Category Archives: Church Life

When Praying for Rain, Bring an Umbrella!

downloadIn reading, The Conviction to Lead by Albert Mohler, a quote stood out to me: passion is Technicolor, not earth tones. Mohler went on to say, “Kierkegaard contrasts passion with mere ‘flashes of enthusiasm.’ Passion is not a temporary state of mind. It is the constant source of energy for the leader, and the greatest cause of attraction for followers. Finally, Kierkegaard reminds us that passion cannot be artificially generated or transmitted. If authentic, it naturally shines through as convictions come to life, as a great mission undertaken, and as people share the same great passion and join together as one.” As I read this, I recalled my words over the past year.  Where’s my passion? Where’s my faith?

For instance, when someone asked me how many copies to make for something I gave a low number. I expected few to actually need the information. My verbiage communicated my low confidence and my floundering passion. I am passionate wherever writing is concerned in my own projects, but I have apologetically lacked it in many other areas. I’ve been searching out my place in the world—to belong, to matter, to be a part of something—and my attitude reflects it when more often than not I am left bereft of what I seek. I feel I am following God’s will in what I do, but in some areas I really need to work on a better attitude and a stronger faith. Because what I seek sometimes is self-fulfillment.

Tony asked me why I continue to write and submit when I haven’t gotten a publishing contract for my novel. I’m not seeking self-fulfillment, but serving my calling. In many ways, writing is fulfilling even if my pocketbook comes up empty. God has blessed me in my writing in more ways than I deserve and lately He has been opening up many doors. Some have told me how my writing builds them up and I am glad to be used in this way, to spend my time wisely, and grow. But in other areas I do lack faith.

So when Mohler said, “passion requires Technicolor not earth tones,” it left me disquieted. I walked back from Starbucks staring ahead and re-thinking my position. I need to use my words to lift up and build up even when things appear discouraging, people are difficult, or if when I hold out my hands they come up empty. My attitude can’t be responsible for bringing someone else down. When someone asks for a blown out number of copies, I should suggest double that and pray it is so instead of thinking the worst and living faithlessly. When praying for rain, I should bring an umbrella, as someone once told me.

*The Conviction to Lead is one of the books I am reviewing. Date TBD.


What Your Facial Expression Says

Smile! Welcome Back =]
Smile! Welcome Back =] (Photo credit: blentley)

“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” Romans 12:10 NIV

They used to tell me during my training at Bank of America, “Smile. They can’t see your expression over the phone, but when you’re smiling it shows through your voice.” I’ve always put that tidbit of wisdom in my mind to retrieve later. It made sense even to twenty-something year old me, and it has stayed with me now at thirty-something. Recently, a comment reminded me that this saying is also true in the spiritual sense.

Today I am guest posting over at (in)Courage. My comments are turned off. Please click here to read the rest of the story and to leave comments.

The Beauty of Trust


Damaged people trust little.

The beauty of trusting in spite of my reservations had the consequence of friendship. I know people will let me down, but I chose through this study to live a life as if I had never been damaged. These women in my Bible study are truly wonderful and caring people as I am sure many women are and it’s just our circumstances that color our outlook and make us so wary that we hide instead of trusting in God.

I found myself opening up slowly, pleasantly surprised by how much I have enjoyed this study.

Beth Moore said in our study committing what has damaged us to God is letting go of it. She also said that feeling pain means you love. Beth Moore said to not close up or shut down. Pain can isolate us from the blessings God has in our future. By not trusting Him, we forfeit such beauty as trust.

The friendships I am making and the authentic conversations during study feel like someone just blew the dust off of my old heart, reminding me how much I still hold back. In five years, this is the first time I have reached out, not in ministry, but in friendship. I have isolated myself out of protection and that’s not living. Living is risking vulnerability and authenticity.

You fall.

God picks you up.

As long as you keep letting God pick you up, you’ll be blessed and taken care of, for we worship God in spite of our circumstances. And I don’t want this weekly gathering to end. It’s been so much fun.

Do you hold back?

Like a Zombie Costume in a Broadway Musical

Their house was dark. Trick or Treaters scoured the neighborhood. Everyone was having fun, but that house seemed to stick out like a zombie costume in the middle of a Broadway musical. They were another unfriendly house, until I began to believe I, too, should shun Halloween.

That lasted for several years, early in my (pretend) Christian belief until someone turned the light on in me. Why was I shunning Halloween?

And every year, I read blogs, both for and against it, of people of all Christian walks making statements. To me, shunning Halloween is a form of legalism. We’re adding to what the Bible says. This is a culture thing, not a religious belief thing. It’s a fun event for children and adults. Kids in costume are not practicing witchcraft, doing divination, or calling up the dead. They are playing pretend characters like what we used to do as children with our blanket and cardboard forts and invisible friends. They are superman saving the world, G.I. Joe coming to the rescue of Barbie, or a villain looking for world domination.

Whether you hate Halloween or love it, this is an excellent time for Christians to reach out to their neighbors. I would urge you to step away from your inhibitions and try a few suggestions:

1)  Hand out candy with or without a costume. You can hand out scripture candy or regular candy. It’s a believer meeting a stranger at the door, encouraging a small child with a smile, or speaking to a neighbor you hadn’t seen in months because you never socialize.

2)   Don’t hand out tracts. Tracts are a major disappointment to a child. They are looking to stock up on candy; hence, the pillow cases. You’re not going to evangelize at the front door. It’s conversations that open up topics about Jesus.

3) Carve a pumpkin. You can create pure art out of these things. You can carve a cross or Jesus. You can make a sneering face. The point is it’s just a pumpkin. Don’t forget to roast the seeds.

4)  Play Christian music. An excellent choice for those who don’t like Halloween. Sadly, our Christian station goes to preaching after a certain time instead of music. While I don’t mind the preaching on a normal day, this is a social event. Social events need music.

5)  Have a haunted house. Fond memories of past Halloween’s, of haunted houses, and pure fun are great for them to reminisce about as adults. You’ll be the talk of the neighborhood. “Look,” they’ll say, “That neighbor has a great haunted house.” Perhaps when they find out you’re a Christian, they might even consider coming to your church.

6) Have something for the adults to encourage them to come away from the curb. Every year we have cookies and fresh brewed coffee for the adults and candy for the children. It solved my dilemma when I would have teenagers come, some barely in costume, trying to get free candy. Trick or treating is for children and so my cookies and coffee option give teenagers a choice to be an adult (coffee and cookies) or to be a child (candy only).

7) TALK to people. The coffee and cookies brings the adults away from the curb. It also shows you care about them when you take the time to listen and speak. Eventually, you establish a reputation in the neighborhood. On a cold night, nothing is better than conversation and hot coffee.

8) Trick or Treat Warnings. Unfortunately, the later it gets the more we get the parents whose kids are allowed to plunge both fists into a bowl of candy or run to the cookies and grab them without asking first. So we usually close before we get to that part of the evening. That’s when the crowd trickles and we know the evening is ending. One of us always has to put the food and candy up high because in their parents culture it seems kids are allowed to be undisciplined.

9)  The Teenagers. You’re too old to trick or treat.

10)  Candy.  I only give out hard candy. With over 200 visitors, expenses pile up. Plus, if I had chocolate, that would be a tough choice for the teenager. If I were a teenager, I would lunge for the chocolate.

So, if you are a Christian, think outside the box and stop being the only dark house in the neighborhood. You’re missing an excellent opportunity for a harvest.

This year a friend is letting us borrow a portable fire pit. Please join us on Halloween! We’ll be open from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. (thereabouts).

Prayer Warriors Wear Athletic Shoes

Image copyright, 2012, Nikole Hahn; available here for purchase

The community around our church needs just as much attention as the community within our church. Prayer Warriors wear athletic shoes.

They walk, pray, and connect. In some churches, I’ve seen prayer warriors stand in the lobby, wearing their name tags, and sometimes they approach. Most times, they wait to be approached. If your church is located in a quiet neighborhood, that’s your only option.

However, if your church is located near busy areas where people tarry and walk, perhaps where festivals occur, then your prayer warriors should put on their walking shoes and leave the church lobby. Let those who are elderly and have physical limitations remain behind to pray with the congregation. Prayer Warriors  should reach out every Sunday, meeting up with others in their community, getting updates or new prayer requests. Prayer ministries are more than just people who bow their heads and pray; prayer ministries should be about creating community, too, one handshake and one conversation at a time.

Every week in spite of rejection or acceptance, bone-deep weariness or burn-out, a prayer warrior must reconnect, get updates, and continually pray. It’s not just a polite thing or a political thing to make a church or person seem more caring. It’s a lot of behind the scenes, on your knees kind of work. It’s socializing and conversation. Some churches have what they call a Street Team, but to me, that’s just selling Jesus instead of showing how Jesus has influenced our hearts.

Send your prayer warriors out into the streets to connect with believers and non-believers. Here are some tips:

1: Don’t hide your Bible. Someone said they were taught to keep your Bible hidden bringing it out only when you need it. I disagree. To be authentic, we need to reveal our intentions and be open about what we believe and be ready to answer questions or take insult with a smile.

2: Don’t Sell Them Jesus. You don’t know their background or what they believe. Trust in the Holy Spirit to direct your mouth and feet. Approach a person with pen and paper ready and ask them if there are any prayer requests you can pray over during the week. Tell them what church you attend. It helps if your church gives you a name tag that identifies you are with a prayer team. Your goal is to love and that means you may spend a lot of time listening, conversing, and praying. You might jot down the prayer request and pray over it during the week, instead of on the spot. It all depends upon the person.

3: You Represent Your Church. Keep the conversation focused on prayer requests. In this time of our lives, politics are on everyone’s mind. Some use politics to deflect your request and push you away.

4: Follow-Up. Look for last week’s people—the people you prayed for—and get updates or say hello. Show them they are valued by talking to them, too.

5: Don’t Trade Insults or Get Angry. Jokes are common as are prayer requests for world peace from those who want to put some distance from you. Laugh at yourself. The rewards are keeping connections open in future run-ins. In some instances though, you may walk into a dangerous situation like the girl who was hit across the face with her own bible. She never pressed charges or lost her temper, but it could have gone much worse. Always bring a second person as a witness.

6: Mentoring Youth. Try to get the youth in your church to join you. Mentor them to become prayer warriors. Choose only those who can keep confidences.

And finally, remember the enemy doesn’t like it when people pray. A church should be built on prayer and every prayer warrior is needed in this culture–the ones who pray during the week, the ones who are available on Sunday, and those who pray at home. Prayer is the only effective way to change a culture.

How does your prayer group work? Describe your experiences in a prayer group.

Blog Action Day (The Power of We): How Do We Bring That Kind of Change?

In asking the question, “How do you change a church?,” the answer was the most frustrating. The answer is out of my control. You can’t depend on volunteers to greet for you, to be friendly for you, or to pray in your place for someone else. For a church to change, it requires its congregants to be changed from the inside out. How do we do this?

A year or two ago, I visited a mega church the size of a college campus. Yet, every person with or without a volunteer badge stepped up and made it feel like a small church, like a family of God. Change begins with the person. It’s taking the teachings of the Bible to heart and applying it everyday to your life; not living perfect for works, but out of love and sincerity, wanting to do the right thing. The change I seek is for people to live beyond their comfort zones, reach out to strangers, fill empty volunteer slots, but mainly, to do the first two suggestions even without a job badge pinned to your shirt. We shouldn’t leave the job of greeting to the greeter only, but do this on our own.

Guilting, lecturing, or preaching won’t change the heart or tear down the walls that exist in some churches.

Prayer will change hearts because it’s Holy Spirit powered; prayer and God’s Word will transform. Practice being authentic everyday.

Authentic is what my friend would call a buzz word. The word is everywhere nowadays. People leave a church because of wounds or due to the lack of “authentic” people. The Barna Group says, “Based on past studies of those who avoid Christian churches, one of the driving forces behind such behavior is the painful experiences endured within the local church context. In fact, one Barna study among unchurched adults shows that nearly four out of every ten non-churchgoing Americans (37%) said they avoid churches because of negative past experiences in churches or with church people.”

To each of us, the word authentic has varied meanings according to our personal preferences, but for the sake of this argument, I am saying authentic means being real, honest, and according to the dictionary, having “shared beliefs.” It’s difficult to be authentic when others get offended when you “air your dirty laundry.” We all have stories and we should share those stories, never underestimating the power of God behind them. Being authentic means leaning on one another in prayer during difficult trials. We should all do our part in being authentic. Instead of leaving that job to a prayer warrior or a greeter, we should own it. This requires forgiving our brother or sister for when they wound us. It means not living a life thinking everyone is going to hurt us.

Hurt brings walls. Walls create apathy and cliques. Instead of focusing on what isn’t filling our needs, let’s practice filing other people’s needs. I struggle with that last sentence.

My friend spoke often about long-suffering. When my needs aren’t met, I grow dysfunctional. I want to fix what’s wrong, but it’s not in my power to fix what’s wrong. That’s God’s area. I am not God. When I can’t fix what’s wrong, I get frustrated. I stop engaging. My friend has taught me much about long-suffering and because of this, I have learned through difficult trials to stay and listen to God. I am learning how to stay engaged even when I don’t feel like it.

Why Am I Bringing This Up? asked us to blog on the “Power of We” for Blog Action Day. Dan King says, “It sounds a lot like the church.”

Blog Action Day site says: “Secondly,The Power of We is a celebration of people working together to make a positive difference in the world, either for their own communities or for people they will never meet half way around the world.”

In order for churches to change Biblically, we need to remember that the responsibility on Sunday doesn’t belong solely to the volunteer. Making people feel welcome, comforting, praying with or for someone, and helping in practical ways doesn’t always require an official position or a name tag. It just requires walking in our belief even when we don’t feel like being engaged. Sometimes being other-focused tends to rejuvenate what felt dead.

She’s a Tough Taskmaster

Ministry will disappoint, hurt, and break your heart. As I vented, my husband said, “Why don’t you just stop doing ministry?”

Because it also excites, rewards, and brings joy.

Isn’t life funny that way? The one thing that tears our hearts to jagged pieces is something that also makes us buoyant and happy. The reward is in the journey and in the results of the ministry even if the results take a long time or the journey is hard.

Tell me your ministry stories.

No Food in The Fridge

Compassion International
Compassion International (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Earlier this year, I volunteered to be a child correspondent with Compassion International. While our finances are tight, my husband and I are enjoying filling the gap and sending letters to unsponsored children. It surprised me when I heard that even some sponsored children don’t get letters.

A few letters and one package later, I get a response from him. It’s translated by someone else and I couldn’t help but smile when I read his favorites and heard his voice through the translators. The child lives in India. He has a large family, but at eleven years old his education is not like the eleven year olds in our country.  He doesn’t have a computer. He lives in a brick home, but his family brings home shockingly small pay and their food choices are few. My husband read his letter and sent me a text at work. Our child’s words as expressed through the translator caused my husband to re-think things. It caused me to think.

That started when I opened my refrigerator and mentally groused on the few food choices there. When I closed the refrigerator door, my child’s letter eased away the sigh in my heart. While he eats so little I eat much. There’s a Starbucks on every corner, a grocery store, food banks, and many, many amenities that our child can’t enjoy. Here I stand in the cool air of my refrigerator while my child’s parents probably shop daily. They probably don’t have a refrigerator. They eat for survival, not pleasure.

So I thanked God for my scrambled eggs with a bit of thyme, my toast and jam, and my glass of cold milk. I thanked God for organizations like Compassion who help children in poorer countries get the education and food they need to live healthy lives. I thanked God for my husband who said, “Let’s send him $25.”

And I remember how many times our pastor preached on giving and how many books I’ve read where the same lesson is told: God gives even the tightest purse strings plenty so we give out of our abundance to others and others give out of their abundance. Believe it or not, even the tightest among us can give, because God will bless us with what we need and there is always a little left to take care of our own needs, too.

It’s a matter of wise stewardship with what God has provided and belief, too, in His promises.

People Matter

Coffee cup
Coffee cup (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

Someone told me, “It’s tough to fellowship with people.” He was saying this to me after reminiscing about the good old days. I agreed with him as I have heard that same statement echoed across twitter and Facebook within all age groups. People in real life don’t seem to be reaching out to people beyond their small circle of friends and family. They’ll spend hours on Facebook playing games, sending app requests to others they don’t hang out with, and forwards to people they haven’t spoken to or sent a personal email to in months, but they’ll hang out with the same people at church, never broadening their circle of friends.

I wonder what church would look like if we broadened our outreach?

A blogger reminded me how we should continue to reach out even if we’re doing all the inviting and rarely being invited in return. She shared the same frustration as I, taking time out from people because of the lack of love shown in return. Love is a verb, they say, and we love to quote it, but we have to act on it. Serving the homeless, on a missions field, or in a form of outreach is great stuff, but we are on a missions field every day that we interact with society.

Whether we’re always inviting or always the one being friendly, we must not give up on people. They matter to Jesus and should matter to us. This year I have reorganized my time, balancing writing, blogging, family, downtime and work to allow for serendipity—to be used by God wherever and whenever.

And sometimes that means shuffling my schedule to have coffee with someone who is hurting.


How are you making people matter (ministry doesn’t count)?

More Important Than Good Grades

English: Penticto Transit bus
English: Penticto Transit bus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“I told my daughter today that while I am proud that she wants to get A’s in college (yet to be foreseen if she does! ha), I’m more proud of her goal to know by name every driver of the transit buses she’s going to ride every day. It is about people! I still have a hard time remembering it myself.”From Lisa Here.

A quote from a fellow blogger in response to something I said. I had to post it as that is what we need more of in this world–more caring, less hurry.