ministry

Adopting our community; adopting our life

adoption

My family is a divine huddle that God pulled together. Except for my husband, David, every one of us is adopted.I’m adopted, my two daughters were adopted at two days old, and all the glorious extras that populate our home and our lives feel adopted!

I remember back when the girls were small, I’d once in awhile run into a well-meaning but odd soul who would say something like “It’s such a wonderful ministry you are doing, giving those little girls a home.” I’m a polite person, so I’d usually say something in return such as “Well they sure bring sunshine to our house.” Ocassionally I’d be having a bad day and comment “They’re actually going back on the market…interested?” We’d laugh, and I’d go on my way. But the comment never made any sense to me. Kylie and Jillian aren’t a ministry, they are my daughters! Once you are family, it’s just all about the relationship, as it is in any family.

The other day I realized that all relationships are really like that. Once you open your heart and your life to a person, it doesn’t feel like ministry any more. It feels like friendship. And friendship is what carries you over the rough patches of life. Friendship is what says, “OK, you messed up yet again but I love you anyway. So what’s next?” I think sometimes I’m guilty of segregating the relationships in my life: I’ll adopt you into my life, but you over there, you’re a ministry.

Jeremy, my favorite barista at the coffee shop where I like to hang out, is moving on to another part off the state soon. I’m really, really sad to lose that nearly daily interaction with someone who’s so passionate for the kingdom. David and I will be sad to see our friend leave. In his place comes a new barista, one I haven’t met. Jeremy says we’ll love him. I realized that over this past year Jeremy has moved from being “a guy in the community” to being our friend. Now it’s time to open up that door again.

Life isn’t about networking and contacts and ministry. It’s about adoption.

Generous Giving Thoughts

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David and I are away for the day at a Generous Giving workshop. We’ve spent the day being challenged in unexpected ways. This late at night I haven’t been able to process everything, but I thought a list of the questions it brought up in my mind might be interesting! Here are at least a few…

  • You can only meet other people’s needs with enough margin, or white space, in your life. Have I built in enough margin so that I can readily agree to help others? Have I got margin in finances, time, emotional availability, creativity?
  • Have you ever shopped with someone else’s money? Isn’t it easy to be cheerful while you part with their money? Would my attitude toward giving be different if I could really, truly realize that the money is not my own, but God’s?
  • Bill Bright once made a contract with God concerning his financial situation. The next day he received the vision for Campus Crusade. He believes the faithfulness on day one led to the vision on day two. Have I been faithful in my day one issues in order to see what God has in store for me?
  • Am I seeking God’s kingdom FIRST? If not, then anything else I try to do — even something good — is just getting in the way of what God desires most from me. Seek the kingdom.
  • On what will I spend money freely, without thought? (Yes, the answer for me is books. And I feel only slightly better that Tim Keller, who prompted this thought with a video taped message today, answered the same thing.) What would happen if we gave as freely as we give on that one thing? Does that mean my love of books is wrong?
  • How do I resolve the tension between wisdom in planning for my children and grandchildren versus giving freely of what God has given us?
  • In many areas of life — not just finances — how do I know when enough is enough?

Nothing radical here. And please realize that these questions represent the inner workings of my own mind tonight, not necessarily any content presented by Generous Giving.

It’s just the end of a very long day and the beginning of a very long process.

Snapshots at St. Arbucks: Book Review

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Within minutes of meeting some people you know you have found a kindred soul, a new “tribe” member, a person who shares so much of your outlook that you know time and distance can’t erase your friendship. I have been blessed by several of those in my life, including one with whom I’ve lost contact. Seems impossible not to be able to find someone in this digital age, but i can’t find Denise, one of my bridesmaids.

Recently I “met” another tribe member of mine, R.G. Ryan. He wrote a book called “Snapshots at St. Arbucks.” Having wandered across Coffee Shop Journal, he contacted me via comments and email. He recognized the kinship as well. We are a rare group, R.G. and me. We are the people who sit at Starbucks and watch the rest of you. We know your stories, even if we’ve made them up on the evidence available. We see life stories in your stories. I share them here, and R.G. shares them on both is blog and in his amazing, wonderful, makes-me-cry-and-laugh book. Go to the sidebar now and click Snapshots to buy it. Then come back and read the rest of this review.

Snapshots at St. Arbucks is just what I’ve described: R.G.’s observations during his time spent at Starbucks. Sometimes he is joined by his beloved bride, sometimes his his “disgustingly good-looking African-American friend.” Sometimes he is joined by the people nearby as life’s little dramas are played out — as they are — around him. R.G. captures it all: the desperate husband landing the job he needed so much, the doggies wars on the patio, the littlest Starbucks fans trying to make their little voices heard. He writes in short vignettes. And running through all his St. Arbucks wanderings is the message of hope, purpose, God’s love and man’s love. R.G. used to be an L.A. record producer, and his background leads to a creative approach to life around him. I tried — very hard — to savor this book slowly, like a friend you only meet for coffee once every week or so. It didn’t work. I stopped into Jeremy’s Starbucks (seemed appropriate) and downed this book in one sitting. I just looked a little weird sniffling once in awhile.

I’ll share one of my favorite lessons from R.G. today (though I suspect there are more to come!). R.G., his wife, Eddie and his wife are all sitting at a Starbucks enjoying music during a weekend trip. The problem was, the music was grating on their nerves. As they got up to go, the band took a break. One of the members recognized R.G., who had signed him as part of a band much earlier in life. Now, this band member was playing with pick-up players in Starbucks, his dream of the big time obviously long gone. To R.G., this man was now obviously empty, used up, without that spark of life in his eyes. This made R.G. think about his own life.

“He was once young and filled with dreams and a fierce ambition. In fact at the time I produced their demo the dreams were still very much alive.”

Cheri knows me well enough to understand where I was going.

“And now he’s empty?”

Yeah, but it’s a different kind of empty. There’s an empty that comes from being poured out,” I glanced at Eddie, “Like at the end of a really good show where you’ve given it all you had.”

Sylvie said hurriedly, “Let me take a crack at this. The other kind of empty is the one where life has just sucked it all out of you to the point that there’s nothing left.”

That passage hit me like a ton of bricks. So many times I do feel as if I am empty, poured out and dry. But I know that most of the time (not always) it is because I’ve chosen to give it all I had. The alternative is to be empty because it’s all sucked out of you. Not much of a choice, is it? R.G. encouraged me in just those few words to keep on giving, keep on pouring. Thanks, R.G..

I loved this book immediately, like an old friend. It’s not getting filed on my bookshelves; it’s opened almost every day. I can’t imagine higher praise.

Here is the link to R.G.’s site:

http://rgryan.com/

Desperation leads to explosive church growth

This is an unauthorized rip off of my friend David Helbig’s post. He’s a surprise guest blogger! Surprise, Dave! When I read his account of life at Christ Fellowship, my church, I decided to reprint it here in case there are one or two of you who don’t read his blog. This is why I love my church. This is why so much of what happens there begins in the community. This is why I wake up day after day and wonder what God’s got up his sleeve.

The secret to church growth and life transformation

Christ Fellowship is a church in Florida. I’ve worked at CF for nearly 5 years now, and have seen it grow from 8000 to somewhere around 20 000 people joining us now weekly in worship.

I haven’t been able to quantify or qualify what or why God had chosen to bless us like he has. Working at CF, I have seen the good and the bad of gigachurch life. We are after all just people, with all the stuff, faults, and inconsistencies that human beings have. The numbers don’t impress me much, but the Life Transformation that takes place in the lives and hearts of people does. I’ve often wondered why. Is it just the blessing and hand of God? I used to think so. Until now…

2 weeks ago, we heard the story of two lead Gang Members in West Palm Beach, giving their hearts and lives over to God. It’s just one example of many stories of life transformation that we hear every week at CF. The stories are true, and they are life transforming. This morning in our staff meeting Daniel, one of our Pastors at CF, told us how God has captivated him…

He hasn’t been able to sleep. He’d toss and turn as he prepared for weekend ministry at Christ Fellowship. One day, he decided that if he can’t sleep, he might as well go to church and prepare for ministry. So, Daniel has gone to our south campus late on Saturday night, and has spent the night desperately pleading with God to move among us. He’s spent 8, 10, 12 hours each Saturday night on his knees before God. He knew there was nothing he could do if the Holy Spirit didn’t consume him. He knew that apart from God, we are nothing. Many people have joined Daniel in fasting and prayer. And hundreds of people are coming to Christ in incredible ways. Is there any question how God used Daniel to reach the hearts of these gang members?

As I heard Daniel speak, as I watched tears form in his eyes for a lost and dying world, I felt a tear fall down my cheek. I also felt God’s Holy Spirit quietly asking me three questions:

1. How desperate are you?
2. How much of your will and life have you truly surrendered to the Holy Spirit?
3. What price are you willing to pay?

I don’t think God in his infinite wisdom planned some crazy formula for church growth, discipleship, and life transformation. He planned to captivate the hearts and minds of people. Answer the three questions for yourself, and just watch what God does through you.

This story isn’t exclusive. It’s one of many that have embodied the heart and passion of Christ Fellowship. And no… it doesn’t have a single thing to do with numbers, it has to do with impacting the world with the love and message of Jesus Christ – One Life at a time.

by David Helbig, Internet Campus Pastor at Christ Fellowship, Coffee Drinking buddy, and our friend.

When Dr. Laura makes sense!

This has been another intense ministry season for me, which partially explains the gaps in posting these days! I love writing. I love reading. Sometimes I love them more than, well, the people in my life. Lately, God has not been letting me get away with that attitude, and I’ve been fighting him. He wins.

So while I was fussing in my mind today over the back-to-back-to-back-to gym-to ministry events today (yeah, I complain over the gym, too), I happened to hear Dr. Laura on the radio. I didn’t even hear the whole caller, but the message came over loud and clear.

“As you go through new seasons in your life you need to find new ways to stretch yourself. Some women stretch themselves with physical challenges like kayaking. You have chosen to stretch yourself by helping others. Which do you think is more important?”

Not a direct quote — I was driving, not taking notes — but that was the gist of the message Dr. Laura was giving to a woman who felt guilty for all the time she was spending in her community. I believe she was also heading overseas for a short-term missions trip, leaving her adult children to fend for themselves. I don’t know all the circumstances in this woman’s life, but its application to my life jumped out at me. This is a season where God is stretching me out of my comfort zone. I’ve got to stop fighting and start stretching.

But I’d really like an afternoon on the porch with a cup of coffee and a good book.

Curvy road ahead: slow down

Life never fails to surprise me with its twists and turns. Life spent in the kingdom, particularly, turns us upside down on our heads now and then.

Last week I spent some time praying over my ministry, the blog, my kids. OK, I do that every week, but last week was one of those periods of time when you readjust your reality to your purpose. Am I really doing the things God wants me to be doing in the kingdom? Have I been sidetracked without knowing it? Do I need to stop or start doing anything? You get the idea…in fact I listed most of those questions on the blog last week. I prayed and waited for the answer.

No answer.

Instead, I suddenly got swamped again in the nitty gritty of life. One friend in crisis. One mom suddenly feeling utterly alone. A husband wanting to escape for a bit. Two daughters with … well they would both shoot me if I finished that sentence! You get the idea. Life rose up in all its messy variety and made those questions irrelevent. It was time to move out of the realm of thinking and analyzing and go back to the world of action.

Beware of asking questions. The answers never look the way you expect them to.

After my last post on Breathe, Dianne suggested I listen to the Robbie Seay Band song Breathing Air Again. Oh that is why I love blogging! With a cup of coffee in my hand first I listened to the song on iTunes, then I went to YouTube and felt my spirit unwind and relax as I watched the video below. Thank you, Dianne. Not only had I not downloaded RSB’s earlier album (and they are a favorite of mine!!!!!), but God used that song to hold me close and give me a Daddy-sized hug.

Grab a cup of coffee and breathe.

Sometimes you just need to breathe

I need a little space!

I just figured it out today. I’ve always had a touch of claustrophobia in certain spots — cruise lifeboat drills, crowds, couches where people sit too close — but I didn’t realize that there is an emotional claustrophobia, too. But the past week I’ve been swamped with ministry situations again, topped with lots of family and my normal busy schedule. And suddenly I was feeling claustrophobic in my emotions and spirit.

So yesterday David and I got in the car and drove a couple hours out of town to get a little emotional distance from life at home. An empty hotel room with no clutter, a nearly empty pool (though why is it empty, I wonder?), an empty schedule…I can breathe! I find myself not even wanting to think the thoughts in books, not wanting to read, not wanting to write. I just want to be.

And now I think I can face life again.

I wonder how many times we allow ourselves to get closed in by our own lives, and lose perspective in the process? We declutter our closets and our homes. We also need to declutter our hearts and minds. Otherwise there’s no room for ourselves. There’s no room for God’s little voice. There’s no room for a friend who needs us. There’s just no room in a claustrophobic, overcrowded soul.

It feels so good to breathe again!

What does home mean to you?

“I love it here, but it isn’t home!”

“This is my key to the front door at home.”

“Where do you come from? Where is home?”

“Welcome home.”

How powerful our homes are! I watched Jillian bopping out the door the other day with her house key in her hand, labeled “Home” and I was suddenly overwhelmed with the thoughts of home. She’s grown up here; the memories we make day in and day out are her concept of home. The lights, the sounds, the smells, the routines of life that we have developed almost without thought or plan over the last 23 years…these are the things that will send her mind reeling back in time even 50 years from now. This is home.

My definitions of home, as an adult, are defined more by relationships than a place. Home took a beating the day that my father died. It changed for the rest of my time here. But it is beautifully defined by my relationship with my husband, my family, my church. These things are home.

What can we do to help other people find home? I know that there are so many people around me whose home doesn’t inspire warm fuzzy thoughts, like Jillian’s or my home. There are a couple of things anybody can do to help a friend feel at home. First, how easy is it to just invite them to crash on your comfy couch with you. Watch TV, play a game, eat, or just stare off into space: what you do doesn’t matter…it’s where you are. Second, we can be intentional with traditions and rituals even with our friends. Think about things such as “Every year we go to the fair and ride the kiddie coaster.” Or “Christmas time is our cookie exchange.” We all have those little rituals; verbalizing them helps others realize how important, safe, and reliable the rituals are.

Lately I’ve been able to connect with quite a few old friends on Facebook. One of the things I enjoy the most is seeing the pictures of how my college and high school buddies have chosen to decorate their homes. What my friends surround themselves with says so much about their lives. Home matters to people. This year I’m going to be more intentional about sharing the feeling that a warm cozy night at home gives.

John Maxwell, Christ Fellowship in WPB: People Matter

Thesis: The value that God has bestowed on people, is the standard by which we should value others. In other words, people matter to God.

Three Reasons Why You Are Important to God:

1. Because of who you are.

  • We are made in God’s image, after his likeness.
  • Meditation for 2009: “God loves me as I am, not as I would like to be, or as I appear to be, but just as I am.”

2. Because of what you cost.

The fact that God gave us His only Son and that Jesus gave up His life for us, demonstrates…

  • The seriousness of sin
  • The unconditional love of God.

There is always a price to be paid for friendship and relationship. The people you love need to know that you have paid that price, that they matter to you.

3. Because of what you can become.

  • We see our performance and it discourages us.
  • God sees our potential and encourages us.

John closed the sermon by reading the old poem (and later, song) “The Touch of the Master’s Hand”. I was looking for one of the musical versions of it to post here (other than people playing guitar in their bedrooms!), but couldn’t find it. Instead, this is the poem read by JD Summer, one of the old-time gospel greats.

This was a great reminder for those of us “in ministry” that the people who sometimes make our life difficult are the treasures that God gave it all for.

watch?v=SCLdDA-8Z6c

How many minutes do you have?

Today has been a day of small minutes: no big blocks of time, just disconnected moments to ponder. I could easily feel as if this was a frittered away day, but I’m not going to. For instance,

  • I got to spend an hour in my car with the windows down, reading a good book and making a few plans for the coming year. An hour of time all to myself…lovely. I know that sounds like a big block of time, but as I was waiting for someone I knew it could end at any moment. Nonetheless, I used those moments well.
  • I gave my friend a ride home from the doctor’s office after she received painful injections. A few moments of quality time, a few minutes to let her know that I cared. Not much in the scheme of life, but I could tell it filled her love tank, and mine.
  • Time at the hair salon spent reading and sitting in the chaos…I’m not going to deny it was my favorite time of the day! I also had a chance to connect with several ladies while there.
  • Finished the Christmas decorations moving back to storage: that feels so good in the “I can breathe” sort of way!
  • Organized an impromptu birthday party for both friends and family. Fun, fellowship, who knows the purpose?

Disconnected minutes in my day, but in a weird sort of way they all tell a tiny part of the story I live out here. And remember those 10,000 hours? Well they are made up of minutes, disconnected and otherwise. So I’m determined to use them!