Thursday, December 22, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!!!!!

I haven't written in awhile, but a major overhaul of the blog is coming in January - hang on to your hats!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Caring... but setting limits

We've recently visited different church planters and I was taken aback to hear about all the problems of the people they minister to. How do you minister to troubled people day after day and not just get overwhelmed by it all?

We all want to be the hands and feet of Jesus in this world, but how do you balance helping people without letting their problems affect you and your family? Unfortunately, I don't know the answer to that problem, but I see it as one that needs to be thought about and addressed.

My first thought is that we are tempted to not care or get involved with people and their problems. I remember my mom saying when we would leave to drive 1000 miles to the town where we ministered, "I think people who don't care are better off - then it wouldn't hurt so bad when you leave." She didn't really believe that, but that sentiment can be a temptation for us. People have messy lives and it can just be easier to deal with people on a superficial basis and never get close enough to hear about or get involved with their problems.

Since that's not really an answer, how can we care and yet keep our sanity? We do a lot of flying and I think I've practically memorized the flight attendant's speech. ("In the event of a loss of cabin pressure, an oxygen mask will drop from above. If you are traveling with a child or someone else needing assistance, place your mask on first, before helping others.") I think this is a good first principle. Our first priority has to be caring for ourselves. This may sound selfish, but we really can't help others if we are not healthy ourselves. Each person has to decide what that looks like, but it is easy to get so absorbed in people's problems that we neglect ourselves and our families. We have to fill ourselves with the right things or there will be nothing to give to others when it is needed.

Connected to caring for oneself is setting limits. There will always be more people to help; more problems to solve; more needs that could be met. Even though Jesus knew He only had 3 years to accomplish His mission, He never seemed rushed or stressed. He knew when to retreat and pray; when to pull away and rest. Are you on the phone for 30 minutes with a needy person while your family is left waiting at the dinner table? What time have you set aside for rest and pleasure? It's difficult because people's problems can't always be scheduled, but giving with no limits is not wise.

When people come to you with huge problems, what can you do? Recognize that God is the ultimate answer to their needs. Yes, sometimes they do need a listening ear or a bag of groceries or guidance, but we can only do so much. We must point them to the ONE who can help them. That means praying with them and asking God for His wisdom. Helping them find guidance in His Word.

When I find myself overwhelmed with the desperate needs of others (lying awake at 3 am), I hand it over to God. I tell Him that I'm willing to do what I can, but I cannot fix every problem. Even if I did know what to do, sometimes people are not ready or willing to do what they must do to change things.

This is a complicated issue - probably too long for this blog. But I'm concerned that many of you carry heavy burdens and they may be weighing you down. What do YOU do when people come to you with their burdens?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Finding focus/faith

It's been a while....

Honestly, where do the days go?!!

I was feeling a little (actually, a lot) overwhelmed this morning as I was making my weekly to-do list. (I feel that way most weeks.) I won't bore you with my list, but I realized that my first focus this morning was on my lists. Instead of starting my day out with prayer and Bible reading, I went straight to the list-making (several lists for several things coming up).

I write curriculum and today's assignment is about having faith. As I pondered how to introduce/explain/apply faith, I realized that faith is a daily issue. It is not just for the big issues we face, but for keeping our focus and trust where we need the only One who can really help us. The people who went to Jesus for their problems found help when they needed it. It's all about who (or what) we depend on - ourselves, our lists, our family or friends, etc. Going to God doesn't always change the circumstances (although sometimes it does), but it does change us. When I shift my focus to God, I am filled with peace and help.

So instead of list-making/worrying/planning FIRST, I will go to God FIRST! (Then I will trust Him to help me do what is most important and do the other things as I can.)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Finding leaders

I mentioned in the last blog that I would talk about finding and discipling leaders. How do you find people who can become leaders that can help others? If you are doing all the discipling, your ministry or church can't grow very big. We need others to join us in this great adventure who will help care for and disciple new and young believers.

Some qualities that I look for:

Spiritual desire
--- What does that mean exactly? Well, it's not just one thing, but they need to be a person with a desire to grow. They are on the lookout for ways to learn, help, serve, and share their faith. They think, "God is bringing me opportunities every day." Those kind of people can inspire others.

Outward thinkers --- Are they thinking of others or is it all about ME? Some people are inwardly focused, always wanting attention for themselves. They are easily hurt if they don't get the credit they think they deserve. Invest your time in someone who has a healthy self-image and genuinely cares for other people.

Good people skills --- Are they easy to get along with? Are they fun? Would you want to hang out with them? Jesus came to give us life to the fullest. (John 10:10) People want to be with others who enjoy life.

Dependable - Can you count on them? This may be more important than any of the other qualities. I've met many talented people, but you couldn't count on them to follow through. They forgot, they meant to, they want to, they would love to...but they never seem to get around to it.

There are probably a lot more, but to me, these are some of the most important. Another good question to ask ourselves is: Am I person with these qualities? We can all grow to be leaders who will inspire other leaders who will....

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Helping Others Do It

One of the biggest needs we found in church planting was finding and developing leaders. It takes intentional thought and investing in others so they can become leaders who will care about and invest in others, who will care about and invest in others, who will... This is sort of the idea Paul had when he told Timothy to commit the things he had learned to others, who would teach others, who would... (2 Timothy 2:2)

One of the best ways I've found to do this is really a very simple way - modeling. In the beginning of church planting, I tried to do too much of it myself - not wanting to burden others. This was not the best way. When I invited others to help me, I found that they were learning and being discipled at the same time.

Recently, I attended a conference and heard Jon Ferguson share how they develop leaders at his church (apprentices, they call them, because it carries the idea of doing - not just learning). It's quite a simple method and will help you help others do it.

I do; You watch; We talk
I do; You help; We talk
You do; I help; We talk
You do; I watch; We talk
You do; Someone else watches; You talk

You can use this method training your children to do chores or training someone to lead a small group or teach a class. The talk part is important, as this is where help and real growth can take place. A few questions to ask ---
What worked?
• What didn't work?
• How can we do it better?

I'd love to hear how you train leaders or how you best learned. More on how to find and disciple leaders in the next blog....soon.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Crazy cycle

Richard and I are speaking at a couple's retreat for a church planter near Memphis this weekend, so we've been researching and writing a new talk. We read the book, Love and Respect, by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs. An important truth that I never really understood clearly was how men and women view criticism or confrontation. Dr. Eggerichs says that men and women see this differently.

For instance, as a rule, women are the confronters, the ones who want to get things out on the table and get them settled. He says that a wife who is in love with her husband will move toward him when she feels unloved. For example, it's their first year of marriage and he has been late to dinner two nights in a row without calling. She says to herself, "This is wrong. How can he be so insensitive. Am I last on his priority list? This is unloving." SO she proceeds to say what she believes is the loving thing when he comes home: "We need to talk. Please sit down and talk to me."

This is the same approach she would use with a girlfriend. They both usually verbalize their feelings and share what is on their hearts, because they know it will eventually lead to reconciliation. At some point, one of them will say, "Well, I was wrong." Then the other will say, "No, I was wrong too. Will you forgive me?" The other will say, "Of course, I'll forgive you. I'm really sorry." Then they hug, shed a few tears, and pretty soon they're laughing.

So she thinks this approach will work with her husband just as well as it does with her girlfriends. Her eventual goal is that both of them will apologize and then embrace. It's a way of keeping their marriage up-to-date. She wants to resolve things and to reconcile.

Eggerichs says that when men hear negative criticism, it doesn't take them long to interpret that as disrespect and contempt for who they are as men. He thinks, "I can never please her. I don't deserve this kind of talk. Everybody respects me except you. You're just picking a fight. I wish you would just be quiet." When a husband can take it no longer, he gets up and walks out without a word. He might as well have screamed, "I don't love you." She has tried to move toward him and he has proved he is the most hostile, unloving man on the planet. He doesn't want to fight verbally or physically. (This makes her see him as cold and uncaring.) Women hear silence as hostility.

I think you get the picture. Eggerichs says we get on this crazy cycle and keep misinterpreting what our spouses are saying. Small things become bigger than they really are. I would highly recommend the book. If you've read it, maybe you have another insight to share.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Clenched fist principle

Someone recently shared with me the principle of the clenched fist. It says that you can only clench your fist for a short time, then you must release it. When I was a church planter's wife, I needed to remember this. Too many times, I kept going at breakneck speed without slowing down. I remember trying to find the balance between home and church. I now think that balancing may not be the best word. How much does each part get? 50/50 or 60/40 or 90/10?

There were weeks when special things were going on at church and 100% was needed. I had to leave some things undone at home that week. BUT I could not keep that up (clenched fist) week after week. I had to pull back after the special event.

There were weeks when my family needed me (a sick child, a family problem, a special occasion) and I had to do the minimum at church. I found that being fully present and giving my best to what is needed (genuinely needed - not what others or even myself thought was expected) at the time seemed to work for me.

It's not always clear and the lines are often blurred. (Do I really need to go with my husband for a hospital visit or do I need to stay home and play a game with the kids? Do I take on that extra job at church or volunteer at my kids' school?) Each one has to sort through and decide when and how to give and when to pull back. You can't keep clenching your fist - it's okay to release and rest some.

How do you make it work?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Cutting each other some slack

I recently spoke at a pastor's wives retreat - one of my favorite things to do! Get a group of pastor's wives together and you have a party ready to happen! Who knew?!

Anyhow, in one of my talks I mentioned that I didn't want my husband to hate getting into the car on Sunday morning (after church) because of all my "helpful advice." (Your sermon was too long; you said "ain't" three times; you scratched your head over and over, etc.) One of the wives mentioned to me that she hadn't really thought of it like that and she realized that it had become a bad habit for her.

Now all of us women want our hubbies to look good. And if we don't tell them, who will?! Right? Well, I've come to realize that husbands have a super strong need for respect and they don't think of our "helpful advice" as being all that helpful. They think, "I can never be good enough, I can never please you, I don't deserve this kind of talk..." and they feel criticized and disrespected.

Maybe you're saying, "Well, when my husband acts a little more deserving of my respect, I'll give it to him." God told us to respect our husbands (Ephesians 5:33) and withholding it when we feel like it, is wrong. Sure, they may say or do things that send us over the edge (some day it takes less than others), but your hubby is probably good-hearted and really does love you. I think we need to give each other a little more slack. Just saying...

Happy Valentine's Day to my sweetie!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Come on in and sit right down!

As you can see from the picture above, we had dinner guests this week. My husband invited six new church planters to come for a week of training (Boot Camp, it's called), so they (and two of their wives and two kids) came to our house for dinner on Tuesday night and I was reminded again just how good it is to connect with people in your home. We had lots of laughs around the table and then a sweet time of praying for each other afterward.

But it also reminded me of the many excuses I can come up with about having people over.

Can I share a few tips that help me to overcome my hesitation?

Relax. Nobody really notices the stains on the carpet or the wall that needs to be painted or how badly the cabinets need to be wiped down (or at least I hoped they didn't - smile). I can see all the flaws in our house and worry that things are not nice enough or fancy enough or ________. Do you care about those things when you're invited to dinner at someone's house? Probably not - so just relax.

Have a few simple meals that you know how to prepare and repeat those. If you've ever eaten at my house, I've probably served you lasagna, spaghetti (if you came on the spur of the moment) or cornflake chicken and cheese potatoes - with an easy dessert. That's my repertoire! I could probably make those simple dishes in my sleep. I know the ingredients I need and how long it takes to cook. (Although, did you know that it takes chicken thighs longer to cook than it does the breast pieces? - I found that out this week when I cut into my chicken thigh.)

Let others (and the grocery store) help you. You don't have to be superwoman. You can find lots of great desserts and rolls and other yummy foods at most grocery stores. And if people offer to bring something, say yes.

Fill your sink with hot, soapy water and drop the dishes in to soak. When I clear the table of dishes before dessert, I drop them in and let them soak. After my guests leave, it only takes minutes to finish up - to load the dishwasher or wash by hand.

Enjoy your guests. Take time to get to know them and hear their stories. It will bond you together in a new way.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

New beginnings...

Happy New Year!

Don't you just love new beginnings? A new chance to start over... to get it right this time... to wipe the slate clean and forget about last year's failures... ahhh, to do it better! (Or at least try!)

I did get my closet cleaned out and organized - if you could have seen my closet, you would have known how impressive that statement was. I had fabric left over from a project I did ten years ago and curtains that I made for our first house in Delaware (30 years ago)! Why I was saving them I'll never know...emotional attachment?...I did sew them myself--- or my own thriftiness...I may use them again? Who knows? ANYHOW, they're at the Goodwill now.

I've determined to get things organized and keep it that way. How long will this wishful/determined feeling last?! It gives me such a good feeling to get rid of things I no longer wear (or can fit into). Without all the extra stuff filling up the space, I can actually see what I have and it doesn't get as wrinkled all jammed in there. Simplify...simplify....simplify!

Anyhow, I hope you have a good beginning to the new year. Hope you have a fresh zeal and renewed energy (okay that may be a stretch coming on the heels of such a hectic Christmas holiday).

PS Someone ask me in March how clean my closet is and I will see how well I am doing.