Thursday, May 31, 2007

Nobody has a clue how powerful prayer really is

This is probably the smoothest preparation for this outreach that we have EVER had. I believe it's due to the spirit and caliber of our leaders, and more so, the fact that God is faithful and His favor is awesome. It's going to be a good day Saturday.

I'm winding down out here on the patio. It's a beautiful breezy night. I should have walked, but confess, I didn't. I worked at the office til' 7 pm on stuff for Saturday. Then Dustin came and drove Savanna and I to the grocery store. We shopped til' 8 and then I came home to my "second job" where I got some other things done. Finally I've finished cleaning the kitchen and I'm out here with the Lord. And it feels so good to be sitting here.

Today was a good day. We got so much accomplished. Our staff really is amazing. With this particular outreach I am now to a point where there is no explaining to do, we just go about what needs to be done, knowing it like a well oiled machine, basically. Still we do some new innovative things each year. Pastor T is amazing. He has helped take things to a techno level that we've never been at before. Today we went over all that and I'm so pleased with everything. He also whipped up a ton of newcomer DVD's for me at the drop of a hat, when he had so much else on his plate. We decided to give these to our first time guests instead of brochures this year, however we had almost run out of what we gave out at Easter. We are notorious on our staff for deciding at the last moment, "let's do something that's going to put us over the edge but really make the day more special..." Things are going real well to this point where I will actually be able to spend more time in prayer than I ever have! I even moved the "finish" time tomorrow night up 30 minutes to give me more time. I'm very pleased with this. Tomorrow I meet with Dr. and Mrs. Kuert, however even with that and the final set up it still leaves me much time to get in the zone. Yes!!!

Right now I'm reading II Corinthians 1, and a simple verse that I never really gave much attention to stuck out to me tonight...verse 11 ~ "as you help us by your prayers...then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many."

Prayer is so powerful, nobody really has a clue I believe (including me) as to just how much it accomplishes in the earth. Lately instead of praying just what comes to mind and is on my heart, I have stuck to a definite list each day and drilled certain things in prayer, daily, relentlessly. I am open to God bringing other things to mind but my point is, I keep some things, beyond my family which is a constant, also consistent each day. The past two weeks, I've seen some real answers to prayer from that list. The first was that God's will be done in the Miami trip. There were some real breakthroughs there. Then I have been praying for my trip to Africa and some things have taken place with that that have really been great. (more later) And then I have been praying every day for little Hunter, a baby at our church who possibly had cancer. The tests came back - no cancer. It's benign and very small. Now we just have to pray it competely OUT. I can basically cross them off the list however I am not yet, because I want to pray them through to absolute completion and protect what has been gained through intercession. Even though the Miami retreat is over, I have prayed that what the ladies received will not be stolen from them by the enemy and the cares of this world.

Today I went to intercessory prayer at our church..."Hand to Hand Combat" is what it's called. The ladies anointed me and prayed over me, and then we prayed for the outreach and some other stuff. It was a powerful time where I really sensed God in a strong way as I walked with him the rest of the day. The prayer of agreement is so powerful and of course praying in God's will. (The reason I pray in the spirit so much...) I can't wait to see what God will do on Saturday. We've got some great God-ideas up our sleeve, and a ton of unsaved people coming! Now what could be better than that?

Got to go...Savanna wants me to come in and snuggle up and watch TV for a while. And then I'll spend some time with my man. Only my time with the Lord is better than that!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

God is faithful

Tonight before bed I was reading Come Away and normally I'll print a portion of it, if it really spoke to me. But not this time. It was so intimate, I just want to cherish it between God and I. So I'll just leave it at the fact that He blessed me incredibly with a comforting word. I've learned from Bob Sorge's teaching that when we miss our time with God, He's not waiting to beat us over the head and discipline us. Instead, he's SAD for us. He knows what we are missing and He so wants to bless us. In getting alone with God and reading His Word, talking to Him and gleaning from other books, I AM SO BLESSED. God is faithful. No matter what I am going through He is so faithful to show up and speak to me when I give Him the time He deserves.

A human being that blessed me today was Pastor T. It seemed the past few days nothing was coming together. So many things were stressing me out, some little - and some major. Today he wanted to show me the promo he made for Saturday's women's event. I was so weary with things eating away at me that I didn't even want to watch it at first and I said, "nothing's coming together for me" and he said, 'WELL THIS IS!' and sounded really excited. I sat down to watch the promo and it was excellent. All I could say afterwards is, 'that's the best thing I've seen all week!" He also gave me a few uplifting words that meant a lot this afternoon. He's a very "up" person and I enjoy that about him.

Things are really moving along well for Saturday's outreach. The women's team has done an exemplary job. No stress with any of's all good. We are almost filled to capacity...things are going well with everyone getting their responsibilities in order. I just want to keep my head in the game.

This is a season right now where even when I share with friends in ministry what's wrong they say, "oh wow, me too..." It seems like everyone I know needs a boost right now. There is no friend that I share with who doesn't say back to me, "now that you've gotten that off your chest I have to tell you I am in need of desperate prayer..." Makes me realize how important others are to us in this journey of life. Sometimes you just have to know you're not alone. Others have struggles, and leaning on one another sure does make things easier to handle.

Dr. Lee asked Larry and I to teach/share part of co-hort this coming week. It's a busy weekend and it will be a total crunch to try to do that. But we don't want to let him down. The bigger issue is, we're drained right now with some things and wonder if what we say will be worthwhile, but God knows and He'll direct us and help us.

We had our interviews with the St. Pete Times and Tampa Tribune. They interviewed a few more people too, and we'll see how things come out.

So much going on, and if I can make it through this weekend successfully that will just be peachy. I have a few things going on this summer but nothing seriously HUGE until fall. Important things, yes. But things that will weigh as much on me as a major I'm looking forward to putting more of my efforts into weekly things vs. one huge thing.

And...I'm looking forward to increasing my time with the Lord even more. Because for sure that is what makes all things possible.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The power of zingers

Well, I'm pretty much as real as you can get, so I'll just admit, it was a lousy day at the office today. The whole day just felt like a dark night, staring into space just kind of numb. Nothing to do with staff (thank God I don't deal with that anymore and haven't for ages!) Just other disappointing stuff. Some days all you have to hold on to is the call of God.

I do hang on to that fact that I know I'm called beyond a shadow of a doubt, and in addition to that I am so grateful about my relationship with Larry, (it really is a rock when having days like this) and I treasure my family, friends and our faithful people who really partner with us. Some days when things are particularly difficult, I go stare at my "balcony board" (all the encouraging letters from people are posted on there), or call a friend like I did tonight (thanks, Randy!) or sit in my bathtub like I'm going to do in a few minutes... it gives me a respite from the darkness I'm going through.

So tonight I was doing my devos on the patio after walking and this was honestly the passage for today (couldn't believe this fell on this particular day -- God is so awesome!) I Corinthians 15:57: "Therefore my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain."

Then I come to a passage in Come Away that says this, "Know that whenever faith brings Me on the scene, everything is changed. No negative force can occupy the same space as my Spirit. Ask for the victory. I will come and bring it! Don't look for the victory - look for Me, and you will see the victory that I will bring with Me. After I have come, you will behold the miracles that I shall do."

That book is prophetic zinger after prophetic zinger to my heart. You know, some days all you have to hang on to is a zinger!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Don't put me in a box!

The following blog was written by my good friend, Pastor Tara Sloan. Tara and I have known each other since about 1999 (I think! It's been at least that long but I can't remember how long exactly.) We both enjoy Ruby Tuesday's salad bar, and Sara Groves Music. Our lives were never the same after attending a women in ministry conference in Springfield, MO together. We made a promise to each other on a bus that we'll never forget. (It's a secret, but when this ministry dream happens for us, we'll let you know!) She and her husband Craig are a dynamic duo. I enjoy hearing anything Tara or Craig preach or write. Anyway, Tara is a great pastor, great wife, Mother of five beautiful girls, leader, role model, etc. and you should check out her blog at This is an exceptional blog she wrote about not being boxed into people's design for you, but to fulfill the unique call of God upon your life. I don't reprint things very often from anywhere else, but when a friend writes something that really strikes a chord with me, and I want to share it with everybody, I do. Here it is...

I have issues. Ha! Got your attention. Yes, I have issues, you have issues, and we all have issues! However, one of my biggest issues is not with myself, but with people who try to confine me into what they desire me to be. Honestly, I cannot stand it! Whenever I feel like I am being forced into a box, I come out kicking and screaming. Okay, not literally, but inwardly and when I vent to Craig at home. I simply refuse to be put into a box.

In Jeremiah, the Lord says that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” I take that as meaning we’re all different, because really, what would be so wonderful about making billions of the same person over and over and over?

Maybe it is just me, but I like being different. I like “shocking” people and making them think. Not in a bad way, but in a necessary way!

Craig and I were at a gathering of pastors and ministers once where I had not met some of the people. So, we’re being introduced here and there as “Pastor Craig Sloan, and this is Pastor Craig’s wife.” Now, understand that Craig and I both laughed and re-introduced us as, “Pastors Craig and Tara Sloan, from Oxford, Alabama.” As we walked off the people who had been introducing us tried to explain why they were introducing us the way they were. It really meant nothing to me; I had gotten my point across. I was NOT going into that box!

Even if I were not a licensed pastor, I would still have a problem with being introduced as Pastor Craig’s wife. I mean, of course I am his wife, but I also have a name! And an identity of my own!
For too long, women in ministry and pastors’ wives have been compartmentalized, categorized, labeled, and boxed up. We are expected to act a certain way, talk a certain way, look a certain way, and perform a certain way.

Recently an article published in Time Magazine about pastors’ wives, “Pastors’ Wives Come Together.”, troubled me. At first I thought, “Wow! How great! A secular article about unifying pastor’s wives!” Then I read it and I was disappointed.

The article begins with a ridiculous “job description” for the pastor’s wife. In the next paragraph, looming statistics declare the role of a pastoral spouse as the most miserable job in the universe. In addition, the pastor’s wife is also slated as the number one reason pastors live the ministry.

The article does give kudos to some Anyway, it is sad situation when pastor’s wives are feeling the way they do. According to statistics:

* Eighty percent of pastor's wives feel left out and unappreciated by the church members.
* Eighty percent of pastors' spouses wish their spouse would choose another profession.
* Eighty percent of pastors' wives feel pressured to do things and be something in the church that they are really not.
* The majority of pastor's wives surveyed said that the most destructive event that has occurred in their marriage and family was the day they entered the ministry.

After reading these statistics and many more, I began to feel a mixture of emotions. First, I felt bewildered! I wondered where in the world they found these women! Who had they spoken to? It was hard for me to grasp.

Then I got angry. I got angry that these women were made to feel this way. I got angry because deep down, every pastoral couple knows that they are both called into ministry together. I got angry because I know the very reason these women are suffering is because they are being forced into a box. They are tired of fighting, they are weary from trying to please everyone, and they are fed up with being expected to be perfect.

I am all for the online support. I frequent those boards myself Anyway, it is sad situation when pastor’s wives are feeling the way they do. According to statistics:

* Eighty percent of pastor's wives feel left out and unappreciated by the church members.
* Eighty percent of pastors' spouses wish their spouse would choose another profession.
* Eighty percent of pastors' wives feel pressured to do things and be something in the church that they are really not.
* The majority of pastor's wives surveyed said that the most destructive event that has occurred in their marriage and family was the day they entered the ministry.

After reading these statistics and many more, I began to feel a mixture of emotions. First, I felt bewildered! I wondered where in the world they found these women! Who had they spoken to? It was hard for me to grasp.

Then I got angry. I got angry that these women were made to feel this way. I got angry because deep down, every pastoral couple knows that they are both called into ministry together. I got angry because I know the very reason these women are suffering is because they are being forced into a box. They are tired of fighting, they are weary from trying to please everyone, and they are fed up with being expected to be perfect.

I am all for the online support. I frequent those boards myself but I also know that a lot more than whining, complaining and recipe swapping goes on there. The women on those boards are God fearing, praying, encouraging, talented, called, chosen, and fired up women of destiny!

If not us, who?

We had a good day in the house yesterday at Northside. Memorial Day weekend is usually our lowest attendance of the year - and it was, however the effectiveness of the service was there and that's really what mattered. We had our ministry fair and also the "someday" drama that I wrote to go with the message and things came together well. I was so pleased with the amount of people who stayed, visited the displays and had lunch.

Thankfully I have had a much needed respite the last 24 hours. We were supposed to have newcomers night last night but with so many away for Memorial Day we didn't end up having it. Therefore I had the night off. We went to the Garlands and fellowshipped with them and the Coopers for many hours, but then I got to just come home and rest. It was so nice. I had been so stressed going into the weekend with everything and desperately wanted some down time. Joy and Keith invited us over today and we were supposed to be at their house at 8 am this morning. We were going shopping all day and then to their home for a cook out. However,they called last night and said Joy was sick and had to cancel. I am not glad she's sick at all, in fact sad she is sick. However, I needed to sleep and I needed a day to stay in my jammies. This was it! I slept til 10:30 and then after resting most of the day, I submitted some of my work on line (writing projects) to various publishers. I have been tweaking a few projects in my spare (?) time this past week...actually I had no spare time but I made time on a few late nights because I was under a deadline for one of the projects and just had to. It's actually relaxing to me to lay in bed with my laptop and submit already created projects. I feel very accomplished getting them off my back and sending them. Now, the wait!

Decided to get up out of my comfy bed and walk a few miles after that. I'm always saying it is difficult time wise to exercise and that's on a day like this that is wide open I want to take advantage. After that I came to the patio to enjoy my books and the Word and pray a little.

There's a beautiful breeze blowing out here and the sun has just set. I really don't want to go back in but I do need to spend time with Larry. Before I go back in, I want to recap something I read tonight in Come Away My Beloved, that really resonated with me...

"Tarry not for a convenient time. The movings of the Spirit are never convenient to the interests of the flesh, and I shall engineer your circumstances to conform to my plan and to My will. All the glittering enticements of this transient life are as chaff in comparison for God's gifts and calling never waver and My giving is restricted only by the will and choice of the recipient."

That's exactly what I preached about yesterday. There will never be a convenient time to abandon all to serve the interests of God. There will never be an easy time to walk away from all else to devote yourself to the cause of Christ. If not us, who? And if not now, when?

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Stressed but blessed

Ever hear that saying, "'I'm too blessed to be stressed"? I've tried it but it didn't work for me.

I say, "I'm not going to be stressed...I am not going to be stressed" and repeat that to myself. But, when I get into a crunch time no matter what I tell myself - whether I speak it, don't speak it, pray, don't pray, take a day off, or don't take a day off - just knowing I have the stuff going on that I have to deal with at the time puts stress on me whether consciously or subconciously.

Even if I purposely tell myself I am not going to worry and I'm going to trust, somewhere in my brain I see what's ahead of me and it starts the acid churning inside of me... For instance I have been better at not worrying on purpose -- purposely praying instead of worrying, casting my cares upon the Lord. I honestly am getting better about that but I believe in the core of my inner being I know what's on my agenda and my body still reacts to that.

This week I was preaching twice - both Wed and Sunday. Dustin's graduation party was Thursday and his graduation was today. I had the Titus Project Mentoring group. Pastor Lindsay and I went canvassing to local businesses to get things for princess luncheon. I had all my daily work to do both at home and church. Tomorrow is the 'ministry fair' at church. We are getting ready for our princess luncheon outreach - our largest outreach of the year. I have a zillion things on my mind about that. Both the Tampa Tribune and the St. Pete Times have called Larry and I for interviews this week - both probably on Tuesday of this upcoming week. (what a wonderful blessing! However, it's just something else to add in what is the busiest week of my year.) The week of Princess outreach I always 'live at the church'. Larry knows I'm wasted that week as far as home stuff. It's just a week my family understands nothing else gets too much attention but that outreach. This is the only week that Dr. & Mrs. Kuert could meet with me for my upcoming preaching trip overseas, to meet and go over everything. I'm leaving to go to meet with them on what is usually the busiest day of my life already.

At the same time I'm trying to keep laundry washed, the house relatively clean, my private time with God, (if I don't stay prayed up all of this is a wash anyway and I might as well do none of it!)

So I find myself right now in the same state that I am normally in when I have a week like this. No matter how much I pray or worship or what not, I find that usually I get a bunch of little canker sores in my mouth due to stress. Not cold sores (fever blister types) but little canker sores as in like if you eat a pineapple or orange, or something else with a lot of acid - or you accidently bite the side of your mouth and get one. I think it's just the acid I produce from stress (I've also had a stomach ulcer before due to the same thing in the past.) Pastor Lindsay has kiddingly said I need to call weeks like this, 'canker sore week'.) Nobody would know unless I just told you this gross piece of personal info as they are all inside and I just go about my normal life. But it's just a way I know my body realizes my level of "stuff" that's going on whether I talk about it or not.

I am so blessed by all the opportunities I have right now and what is happening in my life. God has been so good to me and to our family. Take for instance Dustin's party. I was happy for him. This was a great occasion for him and for us. I just wanted it to be "perfect" as usual. I was working so hard on everything (cooking the food just right, making the cake just right, selecting all the right pics for the presentation, yada yada yada)... and in the process of trying to make everything perfecto like I imagine it, I get stressed tho' I try not to.

This is just a really crazy week for me and while I'm accomplishing it all, I'm doing so sipping on a Slurpee to try to ease my mouth pain a little bit. :-) It hurts to talk, to drink, to do really anything but I just can't worry about it - I have too much to do to stop and feel the pain or worry consciously.

When you friends think of me who read this, please just pray that I can get everyone done without even subconciously worrying this week.

Okay, as for what I'm reading tonight, I am out on the patio reading Secrets of the Secret Place and the chapter I was reading tonight talks about reading different parts of the Bible each day - not just staying in one chapter exclusively and how this benefits you so much more. I do like the idea, after reading it and hearing how the author does it and why. So I'm going to try it. When I followed up my reading there by going to Come Away My Beloved, the chapter I read talked about a love for the Word and reasons to stay in the Word. I like this quote here, "Sanctification is accomplished in no one by accident. Learn my rules and put them into practice consistently if you desire to see progress in the growth of your soul. Holiness is not a feeling - it is the end product of obedience. Purity is not a gift - it is the result of repentance and serious pursuit of God." Good stuff. And just the kind of stuff I am making reality in my life...

Now if I can just stop being subconsciously stressed...

Larry is out here on the patio with me...he came out and talked to me a while and then called a pastor friend to talk for a while. I'm getting ready to pray, spend some time with Larry and go to sleep. Larry has never changed out of his black suit from all the stuff he had going on today. He's sitting out here on the patio lounge chair in his black suit. (That's unusual for him...) TRUST ME, I will make some time for this man tonight. :-)

Dustin's Graduation

Today was Dustin's graduation. I can't believe my baby (actually my firstborn, however still in my eyes my little baby) has come to this point in his life. It's amazing to me. It seems like yesterday I was just putting him on the school bus for the first time. I remember laying beside his bed the night before he started school, just crying. Now, he's a graduate. He drives everywhere on his own. (that still scares me to death) It is a hard adjustment for me, quite honestly but I am managing. I told Lisa today that I think she and I should write a book about how to navigate this particular stage. She said..."that is, if we survive it..." I say we should write a book because I don't know anybody who has written specifically about some of the things we are dealing with and I'd really like some resources.

After the graduation we went to Olive Garden. The Currie's came as well as the Mackley's, Ashley and Pastor Matt.

When we got home from Olive Garden Dustin came home and went straight to sleep. He is so tired. He had a real late night. Last night he had organized a benefit for Oasis, and it was six bands who came to do a concert. He has been calling these bands for months now, negotiating for them to come and do this benefit. One came all the way from Palm Coast. After cleaning up and putting stuff back in place they got home at 3 am. I thought the concert was a great success. I am proud of all the work he put into it. None of the bands are my type (ska, screamo, etc.) but I know all the work that went into it and I'm so delighted with the results. You could tell these kids were having a great time.

I am so proud of Dustin and just thank the Lord despite a ton of mistakes I've made, he's turned out to be a wonderful boy.

My greatest concern is, he's the kind of guy who can really be taken advantage of by girls. This is on the top of my prayer list. And I'm taking lots of notes in case I really do write a book on this someday. :-)

Pictured in this last pic are Dustin and Bobby...his friend and one of our other "sons" we claim as our own. The other night at the party we had for Dustin, both Laura and Bobby talked about not only how much Dustin's friendship means to them but the fact that he brought them to the Lord and to church. (I had a few of his friends give little speeches. They were so touching.) I am so proud of Dustin for his consistent witness. When Larry got up and talked, he spoke of the fact that Dustin gave his heart to the Lord and 2 and 1/2 years old and has never turned aside from the Lord. He is such a God-loving young man and we are so very proud of him in so many ways. (Have I said that already?) :-)

No matter how old he gets or how many milestones come in his life he will always be Momma's Chocki Woki.

Friday, May 25, 2007

"Please, just be yourself...we know you're human..."

Time after time over the past 20 years of pastoring I have had church people say things like, "we know you're human," or "you can be honest about how you feel...really..." or, "we want you to be yourself around us." But I have learned the hard way that church people, at least 99% of them who say that, do not really mean it. Our staff has had to learn a lot of lessons about this. Larry and I had already learned this lesson years ago but now we find ourselves explaining it to our staff pastors. They have been in ministry for a few years compared to our 20, and some of them just aren't used to this type of behavior from others yet.

Take for instance, things that are funny. There are times we have absolute crazy things happen. Take for instance, we are praying for someone and their wig falls off. If everyone else in the church laughs about it, it's expected. We pastors manage to hold it in until after service but if we laugh about it later, or joke over it at a diner after service, some look at it like we shouldn't have done that...we should be above that, laughing at someone else's expense. Suddenly, laughing at the wig falling off becomes a real unspiritual thing to do.

Sometimes we have really crazy things happen to us as part of our work day. If we don't laugh about it, sometimes we'll go crazy. We pastors handle a lot of heavy things in the course of our week. If we don't lighten up occasionally we'll get ulcers! Not long ago, a woman stopped by the church office and wanted us to pray for her because "satan was in her van." I told her, "with all due respect 'mam, if we have satan cooped up in a 1998 Dodge Caravan, let's leave him there! He's not omnipresent, so therefore if we have him trapped in a van here in Tampa, the rest of the world will be really happy!" The staff got a great laugh at this but if we were to tell some parishoners what we laugh over in our office some would definitely be (and some have said they are) offended that we would do such a thing. We really have to keep secret many times the things we find humor in, or that which we discuss even in fun.

The other day I was talking to a pastor who was at a church member's home playing a board game. The board game contained questions about secular songs. The pastor and his wife could have easily won the board game as they knew all the answers. However, they lost on purpose because they knew if they answered all the questions about these secular songs, the family whose house they were at would be offended that they knew the answers and wonder why in the world they were listening to "secular radio." Is that crazy or what? They said, "we were over there supposedly to have fun but we knew we couldn't be ourselves or it would have cost us more than we wanted to pay later on..." How sad.

I learned my lesson many years ago on this and it pretty much set my course from there on out. At another church we pastored years ago, I was really upset about a couple leaving a church. They got caught up in some really immature actions/attitudes and rather than work things out, they left. I was angry that satan got a foothold and angry that they couldn't have the maturity to stay and talk through things. Not long after they left, a church member who I thought really cared about me asked me to go for coffee with them. When we got there she said, "Pastor Deanna, I know you must be upset over Sam & Susie leaving. How do you really feel about all this and how are you doing with it?" I hesitated to state my feelings, ever so careful - realizing that anything you say can and will be used against you. I wasn't going to open up at first, and then they said, " honest...share with me how you really feel. I know you probably don't have anybody to talk to and I want to be a real friend. I know you must be hurting right now after all you poured into their lives, to have them just up and leave." I thought this person genuinely cared and I let my guard down. We had only been senior pastoring for a short time and honestly I didn't completely know better...I didn't realize how much this would cost me. I said, "Well honestly, I really am hurting. I am saddened by their departure. I have been so mad about it, and the fact that they couldn't stay and talk this out that I could just wring their necks!" BIG MISTAKE. The person not only thought my complete honesty about my feelings was totally inappropriate, but they went home, picked up the phone, called that couple and the first thing out of their mouth was, "would you believe Pastor Deanna had the nerve to say she wants to wring your necks?" Ughhhhh!!!!!!!!

I can't even tell you how much of a problem those few comments in the coffee shop cost me!!! Mind you, I didn't say those comments to hurt Sam & Susie - I loved them and missed them, and was sad. But all that didn't matter. What did matter was, I shared my honest feelings and it completely offended someone. I looked at them as my "spiritual kids" and well, sometimes a Mom just says stuff like that. With my own kids, Dustin, Jordan and Savanna I sometimes get upset and want to "wring their necks" so to speak (not literally of course!) but sometimes I just feel exasperated and it's just a figure of speech. Suffice it to say, after this church member stabbed me in the back by turning these words on me, I realized that most church people don't really want to know what you think. They are asking you for an honest response or for you to be vulnerable with them and open up, but honestly, they have a vision in their minds of what their pastor should be and despite whatever is coming out of their mouth, that is what they expect you to uphold.

I was reading Craig Groeshel's "Confessions of a Pastor" and I related so much to it. It's an excellent book and our whole staff enjoyed it. I have to admire the guy, I mean, he stood up in front of his whole church and basically preached that book and was gut level honest with all of them. And...he's still pastoring there, after telling them things like the fact that he can't stand a whole lot of people and he hates prayer meetings. This just endeared his church to him more.

How come that just doesn't happen though, in most other cases? Maybe it's the fact that he is pastoring so many new Christians that don't have this idea conjured up in their heads that pastors don't have the same thoughts as they do.

Imagine this...somebody gets up to sing a "special" on Sunday morning. It's musically terrible. If Randy, Paula and Simon were there, you'd hear, "What the bloody *%@ was that?!" from Simon. Randy would say, "Dog, it's just not working for me...." Paula would say, "first of all, you look great. I love your coordinated outfit..." but not really go there about how off key it was. Most of the congregation watches American Idol and Simon is probably many of their favorite judge. They think his comments are hysterical. Now, some of the congregants can snicker after church over lunch about the special, but if they found out that pastors in a closed door pastoral staff meeting said it lacked anything, they would have a fit. Because pastors just...aren't supposed to do that, right? We're supposed to have smiles on our faces 24/7...when somebody is off key in church we are never supposed to find it funny...and above all, we aren't supposed to ever, ever get angry.

My husband played sports in high school and college. He was very competitive. But once he became a pastor he saw how different the expectations were on the field. After we started youth pastoring, he began playing on the church softball team. One time he was disappointed at himself and a play that he messed up. As he was walking off the field, he threw his glove on the ground and was clearly not pleased (with himself). Someone on the team mentioned that they had no more respect for him because he showed his anger at having made a mistake. Larry learned quickly that rules of church sports or really anything else you do as a pastor are completely different than they are for anyone else. Pastors are not supposed to be upset when they fumble balls. Don't you know when they fumble, they are supposed to raise their hands in the air and do a Holy Ghost dance?

I know as leaders we are judged more strictly and in many regards called to a higher standard. But you wonder how far that goes sometimes. And the other thing is, with that being the case, I really wish we would never hear from another church member again, "really...I'm your friend...I know you're human...tell me what you think..." In my experience those are some of the most dangerous words I've ever heard.

I can't help it. I feel like a cat who once walked on a hot stove. I just don't want to go there again. I now see it happening with some of our staff. They do things that any normal person or Christian would do. And yet they hear, "it's just not appropriate for our pastors to feel that way..." Right now there is someone in the church who I do believe cares about me very much and I genuinely think they love Larry and I to pieces. But they always say, "I wish you were more vulnerable. I sense you will never open up fully." As much as I love that person, there is a reason for my lack of complete openness with anyone besides staff or friends outside the church.

You just never know if the person asking you to be yourself is in that 1% of people who really mean it.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Dustin's graduation party

Tonight was Dustin's graduation party at our house. He graduates Saturday but I didn't want his party to be rushed or to not be able to know exactly what time we would be home from the graduation, to know exactly what time the party would start, etc. so I planned it for another night. As all the kids are out of school tonight was a great night. We had the party from 7-11 pm and then they all took off to go to see the new Pirates movie. They are there now and I have a quiet house so here I am...

Dustin wanted a chocolate cake with chocolate icing and also chocolate chip cookies. I made a homemade cake and decorated it with my pampered chef decorator and made a top for the cake that had Dustin's face in a cap and gown and "Dustin, we are proud of you" in scrabble letters. (He loves scrabble and is in the scrabble club...) I made dinner for the party - salad, baked rigatoni, garlic bread and dessert, plus his favorite punch. I had photos of him on stands on the tables. One table was his senior portraits and the other was his photos as a baby.

After dinner we called everyone in the family room and several of his friends gave speeches - Kaitlyn, Laura, Stephen, Bobby and then Larry and I. Then I had a special DVD I had made of pictures of him throughout the years, to the songs, "Fly Away with You" by Michael W. Smith and then "Dust in the Wind" by Kansas.

Every time I watched the DVD beforehand privately I cried and it was so difficult to make it through without falling apart. When the crowd watched it tonight I busied myself taking pictures...didn't want to go to pieces during the party. Dustin seemed to love the entire night. We also got him an X-Box 360. He's pretty much on cloud 9 over that!

I'm so proud of him. What an awesomely sweet boy I have. I know I talk about him all the time and copy/paste stuff he writes all the time...but indulge me at least one more's the "about me" from his Myspace this week...I'd say he changes it at least once a week:

Greetings. I hear that is the dorky way to introduce myself so I figured I'd start things that way. My name is Dustin. If you know more cool ways to make fun of my name let me know because I've run out of them. I don't smoke, drink, or have sex because I think I am better than that. Like most kids that like humbling themselves rant about, I am a product of my environment. My parents have raised me to be a fully functioning member of society. As my days progress and I see myself being riddled with more responsibilities I realize I don't want to grow up. I wish I could waste my days away playing Nintendo and eating Little Debbie's. It becomes hard when I am given grown up situations and I have to become adult Dustin. Like when people decide to not be good friends it makes me want to do what I did when I was a child and not play with them anymore, call them doody head, and be on my merry way. I have realized lately that doesn't work so much anymore. Through everything I have found that living my life for Jesus Christ makes things less difficult. Less difficult is good, I like it. Jesus is my best friend and I mean that wholeheartedly. If you have a problem and you need help, I'll be here to talk. I keep confidences.

Okay, so that's his profile for this week. I thought it was sweet and funny, as usual.

I'm so proud of him for so many things. He lights up my life. I can't believe he's graduating Saturday.

Favorite Songs

(I copied this from my friend Pastor Leanne Weber’s blog who copied it from our mutual friend Pastor Tara Sloan's blog - enjoy!)

Favorite Song From Childhood: I think I love you by David Cassidy

Favorite High School Dance Song: 1999 - Prince

Senior Class Song: I can’t remember anymore but I think it was something by Journey, I would have to look it up in my yearbook again.

Song That Makes You Think of College: Whole Unguarded album - Amy Grant

Favorite Rock & Roll Song: Start me up – Rolling Stones

Favorite Disco Song: Stayin Alive – Bee Gees

Favorite Country Song: Man, I Feel Like a Woman – Shania Twain

Favorite Pop Song: So Happy Together - Beatles

Favorite All Time Love Song: Because You Loved Me – Celine Dion

Favorite Break Up Song: I Will Survive – Gloria Gaynor

Favorite Slow Dance Song: The Way You Look Tonight - Sinatra

Song That Always Makes You Cry: Fly Away with You

Songs About Your Kid/s: Fly Away With You

Song That Reminds You Of Your Husband: Still the One - Orleans

Favorite Christmas Song: O Little Town of Bethlehem

Favorite Gospel/Praise Song: Kirk Franklin’s “Why We Sing”

Favorite Ringtone on Cellphone: Theme from Wonder Woman – that’s the ringtone on my husband’s cell when I call him.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Ebb and flow

Times like this week are what make the ebb and flow of mine and Larry's relationship. I'm so glad I spent the time with him in Miami that I did. I knew as soon as I got home things were going to go full speed ahead with a crazy schedule. We have everything from regular services and work days to preparing for Dustin's graduation, his party (this Thursday night), Princess Luncheon outreach and so much more. Basically my days are packed and in between that I'm trying to keep the house clean. What happens in these times is that sometimes we feel a disconnect in our relationship for a little bit (not an "I'm mad at you" type thing, just sort of an exhaustion...instead of talking to him for a long time before bed, I just...fall into bed, and go to sleep.) Then we come back together again and say, "I've missed you so much..." I don't like that but it's part of the rollercoaster of a week or two like this.

One thing I'm not doing is shortchanging time with God - because I sure do need His anointing to do anything well that I'm doing in the upcoming weeks.

I didn't blog yesterday because I had a severe headache. I took what I thought were a few Excedrin Migraine tablets...and it didn't even touch my aching head. I did my little heating pad that I put in the microwave and put it on my head last night when I went to sleep, then got up and put it on there again early this morning. I wondered what in the world went wrong (Excedrin usually knocks it out) and then I realized that in my exhaustion of yesterday I grabbed two of the wrong pills - prescription pills - out of my pill case -- ughhhh!!! I could have REALLY hurt myself doing that, and it kinda freaked me out, but thankfully everything was ok. Larry said, "just drink a lot and pee it out." :-) That's the kind of advice he usually gives me. Anyway, so I've just had a nagging headache and I know it's just from the weird sleep schedule and Miami and a lot on my mind/body these last few days. But it's all good.

Went out in North Tampa all day today with Pastor Lindsay and we canvassed for the upcoming outreach. Last year we got so sick of the lack of people pounding the pavement to do it. We had a lot of church gifts, but that's not my vision. It never has been. I want the community businesses. That is my vision. We need as many community and corporate sponsorships as possible. And it can be done by those who have a gift to talk to people. And...well, she and I know a little about that. :-) So off we went, and we got very few "no's" and came back with quite a bit of loot for one day! And lots of call backs and pick ups. We were so excited about the stuff we got we're thinking of adding another day. Both of us need that like a hole in the head but here is the thing...we can do it and do it well and we know it's making for a much more spectacular day. Today I suggested to her that we do a DVD for training next year on how to do this. I'm excited that we are back on course with the vision of this outreach.

I came home, ate dinner and went back out to get all the food for Dustin's party. I'm making a whole meal. Plus he wants a homemade cake not a storebought one. I don't want to blog about what I got for it because he might read this but it's so cute. I'll take a pic of it and put it on here if it turns out like I envision. This Thurs night is his party and Saturday is his graduation, at the Sun Dome here in Tampa. Yippee!!! That's my boy. Such a wonderful young man.

Came home from the grocery store and watched me on TV. Tonight my Freshope interview aired. I thought it was pretty good. Larry liked it. I will watch it again at some point and be a little more analytical of it without my family around.

I came out on the patio for a little "zone" time with the Lord and decided to read through Colossions this week. Nothing earthshattering from it tonight, just reading along and also some passages from the other books I'm reading.

Come Away My Beloved said this that got my attention:

"I am calling my spirit filled believers to concentrated labor in this, the vineyard of prayer. Hidden from human eyes it is wide open to heaven and the saints in heaven join with you in this operation of God's love. Other ministries you must carry on alone, but in this you have a mutual fellowship, for those in heaven have also an intercessory ministry for their brothers and sisters here on earth."

Pretty awesome to think about.

I won't be planning a princess luncheon outreach in heaven...

I won't be teaching Real Life class...

I won't be preparing a leadership workshop...

I won't be doing laundry...

but I will be interceding. Okay, that tells me something about God's priorities.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Living in the full blessing of the Father's smile...

We had a great day in God's house today, with His Spirit speaking to us in a very special way drawing people to Him. Great worship, and I thought Larry's message was right on. We had one man saved today although there were many more God was speaking to who were wrestling a lot with their emotions and their will in surrendering to the Lord. Some things I knew about already, others just revealed to me by the Spirit of God, but in each case, something to pray about. I know God is doing a work.

The Lord helped me so much this morning. Both Larry and I were operating on three hours of sleep. I decided to unpack when I got home so by the time I unpacked my suitcase it left me with three hours. I didn't even keep hitting the snooze, I just got up on time, took a bath instead of a shower (I do that when I'm especially tired and don't want to stand up!) and then got in my robe and headed for the patio to drink my tea and center myself spiritually where I needed to be. Especially on a morning like this where I was beginning with little rest and could have gone topsy turvy, I knew I needed to prepare myself. After I did that for about 15-20 minutes I got ready and headed to church. The Lord helped me so much all day and I have had this happen so many times where I give a lot out of my spirit (not to mention physically) to help others and God gives the increased strength. I find when I am in this position sometimes he moves even more powerfully because I have even extra cause to lean on Him so much.

My ladies class was sparse today, but I believe it was powerful. Usually my class is really well attended, but sometimes people let stuff get the best of them and they are lazy. Sometimes it irritates me that no matter how much sleep I get or how poorly I feel (or some of my other ultra committed people in there feel) we get up and we are there on time. I hate excuses but as much as I hate excuses and sometimes tend to dwell on them, I know I need to STOP THAT when it happens. I need to keep my eyes on those who are faithful in these instances, and most of all keep my eyes on God's Word and His power. I realize in any given class there is somebody in there at a crossroads making a life altering decision and what I say is life or death to them. I can't afford to have my mind on the people who didn't show up and had some lame excuse. I have to absolutely give my all for those who ARE there.

So tonight I'm once again out on the patio. After lunch with friends, I came home and slept for two hours despite the kids knocking on my door a few times. Before we laid down I told Larry, "it's probably no use, but let's try". We went to sleep. Were awakened twice but just managed to mumble an answer and keep sleeping. Jordan let me know TODAY about something he has due for school tomorrow and needed stuff from the store. This is just standard operating procedure for him and it gets a little tiring. Yesterday I found $25 unexpectedly in an old purse which almost NEVER happens because I rarely if ever carry cash. I had so many things I wanted to use it for. Within less than 24 hours of finding it, it's gone. Dustin came in today and gave me a list of "must have's" - "necessities" - that he did not have the money for. Poof, it's gone. Then he told me he needed a ride to school tomorrow at what is not a normal time/schedule for us because of graduation rehearsal. That's not really an issue - I realize how important it is - I just loathe hearing about it when it's only a few hours away and I have to completely rearrange my schedule to accomodate him. These are the kinds of things that make me seriously want a valium prescription. But instead I just keep focusing on God's Word. ("This too shall pass" - God's Word to me today...) This was what I woke up to, but...the joy of the Lord is my strength. If I think about those type of things for too long I just get tense, so instead I'll just swing on the patio or sit in the jacuzzi , put on a Hillsong CD and forget I ever come home to hear any of these "surprises." When this happens with my children as it so often does, I am reminded that I need to praise and thank God when I come to him. It must really frost his flakes when we come to him and all we do is just tell him everything we need but don't say anything else. This is what I feel like when I come in the door from a ministry trip away and instead of even a "hi Mom" it's "uh, Mom, just to let you know, I need markers for school tomorrow." Many of us treat God that way and even worse and all I can think of is, how in the heck does he put up with us for two seconds flat? Makes you realize just a glimpse of the height, the depth, the awesome scope of the love and mercy of God. If I can only have just a drop of that kind of love and give to others...

So, here I sit on the patio. I got up from my twice interrupted nap (no, it doesn't end after your kids pass the baby stage) and came to the patio for a little debriefing with God today before I go in and set everything straight in the world of my family tonight, do a once over on the house, line up everything for tomorrow, etc. I have an excruciatingly busy week ahead of me this week...the kind of week where I don't even want to look at my initiative list because sometimes it sort of strikes fear in me when I do. But I know, I CAN DO ALL THINGS THROUGH HIM THAT GIVES ME STRENGTH.

For some reason God keeps taking me to Matthew 6. Relentlessly. It's even what He gav me to preach on at the women's retreat this past weekend. When I sit down to spend time with God just on a personal level, not a sermon preparation time, every book I open besides the bible even leads me back to Matthew 6. So I just keep meditating upon it and taking various things from it that He wants me to know. Today I was once again reading a passage in Come Away My Beloved and this was the attention getter today: "Do not question and do not doubt. Each day holds some small joy that shall escape you if you are preoccupied with tomorrow. Nothing daunts your Father. Nothing can restore the past and nothing can bind the future, but today you may live in the full blessing of the Father's smile."

I can't think of anything greater than living in the full blessing of the Father's smile. My initiative list is really obsolete if I am not living in the full blessing of His smile. More than anything, that's what I want to do.

Winding down on the way home

Well, I said no more blogging til’ Sunday night but I forgot that I’d be on the road for four and a half hours home and just might have some time. :-) I’ve been working on some work projects during this time driving home however my mind really isn’t on them at all and it’s difficult to jump right into that type of work after a retreat/conference versus before. That’s because my head is so full of the memories of what just happened. GOD IS SO GOOD. So here I sit debriefing on this Miami trip on my computer while driving past the Port Lucie exit.

We had great services. The Lord really did something powerful in the lives of those women, and I believe we are going to hear some great reports in the months to come. My prayer has been that God would protect these women from going home and having ‘the cares of this life’ as the Words says, choke out the Word of God that has been planted within them. The anointing was there – God’s Word went forth and His power was available to these ladies to move forward into the next level. I’m believing they will.

Here are some photos from the weekend…first there is me with Odalys Penton, the pastor’s wife. She’s a sweetheart. Just a wonderful pastor’s wife who loves these ladies so much and invests in their lives. She is a mentor and a discipler. The second photo is just of some of the ladies who were there.

Before service we had dinner at the resort. It was SO good, it was unbelievable. I had chicken marsala but they also had salmon that was out of the this world and I did have a bite of it off of someone’s plate after being invited to try it. I get to know people quickly on these ministry weekends, and we begin to behave just like family! :-) We finished it off with cheesecake though I did not eat my whole meal – I probably ate 1/3 of the entire thing. It was awesome but truthfully I did not need THAT much food and second, I don’t like to feel stuffed when I preach.

The service went until 9:30…so that puts Larry and I home at 2 am. I would have left earlier but God was really doing a work, and nothing messes with that – even my transportation or my sleep. Thankfully Larry had everything packed up, had the valet bring the car around and loaded it, and came to the conference room to pack my products and leave. It took all of a few moments to get it together and I had my pj’s hidden in a bag that I had with me so on the way out of the hotel I slipped into the restroom, put on my pj’s and went to the car. I figure with all these people walking around in skimpy swimsuits and God knows what else, a pair of flannel pj’s would not be too strange to see in the lobby even if it is a nice resort.

I’ll get home at 2 am, and have a little less than 4 hours of sleep til' I get up and go to church. The question on my mind I unpack at 2 am, or 6 am? Does it really matter? Six of one, half a dozen the other.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

A woman after God's heart

Today began bright and early as I got up at 6 am to get ready for the service here this morning at the women's retreat in Miami. Their theme for the weekend is, "The Heart of a Woman." This morning I talked about what it means to be a woman after God's heart. The Lord really moved and although I was supposed to wind up the service at 10:30 (it started with a breakfast first at 8) to release them to the beach and the pool - many stayed to pray. I did end at 10:30 and dismissed anyone who wanted to go and everyone stayed at first. Whether they came forward for prayer or not, most people prayed in their seats. When we were done praying probably at least half to a third of them were still in the room and had not gone to the beach yet. I know God did a real work in hearts and lives - glory to God!

I decided to come back and have lunch with Larry. He couldn't eat what the ladies were eating because of his fast. We walked down the boardwalk and he got a fruit plate and I got a grilled Mahi sandwich. (If you haven't figured it out yet, I love Mahi).

After that he came back to the room to study and pray and I went out on the beach by myself. A few ladies from the retreat were out on the beach - most were at the pool. After sitting and talking on the beach for a little while I headed out for at least an hour's walk just to enjoy the beach and pray some more and get the mind of the Lord for tonight's service. I already knew which direction to head, but he brings more clarity the more time I spend with him.

Time to come in, shower again and chill out a little bit and I've just been reading Secrets of the Secret Place, Come Away My Beloved, and my Bible. Interestingly enough the passage I'm reading in Come Away today is taken from Matthew 6, which is exactly where I'm preaching from tonight. Here's a quote that grabbed me: "Do not walk in the path of human reason, and resist the pressure that would project you into conjectures about the future. Live one day at a time! Simply striving to bring joy to your Father's heart is enough to keep you occupied. For you know that He loves you, and you will find peace as you rest in Him."

Good stuff.

Time to get myself ready for this evening - they are starting with a banquet/dinner, then service again...I'll post pictures later tomorrow if I have time to take some. I won't get out of service until at least 9 or so and then it will be 1:30, or 2:00 am when I get home so blogging will wait until tomorrow night at best. Tonight is going to be a power packed night in God. I can hardly wait to see what He'll do.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Shelter from the rain

Larry and I spent a few hours on the beach late this afternoon. I walked for about 45 minutes by myself and spent some time "in the zone" then came back and sat with him on lounge chairs on the sand while the sun went down. Finally one of the lifeguards came and asked for our chairs...we were some of the last people out there on the beach and they were collecting all the chairs and umbrellas. We came in and cleaned up and then headed to South Beach for dinner tonight. I love that area...the beauty, the energy, everything about it. We went to a place called the Waldorf Prime Time, and ate outside. It was really quite a beautiful spot. Right after we sat down, a massive storm started. I'm talking a torrential downpour. BUT...interestingly enough, it was like we were protected in a little cocoon. Although we were under a tent outside, most people under the tent still got very wet with water dripping down off of the sides, or blowing in. For some reason it was like we were in a protective bubble. We just sat at our table and nothing happened to us while the frenzy was going on. We just sat there and looked at our menus, and thought, "this is God's favor." We had a very nice unhurried date where we just talked about whatever came to mind and worried about absolutely nothing.

This was the best meal I have had in a long, long time. I was moaning with every bite. Some of the best Mahi Mahi I have EVER had. Larry is still on his Daniel fast so he had almost every vegetable on the menu. :-) He enjoyed it. They had some real good grilled asparagus for him.

The rain we walked for a while after dinner. The sounds, the smells, everything about the outdoors here, I love...

We were going to walk on the boardwalk when we got back to the resort but it was going to rain so we just came back to the room where I could get some things ready for the service in the morning, line up my books, CD's, and everything I need for a smooth morning. The candles are lit, but don't worry, I'm being watchful. :-)

Personally, (aside from what I'm speaking on tomorrow) I was reading Philippians 4. This is the book I've been reading for my personal devo's this week. Tonight the verse that captured my attention was, "Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God's peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and your minds as you live in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6,7

I'm really learning a lot more about this. Due to the fact that I'm a very diligent worker, I tend to rely on myself for everything and often think of what I'm going to do before I ever consider what God is going to do. I'm starting to reverse that more. Instead of wondering what I'm going to do about things initially, like I so often have, I'm learning to first say, "okay God, what are YOU going to do about this?"

There really is a reason for caution stickers on candles

So here's where we're at...the Holiday Resort in Miami Beach. It's absolutely beautiful.

I'm here to preach for a women's retreat this weekend.  When I got to my room, the women from the church had a special beach bag for me with a beach towel, sunscreen, a good book, a Dove chocolate bar, chap stick, etc. They also gave me a candle. (More about candles in a moment...) This retreat is really amazing - the location, the gourmet meals they are serving and all kinds of stuff.   I don't always get to bring Larry with me when I travel and speak, but this time I really wanted to being that it's in one of my favorite places (Miami) and at this amazing hotel.  

In a few moments I'm getting ready to hit the beach again with Larry and then have dinner. I have to preach three times this weekend and  I will probably get back to Tampa at about 2 am right in time to sleep four hours and then get up for church at 6 am. I know, I's a little crazy. But, I love to preach, and most of all I love to see lives changed. And I don't want to be away from our church which is my first love, on Sunday, if I don't have to. So I will do kind of inconvenient things to accommodate both at times. 
Okay, so the funniest thing happened last night and I already warned Larry I'm going to blog about it. He's used to my transparency and has just sort of resigned himself to it.  So here goes.

Last night after dinner Larry lit all the candles in our room. So then we're really connecting and things are going great...

In the midst of an absolutely amazing time of lovemaking, Larry yells to the top of his lungs, "OH MY GOSH!!!"

 I thought, "wow, this is an amazing response..." 

Until -- he leaped up off the bed, screaming his head off and I saw this ball of fire -- LITERALLY, on the nightstand. 

While throwing his clothes off he had unknowingly flicked an article of clothing over there and it landed on one of the candles. And now the clothes were on fire! So he picks up one end of it that is not on fire and runs in and throws the toilet! The fire is out but the room is a smoking up terribly. So I leap up on the bed and start jumping and waving pillows in front of the smoke detectors and I yell to Larry, "get up here and help me before management comes up here and we have to explain this!!!!!" 


So we are both totally naked, jumping up and down on the bed, fanning all the smoke detectors as hard as we can.

After this fiasco, I collapsed on the bed and laughed until I cried. It was all so funny, I was still laughing about it this morning and here I sit cracking up about it while I'm typing this now.

Moral of the story - you really should be careful what you do when there are a bunch of candles lit. I guess all the "caution" stickers on them about leaving them unattended really do exist for a purpose.

Don't worry, we'll be much more careful with the candles tonight.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

From where I sit...

things are absolutely beautiful. Larry and I are in Miami for the women's retreat I'm preaching at this weekend. Due to the distance involved, I came in a night early and there is actually quite a lot of free time at this event. That mixed with the fact that the hotel we're at is literally right on Miami Beach (as they say here, "the hotel where the beach is your backyard...) it makes for a perfect time to spend some time with my man as well. I definitely wanted to try and work it out for him to be with me on this one and thankfully, everything gelled together.

Spent 4 and 1/2 hours on the road to get here and it was bliss for me to work all that time and get things done that have been hanging over my head. Although I've spent time with the Lord lately, the amount of projects I'm working on has sort of zapped my creativity and affected my clarity. There have been times I sit at my desk and just have a huge blank because I don't know where to start and just when I do get started, I've got a phone interruption or a meeting, or what not. Being on the road, I put my headphones on, have Hillsong intstrumental on low, and viola! The creativity just flows and I bang projects out like there is no tomorrow. When I get tired of typing, I stop and talk with Larry about stuff we need to plan and decide for work. Everyone assumes when you co-pastor that means you have eons of time to do that at work. The truth is, if we don't do it over lunch we rarely have time to talk at work, because too much else is going on. Time in the car is very valuable. Usually we make more decisions to and from work than any other time. Anyway, suffice it to say I got an incredible amount of work done today.

We got in late this afternoon and after checking in, headed straight for the beach where we spent all our time til' dinner. I took a long prayer walk on the beach by myself and got in the water about up to my knees which was all I wanted to do today. (Tomorrow's another day...) It's so easy to get in the zone with God when I'm somewhere like this. I didn't appreciate the outdoors like this until I moved to Florida.

After my walk, Larry and I just sat for a while taking in the beautiful view. I was hoping we'd find something good within walking distance for dinner and it couldn't have been more perfect that Carrabbas (my favorite place) was just two blocks down. It's the most gorgeous one I've ever seen, with windows everywhere, fountains inside the restaurant, and more. After dinner it was dark, and we took a long walk on the boardwalk and took in the beautiful sights. Like I have said many times before, I love Tampa but Miami is my second favorite place. I love the surroundings, the people, everything about it. Not to mention I always get the most colorful shoes here. (Did I mention I'm in a very nice hotel, and my room is bright neon blue? Only in Miami.)

Well, it's like this...Larry has just lit all the candles. It's time for me to get off the computer. :-)

Tune in Tuesday night

Set your Tivo for this Tuesday night (May 22) at 8 pm for CTN (Christian Television Network) if you have it, or Sky Angel 2, as I'll be the guest on Freshope TV! If you don't have CTN or Sky Angel, just go to and you can watch the broadcast live at that time.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Packing up and heading out

I'm getting ready to leave for Miami for the women's retreat this weekend, and just getting loose ends tied up here in Tampa. Always so much to do, and the clock is running! Still not packed but I got things with church squared away...even made a video tonight for our upcoming women's outreach, with Pastor T. I believe he'll be able to edit miracles into it. I'm so appreciative of what he does. He has helped me so much with women's ministries and that just shows you what kind of staff member he is. He wouldn't have to give a rip about women's ministries, being a children's pastor but because his heart is for Larry and I, and for our vision - he is always helping me to make things better.

He helped me at the last minute to get some more CD's for the product table this weekend. We got a good clean copy of my Irresistible Woman message that I have preached at a few conferences. We burned it today on some CD's and Cathy made an insert and now I'll be able to have a few of those at the table this weekend.

I am still processing things spiritually for the weekend. I was reading in Secrets of the Secret Place a passage that says, "Intimacy precedes insight. Passion proceeds purpose. First comes the secret place, then comes divine guidance." I definitely realize that. My first message for this weekend is one that I would have never originally thought of for a women's retreat. It's about secrets to a breakthrough but going a different direction that I usually it's all about TRUST...I'm trusting that what I've heard from God out on the patio is going to transfer into their hearts at the retreat.

Got my hair done today and saw Ada...always a blessing...she lifts my spirit every time, even when I'm already up she just lifts it higher! I also lost 3.4 pounds today. Isn't that great? Every ounce counts. And I'm remembering...."Progress, not perfection."

Larry just began a 40 day fast. This is day three and it's always his hardest. I was so touched yesterday in the car when he told me things he's fasting for. One of the things is something for me - for one of my dreams to come true. It's the first thing that was on his heart. I honestly didn't know it meant so much to him. I guess because it's important to me, it has become so to him.

Usually I like packing and hate unpacking. Right now I don't feel like doing either. I worked on the house yesterday a lot in between getting a lot of church work done, and prepping for the Eagles leadership meeting. Then I had a really full day today. I'm tired and need some sleep. Will read a little more, pray about two or three things on my heart, and get some sleep.

I'm believing for great things this weekend - miracles - something unexpected. Tonight I was reading Psalm 77:12-14 and it says, "I will meditate on all your works and co

nsider all your mighty deeds. Your ways, O God, are holy. What god is so great as our God? You are the God who performs miracles." (NIV)


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

In the still of the night

Ending my day, on the patio, sitting on the swing in my Wonder Woman pajamas (thank you, Becky) and robe (thank you, Candy). My ladies are so good to me, always presenting me with special stuff like this. I tell them I appreciate it but I hope they really, really know it. By the way, Susan, I know you are reading my blog like you do every day and night so let me say I am also sitting here wearing the vanilla perfume you gave me last Wednesday night. :-) So, here I sit again in the stillness of the midnight hour, just reading Come Away My Beloved, by Frances Roberts. I have a warm and inviting man inside the house waiting for me, but first I want to spend some time with the One who loves me most...God Himself.

This grabbed me tonight ~ "Write those things I say to you. Write and hold back nothing of all I shall say to you. For I shall speak to you in the darkness and shall make your way a path of light. I will cry to you out of the confusion round about and you shall hear my voice and shall know that which I do. For my way is hidden from the rebellious, and from the disobedient, and from those who seek to walk in their own wisdom."

When I read this I thought about the fact that often there is confusion round about me with other people.. So many times, I don't understand why they do what they do, what motivates them, why they make the choices they make, why they can't see God's Word or will more clearly, or why they can't see something is so wrong. This is with anything from where they spend their time, lack of holiness, not being Kingdom minded, refusing to be planted in God's house, divine appointments, relationships, or refusing the power of the Holy Ghost. Really it can be anything -- and many people truly puzzle me, or should I say, they amaze me.

I have come to realize that this can be really disappointing, or I can just realize that although the world around me may be confusing many times, I myself do not have to be confused. I can wait in all of that for God to speak and have my path as clear as noon day. (The Bible says the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn that shines brighter...) While I may not ever understand people, I can understand God's will and His voice as He speaks to me personally. and really as long as I do that, I'll be alright.

I have found God helps in our bewilderment with people sometimes in giving us grace. I think of one time back in Maryland when I walked into a 7-Eleven ...and came face to face with somebody who I hadn't seen in about 2 years...somebody who made some really poor choices, and one whom I'd had some words with before they rebelliously walked away from church and away from Larry and I as their leaders. Their life was spiraling out of control and there was nothing we could do about it. We prayed, but they had a free will. And they exercised it.

For me to be faced with them at the gas station was an uncomfortable prospect at best. But God is faithful. As I walked into 7-Eleven it was too late to do anything but come face to face with the person. And I'm not kidding, it was like a blanket of something supernatural swooshed over me (in the spirit sort of) and I could hear that song in my head, "Grace, grace, God's grace..." I literally felt Him carry me through that experience. I felt the empowerment of the Spirit standing there as I paid for my gas and Slurpee (uh, this was before weight watchers...) :-) I instantly smiled, and gave the person a warm greeting. They looked at me like a martian...completely stunned, unable to speak. I continued to talk to them, saying, "God bless you, nice to see you, etc..." and they just mumbled something and walked out, still completely in a daze unable to really even answer me. They were in a state of confusion and I was in a state of being empowered by God . I guess the same blanket of grace and power didn't wash over them as it did me. But here's the thing...I never did (and still don't) understand that person's behavior, but God knows all and He gave me grace to handle that situation because I was spending time in His presence and letting Him speak to me on a daily basis. And He still gives me grace day to day to handle all kinds of stuff, expected or unexpected.

If we don't spend time in the secret place we don't have that kind of insight, power, grace or whatever it is we need to get through puzzling or uncomfortable times. I love what the Secrets of the Secret Place says about the power of the secret place and it coming as soon as you shut your door. When you determine to be with God and you simply shut the door, He is there. Boom! You are in the secret place in 2 seconds flat. Isn't that exciting? With me it's like this...when it's not a rainy night, I come out, pull my sliding glass door shut, and there I the secret place. When it's a rainy night and I go to my living room and sit in my chair or at my piano...there I am immediately in the secret place.

And from there, everything is possible. Even being a total class act when you see somebody at 7-Eleven who is the last person you want to come face to face with.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Life on the patio

So much to do, but not so much that I'd break my "self promises". As my WW leader says, we make promises and keep them for everyone but ourselves. We are often not a good friend to ourself. I've worked hard on changing that these past few years. I'm really back on track with taking care of myself and making sure I'm at my optimum best to lead.

Sometimes I just get a "wake up call" physically that I'm slipping and it's time to invest more time in maintaining me. Sunday was one such day as I had a worse headache than I have had in a long time and my friend Lisa Currie took care of me til' it got better. (She's a headache expert, seriously...since she struggles with them often.)

I have so much to do for the Kingdom and I have to be well to do it. So I'm totally on track once again with being good to myself.. (Pastor Lisa Alexander-- my accountability partner -- I know you are reading this! So just know, I am keeping up with working out and walking!) Speaking of Pastor Lisa, I'm going to her church in a few months to Houston, TX to speak!!! And I will see her IN PERSON -- yippee!!! (thank you for inviting me, btw...) Moving on to a devotional note...

Today as I was reading Secrets of the Secret Place I came upon another quote I enjoyed, "Many of you reading this book have a call to neighborhoods, to cities, and to nations. As you devote yourself to the secret place with God He will birth something within you that will spread, in His time, to the four corners of your sphere. It's an awesome secret: the call of God burning in your breast will be uncontainable and unstoppable as you devote yourself to the fiery passion of intimate communion with the lover of your soul."

Mmm...that's good stuff. People have no idea what they are missing by not having this type of relationship with God and getting in "the zone" as I call it.

This is a beautiful night in Florida. Breezy, just the right temp. Beautiful sunset as I walked about a mile, came back home and prayed on the patio til it got dark. (After I had cooked supper, cleaned up, spent some time with Chocki, etc. etc.) Hard to believe he's graduating in less than 2 weeks. Yikes! I'm getting details finalized for his party. I have a few surprises for him that I know he will enjoy, and the rest I planned with him. I don't know why I get nervous about these things -- they always turn out great. Maybe it's that I just want everything to go "perfect."

I am feeling as though I am getting the theme of the second message for the weekend. I've never been this up against the wall in preparing a message (I'm always done so far in advance) but I think God really wanted me to spend some more life on the patio on this one. As I swing in the stillness of the night, I often get my most profound thoughts dropped into my head from the Lord.'s about time to wind my patio time down now. I've been outside on the laptop, not wanting to come inside where there is noise. Time to pick up a few things in the house/straighten up, medicate Geena one more time, and spend time with the one I love before bedtime. I am looking forward to some connection time with him this weekend. It's rare that I get to take him with me and when it's a really awesome place like the resort this conference will be at this weekend, I just don't want to have that beautiful inviting room all to myself! So during the "free time" at the conference and at night when we sleep, I'll have Larry with me. This will be good for him too...he can have some time apart to read, pray, rest. As usual I'm working practically at the speed of light to get everything ready to make the trip. Once I get on the road I always breathe a sigh of relief!

God is so good to me. Sometimes I just love to sit out on the patio and just tell him that. And nothing else.