Monday, February 28, 2011

Get out the kleenex!!!
This will rip your heart out...


This photo was captured yesterday at the altar at Celebration, where God is moving in power, doing great and mighty things!!!  The blonde haired boy on the left in the American Eagle shirt is a young man named Daniel who has been coming to CC for just a week.  Invited by his good friend Ben, (who is one of our Celebrators) he came for the first time last Sunday.  Then on Wednesday he came to our youth ministry -- "Refuge", and when our son Dustin gave the altar call at the conclusion of his message, Daniel responded to the call to accept Jesus as His Savior.  This young man has a story that will break your heart.  Just recently his father died of a heart attack.  When his father died, his mother was so traumatized over the death that she had a stroke, and also died!  Daniel is now without natural parents in this world.  He lives with his grandmother.  But he has found REFUGE...literally.

Ben reached out to him and invited him to Celebration Church where he has been surrounded this week by new found family and friends, who will take up the call along with his grandmother, a woman of God,  to love and care for him.  We will rise up to be the spiritual mothers and fathers to Daniel.

I thank God every day for sending us people like Daniel. 

When I see people like Daniel at the altars, it makes everything in ministry worth it all!  Aren't we so blessed to have opportunity to be spiritual parents?  There is no shortage of people crying out for  our love, our leadership, our investment in their lives.

Bill Hybels once said, "The local church is the hope of the world."  I believe that.  The local church is made up of people -- people like Ben who invite people like Daniel.  Thank God for hope!  Thank God for Jesus!  Thank God for the church!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Okay, so I have trust issues.

"Faith isn't the ability to believe long and far into the misty future.
     It's  simply taking God at His Word and taking the next step."
                                                                   - Joni Erickson Tada

Every year in our life coaching group I have the women select a "word of the year" to focus on as their theme.  Several of them have used "trust" as their word in the past and we've got some who chose that word  this year too.  I've never chosen the word, "trust," but probably should have.

To say I have had and still have trust issues is an understatement.  I won't go into why...it wouldn't just be a blog post for another day...it would probably be the longest blog series ever.  And I doubt anybody wants to read blog posts for several months about why I find it hard to trust people.  As a kid I went on one of those ropes courses that you go on to build trust with others, and  I miserably failed.  I'm really glad as an adult nobody has ever invited me to go on one of those God-forsaken missions  where you're expected to let someone push your rear end over a wall while others promise to catch you or you fall backwards into their arms blindfolded.  Who thinks up this kind of stuff anyway?  People who must already have a lot of trust and enjoy watching others wipe their sweaty palms all day, and throw up in the weeds as they go along, wondering when the day is finally going to be over.  

I don't mean what I'm about to say in a negative way although no matter how I say it it may come across that way.  All I can say is the intent of my heart is simply one of introspection, not negativity...

I am not sure my earthly trust issues can ever be resolved. Improved...yes.  Resolved...hmmm...I dunno.  I'm in full time vocational ministry.  If you wonder what I mean by that, well, you probably aren't in full time vocational ministry.  Something's always coming up to upset my trust apple cart.   I've given up on trying to resolve the earthly issues and instead have solely focused myself on trusting the Lord.   

When I come across challenges or things I am concerned about possibly becoming a challenge I have reminded myself to trust the Lord.   I frequently remind myself that He is there 24/7, right alongside me, guiding me, helping me, strengthening me, empowering me.  I'm  never alone.  Sometimes I even say those things out loud.  I speak them...which is important.  What you speak you give life to. So I speak.

God is my certainty in an uncertain world.  I will take care of the possible and trust God with the impossible.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight."  Proverbs 3:5-6  

 

Saturday, February 26, 2011

I get knocked down, but I get up again...

My life this week reminds me of this song.

Last Sunday morning was one of the hardest days I've had in YEARS.  This was the last time felt like this...March 18, 2007.  That's not too bad I guess - almost 4  years ago.  (I have a better memory now that I'm a blogger.  All I have to do is look back in my blog notes to remember anything.  lol)  It also occurred on a Sunday, of course!  The enemy makes sure of that.

By the time the altar service was over Sunday morning I was in full blown fever, chills, nausea, headache, the works...and by Sunday night I couldn't speak a word.  This thing pretty well knocked me flat til late Wednesday night.  I've had an adjusted schedule all week long.

Now I'm pretty much trying to get to 100% by this Sunday.  Congestion, cough and issues with my voice are all that remain.  I would say my voice it at about 75 % -- it fades in and out.  I really need your prayers to see a miracle by tomorrow.  That's really what I'm longing for, so please believe with me.

Although I was in bed most of the week, I got a whole lot accomplished.  I tacked things I've been longing to do and God moved in some miraculous ways with things I've been praying about.

I'll share more about it over the months as things unfold...right now I'm going to rest again.  :)  Tomorrow's a big day.

Before I close let me share five things I'm uber grateful for right now:
 ~My vaporizer...it's been my bff this week.
~ My dogs who have been such perfect company snuggling with me in bed during this flu.
~ Heavenly surprises around every corner this week even when I was not working, God was!
~ Great reports from Celebration at every turn.  So excited about what God is doing.
~ I lost another 1.2 pounds this week.  I'm doin' this thing, folks.  Nothin's gonna stop me now. 
 

Friday, February 25, 2011

My journey to making history through prayer - Part 5
(Keys to leading an effective weekly prayer meeting)

I promised that today I'd be sharing about keys to leading an effective prayer meeting.  This post is going to be very practical, basically the nuts and bolts of what works for us at CC. It's just what we have found to be effective for us, not what I believe is "the plan of God for every church."  If something here helps you, take it and run with it.  That's why I'm posting it!  At the same time, if there's something you think I would benefit from in your experience, please comment and let me know. I'm ever learning and welcome your suggestions.

I've been in church all my life, and pastoring the last 24 years.  One thing I've experienced over the years is that prayer meetings tend to be a whole lot of sharing (sometimes even gossiping) and very little praying.  Sometimes people even come to prayer meeting with the intention of talking to those present, getting things off their chest, or spending time with the leader/pastor present.  I have even experienced people coming to prayer meeting to spend time with ME versus spending time with GOD.  How does a leader deal with that?  Well...

This is what we do at Celebration, and 99% of the time (I'd say that's a pretty good percentage!) it's working.

First, we advertise in all of our church publications and video announcements that both weekly meetings (Wednesday night and Thursday morning) are 100% prayer.  We want people to come expecting that.

Once they get there, we make sure the atmosphere is set for 100% prayer before they ever come in.  We tell them to e-mail, facebook or phone in their prayer requests AHEAD OF TIME.  In all of the prayer meetings I experienced prior where things derailed into something besides prayer, I noticed it usually happened during the "prayer request time". When the leader allows it to become a sharing time instead of a praying time, people get a lot off their chests but nobody gets any praying done.  So my goal  when I started leading was to eliminate the request/share time.  The key to this is to have all the requests prior to the meeting.  Each week I compile the prayer list, update it and copy it and put a stack on the communion table for each prayer meeting.  Requests are on the list until the breakthroughs come.  We don't stop til' there's victory.  We tell the people all the time that we're there to P.U.S.H.  (Pray until something happens!!!)

This is a photo of what the prayer list looks like for each week. (Click to enlarge)


This is only page one - there is a second full page on the flip side, but I have just printed page one to give you an idea of how we do it.  (If you want a copy in Microsoft Word, just e-mail me and I'll be glad to send  you one.)   Prayer requests come in from all over the world -- our missionaries e-mail me or call because they know they can count on us!  Friends, pastors, churches, and even many unchurched people who are searching but haven't worked up the courage yet to walk into a church e-mail and say, "can you all pray for this?"  We happily oblige!  At the end of the meetings for the week on Thursdays, I take any leftover prayer lists, and put them on our church info table for anyone who wants to pick them up and remember the requests during the week, especially those who may have missed the prayer meeting for the week.


Both of our all church weekly prayer meetings are for everyone, not just women.  Having a mixed group, I feel is very essential to the health of a church.  I believe men and women should work together and prayer should not be a "woman thing"!

Next, we have signs on the doors for both the Wednesday and the Thursday meetings.  Here is a copy of one of the signs:  (Click to enlarge it)


I find it's essential to use these signs on the doors all the time during the meetings because you have new people coming to prayer meeting all the time especially as the ministry grows.  And you have to keep laying out the expectation or things will veer off and pretty soon the focus of the meeting will not be prayer anymore.

For each prayer meeting, I create a worship "playlist"  on a Zune/Ipod, for each week.  The worship music is not the focus - it's just a backdrop to help us focus in.  I seek the Lord about it prior to the weekly meetings and get a feel for what songs we should have that week, and make about a one hour playlist for each week.  It's important to not get in a rut with the music - change up the playlist.  I use songs that are very specifically focused in the direction we're heading in prayer and as a church.  These are songs of worship but most of them speak directly to breakthrough, victory, prayer, healing, etc.  I also take care as to the order we put them in.  It's really no different than being led by  the spirit as to how to structure a Sunday morning  or Wed night worship service.  

As an example, this is the playlist from this past week's prayer meetings at CC:
Alpha & Omega  (Israel Houghton)
As it is in Heaven (David & Nicole Binion)
He's Already Provided (Martha Munizzi)
Give Me Faith (Elevation)
You Said (Hillsong)
Heaven on Earth (David & Nicole Binion)
Let the Veil Down (Judy Jacobs)
My Nation Healed (Free Chapel)
I Have to Believe (Rita Springer)
You Are On Our Side (Elevation)
Your Latter Will Be Greater  (Israel Houghton)
New Season  (Israel Houghton)

I switch up the songs constantly and use brand new ones, older ones, all kinds of songs.  The playlist above is just one example.  It's important to keep it fresh.

Then for each prayer meeting I come in at least 30 minutes prior and start the playlist (and have it on repeat).  Everything in the sanctuary is set from the playlist on the sound system, to the lighting to the prayer requests on the communion table.  Finally, I get in place...

I start praying about 15 minutes before anyone else arrives.  I do not stay anywhere near the door where they would be coming in.  People strike up a conversation immediately if I do this and we don't end up praying.  Twice I made the mistake of standing near the doors.  Each time, different women came in and immediately hugged me and said, "Oh PD, I really need to talk to you..." and started into a whole spiel.  Not that their issues aren't important, for they are -- but again...this is prayer time, not time to talk about their problems.  Besides that, I believe we spend a whole lot of time talking about how big our problems are and too little time telling our problems about how big our GOD is.  So I avoid the doors.  When anyone comes in, I'm already on my face at the altar, or walking the altar already totally immersed in prayer time, or I might be walking the sanctuary, but not near the doors where they are coming in.  I'm a person who prays out loud - boldly - they don't have to guess, "...is she praying?"  They know.  And, when they come in, they follow my example or the example of those who are already there before them, and start praying too.
Now, what about interruptions?  Despite the signs the announcements we've made, I've still been interrupted a handful of times since I've been leading prayer meeting.  It's never an emergency, always just someone wanting to tell me how their week went, or ask me about a church business matter unrelated.  If they are interrupting to pray for me, great.  I'll always receive prayer!  For anything else,  I look at them and I say very nicely but firmly: "...what's your emergency?"  Instantly they realize, I do mean business about prayer time being prayer time.   I gently let them know, "I'll be glad to talk to you later, but sorry, this is prayer meeting."  And I go right back to prayer.

Amazing things happen in our prayer meetings.  The spirit of God is there in such a powerful way.  Being that we are a pentecostal church in every sense of the word, it tends to be loud...spontaneous...people walking the sanctuary, laying in the altar space, some quiet - even silent, others shouting, clapping, crying to God.  There have been times we've had a healing right there in prayer meeting, or other significant things happen.  But the focus is always...PRAYER.  Nothing but prayer.  Although the worship playlist is on, it's not a music time - that's just the backdrop to stir up the atmosphere.

I pray from the prayer list and just go after God, spending a great amount of the time just lifting Him up and thanking Him.  I pray the Word of God, calling on Him for an outpouring of His spirit, the nations, our community, our leadership, the current needs at Celebration, and all the requests that have come in.  People follow suit and do the same all over the sanctuary.

On Wednesday nights prayer is 1 hour before church.  The first 3/4 of the meeting is spontaneous prayer  in the sanctuary, but the last 1/4 of it I come to the pulpit and lead in corporate prayer over the microphone and everyone agrees in prayer.
On Thursday mornings, the first 1/2 of the prayer meeting is spontaneous prayer in the sanctuary, but the last 1/2 we gather everyone at the altar and read each request that has come in from the internet or by phone and we agree together for each one.  There is not a "share time" nor do we go off in discussion about these people or requests -- we just get down to business and pray.  We're committed to keep it on track.


If I have to be out of town or such and cannot lead the meeting, another leader usually takes care of the meeting in my place and follows the same exact pattern above to ensure that the meeting stays on track. 

Finally I always list "praise reports" at the top of the prayer list.  People get very excited to read the reports of people being healed, and breakthroughs happening through our prayers.  Some of the answers to prayer are with people in our church, others all over the world who have called or written in.  The people get so excited to see the difference they are making through prayer.  Truly, history DOES belong to those who pray.

Happy gatekeeping!  (smile)  

Thursday, February 24, 2011

My journey to making history through prayer - Part 4

One thing I realized  a while back was that if the climate was going to change in our church in the way of intercession and become healthy, the women were going to have to have a healthy biblical understanding of it.

I do believe that while both men and women are powerful in prayer, many women seem to be more drawn to prayer.  In many churches the prayer groups are almost exclusively women.  We work hard at Celebration to involve the men in prayer and I'm so thrilled to say we have GREAT participation on the part of our men.  (Side note:  if men realized how attractive it is to us when they pray, more of them would do it!  lol  Really, is there anything more smokin' hot than a man who loves God?!  Booyah!)   Still I realized no matter how involved the men are, chances are if I have an issue pop up with someone who is out of line with intercession, it's probably going to be one of the ladies.

I lead our Wednesday night Fusion service and am the main speaker in that service on a weekly basis.  During that time I have the perfect opportunity to present teachings throughout the year on this subject to both the men and women of the church.  I do several series a year on the topics of intercession, spiritual warfare, fasting, and the proper use of the gifts of the spirit.  (These other topics are all closely connected with intercession.)  Most of these series are at least four weeks a piece -- continuing to ground the people in what God's word says about all of this.  It's so important to ground our people in the Word of God because it's when we veer from the full counsel of it that flakiness begins to occur and people go simply by what they FEEL rather than where it's FOUND.  (In scripture)  In fact, I strongly believe in praying the Word of God, and this is something I'll talk more about later.

When there are people who particularly come to the forefront who are utilized not only behind the scenes in intercession but also moving in the gifts of the spirit publicly, I many times give them reading material that speak to these issues.  Some of the ones I most highly recommend are, "Secrets of the Secret Place" by Bob Sorge, "When the Spirit Speaks" by Warren Bullock,  "Living in the Spirit" by Dr. George O. Wood and "Divine Order:  Leading in the Public Use of the Spiritual Gifts" compiled and edited  by Randy Hurst.  Speaking of the gifts of the spirit, I take nine whole weeks to teach them, and stress the importance of each of the gifts, not just ones that seem to be the pets of the pentecostal church.  I also usually follow this up with a nine week series on the fruit of the spirit, emphasizing that nobody really cares about the supernatural gifts flowing in your life if they don't see the fruit.  The issue is that most people have very little patience for this. One lady in the church who used to give messages in tongues all the time was also the most hateful person in the church.  There was no love, no fruit of the spirit flowing in her life.  The gifts of God are irrevocable so she continued to flow in some other gifts but I have to tell you ever time she opened her mouth with a message it might as well have been Charlie Brown's teacher, to me, and I'm sure to most of the church.  (Wah wah wah wah wah...not a far cry from sha ba ba...hahaha!!!)

Concerning the women, I realize I have to prioritize our ladies becoming mature in this area or the church will suffer.  I have about one third of our CC women in my monthly life coaching group.  Although this is not a group created for the purpose of intercession, I do use the opportunity to teach and train them.  Our monthly meetings are 3 hours long.  The last third of the meeting (1 hour) is always devoted to this.  I teach them something about intercession, spiritual warfare, or the gifts, and then we actually practice it.  I lead them in a pentecostal prayer meeting.  This is their "laboratory for learning".  We also have three retreats a year where we get away from it all and can go deeper in this regard and learn and experience even more.   In leading this group,it's essential for me to operate in faith, not fear.  There are times I need to lovingly correct, to keep proper order according to scripture.  What a better environment to do this in than the coaching environment when people are already primed for growth, challenge and change? The ladies who are there have an understanding that they are there for this.  Having all of these women involved in the group and learning properly about prayer tends to trickle down to the other 2/3 of the other ladies in the church and even permeate throughout the entire church as a whole with a healthy perspective of intercession .

One tool I use for learning in this regard quite often is the Prayer Model.  I can't take credit for this tool. I learned it when I was going through church life coaching with Drs. Wayne and Sherry Lee of Church Life Resources.  They are the creators of the "Prayer Model".  We learned this from them when they were coaching Larry and I and a group of pastors through a two year program.  Now I create and use Prayer Models to lead our ladies.  I have used some of the Lee's models, but most times I create my own based upon my teaching for the month.  A prayer model is simply prayer points crafted from scriptures utilized in teaching or a sermon.  They are very simple to create and utilize.  I cannot distribute the Lee's models as they are copyrighted by CLR and therefore I am not going to print or offer them through my page here but you can order their Prayer Model book here.  I have this book myself and highly recommend it.  I have used most of the models in it and learned from them in crafting my own.  So that you can see what one looks like, I am printing mine here for you that I used for our ladies at last months' life coaching meeting.  (Click to enlarge.  I realized after I published that it did not come out clear, so if you are interested, e-mail me for a copy.)  The scripture given here on the model is the one I used for teaching last month.  After I teach on a subject we often use this to "pray through" the material we just covered with the ladies - to get this Word down in their spirit and applied to their lives.
 
What are the benefits of using a prayer model?
  • Excellent way of teaching people how to pray the Word.
  • Excellent way to focus the people's prayers around what you just taught and apply it personally.
  • Excellent way to stay focused in prayer.
They are not the only tool I use, or format of prayer or teaching on the subject but I simply offer this as one suggestion.

So that does this "look like" while we're doing it?  What is the atmosphere in the room?  Well, when we are ready to pray, the women take whatever position helps them to enter into prayer most (sitting, standing, kneeling, etc.) and I lead us through the prayer model, going through each point and then expounding on each one for a while with further spontaneous prayer.  This is not at all "forced" or "scripted" -- it's very natural.   They have to work pretty had to drown out my voice and sometimes they almost do it.  :)  I did mention, we are pentecostals...right?

I love teaching our women to pray the Word and get into the Word more and more because that more than anything wards off flakiness and keeps us grounded.  

Tomorrow as promised I will share a final blog post in this series concerning how to lead an effective weekly church prayer meeting that doesn't derail into gossip or flakiness.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

My journey to making history through prayer - Part 3

So yesterday I gave you many of the reasons why the last thing in the world I wanted to do was apply the label of "intercessor" to my life.

First let me say, I've discovered that labels aren't really that important but functions are.  I've come to realize that what you call a person - their title or label, isn't really all that significant, but the purpose they fulfill certainly is.

As a side note, I've found that although they don't advertise it, most pastor's wives are intercessors,  at least if they have been in the ministry for any significant period of time.  You have to be - you won't survive for the long haul in the pastorate without becoming a praying person.  All  pastors or their spouses won't label themselves an intercessor but most will tell you that they prioritize prayer.  Quite frankly most of them that I know don't care about receiving a title for it, or recognition - they just see it as an essential tool in their spiritual toolbox.  At the heart of it is, it doesn't matter what you call it, as long as you PRAY.

So what did I do when God spoke to me about this?  For the majority of our ministry, I distanced myself from the "intercessors" of the church.  I avoided the "intercessory prayer meeting" of the churches we pastored and stayed away from "that group" because at the time,  I didn't want to be seen as chiming in or harmonizing with the weirdness or negativity that emanated from the group, especially as the pastor's wife. 

My solution for years was to take up the call to intercede in private.  I now regret that decision.  There is nothing wrong with that decision for the majority of people, in fact intercession is not an "up front" ministry,  it is a behind the scenes one for the most part.  The problem with keeping it exclusively private in my case is that good things usually don't come from the leader trying to lead from the background.  This is especially true when there are serious problems going on in a specific area.  A vacuum in leadership will always be filled, the question is, what or who will it be filled with? 

My avoidance of the intercessory prayer meetings in the church for all those years was not good, since we were the pastors of the church.  I do have some regrets and made some mistakes but I'm not dwelling on them, simply learning from them and living out what I've learned currently.

If I had been in the group when these things were happening, I might have been able to stop some of that negativity, although not all. In the majority of cases someone was in charge of the prayer ministry when we came.  It's challenging to un-seat someone because of the "God card" being pulled out,  I knew I was sure to hear, "God called ME to lead this prayer ministry, and now the pastor's wife is taking it over..." and to some degree I walked in fear of that.  For years I made decisions based on fear and not faith.  That is a failure in my ministry that I now regret and am determined not to repeat.

In more recent times in our ministry there has been a change.  First, I am not longer held captive to fear or intimidation. Like most people, I dislike confrontation.  But as leaders we have a choice to walk in fear or faith.  We have to do what's right.  I like to say, "If you do what's right, it will catch up with you."  At times it's not easy, but I've never been sorry that I did what was right.  One difference is that now I do it sooner rather than later.  Delayed obedience is disobedience.  This is a tough lesson I've learned.  One book I recommend on this topic is, "Breaking Intimidation" by John Bevere.  Every pastor  and pastor's wife need to read that book, in my opinion. 

Second, I went full blast in teaching about intercession, especially with the women.  As much as I hate to admit it, 99% of the problems on this subject we had down through the years came from ladies.  I invest in the women of CC by teaching them about true intercession, pentecostal prayer, the proper use of the gifts, etc.  Tomorrow here on the blog I'm going to share with you how God led me to personally do that and some things we're doing that are working.  I'm hoping it will help those of you who are pastoring or leading and experiencing some challenges.

We have a facebook prayer group and it is very active with prayer going on there pretty much 24/7.  It is heavily monitored with an admin making sure posts stay on track with no inappropriate postings.   I needed another responsibility like  I needed a hole in the head but there is NOTHING more important than prayer.  I now lead both weekly corporate intercessory prayer meetings at our church.   Before taking on the responsibility for both of these prayer meetings I made some decisions as to how the prayer meetings would be run that have ensured their success, whether I am present - or not.  I do lead them 99% of the time but if I am out of town or such, most of the time someone else runs the meeting and goes just as smoothly as if I was there.

Friday, I'm going to share some tips on how to lead effective weekly prayer meetings at your church that do not EVER derail into gossip or anything flaky and inappropriate.  Stay tuned!

By the way, NONE of my goal in posting this is to give an attitude that I've arrived or know it all about this.  I'm learning DAILY and quite frankly a lot of the people who read this blog have much to teach me!  (And maybe you will in the comment stream...or by sending me a private note as a lot of you do --  I'd welcome it.)  Please take whatever I have to say from my experience as a blessing and feel free to add to what I'm sharing the next two days with any helpful hints that might cause us at Celebration to go to a new level in making history through prayer!  


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

My journey to making history through prayer - Part 2

So yesterday in Part One of this series, I said that I figured out that "gatekeeper" didn't mean I was supposed to stand at the entrance of the church and greet people.  Although there was nothing wrong with this, it wasn't what God was asking me to do.  The explanation of this will be rather lengthy...you might want to grab a snickers bar and a cup of coffee and settle in for a long read.  I usually don't write posts this long.  I strive  to keep them 500 words or less and this will be the lengthiest one in this series  but  I hope you'll stick with me not just today but through Friday.  I promise I'll be back to under 500 words next week (smile).  If nothing else some of these stories have great entertainment value, now that they are the past.  They were not funny when I was experiencing them, though.   Writing all this openly has been many years in the making and quite frankly I wouldn't be able to share all this in the past without it blowing up in my face and in the church at that particular time.  Only in recent years have I been set free to speak of my experiences without fear of retribution.

I found out through study that in the Bible the term gatekeeper can also refer to intercessor.  What is an intercessor?  Simply one who intercedes on behalf of another -- in other words, they pray to God on someone's behalf.  

David was the one who put the gatekeepers in the Bible in place, and this role was confirmed by Samuel and King David in Chronicles 9.  Many believe David represents Jesus in this story and Samuel represents the Holy Spirit.  Jesus is head of the church.  The ministry of the "gatekeeper" was given to the church and is empowered by the Holy Spirit.   The gatekeepers in scripture were selected and put in their place and different assignments given to them.  They were placed at every gate, at the entrances to the tent of meeting on all of the four sides.  These represented the nations and the ministry of praying for nations.  The chief gatekeeper would have the responsibility for the rooms and treasures in the house of God.  They would spend the night stationed in the house of God...they were the servants, "standing by night in the house of the Lord" keeping watch in prayer.

When I realized this, I was a lih-tle freaked out.  My experience with intercessors wasn't a real good one.  In fact, for most of the years of our ministry they have been some of the biggest troublemakers in the church.  I rarely meet spiritually or emotionally healthy people who call themselves intercessors.  Here is a sampling of what I have experienced over the years -- your composite "intercessor" that I have encountered:

Many are given to mysticism and want to tell you about strange things they are seeing - spirits lurking outside of Sunday School rooms and weird stuff like that.  They always seem to have their panties in a bunch about some kind of demonic activity.   I do know demons are real as well as demonic possession.  And yes, I have cast demons out and I'm sure I'll do it again.  I am not, however, looking for a demon around every corner nor do I believe everything is caused by satan.  (No, that's not a typo.  I refuse to capitalize his name.  I hate him.)

Many are off balance emotionally and more than being touched by the Holy Ghost some have a touch of mental illness or in some cases aren't on the right balance of medication.  Let me tell you I am a Pentecostal through and through, but the truth is we do tend to attract people who are struggling with these issues.   If somebody is going to want to operate with some spiritually flaky stuff in the church they probably are not going to select a Presbyterian church to attend.  Pentecostals attract power but we also attract people who are unbalanced.  Some of these folks will lay at the altars and boo-hoo without even knowing what they are boo-hooing about.   They will spend hours reading and forwarding things like the Elijah List but if you ask them to help you pick up the trash in the sanctuary or lend a hand in the kitchen or the nursery, it's just "not their season for it" or they "don't feel led."

The majority of them are women.  If they are single they tend to be awkward, kind of square pegs. If they are married, they tend to have bad marriages or at the least, ones that are less than stellar.  Their husbands either aren't Christians (and it's no wonder!) or real quiet guys who are basically led around by the nose and don't have any decision making power.  Don't get me wrong, I'm a strong woman and my husband  and I believe in making decisions together.  However, I'm not talking about biblical equality  here -- I'm talking about the fact that these women really treat their husbands as if they are spiritual nincompoops!.  These couples don't make decisions together -- SHE makes them... mostly because she is convinced she "hears from God" in a way that he doesn't, therefore is so much more spiritual, and most times she decides where they are going to church, how long they will stay, if they will leave, and most times what they will do in general.

Many intercessors have husbands who secretly think their wives are nuts!  How do I know?  They've told my husband, and sometimes they tell me!  Do you know how many times we have heard, "Pastor, between me and you, I think my wife is crazy, but I do have to live with her, and...therefore..."  (Usually this is what we hear before they leave the church - they don't want to leave but their wife is pressuring them to go where God is telling HER to go.)

Many think they are equal to the pastor when it comes to authority in the church because they "hear from God."  Never mind that the pastors are the leaders of the church under Christ and have been given the role of shepherd and leader of the flock - not the intercessors.  One lady told me God had given her the direction for our church and that I wouldn't understand it because she was "on a different plane" than me.  I said, "yes, you're on different plane alright and it's headed for a big crash!

Many are a pain in the neck for their spouse to deal with.  There is a reason there's a book called, "Help! I'm married to an Intercessor!"  You think I'm kidding?  No.  Unfortunately this is reality.

Many are a pain in the neck for their pastor to deal with!!!  Like I said, they've caused me so much grief, I can't even recount it all  here.  Believe it or not what I'm sharing below is the Cliff Notes version!  (smile)  I use the term "intercessor" here loosely.  Amongst some of the "intercessor" highlights we have experienced, these are just a few:

  •  Many of them love to play the "God card" to get whatever they want.  There was the intercessor in one church we pastored...on the outside she looked like a sweet little old grandmother that wouldn't harm anybody but she was actually  a wolf in sheep's clothing. She actually came into our church after I had already been pastoring there and leading the women's ministries for several years, quite effectively.  She asked for a meeting with me and upon sitting down to talk with her she looked  at me and said:  "God has told me to take the leadership of the women's ministry in the church away from you and start leading it.  I'm an intercessor and I truly hear from God for these women.  I've been married, a widow, a single mother, a grandmother, and much more and quite frankly I'm better qualified to lead than you and besides...GOD SAID IT."  [sigh]  How was I supposed to argue with "GOD"? Well, this is what I did tell her.  I said, "Sister, I may not be the smartest, the most talented or even the most anointed woman in this church.  But I have been put here by God for such a time as this to lead the women of this church.  I am asking you to follow me as I follow Christ.  As you come under my leadership in the women's ministries I believe your gifts will make room for you here, just as with any other woman in the church."  She did not receive that, got very angry and ended up trying to destroy my ministry, even calling a district official to complain about the situation of me not turning the women's ministry over to her.  She called people who had me scheduled to speak and told them to cancel me.  Seriously!  It didn't work.   Fortunately for me a good name means something and the phone to the district official got her no where.  Neither did her calls to get people to cancel me.  They thought she was nuts.  She pushed for Larry and I to give her the title "head intercessor" and to announce to the church that she was operating in the "office of intercessor."  This lady was a thorn in my flesh during the majority of our ministry in that church and tried to discredit me at every turn right up until the time we resigned.  Of course once we did resign she loudly pronounced, "I knew it already!  God revealed it to me in prayer!  God told me they were leaving!"  [bigger sigh]   
  • The same intercessor  came to the pulpit while my husband was ministering one Sunday morning and took him by the arm and whispered in his ear, "Pastor, God has told me to take this service in another direction." (Anyone who knows my husband is not surprised that he looked and her and simply said, "Have a seat...NOW.")  But, there we go with the "God" card again.  By the way, I sought counsel from the district leadership about this woman and they agreed she was a very tough person to deal with.  If it wasn't for their godly counsel and the help of one of my mentors, Sis. June Coker, I don't know how I would have survived those years of dealing with her. Incidentally, Sis. Coker has been an ordained AG minister for almost 50 years and she and Bro. C. have a plethora of pastoral experience serving as local, district and national leaders.  When she visited our church the first time to preach and met this woman it only took her several moments to tell me, "Deanna, that woman is a snake!!!"   Just having Sis. C's understanding of the situation and her wisdom helped me through many hard years that I went through with that situation.
  • There was another intercessor when we first came to our church in Tampa who told my husband that unless he got up in front of the church and repented for the "sins of a former church member"  that God revealed to them that several of our members and a board member were going to be struck dead.  Keep in mind the man who committed these "sins" wasn't even a member during our pastorate -- he was someone from the past who had left the church prior to our arrival.   But even so, she was a false prophet!  None of it came true!  (In the Bible days they stoned them when it didn't come true!  Wonder what would happen if we started doing that in the church today?)  
  • At a previous church we pastored, there was another group of three intercessors under the "mentorship" of the "snake" previously mentioned.  These  women repeatedly interrupted the services, weeping and wailing and caused all kinds of disturbances during the services.  My husband spoke to them about it but they did not receive instruction. They were in open rebellion and caused much confusion in the services doing things that were not biblical.  They were corrected but did not respond until they went too far and really hurt someone.  We had told them they could not continue their behavior in the sanctuary.  We never dreamed of what would come next.  An usher alerted me in the middle of a service that there was a disturbance in the ladies room.  When a woman came out of the stall, these three "intercessors" were waiting for her and told her she was demon possessed and needed deliverance.  They tried to cast a demon out of  her right there in the ladies room.  She was not possessed although she was an emotionally fragile woman and had dealt with severe clinical depression for a long time.  (They knew this.)   The lady ended up having a complete nervous breakdown on the bathroom floor that day, and ended up in the hospital.  It's a miracle of God our church didn't get sued over that issue.  Talk about grace!   Not until they saw the damage that they caused when this lady was actually hospitalized for a week, did they finally shut up and stop their craziness.  Amazingly they still thought Larry and I were the ones who were spiritually off base and held private prayer meetings in their homes, focusing on "the breakthrough our pastors need to see the light..."  When Larry and I made it clear to the church folks that we DID NOT endorse these particular home prayer meetings, they started gossip around the church saying, "Isn't it pitiful that we have pastors in this church who don't support prayer meetings?"  [sigh]
  • There was the intercessor shortly after we started pastoring our church here in Tampa who stood up in the middle of service and shouted, "THUS SAITH THE LORD, I AM NOT PLEASED WITH THIS CHURCH!"  (My husband told her to sit down too.)
  • There was the time we were riding to church on Sunday morning our first few months here in Tampa and it was pouring down rain and Jordan said, "Oh good!  Jesus can finally heal people today!!!"  We were puzzled by this statement so my husband said, "Jordan, what are you talking about?"  He said, "Oh, Miss Kim (flaky intercessor who was in our church at the time) told me that Jesus spoke to her when she was praying and said, "I will heal people at at the church on the Sundays when it rains."  I said, "why would she tell you that?"  He said, "Well she told me I need to get excited when it rains outside because those are the mornings we can count on Jesus to heal."  What a load of doo-doo for somebody to tell  a child or anyone else. Jesus wants to heal everyday, all the time and is not limited by the elements outside. By the way, I didn't just believe my son about this -- I know kids can make things up.  I checked it out by asking Miss Kim myself, and these remarks were sadly... true.
  • There was the group of intercessors in one of the churches we pastored who started making it their mission to "pray for the pastor to see the truth"... "pray for the pastor to line up with God's will" [translation = doing things THEIR way] and "change the direction of his vision", [to line up with what THEY thought] etc.  Prayer meetings were more about their ax to grind with the pastor than touching God and coming into agreement.  If you poked your head in on this prayer meeting you could hear them shouting, "Oh God, break through to the man of God!  You've changed the heart of kings and you can change the heart of our pastor!  Cause him to see the error of his ways and begin to move in the vision WE KNOW you have for this church."  (Gag me with a prayer cloth.)  
  • There was another intercessor that we finally thought we could trust, after all the crazy ones we had encountered over the years.  We asked them to lead the prayer ministry and sadly realized that in the end they were talking behind our backs negatively to others, sharing their "concerns", questioning our vision and  the direction of the church and our leadership decisions and told the prayer group in advance that she would be leaving our church. She planted seeds of doubt among them.  All of this was spiritual poison from a person we should have been able to trust. When she left the church because she was "not in agreement with our vision" she continued the prayer meeting in her home and invited all of the people to continue coming there.
  • And finally this - a prophetic intercessor who came from my husband's home church in Pittsburgh called my mother-in-love (Larry's mom) a few years ago and gave a "word  from God" that I was going to tragically die soon, and my husband was going to marry his high school girlfriend (who is now divorced) and THEY were going to co-pastor our church here in Tampa.  My mother-in-love was absolutely floored and very angry and told her, "Don't you EVER call me again!!" and hung up the phone.
So you can see, when I realized gatekeeper meant intercessor...it was really the last thing I wanted, at least to ever publicly admit.

I have to be honest that at times witnessing behavior like this made me embarrassed of pentecostals and sometimes afraid to admit I was one, although I know too much about the power of the Holy Spirit having experienced it myself to ever walk away!!!  Larry has gone through the above situations and more and there are times he has come home from church after something out of order happening that he had to correct saying, "On days like today, it might seem more attractive to be Baptist..."  (Just for a second...lol)

I thought, "Okay God, intercessors are flaky...they have crap-o marriages, they give the pastor nothing but flack, they are pretty much spiritual wing nuts, and now you are asking me to be one?  Fantastic.  I want to do this about as much as I want to slide down a razor blade into a pool of alcohol or brush my teeth vigorously with tar."

The only "normal" intercessor I ever knew was my grandmother.  She was the true definition of intercessor.  She was Christ-like.  She wasn't a mental case.  She treated her husband with honor.  She was the pastor's greatest supporter!  She didn't go into the prayer closet to be seen, to get recognition from the church or the pastor.  She prayed with the right motivations and her prayers touched people, the church and the world.

All of the "flaky intercessors" I met over the years of pastoring really caused me to push the image of my grandmother as intercessor to the background and bring the spiritual fruitloops to the foreground.  I wasn't real excited about taking up the role of "gatekeeper".  What was a girl to do?

I'll tell you tomorrow how I got beyond my experiences to see wisdom clearly on this issue and what I did in my next step of the journey.


Monday, February 21, 2011

My journey to making history through prayer - Part 1

Walter Wink once said that "history belongs to the intercessors."  I believe that wholeheartedly.  All of us have the power at our disposal to change the world on a daily basis!  I am a strong believer in the power of God, and the fact that miracles are for TODAY.

Author Mark Batterson says this about prayer:  "Your prayers outlive you.  There have been moments in my life when the Holy Spirit has whispered to my spirit: I'm answering the prayers of your grandparents in your life right now. Those are powerful moments.  Intercessors typically don't make headlines, but if you read between the lines, they are the ones writing His-story!"

It's no secret to most people who know me that I'm very passionate about prayer. People ask me questions from time to time about what really led me to grow deeper in this area.  I will be writing about this subject this  week in a five part series here on the blog.

To begin this blog series journey, I need to tell  you that many years ago when we were just starting out in pastoring I was walking around the property of the church by myself, praying.  God spoke very clearly to me in my spirit and said, "you are a gatekeeper."  Well, it made such an impression on me, I wrote it in my journal that day, "I am a gatekeeper!" and still have it to look back on.  I wrote it down and said, "okay Lord," but I really didn't know what it meant.  I just made it a matter of prayer.

I was used to taking things "literally" and trying to follow God as best I knew how.  I wanted to obey Him and BE a gatekeeper.  The only thing I could figure out when thinking about the word gatekeeper was that a gate was an entry - something to go through, and  perhaps this meant God wanted me to stand at the entrance of the church and greet people as they came in and out.  So I did.

I changed my habits and started standing by the door, welcoming people in, and then after playing the keyboard during the altar services, I would run back and stand with my husband at the close of services.  I would greet people and hug them and spend time with them as they were exiting the doors after service.  I wasn't sure why God had told me to do this but it was all I knew to do to follow Him in this direction at the time.

This went on for quite a while, and I was content in what I felt was one of my roles as the "gatekeeper" of the church.  Then one day I was in study in my Bible and in some commentaries and discovered that gatekeeper meant something else...and I was totally freaked out.
 
I'll tell you why tomorrow.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Weekend Potpourri

Oh my stars, where do I start?

I'll just start off the top of my head in no particular order:

  • I am so grateful for those in my life who surround me.  I am so blessed.
  • Tomorrow at CC is going to be off the chain!  We're having a weekend of impact with Evangelist Fred Felton.  We are expecting a "Next Level" day!!  Yesterday there was a men's breakfast at the church and he was the speaker, and from all reports I received it was amazing.
  • I came down with a cold/flu on Friday and it's pretty much full blown today...could really use your prayers!  This is not real good timing with having to lead worship at both of the services today.  My voice is rarely if ever on the fritz and today...it is!  Jordan has the same symptoms I do but worse.  Thanks for your prayers for him today too.  I know no matter how he feels he will be there, faithfully playing the drums.
  • A lot of people have asked how I'm doing with my new wellness/weight goals.  Well, right now as far as wellness, I don't feel well!  I'm hoarse and congested and sneezing and...you get the picture.  But as far as my overall pursuit of wellness and losing excess weight, it's going good but slow.  At this age, I've found weight hangs on to you like a hair on a grilled cheese sandwich!!  Seriously.  The older you are the harder it is to take off.  And I'm not even old yet!  Which makes me realize, I better just do this thing and get it all off now because if it's hard now I can't even imagine ten or twenty years from now.  At that point it might be like trying to separate a man from a remote control. 
  • Larry and I went on a triple date with friends Friday night. It's so important for the health of a marriage to keep dating...
  • I got a section of my yard weeded.  It will probably take me about 7 more days/nights of work on it to get the entire thing weeded for the season coming up, and in due time I'll get it done.  If you've been reading my blog any length of time you know I have a hate/hate relationship with weeds.  There's no love there.  None.  I also live in a deed restricted community where we are expected to have our weeds under control.  This is a very good example of an area where I don't "get it all done."  People say to me, "Deanna, with all the roles you juggle and the hats you wear, how to you get it all done?"  I don't. I just told you, only 1/8 of my yard is weeded right now.  There will probably be a violation notice in my mailbox Monday about it.  Some things, I just don't get done, at least on time.  But I try.
  • Tomorrow I'm going to start what I believe will be one of the most important blog series I've ever written.  It will be about a calling I reluctantly embraced and my journey in fulfilling it.  The series will last for 5 days, through Friday.   
  • I have fallen in love with sugar free Creamsicles.  Seriously these things are only 20 calories, and 1 weight watcher points plus!  What's not to love?
  • Speaking of love, I love our church!  I love what God is doing in it, and through it.  I'm so excited! [skipping off joyfully with Kleenexes and Ricola in hand...]

Saturday, February 19, 2011

I've been set free from F.O.Y.A.S.!!
I tried to keep the wall up but they stole my heart.

There's a group at our church that has won me over.  I know that sounds sorta crazy.  Nobody should have to win their pastor over.  It was kind of sad but the bottom line was, I needed healing.  It's not a requirement for someone to love me for me to pastor them.  Really, I'm not that shallow or babyfied, and I do realize those Christ gave his life for ended up crucifiying Him.  I'm also not Christ, and although I don't have to be loved and adored to pastor or invest in someone, I dread suffering like the next person.  I think we all tend to try to protect ourselves, which doesn't necessarily involve hate, lack of forgiveness or bitterness ~ you just go in your shell because you fear pain.
 
I didn't hate this group of people, I was just scared to deeply love them again, to move beyond the "professional aspects of doing my job" to taking them into my heart.  Leading people works best when you deeply love them.  One of my favorite authors, Elie Wiesel once said, "the opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference.  I didn't hate young adults, I just didn't care anymore.   I won't go into detail as to why, but I will share in generalities so you understand the significance of God's work of healing and grace in my life.

For quite some time  I wasn't thinking biblically and allowed painful experience to trump scripture in my life.  (Always a dangerous place to be!)  I had zero faith in most young adults with the exception of the ones in my household.  In his great wisdom Dustin gently encouraged me, "Mom, the issue is not age, it's character."  I didn't want to hear it for a while, my heart was so raw.   He even came up to the microphone during one prayer time at Celebration and prayed that  God would "break down the walls of age in people's hearts and show them it's not about age."  He prayed, "Make us one church, not divided by any generations, but unified in You."  Yeah, I was proud   of my son but at the same time I wanted to get out of the sanctuary and run far, far away.  

I never mistreated this group, I just didn't open up my life to them deeply anymore.  I felt that my continued efforts to serve as any kind of up close mentor to them was a futile exercise and my time would be better invested in people who had been around the block a few  years and had already come to the realization that they didn't know everything.  I wasn't alone in thinking things like this.  I met a lot of seasoned people in ministry who told me they felt the same way.  This just kept me smug in my resolve to stay indifferent. 

The first thing that happened to crack my hardened heart was when Rebecca (Becca) Dearborn came into my life.  I knew her for years because Larry and I were friends with her parents, George & Irene Dearborn, who are pastors.  But when she started attending CC, she asked me if I would personally serve as a mentor.  She has fantastic parents who have raised her well and Godly parents are the most important mentors but it also helps to have other influences in our lives and she asked me to be one of those for her.  Ugh.  I inwardly chafed when she asked me.

Becca was cute and sweet as a button, and she loves Jesus, but when she asked me to mentor her and spend time investing in her  I sang a little private song in my head that went something like this, "I said I wasn't gonna dooooooooooo this again...no, I said I wasn't gonna doooooooooooo this again..."

Becca in slums of Africa on our trip this past year
I was already having visions in my head about what could happen as a result of really investing again in the life of a young adult, and the emotional heartache that was sure to ultimately come my way from it, as well as the possible clean-up that would be necessary in the church.  But, her love slowly chiseled away at my wall.   The fortress in my heart really came down the day she said this to me:  "PD, I really don't know whatever happened to you that you don't trust my generation, but please let me apologize on behalf of us for letting you down.  I'm sorry for whatever we did to make you leery of investing in us, in me.  I promise to not betray that trust if you just give me a chance."  That was heartfelt and gutsy of her to say that to me. I almost fell on the floor. On that day I decided to open my heart and let the walls down.  I even ended up inviting her to go to Africa with me -- something I would have NEVER been open to prior to this. Honestly with the attitude I had before I would have taken an unbelieving 96 year old from a nursing home before I took a young adult.  I recently told Becca that she was the person God used to start the healing process in my life on this issue.  I never said anything to anybody at church about it but a few people just "knew".  People aren't stupid...they figure things out.  One day a close friend of mine in the church said to me, "PD, it's no secret what God is doing in your heart through bringing Becca to the church and more importantly, to you."    My husband said he knew this from the day she walked into CC.

Becca, ministering with me in Mathare Valley Slums
By the way, Becca did date my oldest son Dustin at one point, and they don't anymore but our relationship is still good.  We made it clear before they even dated that our relationship would transcend anything that happened with them -- whether they worked out as a couple or not - we wouldn't let it detract from God bringing us into relationship, both her and I, and our families.  And I'm so grateful for that.  Both of them are amazing people -- they just aren't called by God to be romantically involved - but they are both incredible, Godly individuals. 

So on the heels of Becca, they all started coming in droves, all these young adults. Over the past eight months (since June 27, exactly) they have streamed into our church like crazy!  I was going to name them all in this blog post.  Then when I started typing names I realized I can't keep up with them all, there are so many.  I will  unknowingly leave somebody out and I don't want to.  Seriously, it's such a God-thing how many of these 18-29 year olds we have!!!  They are one of the biggest groups in our church now, and more importantly the most involved in the overall ministry life of CC.  They do things I always thought young adults could do if they really wanted to.

A few months ago I was sitting on the front row of the church after we had an amazing service, with many of these young adults involved in every way possible  and Candy came and sat next to me and she said, "They're different PD."  And I said, "who?"  She said, "This group of young adults."  I just nodded.  She went on and said, "God is doing something.  He's doing a work of healing in your heart and I believe this group who has come in is a part of it.  They are a group of young men and women set apart from many in their generation."


She was right  they are different.

I'm enjoying investing in their lives, without fear.  They are sponges -- hungry, listening, craving wisdom.  When you tell them something they don't want to hear, they are actually grateful that you took the time to tell them.  They are thankful for those who invest in them.  

Dustin was right.  It's not about age -- it's about character. 
 
Pastors need healing sometimes too.  We don't always open up and put all our junk on the table, but the truth is, if you cut us open we will bleed.  We're not immune to the need for grieving something we've lost, needing closure, moving forward, receiving healing...you know, that whole process.

I am officially healed of the fear-of-young-adults-syndrome!  Thank you, young adults of CC, for being patient with me and loving me even when I was cold.  I'm so sorry.  Without your warmth, I would probably still be cold.  You guys were Jesus with skin on, to me.  I've learned from you and I love you!   

Friday, February 18, 2011

She literally had to put ice packs on her cheeks...

Wednesday nights after church at Celebration we go with a big group of people to Perkins which is right around the corner from the church.  The waiter, Michael, knows us extremely well.  In fact, he's usually got my unsweetened iced tea with lemon and bowl of soup waiting for me!  He doesn't come to CC (yet)  but he calls us his pastors.  He also knows our crowd is going to be laughing ourselves silly.  We get deafeningly loud sometimes with the laughter that comes from our group.  It usually doesn't turn people off, in fact they laugh with us, Michael included.  He tells us often, we're his favorite customers.  We really believe that soon, Michael will be joining us at Celebration Church, in fact he has told us he's coming soon for a service.  (Can't wait!)

Wednesday night we laughed so hard and so long, my abs were sore.  Thursday morning three of the ladies who were at Perkins the night before were also at prayer meeting.  Bonnie mentioned that her stomach was sore from all the laughter and Rachael who was also at prayer said, "You can ask Doug [her husband]...my cheeks hurt so much from laughing last night, I had to literally go home and put ice packs on them!!!"

When was the last time  you laughed so hard it hurt?
Or had tears roll down your face?
Or had to put flippin ice packs on your cheeks?  Oh. My. Word.  Seriously, that's a bit over the top, but it's true.  If you know Rachael you do not have to doubt the validity of this.

You know, it doesn't always hurt your tummy or cause you to cry but even when it does, the bible says it's ultimately a medicine.  Proverbs 17:22 says, "A merry heart doeth good like a medicine."  Laughter is healing to our bodies, releasing endorphins, strengthens your immune system, even protects your heart.  I'm working on my health like never before and one thing I'd always had going for me is a life of laughter but never so much as right now in this season at CC.    Yesterday Rachael said, "I have never experienced such joy!  What an amazing atmosphere of joy there is all around us at CC!"

Indeed.  It's glorious.  I have never loved so deeply or laughed so hard as I do with this church family.  Every day I count my blessings for where the Lord has placed me and this season that we find ourselves in.  Shouldn't the body of Christ be like that everywhere, all the time? 

By the way, I was looking up some health benefits of laughter and came across this.  If THAT'S not a reason to laugh, I don't know what is!  Amazing!!!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

True Church Stories - #34

My husband and I were youth/music pastors for 7 years before we became lead pastors.   (Since we served at 3 churches, the location of where this happened will remain undisclosed.)   I was "called on the carpet" when the pastor somberly called me in one day and let me know he had something to discuss with me.  My heart was beating a little faster than normal.  I had no idea why I was being called in and couldn't imagine what it was about.  There was nothing I was doing that would warrant him being upset --I had not failed to meet any of his expectations that I was aware of.  We went into his office and shut the door.  The next thing that came out of his mouth was one of the most shocking things I had ever been accused of.

"Deanna, this is about your use of the F-word with the youth group."

Oh my stars.

My heart was racing at least twice as fast and I was feeling relieved in one sense (because I knew in my heart I had not done such a thing) yet racing ahead to think, "why?  how?  who has accused me of such a thing and would I be believed that I was not guilty of this?"


I gulped and said, "Pastor, I promise you I have never used the F-word with the youth group or anyone in this church for that matter, I do not use this word with friends outside the church either."

He looked at me and said, "well, one of the youth parents is quite sure you have -- actually heard you do such and is very upset."

I was racking my brain to think how they could have EVER remotely misconstrued things to the point of saying I had used the F-word.  It would have been a misunderstanding at the very least.

The pastor continued, convinced I had done so and finally I said, "Pastor, I think there may be a lack of understanding as to what the F-word actually IS.  I have never used it here in the terms as I understand it, but perhaps the F-word is not the same to everyone everywhere.  If I may be so bold, can I ask you what F-word you are referring to?"

He took a deep breath...looked down at the floor...and said, "fart."

I couldn't help it.
I laughed.
Really  hard.
Talk about a disconnect in communication!  This was a huge one.

Well, I was totally guilty of using THAT F-word.  I used it many times when the youth choir would be fooling around, not getting anything done, doing too much talking and goofing around and not enough time listening to my directions, I would clap or blow my whistle that I carried at the time to bring a big group of teens back to focus and I would quip, "Hey everyone, let's quit farting around and get back to focus here!"  I didn't realize a mom  of one of the teens who had walked in and listened in on rehearsals a few times really took offense to this.  She considered it "the F word" and told the pastor so, and asked that something be done about my behavior.

The pastor asked me not to use the word any more.  I asked him what he would like me to say instead and he suggested the word, "fluff."

A lot of years have passed between then and now.  We are lead pastors now and it's our son Dustin who directs the youth fine arts ministries of our church.  I suggested to him to make things in his ministry a lot simpler that he hold closed rehearsals to avoid helicopter parents who over-react to things that are really of no consequence.  If I had the option to have closed rehearsals back then, I would have.  Dustin does this and it makes things a lot easier.  Not that he's doing anything wrong - he's a great leader - but it definitely makes things smoother not having parents circling when he's trying to lead a rehearsal.

He doesn't use the F-word any more than his parents do...unless you consider forgiveness, freak, fluff, fantastic, fabulous or well, yes...fart... the "F-word."  :P

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Catching up!

Ugh.

I'm tired.

I feel like this photo really could be me today - wearing my headset (that I wear to career coach - talking to people while on line with them).  I don't get the luxury of sleeping during meetings though - I have to be on my game. I saw this photo and it reminded me of how I feel.  I can't wait to sleep on my day off this week.  I am really praying for a "Fun Friday" without incident or interruption.  We'll see! (Fingers crossed!)

Taking time off is always a double edged sword.  Most people tell me they find it's that way  for them so I know I know I'm not alone.

I took off Monday and paid for it Tuesday.  I didn't finish my work until almost 2:00 am this morning.  There are some things that have to be done by Tuesday nights or it's too late in the week. The reality of deadlines!  I have quite a few new job seekers I'm working with right now, some even in Canada!

I did have a 2 hours break to relax yesterday.  I took a short break and went to the movies with Larry and Savanna to see, "Just Go With It".  I try to be available to do spontaneous things with my family like that.  The movie was funny, by the way.  Totally enjoyed it and it took me out of my work for a while and helped me focus on something else.   The entire rest of the day I caught up on all of my church work that I missed from being off for the day as well as handling my NextJob appointments for the day/evening.   

I don't regret taking time off -- not at all, but it always puts me seriously behind the curve whenever I come back.

Another list of things awaits me today and more than anything I have a goal of being spiritually and mentally prepared for Fusion tonight.   It's going to be a great night! 

Tomorrow I'm going to be back with another "True Church Story".  I've said I'm not done with that series, and I meant it.  I have so many more to share and I will be back with more, so get ready!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Just another day in paradise...


Yesterday was the last day we had with my "in-love's" here in Florida.  They leave to go back to Maryland today.  We were very blessed to be with them for a week, but sure wish it could have been two weeks.  :)  Maybe next time. They don't come to Florida very often and we treasure any time that we have with them.

Larry and I took the day off yesterday and allowed Savanna to stay home from school.  She's a straight A student and doesn't really miss much when it's just one day and she easily makes it up.  We went to one of our favorite places ~ Tarpon Springs, and ate greek food at Hellas Restaurant and Bakery (the BEST greek food ANYWHERE, hands down!) and walked along the sponge docks and shopped.  I got some of the almond soap and scrubs from a store called Lori's that I've shared about here before that I love so much.  Even if you don't live here in Florida and have access to go there to shop I'd recommend that you purchase her soaps and scrubs especially if you need to clear up any skin problems.  I use her goat's milk and olive oil bars ($3.75 each) and her sea salt body scrub ($8.95 or $14.95 depending on what size you get) in almond scent.  It leaves  your skin very smooth and I also use her sponges to clean my face. It's only $1 or 2 for a small sponge.  You can go and purchase all this here if you are ordering over the internet.  By the way, I'm not friends with the owner, nor do I get paid to write this on my blog ~ I just believe in the product and that's why I'm writing this.

We went to Howard Park to see the sunset after we were done eating and shopping.  It was a lovely Valentines Day as you can see...


Savanna and I took a walk together
Mom and Dad "on the rocks"  (lol)

I know I'm partial here but my daughter is just a bee-autiful girl!

Savanna said, "Ma, it's a little bit cold out here but the sand between your toes is the most amazing feeling ever, so just go ahead and do it.  I did.  I'm starting to look forward to summer a little bit especially since we live in paradise.
Daddy's girl


Happy girl!  Yay!  Out of school and with the grandparents!!!
My man!  For Valentines Day he gave me a dozen roses, and I gave him a book he has been wanting, "1000 Places to Visit Before You Die."  I gave him a card that said that I am looking forward to visiting as many places as possible together for the rest of our lives.  :)

I really never tire of watching sunsets
Larry took this photo ~ isn't it beautiful?