Monday, March 31, 2008

Hasta aqui llego!

This is the third and final installment of my "Spanish-isms" series. If you didn't read the first post, go here.

Today's Spanish-ism, according to my Northside hispanic ladies, means, "It's gotten up to here!" This is what they say when a situation has come to a point where they must draw a boundary.

On Saturday at our life coaching class, one of the ladies I'm mentoring shared that she is facing on-going verbal abuse from a family member. Time and again she has subjected herself to this at family gatherings and otherwise, not only because he's her brother, but because she felt it was the Christian thing to do. After all, should you actually... (gasp) back away from your brother? Limit your time with him? Not include him at family gatherings or go to one because you know he will be there and he will say mean things to you?

Never fear, help was on the way in the life coaching class Saturday as I explained that God never asked us to subject ourselves to ongoing mistreatment in our relationships, even if they are family.

Sometimes people who don't have a situation like this in their family don't understand those who do. They will say, "they might be a liar, cheat, abuser, etc. but after's your father/mother/sister/brother/cousin." Then they will give you a speech that starts out with something about "life being too short to..."

My question in response to that is, isn't life to short to allow yourself to be abused anymore? Some people believe as long as the person is family you simply excuse whatever they do in the name of "keeping the peace." However, are you really keeping the peace? Is there true peace when you are in nothing but inner turmoil? What exactly is real peace? Peace at all costs is really no peace at all.

Others who do know what it's like and have been mistreated and choose to continue to put themselves in position to be mistreated also do not understand when you take a stand. They think if they are willing to be abused, you should be willing to undergo the abuse as well.

I know a woman who basically laid her life down for an abuser, until his dying breath. Now that she made that decision she does not understand why others would not simply let others do whatever to them without consequence. After all, WWJD? No, no, no. While Jesus has called us to lay down our lives for Him, He has never asked us to be a doormat and subject ourselves to relationships that bring us repeated pain.

Misery loves company. Those who are mistreated and are perfectly willing to continue to subject themselves to mistreatment again don't like the fact that you are willing to break free and live a different life. For instance, let's say that your father is an alcoholic and puts your family through hell. Everyone keeps family secrets and walks on eggshells to keep the peace. If you are willing to break out of co-dependency and take a stand and break away, your mother or your siblings may not be too happy about that if they are not willing to do the same. They may even label your actions as "unChristlike" when they really aren't. They will say, "and you call yourself a Christian?" Bottom line is, when it's "hasta aqui llego" (gotten up to here!) you've gotta know when to draw the line.

Life is too short to stay in situation where you are being mistreated. Do you have to FORGIVE the mistreatment? ABSOLUTELY, YES. Do you have to STAY IN the situation where you are being mistreated or put yourself in position to keep taking it? ABSOLUTELY NO. That's where you say, "hasta aqui llego!"

Although I have ended the "Spanish-isms" series, tomorrow I'm going to share steps to help you in taking a stand and drawing the line when you feel too weak to do it.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Llerba mala nunca muere

This is the next in my series of Spanish-isms that my ladies shared with me in life coaching on Saturday. See the first post about this if you are just hearing about this for the first time.

This Spanish-ism (Llerba mala nunca muere) means, "Bad grass never dies."

What in the world brought this up in my question/answer session on Saturday?

One of the ladies had a very common question. They are struggling with the issue of a family member who has cancer and has not been given much hope. This is such a common struggle, or question...wondering "why?" Why does it seem that "only the good die young"?

The other day I was watching a Billy Joel interview where he shared that he came under attack for his song, "Only the good die young" when it was released. The Catholic Church tried to get the song banned from radio stations. The reason was because they thought it was a slap in the face to God - questioning His sovereignty and blaming Him that He allowed good people to die young. I guess the Catholic church at that time, was afraid to ask the hard questions. They did not realize that God is not scared of us and our questions at all. He is not flustered whatsoever by the fact that our world is rocked when somebody gets sick or dies. On the contrary, we serve a compassionate, loving God who welcomes our questions and does not cast us out for asking them.

I explained to the ladies that I certainly don't have all the answers about suffering, sickness, or death. I told them, there are times somebody's death sends me reeling. No matter how many years I have known the Lord - my love for others and the ache and disappointment in my heart to have to say goodbye to them on earth, is still really, really hard. I don't always understand why, especially when unGodly people outlive really Godly people. The hispanic ladies were quick to say, Pastor Deanna, it's like we say in Spanish, "Llerba mala nunca muere!" or, "Bad grass never dies. " It seems only good grass gets zapped in our yards and we ask ourselves, 'WHY?" Why does the perfectly beautiful St. Augustine grass that we paid so much for in our yards here in Florida, have to die? Why did the beautiful green grass that we "babied" and watered and fertilized...why...why...why did it have to die while the weeds in our yard continued to flourish? (sigh)

James Dobson wrote a great book about this subject called, When God Doesn't Make Sense. I highly recommend it to everyone. I don't understand why the good grass dies, any more than I understand why many times really good people are the ones to get sick and die. I know that the Bible says the rain falls on the just and the unjust. I know that sin brought sickness into the world. However, it still really hurts no matter how you spin it or how many scriptures you read that awesome, God-fearing people sometimes get sick and die.

I told the ladies, no matter what I may experience, I will never stop praying for people, as long as there is life, and breath, there is HOPE. I will never stop believing in healing. I choose to go by the Word of God. I do not elevate my experience over the Word.

I choose to pray.

I choose to believe.

Even even though I've seen a lot of good grass die.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Mejor solo que mal acompanado!

Today I had my life coaching meeting at the church. I meet monthly with a group of wonderful women who are interested in mentoring...growth..."the next level." Some are younger, some are older, but all have one thing in common - a thirst to grow and mature.

Recently I was challenged to put the responsibility on the mentee to ask the questions. So rather than prepare a teaching this time I asked all of my ladies to come with one question to ask me. It was one of the best times we've had. After each of them asked a question and I shared answers (with some great input from the group as well) we had a time of prayer for each person's needs.

One thing that emerged from this time together were some "Spanish sayings." We are an international church with many nations represented, and many of our people are Hispanic and in fact our services are interpreted in Spanish. Well, as I was answering questions today a few of the hispanic ladies would laugh as I expressed myself, and would say, "Pastor Deanna, that's just like one of our Spanish expressions..." and then they would proceed to tell me one. I found them to be really insightful and as they said them throughout the morning I would say, "Hey, write that down for me!" It was something that was funny, yet enlightening! Over the next few days I'm going to share some of these "Spanishisms" with you. I hope they resonate with you like they did with us.

The first one is, "Mejor solo que mal acompanado."

It means, "Better alone than with bad company." This is not only a Spanish-ism but the book of Proverbs is filled with practical advice like this.

This came about because one of our ladies asked a question about relationships - she is tempted to go back to a relationship time after time that she knows is not beneficial for her, however she goes back for fear of being alone. Her thought is that it is better to have this person than to be alone. Time after time she patches things up with the person only to get hurt again. I was sharing with her about the relational principles in the book of Proverbs and also the "front row" principle (Everybody can't be in your front row, and unfortunately she's had the wrong person in one of her main seats in the front row. Somehow they keep getting right back in their seat even though she tells herself, "I'm not going to do this again...") I explained as long as they are there in the front row, somebody who is deserving of her love and friendship can't take the seat they are in. All of us only have so much time to devote to relationships and to invest in those who have not proven worthy of our trust is not only a lack of wisdom it is not good stewardship. Like many she was also under the false impression that as Christians we should keep going back no matter how mistreated we are. (70x70 forgiveness does not = 70x70 reconciliation). What a revelation to realize she had the power to arrange the front row of her life in such a way that would benefit her rather than continue to keep her entrapped in this cycle of pain, spinning her wheels. She left determined to make a change and put those who earn a relationship with her in the front row - understanding that it's mejor solo que mal acompanado."

Another Spanish-ism is coming your way tomorrow! Until tomorrow just remember, mejor solo que mal acompanado!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Kiss mahhh grits!

I love grits.

Especially now.

Larry and I and 60 other Northsiders are on a 50 day fast. We are eating fruits and vegetables only. It's a good thing I absolutely adore vegetables! I like fruit, I'm just not as crazy about it as I am veggies. So here we are for 50 days, from Easter to Pentecost Sunday (May 11) fasting and praying our guts out...literally.

We believe history belongs to those who pray. And, we also believe that some things only happen when you add fasting to prayer. So we do!

Grits is simply...corn. So I can have grits. And I do, most every morning. And sometimes twice a day when I need something a little more filling. Other things I'm eating like crazy are:

Peanuts (they are a fruit, believe it or not)
and tons of smoothies.

I never liked smoothies til' I went to Africa. Being that my missionary hosts there were vegetarians, when I stayed in their home we had smoothies every morning. Barb would put bananas, mangoes, and some strawberries in the blender. The bananas and mangoes were from their yard so they had plenty of them all the time. The smoothies were wonderful and when I make them in America just that taste takes me back for a second to Africa. I have made the smoothies lately and mixed up the variety - sometimes I've thrown in peaches and I just got some blueberries to throw in too.

I am more of a veggie lover and so far this time I have enjoyed more asparagus and spinach. I just stir fry it quickly in a little bit of olive oil. This is my favorite way to eat it whether on a fast or not. I know, some might think I'm strange but I do love vegetables, even spinach, brussel sprouts and collard greens. The problem is, they don't last with you eat them and you are hungry again pretty quickly if it is all you are eating. Which is one reason I am very thankful for my grits!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Seven things about me

I was tagged by my dear friend, Pastor Tara Sloan at Destiny Driven to do a blog on "seven things about me." If you've been reading my blog a few years you could probably easily take a "Deanna quiz" and pass it, but I'm always one to take a friend's tag, so here we go:

1) The most important thing to me in a relationship is loyalty. If you are truly my loyal friend I will stand with you through all eternity and die for you if I have to. And you'll never have to wonder about where I stand. If you are my friend and someone tries to hurt you...well...I've gone to prison once and won't mind doing it again. (Just kidding, I have gone to prison many times - to minister to people there - but not as a prisoner myself!) However I'm not kidding on the fact of...if you're my tried and true friend, you've got me in your corner and that's that.

2) I overcame more adversity in my first 20 years than many people do in a lifetime. Somebody once told me at an altar (when I was young) that I was headed for greatness because of that. I believed them.

3) I like really unique toppings on my pizza...things like eggplant, calamata olives and mushrooms. (That's actually my favorite 'build my own' combination at Uno's!)

4) I've always had a hard time keeping my weight under control. It's my biggest struggle, always has been. But with God's help, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!

5) Next to writing, reading is my first love. The two go hand in hand of course. A book can take me places in an instant, from wherever I'm at...what a wonderful gift. Someone once said "books are embalmed minds." I believe that's true - you can learn from those living or dead, and you can be transported instantly to another world through a book. As Cassandra said yesterday, this was the greatest work of the disciples. God sent us His Son, but He left His book!

6) I'm a person who gets things done and I like to hang around people who get things done. Of all the people I do not want to spend major time with, lazy ones top the list. I would rather spend my day in a maximum security prison hanging out with people on death row (and I have done that, actually) rather than be with lazy people and I do mean that sincerely. Lazy people make me shake. There are times I feel like I'm going to go into a seizure when I'm around lazy people. Okay enough of that.

7) I love country music. Okay, confession time. Are you ready for a big laugh? One time we were in the middle of an altar service. The spirit was moving in a great way and people were being touched and blessed at the altar. I had one of the microphones and I started to give a word over someone. As I reached out to touch them I shouted, "God is moving in your situation right now. The problems with your job are getting ready to change! A change is coming...a change so great you're going to say, "I like it, I love it, I want some more of it!" A few minutes later I went over to where my husband was on the platform and he leaned over to me and said, "Babe, I don't know whether that was really the Holy Ghost, or Tim McGraw..." LOL

I said "Well honey, you know Jesus spoke in parables and the language of His day, so who says the Holy Ghost can't say something like Tim McGraw would?" We both just cracked up! ** sigh ** Ahhh, church altar services, they can be so fun can't they?

p.s. please know that was sincere, I really did feel that was a word from the Lord...incidentally that lady WAS blessed and she did like it, love it and want some more of it...!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A breath of fresh air

Some people are just like that...

A breath of fresh air into your day...into your life.

Today, a pastor's wife friend of mine, Cassandra Stafford, wrote me a quick e-mail that just made my day. She gave me permission to share it here. I've known Cassandra for many years on-line - though never yet "in person" -we have become soul sisters on the web. (I hope to meet her maybe at this year's Unstoppable Conference?) We have corresponded for a long time through my pastoring partners ministry and in fact she designed the first ever "pastoring partners" shirts a few years ago, which I proudly wear, often!

Anyway, Cassandra stopped by today and wrote me this precious nugget (which she gave me permission to share here) which she called, "a writing nugget just for you!"


I was pondering some things this morning as I washed dishes and it hit me like a ton of bricks...what was the biggest ministry...with the longest living impact that the disciples had? It was what they wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Yes, they did miracles and they pastored churches and they raised up future ministers. But, they live on everyday in innumerable ways because they wrote. Wow. Thought you would appreciate that.

I have never met you. I have never heard you speak. Just what you write and share with me ministers to me and helps me. Its amazing. Write on sister. Write on.

Love, Cassandra

Thank you, Cassandra. I've already told you this but just want to reiterate to everyone out there the power of the written word and how thankful I am that God sometimes uses an ordinary person like me to speak something into others lives. One of my favorite quotes is by Martin Luther who said, "if you want to change the world - pick up your pen." I augment that a little now - as times have changed to - "if you want to change the world - write a blog!" :-) LOL

Another person who stopped by today and rocked my world a bit (which I won't share here cause it was some stuff just between us) but I want to give her credit for encouraging me is Sharon, another pastor's wife, who writes at A Hoosier Family. I've grown to appreciate Sharon so much (and also hope to meet her in person...maybe at Unstoppable?) Sharon heads up the Assembly of God blogring, and she's also one of my faithful readers - and vice versa. Sharon, YOU ARE GIFTED and you are a blessing!

I love you ladies, and thank you for taking time out of your day to write me a note, "for such a time as this." I am so thankful for people in my life who are the "balcony people" - the encouragers. There are many, many women who are pastor's wives who serve as special encouragers to me (and I hope I am to them too!) but these are just two I wanted to tell you about today. You know the Bible says in Ecclesiastes 4: 9 & 10: Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!"

Thank you, ladies, for helping me up. I want to do the same for you, too.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The honor of plagiarism

Recently my son had the honor of having a teacher become concerned that he might have plagiarized. I say honor because he’s not guilty of it. He was accused because his writing just seems too good to be true. I’m so proud of him.

Dustin has writing in his blood. He’s like me – he does it daily and thrives on it. In his heart of hearts he wants to be a writer but he worries profusely about being able to support himself, and a future family on a writing career. His concerns aren’t without merit. Becoming a writer is not so unlike telling people you’re moving out to Hollywood to become an actor. The profession is replete with rejection. Wisely, he does realize he needs something steady, especially at first, to “fall back on.” So he is now in college to become a middle school or high school English teacher. He loves kids, has a gift of teaching, and will teach to support his future family and his love of writing. He is a step beyond me already. At 18 he has already been paid for a writing job and that didn’t happen for me till’ I was quite a number of years older than him. I believe I was 24 or 25 before I got paid for my first article.

Recently in his college English class he had to write an essay about a process. Most people were doing something very serious and talking about intricate processes and Dustin decided to take a stab at something humorous and off the wall. He did a whole fun spiel on “the process of making a sandwich.” His professor was amazed at his creativity, his wittiness and the way he crafted the story. But he was also very skeptical. He told Dustin outright that he had doubts and asked him to turn the paper in to a website that checks papers for plagiarism. Dustin confidently said, “Great, I’ll be glad to turn it in right now!” which he did and the teacher gave him a weird look. I love it!!! My son is accused of possible plagiarism and it’s such an honor because he is not guilty…he is just a FANTASTIC WRITER!

By the way, the teacher did check his paper with that website, and proved it was really Dustin's writing and he aced the assignment!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Turning your wound into a weapon

This is my "cup of coffee" devotional ezine that went out to my Northside women last week...thought my blog readers might also enjoy it.

The ship in this photo was made from 24 tons of scrap steel that used to be the World Trade Center. This ship is in a new class of warships the Navy is building, designed specifically for missions that will involve special operations against terrorists. It’s crew will include 360 sailors and 700 combat-ready Marines that can be transported ashore by assault craft and helicopters.

"It was a spiritual moment for everybody there" when the molten steel was poured into the molds, according to Navy Capt. Kevin Wensing. "Those big rough steelworkers treated it with total reverence." The foundry operations manager, Junior Chavers, said that when the Trade Center steel first arrived at the foundry, he touched it with his hand and the hair on his neck stood up. "It had a big meaning to it for all of us," he said. "They knocked us down. They can’t keep us down. We’re going to be back."

This is an example of turning a wound into a weapon. Things happen in our lives that are unfair – things we don’t ask for, or expect. Many of you reading this today had things happen to you as children that were completely out of your control. Someone else made decisions for you that were very painful. You have a choice. You can continue to wallow in that pain or you can turn your wound into a weapon.

Give God your pain and let him heal you and strengthen you to be a mighty tool in his hand – a mighty weapon going forth to destroy the works of the enemy and help many other people.

Imagine having your own family beat you, throw you in a pit and leave you to die. That’s exactly what happened to Joseph – and that was just the beginning of his trials on the way from the pit to the palace! However, as he is famous for doing – God did a turnaround! He restored everything to Joseph – and more, and gave him a mighty platform to help people. The Bible puts it this way: “God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Genesis 50:20

I often tell people that my pain has become my platform. The things that were thrown at me earlier in my life are now something I’ve decided to stand on and declare the power of God! You can do the same! Turn your wound into a weapon!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Spectacular Day in the House!


That's what today was!

Totally off the chain! What a day!

We had a packed house at Northside for Easter service and the atmosphere was just electric. Everything went perfect, without so much as a slight glitch. Lemme give a re-cap here for anybody who is the slightest bit interested...

We started with a continental breakfast once again this year as we have done...I think every year we've been here now that I think about it. Usually we do things like muffins and danishes from Sam's Club as well as yogurt and fresh fruit, tea, coffee, milk and juice. This year Teeb wanted to do Dunkin Donuts so we did and WOW...everyone loved it. I guess they love donuts as much as I do. :-) Let's just say they went crazy over 'em.

Then we had our video countdown like we always do to start service and this Sunday we had a special DVD opener just for today and it was OFF THE CHAIN, I mean, so awesome. I just loved it. After the opener we kicked off worship which also went well without so much as one sound snafu, which led smoothly into video announcements, a totally kickin choir song which had at least one person dancing around the church and many others standing and going a little bonkers...which led into an insanely emotional human video from the youth group. Wow, Pastor Linds did a great job on that, I'm telling you, it was so good. A few people around me were sobbing afterwards. I had to turn around and pat a few people on the knees they were crying so hard. It was a drama to the song, "Why" by Nicole Nordeman. Powerful, just powerful.

Then we went into the sermon and Larry preached a message leading into our new series, "MORE." Today launched our 50 day challenge. We are so excited. The Northsiders are going to be fasting and seeking God as never before for the next 50 days! We have 23 people joining Larry and I on the Daniel fast but many more are fasting one meal a day, or a delicacy in their lives for the next 50 days.

BEST OF ALL...SIX PEOPLE PRAYED THE PRAYER THIS MORNING TO ACCEPT JESUS CHRIST INTO THEIR LIVES AS SAVIOUR! GIVE ME A SHOUT UP HERE IN THIS BLOG!!! WOO HOO!!! God is so good. THIS IS THE HIGHLIGHT OF THIS DAY!!!!!!! THE ABSOLUTE BEST PART. People receiving HIS LIFE. Among those receiving Christ were a married couple, Sylvester and Anna. I just fell in love with them. Well...maybe it has somethin' to do with the fact that aside from being an extremely nice couple, he's from the Baltimore/DC area, and she's from Pittsburgh! Oh my gosh, we had so much to talk about I hardly wanted to go home for lunch! At the door afterwards we talked about everything from steamed crabs to Kennywood Park, to you name it. I am just so blessed by meeting this couple and can't wait to talk to them more. Rob Hart has been working on them to come to church and here they were this morning. Let this be a lesson to all of you reading this blog whoever you are...DON'T GIVE UP in asking people to church. These people have been invited for a long, long time.

Following the altar time we had an "Easter March." This was mine and Larry's brainchild. Let me give this idea to all your pastors/pastor's wives. Trust me on this, it's awesome. I've been a Mom for 18 years now. Bought a lot of Easter outfits over all these years and sent my kiddies to church only to have an "egg hunt" or two thrown in where they get nothing but grass stains and dirt stains all over brand new clothing, much to my chagrin. This really doesn't frost Larry's flakes too much but it sure frosts mine! Some stains just can't be "shouted out." I thought, 'why can't we do something for the kids where they don't get all dirty?" I mean, does fun = dirty? I don't think so. I also get tired of doing outreaches or events on Friday/Saturday and you never see the people on Sunday. So in staff meeting we talked about NOT doing something Fri/Sat but tieing everything to the Sunday service. After all, it's all about the message of hope and they need to hear it. That's what it's about! So after worship and a choir blow out, and a great message, and six people getting saved at the altar and rejoicing, we did the following...

We had "Rovercomer" - (one of our "characters" from children's church) stand in the center aisle and all the kids ages 11 and under (even tots) lined up behind him. They all stood there so cute in their little Easter precious...

Our Northside staff went into the back quickly and pulled out six big tubs of plastic Easter Eggs filled with candy (we collected these from Northsiders the past month). We had thousands of eggs. We staff members stood at six stations around the perimeter of the sanctuary with our boxes. The praise music cranked up and the kids began to march around the sanctuary to the praise music while they got eggs dropped in their baskets. We had so many eggs, it took 6 whole praise songs (on CD) to distribute them all. We did have a few workers and parents helping tots along. The kids loved this!!! The parents loved this!! The church loved it!! Moms were pleased (no dirty outfits) and everyone got to see the cutest kids in Tampa Bay decked out for Easter. The kids got enough candy to last them forever...

It was a good memory. Pastor Trinity (our CP) brought up something recently when he was asking for people to donate the eggs/candy that I thought was a good point. We all have a top priority around here of seeing our kids experience the power of God. Nothing greater than that! Above all we want them to KNOW GOD, to EXPERIENCE HIS POWER, and to see SOULS SAVED and the POWER OF GOD MOVING. No doubt about that. But as a side note, we also want our kids to have some warm and fuzzy memories when it comes to the house of God. We want them to remember it (when they become adults) as a place of warmth, love, acceptance and a place where they were treated special. We want them to return and bring their families in the years to come and talk about not only what God did, but fun things we did together. He asked the church to "help us give the kids a great memory" with this Easter March. And it really was one. Today our children's pastor's wife, Misty (while eating lunch at our house) said, "THAT EASTER MARCH WAS A HUGE HIT! EVERYONE LOVED IT!" I agree. For any of you in ministry looking for something for kids you might wanna do next year, consider it. I would also recommend that you do it on SUNDAY so as to have as many people at your service as possible so that they will hear the message of hope and have opportunity to respond to it since obviously that's what the whole thing is about, and the other "stuff" is just that - "stuff" to get them there, but only JESUS will keep them!

Off the chain! What a day...and the next 50 are going to be filled with signs, wonders, miracles, changes, a demonstration of the Spirit's power...God is speaking to me SO MANY THINGS already as we go into this fast. I can't imagine what He's going to do when I'm IN IT, not just STARTING IT!

* p.s. I would have had some pictures of today but my camera is broken. We'll get a new one asap or anoint this one and lay hands on it...

Saturday, March 22, 2008

A note from my dentist office

Still no permanent crown on my tooth. I went yesterday and Dr. Ghabbour says we need to wait. I have still had discomfort and he wants to make sure I don't need a root canal. I am soooo hoping not. But I trust his wisdom. He's such a good dentist.

Yesterday he adjusted the temporary crown and we are hoping for the best over the next week and a half. He says he's hopeful. I love when he talks to me, he always uses certain church terms because he knows my profession. He will say, "sister, you are preachin' to the choir" and stuff like that. The one consolation of having to go get my teeth worked on is that I love the people at my dentist office and seeing them is always a blessing. By the way, they read my Hannah Montana blog and loved it! I just got an e-mail from Lia, their office manager, this morning. Lia has become my friend and has even come to Northside before! She lives pretty far away from the church (too far to come regularly) but has been to women's events. She says:


LOL, I loved it!! Thank you, for incorporating my office to your "Montana experiences"! I'm sure Dr. Ghabbour will be giddy knowing his name was mentioned in an article with a celebrity LOL! You are so sweet. It has been great seeing you more lately (even though the circumstances). Have a wonderful, beautiful Easter Holiday. I love you much and pray for you and the family.

Love, Lia

ps. keep me posted about the blogs!

Deanna here: circumstances she speaks of are with my tooth hurting.

Today's Easter Prep

Today I'm getting all in order for Easter. Stuff for church is done, and now I'm working on home stuff. We are having 18 people here ~ us, the Mackley's, (our children's pastors) Garland's our assistant and her family), Bill (one of our board members/friends), Bobby (our "son" you've heard about many times), Alexa (friend of our boys - but also like another member of the family), and Jasmine (friend of the kids from school/friend of the fam) and then Casey (Dustin's girlfriend) and her parents are stopping by just to say hello before we eat and maybe share an appetizer. They will be on their way to another family dinner but want to stop in, as we invited them. So I will have a house full as usual!

My day has been spent so far cooking and cleaning and right now I need to sit a spell. (Don't they say that in the south?) I don't consider myself living 'in the south' although by exact location I am in the most southern United States, don't picture us being countryfied here. Tampa is not exactly baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet. Nah. We're an international melting pot here in Tampa, not exactly saying things like "come on ya'll" or having watermelon seed spitting contests or anything. Not that there's anything wrong with that. I enjoy the south! But I digress.

Right now I'm working on cooking and our Easter menu for the 18 people who will be here is...

Fruit and cheese appetizer tray (to be eaten while we're getting everything set out on the table)

7 layer salad

Biscuits (my special recipe - trust me no other biscuits compare - Tom Garland even says they 'almost' match up to his grandma's and he's never found that before - ever! Since his grandma passed away I will take it that mine are truly incomparable since she's not here on earth to make hers anymore. Trust me these are better than Cracker Barrel, Bob Evans or anywhere. I serve them with real butter and varieties of jellies.

Ham with cherry glaze (Larry's special recipe - everyone loves it!)

Hash Brown Potato Casserole (yum!!)

Sweet Potatoes

Broccoli with cheese

Green Beans

Creamed Corn (Misty Mackley's recipe - TRUST ME - NONE COMPARES - ABSOLUTELY NONE. It's un-freakin'-believable!!!

Razzleberry Pie and Ice Cream


Iced Tea ~ Soda ~ Coffee

Alright, so there you have it, our family Easter dinner menu. No, I won't be "on program" with weight watchers tomorrow. But considering Larry and I are embarking on a 50 day fast the next day...I really don't care. :-)

Seriously, we're taking our church on a 50 day challenge! I'll blog more about it in the coming days but basically it will include a 50 day fast (we're doing a Daniel Fast but have given several other options to the congregation - Daniel Fast, Delicacy fast, or one meal a day fast). Also they are taking a 50 day challenge as far as doing devotions with us daily, increasing their Bible reading, prayer time, and church attendance. It's gonna be a great 50 days!

By the way, if anyone wants recipes, feel free to ask. I don't ever have "secret recipes". I am a strong believer in hospitality and a great encourager of people everywhere to show hospitality. I have taught classes on this and anything I can do to help people I will including giving away all my special recipes.

Love you all and have a beautiful Easter with your family, celebrating His life.

Friday, March 21, 2008

"Jordan, this is Grant Brandell

from Underoath..."

My son Jordan was all excited last night because the bass player, Grant Brandell, from his favorite band, Underoath, called him personally on this cell phone! Yes, it’s really true.

Underoath is recording their new album right now. They have a web cam that shows them doing this in the studio and you can watch them record their new project. This is not at all my kind of music but I do understand this band is very Godly and I support my son in being one of their fans.

Recently one of his friends, Stephen, took him to their concert for his birthday. The photo above is from the concert -- Jordan took this photo himself. Then he actually met the drummer, Aaron Gillespie, backstage and got a photo with him! Here it is...this is one of Jordan's prized possessions. You can see the look on his face here is like, "I can't believe I'm standing here next to Aaron Gillespie!"

Well anyhoo, on to the details of this phone call. Jordan has been coming home from school and watching the web cam each day to see them record the album. They also have a message board. Jordan took a chance and posted his cell number and said, “call me…” and lo and behold, the bass player picked up the phone and called him and talked to him for 5 minutes! It made Jordan’s day/week/decade.

I think it’s so nice when someone in a high profile position such as that stops for a moment to make someone’s day. It was something so simple - a cell phone call, but my son will never forget it.

Jordan posted a bulletin on his Myspace today about it and I thought I would share it with you in his own words. Keep in mind Jordan expresses himself very differently from his brother or myself in writing...he's his own unique "dude" and he says "like" a zillion times everytime he talks or writes. So, we go:

Jordan says:

I was on Underoaths Web cam and everyone was giving them numbers to call em and i gave them mine and Grant talked to me for like 5 minutes. It was amazing. I told them about the accident me and Stephen got in. [on the way to the concert] and he was like bum deal dude and i was like yea we like ran to the show from there and he was like sweet that it worked out and i was like yea. and i was like hows the record coming and he was like yea we have 6 tracts done for the drums and we should have eight done by Tuesday...and i was like yea dude ive been watching you guys record for the past like 4 days...and he was like thanks dude. Then he was like so you live in Tampa and i was like yea like right out side it in Wesley chapel. and he was like yea i know where that is me and some of my buddies go the the driving range out there. i was like sweet bro! then he was like yea I'm coming home soon in a few weeks and i was like true dude ill keep a eye out for ya. and he was like if ya see me come up and say hey. and i was like dude you wont have to worry about that man. and he was like alright man. and i was like God Bless Dude. Ugh definately one of the best Nights ever <3> Jordan

Deanna here again:

Thanks Underoath! I appreciate that even though you are famous now you still care about people as individuals, especially 17 year old kids who look up to you and dream of the opportunity to meet you in person. I hate it when famous people get "too big for their britches" but it's definitely apparent you aren't like that and you really care about people. Thanks for being so kind to my son and at the concert and going so far as to call on the phone. I can only imagine how he feels. If Amy Grant ever called me they would have to pick me up off the floor and use the smelling salts. Even at 41 years old I would be so overwhelmed. So I can only imagine how my kid feels, getting a call and a photo with their musical heroes. If any of you band members actually google your name and possibly see this, please know I'm a Mom who appreciates your caring ways and your ministry to teenagers.

5 Rules for Meeting with a Mentor

Like my friend, Pastor Tara, I absolutely love Pastor Perry Noble. I eat his leadership stuff like candy. I have recently started reading his blog (at her suggestion) and have learned so much from him.

Yesterday he had another awesome post - this one on his 5 personal rules for meeting with a mentor. I couldn't agree with what he said more. These are things I have found to be valuable in meeting with those who have mentored me as well as things that I greatly appreciate in various people that I have mentored. It sure does make the experience much better and I think it's a major key to a long lasting mentorship, versus something that burns out because the mentee simply doesn't respect the mentor as they should. Alright, here we go with Perry's insights:

I have had the privilege of being mentored by some incredible leaders, some you would know, others you might not–but nonetheless, God has used them to teach me SO MUCH about life and ministry.

Over the years I have developed five rules for meeting with a mentor that I would love to share here today…you may agree or disagree, all I know is that they have worked for me.

#1 - I Always Adjust To Their Schedule–ALWAYS!

When I am attempting to set up an appointment with someone I want to meet with–I always ask them (or their assistant) to throw two or three dates at me that is most convenient for them…and then I adjust my schedule to make the meeting happen.

I NEVER send them the times I want and then ask them to adjust their schedules. I am the one who wants the meeting…and if they are available to me I will bend over backwards to hang out with them.

#2 - I Am Always Early For The Appointment

If I am driving from out of town I always make sure I arrive around 30 minutes early. If I get their TOO early then I will find a coffee shop–OR break out a book (ALWAYS have a book with you.)

Usually I will arrive at the person’s office to meet them about 15 minutes early…and quite a few times the person I am meeting with has been ready, thus giving me “bonus time!”

#3 - I Have A List Of At Least Five Questions That I Want To Ask.

I remember John Maxwell saying to me once, “I will mentor you, but you have to ask the questions. I am not preparing a lesson for you…YOU guide this meeting. If you want to know something–ASK. If you don’t ask anything then we don’t really have anything to talk about.”
SO…anytime I meet with a mentor (especially JOHN) I am LOADED with questions. Sometimes I get them all answered…sometimes I don’t…but I NEVER walk into a meeting without having a list of what I would like to know.

#4 - I Don’t Talk About Myself Unless They Ask.

When I meet with a mentor I don’t spend 30 minutes telling them about myself, my daily routine and how good I think I am. I ask questions and then SHUT UP! If I disagree I do not argue. If they ask me a question then I will answer…if not then I will keep on asking them my questions. They didn’t ask to meet with me…I wanted to meet with them–TO LEARN from them, not debate them.

#5 - I Always Send A Note/Gift Saying Thanks.

I haven’t done this until recently…but anytime someone gives me time I will send them a Starbucks gift card or a restaurant gift card–just to thank them for the time. (And I jot them about a four sentence note–NOT A BOOK, but a note.)

Those are my rules…hope they help!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Prepping for Easter

I woke up at 5:00 am with my ear really hurting. I got up and got my heating pad and a few tylenols and went back to lay in bed until I had to get up at 6 am. I never really slept because I laid there "concerned" (we Christians aren't supposed to worry) about the fact that it was raining cats and dogs.

When I say it was raining, I mean it was a torrential downpour.. And Larry and I had to leave at 7:30 am for sectional council. So I couldn't take Savanna to the bus today. I thought maybe I'd have Dustin take her but I laid there "concerned" about what to do and I got up at 6 amand got her a pair of my shoes that are pretty water tight (we wear the same size now...she's 10 years old and wears a size 9! Go figure! She's one TALL girl...almost as tall as me now, it's pretty AMAZING.) In addition to the shoes I got my pink raincoat that she likes, and a big huge umbrella. But praise God she never needed any of it. Thank the Lord by the time Jordan had to leave for school it had stopped raining (or I would have driven him to the bus.) And the rain had also dissipated by the time Savanna went. I breathed A LOT easier leaving for my meeting knowing she was not going to the bus in the rain. I know rain won't kill anybody but I just don't like my kids out there in the rain. Just one of those "Mom" things.

Thankfully my ear felt better by the time we got to our meeting. I'm not saying it was healed yet...the faith enhancer just kicked in. :-) Hopefully it will get better by tomorrow. By the way, tomorrow I get the crown on my tooth! (God willing!)

Today was a day that was a mixed bag. First, I had an answer to prayer that I've been taking before the Lord for a few years now. God always comes through...sometimes it just takes a little time. Thank you Jesus, for long-awaited breakthroughs. Second, I had many work issues to deal with...nothing bad, just a ton of stuff in prep for Easter. And I dealt with a stressful thing or two, but...this is the day the Lord has made, and I will rejoice and be glad in it! I don't say that as a cliche, but honestly thanking God for His blessings on me. I thought I would just recount some blessings in my life as I am finishing out this post tonight...they are just the tip of the iceberg for me but they are on my mind today so here goes...

1) My friend Pastor Jennifer Lee called me yesterday. Just to hear her voice made me smile. Then she said, "let's go shopping!" and my smile got even bigger. :-)

2) My sister Kim. She makes me smile. I love you, Kim!

3) Teeby made the mashed potatoes with our dinner tonight. He does them so good they are just so creamy and delicious, it's Uh-MAY-zing!

4) I thank God for His holy creativity flowing through my life. I am determined more than ever to "criticize by creating" as Mark Batterson says. Gosh, I've only scratched the surface. There's so much more!

5) Choir rehearsal last night was smokin'! They have really been working at home (with their CD's)...I can tell. I believe this week's song will be totally off the charts! We not only sang and practiced, but we had a blast dancing around to the music.

Gonna be a good day in the house...I can feel it!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Go Robin!

Yesterday Dr. Phil had T.D. Jakes as his guest on his show and they discussed the situation with Governor Spitzer, that I blogged about the other day about his wife standing by him during the press conference. (I tivo'd it -- I love Dr. Phil & next to my hubby, T.D. Jakes is my favorite preacher...) I have transcribed part of their remarks here about this situation. I have always liked Robin McGraw and each time she opens her mouth it confirms to me one more time how great she is. With everything I've ever heard her say, she seems to be a true advocate for women.

Dr. Phil: The question though, that I think a lot of people are interested in is the fact that when he has made the two appearances he had his wife standing at his side...uh, were you surprised at that?

TD Jakes: Not at all! That's public relations! He's got people who are handling him who have said we don't you to be seen there without your wife in that situation...

Dr. Phil: yeah, but I don't think you can get a big enough PR firm to get my wife [lots of laughter in audience and Robin shaking her head saying, "no way!"] to stand next to me if I just spend $5500 on a hooker... [loud audience applause]

TD Jakes: My wife might be standing there but she'd have a rolling pin behind her back getting ready to hit me across the head...

Dr. Phil: Robin, you were surprised, right, when you saw her standing there?

Robin: I was very surprised. For a lot of reasons. First of all because she was out there. I would not have gone out there to stand beside you, behind you, support you in any! [loud audience applause and cheering] and the fact that she went out there with him and he showed her no respect -- he walked out in front of her, he never looked behind to see if she was following him...if she was okay, he never touched her when he apologized, he said he was going to work on "myself and my family" - he talked about himself, it was very insincere...he never looked at her, never supported her, nothing...and she was in that role as the first lady of New York because of his role - he put her in that role. He didn't live up to his responsibilities of the role - why should she?

I will praise You through the pain

Today I am home sick. No, not homesick as in longing for Baltimore (although I'd love some steamed crabs) but home...sick. This is an online card/bouquet that Larry sent me today from the office. He always tries to make me feel better. I woke up with a migraine...added to the earache I already woke up with yesterday morning. I know what some of you are thinking...this woman...if it's not her tooth it's her ear or whatever. You're right.

Honestly I am pretty much used to pain of some sort. I take a sick day at home but still work. Maybe that is part of my problem -- I nurse a migraine or whatever kind of ache by sending up a prayer, taking a "faith enhancer" as my friend Pastor Sandy calls it (faith enhancers are any kind of legal drugs/prescriptions), and get a heating pad on one side and my laptop on the other.

There is no good time to get sick I guess...and with Easter coming up and stuff, I don't have time to lay here and be sick. I have to rest and work in spurts. Besides that, I have to be at church tonight. Not only am I the only worship leader in the sanctuary but I also have a choir practice for Easter. Please don't take it that I "have" to be at church, versus "wanting" to be there. I love the house of God. Love it, love it, love it. I do wish I could have tonight off because my body does not feel well. Yet I know that when I begin to worship the Lord it always improves.

So I will go. I will bless the Lord at all times, His praise shall continually be in my mouth. Psalm 34:1

Betrayal and custom ordering the furniture for my mansion

So I went to the conference in Orlando on Monday and like I said, it was really good.

The first speaker we heard was John Eldredge. I am not a fan, so I was sort of dreading it, to be honest. I was considering the idea of going to sleep on Larry's shoulder when he started speaking and catching up on sleep. Before hearing him, (based upon reading his books) I just wanted to "get through it" but I was pleasantly surprised that he said nothing I thought was heretical. Praise God! was just on listening to God and being led by His Spirit and to one who is living a life led by the Spirit, His message was just a reiteration of what we are already living. But I guess for those who are not in the lifestyle/atmosphere of living the spirit filled life, then it's a radical message. At any rate, I was very pleasantly surprised.

Ed Young spoke on betrayal. It was awesome. He introduced it by calling it the "Elephant in the Room."

At first I was very confused. I didn't disagree with anything Ed spoke about. However I was a tad confused when he began because I have never found betrayal to be an elephant people don't talk about. I realized after thinking about it a while that I mostly talk to women. I try to stay away from stereotypes (one reason I don't like Eldredge's books) and I realize everyone's different, however I find most women are dying to talk to somebody about their betrayal. It's usually not an elephant with women but Larry pointed out that with most men it is a huge elephant. They don't talk about their betrayal for a host of reasons.

I think back to the times we have been betrayed in ministry. Larry usually only spoke to me or our best friend about it but to others he was very guarded and would quote a scripture or say something very benign when asked about it and get off the subject. When I asked him why he said that most men feel stupid when they are betrayed, like, "how dumb could I have been to be suckered by that individual?" So out of pride and feeling stupid they don't even like to admit they were betrayed because they are hurt and embarrassed so much. I find that when it comes to me or my women friends, we care more about getting relief from our pain than we do about looking stupid. It's sort of like the transition stage of labor...when you throw the sheets off and care less about modesty and lose your mind are just hurting like crazy and you want relief.

I know in my case, if it weren't for my loyal friends who listened to me, I would have lost my mind. You know, the more I think about it, it is like a child birth transition...only when you're having a baby and you throw the sheets off and lose your mind in pain, it's for a few hours. In real life betrayal, a few hours is nothing. A deep betrayal can have you writhing in pain for months out of your mind and if not for a few "midwife" women friends to help coach you'd never make it through to the other side of it.

Ed Young brought up a few great points like the fact that your betrayer is always someone close to you (after all if they aren't close enough how could they even hurt you?) Interesting that he brought up Judas and said, "...close enough to kiss you..." Years ago when going though a situation like this the Lord spoke to me about Judas. I was kicking myself over and over daily asking myself, "how could you have let them in your circle? How could you have been so dumb Deanna? How could you have trusted them?". I asked myself this question and I would ask my true friends, "what do I do now that I've made this colossal mistake? Where do I proceed from here?" I wanted so badly never to repeat it but didn't know what to do to make sure I didn't. One day in my prayer time Jesus said to me, "Do you think I was stupid?" and I said, "of course not Lord, I would never think you're stupid." And he said, "I brought Judas into my inner circle, and I knew that it would ultimately not work out with him and he would even face destruction (in his case, suicide) please don't consider yourself an idiot for letting that person in your circle. Your heart was right in the matter and you will still be rewarded no matter how they turned out or what they did..."

That changed my whole perspective and now I never kick myself or feel stupid anymore when somebody betrays me. I realize it has nothing to do with me. Even if there were "signs" or "red flags" and I am tempted to get mad at myself, I remember Jesus and Judas and I say to myself, "okay, number one I'm not stupid and number two, it's never for nothing..." We have to keep heavenly rewards in view. I've always been a person who is administratively minded and I like tasks, goals, accomplishments and rewards. I find if I am getting something for going through something, I can pretty much stay on task and look to the future. Well, keep in mind with betrayal - it might seem like we do nothing but lose, but THAT'S NOT TRUE. The heavenly stuff you get for going through and making it through betrayal is HUGE. And if you don't believe that just look in the Bible at people who went through it successfully. Now when I get betrayed I look at it and think, "what's in this for me? Woo hoo! I'm getting ready to be blessed!!!" (Sometimes if it's a really bad betrayal I look through catalogues to get ideas and give God some more custom orders for my furniture for my mansion - LOL)

Ed also brought up a great point that betrayal not only shows you the truth about your betrayer but it shows you something about the people around you. Betrayal shows you who your real friends are. If you are the leader - it shows you who your true team members are. Betrayal brings CLARITY. When betrayed you go through a shaking and you find out who is really with you. Without betrayal you would probably never know that information. Because loyalty and unity doesn't even have a chance to show itself until there is a PROBLEM on the scene. Through betrayal you find out who qualifies for your inner circle. Recently I blogged about something my friend Pastor Andrea shared with me called, "Everyone Can't Be In Your Front Row." It's true, they can't. You have to select those people very carefully and they must qualify to be there. Part of that qualification is trustworthiness and loyalty. Unless you go through some hard times you can't really know that they are with you "heart and soul." Perhaps this is where the term "tried and true" comes from. Until someone is "tried" how do you know if they are "true?"

We have to remember too that God allows some things too because He knows ultimately it's not good for us. Or He exposes things for our protection. Sometimes we think someone was "with us" and they never really were. And sometimes it takes something difficult to expose that. One of my favorite preachers, T.D. Jakes, says God gave him the "gift of goodbye." I love this and I've shared it here on the blog and in my preaching before but I'll share it again...because this is a keeper... (cut this one out and put it where you can see it daily if you're in a tough spot right now...)

Let it Go ~ by T.D. Jakes

There are people who can walk away from you.

And hear me when I tell you this! When people can walk away from you: let them walk.

I don’t want you to try to talk another person into staying with you, loving you, calling you, caring about you, coming to see you, staying attached to you. I mean hang up the phone.

When people can walk away from you let them walk. Your destiny is never tied to anybody that left.

The bible said that, they came out from us that it might be made manifest that they were not forus. For had they been of us, no doubt they would have continued with us. [1 John 2:19]

People leave you because they are not joined to you. And if they are not joined to you, you can’t make them stay.

Let them go.

And it doesn’t mean that they are a bad person it just means that their part in the story is over. And you’ve got to know when people’s part in your story is over so that you don’t keep trying to raise the dead. You’ve got to know when it’s dead.

You’ve got to know when it’s over. Let me tell you something. I’ve got the gift of good-bye. It’s the tenth spiritual gift, I believe in good-bye. It’s not that I’m hateful, it’s that I’m faithful, and I know whatever God means for me to have He’ll give it to me. And if it takes too much sweat I don’t need it. Stop begging people to stay.

Let them go!!

If you are holding on to something that doesn’t belong to you and was never intended for your life, then you need to……
If you are holding on to past hurts and pains ……
If someone can’t treat you right, love you back, and see your worth…..
If someone has angered you ……..
If you are holding on to some thoughts of evil and revenge……
If you are involved
in a wrong relationship or addiction……
If you are holding on to a job that no longer meets your needs or talents
If you! u have a bad attitude…….
If you keep judging others to make yourself feel better……
If you’re stuck in the past and God is trying to take you to new level in Him……
If you are struggling with the healing of a broken relationship…….
If you keep trying to help someone who won’t even try to help themselves……
If you’re feeling depressed and stressed ………
If there is a particular situation that you are so used to handling yourself and God is saying “take your hands off of it,” then you need to……
Let the past be the past. Forget the former things. GOD is doing a new thing for 2006!!!
Get Right or Get Left .. think about it, and then…

“The Battle is the Lord’s!”

Okay, I'm back, it's me again... (LOL) Wowza! Everytime I read that (or practically anything that man says), I wave a hanky and shout even if I'm in my office by myself!

That's good stuff. We have to realize the full context of God's Word when it comes to relationships. The same Word of God that instructs us to love extravagantly also instructs us, "Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him." Titus 3:10

Part of what comes with maturity is realizing boundaries. I have to admit, at one time I had none. I just thought God wanted us to throw our heart out there to everybody and love with wild abandon. But what does scripture tell us? To guard our heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Thank God when we become Christians, it doesn't mean we have to check our brain - or our heart - at the door! Then I also did a study on boundaries and discovered Jesus Himself had boundaries and for our spiritual and emotional health he wants us to have them too. This is also why the Lord gave us whole BOOKS of the Bible containing instructions on church discipline and problems, so leaders would have wisdom on how to handle God's church and matters like this when they occur. (Tip: I always read through those books of the Bible several times a year just to remind me...I find it very helpful to go over "the manual" again and again...)

My friend I just encourage you today, if you are going through a betrayal keep in mind when you LET IT GO at the same time you are letting go, you are getting ready to RECEIVE... you can join me in ordering a bunch of heavenly custom made furniture...and clothes...and shoes... (keep in mind you are getting a heavenly crown but you are going to lay it down and give it GO FOR THE MANSION ACCESSORIES...because according to scripture you are going to keep the mansion.) LOL

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Today is Jordan's birthday

He's 17! Can you believe it?

Rock the Universe YP Summit

Just getting back home right now at 1:30 am Tuesday morning...and checking my bazillion work e-mails and rattling off a quick blog... I know, I know, I'm a junkie.

Larry and I went with the staff today to Rock the Universe Summit/Conference in Orlando. It's for youth leaders however the leadership teachings at the Summit are good for any leader, not just youth leaders. This is something we've attended every year here and it's really good. They have teaching up until about 3 pm and then the rest of the day/evening you can spend (for free) at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. They had four teachers today, but by far Ed Young was the best...he really rocked. I so enjoyed his message. More on it (possibly) later on tomorrow or later this week when I truly have a brain to think about anything with any degree of depth. Right now I'm fried from riding rides, (although I didn't ride anything really wild) and WALKING - most of the afternoon/evening. We went to Uno's on the way home, and laughed way too hard about way too much.

A fun time was had by all...but now it's time for me to sleep.

Got a full day of loads of paperwork and writing ahead of me plus making Jordan's birthday cake... oh my, I just realized, since it's after midnight, it's already his actual birthday. He turns 17 today. Can you believe I have a 17 and 18 year old?

And I'm so young. :-) LOL

Sunday, March 16, 2008

A Palm Sunday message from the Holy Ghost

"Lift up your heads, O you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in." Psalm 24:8


This morning I presented a teaching in my adult Sunday School class on worshipping in spirit and in truth. We were primarily in John 4, but I referenced Psalm 24:8 and shared that I believe the "ancient doors" and gates spoken of here are meant by the Psalmist (David) to symbolize our hearts. There are things in our lives that become like gates and doors to hold us back from fully welcoming the King of Glory and His presence in our lives. I talked to the class about the walls we have built up within ourselves that keep us from His presence and glory...and about releasing those old bondages, letting go and allowing Jesus to take His place.

I have to be honest with you that I didn't do a deep study of Psalm 24 in prep for this class - I was primarily speaking from John 4 and just referenced Psalm 24 briefly but then... as He is so awesome at doing, God tied the whole thing together...just shortly after my class we go into morning worship. There was a lady there who was not present in my SS class, yet she gave a prophetic word during worship and basically declared Psalm 24...spoke of the "walls" we had built in ourselves, and holding back from God's presence. It was like she basically re-said everything I said in SS plus some more. Amazing. This came right after we sang, "Spirit of the Living God" and I could really feel God's presence as the people were singing and we cut out all the instruments and just raised our voices.

Well, I came home today and decided to study Psalm 24 in it's entirety, versus pulling out the verse I did for this morning's SS lesson - which was one among many. WOW.

WHAT IS TODAY? Palm Sunday!

That's exactly what Psalm 24 is all about!!!!!! The triumphal entry Duh!!!

It didn't even hit me til' I got home! Okay, I am blonde, but it is out of a bottle...

David realized that he didn’t have the hands or the heart to enter God’s presence. He needed someone with more wisdom and strength to climb the hill and enter God’s presence. And so in this Psalm he said:

Lift up your heads, O you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. 8 Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle. 9 Lift up your heads, O you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. 10 Who is he, this King of glory? The LORD Almighty— he is the King of glory.

Here is something I found in my research this afternoon when I got home. Jerusalem is set on a hill. When you enter Jerusalem from the east there is a steep hill leading up to it. The hill has two huge gates on one side called the Golden Gate. This is the gate that many bible scholars believe Jesus entered through on the day that we now celebrate today as Palm Sunday. If these gates were not opened, the "traffic" of that day (people, animals) could not enter through.

The doors were open on that particular day, but even if they weren't, Jesus would have found a way to enter. Nothing would have kept Him from His mission. Many people had entered Jerusalem through this way. But none of them had clean hands and a pure heart.

When Jesus entered through these gates, the prayer of David was partially answered. The huge crowd spread their stuff (palm branches, coats) on the road.

Basically this would be "the gates" lifting up their heads and welcoming Jesus. Why did they do this? Because He had shown Himself in power. They had seen him casting out demons and healing people and that kind of stuff. But Jesus was not done climbing. His mission had just begun. He had to climb the hill of Golgotha, so that our sins could be forgiven and we could "ascend the hill of the Lord" with clean hands and a pure heart.

In order to have the King of Glory come in, we must be ready...but how?

We have to look a few verses earlier in Psalm 24, to read the lyrics of another popular song that we sing at Northside:

"Who may ascend the hill of the LORD ? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false. He will receive blessing from the LORD and vindication from God his Savior. Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, O God of Jacob. Psalm 24:3-6

The Lord never promised us a pain free life. Many times it seems we are at the bottom of the mountain looking up. Sometimes it seems an insurmountable mountain. Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? He or she who has clean hands and a pure heart, who makes sure the "gate" of our heart is open and clear for the King of Glory to come in. We must make sure any walls we have contructed in our lives (ancient doors) are not barricading His presence from doing all He came to do in our lives...all He wants to do.

The Holy Ghost spoke to us through His Word and through prophecy in a "palm Sunday message" we may not have realized the full context of (I know I didn't) at the time!

What He was saying is still unfolding to me spiritually right now.

Think about this my the gate of your heart fully open wide for what God wants to do? Have you lifted any ancient doors off of your life so that the King of Glory might enter with all His glory and have His way?

Yes, it was a good Sunday morning at Northside. But I missed my boys. :-) They just got home from Orlando a little bit ago and they are sitting at the table eating the homemade spaghetti and meatball dinner I made. (Casey came home with us...she couldn't wait to see Dustin and wanted to be here when he arrived.) I made her favorite Ceasar salad with the spaghetti, garlic bread and brownies. It is so good to have everyone safe in the house again. Larry says, "honey, you act like the boys went off to war! They only went to Orlando!" Alright, I'm a mother. Give me a break!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Stuff PK's go through - Part 2

a.k.a. Two little words might keep your kids from going spiritually bonkers!

Easter photo of my adorable kiddos about 8 years ago...

Years ago I attended a pastor's wives retreat and learned one of my most valuable lessons in ministry. One of the speakers was a pastor's wife who testified about a situation they had gone through with their son, who had ran away from home, gotten on drugs and basically became a "wild child" for quite a number of years before finally coming home and getting right with God and re-uniting with his parents. She was sharing with the ladies "lessons learned" from her experience.

She testified that the problem began when he was a teenager in the youth group. The youth pastor had been there a couple of years and had really bonded with their son and been very instrumental in his life. Then the youth pastor had a moral failure. Although he lost his ministerial credentials and had to resign the church, the pastor allowed him to save face and did not bring him before the church or announce it to the congregation. Only the staff member, the district leadership, and the pastor knew. Out of concern for the staff member's family (especially the wife and kids) he simply asked for their resignation, contacted the district, and allowed them to leave quietly. (No minors were involved in the indiscretion so it wasn't like the pastor needed to alert parents or anything.)

The people of the church just assumed the pastor had a good reason for all this and things went on smoothly. Sometimes staffers have to be let go for various reasons and adults realize this. The pastor's son did not understand, however. One of the most important people in his life was taken away. And his Dad had asked for the resignation! Why? The pastor and his wife had always been taught, "never share anything negative about the church with your children. Keep everything from them." (This is old school mentality) His Dad, also felt it was right out of "confidentiality" to keep it from his kids. He just said something about leading the church as God would have him do, or that "it was best for all concerned." The boy was angry and thought, "what a joke! My youth pastor is fired and I'm supposed to just go on like nothing ever happened...and keep coming to youth group, and actually give the next person a chance? Why bother? I don't even want to get to know the new youth pastor!"

The boy was angry and ran away from home. He was gone for weeks before the police found him. By that time he had already gotten in with some really dangerous people and tried all kinds of worldly things. Over the next two to three years he put his parents through utter hell. All the while they were trying to pastor a church while dealing with a runaway rebellious son on a constant basis. Finally years later as a young adult he was radically re-dedicated to the Lord and I understand that now he is actually in the ministry full time, ministering to youth! (Praise God for that...) But as I sat there in that pastor's wives retreat, I said to myself:

Note to self: don't keep everything about church life from the kids. Never, never sacrifice your kids on behalf of the church, it's members, it's staff, it's ministries, or anybody!

By the way, I ran this by a mentor of mine who is in her 70's, and has been an AG ordained minister herself for 50 years and she said, "absolutely, I agree", and she said she wondered why in the world the pastor's wife who spoke at the retreat didn't tell her child more about the situation with the youth pastor, especially after he ran away the first time.

Years later, I was faced with this situation. We had a staff member who was dealing with moral issues and needed to leave. They were very close to one of my children. My husband asked for their resignation and told the board, but not the congregation. Larry is a very gracious person and He gave them opportunity to leave quietly and go through restoration. Our son was devastated. He asked "why" constantly. For a few weeks I could see he was starting to get a "blaming" attitude toward his father and I, and he and started to get a little sour attitude toward church. I didn't allow this to go on long. I had learned too much from the PW's story at the retreat! A week or two into this, I just looked at him and said, "Son, I know you are hurting and it doesn't make sense. I can't get into all the issues for confidential reasons, but I will just say, moral issues are involved. Your father had no choice. His heart is hurting too." Immediately my son's countenance changed. He was different from that moment on. All it took were two little words, "moral issues" and he heard all he needed to hear. It was like an understanding suddenly came upon him and he was fine. He still misses the staff member, however he doesn't blame his father and I about it or have an attitude.

We had had several situations like this in our ministry where I couldn't tell the kids everything, but needed to tell them something. And within reason, I think you need to tell your kids something. Insecurity is one of the things we as adults face in the ministry. We "signed up for it" when we went into full time ministry so we know it's coming and we just hold on tight to God. With His help, we are committed to face what's coming next with the courage that only He can give. But kids aren't at the place of maturity we're at. They are fragile, and I think we as parents need to do all we can to provide some sense of security for them. In our household it includes plenty of time and affection, but also sharing with them what things we can possibly share to help them understand. The older they get the less I have to tell them because they are more perceptive and can see it themselves. Kids seem to have a built in "radar" for hypocrisy. One of our staff pastors had to let one of their adult leaders go because of moral issues and I thought for sure my kids would question it and be upset. But kids pick up even more than we think they do, especially as they grow up. I wondered, "okay, how am I going to word this delicately?" Lo and behold my son came to me first and said, "You know Mom, anyone can see that woman is totally out of control...I'm surprised Pastor so and so didn't let her go sooner!" (Out of the mouth of babes...)

I also find that with my oldest son, more and more he has an adult perspective (he's 18 now) and he more readily sees the viewpoint his father and I are coming from. Recently I had to make a decision that I announced at church that wasn't necessarily a fun one to make and (privately amonst our family) Jordan said, "Mom, I don't think that's fair!" to which his brother retorted, "Are you kidding Jordan? It's completely fair! Mom is so right about this and she definitely made the right decision." A few years ago Dustin probably would have thought it unfair but the older he gets the more he sees things from a leadership mindset and he trusts our judgment even without having all the information. These kind of changes come with maturity.

Keep in mind I'm talking about "problems areas" today - there are plenty of good aspects of the ministry and I believe it's doubly important to share those all we can and make our kids an integral part of that. Ours have been neck deep in participating in ministry and serving from the moment they arrived. I want them to see that yeah, we have to deal with hurt and betrayal and junk like that sometimes but we also have AWESOME things that we're a part of such as being a part of people coming to Jesus, spending time in fellowship with them, feeding and clothing people (such as in our homeless ministry), worshipping through our music ministry together, taking missions trips, etc. We've got to keep the "rewards" in front of them as much as possible and stay positive despite the setbacks.

One thing I believe strongly is that church members and even staffers will come and go but your children are yours forever. For their sake, there are times we must, albeit discreetly, step up to the plate and tell them as much as appropriate. They also must be trained to keep confidence.

I really believe the old school mentality of trying to "keep PK's totally in the dark" on church stuff doesn't work especially in these days and times. They are going to hear stuff. The question is, who is going to tell them first? I do not let my children find out through other people if someone has left the church. They get sucker punched enough with church junk. Why have them caught off guard yet another time in front of everyone? If someone significant within the congregation has decided to leave, usually before the first service or day that they will be missing, Larry tells the kids the day or night before and gives them opportunity to talk to us about it. We want them to know we are there for them, and they can always come and talk to us first. I want my children to know, they do not have to suffer in silence, wondering what in the world is going on.

Larry expects their absolute confidentiality about it and tells them that whether or not we make them aware of things first in the future will depend on their present trustworthiness. They ask any questions they want to ask and we answer as much is appropriate. Sometimes we have answers. Sometimes we don't. Especially if it's a sin issue, we don't always have answers because sin never makes sense. And in those cases, we tell them that. And we remind them - ministry to and with that person is NOT in vain - because God rewards us no matter what the other person does. We remind them of one of our key ministry scriptures: Hebrews 6:10 "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."

Friday, March 14, 2008

Deanna Montana

Got this idea from Sharon over at A Hoosier Family.

Try a few yourself by going to! This is part of what I'm doing today on "Fun Friday" - my day off - to amuse myself. I have to figure out what to do now. My original plans for the day have changed. Why?

I was supposed to get my permanent crown today (on my heavenly one's still being made). However, on this day which is ONE IN A MILLION, my day is CLEAR because the dentist office called this morning and said they have an emergency to deal with and can't do my crown today. Drats! Now I'm just sitting RIGHT HERE. I thought I would CRY. I wanted to say, what do you think that EVERYTHING'S ABOUT YOU? All this because my tooth was GOOD AND BROKEN. Now I'm just sitting here AS I AM. Another week of putting up with this temporary one that I have to eat ever so gingerly with!!?? Now another week is gonna START ALL OVER with me having to be careful of this crown not coming off when I eat. I know the wait will be WORTH IT, but the point is, I will have to wait, and WHO SAID it will be easy to avoid eating hard or crunchy things on the left hand side of my mouth? Another week of avoiding candy (which I should be doing in the first place anyway).

The boys are going to PK camp today (see previous post from today) and it's just Savanna Montana and I left with Larry. We'll have to do something special, just the three of us. Or maybe just a GIRL'S NIGHT OUT. Whatever the case, we need something that will be THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS. :-) I'll just get ready and put on my OLD BLUE JEANS and we'll do something special because LIFE'S WHAT YOU MAKE IT. When she gets home from school I'll have to say, LET'S DANCE! WE GOT THE PARTY! So put down your back pack ZIP-A-DEE-DOO-DA, and let's have a much fun it'll be as IF WE WERE A MOVIE!

When the dentist office called this morning to cancel I should have said, "that's okay...NOBODY'S PERFECT... and...I know stuff happens and THIS IS LIFE... but THE OTHER SIDE OF ME has a tooth that needs fixing... and I MISS YOU... I MISS YOU Dr. Ghabbour, and my tooth needs you desperately! So when will I SEE YOU AGAIN? But that would have been THE WRONG WAY to deal with it. Nope, didn't say that to the lady who called me on the phone this morning from the office, even though I GOT NERVE. (Usually!)

p.s. Obviously I'm joking about my reaction to the dentist office... I love my dentist and my dentist office!!! (Coast Dental in Wesley Chapel) They rock!!! I completely understand emergencies, after all, I'm a pastor and much of my life deals with emergencies. If you don't have a little girl in your house and have no idea of Hannah Montana or her songs this post won't make much sense to you. Everything in CAPS is a title of one of her songs. I hear them often, coming loudly from my daughter's room. In everything she does she's determined to MAKE SOME NOISE, just like her Momma. :-)

By the way, when we saw Hannah Montana's movie with our friend Jenn Hart and her daughter Morgan, I told them I became immediately inspired...I'm writing a sermon series, all with titles from Hannah's songs. Some of them are just perfect for it! Think about it!

Stuff PK's go through - Part I

The Shrodes brothers are headed to PK Retreat in Orlando today. (That's "pastor's kid's retreat for all who don't know what PK means.) They will be there for 3 days. They have gone every year since they were just in kindergarten! In our previous district they had a PK retreat from kindergarten on up - here in FL they do it for kids in middle school and up, so next year will be Savanna's first year. She is so excited!

You might wonder why Dustin is going now that he is 18 and graduated from high school. Well...they asked him to be a counselor! Wowee. What a moment for me when I realized my son is now going, not as a camper, but as a counselor! My boy is indeed growing up.

Our boys have always loved PK Retreat. They can't wait for it! They get all excited when the brochure comes in the mail. I can't thank the AG enough for having this retreat. It means so much. If only people knew what pastor's kids went through. Let me just give you a little teeny glimpse.

By the time a PK has reached 18, they have seen so much it's amazing they are sane or saved. Even if they have parents who shelter them, and don't share with them the "negative side" of the church, kids aren't stupid. They see it without you saying a word. They aren't blind or deaf. (At least most aren't and even if they were they would be perceptive enough to figure it all out.)

Even the most sheltered PK's end up seeing "stuff" in the church because for one, they are just there so much, on the scene. They practically live at the church. There are big sacrifices of their time and their parents time. This is not a complaint - it's just a given in ministry. The reality is, sometimes PK's have certain perks, but they also have incredible sacrifices. A few perks make those sacrifices easier to deal with sometimes. (Remember, their parents "signed up" for ministry - they didn't.)

PK's see people mistreat their parents through the years. No church is problem free. Even in the best of places, PK's are gonna see this - if their parents have been in ministry for any length of time. Many times they see that many people their parents did the most for, turn on them and leave. Not to mention, people do this to the PK personally. Many times they see the worst things from people their parents have invested in the most and it hurts them so. It's daunting to the strongest of kids and can make them wonder who in the world to trust. My kids have watched people betray us who they saw us minister to late in the night at our doorstep, or those we have left the house in the middle of the night to care for in a crisis, or those we've hosted in our home for many meals. They ask why. You don't have answers...only, "God knows, and He is keeping score..." and "it's never for nothing when we love with no return..." It's so difficult for PK's to not become disillusioned.

They sometimes see things you never saw coming and couldn't protect them from...because you didn't know and were caught off guard. One time years ago in a previous church, unbeknownst to me or Larry someone had called a business meeting (unauthorized). At the close of a service, all these angry people were waiting for my husband in a meeting that got pretty heated. It was all over the fact that one woman thought we should build a new building when our church wasn't anywhere near ready to build a building. Instead of doing things through the proper channels, she just thought she'd go ahead and "call a meeting" and push her agenda. If you've been in ministry for any number of years you've probably seen this type of circus at least once. Well anyway, my kids walked out into the sanctuary into this absolute mess of people yelling and out of order and Larry said, "Deanna, get the kids and get them out of here and take them home now!!" and I remember grabbing all three of them and putting them in the car and it was raining hard. All the way home, I remember the tears on my face being mixed with the rain that had just come down hard on me me while getting them in the car and Dustin and Jordan saying, "Momma, what were those people doing?" and "Why were they acting like that?" My husband had gotten up and said, "folks, this is an unauthorized business meeting and I'm going to have to ask you go go home." At that, a few women hit the floor and were laying there crying out to God, "Oh our pastor see the truth about this building and have this meeting...Jeeeeessus....." So all the way home my two boys are saying, "Momma, why were all those people in there yelling about a building and then those ladies were laying on the floor screaming to Jesus?") I tell you, it's all rather funny right now. I just look back on it now and laugh but truthfully, nothing was funny about it then. PK's see some utter craziness sometimes!

My kids have seen the gamut of "church stuff". I was determined years ago never, never to lose them over it. Tomorrow I'm going to share, especially for you PW's (that's pastor's wives for people who don't know) some important things I see in keeping PK's close to our heart as parents, and keeping them for Jesus and His Church.

But today I'll just close with this. I'm so glad PK retreat is there for my kids. The speakers are grown up PK's themselves who have been there, done that and bought the t-shirt and are still alive to prove it. They speak into these kids lives about the realities and hurts they face. They do more than talk about problems - they pray for the kids and have powerful altar times. The healing power of God flows at those altars. My boys have come through things pretty well and are now at the point where they are praying for their friends over issues like this. Last year they talked about what a blessing it was to go up to the altar and lay hands on and pray for their friends who were pouring out their hurts to God.

Let me also say I'm really thankful for church members who understand and reach out in love to my children. There are some people here at our church who really reach out to my children. It makes such an impact when they make a point to stop, to give a hug - to look beyond the surface and see a bit of what our children's lives are like sometimes. They are just normal kids but yet they have abnormal expectations on them so many times.

More on this in tomorrow's post...