Celebrating the Journey of Growing A Small Church

It’s Wednesday: Love, God, & indigestion :)

There’s an irony that marks my Wednesday evenings.  On a typical Wednesday, I have approximately 20 minutes from when the kids and I walk in the door until we walk back out the door to midweek services.  Thankfully, I have a helpful hubs which makes this process manageable, however it is still undeniably a tad bit chaotic: “Ready – Set – Go! Take off your coat, go potty, shovel down food, put your coat back on – meet me at the door – we’re walking out right now.”

What makes this ironic?  The point of going is to worship, listen, learn about God, and love others.  If I am not careful, the hour before church can leave be more raucous than righteous.  I find myself screaming (inside my head, not literally) “for the love of all that his holy – go! go! go! hurry up!  GET YOUR ACT TOGETHER. WE HAVE TO GO TO CHURCH NOW SO WE CAN BE LOVING LIKE GOD!” which is really not that loving of me at all.

So, I’ve slowed my thinking, started planning out my Wednesday night meals ahead of time, and focus on living out the good Word I put such pressure on hearing preached.  Yes, we desire to be punctual, and prayerfully, some day, it will be easier.  However, for right now, my reality is it is more important for me to take a couple of extra minutes to lovingly prep the household.  That way, my pre-Ker is less likely to process the idea that church night = Mommy gets loony.

Why go?  Does not going on a midweek mean I love God less than the times I do go?  I don’t think so.  We go, sometimes crying baby and fussy pre-ker in tow, because we like to.  Its fun to see dear friends and learn about God.  It is refreshing to get new insights into the scriptures, hear the hearts of those we see in fellowship, and experience others living the faith.    Its a time to commune with believers and think about God and spiritually fill up.   Its time for my kids to commune with believers and think about God and spiritually fuel up.

And I pretty much always have indigestion.   There is only so much food intake and digestion that can go on in such a small window.  Yes, as much I purely love God with my whole heart, I sincerely equate midweek with indigestion.  Pretty much every Wednesday we’re there, I’m praying that next week I will have remembered the TUMS.

But, its a willing trade off.  For the spiritual nourishment, I’ll nosh a couple of minty flavored calcium discs.

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The R Factor – Happy Growing Churches Have it

I recently attended a midweek service which opened with a discussion on church leadership.  The minister asked for what kinds of leadership we see within the church.  Typical answers like “elder,” and “deacon” followed.  Next the question was posed if there were examples of leadership that may not necessarily have formal titles.  I had an idea in mind but thought it may be too “out of the box” to share.  No, actually, these are loving people and I would have been perfectly safe to share.  I think I chickened out – maybe having to percolate on the idea a little bit more 🙂

Happy, growing churches have relationship leaders.  I have never been to a church where there is “Leader of relationships” on staff, but I have been blessed by fellowships that are rich in the relationship factor.  People are encouraged to be themselves, speak freely, get involved, make mistakes, learn from them, and carry on.  People are accepted to “come as they are” and then are encouraged and spurred on to good deeds to be their best for Christ.    People are involved in the process of making, teaching, and training disciples, for the long haul, everyday, with love,  mercy, and justice.

Sadly, too often people come to church and missing the relationship factor, move on.  A woman recently shared with me that she “pledged membership” at one church, but it “got too big” so now she goes somewhere else.  I am pretty sure this is not what God intended in the sharing of His good news.

Which brings me to the concept of pledging membership.  Fundamentally, I don’t take issue with a public support and desire to support a specific community of His Body.  But I dare not do it lightly.   I want to get knee- deep in the relationship-ness of an organization first.  I want to come alongside and get my hands dirty and hear how you love God even when you physically feel like crap.  Not from some ‘holier than thou’ perspective, but because next time I feel like crap, I am going to take courage from your example.  I want us to share our dreams and fears and victories and laughter when life doesn’t make sense, but God’s provision prevails.  I want us to share how we royally screwed something up, but then felt God’s grace and was so encouraged that our hair was on fire for God.  Or, I want us to feel safe enough to share that we want to hide under a rock, so convinced are we, that there is no turning back.  And at the end of real, honest, this is how it is, conversation,  our hearts turn Heaven-ward and we take comfort in knowing that His love is completely enough.

This is the relationship factor.  When, at the end of  fellowship, we are strengthened, encouraged, and invigorated to stay steadfast in the battle.

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3-2-1 Spew

Our son is the most adorable, gorgeous, handsome, God given, little blessing of a boy you have ever met.  So, you know I mean it with love when I also add that he is an unpredictable fountain of spew.  Unfortunately (or fortunately?) there is no Olympic sport for this, no ranks in which you can climb in spewage, no payback for such a thing.

Some called it colic, some call it acid reflux, some call it  ‘babies just do that.’ One thing I do know, he singlehandedly, in a few short months, quadrupled our household laundry. He’s no diva, but he will change outfits about 4 times a day. Thankfully, he doesn’t appear to experience discomfort.  It is mostly just us who are a little worse for the wear.

In a way, I really admire this continual spew-age. While his seems involuntary…it comes up with little warning…my heart, soul, and mind are healthier  when I am continually open and sharing my insides. I grew up thinking confession was an incredibly mysterious and terrifically weird concept.  Don’t people only want to hear the good?  When did sharing the ‘bad’ become ‘good?’

Confession is a key facet of Christianity, it is healthy, and freeing, and a catalyst for joy.   Christian friends and leaders know both the bad and the good. They encourage the good, listen to the bad, and council how to make the bad good.  Most importantly, Christians show love for another by praying for God’s help to turn the bad into good.

One of the paradoxes of Christianity: I actually like people more after they have shared their spiritual spewage with me.  I’ve learned to not take others vulnerability for granted.  Whether or not I have any wise words to reply with, there is value in simply acknowledging openness.  God works through us supernaturally, and a lot of times, His fruit is born following a listening ear and bowed head.

James 5:16: “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.  The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. “

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Will Somebody Please Fill the Ice Cube Trays?

A lot of times, simple is just, well easier.  Take ice.  We have a fancy automatic ice maker in our freezer.  Does it work?  That’s another story.  I know  a very reputable appliance repair company, but that automatic ice maker is low on the priority list.  Ice cube trays work – when they get refilled.  Really, it just takes a few minutes, hardly a chore.  But I am just as guilty as using up that ice and leaving the sad, pathetic remains.  Maybe it is the concentration required, once filled, to balance the filled tray to the freezer and ensure it sits okay on the shelf.

 Once that faucet is turned on, the water does not have to remember what to do.  I never have to hope that the water will take the shape of a cube, it just does because the foundation and support are there, built in, by design.

 Our relationship with God is a lot like that.  His framework, support, and direction are all there.  We need only to take the time to refill.  Once we turn that faucet on, His living water knows what to do and how to fill us.

 In the short term, it seems easier to simply walk away, tackle something more pressing or significant, like with the ice cube trays.

But, life has a way of leaving you parched, cracked, hardened, and dull, and His refill continually refreshes.

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Mindful Of & Responsive To the Needs of Others: Lord Help Me Be A Sheep

Whenever I read Mathew 25, starting in verse 31, I used think, “aw, man, what does God have against goats?  I like goats!”

Thinking upon a deeper level, and in context, I realize that the goats just serve as a example,  and God loves goats too.

Re-reading that passage, I sure want to be counted as a sheep.

What sets them apart?  I am instantly transported back through time and reminded of the blessing my Dad led every night at the dinner table:

“Give us gracious hearts, our Father, for all thy given us

keep us mindful of and responsive to the needs of others”

I did not think much about the words  as I said them (I’m sure a few years of self-absorbed adolescence was plenty proof of that!) but I  I liked the way it sounded and it was what we did.

Now that I am an adult, those words hold so much more meaning.  And I am hopeful that I am a little less self absorbed.  Being mindful of and responsive to the needs of others?  That is still hard.  No wonder this is a daily blessing, we need help daily to actually do this.

Having offspring can really kick your butt in the “mindful of and responsive to the needs of others” area.  But is caring for your offspring alone really enough to make it into the sheep category?  Sure, I don’t think we earn any stature with God, the relationship is His gift.  A gift that includes fulfilling responsibilities.  We are called to love for and take care of “the least of,” and doing so edifies God.  Our society stresses “the most of” How do we get the most bang for our buck, the most recognition, the most out of our time each day?  Subconsciously, we think “most, most, most.”  A sheep thinks first of the least, and how efforts can be directed to serve the least.

Living as a sheep is a challenged calling.  I am so thankful that the Shepherd never grows hoarse.  As long as I am willing to listen and follow, He is willing to call, lead, and protect.


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Thanks for the Reminder

I am a fan of the Book of Titus – like Ramen Noodles, it is quick, easy, and hearty. Thanks, Titus for the much-needed reminder – (Titus 3)
Remind the people:
· to be subject to rulers and authorities
· to be obedient
· to be ready to do whatever is good
· to slander no one
· to be peaceable and considerate
· to be gentle toward everyone.
And lest we are tempted to ride upon high horses
“At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another”

BUT (and this is a GREAT BUT)
When the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.

I don’t know about you, but I needed this today. Happy Hump Day! 🙂

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Questioning God? Job 38 & Beyond

I always thought it was like really bad to question God. Like, questioning God = do not pass go, do not collect $200.00, do…not…do….it. Superficial readings of Job 38 were largely the reason, as well as a superficial view of Christianity that you should just smile, nod, and keep on going when you don’t fully understand something. Except “superficial and God” and “superficial and Christianity” don’t really work, at least not well. His well is too deep to contentedly skim the surface. He doesn’t want me to fake it, He values sincerity over performance. Sometimes, I sincerely have questions.

In chapter 38, God speaks to Job out of the storm. We don’t know how He speaks to him, is His voice thunderous or a whisper? I used to think that, after experiencing intense, unfathomable loss and heartache, and having a bout of ‘why, me, God?!’ that this is where God way-lays Job with snarkiness and sarcasm. Job 38 and Job 39 could be summed up with “Job, you clearly forgot who I am, and who you are and, well, as a human being, you suck.” But the more I meditate on God’s character, that just doesn’t fit, that doesn’t mesh. Oh, I don’t doubt that God is serious. But I just can’t think that God is a jerk here.

So, are Christians green lighted to question God? Its not the desire to inquire that is a problem. It is the motive before the question and the motivation once we receive the answers. Questions that result from a desire to know God better? He loves those. I really like how Liz Curtis Higgs of “Bad Girls of the Bible and What We Can Learn From Them” puts it: its not the questions that hurt Him, but our poor choices. She has a wonderful chapter dedicated to the woman at the well and writes poignantly on the patience Jesus shows for her numerous questions. (Check it out, John 4, this woman and Jesus have a lengthy conversation whereby she asks him a lot). She writes:
“The Samaritan woman wasn’t shy about pressing for answers and didn’t hesitate to ask for clarification. Sometimes we’re afraid to wade into theological waters with someone more knowledgeable than we are for fear we’ll ask the wrong questions or appear foolish. Take the risk. Find out what you need to know. If the Lord has provided a teacher, be a willing student” (102-103).

And, in Romans 12:2, we are told that following the renewing of our mind, we are better equipped to test and approve God’s will. You want me to test God’s will? Because, you know, that involves some questioning.

Back to Job 38. How interesting that I used to read this and think that I should not question God, when He spends the next two chapters with intense questioning, and I am made in God’s image. Granted, these are largely rhetorical questions, but again, I just don’t think God is amping up the sarcasm to make a fool of Job. I mean, what would be the point of that? He restores his wealth, family, happiness, at the end of the book. God isn’t a mere human where he thinks “let me toy with Job for a minute before I hook him back up.” I propose God appears, through the storm, as a loving Father figure, and His questions, while certainly stern at times, are meant to renew Job’s mind. Job, like all of us, needed help with his perspective. Job just needed a little discipling. God showed up to d-time.

In these two chapters, It’s through His questions, as opposed to His answers, that we, along with Job, are reminded of the awesomeness of Who we worship.

Note: Bad Girls of the Bible and What We Can Learn From Them. Liz Curtis Higgs. Waterbrook Press. 1999.

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Hey Jesus? You Just Jacked The Pigs!

Unconventional. That’s one good word to describe Jesus. How we appreciate His unconventionality matters a lot. Check out the unique fashion that Jesus heals two demon-possessed men in Matthew 8:28-34. How interesting that Jesus accommodates the request of the demons and sends them into pigs. (I don’t know why God says yes sometimes, but He even says yes to demons.)

What we have here are two men who haven’t been able to live normal, productive lives because their circumstance has holed them up in the tombs. Also, we have a region of Gadarenes that can no longer be traveled because the tomb guys rush out and bother people. Can you say necessary detour? When Jesus comes to the area, the demons initiate with Him. Interesting, Jesus is only recorded as saying one word during the exchange “Go.” He sends the demons into a nearby heard of pigs. Demon possessed men healed. And the world is without a few more pigs. Pretty cool, that healing, right? Wrong. “The whole town comes out to meet Jesus and plead with him to leave their region” Never mind you are witnessing an awesome healing. – Jesus – you jacked the pigs! I don’t think the crowd lamented the loss of bacon for the next days breakfast. I think Jesus performed a miracle in a way they weren’t expecting, quite unconventionally, and it freaked them out. Message to Jesus? LEAVE!

How do we view the unconventionality that comes with living as a Christian? Everyday we are given opportunities to think either God has done something good here, or God has just ‘jacked a whole lot of pigs.’ Personally, it makes the difference between me being a peaceful woman or a wildebeest, a helpful wife or a marital liability, a fruitful member of fellowship, or a critical bystander. Further, do we stay amazed by Jesus? I love how the scriptures share about Him, (earlier in Matthew 8), “the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.” Teachers of Law – I imagine they had the personality of a wet dish rag, they lectured in monotone, void of true human connection, maybe stopping people for a second, but the crowds kept on walking…not impressed. Jesus? Now, this guy was something different. Later in Matthew we see a “teacher of the law came to him and said, ‘Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.’ Jesus replies (in modern day paraphrasing) “Hey Bucko, this ain’t the rodeo you’re used to.” Unconventional.

I have a new, unconventional approach to each day: Expect trouble. Now, I am not “Debbie Downer,” think of me as more of “Reba Realist.” Matthew 6:34 cautions us against worrying about tomorrow, why? Because God is in control, you silly, anxious, foolish, Christian? (while God is in control, that is not the correct answer). Because….today has enough trouble of its own. Today there will be trouble. God says so. Take heart, you are still promised a righteous way out. Sometimes, though, as Christians, we can plumb get caught off guard by trouble. We stomp our feet and jut out our bottom lip and protest – its not supposed to be this way. Our hearts and brains get so whamboozled by trouble that we forget to seek the righteous way out. Each day has enough trouble of its own. This reminder actually helps me to keep my cool, and a level head so I can pray. I can approach challenging situations and take heart oh, this is simply the trouble in my day, God said it would come, let me chill out, trust Him, and see how it will be worked out.

I think this revelation can make me a better friend and sister in Christ. Prayer is an amazing tool and we should pray for one another. However, sometimes I fear Christians skip over empathy and go right to “I’ll be praying about that…” or “is that situation better? it should be, I’ve prayed about it…” or how about the not so loving innuendo that this particular trial is occurring because his or her faith is lacking? (That is a zinger, and truly not helpful for a hurting heart in need). Faith is essential, not denying that. God still says there is trouble in each day – for the faithful and unfaithful. Trials will happen, according to the God we serve. Let us not minimize the trouble of others, after all, this is how the scripture is applying to them personally. Instead, let us empathize, encourage, and help one another redirect our hearts to Him.

He either works awesome miracles- or – He jacks the pigs…You decide.

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Happy Labor Day, Happy, Homemaker

I’ve gotten a few special projects done today. And I’ve also watched the clouds, pet the dog, lay out in the sun, and thought about grass. I don’t know if I totally understand the point of Labor Day, but I sure am grateful. Days like today help me enjoy home-making all the more. When time is limited Monday-Friday, it is really refreshing to have few extra hours to clean and organize the pantry, make baby food, and dust places that haven’t been dusted….since, let’s see…. last Labor Day 🙂 .

Celebrating Labor. I am a fan. Its a good idea. Many of us labor way more than a mere 40 hours a week. In thinking about this, (and why laying in the sun and thinking about grass felt so incredibly good), I realized that realistically, my typical week includes about 84 hours of labor. 8 each day at work out of the house, 4 hours every night within the house, and 12 hour days on the weekend. No wonder I need to pet the dog, watch the clouds, and enjoy the buzz of whatever just flew over me.

And there ain’t anything special about me. People do this all the time. Which makes me think about where we go for refreshment, battery recharges, and times to convince ourselves that still going is feasible. Every household needs at least one “known oasis” Where to go, what to do, to keep everyone in the house from going nutso.

Maybe the park, the backyard, a favorite restaurant, vacation spot, church. My heart was so touched, upon visiting a new fellowship, to hear a woman say that solid Kids programs are important….not for the foundation for the kids (though it is), but because it helps the parents, many who both work out of the house Monday-Friday, time to recharge. Amen Sister! Thank you for summing up, acknowledging, and meeting my need in one statement. No, I don’t want you to raise my kids for me, and yes, I am happy to bring snacks, et al. – whatever I can to help. But in that very heartfelt, one sentence statement, you pointed me in the direction of an invaluable oasis.

A solid fellowship and Labor Day Holiday make me a better homemaker. Not because either tell me specifically how to whip through laundry, plan for meals, or puree peas for Jr. Because both give me time to reflect on what is really important in life.

Happy home making is unique to each household. I often envy the proclivity of the male species to relax amidst total chaos. Stuff on the floor, dishes in the sink, eh, forget about it. Reclining still feels good. (Through the years I have changed from seeing this as a weakness to a strength!) A certain degree of chaos makes my skin crawl. I am learning to relax, but still have a way to go. Our household is a continual work in process. And at the end of the day, (especially a Holiday), that is okay.

With Him and the strength of a community who loves Him, we can embrace the joy of each day -regardless of whether the majority (or minority) of our time is spent laboring in the home. And all that housework, it can be over-rated. If given a choice, my mate would rather see the sparkle of my Spirit than of our countertops and toilets.

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14 Ways To Handle A Christian Introvert

This is poignantly written and wonderful advice on how we can be more loving to those who may not as outspoken…..simply because not a lot is said doesn’t mean a lot isn’t going in between the ears!

J.S. Park: Hospital Chaplain, Skeptical Christian


If you ever met me, you would think I was an extrovert — I preach, I lead praise, I talk to everyone, I talk too much, and you can hear me laughing from across the street — but I am a full-blooded introvert.

If it were up to me, I’d rather be in my boxers all day eating Godiva while browsing food photo blogs and bothering my dog and cracking up at YouTube videos of Whose Line Is ItAnyway and leaving dry ironic comments all over Facebook while reading the latest theory on how Sherlock survived the second season finale. 

I intensely guard my personal space and my private life.  It takes a herculean effort to step outside my comfort zone and interact with messy, fleshy, real live human beings.

Here’s how you handle us.

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