Friday, December 14, 2012

Reactions to today's tragedy in Connecticut

I've tried to start this post three times now and I'm still struggling for words to describe my feelings in light of today's shootings inside Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.  I'm somewhat frozen in disbelief that yet again innocent ones are gunned down in a public place. The horror is even greater because 20 of the victims were small children.  I am going to do my best to share what's been percolating up inside me while also tempering my words.

If it is too raw and ragged, I beg your forgiveness, in advance.

1 - First reaction - When are we going to do something to ban semi-automatic and automatic weapons?  

Yes, I understand our constitution provides the right to bear arms, but I do doubt our founding fathers ever imagined we'd have guns that can mow down multiple people with one pull of the trigger.  I suspect "bear arms" was meant to describe the right to hunt game to feed your family and defend yourself, your family or home if under attack. I don't think anyone does either with automatic or semi-automatic weapons, but some of us are determined to retain the right to own such a weapon. Semi-automatic and automatic guns are designed to kill people - this time little children included.  The NRA would tell you "Guns don't kill people. People kill people." Well, I say, "People aim. People pull triggers. Guns don't."
Oh, my, I edited out my summary statement. Here it is. Yet take the gun out of the statement and people live. 

2 - Second reaction - Suddenly, we've all dropped our defensive postures and angry rhetoric and we're recognizing the sanctity of life and the call to love one another.  

Finally, the nation is coming together expressing love and compassion for those suffering unimaginable pain and loss. Recently, I've become resentful of my friends bashing my political viewpoint and spouting online right wing media hype as if it is fact.  I have done my best to avoid political discourse because of the pain and injury it inflicts. Respectfully, I don't mind friendly discussions of differing opinions.  I simply wish we could all respectfully listen to each other without immediately dismissing others' opinions as wrong or vilifying those who don't share our political views.   Personally, I've been feeling pretty beat up.  I wish my friends would agree to disagree with me and love me just the same. I keep thinking - Aren't we called put love first?  At least, today we're speaking in love.  Check out Facebook and Twitter - It's refreshing to see posts of good will, love and compassion.  Yeah, there's the reactionary posts here and there, but how refreshing we all recognize what's tasteless and hurtful. TV media talking heads are asking us to pray, not telling us what to think.  It is incredible. 

3 - Third reaction -  I'm glad Christmas is coming.  At Christmas, we will sing about peace on earth, good will to men and in so doing seek healing for our broken hearts. We'll celebrate the birth of a savior who came as a defenseless child to save us from our sins. We need to be reminded there is hope one day we will have peace.  Today we are left wanting for we realize there are no guarantees in this life.  Thank God there is hope in knowing one day Jesus will return bringing peace to our broken world.  

4 - Final reaction of the day - I can't just sit here for too long or depression will set in.  

  I know the nation, and the world, will continue to grieve the senseless death of 20 children and their teachers.  Together, we have some hard work to do. We must honor those who lost their lives by living ours. We need to support those who will minister to the grieving children, teachers and their families so they too can return to their own lives.I can't close without stating I know I am called to even pray for the man who pulled the trigger.  I'm not there yet, but I'm sure because of what God's love did for my wretched self, I will. 

"For God so loved the world, he gave his one and only son, so whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal live." John 3:16  

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Secret Santa - an act of love.

During the holiday season, I realize many dread family gatherings because of family loss, estrangement or dysfunction.  Other families would love to gather, but distance, finances and/or work responsibilities make it impossible to get everyone together. I am sensitive to theses situations, but blessed that is not my situation.

My family is fortunate. I thank God every chance I get for being loved and the opportunity to love those God chose for me. We actually enjoy each other's company and have the means to travel and visit over the holidays, even if it's not everyone together in one place on one day.

Every year, our family grows adding members by love and by birth, making gift exchanges a blessing but a real challenge. To make things easier and hopefully avoid losing a crawling baby under the mass of discarded gift wrappings, the siblings' and expanding families now have a Secret Santa gift exchange every year.

We started the Secret Santa system several years ago when we realized the expense of purchasing gifts for a large and growing larger family was getting into the outrageous range.  Plus, as we grew up, we realized getting together was more important that getting gifts.  So, all adults (18 & up) are eligible to participate in the drawing and we limit the price of the gifts to keep it all in the range of reasonable.  Spouses who draw spouse's name must draw again, but siblings can draw siblings' names. The drawing occurs on Thanksgiving Day and my father draws for those not present and are notified via email of whom to shop for.   For a copy of Bylaws and drawing instructions, just ask, but good luck with that! So far, we haven't needed either.

That's it, but that's not all!

The gift exchange is easy, simple and straightforward alternative to mass gift giving, but I had no idea a Secret Santa gift exchange would actually keep us connected.   Over the years I've seen how the resulting covert communication, collaboration kept us close or in some situations gave us a reason to get in touch with one another.

For the next few weeks after the drawing via Facebook messages, emails and text, the Secret Santas collect gift ideas from spouses, siblings and parents of the recipient.  It is challenging, but the Secret Santa does learn a little more about their assigned family member and as a by product gets to catch up with others as they ferret sizing information and areas of interests.

In the end, only one other person shares our secret, so the identity of our own Secret Santa is unknown until the entire family, or at least the majority, can gather at Nonnie and Granddaddy's house.  All little ones are showered with multiple presents, so my parents' Christmas tree cannot contain the combined bounty of gifts. Even with space reductions provided by Secret Santa,  a fourth of the room is stacked with ribbon, bows, boxes and bags while the rest of the room is packed with parents, siblings, children, cousins, significant others and in-laws.  The noise might be unsettling to some, but we always manage to keep it festive, fun and relatively safe. (If gnawing on abandoned ribbons and paper is dangerous, I might want to say - safe for children 3 and over.)

Dad passes out the gifts one by one. Mom cooks a meal and unless we drag her out, she will end up missing a lot of gift opening.  The kids open their gifts first and run off to the den to play with their new bootie while the adults take turns opening gifts and discovering whom our Secret Santa was.

 It is fun to watch others open their gifts and see how well our secret communications resulted in matching the recipient's needs or desires with the final offering.  Shared winks and smiles flash and eyes twinkle confirm satisfactory collaborations and creative gift selections.  If there are any gift mistakes or mismatches, no one ever lets on.

Even though we work hard to select an appropriate gift, Secret Santa is never about loving the gift and always about loving the gifting and the giver.  My parents taught us that and I admit as a child, I was all about the gift itself.  Did it fit? Was it exactly what I wanted?  Only as an adult, could I see clearly what my parents already understood - a gift is just a representation of love, God's love.  I see the same in my nieces and nephews, but they will learn to recognize love is part of the package.

This year, my parents surprised us all and announced they will join the Secret Santa exchange for the first time.  They announced they will participate, but reserve the right to gift others as they have in the past. As I mentioned, there are no Bylaws and as matriarch and patriarch we could not, nor would not, refuse them anything. I look forward to them joining in on the fun.

I guess Mom and Dad, whom know and love each of us all best of all, won't find Secret Santa a challenge. I'm not sure if they will need to join in on the secret communications.  We'll just have to wait and see.  However,  I'm sure their Secret Santas are busy working the family grapevine and investigating gift ideas.  Surely, we won't be able to all pick the perfect gifts and the things we're given will eventually wear out, break, go out of style, but the love expressed in the giving will live on in us. God willing our Secret Santa will continue for generations to come and the love modeled will live on and on.   

1 Corinthians 13:13 "Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love"

Monday, November 26, 2012

Bound by one language. It's Humbling.

The week before Thanksgiving, I had the distinct privilege to collaborate with people from other continents at the 2012 Global Teams Strategic Planning Conference.  The opportunity came as a result of collaborating with Ubabalo and One Hope as a writer for "Coaching for Life", a document conceived in Stellenbosch, South Africa, and now in field test around the globe. Many of you provided prayer and financial support for the Stellenbosch trip, so you are somewhat responsible for launching me into the world of Sports ministry.

Your prayer support for this current venture made all the difference in this most recent endeavor.  I apologize, the holidays have delayed me in reporting back, but know reflections of the work accomplished and the connections made have been on my heart and in my mind daily.

As an American girl with a privileged and admittedly naive US perspective, I had no idea what I was getting myself into at the GTSP, but anxiously prayed God would use me or at least use the experience to teach me.  I confess my fervent prayer was I wouldn't make a fool of myself or worse yet, offend the others around the tables by jumping in a day late.  (I had another meeting in Colorado that overlapped with the Global Sport Conference putting me one day behind the rest. I wasn't so sure I'd be able to get up to speed.) 

The first morning, I was treated to a warm welcome from every person I encountered during breakfast. Two hundred people from all over the world introduced themselves enthusiastically... at 7am, before their first cup of coffee/tea, no less.  After breakfast, I reunited with friends from Stellenbosch and that  helped me feel even more at ease. Yep, total strangers from other countries made ME feel comfortable with warm greetings in excellent English... in MY country no less.  Humbling...

Yes, there were plenty of Aussies and Brits around, but for the majority of people English was their second or third language and they spoke it, fluently.  I recall thinking I should have paid more attention in French class or chosen to study Spanish because I tend to find myself tongue tied in English!

Breakfast was easy enough, but my next step would be to find my Project Team - a group a day ahead of me in familiarity and task development.  When I finally found my team's table, I introduced myself as a writer.  I was welcomed instead as if a long lost friend.   Our facilitator said I was bringing much needed new energy to the process.  I think what she was sensing was nervous energy, but I was grateful for her enthusiastic and encouraging introduction just the same. I looked around the table at Christians from the United Kingdom, Egypt, Singapore, Africa, Russia, India and the US.  Each represented different sports ministry but one Lord. We prayed together as one united in Christ, then quickly got to work.

Before I even arrived I realized our task was somewhat vague or else it was appropriately unstructured. To this day, I can't say for sure.  As I understood it, my Project Team were charged to address children as leaders and create a document to help others in the international Christian sports movement identify and mentor children with leadership potential.  We had spent some time emailing each other, gathering information and poising questions to bring focus of purpose, but past that I was clueless.  Much to my relief and before my arrival, my international colleagues had identified, quantified and qualified the task at hand. They also had it neatly recorded on several pieces of chart paper displayed on the adjacent wall.

Looking at me for some fresh perspective, they let me scan their notes then poised the question, "What is the definition of child leadership?" Arrogantly, I wondered why that wasn't fleshed out already, but I was happy to be asked about one thing I had researched.  So, like everyone else around the table I scribbled my definition onto a sticky note and tossed it into the middle of the table.  Thank God, we were on the same page.  Our definitions were worded differently, but basically the same. Also, thank God, they were seeking a definition to simply affirm what they'd already accomplished.  What a relief!

With a working definition, our Project Team divided the writing task into bite sized pieces and broke into smaller groups to write the Why, What or How portion of a white paper on Child Leadership. Each day, we started the morning with prayer, compared notes and kept refining our portions.  By week's end we created a solid working document which we will edit and add to over the coming months.

Working together on anything does create familiarity and friendship, so our Project Team had our fair share of laughter and joking with each other.  We took time to inquire about families, ministries and share photos during breaks, sharing cultural tidbits under the guise of sharing about our lives. The  testimonies and spiritual struggles shared were so inspirational, especially for this "free to be Christian"from American whose closest brush with persecution involved being the only UNC fan in a room full of NCSU fans.

I've experienced this closeness of purpose before, but I seriously cannot recall working with a more unified and productive team on a writing task!  It's rare to find that level of unity of purpose and cooperative spirit in ministry work here in the US.  We aspire to it.  We study and train to do it, but we usually fall short.  Our egos, personal agenda and lack of discipline may be to blame, but I DO know it's not language or culture that trips us up.

Here's my "Ah-ha!". All my other writing experiences were with "writers" composing in English - their first language.   I had so many take aways at GTSP, both spiritual and observational, but this one tops them all.  The majority of people on this writing team were composing in their second language and none of them considered themselves writers!  Add to that, two of our team mates were dealing with some very serious medical emergencies or ministry deadlines back home.  (We actually spent more time around the table in prayer addressing those specific spiritual needs than we did writing.)

As the "writer" on this Project team, I found myself humbled in my own country and language.  First off, they were visitors in my country, yet they made me feel welcome and at home among them.  I know my southern accent was probably difficult to understand, but they always listened intently and got my meaning, regardless.  Language was never a barrier.  A few times, my colleagues would apologize for struggling for the right word to express a thought.  All I could think was I do that ALL THE TIME and I speak English exclusively.  As for spelling, I enjoyed teasing my UK team mate because she used WAY too many "u"s and "i"s, but I know if not for spell check, I couldn't spell any better than my Egyptian, Russian and African team mates.  Each afternoon, I marveled at their compositions, both clearly stated and concise, knowing I couldn't write a single letter, much less word in Hindi, Russian or Arabic!

This humbling experience and "Ah-Ha!" won't result in my learning to speak or write a new language.  Language nor writing has ever been my gifts.  I struggle with both.  What has happened is this year my world has expanding beyond the safe borders of the USA.

This humbling "Ah-Ha!" has successfully shaken me out of my comfort zone -  my ethnocentric world view.  I now realize I must be sensitive to the needs and cultures of all God's children - all over the world.  To that end, I'm experiencing a yearning to understand perspectives of people from outside the USA.  I've already experienced a taste of what they can teach me about loving God.  I need more time to listen and learn.

Tonight, even though I'm helplessly bound by one language. I'm thankfully God's NOT bound by one language... or any language for that matter.  With God there are no bounds. It is a relief to know no one is depending upon ME, or my gifts and talents. All I need do is play my part on the team.  With or without me,  dedicated faith-filled people all over the world will  continue sharing God's love and His Gospel in the face of adversity and opposition in their own country and language, because they too cling to God's boundless love for protection and assurance.

If writing lessons and training tools to reach children for Christ will make the work more effective,  I will continue to write in my one language, knowing God, who knows no bounds, is providing others who can translate what I have to offer into languages I will never understand and might never hear spoken.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Sabbaticals - I highly recommend them.

A year ago,  I followed God's call to step out of a local church position.

Since then I've had the time for -

  • quiet reflection and prayer.
  • unstructured time to indulge myself in crafts and projects around the house. 
  • extended play time with family and friends.
  • exercise to keep me limber and strong.
  • writing this blog and contributing to a Sports ministry resource and a column for Children's Ministry Magazine.
  • visiting other churches, sometimes to train ministry teams and other times to worship or serve.
  • independent study and networking with other; Kidmin2012 IT Team, Kidmin2012 for example. 
  • stress free quantity time to nurture and reconnect with family and my family by choice.
Up until my arrival at Kidmin 2012, I struggled with exactly what to call my time outside local church Kidmin.  

Sometimes I'd say, I'm on vacation, but then I had to endure the jealous and insensitive comments like  "I'd take a year off too, if I didn't HAVE to work." "What do you do all day? Shop?" I loved the positive and supportive comments. "Pack me in your suitcase. I'd love to join you!" "I'm so proud of you. Let me know how I can support your ministry work." 

Other times, I would allow others to think I'd retired. When in your late 50's, if you don't have "a job" where you go to an office, people automatically assume you're retired. It's easier to indulge the notion than to explain a busy life of consulting. Trust me, eyes glass over when I try - even my own.

But while listening to two Kidmin colleagues share about a recent and an upcoming sabbatical, I realized there was a minimal difference between their sabbatical and my time outside the local church. Their sabbaticals were a scheduled, required and essential part of their church ministry position. Also, while on Sabbatical they got paid and when over, they returned to work in the same church and in the same position.   But those differences were of no importance to me for I was enjoying a full year away on God's tab and I knew I'd return to local church ministry.  I just didn't know when or where yet. 

What was important was I finally had a name for my situation!  It was such a revelation for me and probably a laugh for my colleagues when I piped in with "So, I'm on sabbatical?  Yeah, that's it! I'm on Sabbatical, too!" 

Having experienced this time of sabbatical, I must say, it's one of the most effective and helpful experiences of my ministry life.  Thanks to God, just like my colleagues who experienced a formal church sanctioned sabbatical, I will return to work in a local church sometime sooner or later refreshed, retooled, revived and refocused.  

And to all you out there, if you like me were able to cobble together a sabbatical on God's tab, be thankful. If your church provides a sabbatical, you are blessed.  In either situation, I suspect your tenure and your personal life will be long and fruitful regardless of who provides the funding.  

If you've never had the opportunity and feel the need for extended time away to be refreshed, retool, revived and refocused, I pray God uses your church or finds another way to provide that time for you. I I am convinced it may be the best investment a church can make in their professional staff.  It totally beats the pain, expense and time it takes to replace a worn out, burned out, Kidmin or Pastor.

Sabbaticals - I highly recommend them. 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

God Sightings Illuminate Romans 8:28

When God wants to do a work in us, he usually starts by working all around us. Its like He is making smaller and smaller concentric circles around us. Each God sighting circling in closer and closer bringing attention and focus to His deliberately crafted plan for our lives.

Well, at least that is my experience.

Recently, I've been posting on my revisit to God's dream for my life as a Kidmin.  I must admit I've been so introverted and "me" focused, its shameful.  It is also unnatural for I am a true extrovert who gains strength and energy from contact with others. Seriously, I should be kicked out of the Myers-Briggs ENFJ club for hiding from my true nature!  No wonder God decided to draw my focus outside myself by surrounding, connecting and reconnecting me to others in Kidmin by using them to illuminate Romans 8:28.

"And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them."
Here are those recent God sightings swirling around me

  • God replaced the Kidmin at my home church with the young lady who was my very first Children's Ministry assistant. Her tender heart for God's children was her call, but the world stomped it flat and she resigned a year later.  Thankfully, she continued to volunteer for years and God finally drew her back into Kidmin fifteen years later.  The day I found out she walked into the pharmacy where my husband was filling in for the day.  Imagine the God sightings all around when together they text me to share about her joyful return to her ministry dream job.  Imagine my joy, and their shock, when I text back I already knew and had been praying for her all day. Yes, this was evidence that being stomped flat by the world can't counter the"God causes everything" in the"God causes everything to work together" part of Roman's 8:28 
  • God moves a former colleague into a staff position at a church I actually considered serving.  This fellow servant and I do not play well together.  We both love God, but God knows what's good for us and it's NOT working together.  (Oh come on! Do not judge me. I'm sure you have a person like that in your ministry life, maybe like me, more than one.) The God sighting was I was not sure why I was not interested in that position, nor they interested in me, but this placement made it perfectly clear.  Relieved God prevented another ministry train wreck, I celebrated God's "No!" with abandon. It illuminated the "for the good of those who love God" can be to circumvent incompatibility for our own good.  
  • God called a real long shot into the Children's ministry position I resigned a year ago.  This recent seminary grad and former ministry volunteer I worked closely with served on the search committee for months before realizing God was calling him to fill the Children's pastor's position himself.  I heard him say more than once, he wasn't gifted to work with kids, so no one was more surprised to be called into Kidmin than he was.  I am pretty sure this gentle, humble man knew God would provide all kinds of unsolicited and unexpected gifts and talents in children's ministry to fulfill the calling or he wouldn't have answered the call.  It illuminated, in rare form I might add, the "according to his purpose" in "called according to his purpose for them" can be evident in unexpected gifts and talents to serve in unsolicited surprising roles. 
  • This year God's shown His ONE universal mission and commission. Matthew 28:19-20, "...go and make disciples of all the nations..." He says GO which is probably going to involve lots of leaving.  It is hard to say good bye to people you worked with side-by-side with in joy, but in taking Romans 8:28 to heart, I've embraced a truth that bolsters my faith in any instance of separation - good or sad.  I find myself praying and celebrating those I've left and looking forward to embracing those I've yet to meet.  This year of free fallin' illuminated the "work together" part anew showing all things DO work together, yet not all of us are meant to work together, physically side by side, for ever.  "Go" means you'll be asked to leave those you love. 
  • And the concentric circles of the above God sightings of scripture illumination brings me full circle.  "And we know God causes" part of Romans 8:28 is clear as day.  Every bit of this I "KNOW God causes"!  Two days ago, He caused a colleague I sat beside during a Kidmin 2012 Preconference workshop to email me right out of the blue.  It had ALL the markings of a  be"cause" of God sighting.  God caused a kindred spirit bond as she quoted my favorite blessing from Ephesians. Only God knew which of His words were needed. Then, much to my delight she poured out her praises for all God did in her during her conference experience and in her ministry focus as she returned home.  My favorite part of all was when she took her “Here Alone” button off her lanyard as a symbolic gesture of not feeling alone in the ministry anymore.  I couldn't write a better endorsement!  And get this, she didn't know I was blogging about my conference experience.  She just saw my face in Children's Ministry Magazine and felt compelled to contact me.  Folks, she didn't even know I have a blog, but...
"... we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them." Romans 8:28

Monday, October 22, 2012

Part 2 - You want ME to do WHAT?

I can't recall when I got the call, but after a few years leading the Youth "choir" I received a call telling me I had been nominated to become a church elder.  All I could think was "You want ME to do WHAT?" Seriously, this time the WHAT was my biggest hurdle.  I am glad they told me to think about it before responding because I really needed to find out what an elder did before I committed.

I had recently stepped into another position with my Real Estate firm that was demanding even more attention.  My sons were growing into busy teenagers and my husband's pharmacy position didn't allow much flexibility, so home life was just as busy.  I didn't want to give up singing in the chancel choir or the new Women's Ensemble, but I knew in my heart God was asking me to step out and step up to this new leadership position. I'd learned from past experience if God wants it, then He'll see that it happens, so I figured it was OK to accept the nomination - let the church body decide for me.

And so they did.

I was later ordained with my class as an Elder in the Presbyterian church. As experienced elders whispered words of encouragement in my ear, I realized this was NOT about me, my conditions or my insecurities - it was about submitting myself to God and doing whatever He asked.  I prayed silently and simply,

"What you want me to do, I'll do."   And I did. 

Then a month or so later during a Board of Elders meeting, I was helping word a job description for an Interim Children's Director.  I suggested some specific educational jargon outing myself as an educator.  A fellow Elder sitting across the table from me, immediately called me out by name... at first I thought I  had spoken out of turn or something... but instead he locked eyes with me and said to the group, "Sounds like Lisa Burney should take this job."  My first reaction was to duck under the table and hide. So I did.   As I popped back up, all eyes were on me. To hide my own embarrassment, I went for a laugh with "What?  And give up my day job?" After a little laughter, we moved on to finish the job description and I forgot all about the exchange.

The following Sunday I sat down in my seat in the choir loft - (second row, second seat from the center in the Soprano section, directly behind the pulpit) - to quickly skim the bulletin as the pastor began the sermon.  The Interim Children's Director job posting caught my eye, so with a touch of pride, I decided to read what I had helped write.

As I read it, I heard God's voice inside my head say, "Little girl, I want you to do this." 

My face immediately flushed red and I felt my body temperature rise with it.  You see, when God calls me "little girl" I know it's Him.  No one else has ever addressed me like that and every time I hear it, I know He means business, so I got quite still.  He had my total attention right there in the choir loft.

In my head, I pleaded, "You want ME to do WHAT?" and waited. 

No answer came.  I only felt an  overwhelming heat bearing down on me such that I had to fight the urge to flee the choir loft.  I don't recall a word the pastor said that morning, for as I steamed I reread the job description over and over again... realizing my fellow Elder's earlier comment was either ironic or prophetic .  All of a sudden, I saw myself in the job as described with a certainty I couldn't explain.  All I knew was God was telling me this little girl should step out of a full time business and into an interim children's ministry position.

I couldn't believe I was even considering it, but I was not only considering it, I felt compelled to respond, immediately.  After service was over, I sought out the Minister of Music, a most trusted friend and a full time staff member, to see what he thought.   As we talked, I knew against all reason, I was going to apply immediately.  We prayed together and when I opened my eyes, my husband was standing behind me.  I cannot explain it, but when I told my husband what was happening, he was not surprised. Matter of fact, his knowing smile told me he already knew or had quickly figured it out.

So, I submitted my application to the church and a long list of conditions to God.  

Yeah, you didn't really think I was going to simply submit to God's call, did you?  Nope, I'm not a quick study when it comes to Godly decisions.  At least I wasn't back then.  No, I went for the biggest obstacle I could throw up - finances.

In my mind, I was sure the church couldn't pay me what our family needed to live, so I blithely proceeded through the interview process practicing my "Thank you for considering me, but I simply can't accept the position for financial reasons." speech.  I even put a minimum number up to God as a condition without an ounce of shame.

I let it go so far I found myself sitting across a lunch table with the church executive director pushing a folded piece of paper across the table toward me. As a seasoned Real Estate Broker, I'd delivered and received offers with a practiced and professional poker face, but as I casually unfolded the paper and saw what God had done, I could barely hid my surprise.  The offer was OVER the amount I had given God.

In shock and disbelief, I carefully re-read the figures and asked for clarification before hearing the words,  "I would be honored to serve."  Those words were coming out of my own mouth.

And as we closed with prayer, I promised God, "What you want me to do, I'll do."

And for the next 16 year, with joy and energy that could only come from God, I did! 

Even today, after all the changes, struggles and challenges this Kidmin has been through and will go through,  I do!

Many, many thanks go to the folks at Group and the Kidmin IT Team, who prayed us through Kidmin 2012 and are praying us into Kidmin 2013.  I say,  Bless you for inspiring me to revisit, and in doing so, restore and renew My Dream of Ministry for Children.... 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Part 1 - "You want ME to do WHAT?

I tend to do everything backward, or in an irritating non-linear fashion, so even if it doesn't make sense to you,  this is exactly how I've revisited the dream.  It's more like I'm peeling an onion as I take a BIG step back to the build up to the dream.   I simply call this the Part 1 installment of 

You Want ME to do WHAT? 

Looking back towards the events in spring 1996, I now see how God had been doing the ground work building up to the dream for several years.  In truth, I'd say He spent many years building ME up.

Each event was so subtle and steady, I didn't have a clue God was doing anything more than helping me see Him walking beside me - making me a better person, wife and mother. As God drew me closer and closer, I trusted Him more and more with daily life problems and big life challenges.  

Boy, it felt amazing as the "30 something" angst and stress of carrying everything on my own shoulder lifted ever so slightly, every so often. As one huge life stressor sought to drag me down, I finally broke and gave it to God in its entirety. In time, I learned to pray to Jesus to reconcile me to people important in my life then and now.  More importantly, I allowed Jesus to help me release those negative relationships I needed to cut loose.

Note : I would love to tell you I was putty in God's hands, but in my stubbornness, I'd wait until an emotional and mental breaking point before I'd "let go and let God." I'm STILL working on that.

During that time, my family found a church home and became active members serving and growing in a vital church environment.  Funny thing, most of my service was NOT in children's ministry.  I never helped with VBS, reluctantly taught Sunday School for a year and threw myself into music ministry.

Probably to escape being asked to serve in the Children's department, I joined the chancel choir and eventually was drafted to co-directed a youth drama & music group. Looking back, I wonder WHAT the Minister of Music saw in me other than a background in choral music and a love for young people. The night he asked, I laughed out loud and quickly countered with "You want ME to do WHAT?" 

Later that night, in an attempt to earnestly seek God's guidance I prayed the same question.  However, in the presence of God, I didn't laugh.  I waited for him to agree with me the whole idea was ridiculous. All I sensed was He'd rather I remain open to the challenge.  Instead I attempted to leverage the personal challenge and service opportunity with a condition so ridiculous only God could meet. It seemed a safe, sane and reasonable way to blamelessly beg my way out.

My condition was simple. I would take on the challenge, if God would equip me for the task.

I KNEW I did not possess the talents, skills NOR training to direct music or produce a musical.  My experience in acting was limited to bit roles in High School and a summer as a costumer in the cast of the NC outdoor theatre production, The Lost Colony.  I played a few instruments as poorly as I read music, so directing music was totally out of the question.  I thought it a safe bet to make myself available and willing because God would never meet my conditions.

It would have been helpful, if I'd known the truth of Mark 10:27.  "Everything is Possible with God."  At least now I know by my own experience, if God wants it done, He will equip you for the task.

And in this case, He not only equipped me personally, He sent others to my side to fill in where I was lacking.  For the next two years, our little group produced some very creative musicals despite my involvement. The second years' musical was an original production conceived and written in collaboration with the youth.  A few very talented youth even wrote some of the music. As a result, I learned I could trust God to do the impossible by watching God do what I was sure was improbable.

Little did I know this was all building ME up and preparing me to favorably receive and positively respond to God.  I'm ashamed to admit, I continued to repeat the "You want ME to do WHAT?" question out loud and in prayer. I kept throwing up my impossible conditions like road blocks building right up to, and continuing on after , the day God planted a dream of full-time children's ministry deep in my soul.

Part 2 of "You want ME to do WHAT?" to follow. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Part 2 - The Dream grows....

It's been twelve years and God hasn't written me again. He spoke to me once, but I'll save that story"You want ME to do WHAT?"  for another day. Instead, He's spoken through others continually, and through His Word whenever I open the Bible.

  • The situations and opportunities along the way have been varied and at times unpredictable, but the message hasn't changed. 
  • I haven't moved away from Raleigh, but I am "a visitor in many different places." 
  • I've learned to be a messenger of encouragement equipping others for ministry wherever I go and even in places I'll never go.
  • I continue to be a recipient of many blessings every step along the way. 
  • The territory keeps expanding and at each expansion, I'd think this was what God was talking about - "This is it!", but I'm wrong every time.  
The dream God gave me, the one He wrote with my own hand, keeps growing and evolving. 

1999-2003 - God lead me out of North Raleigh into a new church in an older established church in another area of Raleigh. There I began serving as their first full time Children's Ministry Director.  For a time, I did feel like a visitor, but in time, it became my church home. 

2004 - As a consultant with Group Publishing,  I began sharing God's message of hope all over North Carolina and Virginia.  I visited, trained and encouraged others in the local church to share the gospel with children using effective ministry resources. It still amazes me how God gave me the energy to consult while continuing to serve in a full time church position. Matter of fact, I am convinced consulting re-energized, encouraged and feed me enhancing my local church work.

2005 & 2006 - The territory as I understood it, went way past my original dream. It expanded to Guyana, South America. (Shoot,  until that time I didn't even know the country existed!)  I thought I was only going there to lead VBS and serve on a construction team, but God used me as a messenger to a woman with a passion to minister to children in her church. And soon, I began looking for those potential ministry leaders and praying with them that God would equip them to minister to children in their own communities.

June 2006 - On the move again, I stepped down from my local church position. For a year, I wrestled with God about this move. I begged and pleaded with Him struggling to understand why I had to leave a place, and a congregation, that had become my faith family.  When it got right down to it, it took some mighty difficult circumstances to pry me out, but I learned once again, obedience is not always easy or personally rewarding.... at least not right away.

July 2006 to February 2007 - God pruned me. It hurt, but in cutting away activities and responsibilities gave me the strength to grow stronger and more resilient.  I also enjoyed spending time with friends I realized I'd neglected over the past decade. For some it was not as much my realization as a few very close friends outright telling me I'd been distant and too often absent. Thankfully, they gave me the opportunity to make amends and rekindle friendships God knew were essential to His plan for my life.  Basically, I learned future travel and ministry work would require a better balance of time away and time "at home".  My life depends on it.  I could write several cautionary tale posts about how churches promote unhealthy dysfunctional living, but I'm not ready to address it with diplomacy and tact. 

February 2007 -  My travel became a fact of daily life. I was called by a rural church 32 miles away from my home.  I thought I needed another full time position, but God provided exactly what I needed at the time -  a thirty  hour per week position.  It gave me more time to consult and be present at home.  I adjusted quickly to the commute and the new work week. My church responsibilities and consulting assignments were in balance.  At least until the children's ministry and my responsibilities there grew beyond part time.

2007 - 2011 -  Air travel became a fact of life. I grew into a new presenter role and began traveling further than I could drive.  For someone who usually flew every year or so, I found myself flying so often I kept a bag packed.  I didn't quite live out of a suitcase, but I could have.  I've yet to quantify how many times I've been "a visitor in many places", but whenever I thought the territory has reached its max, it expanded even further.  It's been equally amazing to see how God worked through me in so many different churches and how often he used other people to inspire, encourage and speak God's truth into my life.

Simultaneously in 2007 - 2011 -  My responsibilities in the local church grew beyond my grasp.   I realized I couldn't do it alone and began purposefully working myself out of ministry roles. One on one, I trained others to do what I could never do alone.  I delighted in watching God work through others, developing them, molding them to be children's ministers in leadership roles I used to fill.  While on church mission trips, the youth I was privileged to train stepped up and were actually leading me.  I giggle thinking of one in particular telling another it was OK to tell "Ms. Lisa" they didn't need my daily input... or was it interference? Whichever, it was a highlight of my journey. 

October 2011 - God put me on the move once again.  It became crystal clear my work at the current church was done.  I left without regret, remorse or fear. The team of ministers I left behind were quite capable of maintaining the ministry without me. Funny thing, I knew I would miss the people I'd grown to love, but I was 100% certain and secure in the decision to step down.   I didn't have a clue how all this fit into my dream, but I was confident God would guide and direct me in His time.

November 2011 - It didn't take God long.  He tells me through a friend, He's going to send me further than I'd ever imagined - South Africa.  I spend the next few months planning, seeking out prayer support and financial support.  I was not sure why I was going.  I only knew God wanted me to visit another place and He'd explain once I got there. To learn more about the South Africa journey, you can start with this post..

Asking for Help

February 2012 - The Dream evolved beyond ME.   I returned from South Africa to complete a writing project. The curriculum I co-wrote would be translated into several languages and used all over the world to reach children with the gospel through sports and whole life coaching.  It wasn't just ME traveling and equipping others.  The lessons I helped write would go instead.  Yeah, about the time I thought I had the dream figured out, God found a way to make it totally different.

May 2012 -  With the writing project going into Field Test and me still consulting up a storm,  I carved out time to simply BE.  I traveled with my family and friends celebrating the blessing of actually HAVING friends and family.  I highly recommend this to balance ministry life.

Recently - I hate to admit it but at times I didn't think much about my ministry dream.  Frank and I spent most weekends away from Raleigh, so we didn't visit churches or even attempt to look for a new church home.  Occasionally, we worshipped in some amazing places, but never while in Raleigh.  I don't know WHY. It simply felt right to take a break.

Yesterday -  After an invitation from an old friend in ministry, we finally worshipped in a local church.  I know my experience at Kidmin 2012 was the catalyst to finally get us there.  It's a good restart and I KNOW God's hand was in it. OK, His hand was ALL over that worship experience!  Communion AND an infant baptism?  Oh my, Lord! You had me at communion.  Witnessing the baptism of another precious child helped me remember the day God originally called me into full time service.

I have no idea what tomorrow will bring. I only know God will get me through today.  I'm happy to wait on Him for the next step, the next visit.

One thing I DO know, God's moving in me.  To be sure I move in the right direction, I must revisit the day he called me into ministry.   If you will indulge me, I will retell that story in the next post.   I think I'll call it....

You want ME to do WHAT? 

Friday, October 5, 2012

Step 1 - Re-visiting the dream...

Yesterday, I earnestly took the first step in the process of re-inventing myself.

Step one - I re-visited the Dream God gave me long ago.

It took me several hours back tracking through prayer journals. I got side tracked a few times stopping along the way to look up scripture passages I'd referenced, but God used each passage to light my path through the stacks of journals until I found the words written in my hand so many years ago. Words I thought I'd never forget, but in the midst of my recent funk, I could barely recall.

Let me explain and if in reading, you think I'm crazy, that's OK,  at the time I wasn't too sure I've wasn't going stark raving mad.

May 27, 1999, while prayer journaling, God did the most shocking thing of my life.... He took the pen and started writing - right there in MY journal in shocking pink ink! (Yeah, I WOULD grab the fuchsia  pen on the most important day of my life. sheesh.)

Here's an excerpt.
See, I wasn't kidding about the pink on pink.
I ended up in the most honest and gut wrenching conversation you could imagine. In the midst of it.... in shocking pink and, the journal just happened to be pages of pale, yeah, so embarrassing...God gave me a new calling - a dream to guide me.

 In this surreal moment, my hand was writing faster than I could read. I would ask a question and God would respond. He even addressed me as "my child" and sometimes as "little girl".  Now, THAT got my attention. I hung on His every word and the following words jumped out at me.

"I will be guiding you to be a visitor in many different places. My messenger, if you can grasp that concept yet.  I will refine you and train you in Spirit and body - "

I kept the exchange a secret for a while, but finally took the journal to my Pastor.  I figured he's either confirm the experience or confirm I was crazy.  Thankfully, he did the later and afterwards, I became convinced it truly was a message from God.

It took me a while to get over the experience and only in re-reading did I discover a re-invention of my original calling to become a Children's minister.  I knew in my heart, He wasn't taking the original calling away. He was adding to it.  I puzzled over the details for a while. For instance, anytime I went ANYWHERE, I would ask God, is THIS one of those "places" you meant? What I am supposed to do here?"  And over time, I relaxed and tried to simply learn and remain open to God's direction to share, encourage or simply listen to the people in my path where ever I visited.

Over the years, I became the visitor and messenger He described. It has been an amazing journey of twists and turns and major ups and downs.  I'm sure that's evidence of the "refine and train" part. 

In my future posts, I will chronicle the highlights and a few lowlights of journey from there to here.  With God's grace, re-visiting the dream and in doing so, re-invent and refocus myself for His service.

Next post - The Dream grows....  

Thursday, October 4, 2012

God's Changes in Me, Part 2- Kidmin 2013 - Warning - If you don't want change, don't GO!

Part 2 - God's Changes in ME.

One of my good friends has a saying, "PEOPLE - DON'T - CHANGE!" 

I used to bristle at his words, but recently I've come to believe his words are true.  People don't change. It used to make me sad, but not any more.  Now, I realize the REAL truth is....

People DON'T Change, but GOD does change people. 

I know this because God has been changing ME since I was a small child; molding me and refining me as a woman of God, a wife, mother and teacher and finally making me into a Children's Minister. Since God took over my life,  I learned one thing I could count on was change either in me or around me. I accepted change as God's will and God's way. 

Then, recently, I pushed back. I told God, " I'm tired of changing for you. It hurts too much! I'm tired, frustrated, and used up. Can't I just be still for a while?" 

I don't know why, but God graciously allowed it. I gratefully put my engine of change into neutral and idled.  I even toyed with the idea of shutting down and leaving Children's Ministry. I wasn't really serious, but for the first time in decades, I entertained the notion. It is hard to share, but it's true. 

Thankfully, my imminent shut down was adverted by God's changes in Me at Kidmin 2012. 

Here's how it started...After leaving my chosen Deeper Track on Spiritual Formation to give someone else a seat, I wandered down the hallway wondering if there was another workshop I might find interesting. Two words on a sign, "Re-inventing Yourself" grabbed my attention. Maybe what I needed was a revision, a do over, a resurrection, so I beelined it to the front table and took a seat. 

In the next few hours the presenter, Jeff Harmon, told the story of Joseph, the dreamer with the coat of many colors, and his life journey of ups and down. He shared how Joseph reinvented himself over and over again until he fulfilled God's plan for his life. Through triumph, betrayal, and set backs Joseph remained faithful to God and never gave up on his dream. 

As I listened, I thought... My life has never been as dramatic as Joseph's, but I too was once a golden child with a dream to serve God as a Children's minister in a local church. I too was betrayed, beat up and tossed aside by those that I thought loved me.  There were times I too was in the pit of despair, but by God's grace I rebounded to serve and find favor in another place.  If I could only remember what I did then to pull myself out of that pit of despair, surely I could repeat it to jog my out of my self-imposed inertia. 

Then I remembered... I studied God's Word. I prayed hours each day pleading He'd explain why He took my dream from me. I wrote my prayers so I could keep track of my growing list of questions, prayer requests and petty grievances.  In time, God worked with me to change me; sooth my soul, pull me up out of the pit and set me on a new path so I could get back to living out my dream... and in the years to follow, I did. 

And if it worked then, It will work now.  I'm going to do it all over again, which will be good for a change.  Right?

Many thanks to Chris Yount Jones and her team at Group for Kidmin 2012. There's no telling what God's going to change with Kidmin 2013.... It might just be YOU!    

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Kidmin 2013 Warning - if you don't want change, don't GO! Part 1

WARNING- If you...

  • don't want change
  • are afraid of change
  • think you don't need to change
  • think the status quo is the way to go...

Kidmin 2013 is not for you. Don't even consider going and do NOT read this post!!! 

Part 1 - God's changes to my Kidmin 2012 plan. 

If you've been following my blog posts, you'll know I had high expectations and big plans for my long weekend at Kidmin 2012.  I was determined to be the student, volunteer a little and connect with my Kidmin kin.  (The links below will take you to my blogposts on the original plan.)

Part 1 - Expectations Still High... 

Part 2 - Expectations Still High..

I went one step further by crafting a plan with a ministry buddy to see Downtown Chicago my first day in town. I was a girl on a mission! No one was going to derail or change my pre-arranged Kidmin 2012 plan.

But looking back, I messed up, friends....

I invited God into the plan, but I did not give him control of the plan... Oh, yeah, I gave lip service to God's plan for me, but in fact, it was MY plan all along.  Clearly, I was at the helm. I was IN control.

Lucky for me, God TOOK control before I ever stepped onto my United flight to Chicago.   And being the fun loving gracious God I've come to adore, HIS changes to my plan not only complimented my original plans, they elevated my plan, far exceeded my expectations and reconnected me to my big dream - the one I had long ago abandoned. (I'll address the dream in Part 2) 

God took control of my plan.

  • My flight plans changed. My air miles to South Africa bumped me to Premiere status. We're talking free checked bag, priority TSA line and priority boarding.  I even scored a free  upgrade to business class with more than ample leg room and my priority bag was the first bag to appear at baggage claim.  What a delight to arrive refreshed and with $25 more in my pocketbook. Thank you, God!
  • Thursday downtown plans fell apart.  I ended up running errands with three kidmin buddies; catching up, cracking on each other, taking a few wrong turns, being silly and laughing until our sides hurt.  Returning to the hotel, we greeted arriving Kidmin friends, helped with a friend's pre-con workshop set up then headed back out for a delicious dinner at a restaurant beside the planned restaurant destination. I enjoyed more meet and greet time before finally falling into my cozy Hyatt Regency king size bed.  For a girl who likes to make a plan and follow the plan, I was delighted with my fly by the seat of my pants day. 
  • My plan was to get the entire Leadership Matters Pre-con experience.  I volunteered to moderate the "Ministry is More Than Sunday AM" conversation but didn't realize it would cut into my Pre-con time.  I was a little bummed, but God ordained the change, so I figured he knew best.  At first I was overwhelmed by the standing room only attendance, but with God's guidance to employ REAL small group and pair shares techniques, the exchange of great ideas and encouragement shared at each table was electric, inspiring and hope filled. I left knowing Kidmin friends and their teams are taking the gospel beyond the Sunday AM experience in creative and innovative ways. What I perceived as a fouled line in the rigging, also connected me to two new Kidmin friends; not just from Raleigh, but from my neck of the woods - NORTH Raleigh. 
  • I had a plan to limit my volunteer time.  I struggle with balancing service and being served, so I signed up to help only in specific areas; promising God I would focus on Him and my own personal development. "Liar, liar, pants on fire!" Against my better judgment, I signed up to help a ministry area struggling to cover requests. Yes, it cut into workshop and worship time, but God chose the new volunteer opportunity to reveal Himself to me as a palpable presence. OK - that was not how I planned it! God was supposed to meet me in General session worship. 
  • My plan was to focus on one Deep Track- Spiritual Formation.   Gordon and Becky West, master teachers, loaded the first two sessions with a wealth of resources to illuminate spiritual formation guiding me to new insights and motivating me to commit to further study in the months to come. At the beginning of the first session, I realized the room was filling up quickly and if I gave up my seat one more person could benefit from Becky and Gordon's practical methods for facilitating spiritual transformation, so I left.  I wandered further down the hallway thinking I'd just made a big mistake, (I can be selfish like that...) until I saw the words "Re-invent Yourself..." and God whispered, "There - I want you to go, there."  

As I flopped into a chair at the front of a workshop, I never even considered taking, I told God, "Ok, OK! I get it. My plan WAS my plan, not Your plan, so why don't you just take it from here?" He didn't say anything... He didn't have to... I'd finally surrendered to Him.

 Now, it's about more than changes in my plan, it is was about changing ME...

Kidmin 2012 - Day 1
                                       ...check in tomorrow for Part 2 - God's changes in ME

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Part 2 - Expectations still high for Kidmin 2012 - just different.

Part 2 - Expectations still high for Kidmin 2012 -  just different. 

What can I tell you?  After such a successful and timely restoration experience at Kidmin 2011, I registered for Kidmin 2012, not even know what I'd be doing or where I'd be in October of 2012.

Within two months after Kidmin 2011, my ministry life took a surprising change with new challenges.  Without a local Ministry position, I was freed up to pour myself into my family, friends and clean my own house. I also discovered more time to serve God outside the boundaries of a local ministry position.
  • I was selected to be a contributor for Children's Ministry Magazine's Discipline Q&A Column. I'm honored to share the column with the more qualified, Anthony Prince and Chris Webb
  • I started this blog.  OK, I might not have a lot of readers, but it made me practice the craft. 
  •  I followed Jesus' call to go to Stellenbosch, South Africa to write curriculum for a global sports ministry. Teaming with my good friend and colleague, Gloria Lee, has been the most stimulating and challenging experience of all. Ubabalo & OneHope, provided the soccer professionals and editors to refine the lessons.
As I got deeper and deeper into the writing process, I realized I not only needed co-writers and editors, I needed to sharpen my skills, examine how kids grow spiritually and learn how to provide experiences to enhance their faith journey.  I was yearning to dive deep into new areas of interest so my work would produce effective lessons to transform, not simply inform children.

Good thing, each year at Kidmin, we are free to create a unique conference experience to meet the new challenges of ministry life.  There's an option for where ever you are, whatever you needs! 

With a totally different focus, I pulled up the Kidmin 2012 brochure on my laptop.  Unlike last year, I wasn't workshop shy.  I was immediately drawn to the Deeper Track on Spiritual Formation lead by Gordon and Becky West. I registered immediately.  It literally jumped out at me like a message from God as a perfect fit for my current challenges.

Here's a God Sighting for ya.  Not only were Becky and Gordon West, the presenters at my first ever Children's Ministry Magazine LIVE, they were the first Children's Ministry teachers I ever had! Yep, I'd been in ministry only a few months and every idea they shared that day was like a nugget of gold.  True story! I'm getting chill bumps just thinking about this little parallel from God reinforcing my choice.  

Diving even deeper, I added a Pre-Conference selection.   I picked Greg Baird's Leadership Matters in Children's Ministry Pre-Conference to sharpen my skills and open myself to new ways to lead effectively. It's a bargain at $59 for a day of great training.

Whew! That's three times more workshop sessions than last year. No one's more surprised than me!  I'm also surprised I'm bringing more energy and focus TO Kidmin 2012 than I gained at Kidmin 2011.

Even with some changes in expectations, I'm STILL looking forward to connecting with my kidmin peeps, worshiping, volunteering and moderating a ministry conversation. I'll have plenty of time for all that between workshops, at meal times, during General sessions, coffee breaks and late night event. I'm like a girl on a mission, or as my girlfriend describes me - a dog with a bone.

So, tell me about YOUR expectations and your plan for Kidmin 2012?

I'm praying your Kidmin2012 experience is exactly what God has planned for you, an experience to equip you and sending you out to continue the work He's already planned for you.

 BTW - Please join us for the "More Than Sunday Morning" Conversation - Friday at 3pm & Sunday during the lunch break.   Come share how God is using you, 24/7!  

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Part 1 - Expectations still high for Kidmin2012 - just different

In less than two weeks, the already "sold out" Kidmin 2012 will begin in Chicago.

Part 1 - Expectations still for Kidmin 2012
                                      ...but vastly different from Kidmin 2011.

Last year, at this time, I was looking forward to Kidmin 2011 for some much needed rest,  restoration and time to seek God through worship. I realized I was  burning my candle, not only at both ends, but fighting heat from all angles.
  • Heat from my friends to spend more time with them. 
  • Heat from my church to attend yet one more meeting. 
  • Heat from my family to "be there" for them.
  • Scorching heat from myself to just be better and everything would be OK

Looking back with a year's perspective, I had no idea the heat was so intense.  NOR, did I know I was in danger of melting away into a total burn out. Not doubt I needed a BREAK and Kidmin 2011 would deliver.  Basically, Christine Yount Jones invitation to come, rest, take a nap, reflect, regroup and re-energize was all I needed to hear. I knew no matter how I felt, I had permission to let God guide me to create my own conference experience.

I also looked forward to connecting; leading a Connect Group, moderating a Ministry conversation panel, volunteering on the IT team and meeting with as many old and new ministry friends as time allowed.  Those kind of activities revive me and inspire me like a good Bible study or Starbucks, or both.  I was anxiously eager to rediscover Jesus in the midst of heart-felt conversations. 

I prayed and prayed, but just couldn't muster up enthusiasm or motivate myself to sign up for the high caliber workshops being offer by the best of the best in Kidmin.  Every time I sat down with the brochure to choose a Deeper Track or pick out some individual workshop or pre-conference workshops, my ADHD and lack of motivation overwhelmed me.  I'd circle a few.  OK, I circled WAY too many only to mark them all out and start again.

BECAUSE Kidmin is a "make your own conference" experience,  Kidmin 2011 met all my expectations.  I sampled a few workshops, but I focused on those things I WANTED and NEEDED to do.

  • I found solidarity through intimate and corporate conversations with some of the most passionate and effective kidmin people I'd ever encountered.  
  • I saw Jesus shining through so many Kidmin participants. Each had their own compelling stories and deep desire to introduce Jesus to children and guide them to love and serve Him. 
  • I found rest in my comfy queen-size bed at the Hyatt.  Not at much as I needed - Those late night events were just too much fun! 
  • I experienced real worship minus the responsibilities of a normal Sunday of ministry responsibilities.  I just wish I'd packed some waterproof mascara. I cried buckets of tears from laughter, awe and pure joy. 

Sure enough, I returned home from my weekend in Chicago refreshed, rested, inspired and focused on Jesus and His children.  

Kidmin 2011 was a God Sighting for me, because only God knew three weeks later He would call me to resign my church position.  Because everything at Kidmin 2011 bolstered my faith in Jesus, I was prepared for a drastic change in my ministry life.  Not only was I open to hear God, I was able to totally depend on and trust Jesus to guide me through a healthy and positive ministry move.

So what about my expectations for Kidmin 2012?

Check back tomorrow for Part 2 ....  This is quite enough for one post. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

From taking care of busyness to taking of business.

I'm usually a very happy and content individual, as long as I am productive. 

I'm not talking about being busy, for busyness can be the most unproductive activity of all. When I'm taking care of busyness instead of taking care of business, I'm creating something to do as a way to rescue myself from boredom. 

It begins by...

  • Shopping with no specific purchase in mind.
  • Creating projects that require shopping
  • Playing with iPad apps.
  • Checking Facebook and Twitter again and again throughout the day 
  • Reorganizing my unmentionables drawer by refolding and color coordinating the panties by color and style. 
Next thing I know...

  • My mind is a clutter of doubt.
  • I find myself  ruminating over every decision I've made in the past month.  
  • When I DO sleep, I don't rest. I awake the next day feeling I've been hit by a train.
  • I don't do my daily chores until late in the day or not at all.
  • I blog whining posts then erase them before posting.... only time will tell if this post qualifies for publication.... 
Once I realize I'm in a downward spiral, I remind myself I CAN get over myself and....

  • Immediately STOP whining... even if the whining is only in my head.
  • Clean something - better if it's a chore I've been putting off for a while.
  • Pray for forgiveness. For example, "God forgive me for being such a lazy selfish sloth."
  • Pray for specific direction. God created a plan for me, so checking in with him for the next step should be a no brainer. 
  • Get moving - preferably do something so physical it takes total concentration and clears my head so I'm open to hearing God when he directs me. 
  • Drink a tall glass of ice water. Rehydrating really does restore energy. 
It always amazes me how within a few hours, the phone rings, the email or text I've been waiting for arrives and I'm flying through my "to do" list readying myself for an upcoming event.  Before I know it, my mood is lifted because I'm called into service and back into production mode.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Riding the big waves and failure

Hurricane Issac showed up while we were at Kure Beach. No way he was going to let me alone after I taunted him so badly.  Even though Issac was hundreds of miles away, there were some outer bands of weather passing and with a seasonal higher than usual tide, the waves were huge - Pacific coast size.

The first day, I watched with my jaw drooping as the surfers braved the 6 and 8 foot swells. I was way too intimidated to go in over my knees. The second day, I realized I could give into the intimidation like a whimp OR suck it up and take advantage of the rare opportunity to body surf the monsters and test my body surfing abilities to the limit.

With a sense of adventure and resolve, I quickly put my hair in a pony tail, took off my hat and sunglasses and marched into the foam.  It was glorious once out past the breakers. For a while I enjoyed floating with the smooth rolling swells as I waited for a worthy wave to ride in.  

When I spotted my first ride, surely a 6 footer, I timed my launch just perfectly and dove in at just the right moment.  Assuming the rigid board like body surfing form, I was propelled forward by the churning curl until fearing it would smash me into the shore, I dropped a knee to stop myself.  From the wave's point of view, the ride was NOT over, so it dragged me a few more feet forward resulting in a skinned knee.  Oh, shucks, the thrill of the ride was worth the small injury, so I walked it off as I headed out for another ride.   

I successfully caught and rode three more monsters, each bigger than the last, but as the surf got rougher I decided the next wave might eat me. I wisely retreated to my beach chair to watch others crash and burn on the big boys.  

Some days are like that. You choose your moment, pick your battles and emerge victorious.  Maybe, you are a bit battered, but triumphant just the same. Days like these I am sure I could conquer anything coming at me.  We ALL like those kind of days whether body surfing or managing a normal day of challenges.  It's nice to feel so competent, brave and successful... if only for a day.  Days like these remind me God is with me and he celebrates with me in my accomplishments. 

Then, the next day comes.  The waves looked the same height, the surf looked no more intimidating than the day before and besides I was the same expert body surfer I were the day before. What could go wrong? 

Day two, I caught a few beauties and sailed right on in.  I owned them and shamelessly crowed like a champion.  I even took a moment and thanked God for waves, the ocean and loving life. Maybe, the crowing has a little bit to do with what happened next, but I'm thinking it was just that winning streaks end. They always do.  Sometimes, they leave you in a heap in the sand and other times roll you over and under then mercifully allow you to land on your feet.  

This was one of the good days... at least it turned into a good one. 

My last wave was tenuously chosen and my timing was just a tiny bit off.  I started out okay, but jumped in too late which caused the wave to tip me forward.  Instead of fight it, I curled into a ball allowing the eight footer to roll me head over heels until my feet again touched down and I popped upright again.  As I popped up out of the foam, I shouted, "Wooah, that was the best ever!"

I think my surf side audience's reaction abruptly veered from relief to surprise. They witnessed my pending failure the moment my feet pointed to the sky and the wave consumed me.  When I emerged reframing my body surfing failure into a completely new adventure, their perspective changed too. No doubt I failed to body surf my wave, but in giving into it, I discovered the thrill of being tumbled by a curl.  

Reflecting on the ending of my body surfing streak, I can't help but think how great it would be if failure in life and ministry could be more like that day. What if at the inevitable end of a great streak of success, others would let you push the envelope right up through the first failure?  Without fear and judgment maybe we'd waste less time on blame, worry and regret.  

God already lets us do that. Just read the Bible and see how many times His faithful crashed and burned with His full support. If those around us who watch us and supervise us would follow God's example and lighten up, I bet all of us who get out there and dare try something just a little bit more challenging wouldn't feel so beaten and battered.  We'd be able to learn to look forward to the adventures that live in the midst of our failures.  We might even learn to enjoy the experience by reframing even our most awkward mishaps into new discoveries which could expand God's kingdom. We might learn to get over ourselves and forgive each other more often.    

I'm sure you understand I'm not advocating surf rolling as a new sport or failure for the thrill of it all. All I can tell you I am a better body surfer now I know how to abort a bad ride with grace. Better than that, I know I am going to be a better Christ follower once I get over myself and learn from my failure  when my good works streaks end. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Hurricane Hysteria

We are deep into hurricane season, but much to my delight we haven't had a viable hurricane yet.  I think the weather forecasters/talking heads don't share my glee.  I'm sensing they are getting tired of twiddling their thumbs and getting no attention,  so they are hyping every tropical disturbance into a potential storm of the century.

This hurricane hysteria is out of control.  I've had enough. I resent being bothered with maybe, possible and potential storms.  I wish they'd stop making a sand dune out of a sand castle.

Yesterday, they sent a weather plane into a thunderstorm at the edge of a barely rotating squall.  Luckily for the weather junkies and forecasters, the winds registered barely 45 miles per hour which is just enough to qualify for a tropical depression.

 Next thing you know, with a false sense of urgency the weather people are dragging out graphs of several forecast models and plotting a dozen potential paths.  Within hours they started calling the little puffer Isaac and speculating if this poor excuse for a tropical storm might become a hurricane and ruin the GOP convention in Tampa, Florida.  Excuse me?

Seriously, their sophisticated computer forecast models are admittedly so inaccurate at this stage of the game just about everyone could be in Isaac's path save for maybe Colorado, Washington State, Europe and the African Coast.  I couldn't help but laugh out loud when our local weatherman stated the Atlantic Seaboard is still not out of the woods.  Out of the woods? Man, we aren't anywhere NEAR the woods yet.

I do heart weather people and appreciate all they do to warn coastal visitors and residents of pending danger, but right now little Isaac is literally a tempest in a teapot.  I'm thankful for their advice and all that, but they didn't dish this much hype this soon over last August's soaker, Irene.  I'd rather they let Isaac stew out in the tropics and alert me when he's a real threat to land.

Sunset after Irene August 2011
This season's much ado about nothing is more than irritating and annoying. It can, and just might, backfire.  Every time the weather guys whip us up with hurricane hysteria over a long shot that fizzles into a light rain, their ratings may spike, but their credibility tanks.  People will stop listening for fear of feeling foolish for heeding another empty warning. When the real hurricane comes along, and it will, people won't be able to distinguish the difference between a serious storm and hype for ratings sake. Some will poo-poo the warning and end up up to their knees in deep do-do or worse.

I grew up with hurricanes so I have a huge respect for their power and my powerlessness against a hurricane of any size or force. I road out a few and fled from others long before the Weather Channel existed. Thank you very much.

Despite the hype, I'm headed down to the coast soon. Like last year, I will continue to watch the weather signs, listen to the forecasts with great discernment and act accordingly.  I promise to leave the coast when a real hurricane is coming my way.  I just wish the weather folk would wait until a storm is a real hurricane.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

My future's In God's hands

Recently, I had another opportunity to catch up with two longtime ministry friends. As would be natural, having recently resigned a local church position, these conversations always gravitates toward questions about my future in ministry.  

The conversations go something like this....

Friend - "Are you looking for another church?" 
Me - "I'm not actively looking. "
Friend - "So, what are your plans for the future?" 
Me  - I don't really know. My ministry future is totally in God's hands."

My answers have never changed, but I am no longer parroting what God's told me. I've finally embraced the truth.

Eight months ago, the conversation would have been the same, but I would have squirmed in my seat uncomfortable with a truth I barely understood and sometimes questioned. Admittedly, I was still shell-shocked by the abrupt change in God's directions for my life and shaking in my shoes fearful of an uncertain future.

Back then, I put on a brave face, but there were holes in my faith.  Intellectually, I know I am a work in progress, but inside I struggled with wavering faith. Thank God, I had the support of family and friends to give myself a break. I would have driven myself insane if they didn't so enthusiastically and readily accept my bravado without questioning me further.

This time it was the same questions and answers, but it suddenly dawned on me.  I am totally at peace and relaxed about my uncertain future. I'd finally internalized and claimed it.  It's no act, I'm truly in  God's hands and following His divine plan with complete abandon.

It's still true. I'm not looking for a specific church to serve. At present, I'm focused singularly on serving, as we say in the Apostle's Creed, "the holy catholic church".  This past week, I volunteered alongside my niece at Grace UMC's morning Babylon VBS and visited at another family member's evening VBS.  I don't know if I was much help, but not being in charge allowed me to soak up lots of new ideas and simply experience the wonder of God through the eyes of a child.

This coming week, I go back out on the road as a ministry consultant.  Tuesday, I will train a local church team in Virginia.  Saturday after next, I will be in South Carolina.  After that, only God knows and when he let's me know, I'll go.

Now, back to the recent conversation after I shared my focus on ministry consulting.

Friend -  "Yes, your ministry has changed. It's gotten bigger"
Me - "No. Not bigger, just different."  

Years ago,  I might have bought into that notion that ministry consultants' ministry is bigger.  Of course, that was before I was one.   Experience taught me there is NO bigger job than serving in a local church and I'm honored to serve and support those who do until God comes up with another assignment.

Feels fantastic to say "My future's in God's hands."

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Vegetables we've grilled

Vegetables we've grilled -

Maybe this post should be on my recipe page, but I'm thinking I'd like to share my grilled veggie ideas and hopefully you will share a few with me.

Over the past few years, Frank and I have abandoned the stove top and oven and seem to cook primarily on either the gas or charcoal grill. Yes, partly because clean up is so simple, but mainly because grilled simply makes everything taste better.

I give you my list of vegetables we've grilled, starting with the most unusual. Before you get grillin' green, purchase a large grill basket. (Here's an example from Kohl's)

  • OKRA -  Take fresh and tender okra, prickly tops removed, tossed in olive oil then dressed with cracked salt and pepper, throw in the grill basket and toss occasionally until soft and a tad charred.  We first enjoyed this delicacy when Glenn Jones grilled fresh okra from his garden as an appetizer.  Unfortunately, Margi Jones and I missed out because we didn't hear the part about them being an appetizer until they were all gone. 
  • BROCCOLI - Toss with garlic infused olive oil, cracked sea salt and pepper. Grill until soft but still bright green.  Serve with Recipe #13 White House Spicy Noodles. (see Burney Family Recipe page)
  • SWEET ONIONS - You can grill onions in a grill basket with any other veggies, but start the onions first because they take longer.  Cut into wedges. Dress with olive oil, butter, salt and pepper, marjoram, thyme, basil, garlic - whatever floats your boat.  You can waste a lot of time and energy by putting a whole onion in tinfoil with seasonings and grilled for an hour, but seriously, that's steamed onions. 
  • SQUASH -  ANY summer squash will do - zucchini, yellow, or those cute little pattypan squash you find at the farmer's market.  Slice, cube or cut squash into spears, dress with "Renaissance Seasoning" (a product from Savory Spice Shop) or salt, pepper, garlic salt, oregano, marjoram, thyme, etc., toss in olive oil, then toss into the grill basket and keep tossing until tender and covered in grill marks. 
  • BEETS -  Yes, fresh beets on the grill are "to die for".  Put on kitchen gloves, peel and quarter red, orange or yellow beets.  Dress with olive oil and salt, then grill 20-25 minutes until soft.  Yes, they take a long time, but MAN these sweet treats are worth it.
  • CARROTS - Pare and slice carrots. Brush the grill basket with olive oil. Toss the carrots with fresh thyme, salt and pepper. You CAN boil prepped carrots for 10 minutes for less time on the grill, or grill for 20- 25 minutes.  Like beets, they take a while, but are so worth the wait. Finish with a tad of butter if you must, but I don't think they need ANYTHING else.
  • GREEN BEANS - String, trim and like the carrots you can boil them for 5 minutes to get them started, but seriously that only requires you to wash a pot, so just brush the grill basket with olive oil and start grilling.  Here you COULD add a few pieces of bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces and grill along with the green beans and other than salt and pepper, in 20 minutes you've got southern style green beans.
  • ASPARAGUS - Pop off the tough ends of the spears, dress in... yes, you're catching on... olive oil, salt and pepper, then lemon zest or a touch of lemon juice. Grill in the basket until tender, but still bright green. 
  • SNAP PEAS - Prep like green beans and grill like asparagus. 
  • MIXED BASKET -  Have fun. Combine any of the above and remember to add the veggies that take more cooking time first. (For example, carrots, green beans and beets first, squash and snap peas last.) 

NOW, it's your turn.  Don't be shy.  Share what veggies you like to grill.

Go Ahead - Google it!