Friday, December 31, 2010

This, you CAN do!

This post will be short as I'm wanting to spend time today finalizing some personal goals for 2011, while also getting ready to celebrate New Year's Eve/Day at our home. Last night, Larry and a friend, Todd Stewart, made 60 pierogies in preparation for tonight.  I came home from shopping with Savanna and made a huge roaster full of cabbage rolls.  We make "Pittsburgh foods" in our home for New Year's Eve, as a tradition.   Friends bring other things to go with it, but these are the main things we prepare for this great night.

Yesterday I was given this challenge and I give it to blog readers today:

"The greatest thing you have is the 24 hours in front of you.  The past is gone.  The future is distant.  Today you can succeed!  Set a goal you can achieve within 24 hours!"

This, you CAN do.   Set a small goal - something you can do in the next 24 hours, and do it!  It's the first step to reaching your bigger goals.

Goodbye 2010.  We've learned many things from you.  It's time for a new season now...a due season.  :)

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Joy in the Midst of Adversity

Are you stressed?  Sick?  Dealing with serious issues with your children?  Wonder how you could possibly have any JOY in the middle of all that?  Do you ever wonder how you can not only survive but thrive through challenges?

Be blessed by the insight of someone currently going through cancer, chemo and radiation...victoriously!

Listen to the advice of someone who is dealing severe pain, an upcoming major surgery, and a ton of government red tape...and keeping a happy heart all the while!

Receive wisdom from a widow...someone who has faced tragic and challenging circumstances with her children and grandchildren, and remains rock solid in her faith. 

Last night at Fusion we had a panel discussion on the subject of Joy in the Midst of Adversity, to conclude our "Joy to the World" teaching series.  I had the privilege of interviewing three of our amazing celebraters!   If you'd like to listen, check out the podcast by going here.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Don't jack with a Godly leader

Why do so many sheep think they can attack a shepherd and get away with it? Make no mistake - shepherds get bitten and they may bleed -- in fact they may bleed profusely for a while, but an attacking sheep will never ultimately win in a battle with a Godly shepherd.

Remember how when you were little you thought your Momma had eyes in the back of her head?    You took a cookie from the cookie jar when she told you not to, or skipped school and you thought you were getting away with it, but word always got back to them.   The Bible says that your sin will always find you out.  Your siblings told on  you for stealing the cookie and the teacher called to let them know you missed 6th period english when you were supposed to be there.  Yet you did it anyway and then had the gall to get mad at your sister for telling on you about the cookie!  You blamed your teacher for telling your parents about you skipping school instead of taking responsibility for your actions.  Momma didn't buy that and you STILL had to pay the price for all that mess you caused.  Pointing the finger on those who tell on you is always easier than owning up to your weakness but just digs a deeper hole than the original one you had already dug for yourself.  Really, did you think your mother was never going to find out?

We see people all the time who jack around with God's leaders and think they are just gonna keep up their sorry behavior and get away with it.  How naive.  The truth is, a spiritual momma or daddy doesn't even need a human being to call them and inform them of a sheep attack because a shepherd who is in tune has the 4-1-1 from a greater source.  When they are on the same frequency as the Holy Spirit, He'll tell them things.  In fact, as a shepherd you know in your spirit about something before you even know about it in the  natural.  That's a blog post in itself.

Just as God protected Moses and dealt with people like Korah, Dathan and Abiram, He does the same thing today. He's the God who hasn't changed.  He's perfect so He has no ability to change.  Malachi 3:6 tells us that God does not change and Numbers 23:19 goes on to say he does not change His mind nor speak and not act.  The same God that dealt strongly with those who spoke against Moses will also deal strongly with those who attack a shepherd today.

I have learned as a leader that all I have to concern myself with is knowing GodIf I know God intimately He'll take care of telling me what else I need to know.  He'll take care of giving me whatever else I need for the journey.  Look at the example of Moses.  He just kept getting on his face before God no matter what happened.  He didn't run around trying to find out information -- He just sought God and everything He needed came to Him!!  If you are a leader reading this, I encourage you -- don't worry so much about what people may be saying about you.  Just KNOW GOD.  Get on your face before Him.  Pray your guts out.  He'll fill your toolbox with everything you need whether it be a word of wisdom and knowledge, discernment, or other Godly leaders to be your armor bearers.  He will send people to lift your arms, just as Moses' arms were lifted by Aaron and Hur so He sends people to lift the arms of the men and women who are leading His people.

I have seen this proven time and time again in my life.  One time when we were pastoring our previous church I was in prayer and God gave me a word about an ENTIRE CONVERSATION, WORD FOR WORD that a disgruntled person in the church had with three other people in their living room late one night.  (What's the significance of the location?  Well, it was their private residence and I had no way of overhearing this information from a human source.)  I wondered at the time why God gave this to me.  Why would God share the contents of a toxic conversation with me?  I said, "God why are you telling me this and what am I supposed to do with it?" Bizarre!  He said, "Just hold on to it and I'll let you know when to release it."  A few months later right at a strategic moment I was able to expose that information with those involved and say, "This is what the Lord has shown me" in great detail and they knew knew it had to be God - there was no other way I could have known.  They were stopped in their tracks, paralyzed from speaking any more of that filth, and rendered powerless because they honestly had the fear of the Lord about what other conversations He might disclose from the heavenlies.  :)  LOL

In a situation here in our church in Tampa I had no idea in the natural what was going on but I was in a time of particularly deep intercession and the next thing we knew several people came and literally threw themselves down crying and repented for some things they had been involved in speaking that we didn't even know about!  Amazing. 

Don't jack with God's leaders and think you're going to get away with it.  People won't keep your confidence.  Do you know why?  Because it was unGodly of you to ask them to keep such a thing in the first place.  It will eat them up.  Every time they try to get in God's presence it will be almost unbearable for them.  They can't freely worship because what you asked them to keep "just between you" was a load of garbage.  And that load of garbage is now standing between them and God and it will be a gigantic roadblock to every prayer they pray until the sin is exposed and dealt with.  The truth is that God will drive them with conviction until they come forward in repentance.  They will tearfully apologize to the leader for ever speaking against them or listening to someone else speak against them -- they will cleanse themselves of that filth that they were exposed to or involved in , and be restored to right relationship with that leader and ultimately to the Lord. (Leaders are appointed by God Himself.  The Bible says when you rebel against authority you are rebelling against God.)  Therefore here's what many times will happen - they will be restored to God, to the leader, and then you will be standing alone holding your filthy bag.   In fact, those who apologize to the leader and rebuild trust may even have a stronger bond than they originally had!  (Because that's what God can do!!  He is a restoring God!)   For the unrepentant attacking sheep perhaps the worst thing they eventually face is the spiritual solitary confinement they cause -- boxing themselves into a dark and lonely place by their rebellious actions.

The shepherd won't take vengeance upon the attacker -- (they know it's not their place biblically plus the fact that they are too busy being on their face before God and making a positive difference in others lives).  The shepherd will just go on to do what they do -- LEAD.  But God won't let an attacking sheep just trot away and go on their merry way like nothing ever happened.  The best thing for the attacking sheep would be for them to go as quickly as possible and ask for forgiveness.  God will forgive them, of course, and if  the shepherd is a man or woman of God, they'll receive forgiveness from them too, although it takes time to build trust again.   If the attacking sheep is stubborn and decides to just go about their business they should know it's all going to eventually unravel for them.  It's a hot mess when it does.

There is grace and mercy for this, but only for confessed sin.  No where in the Bible does it say that God forgives unconfessed sin -- only that which is acknowledged with genuine repentance.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Fab Four Christmas

Yesterday was a day I've been excited about for a few weeks now.  It was the day to have Christmas with three special friends.  We call ourselves the "Fab Four" because, well -- we are four, and long term, friends - which is fabulous.  The Fab Four consists of myself and three ladies who have been close to me for almost the entirety of my time here in Florida.  The bond we have is built has been accomplished over years of loyal friendship, giving opportunity for trust to build.  The women I speak of keep me sane well, relatively sane, and bring a lot of joy to my life and hopefully I do the same for them.  Yesterday we shared tea at a local  shop called Maggie's, and exchanged Christmas gifts.  Girl time was shared over Paris, Plum and Peach teas, scones and devonshire cream, finger sandwiches, and an assortment of desserts.

One of the fab four gifted the rest of us with friendship books with a personal letter inside and sterling silver necklaces for each one with a beautiful verse inscribed.

I don't take these kind of  friendships lightly -- they mean everything to me.  They say if you have even just one loyal friend in life you've got it all, but I've been blessed with these three and several more besides, so I feel like the absolute richest woman in all the world.  Thank you, Jesus.  (The Bible says every good and perfect gift comes from Him.)

I hesitated to blog about the Fab Four Christmas because (and all the pastor's wives out there reading this will well understand this) in pastoring a church, disclosing something like this can bring jealousy.  In fact, it can downright rock a church!  Which is pretty stupid when you think about it.  In fact it's really stupid, but when it comes to women and drama, (or sin) does anything really make sense?  

I keep most of these kind of activities to myself (as positive as they are) and we never discuss them at church, to avoid hurt know, the people who say, "now why didn't she have tea with ME?"  But the truth is, every pastor/pastor's wife needs to have opportunity to select and have close friends like everyone else, and to choose what they want to do with their down time.  (Most pw's I know have had the experience of someone in the church coming up to them saying, "I feel called to be your close friend" and they don't feel the same way.  That is a sticky situation and one that I always dread.  Sometimes such people will try to force something and it's a challenging situation to deal with.  A lot of times they don't really have interest in "you" as a person, it's the infatuation with being with the leader that they have romanticized.  Yes, you love them, and you are blessed to pastor them, but you do not feel "called to be their best friend."  You do not feel the urge to have lunch on your day off.)   The ladies I speak of understand the principles of leadership as they are all leaders in their own right, are fiercely loyal and would lay their lives down for me in a heartbeat and have run interference before to protect me from danger.  (Did you know sometimes ministers and their spouses do face physical, emotional or verbal danger?)   Where are those in the body of Christ who will truly befriend a minister or spouse and help them with things like this without a hidden or ill motivated agenda?  This is a ministry in itself.
Every pastor/pw needs times where they are with a few trusted friends and not a big crowd...
Times when they can truly relax with a small group or even one person...
Times when they can receive, not just give...
Times when they don't have to be "on"
Times when they don't have to have all the answers or even any answers... 
Times when word measuring is in short supply...
Times when they are accepted for who they are as a person and not just what they can do for somebody...
not to mention...people they don't have to watch their back with -- EVER.  

Finding people who will be this in your life AND still totally respect you as their leader are as rare as a needle in a haystack.  I've totally let it all hang out with the fab four AND I think it's probably safe for me to say that there's probably nobody they respect in ministry more than me.  I know, that's amazing!  I ask myself what I ever did to deserve it.  (Nothing, it's grace.)  They listen to me preach, seem to  never tire of it,  and are the first ones to say "amen" even though they have seen me in times of weakness.

A lot of people reading this post may not understand a lick of what I mean by any of this that I just shared but if you are pastoring you do understand. 

Thanks to those of you who listened to me share about  my fab four Christmas and are happy about it.  :)   And thanks Fab Four for an Uh-May-Zing afternoon yesterday.

(I know there are pw's reading this who are wistfully thinking, "I wish I had a fab four."  I understand.  And I will pray for you.)

Monday, December 27, 2010

And so begins the week of baths...

Not that I don't clean up on other fact I'm rather passionate about being clean.

It's my personal tradition the week between Christmas and New Year to go at a slower pace - relax - regroup - refocus.  I need this time to be ready for the pace that the new year brings with it.  One of the ways I do that is to start everyday on the last week of the year with a long soak in the tub.  All during the year many of my days end with a soak in the tub at the end of the night when I worn and weary and need to relax and unwind a few minutes before going to sleep.  This week I like to start my day with something I love and bubble baths is one of those things...specifically a bath and body works moonlight path one!

We close the office the week between Christmas and New Year and are only at church for services and emergencies or absolute essentials. 

Yesterday afternoon after church I took a 3 hour nap with Larry and the dogs.  Then we had some friends over for a late dinner and a movie.

Today I'm meeting some friends for lunch and will spend some precious time with my family this evening.  I am already thoroughly loving this week and thanking God for it.

My sister Shari mentioned to me on Christmas day how much she loves my lists of thankfulness. In her honor I thought I'd end this post with five things I'm thankful for:

1)  I'm thankful for my husband having the patience of Job in video taping this tutorial of me making homemade yeast rolls, to show others how easy it is.  Friends are always telling me how complicated it is to make bread and why they don't try it.  I endeavor to convince people of how easy it is, but the best way is to just SHOW you how easy it is.  He taped me doing this and put it up on YouTube yesterday.  (Thanks babe!)  If you're wondering why you just see my hands, the answer is, it's morning time when I was making the rolls, still in my PJ's.  :)    

2)  I'm thankful for my Sonicare toothbrush - a Christmas gift I received.  I don't know what I did without this.  I've been wanting one for a while and now I see why my dentist so highly recommends them.  Wow. 

3)  I'm thankful for Sunday's service and some amazing people that surround me.  God is so good.

4)  I'm thankful for cool crisp weather that makes it such a pleasure to sleep.

5)  I'm thankful for love.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Thankfully, I didn't eat baby Jesus.

My sister Shari is home for a break from her ministry/job with Samaritan's Purse in Haiti.  This past week I received a box in the mail with Christmas gifts from her and one of them was a coconut.  It was a real coconut.  I honestly thought she had sent me this from Haiti to eat.  So I put it in the fruit bowl.  It just sat there along with tangerines and apples and a bunch of other stuff...waiting to eat.  On the phone with her yesterday on Christmas she said, "Did you like the coconut?"  I said, "I haven't eaten it yet."  She was like, "ARE YOU SERIOUS?"  I said, "yes, why?"  She said, "Oh my gosh,  it's not to eat, Deanna!!  Please go get it right now while you're on the phone with me."  I said, "okayyyyyyy..." and proceeded to go get it.  She said, pull out the center thing and start pulling out the leaves and the stuffing.  I said, "okay, but I'll never get it back in, this is really tight."  She said, "you're not supposed to..."  So I said, "alright" and pulled everything out that was inside and it was a Haitian nativity set!  She said, "oh I'm so glad you didn't eat baby Jesus!"  LOL  Isn't this little nativity set just darling?  Now it joins my other one that sits on the piano -- made of banana leaves in Kenya. 

We had a very relaxing day  yesterday.  We needed it!  We slept in and once we woke up Larry started making the ham, and I began making sweet rolls and then we woke the kids up, had breakfast and started opening gifts.  A few hours later we started on the rest of Christmas dinner.   I enjoy taking photos with my camera as I go along throughout  my day, so here are some I took while we were cooking...

Jordan just loves my sweet potato casserole...says it wouldn't  be Christmas or Thanksgiving without it!
Waiting for my homemade yeast rolls to rise...
The spices of the season...
Larry prepares his cherry glazed's THE best.  Can you tell we were glad to have the day off from Weight Watchers...just for the day? 
I love setting a nice table...
...and lighting the candles...

 I was very blessed to share Christmas with my family and enjoy the gifts.  One thought I did have yesterday as everyone was asking me (on the phone or online) "Did you have a good Christmas?" was the fact that really Christmas is always good for a believer.  When we keep our focus on Jesus we will never, ever, have a bad Christmas! 

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas Darlings...

It's Christmas Day!!!

We had a fantastic Christmas Eve Communion.  There was a steady stream of people coming in from 5 pm - 8 pm, to receive personal communion and prayer.  Afterwards we headed with 20 people - our family plus 15 staff/friends who accompanied us for our traditional Chinese dinner.  Years ago when Larry and I first got married we went for chinese on Christmas Eve and it became tradition.  We have done this for 23 years of our marriage...every Christmas Eve.  Some years we've gone to restaurants where we've ordered a special dish each but most times we go to a Chinese Buffet as it's what everyone in the family likes best.

We exchanged gifts with staff and friends and shared some fabulous memories to last a lifetime.

I came home and got a few more things ready for the Christmas meal for today and cleaned up the kitchen and headed to snuggle with the dogs.  Now that we have three teens/young adults, they generally sleep late on Christmas.  No one wakes us up at the crack of dawn except maybe Max & Maddie and we're hoping they sleep in too.  But for sure once everyone wakes up we'll have our traditional sweet breakfast rolls and start opening presents.

I sure am grateful for my family and everything God has blessed me with.  May we never take anything for granted.

Friday, December 24, 2010

I can dream and in my dreams I'm Christmasing with you...

Yesterday was a busy day -- in prayer, and wrapping things up for Christmas Eve Communion, food shopping, baking pies, ironing table linens, getting the china out, and all that good stuff.  Worked til' I dropped last night.  Savanna did do some cleaning while we were at work -- she wanted to have her friend Grace over to spend the night.  This works out nicely as we'll just reunite her with her family at Christmas Eve Communion.  Michele and Marcus came over last night too and watched the Steelers game and I made homemade hot cocoa with a recipe that a friend, Jeannie Tedder, gave me.  It's better than cocoa that you get in the stores.  And, it's real simple:

Homemade Cocoa
1 and 3/4 cup of instant milk powder
1 cup of powdered sugar
1/2 cup of coffee creamer (powder)
1/4 cup of cocoa

Mix ingredients.  Store in container - may be stored out on counter, in refrigerator or freezer.  When preparing, mix 1/3 cup of cocoa mix with 3/4 cup of hot water.

Try it, you'll really enjoy it -- we did last night, with some light whipped cream on top! 

Yesterday we were recording a Christmas song for a church greeting and I got the bright idea to record a song that I did all the years of my high school in the music department.  "Merry Christmas Darling" was my song back then.  A high school friend, Jill Hurley Acree, mentioned to me earlier this month that when she heard this song on GLEE, she thought of me right away.  I decided to sing this and put it on facebook for my classmates as a nostalgic look back.  Larry recorded it on his I-phone and we put it on my fb wall yesterday to the delight of a few of my school chums who were busy but not so much so that they didn't check fb yesterday!   If you want to hear the song, go here.  (I'm not embedding it here because it does funky things to my blog page.)

Tonight we have Christmas Eve Communion at Celebration.  It's one of my favorite times, ever!  We do it differently than most churches.  It's not a service.  It's a time when the people can stop by anytime during a 3 hour window of time.  Our church is beautifully decorated for Christmas with huge trees and tons of lights, and for Christmas Eve we light a bazillion candles in the sanctuary.  Larry and I are waiting at the altar the entire time.  When people come in some choose to have communion right away, others wait a while and find a place to gather with their family and pray in the sanctuary.  When they are ready they come to us and we serve them individual, personal communion and pray a prayer of blessing over them/their family.Some stay 5 minutes and are on their way somewhere, or coming home from somewhere.  Others stay a long time.  Some people come in jeans and sweats.  Others are totally dressed up for a night out.  I love having the opportunity to see a majority of our people and be with them at least for 5 minutes on Christmas eve -- to hug all of them and tell them how much we love them.  It's a great blessing.

This time of year takes a lot of work, but you know -- I just love it!  An amazing time of faith, family and friends.  That's what it's all about -- centered on JESUS.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

What to do when you've got a holy hangover...

Last night I got home from  the Fusion Christmas dinner, petted the dogs, got in my night clothes, made an iced tea and settled in to finish two teachings that I have to put the finishing touches on before Christmas break.  As I mentioned in my blog the other day, I've been working double on things to be able to take some time of at the holidays.  After I was done polishing off two messages and returning urgent mail messages, I found myself feeling down.  I mean really down.  Like crazy down.

I shouldn't be down.

What's wrong with me?

We just had a fantastic night at Fusion.
God is up to NEW things at Celebration.
Amazing opportunities have been coming my way in life and ministry!
God has blessed me in  having a part in being a significant influence in some people's spiritual journey.
I have been taking good care of myself health wise.  (Well, driving myself like crazy the past week with work, BUT -- eating right, exercising and taking vitamins.)

Yet there I was struggling with this dark feeling.

Then I remembered something a mentor told me once --  the holidays and the ministry time that surrounds it creates all kinds of strain on your adrenal system.  Even when AMAZING things are happening!  You can feel down for "no reason" but there really is a reason. My friend Cassandra Stafford sent me  this post which woke me up to the reality of this specifically in how it relates to pastors.  It's what Pastor Clayton King calls a "holy hangover."  This is why you feel like a truck has just run over you even though you just had a front row seat in some amazing spiritual breakthroughs in people's lives.

I say all that to speak a word of wisdom to those of you in ministry who might find yourselves a little down in the next few days or week and wonder why in the world you feel that way if God is doing so many great things in your midst.  You aren't crazy.  Adrenaline does funky things to your body and this follow up post gives some helps on what to do about that if you find yourself struggling with a holy hangover.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Sometimes a Mom just can't say no...

Yesterday Savanna said, "Mom can we pleeeease make some gourmet pretzels for my teachers and friends at school?"

[Insert deep breath here]

Today is her last day of school before the holiday break so it had to be done last night.  I'm swamped with working double time at the church not to mention work at NextJob to be off a few days at Christmas not to mention getting Christmas together for my own household - everything from gifts to food.  I haven't even started getting everything ready for the plethora of things we make on Christmas day for dinner and dessert with friends here at the house.  But...I said yes.  Larry says, "why, why, why do you never say no to these things, Deanna?!"  (He sees my exhaustion at times and wonders why I do these things but honestly it's hard to say no to a pleading child who wants to give to others, and make memories, etc...  Perhaps only a Mom can understand.)  Anyway, "we" didn't end up making them -- "I" ended up making them --  as she was out late until almost 11 PM shopping with her Dad last night.  He asked her to go with him, so I worked solo in the kitchen doing all of the pretzels by myself and had them ready when they got home.  She didn't know I was going to do them and thought all the work was waiting for her when she got home.  She bounded into the kitchen and exclaimed, "YOU DIDN'T!" with an ear to ear grin, then hugged me...a real big squeezy hug that Moms just eat up like candy.  To see the look on her face of delight that her pretzels were waiting for her to take to school...priceless.  I also imagine what her friends reactions will be.  Last year she took the pretzels to school and her friends just went BONKERS over them. Her friend Dixie bit into one and exclaimed, "Oh my gosh, these things are the best thing ever known to mankind!!!"  I don't know that I'd take it thaaaaaaat far, but they are preeeeeety darn good.  Dustin also took them to work and the employees at the Cobb freaked out over how amazing they are.  It makes me happy to think of how delighted people are going to be to receive these.  They are easy to make and I get all the ingredients from Michael's and the grocery store.  I package them in all different ways and sometimes just give them out individually and other times wrap them in cellophane paper with mugs or glasses.   For instance, here are two little gifts above (Christmas mugs)  that I'm giving this week with the pretzels in them.   You can make them in any color imaginable for special occasions like holidays, weddings, birthdays, etc.

Incidentally a lot of people have asked me how to make the pretzels and I did a little picture tutorial of it on the blog a while back and you can find it here.

Then I set about making the lasagna for the Fusion dinner tonight.  We are having a covered dish Christmas dinner and games, Christmas carols and lots more.  It's going to be rather amazing.  I can't wait!

There's an extremely full day of work ahead of me today.  I'm praying for no emergencies, (knock on wood), so that I can bust through the work that I need to have done by Thursday night.  I'm hoping to reserve Friday just for getting my household ready before Christmas Eve Communion.  I can't even believe I"m talking about Christmas Eve Communion or that it's this close, but man, it really IS!!!    By the way, Celebration Church does communion on Christmas Eve very differently from most other churches I've ever heard of, and I'll explain it all here on the blog the day of, if you haven't already read it here in the past.  It's pretty cool, and our people just looooooove it!

Last night after finally wrapping up the pretzel making factory, the lasagna assembly line and the clean up from all the cooking and my husband and Savvy returning from Christmas shopping, I went outside after midnight and soaked in the jacuzzi, looked up at the stars and thanked God for His many blessings.  We were some of the crazy people out in the middle of the night last night looking at the eclipse.  The lack of sleep has affected me however, it's important not to miss special moments in life.  I was thanking God even then that I was just wrapped in my snuggie on the patio and wondering how my friends in the northeast were faring, standing or sitting outside in freezing temps.  An amazing family and friends and  livin' in paradise.  Yes indeed, I am blessed.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Double duty

Yesterday we were having a wonderful lunch with our children pastor and his wife and talking about the reality of doing "double duty" in preparation to have a few days off.   We talked about our e-mail boxes filling up and the reality of what you come back to after a few days off.  It's interesting, between two jobs, Pastor Adam and I both get upwards of 300 e-mails a day. That's quite a pile up to come back to!  Sometimes I dread coming back to work just because of having to catch up on e-mail. 

I noticed that in the last day or two my blog stats have gone way down.  I'm experienced enough at blogging by now to realize this time it has nothing to do with my content but the fact that everybody is busy Christmas shopping and also doing double duty at work to actually be able to have a few days off.  Everyone doesn't have the kind of job that requires that, but people who serve in positions such as vocational ministry understand well that there is A LOT to be lined up in order to have any time off.

So yes, I'm "doubling up" this week to have family time next week.  How about you?

Monday, December 20, 2010

A Celebration Church Family Christmas

All of these photos were taken by Lourdes Manners, of Celebration Church. Thanks, Lourdes!

Our trees are so beautiful at Celebration.  Lotsa people take family photos in front of them.

Opening the service with our rockin ' version of the Halleluiah Chorus...
My daughter Savanna and I sang a duet ~ "Baby It's Cold Outside".  She did a great job!
Kerry George and his son, Xander - precious...
 Love, love, love these two!!!
Kate Russell - in one word:  AMAZING.
Kate and I had a grand time playing some of the greatest classical Christmas carols.
Celebration KidZone rocks!
I love our Celebration Kidz...they are so awesome.
Ms. Michele tells the Christmas story, with help from Marty.
Elizabeth Wing, another amazing new addition to Celebration this lady, not only for how she plays the piano, but also how she PRAYS fervently, and how sweet she is.  God is so good to send her to us.  Honestly, He packaged up a few gifts (people) and send 'em to me this year!!!  Thank you, Jesus.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

When did Christmas become about romance?

"When somebody wants you...somebody needs you
Christmas is a joy of joy...but friends when you're lonely
You'll find that it's only...a thing for little girls and little boys..."
 ~ The Christmas Blues, Dean Martin

Really?!  Somebody please notify God that evidently what He did wasn't enough.

I was listening to the radio the other day and this song came on and all of a sudden I just really felt irked.  


So many people complain about the commercialization of Christmas but what about the romanticism?  Really, it's just as bad.  If we're going to complain about people who have turned it into nothing but buying and selling and hustle and bustle and Santa and Frosty, let's also come to grips with those who turn it into nothing but kissing and hugging around the fire.

I mean, really...did Christ come to earth so you could get engaged?
Did He come so you could make out with somebody under a piece of hanging foliage?


I for one am tired of songs and attitudes that indicate that if a person is single at Christmas time it's all a moot point and you might as well bide your time until the holidays are over.  Some singles say, "Bah Humbug!  I have no one to share this with!"  Really.  I never realized this was all about you.  I mean, if you get engaged at Christmas or you are happy or grateful to be in a relationship, point is just that it has nothing to do with the purpose of the season.  

Christmas isn't about your romance, not about how much affection you are or are not getting, not even about whether you have someone to eat ham with.  It's about the fact that Christ came to earth as Immanuel, God with us, to one day give His life for us on the cross and make everything possible, married, single, divorced, widowed, or whatever relational status we find ourselves in.  The only relationship status this has to do with is the one between  each of us as individuals and Jesus Christ.

Two of my very closest friends, Michele and Sue are single and they would never give anybody this load of crap for even two seconds that Christmas is horrible because they are single.  That's part of the reason why they ARE two of my best friends -- because they are both strong spiritual women who realize one is a whole number.  They know that Christmas is about more than whether a man is getting them a ring, or whether they are going to be making out with them by the tree. 

The next time I hear, "Every kiss begins with Kay" on my TV this week, I'm snapping it off!   Christmas is about more than if "somebody wants you" or "somebody needs you".  

Somebody does want me.  
Somebody does need me.
His name is Jesus and He came and gave His life for me. 
Thank you Jesus, and...happy birthday.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Can't wait!

This is such a busy weekend at Celebration and one that will be "next level" for sure.  Today is the Recovery Ministry Christmas Dinner (this is our homeless ministry & ministry to the working poor outreach that we have on Saturdays...where we feed and clothe LOTS of people each week).  Today will be an amazing Christmas dinner and gift giveaway.  It's great to be part of a church that is making a difference in the community and feeding and clothing people physically as well as spiritually.

Still really stoked about our family celebration on Sunday morning.  One thing that I really enjoy is finding individuals with talent and equipping them to be all they can be, in many cases going much further than I have gone or ever will go.  Sometimes they already have the natural talent and ability but it's the role of equipping/training/coaching/mentoring as a pastor that I can offer to bring the whole package together.  Anything is possible in the lives of those who are truly open to receive.  I  am really excited about what the Lord is doing in this regard -- Sunday will be a big step for a few people.

We've got our Fusion Christmas Dinner this week too, as well as Christmas Eve Communion which is always amazing.  LOTS to do to prepare to take some time off at the holidays too...I am very much looking forward to some down time.

By the way, I'm going to be back with more True Church Stories!!!  Not sure if I'll get to them before the holidays, but not to worry, I'm not done yet!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Fun Friday Potpourri

Today's Friday!  I'm so glad.  It's a day for Larry and I to spend together around the house, and to do some Christmas shopping at some point.   I've got some adorable new pics of Max & Maddie, but first, just a few random things that are on my mind in no particular order.

  • This Sunday is going to be UH-May-Zing at Celebration Church!  Celebraters, do whatever you've got to do to get there.  I'm tellin' you, I'm so excited about this Sunday.  Not only is my husband absolutely going to  kill it when he shares his message this weekend, but we've got some amazing new talent at CC that's going to be showcased this weekend and I just can't wait!  God has been so good to send us some more talent at our church that is SUCH a blessing to me personally, I cannot even describe how much.   
  • Yesterday I spent most of the day - lunch and a few hours rehearsal afterwards, with someone who came to Celebration about six months ago.  She's new to the church and new in the faith and experiencing amazing spiritual breakthroughs at CC.   Her name is Kate Russell and her gift is gonna absolutely shine on Sunday.  She's a student at USF and she's actually played at Carnegie Hall with a symphony she played with for a while, in fact upon auditioning for that group she made it in on the first audition which is almost unheard of.  With all this said, the thing I like about Kate the most is that she's got the most tender heart, and her attitude shines most of all.  I am just delighted that she's a part of the CC family and can't wait for everyone to experience what I did yesterday.
  • For a long time I've been praying for more keyboard players at CC.  You have no idea how long I've prayed for this, or how important it is to me personally.  Well God has sent us two great ones in the past six months.  One of them, has been playing with the team for a few months now and the second one makes their debut on Sunday.  I can hardly wait!  
  • We've got a few new soloists making their first appearance on Sunday and it's gonna be amazing.  I'm not going to say another word about this -- celebraters will just have to come and be shocked out of their minds.  (And yes this is real, not a gag or something you're gonna wanna pull out a gong
  • The dogs knocked over one of my Christmas trees on Wednesday morning and broke it permanently.  I started cleaning it up before work and was so frustrated.  I dreaded coming home to it.  Larry cleaned the rest of it up when we came home.  I was so grateful.  The lights completely went out on one of my trees and it's bitten the dust for all intents and purposes. Looking at the gift in things, I have four trees left.   Some people don't even have one.  I am so blessed!!!  
  • Our tangerine tree is full of hundreds of pieces of delicious fruit!
  • We've booked our cruise and are counting the days!!  The church pulled together as a special surprise for Pastor Appreciation in November and developed the plan to send us.  We are going on a week long cruise to Costa Maya and Cozumel!!!  I can hardly wait.  Counting the days.  Although they gave us the gift in 2010 there are a few months of planning and getting new passports involved so in a few months we're going. They wanted us to have the best of everything and booked us a balcony room, and are signing us up for different excursions of our choice.  I'm so excited I could S-C-R-E-A-M!!!   We are so blessed to be the pastors...the Daddy and Momma of Celebration Church.  I thank God everyday...not just because of this's much deeper than that and the feeling was there before the cruise.  It has to do with love, unity, purpose, vision and much more.
  •  We just went on our annual Shrodes family Christmas shopping trip to Brandon Mall.  We always go to Buddy Freddy to eat and then shopping.  Well, Buddy Freddy closed.  :/   That was disheartening and in fact I thought one of the kids would break down crying but we had a family meeting to determine where we'd go instead.  We got a few gifts although we are not done yet and Larry and I plan on doing more at some point today. 
  • The weather is incredible!  In addition to wearing my boots, and leather jacket I'm getting in my jacuzzi most nights, sitting under the stars, looking at the Christmas lights and the lake and just thinking about how good God is.
  • We are getting ready for a huge Refuge youth party at our home on Saturday.  A bazillion teenagers are going to be descending upon this place.  
  • Remember I mentioned praying for me for some physical challenges?  They are still there but improving somewhat.  Thank you to anyone who has prayed for me about this.  It means more than you know! 
Alright -- on to a few photos that I recently took of the dogs as they were chillin...hopefully their personality will shine through a bit in these photos and show why I am simply smitten by these two...
"Momma loves having this face greet her every morning..."
"I really don't know what you're talking about...another Christmas ornament missing?  Hmmmm..."
[Maddie says] "Oh no...has he chewed ANOTHER one?  Let's make it a matter of prayer..."
"Well, it is what it is, " she says.
"We are waiting for Momma to come take a Fun Friday nap with us.  Our favorite thing to do is snuggle."
Mission Accomplished