Tuesday, July 31, 2007

On the soapbox at Pastor Tara's blog...

What's in a Name?

My friend Pastor Tara Sloan (excuse me, Pastor Tara Denson-Sloan) did a blog post today on her blog called "On the soap box with Pastor Deanna." It's really good, not because my name is a part of it, but because she's an excellent writer, and makes incredibly insightful points. She also happens to totally share my heart for so many things. We eat out of the same box of Cheerios. I always enjoy what she has to say and I thought maybe my friends who read my blog might be interested in reading this. So go here to read it.

One thing she talked about today was her name, and the hyphenation of it or lack thereof. By the way Tara, the "D"as my middle name that you always see on anything in writing stands for Doss (my maiden name) that I took as my middle name when we got married. My grandmother (most Godly woman I ever knew) did this herself. When she got married her maiden name became her middle name. She was Jura Ressler and when she married a Lewis she became Jura Ressler Lewis. (If my grandma did it, I assure you, God is alright with it.) I always admired her for so many things and when I got married, I always knew I would do the same, following her example. I had other reasons than that too as I'll soon explain. Anyway, I dropped my original middle name (Lynn) never to be used again, and immediately went with Doss when we got married, and so therefore Deanna Doss Shrodes is on my...


Social Security card

Debit Card

All my credit cards

My insurance card

On almost every single piece of free lance writing I've ever done.

In the book Chocolate for a Woman's Courage I'm listed as...you guessed it -- Deanna Doss Shrodes...

But do you know the one place my name is not that and never has been? My minister's identification card and certificates! Drives me crazy. Way back when I applied to become a minister, on the application I wrote very clearly my full name, expecting them to write it just like I did on the official documents. Well they did not. They dropped the Doss and kept the Lynn. I remember as clear as day going to the mailbox to get the mail and finding the large envelope with my minister's card and certificate (which is framed in my office) and being so excited it was there........then reading it and going, "uuughhhhhhhhhhh". Larry said, "what's wrong honey?" I hung my head and said, "nothing, they just got my name wrong." I should have called them up right then and there and asked to have it changed but I didn't want to go through the rigamarole of defending it. I didn't know if it was just a secretary's mis-judgment, clerical error, or a well thought out decision. In any case, I had a twinge of disappointment. I regret that now and don't know if I could change it this late in the game.

It's a joke between Larry and I...but when we get into an argument he'll call me Deanna Lynn, just to get under my skin. I usually walk out as soon as he says it and say "there's nobody here by that name..." and ignore what he's saying until he calls me by my proper name (just Deanna, dropping the Lynn) Of course if he keeps it up, I turn around and call him by his middle name (which he hates and I won't print it here out of respect to him) but suffice it to say, we have an understanding in good times of exactly what we want to be called, and why. I would think this is just a basic personal request.

Keeping my maiden name as my middle name makes it easier for people to find me who might have known me in times past and lost track. When I write a piece and it is published, anyone who has ever known me for 40 years knows it's me, not a Deanna someone else. There's no doubt, it's Deanna Doss who grew up on their street, or who they went to high school with, or sang in the choir with in school. It's the same reason I've had the same exact screen name the entire time I have been on the internet. I don't want to change names - somebody might not be able to find me that I want to hear from! (And if I don't want to hear from them, I just press delete, ha ha!) Besides, it's just part of my heritage! Part of who I am. I grew up a Doss, but I am now Larry's wife and we have a family together. Why can't my name reflect both? The answer is, it can. Incidentally nobody really calls me that verbally nor do I refer to myself as that when I talk (although there would be nothing wrong with it if I did), I have just chosen to have my official name as that in anything I write. Make no mistake, I'm very happy to be Larry Shrodes wife, and I'm very happy to be Deanna Shrodes. But I'm also happy to be Deanna Doss Shrodes, because when I married Larry it was just that, a marriage, not a baptism. You know, when you get baptized you go down in the water and you are a new creation...the old is gone...the new has come. You don't ever refer to that "old life" again. Well, on June 27, I was married, not baptized. Yes, I walked down the aisle and started a whole new chapter in life but that didn't mean the previous chapters in the book had to be thrown out and never referred to again! It's still okay to refer to prior chapters now and then if you want to, because they are a part of who you are too, the totality of your life.

My doctor, Rosemay Latortue, (Watson) chose to retain her maiden name and she and her husband have a medical practice together. Unlike me, she actually goes by her maiden name at all times although she's definitely Patrick Watson's wife! Nobody ever questions her about it or thinks it's wrong or weird. Well, quite truthfully I guess most people wouldn't have the nerve to say it to her...she'd give it right back to them. But, she's married to Dr. Watson and they are a fine Christian couple who reach many people around the world for Christ through their missions trips in addition to being in medical practice. To anybody who has a problem with that, I along with you Tara, say, "please come into 2007"! A couple in our church was getting married and the girl said to the guy one night (as a joke, not really meaning it) that she was going to hyphenate her name or make it her middle name when they got married. He got real upset and angry, thought she was serious and said, "don't do that, that would be a slap in the face to me!" He told her he'd refuse to marry her. I knew right then and there the girl was headed for trouble. If he was that insecure, thought that was a slap in the face and would even break off the engagement over it, what other problems did the brother have? I guess now she's finding out, unfortunately as they have now said their "I do's".

Please, don't apologize for who you are, and please, don't let uptight people in your environment convince you to drop anything including part of your name to make them more comfortable. Doing as we do is not for every woman, certainly not, and you are right that with teaching and writing, and having your own business it does make a huge difference in the equation. Most of the time, as you mention, you face issues from women who don't agree with your choice to do this. I am convinced those are the ones who don't really live in the leadership world you live in or walk in the calling you have, and will never comprehend it. And that's okay, they don't have to comprehend it, they just need to leave you alone and let you live out your decisions in peace.

Deep down inside, they probably wish they had 1/4 of the confidence, accomplishments and courage that you do. I'm convinced, when some women make remarks about women like us, inside them there is a root of anger or resentment that they don't feel free to do as they would like to, or courageous enough to make this kind of choice. Because they lived without choices, or simply didn't take advantage of choices that were theirs, they think it's only right that you live the same way you do.

I was going to just post all this privately to Pastor Tara's blog and make my comments personal, however upon thinking about it, I believe every woman needs to hear this. No, not that you need to keep your name. But that it's okay to have choices. It's okay to choose differently than others. It's okay to be yourself even if that "yourself" doesn't look like other married women, especially in your church or in your ministry. It's about not being afraid to do what you feel God leading you to do, or that which you feel comfortable with when He leaves it up to you to make the choice. Isn't it so interesting that it's usually not our husbands who grappled with these issues, but others in our lives? That's another thing I've found - people don't know what to do when you have this kind of husband...it just leaves them dumbfounded to say anything.

If you haven't read Robin McGraw's book, Inside My Heart, read it. I enjoyed it so much. A lot of it is just her life stories and a hodge podge of all kinds of stuff she experienced throughout the years. But the main thing I got from it was Robin's admonition to be yourself, take good care of yourself physically, emotionally, spiritually and not be afraid to stand up for yourself when you need to. To me, the theme of the book was, "to thine own self be true". She's not completely lost in the shuffle of being Dr. Phil's wife. She knows who she is. She is the wife of a very strong and famous leader, yet she is not so enveloped and submerged in that to the degree that who she is never comes to the surface. She's Robin, and she's got a mind of her own. And quite frankly in some areas she's even as well known or more so than Dr. Phil is now!

We live in such fear sometimes of just relaxing with who we are. It's time we stop apologizing for living our God-given destinies.

Tara, I don't care if you want to call yourself Tara Bara Bo Barah Banana Fanna Fo Ferra Fee fi Fo Fana!!! People should flow with whatever you ask. How many guys do you know who have names like Horace Egbert Beauregard Jr. and then end up calling themselves "Jr." or "H.B."? Nobody's got a problem with that. I know guys whose names don't even have anything to do with one another. My brother is Charlie and everyone calls him "Bubba." My father is Robert but he hates that name so everyone calls him Leon. Most people have no idea my father's name even IS Robert! Our best friend Pastor Randy's name is really William! Most people have no idea his name is William nor does he want them to. He won't know I told anybody because he hardly knows how to turn a computer on let alone blog, so this is my secret with the rest of the people on the web!!! So keep your Denson, girl! At the very least you're givin' those people in Chicago somethin' to talk about, and a great somethin' at that!

What's in a name? Whatever you want there to be.

p.s. Tara, since you are getting absolutely sick to death of people in the church and minister's meetings dropping the Tara, the Denson, and the Sloan and hereafter referring to you only as "Pastor Craig's wife" I have an idea. At your next church fellowship, have Craig wear a name tag that says, "Pastor Tara's husband." :-) Hey, remember when those men did that at the conference? Was that awesome or WHAT? Good memories... in fact I think I'm craving a Ruby Tuesday's salad right now. I miss ya!
p.s.s. Just to be sure she's getting the message, I asked Savanna today, "Savanna, what can girls be when they grow up?" She thought for a minute and said, "Anything but a boy...or God!" YES!!! (And let's not confuse the two - some boys need to remember, they are not God. ha ha!)

it took a test?

to tell me this? No, it didn't, but you're right, Pastor Tara, it is cool to take it and see what you know confirmed! If anybody else wants to take this test, click here. For some reason no matter how many times I tried, I couldn't put my results in my blog through their method of doing it! I am just not the queen of html like Pastor Tara is.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Count on joy!

Okay, so I won't get to do what I want to do on my birthday.

One thing God is teaching me about is dealing with disappointments in the right way. I historically don't do so well with them. My heart gets set on something and then if it doesn't materialize I tend to take it hard. Whether it be the fact that my first car gets wrecked, or that the Hampton Inn and Suites does not have biscuits and gravy when their weekend sign clearly states that they always have them - I get disappointed. I like to be alone when I get disappointed. When I feel that way, I don't want anyone within 10 miles of me. I just want to be alone and process it.

The word disappointment is made up of DIS and APPOINTMENT. DIS means separate, apart, or asunder. So, disappointment describes a feeling of dissatisfaction or anguish, which is experienced when we are torn apart from our expected appointment with whatever it is we thought was happening or was going to happen.

All of us have hopes and dreams big and small. I believe that's a God-thing. His Word reflects that He has designed us to be people of vision (Proverbs 29:18). Well let me tell you, I have visions. I have a vision of writing books that will change people's lives. I have a vision of what a great women's ministries looks like. I have a vision of Cold Stone Creamery's birthday cake ice cream. And I have visions of what I want to do with my "special day." There are things we all ponder about and take the time to dream. Some may seem insignificant but what's important to us is important to God.

So what takes place when we are disappointed and the book we want doesn't get published, at least fast enough? What happens when a women's ministries event has a ton of things that fall through the cracks? What happens when you get to the front of the line at Cold Stone and the girl behind the counter tells you they just got to the bottom of the pan of Birthday Cake and it will be three hours before the next pan is ready? What happens when what you planned on doing on your birthday, which is actually very simple, becomes the impossible? I'll tell you exactly what happens - it's in the Bible. Proverbs 13 tells us that "hope deferred makes the heart sick."

I have found that stuff happens on a regular basis that disappoints. It's that way in everybody's life - none of us are exempt. Into everyone's life a little rain must fall. Or as the Bible says, "it rains on the just and the unjust." It doesn't matter how spiritual you are, the Hampton Inn will occasionally run of biscuits and gravy. And at that point, you will have to have a coping mechanism in place. (I'm only half kidding! LOL)

Since we can count on disappointments coming, we need to count on joy coming too. So, since I'm a little down tonight that what I longed for just isn't going to happen, I'm going to preach to myself a little bit tonight (remember the Bible says that David encouraged himself...) and list some ways to not just count it all joy, but to count on joy. Disappointments happen without you scheduling them, but I've found you absolutely CAN schedule joy. Joy is an attitude, a fruit, it is also found in choosing to do other things that bring you joy. If you plan for it, it will come.

Les Brown once said, "If life doesn't give you the circumstances you want, create them." Alright, so here I go. I'm creating joy.

1) I'm going to rest (PJ day) for one whole day at my very next opportunity. No guilt attached.

2) I'm going to call a friend in the middle of the day and stay on the phone at least an hour. We're going to laugh about things and not keep track of the time.

3) I'm going to read something fun all by myself in total silence for at least 30 minutes.

4) I'm going to take a long bath.

5) I'm going to turn my cell phone OFF. Not down. Not on vibrate. OFF.

6) I'm going to meet a friend for breakfast.

7) I'm going to turn on disco music very loudly in my room and dance.

8) I'm going to let the dishes pile up one night this week and act like they don't exist.

9) I'm going to go back and watch the last episode of Last Comic Standing that we Tivo'd.

10) I'm taking charge of joy in my life. Disappointments can momentarily slow us down, but we can determine to press forward with and take advantage of a "pop" of joy at the very next opportunity. I'm starting tonight with a long bath...while I drink vanilla tea and listen to a Fernando Ortega CD.

p.s. After I posted this, I was reading something by Dallas Willard that said this: ""First we must accept the circustances we constantly find ourselves in as the place of God's kingdom and blessing. God has yet to bless anyone except where they actually are, and if we faithlessly discard situation after situation, moment after moment as not being 'right' we will simply have no place to receive his kingdom into our life. for those situations and moments are our life." Help me Lord, not to discard any moment, but to find joy in every second of every day no matter whether it's the exact spot I long to be in or not. You are there. And in You, I find joy.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

It shouldn't take courage

"Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that all was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, and make it possible." T.E. Lawrence

Right now the fellowship that I am a part of (the A/G) is at a crossroads. Many general council positions including the very top one (GS) are up for election and there is a buzz all around about it. I've blogged the past year about completely de-politicizing (is that a word?) myself. And truly, I have. I have been stripped of all desire to be immersed in the political scene, (sectional, district or national) nor do I care what may happen as a result of me expressing my view. (I have nothing to lose. I happen to be credentialed with the A/G, however my church and my writing are the focus of my ministry life, not "the district" or "Springfield.") My life is my family, my church, my friends, and my writing and speaking ministry. If people think I'm forthright, driven, or even a %#@&^ for being a strong leader, so be it! (Yes, I've actually heard male ministers call various women in ministry that curse word, just for being...strong women of God! It's amazing that what men are lauded for (being driven, motivated, strong, forthright, competitive, among other things) - women are often villified for and assumed, "out of their role." Oh what people need to learn as far as a biblical understanding of this. (A good place to start is with the Christians for Biblical Equality website and ministry...they'll break it down for you.)

Depite my being de-politicized, I have been interested in dialogue on the issues at hand, such as the fundamentals of our faith and the core values our fellowship holds and has held from our inception. While constitutions, bylaws, voting or district or general council positions are not a focus of my life, beliefs and values ARE. Please understand, I love our fellowship. I've been a part of it all my life. I'm loyal to it, but don't want to get caught up in the politics of it.

But once again, I just couldn't stay silent. (Thank God I'm married to somebody who understands that!) Right now there's a blog that's pretty popular about the future of the A/G as regards this election. I was content to be a silent lurker and just peek in on what was happening...until they raised the women in ministry issue. When a man who is not unabashedly egalitarian and holds the view that women are not acceptable for leadership positions to the highest levels within the A/G or the church is being seriously considered for our top leadership position- that's when I had to step up to the plate and put in my $.02. I believe every voice makes a difference. I know I speak for a lot of women in ministry and their feelings on this issue -- however, the problem is that many of them won't say it, at least say it and sign their names to it. Because they do feel like they still have something to lose. (Give them 20 years, and like me they might change their minds.) Perhaps they do fear repercussions, and unfortunately they may have even married someone who tries to control them, (at least to an extent), and doesn't give them their blessing of verbalizing strong feelings about one's core values. Thankfully, I'm in the position of not having to worry about any of the three of those things. I am so glad I made a choice to marry someone who realizes although we are one flesh, I still have a brain and heart of my own. There are times that what I am hearing and digesting with my mind and then feeling in my heart is overwhelming. So I opened my big mouth. Not once, not twice, but more than that, in this debate that is ongoing.

And it's amazing. The majority of the people on the blog agree with my sentiments, (male credential holders included) but it's amazing how much feedback I've gotten off of that blog by people who contacted me privately by email and said, "thanks for stepping up and saying that." One person wrote and said, "Thank you so much for your courageous posts...you'll never know how much I appreciate it." I said what they evidently wanted to say, but for some reason didn't feel they could.

Why is this viewed as so courageous? It bothers me quite frankly that so many view a woman speaking her mind as courageous. It shouldn't take "courage" to speak the passion of our hearts, especially on such a biblically based value. But, because half of God's army has been silenced for so long, it is viewed as such. I do not view it as courageous, but simply the right thing to do. Edmund Burke once said, "All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing." Here's my Deanna paraphrase on this issue: "All that is necessary for gender or racial prejudice to triumph is for good people to do nothing." How can we stay silent?

Many people were backing this man in question, (who hundreds of people have voted for in the unofficial blog straw poll...) stating that his view that he holds would not affect his decisions in leadership should he be voted in. WHAT??!! Impossible. How can such a person uphold, defend, promote and celebrate that which he doesn't believe in within our fellowship? The answer is, he would not. Therefore, electing him would be a huge step back. Because he has built a super mega church some are ready to crown him king of the A/G. I don't care if he has a zillion people in his church, if he's not in keeping with our core value of women being able to ascend to the highest levels of leadership in the church and the fellowship, he's not the best. Talking about "to what depth" a person deals with gender prejudice is like talking about to what degree some dog poop in a pan of brownies would be too much. Any is too much.

"What if he's God's choice?" some say. Well, since I believe God is 100% for gender and racial equality at every level of leadership I do not believe God would choose a person to head an organization, especially one that since it's inception has stood for this core value.

"But he's such a man of prayer..." some say. Well, I'm sure John MacArthur, Mark Driscoll and John Piper are also great men of prayer but we wouldn't be asking any of them to lead the A/G or I certainly hope not. (Egads!)

It shouldn't take courage for women to step up and say how they feel any more than it would take courage for a black or hispanic person to say how they feel. Amazing when you put it in those terms. Seems appalling in today's day and age (and it is!!!) to insinuate that a person of color should not speak about something, yet many believe it is acceptable to believe this about women. And (gasp!) I did not even ask Larry's permission before I stated my feelings. Amazing!

Larry finds it amusing that I do get involved sometimes in dialogue like this with people because he believes it does no good although he doesn't try to hinder me in saying what I feel I must. I'm not only a dreamer that things can be better, but I feel like if I can be any kind of help (even just a small candle brings amazing light to the darkness) in making things better, I should. I know maybe I'm just a peon, but where would America be today if Rosa Parks didn't refuse to go to the back of the bus? Somebody's gotta speak up. (Please don't misunderstand, I'm no Rosa Parks, my point is simply - we all should realize that we never know if we will be the one to make that significant difference, so we need to seize the opportunity.)

Imagine with me a world in which it would never again be perceived as courageous for a woman to speak her mind. Just imagine...

I for one, believe the day will come. But it won't happen by us just staying silent or in the "boxes" (as Pastor Tara puts it) or the roles that people have placed us in. I refuse to get in a box or stay in one. I will continue to imagine. I will continue to speak. I thank God for my "courageous sisters" like Pastor Tara, Pastor Leanne, Pastor Andrea and so many more who will put their reputations on the line to speak up...and have. (Pastor Andrea calls me her 'CBE Friend' - in fact would you believe she gave me a CBE Christmas ornament? Okay, now you KNOW you've gotta feel strongly about something when you are hanging it on your Christmas tree.) LOL!!!

There are people who have been leading women like us in imagining this for a long time. CBE -- Christians for Biblical Equality, is an amazing organization. I encourage you to check out their stuff, especially their free articles!! And also check out the Assemblies of God Women in Ministry and ministry department which is led by some incredibly courageous women.

The really courageous ones aren't people like me who post something on a blog in 2007. Those who are truly courageous are those who paved the way over these many years for us to be doing what we're doing now. They plowed the way and now it's up to my generation to plow the way for the next one.

Martin Luther King said in his famous speech, "I have a dream..." Well so do I. I have a dream that one day our girls will not be expected to play by a different set of rules than men do. Honestly, God's expectation has never been that we play by different rules, but for some reason our culture has made it not only acceptable but passed it off as a Biblical mandate. Because people do not know their bibles well enough they have looked to text books, Christian psychology books, and famous preachers to tell them what they believe about equality rather than look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. He's declared His mandate on equality in His rule book. (The Bible)

I have a dream that Galatians 3:28 will be reality in all of our churches and our fellowship. We have to let our girls know, they can never stop dreaming...never stop imagining...

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Sleep in Saturday

Today is "sleep in Saturday" and although I normally do sleep in on Saturday it's always a work day for me, with very rare exceptions. From the time I wake up I am usually going non-stop on both church work, and home work. No matter how much I work during the week, the finishing touches are never on for Sunday until late Saturday night. (And I'm an organized person. Working on Saturday is not due to slacking, it's just due to my workload and wanting everything to be just right.)

I slept in this morning and would have kept going longer but my sister called from Baltimore telling me she was at a store and found an adorable knock off Prada purse that was pink and white and wanted to know if I wanted it. Hello...is the pope Catholic??!!

A purse. Now there's a good reason to be woke up! Last night, I prepped my special sweet roll recipe for the kids (and us too, but they are the ones who are most ga-ga over them) and they have to sit all night covered up and you bake them in the morning. Larry got out of bed while I was talking to Kim and put the rolls in the oven. It was nice to just check my mail and eat my breakfast in bed. :-) Although I find myself working hard most Saturdays, at least it's a day where I can drink my tea in bed and move a little slower, and take a long bath instead of a quick shower.

Once my day really got started it was time to get up, clean the entire house, make some phone calls for Sunday that I had yet to make, get all the clothes ironed, wash two loads of clothes, start dinner (my kids favorite - my pot roast), rehearse my special music number for in the morning, edit my women's class teaching one more time and print it out for tomorrow, set my initiative list for Monday and print out, get things lined up for our "Bridges" home fellowship group here at the house tomorrow night, and a bunch of other stuff it would take way too long to detail here. I planned on weeding (my least favorite chore. I loathe it.) but just ran out of time. I guess I'll tackle that Monday night after work. It was so nice to get to the end of it all and just be able to have my quiet time with the Lord, read the Word, Secrets of the Secret Place, Come Away My Beloved, and ask for God's insight and blessing for tomorrow. One thing is for sure, nothing significant will happen without Him.

At 8 pm tonight Savanna came out and showed me what she was wearing to church tomorrow. She had no shoes to go with it. Upon bringing all of her shoes out to show me I discovered she has outgrown them all again. (And I just bought her two pairs a month ago.) She can now wear MY shoes. I can't believe it. She's growing so much. Larry had to run off to Bealls and get her a pair of shoes to wear in the morning because literally her foot was hanging over the edge in her current shoes. I would have taken her but I was all grubby from cleaning. It's hard to face reality sometimes that the kids are growing up so fast.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Fun Friday!

Today is our day off...and for those who are reading my blog for the first time, let me clue you in as to what fun Friday is all about. I treasure our day off. My husband and I both do. We try to not let anything interfere with it, and at least half the time we succeed. During times we don't succeed, we do something to make up for it.

It's very difficult, especially with kids our kids ages not to have something church related to take care of even if it as simple as dropping them off or picking them up for an activity and thereby having at least a 30 minute conversation with somebody in the church parking lot. To other parents, it's just a friendly conversation but for us, it can often turn into just another day at the office, with people stopping to ask, "hey, did my curriculum come in up at the office building?" or "Can I talk to you for a minute...something happened this past week..." and it's never just a minute...in fact usually it's at least 30 or 40. In trying to have our true day off I have sometimes dropped my kids off at Sunset Market next door and let them walk over to the church but when they have things to load or unload it's hard. (not that I don't love people, I just want a break at least for a few hours a week.) Everybody needs a sabbath. With that said...

Friday is our "date" day - at least our official one. We have another date many times during the week, but Fridays are a definite date. Larry and I just love to spend time together and we don't tire of it. We usually go to lunch or breakfast, or we'll sleep in until noon. The best time is when the kids are in school but even in the summer we still treasure Fridays though we are not given as much time with the house to ourselves. We've learned the importance of constantly not just giving maintenance to our relationship but doing things to help us grow. Many marriages "grow apart" and the reason is, the couple is not growing together. We can grow as people, as individuals but a couple must also grow in their relationship together and learn constantly. The only way that happens is through a lot of time together. It doesn't have to be something extravagant, in fact sometimes it's as simple as laying there together close watching a movie or taking a walk. The important thing is to stay close, and keep growing in relationship together. Fridays are an important key for us in making that happen.

On Fridays we go out somewhere together - anywhere from lunch to consignment stores (my favorite), to Home Depot, to taking a walk, going to the beach, or meeting up with our friends who are couples in ministry to spend time together. Fridays are a rejuvenation time....a day to refuel. Sometimes (at least twice a year) I just have "PJ day" where I don't get dressed and stay in jammies all day. That's when I'm really fried and just need special rest. As my family knows well, after work I'm usually in pajamas too, or sometimes my customary home uniform (t-shirt and underwear)...which is why I tell people in the church not to drop in on me unannounced. I truly LIVE and relax in my home. I invite people over all the time and extend hospitality constantly but aside from invites, it's not a good idea to drop in.

So today we got up early and Larry went and picked up the rental car. We took Dustin over to the Teen Driver Challenge program where he spent many hours today driving with his very own personal police officer. He actually LOVED it. He wouldn't admit it to me but he did privately admit it to his Dad. He had a blast. He feels so much more confident. Larry said, "why don't you tell your Mom that?" He said, "because when I don't let her know that I'm not really mad anymore she sometimes softens up and buys me something." (Is that true? Well, I kinda think it might be because right when he was saying that to me I was out at the grocery store getting the ingredients for the sweet rolls he loves to make them for him in the morning...I guess I really do that to a degree. When I know we've had a blow out and I've stuck to my guns on something and been hard line on it, I try to balance it out with a little extra love on the other hand...) But anyhoo, Dustin did great and I can tell he is so glad he went. Now he will also get an extra percentage off his car insurance for having taken the course.

After Lar and I dropped him off we went to breakfast at "The Breakfast Nook" - a very quaint place here in Tampa. We sat there and tried our best not to talk shop, but we inevitably sometimes do although we always make a practice not to discuss anything stressful, just good stuff. Today we talked about the principles in the book, "Go Big" which I just got Larry...it's by Bill Easum and Bil Cornelius. It's an incredible book about church growth/ministry. I heard about it from another blogger, immediately ordered it and haven't been sorry. We have gotten so much from it. So we sat there and discussed what we're discovering through that, and just personal good stuff.

Then we went and looked at cars again. I test drove a Sebring Convertible and absolutely loved it. That could sway me from a Mustang, perhaps. It's the only thing that came close, at all. It was a great car - but it was from Carmax, and honestly I don't like Carmax because there is no negotiation and after all, my beloved is the master of negotiation and usually comes out of the deal incredibly on top. He's walked out of a dealership before leaving the dealer literally having made only pennies. It's amazing the deals he's able to swing and how far he's able to talk them down. (He starts to walk out about 5 or 6 times, AT LEAST and won't hesitate to leave - and has. He always realizes there's another car available and if he can't talk them all the way down on this one he'll talk somebody else down to rock bottom.) When we came home he found what looks like a good deal on a Mustang at Brandon Ford. Since it was after hours he e-mailed them to call him first thing in the morning to talk about it and see if they still have it and we'll go take a look. The one at Ernie Haaire wasn't my cup of tea - I went and looked at it today. It was silver but an ugly silver- like a dark smoky silver and the top wasn't at all complimentary to it. Then they had a red one but IMHO it had too many miles on it for the price. So we'll see. We're not at all in a rush so the beauty of it is, we can just take our time and make a wise decision.

We picked the kids up from camp and they came home and took naps while I worked on the house. Larry made dinner tonight and Stephen came back. (yeah!) His sister emailed me last night and said how much she misses him. But when he leaves here we miss him too. So he was here for supper and we watched Lost with Dustin, (which he is now addicted to), bringing our whole family into unity as official LOST fans. The kids went to the youth group discipleship meeting tonight and Larry and I headed out with Savanna to get stuff for Britney's birthday gift tomorrow and then for me to get stuff for Sunday night's home group meeting. I know it's my "day off" but the fact is, I don't feel like getting it tomorrow.

The kids will probably watch LOST late into the night and that's fine with me because pretty soon Larry and I are going to cap the night off by getting into our own little world in the big tub with all the candles lit. And that, my friends will be a spectacular ending to a 'fun friday'!

B.O.O.M.! Savanna's reflections

from Kids Camp

My daughter, Savanna came back from Kids Camp today. We were blessed to have a load of our Northside kids there along with our children's pastor and helpers. (Jordan also went to work Rec Staff - which he greatly enjoyed.) I've been sitting here asking Savanna her impressions from camp. In case any of you don't know, I'm a huge fan of KIDS CAMP and YOUTH CAMP. Perhaps there is nothing more life changing in the lives of our young people. I once heard something like 90% of our pastors and missionaries receive a call from God at camp. We never ever let our kids miss camp, nor do they want to. When they get back I can hardly wait to hear what happened!! (Now that I don't go to camp anymore and truthfully I kinda miss those days of being a YP!) Anyway, she was sharing all of it with me and so I thought I'd let her share them with you. Here they are, from her in her words... (I'm just typing as she talks...)

The theme of kids camp this week was "Boom!" This stands for:

Be ready


On Fire


Be ready means to be ready for when Jesus comes back...make sure you are ready to go with Him.

Obey means to obey your elders and Jesus.

On fire means to be on fire for Jesus.

and Mission means to accept your mission that God gives you.

I really enjoyed Go-Kart racing. The crafts were fun.

God also told people what they are going to be when they grow up and He filled people with the Holy Spirit. Praise and worship was good. Pastor Billy, when the kids got mail would make fun of it. He was so funny. He said to the ones that didn't have stamps, "oooh, this one doesn't have a stamp," and then he would drop it on the floor and stamp on it!

Pastor Trinity covered Jordan in chocolate syrup, strawberry syrup and Rice Krispies cereal. He did that because he was telling us about the Good Samaritan and that was supposed to be the blood, the oil and the wine. It was really cool.

The food at camp was really good and Pastor Billy would name endangered animals and say that that is what we were eating. He said that about pigeons or something like that I think.

We were all having a Skittle fight on the way there. We lost Chelsea's sleeping bag and pillow so we had to stop at Wal-Mart. Pastor T didn't seem upset though, I think he thought it was kind of funny. We were kidding around that the stuff fell out, but it really did. Then he put the top on because he didn't want anything else to fall out of the trailer.

There was a girl in our room from another church and she had never been to camp before. She looked like LilyBet off of The Last Sin Eater, and I'm not even kidding.

Also, Dana who went with our church had never eaten a pancake before. Can you believe that?

All the girls thought Jordan was cute. At the pool they tried to cling on to him but he would go underwater and hold his breath and then me and Shelby would protect him from the girls. We protected him during the shaving cream fight. The girls were like crazy maniacs with Jordan. They asked me how old he was and stuff. I told them he was 17 because I kept forgetting he is 16.

All in all I had a terrific time.

Okay, I'm back. Can you see why every kid should go to camp? I hope you are convinced. I sure am.

I made the list!

I never cease to be amazed at the women who tell me they are blessed through the ministry of Pastoring Partners, and tell me their lives have been changed. Today I made the distinguished list of "People who are an inspiration to me" by Lady Melissa Sutton, co-pastor and first lady of House of God International Ministries in Clearwater, Florida. Lady Sutton has been one of those special ladies that God led to the website years ago, that I was able to, (and continue to) minister to via this avenue of ministry.

Lady Sutton is one of the many women around the world that I know online through pastoring partners, but not in person...yet. She's coming to the Unstoppable Conference in September, and I can hardly wait! This is going to be a bit like heaven. I am going to see some people I haven't seen in a long time (like Pastor Tara) and meet some people I've been talking to for a long time but just haven't had a face to face with.

Thank you, Lady Sutton, for honoring me. I'm honored to know you and have a small part in giving you hope for the journey as you minister His Word to your precious people.

Friday's Feast



Describe a toy you remember from your childhood. My first toy that I remember is one of the little "popper" toys with all the balls in it, that you push. I remember pushing it down the hallway and running with it.


On a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being highest) how observant are you? Depends what it is. When dealing with people or things written, extremely observant. However if I were sitting in front of a baseball game, I wouldn't be the least bit observant.


Where would you rather be at this very moment? No where but right here where I'm at. There's no place like home, and no place like this comfy bed I'm in right now...on my day off. :-)

Main Course

When was the last time you learned something new? I try not to let a day go by without learning something new. When you stop learning, you stop growing. This week I'm reading in I Chronicles. God is teaching me things through the life of Saul. I don't want to make the same mistakes he made.


Fill in the blank: I have ____________ but I haven’t ____________. I have smoked pot, but I haven't inhaled. NO, just kidding!!!!! Seriously, let's see... I have had challenges, but I haven't given up.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Courageous Parenting

The past month Larry and I have been bringing a series of messages on "Courageous Parenting." Through this we have been sharing the Biblical values we hold about this subject in our household and also hard lessons learned.

One thing I believe strongly is that as parents we're called to be just that - parents, not pals. Our kids have plenty of pals, but only two parents, and as such we need to be courageous and take the unpopular stand at times.

As everyone knows, Dustin totaled my car 2 months ago. Since then he hasn't driven, mostly because there's nothing for him to drive! Larry and I share one car and that takes it up 100% of the time and then some. But before we get another car or he gets one of his own, I was determined that he needed some help. Mind you, he wasn't reckless when he had the accident (only going 24 mph but it was raining and he hydroplaned and panicked.) Part of this is the fact that he was a young, inexperienced driver. I have come to realize since then that 63% of all kids wreck their parents cars in their first year of driving. I got that stat from the Sheriff's dept., by the way.

Anyway...I was praying about what to do. Dustin already took Driver's Ed in high school and passed, and he had hours of practice with his Dad, me and his Grandfather. I was really at a loss as to the next step. But there had to be one. Even Pastor T said that he could see, he simply wasn't ready for driving. We had done all we knew to do. As everyone should know by now, I'm a praying mother. In fact, I was praying for Dustin all the days leading up to the accident. I was angry when he had it, being that I prayed everyday. Why did God still allow this when so many prayers went up day after day? I was pretty steamed with God until Rosemay told me three teens were in an accident on the same road and died. Dustin only had a sprain. I have so much to be grateful for. Well, back to prayer...

I was at a loss as to what the next step was. One day a few weeks ago I was watching TV and a commercial came on for something called "Teen Driver Challenge". It's a brand new 2-month old program done by the Sheriff's Dept. It's not a driver's ed course, but a special 2 day course for defensive driving only. It is a "next level" course, both in the classroom and several hours of one on one help actually practicing with an officer in the car with the student. At the end the students receive a special certificate and can even get a percentage off of insurance having proven that they took the course. The officers teach the students what to do when hydroplaning, in inclement weather, when a car is coming at you the wrong way,etc. They put them in difficult situations and help them get out safely. This is an incredible thing, in my opinion. I immediately felt the prompting of the Holy Spirit and called the Sheriff's department and signed him up. The classes started today and he'll be there all day tomorrow as well, driving with an officer.

He was so ticked off at me for putting him in this course, I can't even describe to you how much. When I told him he got angry, yelled, and slammed the door and left. I instantly commanded him back into the room and gave him a talking to. Evidently he forgot that the night he wrecked the car he said, "Momma, I'll do ANYTHING to make this up to you." So far, I've asked him for nothing in fact his Daddy and I haven't even brought up to him once the fact that he even wrecked the car, in the last two months. We simply told him he would have to take responsibility and pay for the damages. But we did not scold him about the accident because truly it was not intentional. However, now it was time to say something, since the attitude was occuring. We said, "Son, in case you don't remember...you totaled a car. You said you'd do anything to make restitution for this. This is our "anything", and really...it's nothing! You're getting off easy. We could have knocked you from here to Japan for wrecking that Mustang, so put on a happy face and deal with it." He still wasn't real happy - went to his room and sulked. But it's like this - I've learned big lessons about this through hard years of experience in both the home and the church. You see, when you are a pastor, you are not only a parent to natural children (if you have them) but you also function as a spiritual parent. Much of the same principles apply. Just thought I would throw that in for your pastors and pw's who are reading, free of charge. LOL

As a natural parent, and as a spiritual parent in the church - when I or Larry make a decision, sometimes our natural or spiritual children sulk - but it's important we take our stand no matter how much they do. What's right is right. I think the problem with too many parents is that they can't endure sulking or even blow ups. The fact of the matter is, it's part of the territory of parenting kids or a church.

So he didn't exactly put on a happy face, even today he was still peeved with me and went dragging in there to class today when I dropped him off, but when he came out I could tell he didn't think it was so bad. In fact, deep down I think he actually might have enjoyed it, he just doesn't want to admit it to me. And that's okay. I don't care that he admits that I'm right, I just want him to get the help he needs. (Another mark of effective parenting in both the home and the church: your children may never admit that you're right - but your goal is not to be right, it's to see them flourish, even if you never get a 'you were right' or a 'thank you.'" Our reward is the satisfaction of knowing we did the right thing. The fact of the matter is - parenting our kids and parenting a church is HARD work.)

I know he felt like we were sending him as a punishment but I explained that it's not so, in fact it's because we care and want to help him. I see this class as an answer to prayer. I think he also thought it was for "bad kids" who drink and drive or something. Not true. Although, tomorrow they will be putting what they call "beer goggles" on him, and having him drive around and see for himself how bad it would be (how impaired he would be) if he chose to drink and drive. I think that's a great idea. Although Dustin doesn't drink or have desire to, I think it's just great knowledge to have. And I hope this has great impact on the other kids who take this course as well. I explained to him, the class is actually preventative maintenance and should be taken before kids wreck, only in his case I never knew about it til now. I think he also feared what it was going to be like -- he didn't know anyone or know what he was in for. When he got there his class only had six students, and besides that there was one girl he found absolutely adorable. I said, "is she saved?" (he doesn't know yet)

I reminded him, his Dad and I cared enough about doing this for him that we rented a car for tomorrow. We still don't have a car and he needs to take ours to drive tomorrow at the class, and we need a car, so we rented one just for the weekend. I explained to him if I were trying to punish him I would not be renting a car for the weekend and going to all this trouble.

I think he's got a much better attitude now. But even if he didn't, he'd still be getting his butt to that class. Because as I told the church last night in our message, we all get mad at God, our Father. There are times we are so mad at what He decides for us. But don't we get over it? Yes, we do. We eventually do. And we realize it was best for us. There are times my kids momentarily hate me. They rail against me for what I decide, but ultimately it was what they needed. This was one of those times. But that's what courageous parenting is all about.

p.s. If any of you parents in Pasco County want to put your teens in the program, e-mail Cpt. Dan Olds at DOlds@PascoSheriff.org to sign up. I highly recommend it and plan on my other two children taking the course as well before another one of my cars goes to be with Jesus.

Why call them pastor?

My friend, Pastor Leanne Weber, (who serves as an A/G children's pastor in Wisconsin) has an excellent and thought provoking post today about why people call evangelists (whether famous or not) "pastor" when they refer to them from the pulpit or as they address them in person or whatever. (And how much it irritates her!) I agreed completely with her. The person that God has ordained to set the pace for the church are the senior pastors, and that's that -not anyone else, and certainly not somebody on TV.

I know it has really irritated me when I advise someone in the church and they ignore my counsel and tell me they heard this or that on Joyce Meyer and this is the direction they are heading. (Joyce is a great example because, I'm 100% crazy about her. She's honestly never said something I've ever disagreed with, yet. I believe she's an incredibly wise and anointed woman.) But the reality of it is, she's not the pastor of our church - my husband and I fulfill that role and when we speak into someone's life, we do so knowing them personally and the background of their situation.

One time a woman in the church came to me for advice and knowing her situation fully, I spoke into her life and gave her biblical guidance. According to scripture and what was going on in her household, she definitely SHOULD NOT have done the thing she wanted to do. Well, a few days later she was watching Joyce Meyer and I don't know what Joyce was talking about but she pointed to the camera and said, "someone out there needs to hear this...go forth and take a step and do that which you are feeling led to do..." and this woman in my church took that as "a word" or a confirmation for them. Of course Joyce Meyer never intended that, and had absolutely nothing to do with the woman's situation. But it really irritated me so I told the woman, "the next time you have a problem...give Joyce a call." It will be interesting to see just how soon Joyce Meyer returns her call. Of course she won't because she knows her calling well - she's an evangelist and not a pastor nor does she refer to herself as one.

Whether people refer to what TD Jakes said, (crazy about him too!), Joyce Meyer, or some visiting local speaker said, and decide to poo-poo or disrespect my exhortation to them in favor of going with what they read in some book or saw on TV, it's just inappropriate and disrespectful. Read Leanne's post here. Good word. It was so thought provoking to me I decided to share it with all of you who read my blog.

Pray that women become UNSTOPPABLE!

Right now we are preparing for the "Unstoppable" Women in Ministry Conference here in Tampa, hosted by myself and my associate, Pastor Lindsay. I blogged about this in the past here. We have four other incredible women of God who are joining with us in speaking and worship leading for the weekend at the Hilton Garden Inn, (September 13-15). What happens in the lives of those attending is going to be amazing. This is not going to be a retreat where we talk about menopause or how to make a craft in four easy steps. We're dealing with life-changing ministry issues here, not just the "change of life." (lol)

Which brings me to a pet peeve...some friends who have asked me to host this in the past, but aren't coming. The other day I took the time to call 40 women friends or colleagues. Why? Because I care. Many are coming to Unstoppable, and in fact this isn't just a Florida thing, but quite a number of women in ministry are flying in across the country for Unstoppable. But some of the very people who said, "I so desperately need something like this. Have you thought about hosting something?" aren't coming. Why? Two reasons, I've heard. Although they say, "it sounds incredible and I wish I could be there," they say:,

1) "I can't get away from the church right now...they need me for this, they need me for that..."

2) The church, or "we" (meaning they personally) are tight financially right now.

Years ago I was in this same boat. I put everyone and everything before myself. And where did it get me? Working 60-70 hours a week, (90 sometimes around Easter/Christmas and stuff like that), living on latte and Hershey bars, 40 lbs. overweight, and out of control. I tried so hard to be what everyone else needed but inside was falling apart. Then a few years ago I said, "NO MORE!" I decided to be a friend to myself. I recently read a quote: “To live unfaithfully to yourself is to do others great damage.” I realized, I was not doing my husband, my kids, my church or my friends any favors by not investing in myself and giving them everything. I read an article by Bill Hybels that said we need to spend 50% of our time LEADING OURSELVES.

Self leadership has become incredibly important to me in the past several years and I'm a different person now as a result of it. Things like riding my bike and walking are important to me. Even when things are terribly busy with the church, and Joy calls me and says, "Do you and Larry want to meet Keith and I half way for dinner tonight?" I'll drop everything and go. Why? Because I know I'm going to be a better person for it. The work that I'm coming back to will be done better because I have been enriched and refreshed by spending time with my friends in ministry.

My weight watcher leader always tells us, "don't break self promises." Many women in ministry say, "I'm going to start doing something for myself..." but another day comes and they aren't any different. They stay on the same merry go round they have been on for years and at some point, they're going to crack.

When people don't come to something, you often hear, "well, God has the people here that he wants here...it's not all about numbers..." and I agree with that - I am not all about numbers either. But why do I say what I've said here? Simply because I care about women and I don't want to see another casualty. Not a month goes by where I don't hear about somebody dropping off the scene and I get so sick of it. It doesn't have to happen. Pastor's wives don't have to get in the car, start driving, and never come back. This is why I sat down and took time to call 40 friends. (I know, some of you are wondering, "does she really have 40 close friends? Please understand by this statement, I am not talking 40 close intimate friends, but 40 people who I am associated with in ministry, in my network, that I at least occasionally do ministry with, see at functions, etc.) And honestly I'll probably pick up the phone again and call 20 oor 30 more before this is over. Why? Anybody who knows me knows I don't like talking on the phone (I'm an e-mail person or an "in person" person). But it's like this - I really honestly have a heart for women who are serving in ministry. I have a passion to encourage them and to connect them with each other.

That connection is so important. It's not about connecting them with "me", it's about connecting them with a woman or a few women in ministry who can be that support system for them. Yes, we all have Jesus, obviously. But sometimes you just need someone "with skin on" as they say, to walk beside you, put an arm around you and say, "you can do this". Or sometimes you need somebody to hold you while you cry because you are hurting over something in the church but you can't talk to anyone about it inside the church. Or sometimes you just need to go out for coffee or to the movies with somebody you can start talking to and not wonder, "is what I'm saying right now going to come back to bite me one day?"

I'm trying to give people a place to find these type of connections. I've done pastoring partners (http://www.pastoringpartners.com/) since 1998 and that has been great, but I long to have a face to face connection. For years now I have made it a priority to get together with other women in ministry myself, but I realize a lot of people don't. They don't know what they are missing!!! With Unstoppable, I hope to let them see what they are missing, and get them connected.

I believe if women really want to come God will make a way. Often, he makes a way through our will! Yesterday I was talking to Pastor Jenn and she said, "Money's not an excuse. If they want to come, they can sell hot dogs at the church and raise the money!" I know that sounds funny to some of you, but where there's a will there's a way. (For the record, Jenn and I have both sold hot dogs to do things we wanted to do but didn't have money for personally or in the church account. In fact, Jenn herself raised $200 in one Sunday on hotdogs. Both of us have been in ministry quite a while now and we're still not beyond this. I know most look at Jenn Lee as a classy woman (she is) who has it all together and doesn't have a care or a need in the world, but even she had to sell hotdogs to do what she wanted to do in ministry. When we are passionate about something, we'll do it no matter what we have to do. I have no shame when it comes to achieving God-given desires or dreams. Right now I'm wanting to achieve a dream at the church that we just don't have money for at this time and I'm thinking about selling S'mores as people are coming out the doors of the church. No kidding. Stop laughing.)

One pastor I know felt like he and his wife were on the brink of a marriage breakdown. They had no money, but in desperation for his marriage, he charged a vacation getaway for the two of them on his credit card. The time they spent saved their marriage. They paid on that credit card for a while but at least they aren't divorced! I really believe, we have to do what it takes to invest in ourselves because truly no one is standing in line to do it for us and if I had to sell hot dogs, smores, or put it on my credit card, I would.

If you're reading this...pray for us! I say "us" because it's not about me. Our speaker team is radically committed to this. Obviously Lindsay is committed to this, or I wouldn't have asked her to help me in doing this. Aside from her and I, we have some of my friends ~ Pastor Jenn Lee (co-pastor of First Assembly's Church on the Ridge, Frostproof), Pastor Sandy Phinazee (co-pastor at First Assembly of God, Callahan), Pastor Sheri Hawley (co-pastor at Garden Grove Assembly of God, Winter Haven) and Pastor Andrea Fruscella (co-pastor of First Coast Christian Center, Jacksonville). These women are one with me in heart and soul about this conference and are encouraging women in their network of friends about it. Andrea is so passionate about it, she's driving to certain pastor's wives homes who have "given up" of sorts (people who have dropped off the scene) and she's personally going to talk to them and encourage them to come. I really believe this is some women's divine appointment who are getting ready to become a tragedy should a miracle not take place. I believe in miracles and I know some are going to take place that weekend. If you're reading this, pray with us women of God who are standing in the gap right now and fasting and praying for the women who will attend Unstoppable and those who need to attend who are struggling with investing in themselves right now. I so desperately want them to be truly "Unstoppable" in life and in ministry.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Mindless Surveys and Why I Like Them

Accomplished a ton of work today both at the office for a few hours and also on the road. Had a meeting today, and connected with Pastor Jenn Lee for lunch. I'm crazy about that woman! We have so much in common it's ridiculous right down to a love for Mustangs. (She just got a Mustang convertible last week...) I so much enjoy talking with women who share my passion for ministry...for co-pastoring, for dream chasing, for worship. She's one of those people. I really wished I could stay at lunch forever but had to get back...

Speaking of Mustangs, Ernie Haaire Ford called tonight while I was at church and left a message that they have a silver Mustang they want me to come over and take a look at.

Tonight we finished our Courageous Parenting series in the Wednesday night adult service. What a great series this has been. Larry and I normally take turns preaching every other Wednesday night and this works great for us. This month though, we tag teamed every message and then did a Q & A at the end of the service. I think we have gotten more feedback (all good) from this series more than any other. After service, Larry and I decided to take Dustin out for a bite to eat, just the three of us. We so rarely get this time just with us three and with the other two kids at camp it was possible. We have a good time talking with him as he's on such a different level now as he's growing up. Amazing some of the insight he has and I enjoy so much his passion for reaching his unchurched friends and talking about it with him. Stephen came over to spend the night tonight, and it's good to have him, "our third son" back in the house again. He's been gone for 2 days. We're starting to go through Stephen withdrawals. We really miss him when he's not here. Just as I do stuff for my 3 kids, so I also do for Stephen, everything from make him sweet rolls to admonish him about something, to give him "the speech" when Larry and I leave town and the boys stay by themselves. He's used to it.

I'm tired from handling a lot of details today. I've been returning a lot of phone calls and making a lot of phone calls mainly for the Unstoppable Conference. Today I spent a major amount of time on the phone, and although I normally loathe the phone, when I'm passionate about a project I don't mind.

From time to time I really enjoy doing one of the many "surveys" circling the web, because it requires no brain power of me. I love to write but sometimes I want to do something easy, not heavily contemplative. All a survey requires of me is simply answering questions truthfully (well at least I choose to do them honestly...) After a long day when I feel like writing but not really using my head on anything serious, I do these. So here's one that came to me today:

1 .) If I were a doll, the accessories packaged with me would be: briefcase, latte and sunglasses

2) I have an irrational fear of... having my head underwater, although it's not totally irrational IMHO, because I could drown.

3.) What type of food do you eat at your grandparents house? Nothing anymore - they are all dead. However when they were still here on earth, the most wonderful stuff imaginable. Most of all - incredible pies from both my grandmas.

4.) What weight were you when you were born? No idea.

5.) What would you do if you were stranded on an island with the person you hate most? I'd say, "see how mad God is at you?" No, no, just kidding. First, there's no one I hate. It affects my preaching too much to hate people, not to mention my spiritual life. And since I want to one day be one of the best communicators walking the planet I try to keep stuff like that out of my life. But I do find myself having to forgive people, and let go of offenses at times. And if I was stuck with such a person, actually I'd probably spend a lot of time off to myself laying down in the sand, praying and seeking God to help us off the island, but also help us to get along while there. I would pray for a miracle, the first being forgiveness, because I believe forgiveness is a miracle in itself when accomplished.

6.) When is your next vacation planned? Not sure, still making decisions on that one...

7.) Do you stalk anyone on Myspace? No, too many people who like to talk with me that I don't have time to beg or chase somebody who doesn't.

8.) I find the thought of childbirth: extremely painful but incredibly special. I love the newborn phase. Thoroughly enjoyed my pregnancies and time immediately after delivery.

9.) My feet are: big (size 9) and improving as I get pedicures.

10.) My preferred food is: mashed potatoes

11.) Why is your 1 your 1? He's my husband, the love of my life.

12.) Know how to cook? Yes.

13.) I am annoyed with: lazy people.

14.) What is the worst way you were dumped? Not completely forthrightly - feeling something was wrong - not sure what - sensing coldness and having it evolve rather just honesty from the get go...feeling the pain, letting it go.

15.) What child-related smell do you not like? Can't really think of anything except some liver somebody cooked one time that made me want to throw up when I smelled it.

16.) What sea creature scares you? Sharks

17.) What kind of car do you have? None right now - sore subject.

18.) What object have you broken most recently? can't really think of anything recent.

19.) Name one of the Spice Girls: No idea. Not my cup of tea.

20.) What is the last thing that made you cry? preparing to go on the car lot.

21.) What are the stems on wine glasses for? Looks - they are elegant.

22.) My favorite shoes are: my black flip flops

23.) Can you use chopsticks? No.

24.) Do you prefer beaches or forests? Beaches.

25.) What serial killer do you find most disturbing? Jeffrey Dahmer

26.) Who knows a secret or two about you? Any close friend knows at least one secret as I'm a really transparent person with my close friends.

27.) Have you ever burned yourself? Yes, in fact I burned myself really bad when I was 5 years old from the waist down and was wrapped up for a couple weeks. I had first, second and third degree burns from the waist down. I remember it pretty well. I got close to the stove and toppled and entire pot of boiling chicken soup over.

28.) Who is probably talking a load of crap about you right now? I don't know because I'm not interested in spending any brain power, nor time on anyone who would do so. I don't wait to dignify them with so much as a moment of my thoughts if they are doing that. I have too many good friends who are crazy about me to worry about a goof who's not.

29.) Where is your brother right now? Susquehanna, PA.

30.) Do you believe in things that last forever? Yes, God's love. His Word. Us. (We all live forever somewhere. Where is the question! It's our choice.)

31.) What are you listening to right now? Nothing. I'm winding down for the day and siting here quietly. Since Savanna and Jordan are at camp and not arguing in front of me right now this is possible. What joy that they are not arguing over the computer, the remote, who's clothes are in the washer or dryer, who ate the last GoGurt. Halleluiah, the sound of silence!

32.) What do you smell like? Vanilla perfume from Bath and Body works.

33.) Are you married? Yes, and it's a good thing! Twenty years and it gets better all the time.

34.) Does anyone regularly tell you they love you? Yes, every single day. My husband tells me several times. And my kids too, especially Dustin.

35.) Do you have any bad habits? Yes, and I'm always working on them.

36.) Have you ever wanted to be a teacher? YES!!! I am a teacher really - as a pastor, but I always wanted to be a high school teacher too.

37.) What is one thing you've learned about life? Good and bad things run parralel and they often arrive at the same time. You've got to celebrate the daylights out of every good thing that happens. And..choose the right friends for the journey. They make all the difference.

38.) What is your favorite color? Pink

39.) Have you ever been stuck in an elevator? no.

40.) How many of the people in your friends list on Myspace do you actually know in real life? Every single one of them - I don't add them if I don't know them.

41.) Has anyone told you that they like you as more than a friend? Yes. I married him.

42.) What are you looking forward to? Going on my next date with Larry or away on an overnight.

43.) How are you today? Very well, thank you.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

On the lot

Today after work, Larry and I went car shopping. Yes, this was my first day on a car lot again. It was interesting. I test drove a few cars, and managed not to cry. :-) I did sit in a few to test drive them and then immediately got out and said, "it's just not right, I know this isn't going to work..." and didn't bother.

I drove two Mustang GT's and a Tiburon and looked at a bunch of other cars - Mazda's, Toyotas, Nissan's, etc. We still have a lot more to look at. I keep coming back to Mustangs just because I enjoy them so much. It won't ever be the same, however I know I could enjoy one again even if I wasn't madly in love with it. It will sort of be a fling as opposed to a soul mate. :-)

We're going to look until something feels right, so we'll just keep going. I keep wondering if anything's ever going to feel right but perhaps if we just keep going, at some point we'll get a feeling, although Larry really "feels" nothing, except for when he is financially negotiating. Everyone who knows anything about my husband knows that he does get very passionate over any type of financial negotiations. He won't pay a penny more for anything than he has to. He's ruthless like that, and truthfully it's one of his strong points. He wants me to pick out a car and then he'll take me home and come back and negotiate it because truly I get embarrassed by how passionately he will haggle for the price he wants. He's ruthless. He'll stay there for eight hours if he has to (and he has) to talk them down to exactly where he wants them. One time a guy sold him a car for $100 under what the dealer paid for it. I think he just wanted to get him out of there! Aside from a financial issue, Larry just asks me how I feel. I really don't "feel" good about any particular car - I'm sort of indifferent, but about certain features, I am pretty resolute. I think I've driven a few salesmen crazy or at least given them a lot to laugh about.

'Do you like this car, mam?"

No. It's white. I don't like white cars."

"How about this one?"

"No, no power seats ..."

"Well this one has the power seats, how about it?"

"No, it's blue...sorry."

"Well, mam, exactly what colors DO you like?"

"Just four colors...silver, red, black or yellow...unless there's a pink car you have around back that I don't know about..."

[driving on 75] "how does it feel, mam?"

""too loud"

"Do you like this one?"

"no, the spoiler looks weird. I don't like how the back is shaped."

By now I'm realizing car dealers don't know what to do when somebody is on the lot who really doesn't necessarily want a car... rather than "mam" they probably wanted to call me Goldilocks.

"okay, so this isn't the car for you. What about this one over here?"

"No, I don't like the CD player."

"Is that ALL you don't like about this car, mam?"

"Yep, that's all, but it's enough."

Some car dealers had a difficult night tonight but my husband's just glad I was...on the lot.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Now that you're saved...don't steal!

Today we had a very different type of day in ministry. It was a “working day” but quite different as we were invited to go to a pastor’s day at “The Holy Land Experience” in Orlando. They invited us to come for free, tour the place, eat lunch with them and hear a special speaker. We went with Gary & Tammy, our good friends who are the pastors at Evangel A/G in Orlando. We had a really good time together, as usual. On the way to Orlando this morning I got 2 hours of work done on the computer which was probably more than I would have gotten done had I been at the office because I had no interruptions. When Larry drives and I get on the laptop, I just whiz through my work and I love it!

We spent the day at the Holy Land Experience and then we had plans this evening afterwards to go to Keith & Joy’s in Lakeland on the way home. (Our friends who pastor Harvest A/G there) On the way there I returned a bunch of ministry phone calls that have been piling up the past two days. That taken care of, we went to the Conley’s and Joy had made us a home cooked meal which was so nice. We usually go out together in either Tampa or Lakeland and we eat dinner out but then come back to one of our homes for dessert. Being at the Holy Land Experience all day, I was feeling strange because it rained a lot of the day and I had gotten all wet and cold (even though it’s been hot here) but today was different. I felt yukky, wet, cold, just wanted to go home and put on socks and get under a blanket. With Joy cooking tonight at her house, I was just able to go there, get a pair of nice warm socks from her as soon as I got there, and get under a blanket in her rocking chair, sip on some hot tea and talk.

After dinner we talked for hours, laughed, solved all the world problems…as usual. :-) Oh how I need and love my friends.

I had left Dustin a special pizza in the freezer that I thought he would enjoy cooking up but he and Stephen decided of all things that they wanted “a feast”. They wanted to cook fried chicken and mashed potatoes. He called me for the instructions on how to do so several times and I was trying to coach him from Lakeland. Of all nights for him to try all this on his own… but he did good! It turned out well. He was excited when I got home tonight to show me his three shirts that he bought last night when he and Stephen went to the Format concert. Stephen's here spending the night as usual. This really is his home and we're so happy to have him. I treat him just like "one of my own".

Jordan and Savanna are at camp tonight…I’m praying that the Lord is touching their hearts and ministering to them. (Savanna is a camper, obviously – but Jordan is working the rec staff this week like he did last year. I still believe God will minister to him, though. Anything to get him in that environment where the Holy Spirit is moving.)

It will be quiet at my house this week. I am looking forward to hopefully sitting on my patio once again to have my devotions if the weather cools a bit. If not at least my house will be more conducive to time alone with God this week, inside. I love my children but I also love my quiet time with the Lord. Without it, I’m toast!

Speaking of that – I was reading today in the Secrets of the Secret Place about rest. I was tempted to skip where I was reading and go on to the next chapter. I really didn’t want to hear about rest right now since I’m in a season that is very difficult to rest with several heavy ministry projects going on in my life at once. When I saw the topic of the chapter I thought, Lord, it's impossible right now so don't go convicting me about this right now pleeeeease..." Last night I laid on my bed, stared at the ceiling, thought about my schedule right now and said, “NEVER AGAIN.” I have several huge preaching assignments that I am preparing for, including Africa. (plus all my regular church stuff) I’m not even thinking about writing proposals because that is out of the question for the next 3 or 4 months. With the way that I approach all of my speaking engagements, I do so with the guiding principal that absolutely every single one is given paramount attention. I don’t have one that is considered lesser - EVER. I treat a single booking at a ladies event with a handful of people in a little country church the same as I do several thousand people in Africa. My core value is that those people are no less important, and when I get up, every time it’s like I’m speaking to thousands no matter how many show up. So I approach everything with the same intensity, study, prayer, seeking God, etc. Sometimes I have more messages to prepare than others – but my point is, I do not relegate anything to lesser importance. Therefore right now, I am feeling a little weighty spiritually. I have the All Church Ministries Conference, Unstoppable Conference, Houston Conference and Africa Conference coming up, like bam, bam, bam and then keeping up with the church at the same time without missing a beat…well, it’s a bit of an order right now for me. But I am convinced that God ordered each one, so therefore I have to keep going and just…”do the next thing” as Dr. Debbi put it on Saturday.

Dr. Debbi said something on Saturday that rocked my world. She said, when you get saved, and somebody says, “Now that you’re saved, don't steal! It’s a sin!” nobody argues with that. Everyone can agree across the board, stealing is a sin. But she said, what about worry? God is saying to you: “Now that you’re saved, don't worry! Worry is a sin!” Why do we relegate worry to a lesser sin or somehow inconsequential? It is a sin to worry. Yet sometimes I still find myself staring at the ceiling…and worrying.

Jesus, please help me. Stealing is no issue for me. Worrying is. I need your help.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Phenomenal day in the house

It was an absolutely astounding day in the house today at Northside. God is so good. We were just going after God with all our hearts...I really sense many people growing to a new level never attained before... praise and worship just absolutely rocked. It was the people's hunger for God that is making the difference...there is really nothing else that different. It's not that it's better music, better presentation of anything - it's just a hunger for the Lord and a desire for a revolution, plain and simple. Those who hunger and thirst after righteousness will be filled.

We are living in exciting times!!!

I would blog more tonight but it's like this...my kids are all spending the night somewhere else getting ready to leave for camp in the morning. That means Larry and I have this house all to ourselves tonight. It was a great day in the house today and it's going to be a great night in my house tonight. :-)

More tomorrow...

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Go Girl Conference

I’m just getting back tonight from the “You Go Girl!” conference, hosted by my good friend, Pastor Andrea Fruscella, co-pastor of First Coast Christian Center in Jacksonville, FL. I decided to take my life coaching ladies to the event. Only six of them could go out of the group but it was so worth it for all of us. I am coming back with my head and my heart so full.

Janet Pascal did the music. Andrea’s message (aptly titled, “You Go Girl”) was awesome. I loved it. And I heard the ministry of Dr. Debbie Dunlap for the first time and I was more than blessed, I was so challenged. I have so many things to work on, I don’t know where to start. She said some things that were absolutely revolutionary to me. Her messages were about depression and anger but they were more biblically based than anything I have ever heard. Rare is it that I go to anything where I haven’t heard of some re-mixed version of the message, but in this case I actually got something new. Basically her outline that she gave out of her message on depression has become a prayer list of sorts for me. I haven’t even gotten home yet, but in addition to my regular prayer list, I plan to pray her message into my life every day. All of the ladies said that Dr. Debbi's ministry impacted them so much especially the messages on depression and friendship. We all have so much to work on! But the good news is, we have the rest of our lives for Jesus to do this in us. Praise God for His grace and patience. This conference was not one where you ran the aisles and shouted, but it was such a deep, "time for a change deep in your heart" type thing and very introspective.

We stayed at Hampton Inn and Suites. We had a fantastic time. I stayed up with the ladies in my room talking until 4 am but it was so worth it! We need that “girl time” from time to time especially with like minded people. I am so refreshed. Rare is it that you go away as a leader and come back refreshed. You are usually so tired from dealing with stuff with “the sheep” but realize I took the cream of the crop away this weekend, not just anyone – these are ladies that have been in the life coaching group for over six months now and they really are at a whole other level. I am physically tired but so emotionally and spiritually refreshed.

Andrea called all the co-pastors, women pastors, pastor’s wives and staff pastors up to the front to honor them. Each were presented with roses and she honored them for their ministry. Then she asked me to greet them and speak to them about the Unstoppable Conference, which was my joy. I was able to share my heart about it and then she asked me to pray over them. We did that and then Dr. Debbie was supposed to preach again at that point but changed her mind. Right after my prayer, she said, “women pastors, pastor’s wives…stay right where you are…” She said God changed her mind about preaching and that she wanted to “interview” us. She went down the line and interviewed each one about the main thing God has taught us or done for us. It was really awesome. After that Janet closed in song.

Andrea really promoted Unstoppable this weekend at the conference. She had flyers up in the restrooms in each stall…she had them at the info center, the registration table, and people were talking it up. When I walked in, a greeter came up to me in the foyer and said, “Mam’, have you received an invitation to the Unstoppable Conference?” I said, “um, yes as a matter of fact, I’m leading it…” J I thought that was so funny. But it always tickles me to have something like that happen. I’ve shown up to preach somewhere and been standing around and someone came up and said, “do you know our guest speaker?” I love the look on their face when I say, “yes, she’s been the closest person to me for 40 years, I mean, we’re like best buds.” Ha ha!!!

It rained all the way home. It was pouring so much we had to drive 45 mph all the way home but thank God we were in good company. Just talking, laughing and having a great time. Candy helped me prepare a little surprise for service Sunday to everyone's delight. Hopefully I can pull it off! We'll see...

We stopped half way on the way home at Wendy's for dinner. While eating, Pastor Andrea called my cell phone just to talk for a few minutes again and get my thoughts...and thank me for being there. I told her again how great it was...what a great job she did. What an incredible person she is. I just enjoy her friendship so much.

I was so looking forward to getting home to Larry. I missed him. I'm not real good at being away from him. The Hampton Inn beds are so comfy… (although I like sleeping in them with him better!). They are the same as the Hyatt beds (I checked with the management because they felt so much the same. I know, I’m weird like that.) But anyhoo, I have only been away a little more than 24 hours but I really do long to just hug my husband and nuzzle up to his neck and just hold him there… and I long to see my Savanna and shout, “Savannie Bannanie, Bobbernina Girl!!! Momma missed her angel pangel, sweetie peetie prinny pie! Jordan Andrew…Momma missed her peachy, her prince, her spridle. Dustin Michael…Momma’s chocki woki souvlaki, captain, Dusty Busty, Baby Cake! I’ll make all them stand there for at least 1 minute while I hold them. It’s tradition. They can’t break the hug til’ I say so. I never saw Dustin tonight - he's at Stephen's but I talked to him on the way home...he bought a bass today and is real excited about it. Savanna's at Morgan's but we stopped by because Lar picked me up there tonight and I showered her with some hugs/kisses before going home. Jordan's home and me with big hugs asking me to check out his boo boo's from paintball and an ant hill he fell into. Momma fixed him up with some Benadryl, he's going to be good as new.

So it’s like this. I’m home, unpacking, ironing the family’s Sunday clothes (never got to it before I left) and the rest of the time, I don’t care about the house – I just want to snuggle with my family and go to sleep. The house can wait til tomorrow even though we have newcomers, I guess I will just resign myself to a few hours of racing around getting things ready, although I will have less time because we go from worship rehearsal, Christian education, worship service, the Spanish outreach meeting, and then newcomers. It’s going to be a full day, but that’s alright. Next week is going to be a lot quieter because the kids are at camp. Everybody and their brother has called Larry and I to get together next week after work. That’s fine by me…we’ll have some more encouragement from our comrades in ministry, which is always needed for all of us who serve in ministry.

Good night for now. It's good to be home.