Friday, February 29, 2008

Inspire Conference 2008 - Part I

As I mentioned yesterday, I'm in Orlando Thursday through Saturday for the Inspire Conference. It's being held at the Florida Mall Hotel and Conference Center - one of the greatest places in the world to stay and shop!

Many awesome women of God are gathered here for these three days to seek the Lord and rest, renew, and grow in all areas of their life.

The conference host, Pastor Sandy Phinazee asked me to speak again this year on marriage. I spoke last year and she said so many lives were changed through it they asked me to come and do the same this year.

Women come to this conference from other places besides Florida. Just this morning I met a sweet older woman from Birmingham, AL who came and fell into my arms crying after my message and said, "thank you, thank'll never know what a God-send this has been..." We sold out of my "Above Average Woman" books already. One lady came racing over to the product table and said to another lady who had just bought the last copy, "I keep that book by my bed every night and read it over and over..." I started tearing up when she said that. It's AMAZING TO ME...simply amazing what GOD has done. Yesterday a young lady who has been married just a few years (but had been having some problems) came running up and said, "do you remember me from last year?!!" I said she looked familiar and she said, "My marriage has been healed and turned around since last year...I'm the one who wrote you an email from last year's conference and told you how I was changed..." It's stuff like this that makes it all worthwhile. PRAISE THE LORD!!!

I spoke last year on being the "Irresistible Wife" and "10 Ways to Keep Your Marriage Hot, Hot, Hot" and so this year I spoke on "10 Lies Women Believe About Marriage." This is the topic Pastor Lisa Alexander brought me to her church in Houston, TX to speak on, and it went so well I decided upon the leading of the Lord to speak on this at Inspire '08 as well, although I did tweak the message somewhat since the TX trip to reflect some new things I've studied and learned. I thought I would share with my readers the outline of my message. I will do it in two parts since it would be rather long to put all ten points here. I'll post the other half tomorrow. When they release the CD's from Inspire I'll do a podcast and make it available on line. Here we go:

1. Women believe the lie: "I don’t feel anything for my husband right now, and my marriage is so far gone, I won’t ever again. It's time to give up."

85% of people get divorced for “non-severe” reasons. Surveys have shown that divorce does not make most people happy.

The first thing you need to do if you are here this weekend and you have been contemplating divorce is discover first of all if you have Biblical grounds. Most people do not. (Read Matthew 19, Mark 10)

If you do not have a Biblical reason, then you need to work it out. But you say, “I’m miserable…” If you have a Biblical reason that is one thing – but if not, work it out. The Bible says God hates divorce. Why does he hate it? It hurts his kids. First of all, you are still one of "his kids" no matter how old you are - second most of you have kids and I can tell you from experience - it hurts them.

Some of you here today are divorced and you did not ask for it. Someone cheated on you, beat you or walked out on you. I realize you did not deserve this and certainly our heart goes out to you. It's not you that I'm speaking about today. Today I am addressing those 85% of people who have absolutely no biblical grounds for divorce but do it anyway or are thinking about doing it anyway. Also I am addressing those who initiated divorce, not those who were victims. If you are a victim I believe God wants to bring you His healing today and restore all the devil tried to steal from you.

Christians (especially Pentecostals) want to act on FEELINGS all the time but honestly we Christians need to ACT OUR WAY INTO A FEELING! Act on facts of God's Word – feelings will come eventually.

Many times people give unBiblical excuses about why they are divorcing and when they talk it's all about WHAT THEY FEEL, not all about what GOD SAYS. The fact is, some people will believe whatever they want to believe even with the facts of God's Word right in front of them.

Most of the time to succeed in your marriage or anything in life, it’s just about doing the right thing long enough.

A study was done of people who were very unhappy in their marriage yet chose to stick it out no matter what. The majority of those people 5 years later were very happy. Every marriage has seasons. Don't leave just because you are in a down season. And yes, sometimes seasons can last for years.

Act on the facts of God’s Word. His Word says plenty about how to treat your spouse. The Word tells you how to act from day to day. If you do the right thing for long enough, it will catch up with you!!!

Some of you might think this is easy for me to say. But believe me I've gone through difficult seasons in my marriage where it was not always as happy as it is now. I knew that I would never choose divorce because seen the first hand the pain it causes. Billy Graham's wife was asked, "Have you ever considered divorce?" She said, "divorce no, murder yes." I will be honest, I ruled out murder because I didn't wait to go to jail. LOL However there were times I said, "Lord, I'm not divorcing him, nor will I kill him, however I will ask you to take me to heaven now to get me out of this." He chose not to. God chose to ask ME to change. Here are the facts my friends...marriage is an everyday exercise in getting over yourself. It’s an everyday exercise in getting beyond your selfishness.

2. Some women believe, “being a wife is well and fine, but you know the first thing God called us women to do is be mothers.

Believe it or not, the first thing that God called you to in scripture was not motherhood. Most people quickly say, “being a mother is the highest calling.” That sounds good, and even as much as I love being a mother, I have to admit, it doesn’t come first according to the Word of God.
The first thing God said when he created the first woman is that she was made as a helpmate to her husband. He didn’t say, “And behold…I have created a mother.” He said: “…"It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him." Genesis 2:18 Motherhood came along later, after the call of helpmate was proclaimed.

Many women spend time serving their children and training their husbands instead of training their children and serving their husbands! Married women are so busy with other things in their lives, including their children – they forget their first calling, and that is – being a wife. A wife is called by God as a helpmate to her husband. Many women spend time turning the channel from Dora the Explorer to SpongeBob Squarepants to running to get extra sippy cups of juice and meanwhile neglect the man God has given them day after day. You do have to take care of your children's needs -- but remember, their needs, not all their wants or extras before you take care of the man God gave you.

Before you became a mother – you were a wife (or at least hopefully that was the order things were in…) There is a divine order of things. Your marriage relationship is priority over other relationships in your life. The most important thing to your children is that their parents get along and stay together. The worst thing that hurts your children is when your marriage falls apart – so don’t let it. Too many Christian women have used marriage as a vehicle to get to their main goal – motherhood, and this is wrong. Men shouldn’t feel placed to the side when their kids come along.

3) Many women believe: “The most important thing for me as a woman and a wife is to just serve everyone else first and put myself last.”

The best thing you can give your marriage partner and your kids is a healthy, fully focused, emotionally and spiritually healthy YOU. Make an effort to stay sharp – spiritually, emotionally & physically.

SELF LEADERSHIP is very important – spend 50% of your time leading yourself. Many of us try to lead our children, people in our workplace, our church and community and we can't even lead ourselves. You can’t lead anyone else or really benefit anyone else in life unless you are leading yourself first.

Matthew 22:36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'

The problem is many women do not love themselves. We will neglect ourselves all the day long and allow other people to mistreat us.

One of the best things you can do for your marriage is – love and respect yourself. If you don’t, no one else will.



3. Some women believe: “If I keep telling my husband everything that is wrong with him, soon he’ll get it through his head and begin to change.”

Generally this will just make him worse. People generally do not respond to rejection or criticism.

What do most people respond well to? Praise.

Praise your way to a great marriage.

Philippians 4:8,9 which says, “And now dear brothers and sisters, let me say one more thing as I close this letter. Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

Hebrews 10:24,25 tells us that as Christians we are to “stimulate one another to love and good deeds.” I Thessalonians 5:11 tells us to “encourage one another and build one another up.”

Proverbs 18:21 says, “Life and death are in the power of the tongue.”

Proverbs 14:1, “The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.”

Most people on the planet respond well to PRAISE. Catch them doing things right and give them kudos. Especially in front of others.

Realize, marriage has never been 50/50…you cannot base your marriage on percentages. There are times my marriage has been 70/30 or 80/20...sometimes 0/100. That's not a reason to bail out.

4. Many women believe the lie that others have a perfect marriage with absolutely no problems. They fall into the comparison trap which is nothing but a lie and then leave their spouse in search for something they think will be better.

Everybody has "stuff." As Hannah Montana says, "Nobody's perfect, I gotta work it!" You gotta work it, ladies. Quit comparing. Yes, you can have a good marriage, even a great marriage. But a perfect one? No one is perfect this side of heaven.

I have a friend who many think has the perfect marriage. Her husband puts his arm around her in church, whispers in her ear and they whisper things to each other and giggle. They serve in their church and honestly they are wonderful people. Many times I've heard women in their church say, "If I could just have a marriage like that..." Little do they know, my friend has put up with the fact for many years that her husband has a pornography problem. She has been to hell and back and many marriage counselors and life has not been easy. But no one in their church knows that. All they see is what is on the outside. Many ladies comment, "if only my husband could be like hers." Some have considered divorce wanting something they perceive to be better. Remember, what God's Word says in II Corinthians 10:12 “We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.”

Everybody’s got their “stuff” – so don’t get caught in the trap of believing that somebody else has the perfect marriage. Be happy with what you have - and again, use that "Hannah Montana theology"..."nobody's perfect, I gotta work it!" Work it, work it!

5. Many women believe the lie: "I don’t know that I can ever forgive my husband. Too much has happened."

Larry and I have had some big arguments and most of them we don't remember years down the road. What does the Word of God say?

"Therefore as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity." Colossians 3:12-14

Life is too short to stay in petty arguments that you won’t even remember one day. One day you will be beside your husband’s bedside saying your last words, or him with you – and you won’t even remember these arguments…but you will wish for just a few more moments together. Keep in mind, in most marriages people are not fighting over Biblical reasons for divorce such as adultery. Most people are fighting over much smaller, very re-solveable issues.
Many people think, “We’re fighting all the time, it’s just easier to move on.”

Statistics tell us that the more times a person is married, the less likely it is to work out.
90% of all third marriages end in divorce. Keep in mind as well that even when you have a Biblical reason GOD CAN STILL HEAL!!!

Many choose to stay even when they have a Biblical reason to let go. Remember, forgiveness doesn’t make them right, but it sets you free!

Tomorrow I will post the second half of my outline of my message. Keep in mind this is just the outline - I give lots of illustrations and practical everyday life examples which is why it's great to hear the podcast when I post it...

Looking forward to a great service tonight...the worship team is so anointed, and the speaker team as well. Here are the speakers for the weekend ~ (l-r, Pastor Sheri Hawley, Pastor Missy Monokian, Pastor Sandy Phinazee, me, and Pastor Jennifer Lee.)

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Luck, or positioning? (UPDATED!!!)

Pastor Craig Sloan, (Pastor Tara's husband) has a great blog called "Positioned for Greatness." I want to share for a minute today about being positioned.

I have had people say to me before, "you're so lucky" about certain things in my life. I've been told I'm lucky to have the husband I have. No, I'm not. He's great, but it has nothing to do with luck. I don't believe in luck.

I do believe in divine appointment but also in WISDOM. I didn't just pick him out and go, eenie, meenie, miney moe, catch a husband by his toe... (if he hollers let him go, ha ha!) Um, no...this was a serious decision made with prayerful consideration. You know how the pastor gets up in front of the congregation at a wedding and gives the typical "speech" before the vows and says, "marriage is not something to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly..."? Well, guess what -- I didn't enter into it unadvisedly or lightly, so there's no luck about the matter. Some things, such as choosing a marriage partner, or how you raise your children,or serving God's church can't be left to matters of "luck." I have had countless women who have husbands who are losers boo-hoo to me at an altar in church and say how lucky I am to be married to mine. And I think to myself, "you CHOSE your husband. You MADE THE DECISION TO date an unbeliever or someone who was not spiritually strong, then you MADE A DECISION to become engaged to him, then you CHOSE to marry him, and now you want to call me lucky? Please, there is no luck in the matter, only wisdom and the taking advantage of divine appointment. One must make calculated decisions to hopefully arrive at the destination you desire. You must be positioned for greatness.

I always tell our people at Northside that they need to get in position. If you want blessing, you have to get lined up for it. Let's talk about men again for a minute. Ladies, if you are not married, realize this - you can't be with Mr. Right if you are currently with Mr. Wrong. Mr. Divine Appointment is not going to give you a second look if you are still on Mr. Loser Man's arm. So get with God's program and quit wasting your time on a man who is not worth your time!! Pastor Lisa Alexander often says, "No man is better than a piece of a man." I love that. Some of you just want a man so bad you will settle for anything in a pair of dockers. Please listen to me. No man at all is better than a spiritually unqualified man. Wait for God's best. Don't make a bad decision because you are lonely and longing to get married and then cry about how all your friends are so lucky for God's blessings upon their lives.

If you want to be closer to God you position yourself by spending time with Him in reading His Word, prayer, and worship. You also position yourself by being around others who will encourage you in your faith. Some people think they are going to drop into the house of God whenever they feel like it, on a hit and miss basis, and be blessed. That's not how it works. The Bible says those who are PLANTED IN THE COURTS OF THE LORD WILL FLOURISH.

Parents will allow their kids to drop out of youth services because "they don't feel like going" or "they'd rather play baseball on that night" but then want to rush them to the youth pastor for counseling a year or two later when they find a bottle of alcohol in their closet or they find out they slept with their boyfriend or girlfriend.

Lack of proper positioning is one of people's biggest problems today. Believers want to go to the beach two out of four Sundays a month instead of going to church and then wonder why their family is not blessed. The same people will say, "but we were spending FAMILY TIME." And they just don't "get" why this will not yield a blessing ultimately for their family". (Until it's too late in some cases, unfortunately.)

Your son or daughter can be filled with the Holy Ghost riding the waves at Cocoa beach, but there's probably a greater chance of that happening if you have them in the house of the Lord. Priorities are a big part of positioning. I am finding today more than ever, people need to have this explained. Because they are thinking the are going to position themselves and their family in some other way and still be blessed.

By the way, my kids are normal (well sorta LOL) and they skate, surf, and all just like the rest. But the point is, there are seven days in the week to do things. And on the Lord's day, we give Him honor. On youth group night, being in that service comes first unless there would be very extenuating circumstances. Before you e-mail me and say, "yeah, but you can do all this and your kids can still turn out wrong..." here is my response to that. Would you rather have your kids turn out wrong and have a lot of regrets because you know in your heart you did not put them in the proper position to succeed? Or would you rather have kids who turned out wrong BUT you have no regrets because you honestly did everything God expected you to do for them to walk in the right path? Yes, kids will sometimes still do what they are going to do regardless -- they have a free will BUT -- believe me it's much better if they do to be able to say that you lived such a life as a mother where you put them in proper position. If they choose wrong, your kids will also one day have to look back and say, "my mother/father put me in the proper environment, however I simply chose to disobey." I always tell our people, if you want your family to be blessed, you've got to "get under the spout where the glory's coming out!" Hint: that is not in front of your television watching TV during church on Wednesday nights, or sitting on the beach on a Sunday morning unless your church happens to be having a service there.

There is positioning in marriage. Many women also think they can become mothers and basically neglect their husband's needs for the years while they are raising their kids (many spiritualize it even - saying the kids have become their "first calling now" - never mind that you can't find that in scripture) and then they wonder why their husbands get into some trouble of some sort and they get into a marriage crisis. Again, it's about positioning. You have to position your marriage for greatness too. The call to be a wife comes before the call to be a mother. In Genesis 2:18 God declared our role of helpmate before he ever spoke of our call to motherhood. I would think most people will agree with me that you are supposed to become a wife before you become a mother. (Unless you are a unique case like Michele Danielson where you are a single, unmarried woman who has been directed by God to adopt a child.) So excepting unique cases like this you become a wife first. And you must be true to your call to marriage and keep it first even after you have children, positioning your marriage relationship for blessing.

Why do so many believers think they will move ahead in their life without doing it by the book? Victory does not just fall on you. It doesn't just happen. Victory is not a reward, it's a result.

Nothing in my life is a result of luck. Grace? Absolutely. Divine appointment? Absolutely. Luck? No.

Thankfully you do not have to rely on luck in order to have a blessed life either. All you have to do to have a blessed life is position yourself for it. God is so good to set it up for us that way! So take advantage of it!

p.s. Keep me in prayer. I'm packing my bag and leaving in just a little bit to go to Orlando to speak at Inspire. Teeb is going with me. It's such a beautiful hotel and they provide wonderful accomodations for me, and I like spending the time with him there in between the services and at night. There are also some ladies from Northside attending as well. Pray for us for safe travel and a blessed conference! Great things are in store.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A word of knowledge and wisdom

through two unlikely women in a nail shop

Today I have my monthly appointment with my dear friend and hairdresser, Ada Alfonso (pictured here with me) at Continental Hair. She's going to give me fresh highlights and make me feel beautiful as I prepare to go and speak at the Inspire Conference in Orlando Thurs-Sat.

I promised yesterday that I would share the "divine appointment" of how I started going to my hairdresser. I also told you it was a testimony that might set some of you free! Sit back, get a cup of coffee, listen, learn and be blessed.
When I came to Tampa, I was having my hair done by someone, we'll call her "Linda" at a place we'll call "Hair Connection" (both made up names for the sake of her anonymity). Linda was a Christian, even attended our church at one time, but was very critical, and therefore - draining. She had a negative word to say about church stuff and people and seemed to always see the glass half empty. Everytime I'd leave Hair Connection I had a headache, I was so tired of listening to her. But I felt like for some reason I should stay. Like many people dealing with such a person, I felt I was one of "the only ones" in her life who would be there to listen, so I did.
At the time I believed maybe God would use me to be an agent of change in her life...maybe I could make a difference. She would make critical remarks and I would try to come back with patient, positive answers. I tried not to be exasperated and just come back with a steady gentle dose of God's Word or nice words about others. I learned a big lesson that seldom do or our actions change such people who have this problem. We are better off removing ourself from critical people but I was naive about this at the time and thought, "if I stay and be a force for good, maybe she'll see the light and change".

I kept going to Linda every month as my hairdresser and each time I'd leave feeling horrible. This went on for at least a year and a half or so. My hair looked pretty good but my spirit was DOWN.
If I said, "did you hear, so and so got saved?" she'd say, "Hmmmm...wonder how long that will last?"
If I said, "so and so is pregnant and we're so excited!" she say, "Don't you think she has enough kids already? And the ones she has just run around the church out of control..."
If I said, "So and so sang a solo at church last week and it was incredible" she'd say, "yeah, she has a good voice but her skirts are always too short."
If I said, "Linda, we had an awesome service Sunday and seven people were saved!" she'd say, "yeah, but I heard the Smiths left the church..."
I mean, really it was THAT bad. She was like "Debbie Downer" from Saturday Night Live with a good dose of a religious and critical spirit thrown in. Always a negative comeback. But still I stayed thinking I was going to be the Christian that was going to be part of her breakthrough. Dumb, dumb, dumb. She was Debbie Downer, I was Dumb Deanna. (LOL)

SoI kept going to Linda even though I walked out of the Hair Connection each time feeling like my head would explode from all her critical words. I stayed and believed things would change and maybe I'd make a difference.

Meanwhile I was noticing my friend Lisa's hair. I had been noticing her hair for a long time. She has fantastic color and style. I knew she got her hair done by a woman named Ada and she was crazy about her. She said, "really, you need to have Ada do your hair at least once." I hesitated because I felt like to do so would be giving up and maybe God didn't want me to give up -- Linda might change.

Lisa encouraged me...even said, "I will give you a gift certificate to go to Ada if that's what it takes to get you away from Linda, and get you to try Ada!!" Still I hesitated. I even called Ada once to set an appointment, left a message on her machine, then chickened out. I know....crazy.

I told Lisa I'd pray about it.

And I really did.

This was a big deal to me because I don't like "giving up on people" and have always been one of those people who believes in "hanging on for your breakthrough." But I've learned on some things, God wants us to break away, not necessarily break through. For some of us, our breakthrough IS in breaking away. I prayed about it and each month would still make my appointment with Linda wondering with angst if I really should have. Meanwhile God was trying to give me a nudge out of there, but I was too naive to see it. Or maybe I was too proud. I have to be honest, I thought, "Linda might change, and I'd be a part of that change in her life."

Well, my close friend Lisa would ask me, "what are you waiting for? It's time you get out of there and start going somewhere else to get your hair done!!!" I guess I was waiting for God to send a lightening bolt as a sign. He never sent a bolt of lightening but He finally did send two unsaved ladies to give me a word of knowledge and wisdom vicariously in a nail shop.

I was sitting in my nail salon getting a fill and my manicurist was working on me and for a few moments I was just sitting in silence listening to everything around me. Two ladies I have never seen before were at two other tables, having their nails done. Through some of their converstion I gathered that it was quite probable both were unsaved. They were friends, chatting back and forth during their manicures. Sitting there silently listening while my manicurist filed and drilled away, I heard the following conversation between the two women:

"Hey, are you still going to Linda, down at the Hair Connection?"

"Oh no! Are you kidding? I stopped going there months ago!"

"Really? So did I!"

"You're kidding!!! Why did you stop?"

"I left her and went to another hairdresser because each time she did my hair I left with such a headache from all that negativity I just couldn't take it anymore...I had to get out for my own mental health..."

Instantly God intervened on the conversation and spoke to me loud and clear and said, "WHAT MORE DO YOU NEED, DEANNA? GET OUT!!!"

Those two unsaved ladies basically delivered a word of knowledge and wisdom to me! I walked out of the nail shop, called Ada for an appointment and the rest is history. My friend Lisa actually did end up giving me a gift certificate. She was so pleased I was finally making this switch, she and Bernie treated me to my very first appointment with Ada. I'll be ever grateful. Not only did I gain a hairdresser, I gained one of my very best friends. I have gone to Ada for over three years now. Ada is one of the most incredible things to ever happen to me!!! Not only does my hair look great (complete strangers stop me and ask about my hair) but when I leave her shop, I feel spiritually on top of the world. God didn't just give me a hairdresser - he gave me a kindred spirit, and a phenomenal friend. To read more about this precious gift in my life, click here.

Maybe you have been waiting for a very contentious or critical person in your life to change. Realize, they seldom change, at least because of anything another person does. Only God can change such a person - it won't be you. Only God can change a "Debbie Downer" or a "Linda". By staying around them you are not helping them, you are only hurting yourself. Realize that contention and dissension is listed in the Bible as one of the “seven things that God hates.” (dissention or contention among the brethren) If God hates it, why do we make ourselves subject to it? And particularly if someone like this is in the church, the Bible gives very specific instructions-- Titus 3:10 says: "Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him."

In my case, I didn't warn once or twice. I just hung around for a year and a half waiting for someone to change who only God could change.

Sometimes your breakthrough comes through breaking AWAY.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

With our friends

at the St. Pete Pier yesterday...

Yep, I took Savanna out of school to spend the day with us. Sometimes ya gotta let the kids play hooky on special occasions. :-) And besides that, it WAS educational! (She and Jordan Tunzi toured the aquarium there...)

Before anyone wonders why the boys weren't there;

1) Jordan has missed too many days (which I haven't been happy with him about) and though he wanted to go, it was not wise.

2) Dustin had college and couldn't afford to miss.

3) Savanna hasn't really missed any school up til' now.

By the way, do you notice how tall my "baby" is getting? She's almost as tall as me!!! And almost up to her Daddy's shoulder! And she's only 10. Would you believe she wears my shoe size and we share some of the same clothes, shoes and jewelry? AMAZING.

One day she came to me and said, "Mom, I'll stop eating my vegetables." I said, "honey, why would you want to do that?" She said, "you said you were having a hard time seeing me grow." (LOL)

Bustin' through a pile of work

Today I got Savanna off to school and started working like there was no tomorrow, busting through my work while drinking a steady amount of hot tea.

Tuesday is my day to work at home on church work. I always hate it when people say, "oh, Tuesday's your day to have off at home?" No, I'm not off. On the contrary, it's my hardest working day usually. I take it at home because if I am at church everyday I am too distracted by everything around me and it is difficult especially to "create". I get the bulk of my work done this day because I have no walk ins, phone calls, interruptions, or sounds around me. I work in the quiet at home and it is my main day to get anything that involves writing done. As I have to speak at the Inspire Conference this weekend, I really need to get everything done by tomorrow that can possibly be done before I leave. Today was crucial. I've gotten almost everything wrapped up by working at a steady clip.

Tonight there is a tornado warning and I wasn't able to go outside to walk. We've had a quiet night at home. We ate a chicken dinner and Bobby joined us and now the kids are watching TV and I'm wrapping up my last work things before spending some time with the Teeb and the fam. I think we'll have some cookies and watch American Idol before I hit the sack.

I did take a lunch break to meet today with Sue Flint, our Aprile's Hope ministry director. (This is our ministry/support group at Northside for victims of domestic violence and also those experiencing significant loss.) What a great job she does. This is a post in itself. The Lord brought us together in a powerful partnership. She ministers in a wonderfully effective way to the ladies and is someone I can entrust them with fully. The ministry is growing and we have great plans for the future! We had lunch together at Weck's, which is one of my favorite places to have lunch. If you are ever in Land O' Lakes, FL be sure to stop by Weck's Deli and tell them Pastor Deanna sent you. :-) Have a chicken salad sandwich and some pesto pasta pea salad! One of my other favorites is their cream of mushroom soup but they only have it on certain days.

Today I stopped and talked with John, the owner. He used to be the receptionist at a hair salon I went to before I met Ada and she started being my hairdresser. Evidently after I left the hair salon he worked at, he left as well and started Wecks. I have eaten in there quite a few times but he has never recognized me in the restaurant before -- he's also always been busy working very hard behind the counter and at the same time I've just been busy talking since I'm always with friends there, and so I never went up to him behind the counter and said anything. But today I took the time and went over to talk to him. He said, "oh my, I do recognize you!! But I have to admit I did not before because you look so different...have you lost a great deal of weight?" I said, "yes, I did..." and he said, "you look fantastic!" I said, "thanks! I do need to get my roots done tomorrow (LOL) with my current hairdresser but I appreciate your compliment!!!" I always liked John - he was always so pleasant and accomodating.

Leaving my former hairdresser, who I'll call "Linda" and going to Ada is a "divine appointment" story in itself as well as a testimony. It's a story I believe will speak to some of you and maybe even set you free. And it's a story I'm going to tell you...tomorrow. So stay tuned.

Frozen Grand Central

This is one of the coolest things you've ever seen. These people (207 of them, I think) got together and decided to go places together and "freeze" on cue for five minutes. They did it in Grand Central Station on this video. Watch it, it's so funny. Anybody wanna join me? Let's get a bunch of people together and go do this at Clearwater Beach or Raymond James Stadium or at least the mall...c'mon, who's up for it? That would be SO funny.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The "I am Special" Revelation

1 Corinthians 4:1-2, "Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful."

How many of you leaders out there have somebody cancel on you for something...

or not show up...

or be late constantly...

and you think, "...why do people do that?"
"and if they do why don't they at least call to warn you?..."
"How do they live so last minute?"
"How do they hold down a job?"

and then you think, "I don't do that...I've never done that..."

And you start getting irritated and mulling over in your mind the reasons why people do those things and how you would have to have to be on your death bed or at least have a heart attack before you did that. Well, I found myself sliding into that thought pattern I've had so often, on Sunday. And as quick as I began to digress into that line of thinking, the Lord said to me, "but you are special."


To whom much is given, much is required. People live at different levels, depending upon the commitment to faithfulness and excellence one is willing to make.

I have list of faults a mile long, but by golly, I'm as faithful as the day is long. If I'm not where I say I'm going to be when I say I'm going to be, giving 100% to whatever it is we're doing, call 9-1-1, because something is really wrong. You need to be ALARMED.

So on Sunday, God as my witness, when I started to get a little irritated around the edges over a few people not doing things exactly as they were supposed to, I heard the voice of God in my head say, "but you are special..." and I said, "what do you mean, Lord?" And He said back to me, you were chosen as a steward and have been faithful to your tasks, so therefore I keep giving you more, but some people will never know that in their lives." 1 Corinthians 4:1-2, "Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful."

God reminded me - everyone has a calling to faithfulness and excellence but all do not necessarily fulfill that call. Neither do they receive some of the blessings that that others do who are faithful. Although I realize there is nothing we are ever given in life without the grace and mercy of God, I do also believe that how much we receive often depends on our faithfulness to the Lord and to others. As Pastor Craig Sloan says, they must be "positioned for greatness." Positioning yourself involves many things but I would say at the top of the list would be faithfulness, dedication and a passion for excellence. One must make calculated decisions to arrive at the destination you desire. You must be positioned for greatness.

I've heard it said, "always do your best ~ then let God do the rest." Please note, there's a huge "rest" that you and I could never accomplish on our own, yet we must do our BEST! (or why in the world should God do the rest if he knows we don't care enough to do our best?) The point is, some people don't care much about doing their best. But some do. And those who do, I believe are special people.

Take for instance, the fact that sometimes church members move away. They get transferred. If you are the pastor saying goodbye to an excellent church member, it's so depressing. If you are the pastor getting a great church member who is transferring you are doing the happy dance. Usually when one of these "gems" or "winners" as my hubby calls them, comes to your church and decide to make it "home' you get a call or letter from their former pastor saying, "hey, just want to give you a heads up, these folks are SPECIAL." And you make a note of that. When Alex and Aida Rivera came to our church, we got letters from not only their pastor but some other ministry leaders from their former place in New Jersey saying, "hey...just to let you know you are getting a great blessing...these folks are SPECIAL!!!" Well, Larry and I didn't fall off the ministry turnip truck yesterday. We knew right away we had a great blessing and the Riveras were able to become leaders at our church very quickly based upon their former years of dedication, faithfulness and excellence at their church in NJ. Bro. Alex has absolutely turned our Royal Ranger ministry around and it the gift we prayed for for years.

These type of "special people" get God's attention but they also get their leader's attention. I believe as we do our best, God shows up on the scene and blesses us. I Chronicles 16:9 tell us that He's always looking for those whose hearts are fully toward Him (faithful) and that he will strongly support and endorse those individuals. I don't know about you, but I want that more than anything!

Florence Littauer has a book, It Takes So Little To Be Above Average. I believe this is true (it does take so little) because most people do the bare minimum or less! Therefore when we rise up to go the extra mile, to do just a little more than the rest, to be ultra faithful and dependable, we stand out and shine like stars in a dark sky. Just this week somebody in my Sunday School class, Bill Letaw, was telling our class how true this is - that he's seen it manifested in his work situation. Most of his peers at his company only want to do just what is asked of them, no more. He said when he goes just a little beyond, he stands out incredibly in his boss's eyes. It's a principle well worth remembering.

There are great blessings in serving with faithfulness, dedication and excellence. 1 Corinthians 15:58 says, "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord." I want to be "always abounding". I know that my labor is never in vain. Never, because God sees it and keeps score.

I love how Hebrews 6:10 & 11 puts it: God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. 11We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure."

Today as we were walking around the shops in St. Pete, I saw a t-shirt that was hot pink and it said, "Jesus loves you...but I'm His favorite." I laughed so hard. You know, I really do believe that faithful people are God's favorite, or at least He does seem to greatly bless them.

Yes, I am special. And if you are serving the Lord with all your might and you sometimes get discouraged by some unfaithfulness in others, or lack of excellence, just say to yourself, right now, "yes, but you are special." Realize, they may choose to do that and get to lay around more or sleep in another day but you are in line for promotion and favor. So rejoice my friend. The Bible says that David ENCOURAGED HIMSELF IN THE LORD. Sometimes you and I have to do the same thing. If you are a pastor or pastor's wife reading this and you are going through this, or you are a hard working Sunday School director whose teachers are late all the time, or you are a choir director trying to corral a bunch of stray choir members and you are discouraged right now because somebody was late, didn't show up, didn't call, quit or whatever, just back up from your computer chair right now, and say it out loud...YEAH, BUT I'M SPECIAL!!!"

The bottom line is, God loves everybody, Jesus died for everybody. You can't do anything to earn their love and it is unconditional and everlasting. But "rewards" and 'blessings"? They aren't just doled out upon the masses for just anything. They come in greater degree to those who are faithful and serve with excellence.

Next time you get a little chapped when a slacker does something, just smile real big and think to yourself, "OKAY SO THEY DID THAT, BUT I AM SPECIAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" or if you really need a boost, run outside by yourself, jump up and down and holler it a few times.

Took the day off today...

I'm sitting out on my patio blogging tonight for the first time in eons. I just haven't been out here for so long by myself, and I miss it. So here I am on my swing, to give update on today's happenings.

We took off work today and went with our friends for their final day here, to St. Petersburg. (Just a hop, skip and jump over from Tampa.) We went to the shops at the Pier and ate at a place there high up overlooking the water.

We had a good time of fun, food and conversation but they had to leave around 4 pm because their plane took off at 6:00 tonight. We will miss them... but plans are to come back sooner rather than later. Being that Vito does various real estate and construction things down here he comes on business sometimes and we get a chance to meet up.

Here are some more pictures of our time together. First, one of Savanna with my friends, Cherie and Cathy - in front of our house. Second, a photo of Savanna with Vito and Cherie's son Jordan, in our jacuzzi. Cherie has more photos that she needs to send me and then I'll hopefully post some more.

My house is so quiet tonight it's unbelievable. All the kids are tired and laying down...

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Family ~ Friends ~ Food ~ FANTASTIC!

Today was a good day in the house at Northside - everything went pretty smoothly (I had a few things to tweak here and there but for the most part it went smoothly.) With the few things that didn't go as smooth, I got a revelation from God on it and it was suddenly all good! It's amazing what a Word from God will do for you. I'll share it sometime soon in a blog, more than likely. The revelation is one I'm calling the "I am special" revelation and so be looking for a possible blog post on this from me soon.

In addition to our friends from Maryland being here with us, the highlight of my day was having Bobby walk in the doors right before Sunday School. He has now quit his job that had him working Sundays. Yee ha!!!! He wanted to surprise us with this today. I have always known, if we could just get Bobby to have Sundays off and be at church on a regular basis, it will create not only a huge change in HIS life, but the lives of everyone around him. Talk about a kid with an absolute ton of potential... really he has the ability to be a serious history maker. I believe huge things are in store for him.

When I saw Bobby come in I freaked out with happiness. He said he is so happy that with the resignation of his job he can be at church each week from now on. I told him I'd do whatever I could do to personally help him get a job where he doesn't work on Sundays. I advised him as I have so many others that it's so important to set the standard up front with a potential employer that you WILL NOT work until after 1 pm on Sundays and that you will be a dedicated hardworking employee, however church attendance it the priority, no ifs, ands, or buts! So he asked me, "Momma Shrodes, are we doing anything special for lunch today?" I said, "just meeting at the house and there's a place always set for you, of course..." He beamed as usual.

At the close of service he met me in the hospitality room and said, "I just feel so good...just being here makes me feel so different." Today Larry preached once again about the family, and he shared some stories about Dustin and how he prayed the prayer of salvation with him when he was just 2 years old and he's stayed true to God all this time. Of course Bobby is one of Dustin's best friends, knows how he lives and he spends a significant amount of time in our home.

Bobby has been raised by a wonderful single father who took care of him after his mother left the family, got a divorce and moved to California when he was just a little boy. One of the reasons I am so close to Bobby is because for all intents and purposes, I'm the "up close" Mom he's never had. He comes to the house often not just to spend the night or eat here, but to just drop by and show me his new car, his prom pictures, or discuss whatever in his life is on his mind as a mother would talk to a son. You can read the story here of him getting saved this past Easter. Up to the point he met Dustin and he started seeing what true Christians are really all about, Bobby was an atheist/agnostic. Many people wonder why so many kids today are espousing these views and my personal opinion is - they have gone through so much hurt and pain in their upbringing that they wonder, "how can God be real if he allowed this or that to happen to me?" These kid are so fractured they can't imagine there's a God. Contagious Christians need to come along and give them hope. We need to be "Jesus with skin on" and show them the love of the Father, through our loving example.

After talking to me in the hospitality room, Bobby went and found Larry out in the sanctuary and talked to him and he said, "Papa Shrodes, you'll never know how much this service meant to me today." and Lar said, "really Bobby, what specifically impacted you?" and he said, "Well, everything your family has is what I want. As you know I haven't been raised like this in a Christian home with a Mom and Dad and a relationship like you have with your kids and it's what I want so much for my own life. The thing is, I see your family up close from being at the house all the time and I see that what you are telling these people on Sunday is truly what you are living with your family at home. That's the kind of life I want. And I'm going to make sure I learn all I can to make that happen..."

When Larry told me that in the car I just wept. I mean, I knew in my heart it's how Bobby felt all along but just to hear him express it, it's just beyond words.

He came home with us today as did Casey and then our friends from Maryland so we had a real full house for Sunday dinner and luckily I had a mountain of food - two roasts, 10 lbs. of mashed potatoes, a huge bowl of corn, ceasar salad again, my homemade biscuits, etc.

We had a great time together sharing at lunch time and then Savanna was making jewelry with a few of our guests and Larry sat down to watch sports for a few minutes and I went over in the lazyboy chair and laid down with him and went to sleep for what ended up to be a few hours. Do you know what it's like to shut your eyes to rest for a few minutes and open them up hours later, not realizing just how much you needed the res? I felt so terrible to go to sleep with guests here but I was just so exhausted I couldn't help it. Thankfully they are true friends who understand! They were just making themselves at home having a good ol' time. Making jewelry, watching TV, sitting out on the patio, getting in the jacuzzi, walking around the neighborhood to work some of that dinner off.

A few hours later I woke up and they were wanting to go to supper. By this time so much time had passed, it was 7 pm! I really did sleep forever without intending to. Larry called Bonefish and got a table reservation and we all went there for a late supper. If you've never been to Bonefish, it's one of the best places in my opinion, for seafood, and I love their crab chowder.

We sat and talked for a few hours with our friends and it was so nice just to be together...and enjoy a relaxed dinner with some calamari and mussels, and much more. I think most Marylanders consider good seafood and good conversation a pretty much unbeatable combination!

I want to post some pictures tomorrow of our day today. I didn't take any - I was too busy, but Cherie and Vito took a bunch so I'll get them off of her camera tomorrow and try to post some.

Family, friends, food, good conversation...nothing better.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

House guests, house photos and

the ministry of bread

Today we started our day by getting the finishing touches of cleaning done on our home and going to pick up our friends at the airport. We have friends/members from our former church in Maryland, Vito and Cherie Tunzi, and their son Jordan, and Drew and Cathy Gertz, here with us for the weekend. It's so wonderful having them here! The best part of all is we have TWO MORE DAYS together! Yeah! This is Drew and Cathy's first time to see us since we've been in Florida but Vito and Cherie have been here several times. We always have an amazing time. To say I enjoy hosting people in my home is the understatement. I am positively crazy about it!

We picked the Tunzi's up from the airport and it was lunchtime and we went right to LaTerasita and had lunch. I consider this the best Cuban place in Tampa and it's also the most economical. The lamb stew was so good today it was amazing. I have heard that when Jennifer Lopez comes to Tampa she eats at LaTerasita. I believe it! I love their food, all of it. The best cafe con leche for sure!

The Gertz's arrived a little while later and we went to our house and we spent the day/evening together here and had dinner at our house. We sat out on the patio for a few hours and talked, grilled steaks and I made Ceasar salad (my recipe...everyone loves it!), baked potatoes, corn, Cuban bread and a "MRSA" cake.

Just what is a "MRSA cake you might ask?" Well, MRSA is a staph infection that will kill you. (LOL) So, why in the world have I named a cake after it you might ask? Well, when Dustin had MRSA and was hospitalized last year and then came home to recooperate, we were ordered by the doctors to give him soft foods for quite a while. He ate mashed potatoes, macaroni, etc. constantly and we made huge pots of it for not only him but his friends. He had a constant stream of visitors coming in and out of here and we always feed whoever's here. He also loves chocolate cake with chocolate icing. I was trying to make as many variety of things as possible and things he liked since being sick was definitely not fun for him. I made one of these chocolate layer cakes practically every day when he was sick. When I didn't make them, his friend Jasmine made one that was equally as delicious. And the kids devoured it. Since I made them continuously at the time, I sort of dubbed them MRSA cakes! :-) We had this delicious treat tonight with ice cream and Kenya tea, (GRIN) another love of mine. I save the Kenya tea bags for when I have guests in or when I am feeling particularly achy in my heart for Africa. When I'm really missing my Kenya friends a lot I brew a cup of tea in their honor. And of course I pray for them.

We've washed up the ton of china from tonight's dinner, (it never all fits in the dishwasher) and gotten both tables re-set with china for tomorrow afternoon's dinner which will also include Casey. Cathy and Cherie said, "my word, how much china DO you have?" I have a weakness for dishes, I'll be honest... I love them.

To be exact, I have four sets of dishes and just gave one away today, proceeds to go to the children's ministries if indeed they sold it at their garage sale. Today was a busy day at Northside, between our children's ministries fundraiser and the homeless ministry we do feeding and clothing countless numbers of people in Tampa.

I thought I would post some photos I just took around my house today for you to see. I periodically post some so you can see where I live. Soon I'm going to take photos of my route when I walk. I am in a perfect neighborhood for walking -- it's absolutely beautiful...I'll show you soon. Every time I walk I say to myself, "why don't I do this seven days a week? I live in unbelievably beautiful surroundings!" But life takes over and I don't always like I should. I am commiting to do better.

Tomorrow I will take and post some photos of our friends who are visiting. Oh how I do love to have people visit! Did I already say that? Hospitality is one of my main gifts that I so enjoy flowing in. I love having people in, cooking, and doing for others.

I have tomorrow's dinner on already. I made the kid's favorite -- my "no fail" roast beef recipe. It cooks all night. You would not believe how incredible this roast beef and gravy is unless you tried it yourself. My kids don't like to eat it anywhere else, they are spoiled.

So the roast beef is cooking already and I also made my biscuit dough for tomorrow. That's another family & neighborhood favorite. I am trying to win my neighbors to the Lord through a ministry of bread. One of our neighboring families has always seemed very closed to the gospel. But they are really nice people. It has been my custom since living here in our current house (3 years) to split the bread when I make it and give half of it to them fresh out of the oven. I do this to reach out to them. When I make my homemade yeast rolls and bread or biscuits I just make a basket for them and have the kids take it over. I do this usually a few times a month. They love it and it although they have never taken up my invitation to come to church yet, or hear more about the Lord, I believe one day they will.

At least if nothing else, they will have met at least one Christian family that has reached out to them in love and have a good experience with. I want them to think of Christians and smile, and want to know more about us and the God we serve. Perhaps I will be the seed, or the person watering them so that someone else -- another Christian -- can meet them and reel them in for their "harvest." Some plant, some water, some see the increase. I don't care which one I am with them, I just want to be a "link in their chain" -- I think Andy Stanley made that phrase famous, not sure who did but I think it was him. Anyway, I'm a link in my neighbor's chain to come to Christ, at least that is what I am praying...and believing.

I envision them one day coming to Jesus and looking back and saying, "we used to think Christians were out of touch freaks, but then one day Deanna started bringing us that bread..."

Friday, February 22, 2008

I love going to the dentist!!!!!!

Stay tuned to find out just WHY I love going...

Well, I do brush my teeth but I still got into this fix. At least it's over. My three hour ordeal of getting my tooth done is complete. Halleluiah. I feel so much better now. I have a temporary crown and in two weeks they put the permanent one on which is painless and only take a few seconds.

Although I brush my teeth a lot I did miss my six month cleaning with all else going on and it caught up with me. Other than that I've been really good at 2 checkups a year but I still seem to have a lot of cavities since I moved to FL. So, I made a decision today. I'm getting four cleanings a year. My insurance pays for two, and even though I'll pay for the other 2 out of pocket it will be worth it, especially since they are only going to charge me $22 for them. I asked today and my dentist has a policy that if you have insurance and you get additional procedures they don't cover - they only charge you what they would have charged you had the insurance company denied a claim! Pretty cool huh? So I'll get a $90 cleaning, but only pay $22. Awesome! I think if I go every 3 months it will keep me cavity free and I won't find myself in this painful position again not to mention shelling out all this money for a crown. I think that's pun intended. :-)

I don't like going to the dentist as far as getting my teeth worked on, however I LOVE GOING TO THE DENTIST!!! So much I can't believe I missed my check up last time, but other stuff in life sorta took over. But anyway, the people at my dentist office ROCK. I had the privilege a few years ago of developing a relationship with the office manager and leading her to the Lord. She's just a young woman in her 20's and her name is Lia. We are still good friends today and just remarked that the next time I come in we'll have to schedule my appointment around lunch time so we can go together and spend some time with each other. She just brought up today about the wonder of God putting people in your life for a reason and now asked me to pray for someone who God has now put in her life to minister to. God is good. Really folks, THIS is what it's about.

If you never figured it out about me yet, I have a passion of reaching people for the Lord, and pretty much an almost aversion to religious pharisaical types. :-) Religious people can sometimes drive me crazy. My passion is to reach the lost and mentor them and this is something that is my priority over anything else. I've found through the years that generally people who are also doing that are pretty well consumed with it and have little time for the pettiness that some so called Christians get wrapped up in. I'm so glad years ago I made a decision to make this my focus. Lia (office manager) is one person I'm getting to take to heaven with me as a result.

I referred earlier to Pastor Craig Sloan's excellent post from today. Craig and Tara have both been incredible life-speakers to me over the years and during a difficult time in my life years ago it was Craig's preaching tapes that lifted me to a new level in God. They both have such good insight, and specifically here's some of what he had to say today:

"What amazes me the most is that people who are critical spend all their time criticizing you, when in reality they envy what you got. They will criticize you over your new blessing until you leave it, and then they will come right behind you and scoop it up. Don’t allow their negative spirit to distract you from what is yours. Your blessing is your blessing, it doesn’t belong to anyone else, but when you focus on the critics you forfeit what is yours. Let them talk; it just reveals that they are so consumed with your life, that they don’t have a life. I want to close with one statement to all those critics, doubters, naysayers, and hateful people who are so focused on our failure, GET A LIFEI

My blessing is indeed my blessing, Pastor Craig. Thank you for those life giving words today. You have reminded me that people like Lia the office manager are (in addition to my children) my spiritual harvest and there are many in addition to them.

I've heard people get mad at their critics before and say things like, "Yeah, I'd like to line 'em up and shoot 'em." No, not me. No shooting necessary, not to mention it's not Biblical. Here's what I'd like to do. I'd just like to ask critics, "please give me a list of everyone you've personally led to the Lord and discipled in this past year" and ask them to line them up for me. No, don't give me someone your pastor gave you to go pray with at the altar. No, not someone you went behind and laid a hand on at heaven's gates hells flames while the evangelist prayed. I want a actual LIST of the people you've found and personally led to Jesus and then discipled in the past year.


I always tell our Northside people, "if you're too busy rowing the boat, you don't have time to rock it."

It really IS all about gettin' a life, isn't it? In my opinion there really is no life without leading people to the Lord and discipling them.

I'm so glad I don't pastor a religious church. Can I get an amen up in the house?

"Get a life"!

Pastor Craig Sloan (Pastor Tara's husband) has a fantastic writing at his blog today. It goes along with some of my theme from the past week and I so enjoyed it. Check it out.

I'm getting ready in a few minutes to go get the work done on my tooth. I'm looking forward to this as much as getting a hole in the head. Oh yeah, that's right...I do have a hole in my head...that's the problem... (LOL) Thanks for your prayers, those of you who read this in time. It's very untimely as I have 4,629,603 things to do before our friends get here from Maryland in the morning. But it was the time slot the dentist had open to get all this done today, which will take several hours.


About speckchasers

This post is dedicated to all my friends in ministry who may be feeling opposed in some way. God has given me a word for you today. Get ready. I'm feeling a passion in my spirit about this and I may just have a halleluiah breakdown before this post is over.

I had a stack of phone calls to return today and finally got around to making one to a pastor's wife friend of mine who shall be unnamed for her own privacy. (Since I talk to umpteen pastor's wives in a week's time you'd never figure it out!) When I returned her call she commented about my ezine and blog this week. She said one line stood out to her more than any other and it was in my writing on criticism when I said, "It’s amazing to me how many people criticize others whose own lives are a mess." She said, "Deanna, we've been under a lot of attack here and you are so right, I never stopped to think about it til' you said it but it's amazing that every single person who is attacking my husband and I have lives that are a mess!!!"

This principle is so true. Watch and you'll see exactly what I mean if you haven't already.

If you are on the move for God...
if you have forsaken the pull of mediocrity...
if you absolutely ooze with creativity and you aren't content for the same old same old...
if you are charting new territory for God ...

usually the person rising up to criticize you has made a serious mess of themselves or their family in some way!

There are exceptions but more often than not, this is the case. Why? A tension of sorts exists in their lives because of decisions/mistakes they have made, or things done to them which they haven't handled well, and instead of taking it to Jesus or simply putting energies into making their own life better, you are the punching bag they have found to take it out on. Realize this - you aren't the issue. They are wrestling with themselves.

It's always best to focus on what God has called you to do and don't enter the wrestling match. A friend of mine recently gave me some advice. She said, "don't wrestle with a pig, Deanna. You just get dirty, and the pig likes it." (I almost fell off my chair laughing on that one.)

I find that the more God does in my life...the more He blesses me for my obedience, the more He enlarges my territory, the more He prospers my marriage and my children, the more His creativity flows through my veins, the more people who had made a mess of their lives in some way really don't like it. If you're a mover and shaker I'm sure you've experienced this. If you are not content with status quo, others who are okay with it will try to bring you to whatever level they've decided to stay at. If you have obeyed God in the hard times, and now you've prospered, those who didn't obey God and faced the ramifications will want to try to steal your victory.

Remember my friends, the road to the next level is always...UPHILL. Everybody's not willing to take that uphill road. Some people want to sit in their spiritual la-zy-boy chair. Then they want to criticize those people who took the uphill road and are reaping the benefits.

Let's talk about how this relates to spiritual warfare for a moment. Satan is the father of lies, and he comes only to steal, kill and destroy. We often forget we are in a battle. It's war out there. So what happens?

Somebody tells a lie about us. Okay, so what's surprising? Are we surprised when a liar lies? We shouldn't be.

Someone tries to steal the joy of how God has blessed us. Are we surprised when a thief tries to steal? We shouldn't be!

Someone tries to kill our dreams, our reputation, our joy, our destiny. Of course they can't - but they try. Are we surprised when a killer tries to kill? We shouldn't be.

Someone tries to destroy the anointing of God that is working through us. They try to destroy the momentum of God working in and through our life. They try to destroy the call of God upon our lives. They criticize our creativity when the biggest thing they've created is one big fat mess after another. But try as they may they can't destroy the work of God in your life or even tarnish it, yet still they try like a rat that keeps going back for cheese in the same trap. Are we surprised when a destroyer tries to destroy? We shouldn't be!

Why are we so surprised when the enemy just fills his job description and does it well? Does it feel like we're in a battle? Well, that's because we are. The Christian life is not a playground. It's a battlefield.

Does it feel like your commitment to the call of God upon your life and following the purpose He has given you is being opposed? THAT'S BECAUSE IT IS.

Pastor Tara said something to me today to ponder and I just love it. She said, "Deanna, ministry is whenever you make someone's life better."

A lot of you are out there making people's lives better. Yes, we do it by leading people to Jesus at altars, and laying hands on people and seeing them delivered. But we also do it just as much by stopping to give a hug in the hallway, giving our wisdom to someone having a marriage problem, or writing an article or blog post that changes a life in some way. We do it by resolutely declaring what God has spoken in His Word. We do it when we open up His Word and get fresh revelations and insight and we are not afraid to boldly declare it. My Lord, I'm about to run around my room right now, somebody help me...........!!!!!!!!!!!

Watch out for the speckchashers! This is why Larry calls them. Speckchasers are after God's movers and shakers like white on rice. Speckchasers are those who want to call you on the carpet for something they see in your life (a speck in the eye) when there's a huge plank in theirs! Again, speckchasers have various areas of their life that are just one big honkin' mess and then they try to put your speck on display.

Refuse to go there.

Time is of the essence, and remember, you're ministering to people who are actually wanting to receive it. You're making a difference in somebody's life. So get back to it and stop being surprised when the enemy is just being his same sorry self.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Every pastor needs to be aware of this...

The danger of life on the fringe

Larry preached a message on Sunday about parenting as a part of our February family series, and he shared a mind-blowing statistic with our church. I want to share it with everyone I can, particularly other pastors because their people need to know this information.

This particular statistic that Larry shared came from the resource, "Preaching Today", and a message called "Introducing Your Child to Christ."

An elder statesman of the Christian church devoted himself to a fifty-year study of Christian and non-Christian families. He says that in American culture today, most young adults following Jesus Christ either come from non-Christian homes where they were converted to Christ in their teenage years through a dynamic youth ministry, or they come from homes where they grew up in love with Jesus because Mom and Dad were so radically in love with Jesus. These "radically in love with Jesus" families were extremely involved in the Kingdom of God on a consistent basis and not casual at all in their relationship with God or their church attendance and involvements. The researcher found that very, very few Christians come from homes where there was a kind of indifferent, apathetic commitment to Christ or His church.

This means that those parents who are casual in their commitment to Christ and not really involved in the church are in great danger when it comes to their kids serving God when they become adults. This means with a few exceptions, the kids raised by those who are casual church attenders (on the fringe) will more than likely fall away. In this case it's definitely not "a little dab'll do ya". Statistics show that the chances are better for your child follow Christ as adults if they were raised by complete unbelievers than to be raised by those who are apathetic or not very involved. That's pretty eye opening! I think part of the reason is because kids are so attuned to what their parents do and even Jesus said it's better to be hot or cold than lukewarm. Apparently most kids who have lukewarm parents end up spitting out Christianity and leaving it once they are adults. I guess we should not be shocked, however seeing it proven in a 50 year study was extremely sobering to me.

I am not sure where this statistic came from but there was also one about parents "dropping off" kids for church and it was said that the kids return rate as adults was not very high on that either because of obvious reasons. (Example is everything.)

I'm sure many might say, "well, God can do miracles." Some people may believe they can be a fringer and their kids will turn out okay because the Lord will step in and do a miracle at some point. Well, yes, He can and He does at times. But are you willing to take that chance when heaven and hell is at stake? God uses us in cooperation with His plan. And despite many miracles that God has done, it appears statistics tell us millions of kids -- the majority - who are raised like this are falling away.

Larry recently heard another statistic -- that 80% of kids in the church are falling away from God once they turn 18 and leave home. He says he personally thinks this statistic corresponds with the old one that says that 20% of the people do 80% of the work. He thinks the 20% that are staying with Christianity after turning 18 are most often your kids whose parents were the 20% doing the work of the Lord and setting the proper example.

These statistics and research results should concern the beegeebies out of those on the fringe.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A few people who made my day

the past few days

Just want to share a few with you...

My friend, Joy Conley (pastor's wife, Harvest A/G Lakeland) What a JOY she is, in my life and so many others...she literally lives up to her name. We met she and Keith for dinner Monday night and like every other time (except that one where we stayed til 1 in the morning or somethin' like that) it felt way too short. I am so grateful for their friendship and support. (These pics are of Joy and I when we were both speaking at the All Church Ministries Conference and then having coffee after...)

Susan, Susan, Susan.

She always just seems to "know." Not only does the woman show up early to set up whatever I need but on certain days she has something special for me that just makes my day. She's a "noticer." Tonight she met me in the choir room before service and had a box for guessed it...a watch. Amazingly last night I forgot mine (I never do that, not sure why I did) but she had a beautiful new one for me. She's personally responsible for my watch collection. She always has the ability to make me feel so special and the best thing she gives is her encouragement. If I ever doubt I'm making any kind of difference in the world, Susan is a second behind me to tell me just how I am. Not a week goes by when she doesn't tell me and usually several times a week. Thank you, Susie Q. (SMILE) You fill my bucket back up when other people drain it out sometimes and you can't fathom what it's meant to me. (Only Pastor Larry and the Lord realize how much.)

Pastor T. Always a joy to work with. He makes me laugh and I so desperately need to laugh and I love to laugh as loud and hard as possible. I have learned in ministry if you don't laugh, you're dead in the water. Usually I'm singing the praises of Misty, first lady of JAM children's ministries, and I probably don't give Pastor T kudos enough (it's so easy for that to happen when you have a perfect wife - GRIN!)Yesterday I gave T a video clip to work with on an announcement and he took it and made such a masterpiece with it. It's one of the funniest things I've ever seen. We'll unveil it this Sunday in our service. I love his passion for multi media and we had a good brainstorming session today (he, Pastor and I) on our new Sunday morning preaching series which is going to ROCK. I am so excited about this I could come unglued. Can't wait to tell you about it but it'll have to wait til' we unveil the video trailer this weekend at our service. I'll just give you a little bitty clue...this morning Larry comes into my office and says, "I can't believe I'm suggesting this, but this needs to be our next series in March..." and then I went a little B-O-N-K-E-R-S. The Lord led us away from our original plan for March to this one. Pastor Andrea, this would be YOUR favorite series too. Just a hint: "CBE." It's gonna be good, folks...

Speaking of Pastor Andrea, you are another person I appreciate so much and am grateful Jesus brought us together, my "CBE" friend. You bring sunshine to my day and are a "kindred spirit" in ministry that few are blessed to find. I enjoy your insights so much. Thanks for being someone to bounce this partnership stuff off of when other people are lookin' at us like we've stepped off a UFO or something at times. ** sigh ** You are a great "understander." I love you!

Cathy & Tom... (I know you read my blog everyday so you'll see this...) thanks for a great evening the other night. (Those who are new blog readers - Cathy is the assistant to the senior pastors (us!) at our church, she also does a zillion ministries besides that, and Tom is her husband - also the head usher and works with Larry in men's ministries. I rarely say thanks when we go anywhere or do anything because being together as staff, church members, friends, it just sort of all runs together and most days it just feels like "life together" and nothing earthshatteringly special or unique. I've got to stop doing that because truly it is special. Thanks for meeting up with us spontaneously and laughing over our cheap burgers. Today I thought, "Wow, how blessed we are to have staff/members/friends like you who are so caring and fun..." to have. Sometimes it takes something to reveal to you that it's just not like that everywhere, know what I mean? Well, we're blessed. So blessed. And I'm reminded of how blessed. Thank you for who you are... and remember WHATEVER YOU DO, don't preach from II Glasses... (LOL)

Pastor Tara. You had the word of the Lord for me today. Thank you. You are one of the most anointed women in the world and I'm so blessed to call you my personal friend. God knew what he was doing when he put us together in relationship... how long has it been now, probably at least 10 years ago? Maybe more. Time flies when you're under the anointing. :-) The best is yet to come.

It goes without saying that Teeb is the best husband ever. That man is the jelly on my biscuit and the gravy on my mashed potatoes!

Alrighty, I'm goin' in the family room to watch American Idol (tivo'd) with the fam. Snugglin' with Jordy on the of my fav things to do. Gonna be super busy the next few days as I have bunch of people coming in from Baltimore. Can't wait! Life is special, life is sweet.

Get rid of these off the wall songs!

Take 'em down!

Well, I won't exactly say it as eloquently as Perry Noble, but here are my thoughts on criticism that I shared with our Northside women today in my weekly "cup of coffee" devotional ezine. I thought I'd share it here with my readers, too:

A former president of Yale said: "If this man is elected we shall surely see our wives and daughters reduced to prostitutes, sobriety dishonored, and decency in our land will become an outcast!"

Who is this being said of? Barack Obama? John McCain?

No, try Thomas Jefferson! Can you believe that?

The day after Lincoln’s Gettysburg address, a reporter wrote: "The cheek of every American must tingle with shame as he reads the silly, flat, and dish-watery utterance of a man who has to be pointed out to intelligent foreigners as President of the United States."

Sometimes criticism can indeed be so unwarranted. I’ve been told that with the customer comment cards at Disney they supposedly keep all the ones that are positive and the negative ones they don’t even read and throw away. Their mentality is, what they are doing right they want to focus on and keep doing all the more, not focus on the negative things people have to say.

I believe we have to resolutely focus on what God has called us to and set ourselves forward to do it come what may. As we do, it will not always be easy. Someone once said, “the greater the light, the more the bugs.” As for me I choose to focus. Mike Murdock says the reason most people fail is broken focus. Philippians 3:12-14 says: “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Did you ever notice how a critic is one who points out how imperfectly other people do what the critic does not do at all? Mark Twain once said, “One mustn’t criticize other people on grounds where they can’t stand perpendicular themselves.” It’s amazing to me how many people criticize others whose own lives are a mess. What do you do? Keep focus.

There are a few ways to handle criticism when it comes your way especially for following what God’s Word tells you to do or what you know He has spoken to you .

1) Expect criticism.
2) Forget it.
3) Let it go.

If you expect to do anything significant in this life you will have a lot of people nipping at your heels or yapping at you. It’s just a fact. Winston Churchill once said, “To avoid criticism, say nothing, do nothing and be nothing.”

As most of you know I’m a huge Amy Grant fan. Have been since I was 13 and I have every album she’s ever made and know all the songs by heart. One of her older songs that many might not know is, “Got to let it go.” I have it on my MP3 player and often walk to it at the end of the day, especially if I’ve endured anybody yapping at me that day. As I’m walking along I listen to her sing,

“and I’ve got to let it go…
holdin’ on just brings me worry…
got to let it go…
come and take it from me hurry…
got to let it go, oh I’ve got to let it go…”

and then I do.

By the time I get home and am done walking I've usually let it all go and resolved to keep going with whatever God has spoken to my heart.

I’ll never forget when I started out pastoring 20 years ago and the first Sunday we stopped singing from books in the pews and put words to songs on an overhead projector, so we would be free to clap our hands, raise them, and worship the Lord freely. The closing prayer had barely been over and the amen said, and a woman came up to me at the end of service and nearly lost her temper declaring, “I DON’T LIKE THESE OFF THE WALL SONGS! TAKE ‘EM DOWN!” She was so upset. She actually took a spiritual affront to the fact that we were using an overhead and saw this as an issue of right and wrong.

I went home that Sunday and just said to myself, “got to let it go…oh I’ve got to let it go…” and just quietly put the songs back up on the projector the next week and went on despite her coming to church every week looking more like she had been baptized in prune juice than in water. Nowadays this complaint would seen as Neanderthal and quite honestly completely ridiculous to 99% of the church population. But at the time a few people agreed with her and it seemed like a bigger deal. It was hard knowing those few, but staunch critics were out there every Sunday. I just quietly kept going about my job and did what the Lord was leading me to do. So did many thousands of other music ministers. The rest is history.

Realize when we criticize someone, it says absolutely nothing about that person. It just says something about our own need to be critical. Malcolm X once said, “if you’ve got no critics, you’ve got no success!”

Excellent teaching on Criticism

My friend Pastor Leanne posted this today on her Myspace blog and I thought it was excellent and so timely. It's a blog post from Pastor Perry Noble, about criticism. I think it's perfect for the pastors at Relevant Church right now, as well as any other person going through this.

I would like to note that when he says, "when God begins to move" it wouldn't necessarily just pertain to your church but to your life, your family, your marriage, anything that concerns you. I have found that the greater God does things in my life and the more He blessed me the more I should expect it. This teaching is good, so good I was almost wavin' a hanky in my office. Okay, here we go...

You Will Be Criticized When God Begins To Move–Expect It And Get Over It.

(Pastor Perry Noble at

I've never met a devil worshiper–to my knowledge that is. When I first became a Christian I was convinced that I needed to do all that I could to be ready to combat the evil forces of darkness that were and are associated with the occult, so I read and studied and prepared and…and…and…nothing.

Now, looking back over the past 18 years of ministry I have realized something - although I've never met a devil worshiper…I have seen hundreds and thousands who serve him faithfully under the disguise of religion.

The first mistake I made was not understanding where criticism comes from. Paul plainly says in Ephesians 6:12 that our struggle is not against flesh and blood (or bloggers) but against the evil one.

I really hate to make it this simple…but if God IS moving in your church or ministry, if people ARE meeting Christ, if people are taking next steps by being baptized and then those same people are joining together to reach other people for Christ then let me ask a simple question - WHO WOULD WANT TO TEAR SOMETHING LIKE THAT APART? (Hmmmm….)
If it's a move of God then why would God move someone to attack it? (Jesus was actually accused of being demon possessed and the work He was doing was attacked by…uh…yep, the religious. See Matthew 12:22-30)

I've heard other well meaning pastors say that they try to learn from their critics. If that is their approach then I say "go for it;" however, I ignore them. I have no desire to try and learn ANYTHING from them. Some call that arrogant–I call it focus! Several reasons why…

1 - Who Is Saying It - The overwhelming majority of criticism I have faced has came from people who send anonymous e-mails OR ones from fake accounts. (The internet truly is a place for cowards!) SO…they aren't even willing to own up to what they are trying to say!

2 - Critics Are Not Normal People - Seriously, if you have someone who checks out your website daily just to see what "you got wrong" (which is pride I think) AND they go to your churches website, listen to your sermons and then critiques them on-line…uh…seriously, who in the heck has time for that? Is that normal? Isn't that a little on the unhealthy side of obsessive compulsive? I don't know about you–but I just don't have time for that!

I would say to a man who is doing that to repent of your heterosexual man crush and get obsessed with Jesus and your wife…OR to a woman I would say show Jesus and your husband the attention that you show me…I think everyone would be much happier!!!

3 - The Way They Say Things - You can tell by the way they word their attacks if it was motivated out of a love for God and others…or if insecurity and a "desire to be right" (pride) has caused the words to fly.

4 - Their Blind Spots - A critic doesn't know you, they don't see you on a daily basis, therefore there is zero accountability in regards to what they say about you. They don't know your heart, your passion, what keeps you up at night. They don't know your battles and personal struggles. They don't see you as a person but rather a personality. I heard TD Jakes say recently that when people see you as a personality and not a person then they have no problem saying horrible things about you.

I wasted time with critics–seriously. I let them take me from my family and my ministry many times, and I lost sleep over some of the things they've said. BUT…I've not looked at a "critical website" in nearly a year and I just don't respond to negative press–I am passionately obsessed with people who need Jesus and not the "expert" in the stands who refuses to put down his soda and peanuts and get in the game!

Some may ask, "But Pastor P…do you just fly by the seat of your pants and not listen to anyone?" I will address that in my next post on "What I Wish Someone Would Have Told Me." (The short answer is HECK NO!!! If it were not for the people around me I would have made some really bad decisions!!!)