physically, but it just seems like every second of your day has been claimed by some thing or some one.

On days likes these it can be hard to put in some serious Bible Study, we either don’t have the time or the energy to put the mental energy into study.  Our prayers may be short and sweet lists, or even the sigh we exhale as we say “God help me!” as we drop our sobbing eyes into our hands.

Speaking for myself,  I know that when it comes to spiritual practices …. I have good days & bad.  There are days I can accomplish in depth study, first thing in the morning, that will carry me throughout the day.  I also have days where I am on the go, all day long, and it isn’t until those final moments I am putting my head to the pillow that I can stop and pray.

Over the years, I have learned a few tips to help keep God on my mind throughout the day.  I may not getting in 30 minutes of Bible Study or even 5 minutes of dedicated prayer time. 

  • Play worship music on the radio while in the car picking up the kids, or while bustling around the house cleaning.  Often Christian radio stations will read verses throughout the day, replay Pastor’s sermons, or interview of Bible teachers that are worth listening to as well.  Audiobooks and Podcasts are other great options.
  • Pray as you clean, over what you are cleaning.  Be thankful for indoor plumbing as you clean your toilet.  Pray over your children as you fold their laundry.  Pray for your husband’s safety while working, as you prepare to make that doctor’s appointment for him.  Volunteering at the church?  Pray on your drive for the church, the Pastor, or the ministry you are serving on.  In the Parent Pick Up line at your child’s school, pray for the school.  At the gym?  Pray for your health.  At the grocery, pray for those who are going hungry.  As you pay your mortgage online, give thanks for your home and pray for the homeless. 
  • Pray throughout your day.  Instead of sitting down in the morning going through a lengthy prayer session, instead pray throughout the day as thinks pop into your head.
  • Display scripture on walls of your house, either in picture frames or using wall decals. These can be life verses or family mission verses.  Even if you don’t have time to study your Bible that morning, you can focus your eyes on those as you move about your home.  Then can also be fun verses like the ones I have for certain rooms of the house.  In my kitchen the verse on the wall is Psalm 107:9, and in the bathroom is verse Psalm 24:4.  
  • Now this one may make you giggle a bit, however in our old house … I got really creative.   We placed a white board right across from the toilet in our guest bathroom.  Every week I would write a new piece of scripture.  We kept no magazines or newspapers in there, so the only reading material our guests had was from the Word.  We referred to it as “Coming the Throne” (I am convinced God has a sense of humor).
  • Use uninterrupted times to really speak to God.  I find that I am most vulnerable when I am totally alone, away from the noise of the house.  Some of my greatest conversations with God have taken place in the shower, or by turning off the car radio and just speaking with the Lord. 
  • Bring your Bible or Bible Study with you to waiting rooms at doctor’s offices, or even when you are lunching with a friend – particularly if you are generally a person who arrives early.
  • Turn your lunch dates with friends into something more than gossip sessions, and make that your Bible Study time.

All of that said, I would also suggest doing what you can to reduce some of the hectic activity from your life.  Lysa TerKeurst has a great book “The Best Yes” that really helps you take a hold of your life, so that you can carve out time for God, not be overwhelmed by your schedule, and learn to give your best to the things that are most important.

And finally, should you find yourself in a space where you are struggling emotionally or physically with life… please, PLEASE…. see your doctor.  There are many disorders that steal our minds, energy, drive, and make us feel like we simply CAN’T.  Have your primary care doctor rule out physical ailments, and if you need to see a Christian Counselor who can help with the mental aspects.  There is nothing wrong with seeking help or using medication to get you through, and a good Christian counselor can help you do so while leaning on the truth of God’s love.

#Write31Days – Post 13 – When the Church Says No

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I was reading the above article, on the website for The Gospel Coalition.  The gist of the article was that members of the body with artistic talents are often discouraged in using their gifts within the church.  It could be an art form that is not really understood, or that the church staff don’t know how to actually include it into the service of the church.  It isn’t always that they don’t want to, they just may not know how to.

But I would challenge that is discouragement isn’t just for those who have artistic gifts, but any gift or talent that isn’t being utilized.  I have been in churches that were welcoming of gifts and talents & would utilize them if the person was willing to commit.  I’ve also been in churches that will dismiss the gifts they don’t understand or can’t seem to figure out how that gift fits in to the vision of the church.

From an artistic standpoint, I can totally understand.  As a professionally trained actress, who also has ample back stage experience,  I have offered my gift to churches in the past.  Some embraced it with open arms, others dismissed it as something not relevant.  Dismissed so quickly that I never even had the opportunity to explain that expertise.  In 2005, I directed a Christmas musical for the church we were attending at the time.  It just so happened that at one showing there was a television producer in the audience.  He loved the show, and they came back and filmed it.  They ran it every few days, where they had an empty slot, all the way through Christmas Day.

That was an exciting day for me.  Yet, too often, when I share with a church or ministry that I have a theater background they instantly want to put me in charge of a children’s production.  That is NOT my specialty, it is not my gift.  They do not understand the impact that LIVE performance can have on a group of people.  Perhaps this is because too few churches have trained professionals, maybe they haven’t enough trust in the quality or commitment.  What saddens me is to be shot down before you even get a chance to try.  The Lord blessed me with a gift, specifically a talent, one that I want to use for HIS glory.   It is sad to see it get brushed aside because someone else doesn’t “get it”.

Being dismissed and discouraged is not only an issue with the arts, but can come about in many different forms.  I watched my husband’s spirit get completely squashed by a men’s ministry leader because he made an assumption about my husband without even getting to know him.  What most don’t know about my husband is that he has the ability to talk to anyone about God.  It’s really amazing.  I envy his boldness at times.  Every day he is out among the community, doing his job, and sharing the gospel where he can.  He has prayed with people, give them encouragement, and even his own Bible if they didn’t have one.

He can do this because God gifted him in that manner.  My husband also went through Evangelism Explosion training to learn how to present the gospel to every day people in a way that they would understand.  Bringing them through the steps from accepting Christ, to getting plugged into a church, and more.  When we were married and our family was growing, a huge burden was on my husband’s shoulders.  He became lukewarm, going through the motions.  One weekend he went with a men’s ministry to a conference, and my husband was ON FIRE.  He was ready to get back on the horse.

The leader of the ministry didn’t know my husband that well.  He assumed that my husband was caught up in emotions.  Since he didn’t take the time to really listen to my husband, to ask any questions about his experience… the man quickly extinguished that fire.  My husband said “I’m ready to serve.  Where can I plug in????”

The ministry leader patted him on the shoulder and said:  “No brother, where can we serve you.”   My husband wasn’t even given the chance to share who he was, or the gift that God has given him.  To this day, my husband has not stepped forward since.  He was rejected.  Instead, he has become my biggest supporter and advocate.    Instead, he has continued to share the gospel in his every day encounters.

One church damaged my husband, and he just hasn’t recovered.  Over the years, he has had ideas for ministries where he could serve people in our church or community.  However, that inspiration is fleeting.

I believe that we have to be very cautious as a church to NOT allow our vision for the church become tunnel vision.  We must be open to see how the different gifts and talents of the body can be used in that vision.  It is easy to see things our way, within our own understanding and abilities.  It is easy to see how things ought to go and progress, and make a list of what gifts and talents are needed to move that vision forward.  It isn’t always easy to see how the gifts of others can fit into that vision, or be molded into that vision.   If we see things too black and white, we miss the many gifts that fall in the middle.

As leaders we need to be careful with the gifts and offers of service from others.  We need to not just immediately dismiss a person because at first we can’t see how their gift fits the vision.  We need to not dismiss a person as a capable kingdom worker without taking the time to get to know them.  We may be throwing away the most amazing gifts… and affecting people in ways we never realize.

This doesn’t mean we throw caution to the wind, accepting any and everything.  We can be judicious and gracious at the same time.

  •  Thank the person for offering their gift or talent to the church/ministry.
  • Ask them questions about their experience or training.
  • Get an idea of how they think their gift or talent could fit within the vision of the church, or help the ministry/community.
  • Take some time to really think about the conversation, pray about it.  Is there room for this ministry idea?  If not, is there an existing ministry that we can plug this person into that fulfills their desire to serve with their gift.
  • Follow up with the person, and be honest.  If you are not sure how it fits the vision, talk to them about it.  They may see something you don’t.  If now isn’t the right time, agree to revisit it in 3 – 6 months.  If you require more information, ask for it and take the time to review it.
  • If this is a brand new member of the church, and you are uncertain of commitment, have them go through the new members class and plug into a small group.  Let them know you want to get to know them better, and let them get acquainted with the church first.  Then you can talk ministry work.

 

Unused Gifts

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1 Corinthians 12:4-11

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues,[a] and to still another the interpretation of tongues.[b] 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

It was about 11 years ago, when a man went with his church to a Promise Keepers conference.  The truth was that this man had grown up in the church, he had gone through discipleship training, and at one time had a spirit that was thirsty for the Lord.  He had read his bible cover to cover, many times.  He had wisdom and knowledge of the scriptures.  Life, however, would distract him.  His fervor for service would diminish.  He toiled and labored to provide for his family, so much so that it was hard to give up that one day during the week that he didn’t have to get up for work.  Most days, he would… the family would head over to church and he and his wife would discuss the message on the way home.

He was too tired at the end of a long shift to sit through family devotions, or read the scriptures with his wife.  He trusted her with the spiritual leadership of his children, the managing of the home, etc.  This trip to Promise Keepers was just what he needed to open his eyes.  The message directed at the men convicted his heart, he recognized that he had become a lukewarm Christian.  An ember began to burn that called him to service in his church.  He was renewed in spirit.

On the bus ride home, the Pastor asked some questions of the men from the church.  The man stood up and announced “I was a lukewarm Christian, I was wrong, I don’t want to do it anymore… where can I serve????”

A few men shouted, “AMEN!”… there were some high fives as he moved toward the Pastor.  The Pastor put his hand on the man’s shoulder, smiling… and said “No brother, how can we serve you?”

The Pastor’s intentions were good, but because he didn’t take the time to get to know the man and what he had to offer, he dismissed the man’s offer.  The man was crushed, he wanted to serve, use his talents, but he was denied.  He returned to his seat, but the high fives on the return trip suddenly felt empty. 

When he returned home, it would take him several days before he could even bring himself to share what happened with his wife.  She could see how hurt he was.  He had a lot to offer, but he wasn’t going to be given the chance.  He wanted to serve, but he was turned down.  In the days following the trip, and the weeks even further out, not a Pastor or Elder would reach out to him.    They were not even going to follow up on their offer to serve him!  Time passed, and the ember went out. 

It’s been 11 years, and to this date … the man has never offered his gifts again.  The church missed out on an amazing opportunity, and frankly so did the man. 

I understand how he feels.  There have been plenty of times in my life where I felt like I was being over looked for the gifts and talents I had to offer.   In some cases, I was overlooked completely for a task that I was more than qualified for.  In other cases, I was given something totally outside my of my gifts because it was just naturally assumed I would be good at is… simply because I am a woman.  When a person is overlooked or rejected enough times, they will stop offering.  If you only offer them the tasks that you assume they are good at (without ever talking to them about it), resentment and frustration can build.

This happens in the church quite a bit, the man’s story is not unique.  God has given us all gifts to be used for His glory, but that’s the key… we need to use them.  We want to use them in the church, but if the church isn’t willing to recognize them or utilize them, one of two things will happen:

  1.  We stop offering our gifts.
  2. We take our gifts elsewhere.

I took an informal poll of some ministry leaders, the question was:  Do you have your volunteers (or church) take a spiritual gifts test, regularly?

I was surprised by the few who answered, YES.

If we look back to the story I shared (which is true, by the way)…. it could have gone a lot different.

The Pastor put his hand on the man’s shoulder, smiling… and said “Brother, that’s great! Call me this week and we’ll talk about where you could serve.”

or

The Pastor put his hand on the man’s shoulder, smiling… and said “Brother, we’d be happy to have you serving with us.  Stop by my office this week, I’ll have spiritual gifts test waiting for you.  Fill it out, and let’s set a date to have lunch.”

or

The Pastor put his hand on the man’s shoulder, smiling… and said “Brother, that is so exciting.  Do you know where you’d like to serve?”

In all three examples, it would have given the man the opportunity to meet with the Pastor, to share his background and experience, and provided the groundwork for identifying his spiritual gifts in order to determine the best place for him to serve within the church.  It acknowledged him, without rejecting him.  It created a plan of action that was immediate.

This is something that we must be careful of, with the members of our church.  We can’t make assumptions about what they are good at, or their knowledge, the time they have available, or what we think their gifts are.  We also can’t ignore the fact that every person in the church has a gift.  We need to make the effort to get to know the people, find out what their gifts are, and plug them into the places they can use them.

Our gifts are more than the choir, parking team, nursery, greeter, and info desk volunteers.

Women by nature are not all gifted for VBS and Sunday School, because they are women.

Men are not by nature all gifted for landscaping and construction, because they are men.

I wonder, when we talk about women leaving the church, as well as the younger generations, how much of it comes from a lack of not feeling utilized by the church?  If you don’t feel wanted or needed, why stay?

What if…….

  • all new members classes included a spiritual gifts test?
  • fall small groups started off with group leaders handing out spiritual gifts tests?
  • instead of saying to the whole church we need these few volunteer spots filled… we looked at their tests and placed everyone … somewhere.

I think we know that realistically, not everyone will turn in their test.  Nor, can we expect that everyone is going to be available to volunteer.  People do have jobs, kids, and even other volunteer commitments.  However, by starting the process of identifying their gift we can engage their minds.  They will begin thinking about if, when, and how they could be used in the church.  We can guide them toward ministries that are seeking volunteers, or even come up with something for people to do in their gift range while they wait for something to become available.

If we engage people’s gifts into the service of the church, on a regular basis, they become invested & connected members of the body.  They will feel wanted, valued, connected, important, and feel they have a purpose for being in this body of believers.

An unopened gift can never be fully appreciated.