Sunday, July 31, 2011

Stand and deliver

Today is my tenth post in this series on preaching, and if you missed the previous nine, just click here to catch up.

Today I'm covering general things that help in the actual delivery process.  I'm sure I sound like a broken record for those who have been reading this for all ten posts so far, but remember, these are just things I've found helpful that you might too. I'm by no means considering myself an expert nor saying, "THIS is the way it needs to be done."  I'm sharing this because a good friend asked me to do it here on the blog.  So here we go.

If you are speaking somewhere where you are not the person in charge, always acknowledge the leadership who invited you.  Never forget what a privilege it is to stand in someone else's pulpit.  You are there by their invitation and under their authority.  This weekend Larry and I are actually away from the church we pastor -- we are in Phoenix, AZ for the week for General Council and this weekend we are speaking at Celebration Church Center, Mesa, AZ, pastored by our good friends Pastors Randy & Dawn Visconti.  Larry will preach this morning, I'll preach tonight.  We will both begin our remarks by thanking our hosts and encouraging those gathered about the excellent leadership that they are blessed to sit under.  When you visit somewhere as the guest speaker don't ever take for granted that you are there under the person who brought you and part of your role is to affirm them and what God is doing there.

Memorize your introduction if at all possible.  I've found it helps to start off this way because I can immediately develop eye contact and a rapport with the audience from the beginning.

Refer to your notes as needed by glancing down -- read sparingly, looking into their eyes as much as possible.  I try to reserve looking at my notes for times when I'm reading scripture, and also quickly getting my next point and then looking up again.  The more you can maintain eye contact with people, the better.

Don't focus on who's not paying attention, focus on those who are.  I key in on people who are obviously "getting it."  For those who aren't, don't let them distract you or irritate you in the least.  Always move with the movers.

Speak clearly and confidently.  God has sent you to share something with these folks, so boldly declare it.  In fact, one of the things I most often say is, "God has sent me to tell you....."  Never lose the wonder of standing on earth and speaking for heaven!!!

Know when to be quiet.  Don't feel the need to speak constantly with no pause.  Sometimes the most powerful thing you can do in a message is ask a powerful (rhetorical) question and then pause for about 10 seconds to let it sink in.  For instance, tonight in my message I'm going to ask my audience, "What might be possible in your life if you refuse to talk about your past for 30 days?"  Then I'm going to pause for a few moments to just let them think about it before I go on to say something else.

If you use PowerPoint, be fully  prepared.  Call the event coordinator or the media tech at the church beforehand and ask what is available and if they will have someone well trained to run it.  I use PowerPoint on a weekly basis at our church and I always send a message script to the media director a few days ahead of time, as well as the PowerPoint so they can look it over and let me know if they have any questions.  Our media team at CC know me well enough that I don't have to put the number of the slides alongside on my message script but when I'm preaching elsewhere I print a handout for the media person of the PowerPoint slides with corresponding numbers, and I place the numbers actually on my script and give to the media person to ensure that everything goes right.  If a church doesn't have this capability or they are iffy about whether someone can run it properly, I dispense with using it altogether as it might be more a distraction than a blessing.

If using a handout give it out in the beginning, and put someone else (ushers, etc.) in charge of passing it out to latecomers.  I don't make handouts too long or laborious because I don't want people to have their head in their notes or worrying too much about writing the whole time.

Use humor liberally.  It serves to open people up for more serious topics later in the message.

Become skilled at telling stories and illustrations.  This comes with practice.  You don't have to be preaching to practice.  When sharing stories with friends, hone your skills at describing true stories and situations.  Even practicing joke telling will help you to become a great speaker.

Don't be afraid to move around.  I usually come down to the audience at least once or twice during my message and walk in the front of the room, or even down the aisle to the first few rows.  If I notice a certain group isn't paying attention I might walk toward that section and stand there a few minutes while I speak. I don't ever address that they aren't paying attention, I just get even more animated and make it more difficult for them to tune out.  A huge part of your message is body language.

Be spirit led.  Although you have prayed and prepared and written your message the Holy Spirit will drop things in your heart just for the specific people who are gathered there.  You won't always understand why you're saying certain things -- you may never this side of heaven.  Be obedient to speak what God lays on your heart in the moment. Sometimes at the altar or later when talking to the pastor, you find out why God told you to say it and it becomes a miracle story.  (Those stories sometimes provide the best future sermon illustrations!!)

Saturday, July 30, 2011

We don't need another Joyce Meyer

This is the ninth post in this series on message preparation.  If you've missed the previous eight posts, just go to the "preaching" label to catch up.

One of the main things I believe about delivery of a message is staying true to who God has made you to be.

A concern I have for those who are starting out in speaking ministries today is that things have become so commercialized with formulas of how to do things -- everything from marketing your ministry to how to deliver your message.  I realized last week when a friend asked me for any preaching helps I could give here on the blog that this is probably the reason I've never shared any.  My concern for this is that in such many may lose the experience of allowing God to uniquely shape them and instead copying a pattern followed by another.  My feeling is that this can actually short circuits your efforts or dreams - not accelerate them, if you aren't careful to seek God for the way that He wants you to fulfill your divine call.

We don't need another Joyce Meyer, as amazing as she is.  We already have one.

We don't need another Beth Moore, another Lisa Bevere, another T.D. Jakes.  We already have them.

These people are wonderful and they have all imparted life changing things to me through their sermons and books.  But as wonderful as they are copycats -- not so much.

Yesterday I spoke of not tweaking to the crowd.  I believe this is a good principle no matter your style.  Today I encourage you to be your authentic self in your delivery.  I also believe this principle applies to anyone.

Speak with passion, from the very core of who you are.  Beg God for His message for the people and then share it like it's the last opportunity you'll ever have.

Don't compare with others, ever.  The fact is, your true self is incomparable.  It's my experience that speakers who are genuinely called by God to preach and stay true to their authentic self are unstoppable.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Don't tweak to the crowd! What about 2 or 3 don't we understand?

This is the eighth post in a series on message preparation here on the blog.  If you missed the previous seven posts, just go to the "preaching" label here on the blog and you can catch up on the whole thing if you've missed it.

Today I'm going to focus on delivery and a few things that are personally important to me.

One of my pet peeves is when a speaker changes what they do based upon the amount of people that show up.  Can I just say, I think that's lame.  It happens so much I believe this subject is deserving of it's own post.

I committed from the very beginning of my ministry that I'd never tweak to the crowd, and I haven't.  I can remember years ago bringing guest speakers into churches we've pastored and having 10 or less of my women show up for an event.  I felt like a failure at times although it had nothing to do with me and I had advertised the daylights out of the event.  I have to be honest that I didn't realize just how common changing things due to the size of the crowd was until I pastored a church like we have now where sometimes I have 10 women show up at an event, other times I've had up to 200.  It's AMAZING how different a guest will treat a crowd of 10 vs. 200!  And it makes me sick.  Often times a speaker would say, "you know since only 10 showed up tonight I think I'll change what I was planning to bring to the ladies tonight..." and they'd adjust everything and sometimes just talk or have a "share" time, or even say, "let's just fellowship."  Let it go on record, I HATE THAT.  I mean I seriously hate that. Not that I hate fellowship -- I love it, but my point is, if you billed it as a night of worship, speaking, etc. then DO THAT!  Ten people are as worthy as 10,000.  Do what God brought you to do!!  Say what He told you to say!!

Every time I stand in front of people to speak, I minister as though it were a huge crowd.   We need to focus on whoever IS there, not who's missing!  I never make statements like, "I was hoping there would be more people here tonight" or "even though this is a lower crowd, we're still going to have a great time."  That makes people feel demoralized right from the start.

Also if I'm at the church we pastor and we start the service and it's a lower crowd, I never lament that it's a smaller crowd -- we start the service with a bang, just as if we were filled to capacity with standing room only. 

I've preached to crowds of thousands in open air tent crusades.

I've preached to six or seven ladies in little country churches out in the middle of no where who showed up on a Thursday night for "WM's".  :)

Doesn't matter which one, they are both going to receive exactly what God gave me to bring no matter how many people show up, and you had better believe I'm going to leave EVERYTHING on the platform! 

Here's something interesting that I've had happen in most of the situations I've gone to where it has been out in the middle or nowhere or a small crowd.  Usually at the end of the night after giving everything I've got and being totally wiped out a lady from the group will emerge and come over to me and say, "I'm not from here."  Then she will usually go on to say that she's visiting from a neighboring city because a friend brought her since it was a special night and she happens to be the pastor's wife, or the WM leader, or some other community leader, and she hosts her own events in her area.  She'll say, "I'm amazed by what you gave these ladies tonight even though there were only a few.  Here's my card.  I'm going to be calling you to set up an event in our area."  Some of the biggest doors that have opened in my life/ministry have been through this.  I've had it happen so many times now I know it's no coincidence. I have preached a large conference in a certain city and been invited back several times that if I would not have been faithful in the little country church out in the middle of nowhere with six ladies showing up, I would have never made a connection with the leader from the other place.  Now let me be clear that I DON'T DO IT FOR THAT REASON.  But what I am telling you is that although that's not my motivation it's amazing how FAVOR works, and how God sends amazing things that are unexpected as a result of faithfulness and a spirit of excellence in every situation.

Friends, I implore you -- DO NOT TWEAK YOUR MESSAGE DUE TO A SMALL CROWD.  God does amazing things in small groups!!!   Don't forget, He says, "where two or three are gathered..."

Two or three means...exactly what it says. 

Thursday, July 28, 2011

They are FOR you...

This is the seventh post in the message preparation series that I've been asked to do here by a friend.  If you missed the previous six posts, just scroll back or go to the "Preaching" tab here on the blog.

Today I want to tell you something important about delivery, and that is that all of the sane people out there are for you.  That might sound really strange, but I really must take time to say this.  The normal people who are sitting there listening are for you.  I know some of you are really discouraged right now because you're thinking, "Um, Deanna, do you know how many insane, irregular, and dysfunctional people that I know?"   :)

Okay, besides them.

One of the most important points that I can possibly make to lots of you out there who are feeling the call to preach but are nervous is that a majority of people are for you.  Yes, I know "God is a majority".  But I'm telling you as sure as I'm sitting here that MOST people who hear you are also for you and they are desperately wanting to be fed.

They want hope.
They want empowerment.
They want your message to make a difference in their lives.

They aren't waiting for you to mess up.
They aren't waiting to laugh at you.
They don't show up waiting to criticize.

Some of you who are reading this have just been asked for the first time to teach a class, or preach at a conference, or share at your women's ministries group.  And you are thinking that this is something you've really been sensing the call to do but you are scared out of your mind.  When you get up in front of those people keep in mind that they could be at a lot of other places.  They could be at the mall or doing their laundry or going out to eat,  but for some reason, they are sitting there in front of you.  The majority of those people are not sitting there with ill will, nor did they choose to come to make fun of you.  Seriously, all the normal people are waaayyyyyy too busy for that!  They came because they really need a word.  So, give it to them!

The sane people who are sitting there are really wanting to see you succeed.

What if you are preaching in an insane church?  Well who cares.  How much damage can you do in a church that's already crazy? 

Be encouraged, and go for it!  Leave everything you've got on the platform!

As for the insane people?  Don't fret over them.  You're not the only one who knows that something is wrong with them.  Don't focus on the few who may think or speak something negative.  Hone in on those who have come with hungry hearts, waiting for you to feed them.

I am going to cover more about delivery later, but I just had to say this first because it's been one of the most important things to me over the years.  The Lord first spoke this to my heart when I started out in my twenties and it's served me very well all this time.  Every time I stand in front of a group, before I start to speak, I think to myself, "these people are for me, and they want to hear what I have to say."   

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Illustrations: the dessert!

Today we're continuing this blog series on message preparation.  If you missed the previous five posts, be sure to go back and check them out.

If the Bible is the meat of your message (which it always should be!) then illustrations are the dessert!  I love the Word of God, and make no mistake - preaching is about the Word of God. Illustrations within a message serve to open people's eyes to the relevancy, the "now" way the Word of God is working in hearts and lives.  Illustration certainly shouldn't replace the central role of the Bible, rather they serve to explain what we are communicating from God's Word.  My husband and I always say that they help people to know how to live out the Word of God on Monday.  It's one thing to read in the Word of God what happened with Moses, but how does that apply to you?  To me?  To us?  Illustrations also serve to motivate and inspire people with how Word has been made manifest in people's lives, how He is moving in power today.

A lot of people seem to struggle getting good message illustrations and a great number of people even pay for them from various websites or books, (there's nothing wrong with that, by the way), or they get them from suggestions from other preachers.  I have never done that and for me it's not an issue of right or wrong but preference.  Again let me state that in this blog series,  I'm NOT sharing, "THIS IS THE WAY YOU DO IT" rather I'm simply sharing at a friend's request "WHAT WORKS FOR ME." 

I feel really strongly about this when it comes to what I personally do because next to actually loving the Word and enjoying making Biblical concepts very understandable for people, I am most passionate about illustrations.  The reason is because I only share ones I'm extremely excited about -- ones I've lived.  I have never had a need to search for an illustration or pay for one because even from the beginning of my ministry I just went to the storehouse of my brain to search for one.  I share transparently about my life and also firsthand stories of people I personally know whose lives have been changed. One HUGE benefit of this is that I never have to worry about memorizing my illustrations!  I already know them like the back of my hand because they are happenings in my life or ones that have personally touched my life.  Therefore, I never have to stand over my notes and read an illustration or struggle to remember how to share one most effectively.  Many times while I'm sharing illustrations I come down from the platform and walk up close to the audience, sometimes even among the audience and look right into their eyes.  All this is possible because I don't need my notes to share what I've lived.

I find that for me it's very difficult to share with passion a story about some guy in 1892 who had a horse farm, or a lady who moved from England in the 1940's, or some guy who became a millionaire at 29 years old.  Even if it's true, if I haven't experienced it -- if I don't at least personally know the person or had some first hand experience with my illustration it's a challenge for me to share it authoritatively.  I believe people share best about what they have actually experienced.

I usually have an illustration to go with each point I share in a message, sometimes more than one.  And I normally always use one to close out my summary before the altar call.  Most times I save the best for last, the one that the most kleenex will be required for.  :)   I don't see that as manipulation by the way, but just good ol' fashioned Holy Spirit ordained forethought.  There are exceptions where it's most effective to put your best illustration for the message right up front -- be prayerful about where it should go.

I do not say this in a critical or prideful spirit, but I do believe that being a person who can use personal illustrations almost exclusively and not ever run out, you do have to be very open to the supernatural working power of God and partake in it.  To share firsthand how God is moving today, you have to be actually involved in the process of how God is working on an ongoing basis.  If I'm going to share first-hand stories about bodies healed, families changed, divorces canceled, drug addicts delivered, and people coming to Jesus all the time and their transformational stories then guess what, I HAVE TO BE INVOLVED PERSONALLY IN ALL OF THAT.  So, now you know one reason I'm really passionate about illustrations -- I'm deeply invested in them.

I don't just share victories and miracles, I also share transparently from my heart about pain, times when I've personally been broken and needed healing.  I share my hurts, and my struggles.  This always helps my listeners to almost immediately identify with me in some way and feel that they are listening to a good friend.  Although many times I'm speaking to people I don't know,  the audience begins to feel like they are a part of my life.  So their hearts open up and they not only receive my story, they then open up to everything else I have to say in the message and respond to whatever Jesus is wanting them to receive through the message.

To illustrate (can't resist an illustration in a blog post about illustrations!) I recently went to lunch with a dear lady who has been at Celebration for about five months.  We have never sat down and had personal time together -- this was a first for us.  She invited me to lunch and I was eager to get to know her better.  When our meals came to the table, she didn't touch hers for probably the first 30 minutes or so while I completely ate mine.  I just listened to her fill me in on who she is, where she's come from and what she's all about.  After she talked for about half an hour she said, "Well, I've been talking non-stop for all this time PD, and I really do want to have you share in this conversation and get to know you more... but I must say that part of the reason I just went off talking about myself for all this time is that I feel like I already deeply know you!  Just from your preaching style and the things you share with the congregation so transparently I feel that I  already know you as a close friend."

I said, "I'm so glad to hear that!  Mission accomplished!"

The main mission when preaching is to bring people to Jesus.  It's also to help believers understand truths from the Word in a greater way and be inspired to live them, and to give opportunity for transformation to take place at the altar.  I've found that people readily receive anything much better from a voice they feel they know and trust.  Giving personal illustration versus random ones really sets the stage for that.  Sharing how the Word has been made real in YOUR LIFE is the most powerful thing you can do.

Although I realize most people reading this will not exclusively use personal first hand illustrations and will borrow some from elsewhere, I'd just like to use this blog post to encourage you to try using some you have actually lived.  See if there's not a much greater passion or authority in your preaching - sharing things from your experience.  Although we mustn't simply live by experience (truth always comes first) the fact is that experience is very hard to argue with.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Nuts & numbers and outlines and all that stuff...

This week I'm doing a series on message preparation since a friend expressed interest in me doing this, and here we are with post number five on this subject.  If you have missed the first four parts of this series, just go back and read the past few days on the blog and it will cover it.  Or, just look at everything under the label, "Preaching", here on the blog.

Today we're talking about the number of pages to prepare as well as an outline.  Please note that today we're not covering what supporting sources (in addition to the Bible) that I get my information from or any of that.  We are simply talking about my personal method of outlining and deciding the number of pages.  Realize that this is extremely subjective and other preachers would   tell you something different, and they would not be wrong.  I am sharing this because a friend asked me to do a blog series about what personally helps me, not giving a "this is how you do it," or "this is the right way."  Okay, now that that's out of the way...

The bad news of this for those of you who have never prepared a message before is that the  number of pages one prepares really depends on the person, the way they utilize notes or lack thereof, and comes through experience.  I realize that is probably zero help to somebody reading this who is writing their first sermon.  Sorry!   But at least you know that you will need to discover this for yourself through some trial and error and there is nothing wrong with that.  People really do forgive a lot when you're starting out, and even after you've been in this thing a while, people are still pretty forgiving.  :)

There are also sometimes you might use notes, other times not.  There are some messages I preach completely from memory.   Some people are "note people" -- others abhor this method of preparation, and really it's not so much the method but the effectiveness of your preaching.  Are people being reached for God's glory through your speaking?  If so, and you don't use notes, then who cares?  I remember hearing Dr. Beth Grant speak about this once and she said she always got nervous when her husband, David Grant, was getting ready to get up and preach because he had little to no notes prepared, ever -- even when he preached for the General Council.  This was frightening to her.  She always wondered how in the world he was going to do since she prepares copious notes and just thought anyone else who was "normal" did too.  Then the Lord showed her about people's different ministry styles and learning styles and she realized God anoints different methods.  Obviously David Grant is an amazing preacher who pretty much hits the mark every time and likewise if you've heard Beth Grant preach, you know she's a power hitter.  Simply amazing.  Two different methods of preparation -- both amazing deliveries and results.  I also heard her share one time that for her notes are more of a guide or just a comfort to know they are there but often times she rarely refers to them.  That's exactly how I would describe it for myself as well.

I don't follow notes exactly even when using a Powerpoint, they are mostly there for me to just be reminded of each point and illustration.  Sometimes it's just a springboard for me to go into my next point and other times when I am teaching a more in depth message I might follow the notes more closely, such as on a Wednesday night when I'm teaching at Fusion.  Even so, I add a lot to them as the spirit leads.  For example, I have realized that in preparing for me personally, I cannot go over 4 pages of notes for a 30 minute message.   (I type at 14 font all the time as well because I don't want to wear my glasses when I preach, as a general rule.  I know that will probably have to change the older I get.  LOL)  Depending on how much I expound on paper as to my illustration and such I may go 7 pages or so for a 35-45 minute message but that would be maximum.  Anything other that that gets relegated to a series unless I were preaching in Africa or something.  I have gone up to preparing 10 pages for a message to preach in Africa because that's what they expect.  If you get up and give a 30 minute message they will wonder why in the world you bothered to even fly over there to say anything in the first place.   

In general once I have the topic for a message and I have already prayed about how the altar call is going to go, I will set it up with an Introduction, the main points, then the summary and altar call.  There are times I do not break it down into point 1, 2, 3 but the message is all one thought followed by an altar call.  I don't do "points" for the sake of doing points.  They have to make sense, have to flow and not be forced.  If the Holy Spirit gave me one thought to share, I maximize that one thought -- I don't try to add two or three things to it just to go by a certain formula.

I typically do not write out my illustrations, but simply write a word or two or a sentence to remind myself of what the illustration is.  Then I share it from memory. 

My goal is to make what "points" I may have uniform and memorable enough in a message that they are easily remembered by me as I teach them, and easily recalled by my listeners.  When the Lord gives me a topic I start thinking on it and creating an outline that is similar in nature if there would happen to be several points.  For instance my basic outline may look like this for a message about holiness:


Text: I Peter 1:14-16
1)  Do you understand what it is?

ILLUSTRATION: Situation with Marion

2)  Do you understand the importance?

ILLUSTRATION:  Man who died and went to hell and came back

3)  Do you understand the cost?

ILLUSTRATION:  Ministry experience, 1994

Altar Call

I will refer back to the text and discuss it within all of the points.  This is just a very basic outline of a topical message and I could technically just preach from this but normally what I do is have at least four pages written out of what I am going to say, but I have studied it so much before I preach it that I only actually refer to my notes to get the above information -- glance at my notes, then walk away from them and share the information from my heart, while looking into the eyes of those listening.

Tomorrow we're going to talk about my favorite part of message preparation:  selecting illustrations!  Whereas the meat is the Word, illustrations are truly the dessert.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Substance and style, and all that good stuff...

Today we're continuing the series on message preparation, as I was requested to share some helpful hints by a friend in ministry last week.  If you've missed the previous posts on this, go here, here and here.  Many times I have been asked if I stick with topical or expository preaching and how that determination has been made for me personally.  The answer is that I have done both, and continue to. The decision is made by whether I am dealing with one specific text in a message, or whether I will be pulling from several or many different areas of the Bible.  If I am doing the latter, I generally set it up as a topical message versus going verse by verse. 

Some ministers believe very strongly that expository preaching is the ONLY right way.  I don't agree.  I believe it all depends on the way the spirit is leading and I know God works through both. My life has been changed through both.  For those who say that is not really possible I'll just say that a man or woman with an experience is never at the hand of a man or woman with an argument.  :)

For those who are hearing the terms "expository" and "topical" for the first time and wonder what I'm talking about, expository is presenting a message, verse by verse that usually includes a historical, grammatical study of the entire passage, taking care to cover it's context in detail and apply it to life today.  (At least a good preacher will make it relevant to life today! lol)  Topical  is bringing a message on a certain topic, supported by various scriptures.  For instance, you could preach a topical sermon on prayer, and support it with many different verses and passages from the Bible, and go however deep you desired to with it.  I believe just because a sermon is topical doesn't automatically make it shallow.  Some of the meatiest messages I've ever digested were topical ones. Obviously if you have felt led of the Lord to teach on something like the book of John as a series, you are going to be preaching expository messages.

So, in answer to this important question, I preach both kinds.  Please note we'll go much more deeper into helps for the actual "delivery" of a message in subsequent posts and until then, here are some further helps along the lines of what we've covered above:

  • Decide everything through prayer.

  • Don't ever preach expository vs. topical just to appear "deeper" or "smarter."  First of all it really is true that people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.  Speaking from your heart about the Word of God and it's power to change, and how it has changed you is much more important than being able to tell the audience what temperature it was outside when the 2nd chapter of I Corinthians was written.  
  • Be yourself.  Present God's Word in the way He's given it to YOU.  As someone once said, "Be yourself.  Everyone else is already taken!"  . 
To illustrate this I will share something my husband recently shared with our church about the importance of being yourself.   When Larry first became a lead pastor, he suddenly changed his preaching style.  He morphed into somebody else but I wasn't quite sure who! He was 26 years old and he was so concerned that if he kept preaching as he did during his 7 years as a youth pastor (and he was a great preacher then, I might add!) they might question whether he was really that knowledgeable about the Bible.  So he quickly changed his style and I didn't know each week who I was married to!   Sometimes I thought it was Rod Parsley, other times John Hagee.  He went into these long boring backgrounds of things from commentaries and sermon books that nobody really cared about.  Riding home in the car one day after one of these kind of messages I said, "What happened?  You used to be such a great preacher."  That momentarily took the wind out of his sails, and was probably not the best thing to say but it did get his attention.  He said, "what do you mean?"  I said, "Larry, please just be yourself.  Go back to how you preached as a youth pastor.  The people are going to love it, and love you, I promise."   Of course they did.
  • Don't feel compelled to tell people everything you know in one sermon.  That will go over like a lead balloon, I assure you.  You may have extensive study on a topic and hundreds of scriptures to support it but that is best shared over a series, not in one message.  If you aren't given time or opportunity for a series, select carefully and make an effort to stick to the time frame given.
  • Have respect for authority in your planning.  It is different if you are the pastor and have authority in the local church as to how much time you will preach.  I have total liberty to go longer or shorter, within reason, when I'm at home, in our church.  (That's  one reason why there's nothing like home!)  However, I do keep in mind people's attention span.  When I am a guest, ministering at the invitation of another pastor or leader of a ministry, I absolutely stick to the guideline I am given.  This is out of respect to the authority of the one inviting me.  If they say 30 minutes, I stick to 30 minutes, no ifs ands or buts.  But what if God wants to do something different? 
Here's a great example of exactly what happens when I know God wants to do more, but I'm given strict instructions by another pastor, ministry leader or event planner about what they expect.  I believe very strongly in honoring the man/woman of the house. Last year I was preaching at a women's event of a large church and weeks before when calling me to go over the agenda, the pastor's wife had given me strict instructions, there was to be no altar call, nobody coming up for personal ministry, but that when my message concluded after 30 minutes I was to turn the microphone over to her and she would close in prayer.  As I prayed about it the Lord told me that He was going to do something different.  In fact, the night before the event I told my husband, "this will be interesting because God already told me that although I'm going to do as they requested, they won't be able to close the event tomorrow as they planned but I'm not sure how it's going to unfold." 
I completely respected their wishes and preached for 30 minutes on the dot.  I never said a word about the instructions I was given nor referred to altar calls or anything like that.  (Sure fire way to absolutely kill not only your relationship with your host, but guarantee you will never be invited back:  complain about the amount of time you've been given, publicly ask them, "pastor, is it alright if I go a little longer?" "who will give me five more minutes?"  or say to the church, "I know I'm already out of time with what I've been given..." or remark, "I'd love to give an altar call, but we don't have time, we need to close..."  Yeah, definite way to kill it.  Always, always, always honor and respect God's appointed man or woman in charge.)  When concluding the message I called upon the pastor's wife to come to the podium and close out the event.  She came and as she did her hands were trembling and she took the microphone and with tears running down her face she said, "Ladies, I can't even talk right now, you're going to have to give me a moment to collect myself..." and she bowed her head, with her hand over her mouth while she wept for a while, just moved under the spirit of God.  And then she said, "we're going to invite people to come to the altar for prayer."  They came and oh what a time we had while God did His work around the altars!! Always obey and God will honor His work, and you.

The bottom line here is, be led by the spirit in what type of message you are going to prepare, and then you're going to base how long of a message you prepare for based upon the amount of time the leader in charge has given you.  Tomorrow we'll cover helpful hints on knowing how many pages of notes to prepare based upon the amount of time, and the best way I've found to outline my messages.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A victory of wisdom

So I wrote two fantastic posts last night.  And when finished with both I said to myself, "you're going to be sorry you posted that..."

So they're sitting there in the edit box and probably only two pastor friends will be the beneficiary of them.  Blogging friends, does that ever happen to you?  It does to me a lot.  If nothing else it's cathartic to write about whatever it was at the time.

I hate when that happens.

And at the same time I feel a victory.

Choosing wisdom IS victory.  The Bible says  "Getting wisdom is the wisest thing you can do!  And whatever else you do, develop good judgment."  Proverbs 4:7

I feel a victory of wisdom right now. I blogged last night and can still respect myself in the morning.

All victories aren't accompanied by loud fanfare...some are just quiet victories yet powerful nonetheless.

Have an awesome day at church, everybody!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Quiet time when every obstacle possible seems to be in the way

Today's post is the third in my blog series on message preparation.   Yesterday I shared that quiet time is of utmost importance to me in receiving message ideas.   When I share with others about having a regular quiet time most of them, especially women, talk about how hard that is.  They are living in noisy households, with a zillion demands pulling them in all different directions, and every obstacle imaginable seems in the way.

The most important thing I've learned about quiet time is, you can't leave it to chance.  And, you must plan ahead and persevere.  I also encourage you to take advantage of spontaneous opportunities.

I realize those greatest challenged are mothers of babies or small children and especially single mothers.  First let me say that quiet time  WAS much more difficult when my kids were little.  I found myself having most of my quiet time after they were asleep.  It was always my habit to stay up long enough to have this time to myself. I have other friends in that predicament who get up before their children in order to have quiet time.

It can be helpful to find another Mom to exchange opportunities for quiet time with -- agree to keep an eye on her children while she has some time to herself and vice versa.  This would probably not be feasible every day but might give you at least a bit of time once a week or even a few times a month.  I had some of these same challenges when my children were small so I well understand it. 

As they have gotten older and independent I have opportunities for quiet time now however I was surprised that my challenges did not go away once two of my children reached young adulthood and one the teen years.  First of all sometimes the house is still very noisy.  I have learned it helps to leave the house for quiet time.  I began walking and bike riding years ago and that has really set me free for quiet time no matter what is going on at the house.

It's not just mothers with children at home that have issue with quiet time.  There are always interruptions, opportunities and even pressure to do something else.  There are times I have been invited to do things but I realize I have not had adequate quiet time and things will become greatly unbalanced without it.  I have learned to say no to things although it has upset people sometimes that I do.  One time a few years ago a friend invited me to an impromptu social gathering and for the reasons of needing time to myself I declined the invitation. They were upset with me, even called me a "wet blanket" or something like that.  But I let that be their problem. The longer I live the more I realize it's all about pleasing the Lord, not others.  (Galatians 1:10)  Pretty much every week I'm invited to things and if I say yes to all of them, I'm saying no to myself. So I've learned to say no, and do what I need to do.  The truth is, if I take advantage of every social opportunity I'm given, my ministry effectiveness would be greatly compromised because there is just no time to get quiet, reflect and prepare.

For those who have trouble being true to yourself and living a healthy life, I strongly recommend the book, Boundaries, by John Townsend and Henry Cloud.  This is in my top five life changing books of all time, and has quite possibly changed my life more than any other book besides the Bible.

If you are struggling with quiet time and need a suggestion or help I haven't mentioned here, say something in the comments here on the blog or on the facebook thread when it publishes there.I'll try to give suggestions specifically for what you are facing, not to mention I'm sure there are others who will chime in with wisdom and helpful hints.  I will be back with more about the nuts and bolts of message preparation next week, so stand by...

Friday, July 22, 2011

Be quiet!

Yesterday I began a blog series about message preparation after a friend asked me this past week for any help I might offer here on the blog.  If you missed my post yesterday about starting with the end in mind, I recommend you go back and read it.  Today I'm going to talk about the second thing I do which I'm not really sure is always second, I guess most times it's first and starting with the end in mind becomes second.  You'll see what I mean in a minute.

While I'm a person of prayer, most of my message topics don't come to me during the moments of passionate intercessory prayer.  Although I'm always open to that happening and I spend time weekly in focused prayer, the subjects or titles for messages, or the main points of messages don't come in those times.  They usually just come as I'm spending quiet time in general.

One thing I have noticed is that anybody who I have ever seen mightily used of the Lord prioritizes quiet time.  You hear them talk about or refer to it often as a priority.   Quiet time for me is not always just sitting there -- it's often when I'm riding my bike alone early in the morning or at sunset, taking a walk by myself, soaking in my big tub, or at times I'll read the Word or a book and then put it down and just sit quietly and think for a while.  Other times things come to me in the moments as I'm laying down right before I take a nap or when I just wake up from one and lay there for a while.  All of these things are priorities to me and without fail my best "God ideas" come in those moments.

I believe every creative idea we ever have is from the Holy Spirit because God is the creator of everything and when He gives me an idea in those moments I see that as the Holy Spirit moving in and through me.

Usually as I am in these quiet moments, God drops a thought into my spirit, sometimes a message title or a subject or a few thoughts that become points for a message and nudges me to begin working on it.  In the case of series that I need to write (I preach weekly in our church, and am the exclusive speaker for Wednesday nights with rare exceptions) the Lord also drops ideas for series' into my mind during quiet times and usually on subsequent quiet times He will flesh that out and start to give me the message titles and thoughts that go with that series. 

After getting that thought during quiet time I then say, "Okay God, how do you want this to end up?" and I first start by getting a vision for the altar time and then begin actually writing the message.

I do not believe there are hard and fast rules for message preparation like some people do.  I believe God works through us all differently.  I will reiterate however that I haven't met anybody who has been really good at message preparation who didn't have quiet time.  That doesn't mean they don't exist, however I just wanted to give you something to really think about since this seems to be an important sticking point for many.

Some of you may be thinking, "Wow, she must have a good amount of quiet time each week because she's preaching every single week and has to prepare."  You're right.  Tomorrow I'm going to do a post specifically for those of you who have an issue with anyone granting you any quiet time.  I can sense some of you may feel defeated already since you don't get a quiet moment to yourself all day.  More to come...

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Start with the end in mind

Earlier this week a friend e-mailed me and said, "hey, real quick...where can I find something on your blog that you've written with advice about how you prepare your messages?"  I thought about it and realized I've never done a blog post or series of posts on that topic.  Never thought about it!  I had nothing to give her as far as a blog post but immediately thought, "Wow, great idea for a blog series!" 

Today has been such a busy day.  Amidst several meetings and projects, I'm preparing a message to bring at the House of Prayer Church in Tampa this Saturday.  I'm not even blogging til' after 9 pm, so anyone who knows me well realizes it must have really been a busy day!  (I usually blog pretty early and not much gets in the way of blogging.)  :::smile:::

Tonight my goal is to finish the message and that will give me another 24 hours to tweak it as I pray over it.  This will be a short blog post as I still need to do that, but I thought I would give the first word of advice from me on this subject and that is to START WITH THE END IN MIND.

Of course you are going to pray your guts out and ask God to give you a word for His people, but I don't personally start at the beginning of a message.  I don't create an outline and then an introduction followed by point 1, 2 and 3 and an altar call as lots of people advise.  I start at the end.  I ask, "How do I want this to end up?" or more importantly, "How does God want this to end up?"  I pray about getting a vision for the close.  I always give an altar call but it doesn't always look or feel the same.  I ask the Lord how he wants the ending to go, and then I go from there and build the message from the front end, out.

If you know where you're going, it's easier to develop a plan to get there.  Make sense? 

So the first question you ask yourself is, "what is my altar call going to look like?"  Then envision a plan to get there.  More on this later as I go back to finishing my message...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Blonde, tan and skinny

"Have you ever noticed that when many women get divorced,  they suddenly decide to become skinny and tan?"  This was something my friend Pastor Andrea Fruscella said to me one day and she has written about it in some articles.  I believe her point  in writing about this or her question was why women would suddenly think to make doing this a priority if they never did when they were married.

I have noticed this same phenomenon.  I've taken note as well that many seem to color their hair to go with this transformation -- usually blonde. 

Important Disclaimer:  I know this is NOT the case with all separated/divorced women.  So before all the number of my dear friends in this category rise up and comment, "NOT ME!  ARE YOU KIDDING??" and rake me over the coals,  let me say I realize that millions are not doing this.  However, scores of others are.  I've noticed some interesting patterns on facebook.  Some new status updates usually begin with many women in these situations and they go something like this:

"I've never been loved like this before."

"He makes me feel so special."

"He completes me..."

Status updates are peppered with talk of dates with the special new man, sometimes little jabs about how differently HE treats her than the ex did, lots of photos of the new "bombshell" beside their new man, and so on...

There's nothing wrong with changing your appearance.  I do it every month, just ask my church people.  They joke, "If you've only seen one shade of Pastor Deanna's hair you're definitely a newcomer."  Ha! Ha!   And as for my friend Andrea?  Well, she's blonde, tan, and absolutely gorgeous!!! LOL (Also happily married to the same man for many years!)  Mine and Andrea's observations have to do with timing and motivation, not right and wrong.

What is my point today?  No, I'm not hating on women who are blonde, thin, tan and beautiful.  I'd lose a lot of my dear friends if that were the case.  My point is that I believe we have millions of women desperately longing to be filled who need to not only read but experience John 4 for themselves.  Like the woman at the well with five husbands and a boyfriend they desperately grab at things to try to fulfill.  The things of the world or externals like dieting or tanning or hair color or a new boyfriend/husband are like the water spoken of in John 4:13 and 14:

"Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again.  But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”

My message is that only Jesus will make you never thirst again.  
Not a new body.
Not a darker body.
Not a different hairstyle.
Not a new man!

Only Jesus can satisfy.
He is the man who will truly love you like never before, make you feel so special and complete you.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

If you want a different result, DO something different

I put Vagisil on my dog's ears yesterday.


I know you're wondering why in the world I'd do such a thing.

Max's ears have been torn up for almost a year now.  Every day they bleed and he scratches them and they have fresh wounds daily.  I am including a photo of him here where you can see the outside of his ears and how he has scratched and torn them up.  They hurt inside and out and he shakes his head constantly.  If you think it bothers me, you're right.  I hate to see him in pain and so does the rest of the family.  We've changed the soap we bathe him in, changed his food, taken him to the vet multiple times over the past year and he's been on topical cream, and just finished two rounds of antibiotics,  Yet it all did nothing to cure his ear problem.  When he finished his antibiotics last week I wondered what in the world we were going to try next and I continued to do what I have been doing -- prayer.  I have actually anointed him with oil a few times the last year and prayed, as anyone who knows me well would already assume.

Sunday we had Newcomer's Night at our home and people had opportunity to meet Max and Maddie.  One of the newcomers had experience with dogs and noticing Max's ear problems approached me discreetly and said, "You might want to try a little Vagisil on his ears..."  I was surprised at the suggestion but open to anything to help Max.  So yesterday I got some and put it on the affected areas a few times.  They seem to be remarkedly improved in just a few hours and late last night even Dustin said, "Wow!! Max's ears look better tonight!  What did you do, Mom?"  I said, "You'll NEVER guess."  ::smile::

What's the point of me actually doing a post about putting Vagisil on my dog's ears?  Simply this -- for different results, DO something different even if it sounds a little crazy at times.  I'm sure you've heard the saying that the definition of insanity is doing the same things and expecting different results.

How long have you been dealing with the same problems in your life, trying the same old stuff you've done over and over again to no avail?  Time for a change!  Time to DO something different.
Jesus spit on the ground and put mud on a blind man's eyes and suddenly he could see again!
It's not so crazy for me to put Vagisil on my dog's ears. 

Who knows what God might use to accomplish wonders in the earth?
What might He ask you to do that's a little or a lot unorthodox?  

Did I just write a blog post and relate something spiritual to Vagisil?  Yes, I did.  That's one of the things people love about me.  They know they can count on me for things like this.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The more secrets you have, the sicker you are...

"Don't ever keep family secrets...they are one of the most destructive things ever.  If you want to build a healthy family, start now in the very beginning by building one that is secret-free."

This was said to me by a Christian counselor from Emerge Ministries many years ago.  Larry and I were married a short time.  The problems that led me to go to counseling at that time were not between Larry and I, but concerned healing from the past.  I came from a broken home and Larry and I both had experienced situations in our backgrounds where family secrets were an issue.  We needed not only coping skills but knowledge of how to proceed to build our own healthy family.  I didn't want our new marriage to blow up in smoke because we didn't have the proper foundation from which to build so I quickly sought help for me...for us.

The counselor's words were life for me, for us -- for our marriage and subsequent family we would create. The counselor encouraged me that no matter what anyone experiences in their growing up years, every person has the opportunity and the power to create their own family.  He told me excuses weren't acceptable and encouraged me to take responsibility for my own life and my own future family and obey the Lord for myself.   The counselor looked me in the eye and said, "Your whole future is in front of you.  You get a chance to do it right, and it's up to you what you are going to do with this opportunity."  I learned that a person does not have to repeat cycles of dysfunction. If you came from a broken home, you don't have to repeat that pattern.  You can be the generation that says, "it stops here".  You can draw the line in the sand and you can say, "AS FOR ME AND MY HOUSE WE WILL SERVE THE LORD." 

I am now blessed to have a healthy family that wholeheartedly serves the Lord together, and I am honored to be investing in other women's lives as I lead Celebration Women and particularly our life coaching group.  Last month at our life coaching session, I chose to teach our ladies about the destructive power of secrets.  I shared with them that there's a popular saying in therapy and recovery programs everywhere and that is, "you're only as sick as your secrets."  When I shared that, one of our group members, Gunta McCaleb, piped up and said, "You know Pastor Deanna, that would basically means the more secrets a person has, the sicker they are."  I encouraged the ladies that Gunta is right, there is nothing to be gained by secrets and God is raising up women in this hour who are transparent women who will live fearless lives and not be held captive anymore by the "skeletons" in their closets.  We can live free!  And we can build families that are free!!!  For a family to be free, Moms have to be free.  Mothers are the heart of a home.  I am passionate about women living free lives.  God is raising up women who not only don't care that somebody knows what happened to them in their past, what someone did to them or what they did, but those who will now be bold enough to stand up and publicly speak a word of hope to other women who are going through the same thing!  God is looking for women who fearlessly uncover what they've gone through and how the power of God has delivered them so they can be a change agent in other people's lives!!!

When I think of people living a life of secrets, I don't see it as something attractive whether in real life or in the movies.  Last year Savanna and I were watching a TV series together called, "The Secret Life of the American Teenager."  I know this show is popular with many teens and some parents haven't even let their kids watch it but I saw it as a teaching opportunity to watch it with my daughter and share our thoughts about it and how biblical truth stacks up against what is on the show.  So many times during the series as we were watching I turned to her and said, "See Savanna...there are so many secrets in this show and people are basically living very sick lives.  We want to avoid this for our own lives at all cost."  Whether on TV or reality, secrets aren't healthy for anyone.  I want my daughter to choose freedom too.

I endeavor to live a secret free life as far as it depends on me.  I'm sure some of you wonder, "How in the world do you do that?  You're in the ministry. Don't you carry a lot of other people's secrets let alone your own?"  There is a difference between confidentiality when professional situations call for it, and secrets.  There is also a difference between discretion and secrets.  Be careful to know the difference.  What some people called discretion back in the old days was really just a cover up for pride.

The Word of God says, "So then, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you will be healed."  James 5:16  Some people walk around living broken for many years and wonder why they can't quite get it together no matter how hard they try.  The truth is that covered things don't heal well.  Think about when you have a cut on your body.  You might clean it with peroxide or alcohol, then apply some antibiotic ointment and use a bandaid.  That bandaid being on there for a few days is a good thing but if you left it on forever it would never heal.  At some point the injury needs to be exposed to the air, to have complete healing.  Our lives are like this.  We can shove things down all we want but the truth is it never heals or goes away, it just festers until one day you explode.

I have seen this time and time again in my ministry.  I could tell countless stories but one of the ones that best describes this principle is a church where I was ministering one morning there was a dear elderly lady playing the organ.  I preached about this subject and at the conclusion she slid off the organ bench and came to the altar for prayer and I met her there.  She collapsed, weeping into my arms for a long time.  Then she told me that most people in her life never knew and that no one in the church knew that she had a secret.  Back when she was just a teen she had a child and placed them for adoption at the insistence of her parents.  She moved to a new city and tried to forget all about it.  She never shared her feelings over this with anybody or went to counseling, she was just advised by her parents to forget it, but she couldn't.  She said she thought about "the secret" every day of her life but just never shared it with anyone, until that day at the altar.  She felt such a cleansing as we prayed and I believe she was made whole that day.  She asked me what if anything she should do about the situation once we were finished with our time at the altar.  I said, "this is the kind of thing where you have to really be led by the Holy Spirit.  I can't give you the answer to that but you can pray and the Word says He will give you the wisdom."   She prayed about it and in the coming weeks she shared about this with some ladies in her church as well as her pastors.  Now, here's an amazing turn of events that is just unbelievable, but after all those decades of time, just less than a month after I preached at that church this woman received a phone call out of the blue.  She never did anything to prompt it, but her telephone rang and the voice on the other end said, "My name is Susan, and I think you might be my biological mother."  The lady called me and said, "Can you believe the timing of this??!!  What if I wouldn't have responded at the altar that day?  I wouldn't have been ready for this."  She went on to say it was amazing how God in His providence knew that Susan would be calling and that she would have a decision to make and he wanted to pave the way for some people in her life, especially in the church,  to already know about "the secret" to get it out in the open and get her on her way to emotional healing before she met her daughter, which they did very shortly after that phone call.  

The Lord spoke to me years ago and told me this:  "Deanna the things that once threatened to break you in life will one day be the platform that you stand on to speak and declare my glory." I've seen that come to pass countless times.  I believe this coming Saturday will be one such time!  I've been invited to come and preaching at the "Girlfriend Konnection" at the House of Prayer Church in Tampa, and they have specifically asked me to share about freedom.  God has been faithful to His Word, to break the chains off our people's lives as I use the platform He has given me to declare His goodness.

So...I know some of you may think, "What about when you live transparently and people talk about you in a negative fashion because now they know things about you that might not have been your finest hour?"  My answer to that is, the kind of people who talk are always going to talk.  That's who they are.  That's what they do.  They've chosen to be who they are.  You might as well choose who you are as well.  Don't let somebody else make the choice for you.   

Living free is a wonderful thing because the devil nor people have any leverage on you. What power is there in somebody letting a cat out of a bag that has already been running around for years? It's old news that everyone knows so no one cares.  That goes along with something else the wise counselor told me:  WHEN SECRETS ARE EXPOSED THEY LOSE THEIR POWER.

Another thing that I have realized is that the only people who get upset about people who are transparent are people who AREN'T FREE!!

That first counselor I saw wasn't my last one.  I've been a few times to work out problems I couldn't solve on my own.  It's the best thing I ever did!  Health, wisdom, wholeness came through the perspective of someone else much wiser than I was on these issues.  I don't shy away from telling people I've been to counseling.  In fact, I have always openly told the church, "I've been to counseling multiple times.  If you want a pastor who hasn't been to counseling, I'll refer you to a few thousand other churches where you can go that the pastors won't admit that they've been to counseling..."  LOL  Incidentally nobody has ever left the church over it or seemed one bit upset that I've admitted this.  Nor have they been phased that I've confessed any weaknesses or failure.  In fact they seem to love me all the more when I do or find it endearing.

Yes, living free is not only good, but I have come to understand that Christian growth demands it.  Be free friends, be free!  The less secrets you have, the healthier you are.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Heaven sent day!

I blog each day without fail and today's will be short for good reason.  We had a day that was a slice of heaven at Celebration!  Quite honestly too busy of a day to blog but to put it in a nutshell, God showed up and showed off mightily in our service this morning.  His presence just blew into the place, particularly when we sang two songs, "I Lift Up My Hands," (Tomlin) and "Your Great Name" (Natalie Grant)...salvation was in the house, healing was in the house, words of knowledge, and more............... it was just a tremendous day.

Newcomer's Night was at our house tonight -- we had dinner with 24 and rejoiced over the wonderful new folks that  God has sent our way. I always love these nights!

I'm exhausted!  But it's a good exhausted and SALVATION NEVER GETS OLD!!

This week I have a BA-zillion things to do, special projects and I'm preaching elsewhere over the weekend  AGAIN (will be back  at CC Sunday though) but I am going to bring some of my most thoughtful posts to the blog yet because an important potpourri of topics is on my mind that I'm not waiting to share. Get ready!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Gal pal time

I never miss writing a blog even if it's the end of the day. As I write this we're speeding down I75 at 78 miles an hour. Don't worry, I'm not driving as I text this blog...Tammy is. We are joined by our dear friend Pastor Vicki Elliot. We have laughed, we have cried and we have had an amazing weekend of ministry at Hope Tour Orlando. These are great times of ministry but also girl therapy in the hotel and restaurants. I am asking my dear friends if there's anything they'd like to tell you...and Tammy says to ask everyone to come to Hope Tour Sarasota on August 6. It's going to be life changing!!! I am so thankful for my sweet sisters. They make all the difference in my life and I hope they feel the same way about me. I was hoping they'd share some profound things here on the blog like they said to me in the car but I think they poured out all they have for today between ministering to the ladies and giving so much in friendship. Almost home to unpack and get ready for a great day tomorrow at CC!

Friday, July 15, 2011

This is a fine day for a pea party...

Just as I predicted yesterday, it didn't take my husband long at all to start planking.  In fact he announced a planking contest this month for Celebration and has a facebook page set up  for Celebrators to post their photos.  The planker shown here is one of our leaders at Celebration, Troy Mayercak, in this, his first entry.  He promises lots more to come.   My husband is giving $25 for the best plank photo.  And, he's preaching a sermon series coming up called, "Plank Eye."  Wow, do I know the man well, or WHAT?  I promise upon a stack of bibles, I knew NONE of this when I blogged yesterday.   I found all this out last night.  This isn't surprising to those who know us well -- we both work many hours but don't always communicate our plans to the other til' the last minute.  There are already a lot of hysterical plank photos going up on the Celebration site and while I'm having a great laugh, nobody's going to find me planking anytime soon.  I'm too busy between working at the church and packing my suitcase on weekends like this one to go speak somewhere.  (I'm leaving this afternoon for Orlando, by the way!  Can't wait!)

Before I go I'll be stopping by the post office to mail my peas to the president.  You thought I was kidding?

If you've been reading the blog for long you know I rarely post anything political.  I have very strong views that I share transparently with friends, one on one or in small groups.  Neither Larry nor I get up and preach these things at Celebration or when we minister elsewhere.  We stick to the Word in the pulpit and avoid politics but in conversation or our blogs we do share sometimes.  So here goes:

Most people assume I'm a Republican.  I don't identify with them anymore and haven't for a while.  I find myself fitting in now as a cross between Libertarian and Independent.  Quite frankly I'm totally sick of both Democrats and Republicans and unless something MAJOR changed I don't think I could ever totally fit in with either party.   Anyway, here's why I'm sending a box of peas to the president today...
His speech the other night about eating our peas incensed me.   A leader leads by EXAMPLE.  Example isn't everything, it's THE ONLY THING.  What kind of leader threatens the country with cutting pay to the military and seniors through social security?  What kind of leader storms out of a meeting with congress this past Wednesday?  It's reprehensible to me.  I can't wrap my mind around it.  He says "enough is enough?" when he storms out?!  It's time for Americans to stand up and say enough is enough.  We need to send him a clear message that when he starts eating his own peas, America will start eating theirs.  People follow what they see.  Do as I say, not as I do, simply doesn't work.  And then he says, "don't call my bluff..."  What??!!  I cannot even fathom that we are hearing this from the President of the United States.  This is something you hear from a bully on a school playground.

Spending cuts need to happen from the top down.  We've got so much worthless fluff as well as outrageous things being paid for by our government, it's ridiculous.  Our government should not be paying one dime for abortions.  Our president not only supports us paying for them in the USA but also internationally.  I'm sorry, that's nuts!  I don't agree with abortion but if people are going to get them, let them pay for their own if it's that important to them.  Taxpayers should not be paying for other people's choice to murder.  Equally nuts is the fact that we just sent a few billion to the United Nations!  It's time to take away the blank check!  In case you are wondering I am for very small government (as little as possible) and drastic spending cuts, with the exception of our military or seniors, whom we owe a tremendous gratitude to.  One reason I believe America is under the plight we are under is the current government's horrible dishonor of those who deserve our tremendous respect, not to mention the utter disregard for Israel.  When they touch Israel, LOOK OUT.  Every time the USA does not stand with Israel we see nothing but horrific things that happen.  I'm starting to go on several different rabbit trails so I'll stop here, but suffice it to say, we have plenty of CHANGE going on, but not the kind we can believe in.

For those who say, "Why don't you just pray for the president?"  Please know, I have and I am.  The Lord has awakened me in the middle of the night at times to pray for our leader, our country and all kinds of things concerning it.  I have obeyed.  I will continue to.  But that doesn't mean I must be silent otherwise. 

Do I think the president is actually going to get my box of peas in his own hands?  Of course not.  But the point is that hopefully a whole bunch of these boxes are going to arrive at the White House mailroom.  It will momentarily give them something else to do, figuring out where to direct these boxes.  My husband says the Obama Administration will put a spin on this by sending them to a local food bank while the president tries to take credit for re-routing cans of peas to the poor.  Maybe.  I don't care.

Just let me send my can of peas.  My husband thinks nobody at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave will care, and my kids might think I'm crazy. (Savanna says, "MOM!!!  WHATEVER YOU DO DON'T PUT A RETURN ADDRESS ON THAT!!!  I DON'T WANT A NEWS CREW TO SHOW UP HERE AND INTERVIEW MY MOM FOR SENDING PEAS TO THE PRESIDENT!  HOW EMBARRASSING!!!!")  But you know what, it makes me feel a little more empowered to send my little box of off it goes this morning, along with a prayer.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Of planks and peas

It really doesn't take that much to start a new craze.

Whoever thought that the latest form of entertainment would be to find places to lay down flat as a board and have a friend take a photo of you and post it on the internet? 

Yesterday I had no idea what "planking" was and had to ask facebook friends about this new thing I saw six unrelated friends posting on their statuses yesterday.  I was rather taken aback to see the pictures of these friends laying face down on their living room chairs or cars and posting them on facebook.  It seemed a rather odd thing to do and I was curious.  I noticed that one of them labeled it "planking" so I asked and received the answer that planking is simply laying face down perfectly straight and having someone photograph you.


One friend, Joy Morey posted this in our discussion on my facebook page:  "Planking is just another trend of silliness. Nothing strange or drug induced, just for fun. I think the goal is to see how many interesting places they can find to "plank." I'll take this harmless "entertainment" over other things teens could be doing..."

I agree with Joy and am not against it, I just needed understanding as to what it was and why people are doing it.  Incidentally, none of my six facebook friends who posted their planking photos yesterday are teens.  No one could really say "why" they were doing it other than it's the latest thing to do.

At this phase of my life there really has to be a reason for me to anything.  I'm too tired to expend energy on anything that doesn't have a personal incentive.  Usually when my work is finally done at the end of the day I soak in my tub or crash in my bed but I don't care what position I'm in and certainly don't want anyone to take a photo.

Planking isn't for me, but I wouldn't be surprised one bit if my husband doesn't plank and post a photo of himself anytime soon. Just sayin'.  

Something else got my attention yesterday on facebook and that's a group of people dedicated to sending cans of peas to the President of the United States.  It's called, "Operation Pea Party" and seems to be gaining some traction and there are  websites going up of instructions to do so.  Some companies are shipping them direct for you, you just pay for it and they take care of getting the peas and boxing them up and sending.  If you want to send them yourself,  the address is:  The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20500.

I do plan to send some peas to the president.   What's the payoff, the incentive for me in taking time to send a can of peas to the president?  I do like to speak up about things in life that I feel strongly about.  (Hence, one reason I write this blog daily.)  I know a can of peas isn't exactly a blog or a letter, however in this case the can of peas joining what will hopefully be thousands or even millions of other peas taking over the mailroom at the White House will make a very big collective statement.

My husband can plank and I'll  send peas.  I know, I know, we're a match made in heaven, right?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

What are you afraid of?

In her book, "Who Switched Off My Brain," Dr. Caroline Leaf says, "There are only two types of emotions, each with their own anatomy and physiology: love and fear.  All other emotions are variations of these."

Whatever we do or say has a root of love or fear. 

Which one are you operating in today?

This has been on my mind a lot lately.  I want so much to never, ever do or say anything out of fear again.  With God's help, I'm on my way!

I John 4:18 says, "...perfect love drives out fear."

I will starve my fear and feed my faith.
I will let God's perfect love drive out every last speck of fear in my about you?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

There are more WITH YOU than AGAINST YOU!!!

The enemy absolutely loves to distract us from the truth and throw unpredicted circumstances, symptoms, and problems our way, all designed to get us to think we're washed up, finished, hopeless!  Here is the truth -- the enemy knows he can't possibly steal our true riches in Christ, so his familiar tactic is to try to get us to lose sight of anything and everything else and deceive us into thinking we're facing impossible circumstances.  Whatever is happening in your life remember that God specializes in what we may think are insurmountable odds.

If you are facing what looks like an impossible situation today I encourage you to open your eyes to what God wants to show you in the spirit.  Remember when the army surrounded the Israelites in II Kings 6:15-17?  A servant was absolutely struck with fear came to Elisha and told him the devastating news.  However, Elisha chose peace and reassured the servant..."do not fear, for those who are with us more than those who are with them..."   Elisha chose to respond with prayer and what happened?  Suddenly the servant's eyes were truly opened to the spirit realm...they saw the TRUTH, which was that all of the hills around them were covered with horses and chariots of fire!!!!!  THERE WERE MORE WITH THEM THAN AGAINST THEM!

God's got your back!!!!

Spiritual realities ARE your realities.  What is going on in the spiritual realm is every bit real as whatever circumstance you were just hit with.  Keep your eyes on what is TRUE, not on the distractions of the enemy.  Moment by moment, God will give you instructions for victory.  He has provided people to surround you and fight this battle with you in the spirit. 

Fear is something I have battled in my life, and I know it's power -- fear can destroy you if you let it.  Don't let it!!!  Over and over again God instructs us not to fear.  If you add up all the places He told us not to fear it would number more than 365!  That's at least once a day that God is reminding you, "don't fear!"

Monday, July 11, 2011

How to have a meeting people can't wait to get to!

Does an invitation to a meeting cause you to cringe?  Do you dread meetings in general?  Have you attended leadership meetings that cause you to have a headache by the time they're over?   I've found a lot of people in life tend to hate meetings.  I've attended a few that have given me multiple body aches by the time it was all said and done and questioned, "why in the world do I come to these meetings when I leave feeling like my head is going to explode or like it was a waste of my time?!"

At Celebration Church, we LOVE meetings!  Larry and I just don't believe lame meetings have to come with the territory of being a pastor.  I figure I never want to have to try to influence people to go to something that I wouldn't want to attend myself. I don't want our leaders to come out of obligation, but out of passion. 

So, last evening was our leadership meeting at Celebration.  For those who might be church leaders and curious about how this works in our particular situation (if you're like me you are always wanting ideas) I thought I'd share.  We have leadership meeting on a monthly basis, with few exceptions like holidays.  There's always a purpose and an important agenda for each one that hopefully adds value for each person coming.  (Meetings should ALWAYS increase people in some way - otherwise, why attend?  In my humble opinion we should never have a meeting just because it's scheduled, if we don't really have a purpose behind that meeting or adequate preparation to ensure a successful meeting.)  Our meetings are times of fellowship, bonding, training, encouragement, motivation, inspiration, prayer, and so much more.  We used to have all of the meetings in our home but we have really outgrown it so most of the meetings are at the church now except occasional special times where we pack out the house.

We always start with dinner.  Most of the time it's a covered dish where everyone brings something but occasionally we do something different.  We have had a few times where Larry and I provide the entire dinner as a special appreciation to our team.  Christmas time is always one of those times.  Last night was one of our standard covered dish times and it's always an amazing buffet!  Last night there was everything there from homemade beef stew to fried chicken to southern style banana pudding.  The first hour of our meeting is nothing but dinner and fellowship and it's always a fun time around the tables.  (We set up the tables on Sunday morning after church in the fellowship hall to get ready for the meeting Sunday night.)  After dinner we never really want to have to stop talking but it's time for us to focus in.  We usually give everyone a "five minute warning" that the meeting is about to start so they can go up and get coffee and dessert if they haven't already, and to take a restroom break.

After dinner we spend about 30-45 minutes on time of sharing our "wins" from the previous month.  We talk about highlights of the past few weeks at the church.  It's important to us to give praise for all the people who have come to Jesus in the last month, those whose lives are being transformed in many ways, and specific things happening in our ministries.  We also give kudos to team members who have accomplished particularly great things the past month. It's our belief that this is really important.  While we do give God the glory for what's going on in our midst, one thing some churches/believers do a poor job at is celebrating wins among the team members or for the church as a whole.  Sometimes in a desire to "deflect all the praise to God" we never thank people adequately or celebrate the goodness of God and what He is doing through His people.  Obvious the name we have selected for our church, "Celebration" denotes that this is an important core value to us.

After the sharing time we usually have a training that lasts about an hour.  These are on a variety of topics that enrich and encourage our leaders and help to support them in the various roles they fulfill at Celebration.  Last night I taught on the subject of "Successful Strategies in Team Leading."  We had an excellent time of discussion that followed our meeting.  Although Larry and I are well prepared with teachings, and sometimes our leaders themselves teach on various topics, we always encourage a lot of group discussion.  Like Rick Warren says, "All of us are smarter than one of us," so we place a high priority on input from the entire team.  Sometimes when we are planning a big outreach we do not have a training during our meeting but instead we utilize the entire time to brainstorm and plan our strategy for the event.  Putting our heads together we come up with some incredible God-ordained ideas that eventually become some of our best days at CC! 

Our meetings always end with prayer.  Prayer is a very high priority at CC and is "the engine that runs the place" as we like to say.

Our evening starts at 6 pm, and never goes any later than 9 pm, formally.  I say formally because although we dismiss by 9 pm most of the people stay later and talk.  We've been known to have the last few people leave at 1 or 2 am!  It's not that we would ever push anyone to do that as everybody has to get up early for work however, it's just that we love to be together and most people don't want to leave.

These are all the things we "do", and just to share a few "don'ts"...

  • We don't handle what we call "housekeeping" matters at leadership meeting.  This would be things like saying, "don't leave dirty dishes in the sink if your particular church ministry uses the kitchen" or "remember to not tack anything to the walls in the hallways that's not approved by the church office."  Issues like this are addressed in our leadership newsletter.  Sometimes meetings can get frittered away worrying about addressing stuff like this and you can quickly go from sharing encouragement and training to focusing on minor issues that don't really move the group forward.  We do communicate these important things but choose to do it in writing through our leadership publication.  If we have a particular leader who is not adhering to these things even after reading it in the newsletter, we speak to them privately and don't take up valuable group time to handle small matters like that.
  • While leaders can share whatever praise reports they want to during the sharing time, it's not a place for grievances.  While we don't shy away from handling conflict, leadership training isn't the place we handle those things.  This is well established but if we ever had an issue with it we would re-direct. Larry and I always keep the meeting on track and moving along to ensure valuable use of everyone's time.
And that, my friends, is a synopsis of our leadership meetings at CC.  Would love to hear what some of you are doing for your leadership training/gatherings.