Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Potpourri of thoughts after the weekend

Our back yard ~ sunset
Just wanted to start today by posting one of my greatest blessings ~ a photo of what I experience most nights when I walk in my neighborhood at sunset.  My husband took this picture in our back yard the other night.  I thought it was a good one. 

I'm a little late posting my blog today...have been enjoying face to face relationships and there's nothing better.  We have been hosting some guests at our home since Sunday night, some very dear friends of ours ~ Pastors Russ and Betty Jones, lead pastors at Faith Family Worship Center in Palm, City, FL.  We just love them to pieces and it was good to have them here for the Memorial Day holiday and spend time together just relaxing and enjoying fellowship.  They stayed over 'til this morning and we had breakfast together before they had to leave and get back to their sweet daughter Anneka and the church.  We love Anneka dearly and wish she could have come with them but due to her severe allergies to pets she couldn't come as we have two huge dog-o-sauruses that would put her allergies into overdrive.  That's okay it was good for mom and dad to just get away and have some "couple" time and friend time while Anneka stayed with her grandma.

We had a terrific day Sunday at Celebration!  It was a special service in honor of Memorial Day and we had one of our members, Major Kerry George, give his testimony as well as special music and such.  It was a special day for me when some friends that I've been inviting to church for quite a while (who don't have a church yet) walked in the doors for service!  They seemed to love it.  I expect them to be back.  Very excited about that.

This weekend was a packed one for me, from the Hope Tour to special service Sunday, to coming home to overnight guests for a few days...it was all wonderfully good!  I am exhausted though -- a good exhausted, and at the end of my work day today, I shall enjoy a good sleep.  I have a lot of work to catch up on today as I was off yesterday, and a lot of sleep to catch up on tonight as we were up 'til 2:30 am talking to the Jones.  These are the sweet moments life is made of and I'm savoring them like I'm savoring my cup of coffee right now...

Enjoy this day, my friends and make a choice to ~

Cast all your cares upon the Lord (He's wanting to take them!)
Let go of worries, fears, anxieties, unforgiveness and bitterness...
Speak life!!!
Let go and let God handle it...
Let faith drown your fears...
Make a choice to forgive.
Invite the blessing of God into your life.
Don't miss what God wants to teach you through others.
Walk secure knowing that you are deeply loved by God.
Know that God holds victory in store for those who follow Him with a pure heart.

Monday, May 30, 2011

I'm in full blown HTW...
Hope Tour Withdrawal

On the last day of our Caribbean cruise the cruise director came out and told us he wanted to prepare us for "cruise withdrawal" that we would go through.  He said, "you're going to be at restaurants and start to get up to leave without paying your bill" and "you're going to miss the little towel animals on your beds" and stuff like that.  He was right!  My husband is STILL in cruise withdrawal.

Me?  I'm going through Hope Tour Withdrawal.

I am having dreams about unscrewing banner stands and setting them up on platforms.

I'm resisting the urge to run outside and arrange big pots of flowers.

I keep taking my t-shirts out of my dresser drawers at home and refolding and stacking them.

My hands are shaking as I'm putting my suitcase back in the garage.

I'm waiting for somebody on the team to text me and tell me it's time to come down to the lobby to go eat.

I am reaching around to try to feel for tables of purses and jewelry surrounding me only to find them gone.

I am seeing too many people walking around in boring regular clothes and no shirts that say "S" or "Hope".

I reach out to set the GPS and then realize I'm home in Tampa so there's no need to.

I have kleenex in my hands just waiting, but nothing to cry about right now.

I have to purposely watch Jimmy Fallon or some other show like that each night to make me laugh since I don't have my Hope Tour sisters to entertain me with stories about crazy stuff that's happened to them, mostly in church.  These stories make me laugh and cry and oh how I miss it! 

I'm back to getting at least 7 hours of sleep a night.

My withdrawal will be over on June 24/25 when we do Hope Tour Jacksonville!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Life Saving Hope


Some women in Miami got fresh hope this weekend.  Here's Tammy (our amazing emcee) as she was introducing something or someone -- I snapped this photo on my iphone.  It's not the greatest photo but it's what I've got...there was a professional photographer there and I'm hoping to snag a few of their photos that I'll post later.

It was a fantastic weekend but I am just so exhausted right now when I'm writing this (as 12:30 am after getting home) and need to crash before having to get up this morning for church.  We have a full morning at Celebration and then our friends Pastors Russ and Betty Jones, Pastors of Faith Family Worship Center in Palm City are coming to spend the night at our house tonight and be with us tomorrow for the holiday.  It's going to be a really good time but I need to get some sleep so I'll actually be half way alert to enjoy it. 

I am so thankful for all that God did on this Hope Tour stop.  One lady who had been struggling with deep depression and was set free at the altar flung her arms around me and said, 'THIS HAS ABSOLUTELY SAVED MY LIFE!!!"  There was such an anointing yesterday for healing and much more...I can 't wait for four more weeks when we hit the road for Jacksonville and do it all again!  C'mon, Jesus!!!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Therapy

“Oh, the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person, having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all out, just as they are, chaff and grain together, certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and with a breath of kindness blow the rest away.” ~ George Eliot


Girl time is the best therapy...the kind of girl time that is characterized by the above quote.  I'm going to give out SO much of myself today in ministry (teaching three 45 minute sessions in a row, PLUS doing the keynote message).  However, I know I'm going to come home with much more than I give away.  Not only am I going to treasure in my heart whatever happens in the sessions and around the altars with the women attending, but I'm going come home absolutely full because of the time spent with friends, and especially my friend Tammy Young who will have a long car ride home again with me tonight.  We'll solve the world's problems on the way home.  Our car rides are my own personal hope tour, for which I am ever grateful.  The theme for this Pen-FL tour is, "Hope For Your Own Little World" and I just had to laugh when they announced that, because I sure do need hope for my own little world and am so grateful for Jesus' grace and power in my life, and my friends He's given me to walk with me on this journey of life.  

 

Tomorrow I'll post a photo or two from the Hope Tour Miami as well as give some highlights if I'm up to it.  I'm getting home REAL late tonight and have a very early morning tomorrow in getting the finishing touches on our memorial day service at Celebration, not to mention I'm bringing a teaching at 9:30 entitled "How do I forgive someone who keeps on hurting me?" And...we have company arriving at our home Sunday night, staying over til' Monday night!   It will make for an interesting time as far as my energy level.  I can do all things through Him who gives me strength...

 

Keeping a schedule like this may be part of the reason I need therapy...lol

Friday, May 27, 2011

Miami or bust!

Today I'm headed to Miami!  (If you live in the area, come see me!!!)  This weekend is the start of our district's "Hope Tour 2011" and we're kickin' it off in south Florida.  I was on the core speaker team of this event last year and I'm blessed to be serving again this year, and this weekend I'm also the keynote speaker!  I'm very excited about what God is going to do.   Our district WM Director Marsha Woolley told us weeks ago that they already had 500 pre-registrants (and there are loads of walk ins at Hope Tour, because it's free!  In fact if you are reading this and are anywhere near the Miami area, JUST COME ON OVER TOMORROW!!!  Your cost to come to this event is ZIPPO, and you will receive so much, it's UNBELIEVABLE!!!   It's at Upper Room AG and you want to be there!)   They are also broadcasting it on the radio!  This is gonna be A-May-Zing!  HOPE is here, friends!

Please keep all of our speaker team in prayer for safe travel there and back, and an amazing, life changing, power packed time!!!  It's unbelievable what our team members have to go through just to get to these events...it's unbelievable the attacks we face just to GET THERE.  I'm serving with some women who know how to get the job done even when the going gets more than tough.

Speaking of getting there the thing I'm most excited about today is the car ride there ~ I'm going to be sharing it with my dear friend Tammy Young, who is also on the team as both the emcee of the tour, and a speaker on the team.  Don't get me wrong, I love preaching but I love girl time too!  I like it so much I came to her house in Sarasota last night to spend the night before we officially left today.  Larry and I drove down and spent the night at their place and shared some time together with her husband (Pastor Peter Young) and Tammy before Tam and I had to leave today.  For me the Hope Tour is ultimate girl time with my bff's, baring our souls as we travel many miles over the coming months by both car and air (we just came back from the Hope Tour Caymans).  Tammy tells me whatever difficulties are in my life right now, we'll have 'em straightened out by the time we arrive in Miami -- all problems will be solved in the car.  Good thing she's going to straighten me out before I have to get up there and preach.  Ha!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Leadership Q & A @CC Life Coaching
Part IV ~ Obstacles in Leadership & Motivating Others

This is the conclusion to this week's series from the  Q & A on leadership from life coaching this past month at Celebration.   

When you were new to leadership, what were some of the toughest obstacles you had to overcome when dealing with people?

Looking back most of the obstacles were probably my own.  People are people.  Adults are just grown up kids and teenagers, and quite frankly many of them have never grown up.  They act out in immature or even cruel ways.  As a leader it’s my responsibility to control myself.  Self control is one of the fruits of the spirit.  It’s been my hardest fruit, for sure!  Responding and not reacting is true maturity.  My friend Marsha Woolley (a former pastor/pastor's wife herself, now our district WM leader) says that being a pastor is definitely the hardest job because it requires extended good behavior.  I would agree.  Extended good behavior isn't easy by any stretch.  My hardest obstacle is still anger -- justifiable anger -- and dealing with it in a positive way, learning to release it without harming myself or losing my position.  I have harmed myself at times and had to learn how to better deal with things.

List of toughest obstacles when I was new to leadership:
  • Releasing anger properly
  • Not taking everything personally
  • Forgiving after being hurt or betrayed.
  • Letting go of bitterness when people tried to harm my family.
  • Living above the drama that rules so many people's lives.  (Can't get caught up in this as a leader if you're going to be successful.) 
  • Handling things that fell through the cracks when others don’t have the same standard of excellence, responsibility, work ethic, etc.
This isn't to say that difficult things are a piece of cake 24 years later, however I am a completely different person (for the better) in dealing with them now than I was back then.  There's a lot to be said for mentors who invested in me, grace, the Holy Ghost, chocolate, coffee, and good friends to share the journey.

What are some things you would do to motivate someone to get the job done the way you want it done when they are not quite performing up to your standards?

That is one of the most difficult things of being a leader particularly when you are working with volunteers.  I believe what pastors everywhere achieve in this regard is miraculous because they work with almost an entirely volunteer team (even those who have paid staff have a very small ratio of staff compared to volunteer workforce) and pull of miracles every week! 

I have done a lot of things to motivate people, some that were probably even over the top and I would never do again, and some I would.  I believe although I can give encouragement to motivate someone, if they don’t have a foundation of passion to begin with to do what they do no amount of my motivation will keep them going for the long haul. 

At this phase of my journey in leadership I realize it’s much more about getting the right people in the right leadership spots than it is my motivation.


After getting the right person in place I would motivate them through training and encouragement and hopefully they would respond to that – if not they may be in the wrong position.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Leadership Q & A @CCLife Coaching
Part III "How do you know it's time to step down?"

This week I've been doing a series on the blog from a Q & A session with our life coaching group last weekend.  Our time together was really profitable and I thought I'd share it here on the blog.  If you missed the previous days, here are Part I and Part II.

When you can tell it is time to step down from a leadership role?

I always find it interesting that people ask the question, “when should I step down?” much more than asking “when should I step up?"  But that's another topic for another day.

I will start out by telling you when you should never step down.  Don’t step down when you are frustrated, tired or in the midst of conflict.  For some of you that would be…all the time.  Ha!  In all seriousness, these are times it would be unwise to step down.  Everything is clouded by your fatigue and frustration and you don’t think clearly during times like this.  Before I ever step down I step back.  What do I mean by that? Let me clarify right off the bat that it doesn't mean I stop caring about the quality of my work!  When faced with feelings that it might be time to step down I might take a vacation, or take a few days to catch up on sleep, proper eating, exercise, and get in the right frame of mind through prayer and spending time in the Word.  Only after doing that can I make a prayerful, spirit led decision.  Many times it's just my fatigue talking and I realize that after I rest.  A decision to step down needs to be prayerfully and carefully made and should never be a knee-jerk reaction to pain or frustration.  

Leadership is never easy, at least true leadership.  Too many people step down just because things aren’t easy or they aren’t receiving appreciation.   All I have to say to that is “welcome to leadership!”  The life of a leader is hard.  The higher up you go the harder it is, not the other way around.  If this were easy, everybody would be doing it! 

When you first accept a leadership position you normally go, “Yay!”  Then you get into it for a while, discover the challenges of the role and say to yourself, “Okay, was I doing the right thing to accept this?”  It’s normal.  Everyone goes through it.  I don't know any leader who hasn't gone through this ambivalence.

 If it is truly time to step down God's will is not a rash decision but one  out of prayer and a clear mind – not confusion (Satan is the author of confusion) and have the peace of God.  The Bible says we are to be led forth with peace.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Leadership Q & A @CC LifeCoaching
Part II

Yesterday I began a leadership series from a Q & A that I did with our Celebration Life Coaching group last week.  Our time together went so well I thought I'd share what we talked about here on the blog.  Here we go with Part II ~

Question:  What steps can I take to gain self confidence to feel qualified and to inspire others?


First of all, self confidence and qualification are two different issues.  Let me speak first about qualification.

There are times that people who have been doing things for many years don’t feel qualified.  It’s sort of like feeling worthy.  People will say, “I feel so unworthy.”  Don’t we all?  And if we don’t we probably need to repent.

God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the call.

Also it’s probably a bad idea to just take on roles you feel qualified to do.  It will be way too boring.  I have never taken a job I felt qualified to do.  If you feel totally qualified to do a job when you accept it, there's nothing to work toward - no challenge, and you will get tired of that very quickly.


Now as far as confidence goes, as Christian leaders our confidence comes from our identity and authority in Christ.  If you have a confidence problem you haven’t yet identified (at least firmly) who you are in God and what you have the power to do, also in Him.

Study and learn all you can about your identity as a believer and the power that is available to you through Him who has called you.

Question:  How do I overcome the initial feeling of "that's not me!" when presented with an opportunity to be a leader? How do I overcome those feelings of inadequacy, and the idea that others might also question my ability to lead? I have confidence in my ability to do quality work, yet somehow feel unqualified to be the leader. I've always preferred to be on the "support team," i.e., in the background. I've often attributed this to shyness; it's probably closer to fear.
 
First of all there is nothing wrong with being on the support team.  Sometimes you are a leader in one world and a member of the support team on another.  Both roles are needed.  I’m in a dual capacity right now in my life.  And it gives me perspective from both vantage points.

If you always have an initial feeling of “that’s not me” you may not have a proper perspective of your identity in Christ or your ability in Him, or on the other hand what you are being presented with may not be your passion.  It’s important to identify what’s going on.  If something isn’t your passion it isn’t for you long term although we have all fulfilled roles short term because there is a need.  

I have already covered how to deal with feeling of inadequacy.  As far as others who may question your ability to lead, let me say that when anyone has ever said that I'm unqualified I make a move to take them by the hand and in the sincerest most loving voice possible I say, "you're right, I'm unqualified.  I sure could use your prayers.  Thank the Lord, it's not me that qualifies myself for this role, but God who has called me.  I'm grateful for prayer warriors like you who understand the magnitude of the task I face and will be faithful to pray for me."  They are pretty much speechless after that.  Also...

When people have questioned my ability it has always strengthened me because I work harder at honing my skills.  If people question your qualifications, don’t shrink back and quit  - determine to become sharper.  A lady in my church in Maryland used to mercilessly criticize my preaching, not just to me but to anybody who would listen.  I owe a lot of my improvements to her.  Refuse to quit just because someone thinks you’re unqualified.  As to whether I was incapable or unqualified back then – no.  That lady was quite truthfully dealing with some issues of jealousy and other things but I took the shred of truth in her comments and determined to become a better preacher.  There's a shred of truth in every lie.  Although that woman was a thorn in my flesh and was mostly spouting lies and toxic criticism, I took any shred of truth I could find in her words and determined to become better at what I do.  I listened to cassette tape after cassette tape of my speaking, and evaluated myself after each message to see what I could have done better.  When we transitioned to Florida and I reflected on the previous nine years I realized I owed a lot of my "next level" to my thorn in my flesh. In fact I even ended up writing a song about it called, "Thanks for my next level!"  I'm better today because I chose to consider her words and be shaped by them rather than broken by them.  I could have chosen "bitter" but I chose "better."  There is blessing in choosing better.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Leadership Q & A ...get it!
Part I

Last weekend I did a question and answer session for our Celebration life coaching group on the subject of leadership and we had a great time together -- such a fruitful time that I thought I'd share some of the questions/answers on the blog this week.  This will be a series, and...here we go...

Does a leader need to be motivated? How can leaders maintain themselves to stay motivated?

Motivation is very important and some of that is usually provided by the leader of a team if you are one of many leaders on a team and are not the team leader yourself, but all of it can’t come from there.  In fact in my experience it’s a small percentage.

Motivation really comes down to inspiration. Since motivation comes from within, it is a form of self-inspiration.  There are sometimes long periods of time in between times that I receive motivation or inspiration from others.  This is why it’s very important for me to put myself in position to receive motivation from the Lord.

“And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God.”  I Samuel 30:6  [Emphasis mine]

As a leader it's vitally important for me to stay in tune with God – inspired by the Word and by what God tells me, and think the right thoughts and talk to myself.

If my motivation came from other people I would have quit a long time ago.  

Question:  When you are in a leadership position you have to set good example in the decisions that you make. When you are faced with a difficult decision/ situation how do you keep from losing your mind or even feeling overwhelmed and wondering if you are doing the right thing or not ?

Well first of all, it helps to recognize that I am always learning as a leader.  I don’t hesitate to tell people that.  There are times I’ve made mistakes and I have made the wrong decision. No leader makes the right decision 100% of the time.  I was reading a book by a well intentioned Christian author years ago when we started out as lead pastors.  The book was advising pastors on how to handle things like altar calls and the gifts of the spirit.  It basically indicated that if the pastor makes a mistake during that time and doesn’t move in the right direction they are in danger of the fires of hell or at the very least that they will answer for every little move they make in a service and whether it was the right one.  That pretty much  paralyzed me as a leader.  When anything happened in the service, like the moving of the gifts, or an altar time, I was in fear to make a move, as if the church was on the edge of a cliff and if I didn't make the right decision as to what to do next it was all over, and  I would be responsible. The book used language like, "Pastors, if you make a wrong move during that critical time, the dove will fly, and never return to your church again!  And YOU are responsible!!!"  Whew!  That's a LOT of pressure.   After a season of prayer about this, God spoke to me that what I had read wasn’t entirely true. Yes, we do need to be sensitive always to the Holy Spirit, but  God is most concerned with the heart of a leader.   Psalm 51 says, “Create in me a clean heart oh God!”  A pure heart…

 My heart was in the right place just wanting to please the Lord and lead the people and the church in the right direction.  Could I sometimes handle an altar call, or really anything in a better way?  Sure.   God is not going to strike me to hell because I take the altar call in a certain way, as I am learning how to lead his people (which is a life long process).  All He is concerned about is that I am surrendered to Him and listening to His voice and trying my best to be obedient.  There are times I think I hear Him and I don’t.  No leader is on the mark 100% of the time.  If they tell you they are they are kidding themselves and seriously need a wake up call.

A lot of my fears on this issue are quelled by the fact that I give myself permission to be wrong, to fail, and realize I will be in school the rest of my life.

What does the Lord require of a leader, or of any of us?

Micah 6:8 says, “O people, the LORD has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” 

This is my goal as a Christian and as a leader.

I have made a lot of great decisions.  I’ve also made some bad ones.  I’ve learned in the process and am committed to keep a pure heart, stay surrendered to God and trust Him that He will work even through the times when I don't get it right.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The baby's growing up!

These are photos we took before she went to the 8th grade dance last night.  She enjoyed herself very much and went with friends to Applebee's afterwards (well supervised of course).

Ahhhhh...milestones.  I can't believe this school year is just days away from coming to a close and the middle school chapter will be closed and she is going on to HIGH SCHOOL.  I was just birthing her yesterday, for crying out loud.  [sigh]

 Notice Max in the background...he was hanging around the whole time she was getting ready to leave and had such a sad look on his face as she was leaving.  I think he wanted to go!  Well, I know he wanted to go.  Max ALWAYS wants to go "bye bye's"!
We love you, baby girl and you are ALWAYS gunna be the baby no matter hold old you get!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Weekend Potpourri

This is such a busy weekend for us and today is a very special day because it's Savanna's 8th grade dance!  I'm so excited for her!!  Here's a photo of her that we took at the beach - one of my favs...I don't have photos yet from the dance tonight because it hasn't happened yet as of the writing of this blog but I plan to have a photo or two to share later if she'll agree to it.  (You never know with teens...she'll probably be peeved that I posted this beach photo, but forgiveness is better than permission, right?! lol)  I am excited about her event tonight.  It is basically their farewell from 8th grade.  She's done so well and has been on the high honor roll her entire time in middle school.  We finally found "the perfect dress" and shoes, and so on and so on.  I really wish we had all day to get ready for this but she also decided she doesn't want to miss out on the youth tubing trip to Rainbow River today.  So...she's going, and will get home in the nick of time to shower, have me help set her hair in hot rollers (at least that's the plan for now - she might change midstream to curling iron or flat iron, or who knows what, put make up on and have us take her over to the event.)  I'm looking forward to this for her -- I know it will be a special night for her and her friends.  A few weeks ago they had their 8th grade trip and she had such a good time.

I actually considered going tubing with them today however since I'm getting ready to leave town and preach this week and still have to get two messages put to bed that aren't finalized, I opted to stay.  Not to mention, tomorrow is Sunday and I don't do well with a full day's activities on Saturday when preparing my body and mind for all that Sunday entails.  I have to quiet myself on Saturday or it just doesn't flow the same for me anymore.  I am not sure whether this is part of the process of getting older or whether I'm just getting disciplined and smarter about how I prepare myself.  I'd like to think it's the discipline and not the age.  Ha!
At any rate this will give me plenty of time to work on finalizing my messages and get the styling products all lined up and ready for Savanna's arrival home. 

In other news, we are having such a baby boom at Celebration.  Right now we have 6 newborn babies either just born or getting ready to be born.  Our latest Celebrator was just born on Thursday - Joshua John (J.J.) Torres.   Here I am with him yesterday at the hospital.

And finally, I feel like posting another picture of Max (I never tire of it) so here's a recent photo of him in the place he loves most - lounging on our bed.  Imagine this 100 lb dog coming and laying on you in the morning to wake you up!!   If he wasn't yours it would drive you crazy, but being that he's my baby, it's not only welcome, it's endearing.  You know how Moms understand their baby's different "cry's"?  I understand his different "whines".    He has a certain whine that says, "I have to go outside".  Then he has another whine that means, "Kayte made a mess.  Come see it."  Then he has another whine that means, "I need a drink."  Yet another whine means "I want a treat/bone."  It's amazing how I can decipher just what he wants.  I love this pup if you haven't figured it out yet.  I am crazy about Maddie too, by the way.  She's such a beautiful, gentle soul and I never lose my love for her.  Max is simply different because he's such a "baby" and as my husband noted yesterday Maddie is content to be in another room by herself sometimes or to be on her own but Max is never out of our sight and requires lots more cuddle time.  I gladly give it.
 
And that, my friends, is the potpourri of stuff going on today at our home...just thought I'd take a break from the serious stuff I've posted this week and talk about babies, dances and dogs for a while.

Friday, May 20, 2011

We don't always get what we wish for

I've been on a forgiveness journey for a few months, and have written about it weekly in my "cup of coffee" devotional e-zine that I send out on Wednesdays but haven't written too much about it here on my blog.  Today however, it's heavily on my mind for a few reasons, one being that today is shaping up to be one of the more challenging days in the process So I'm going to write about it here today.

Some of you may wonder why I'm using the terms process or journey.  The fact is that some hurts are deeper than others.  If someone just forgets to call you  when they said they would or neglects to say hi to you, that's a very small slight, something that most people can easily forgive and forget in a few moments time.  Other hurts are things that rock your world, or cause long term ramifications.  Those things aren't usually forgiven overnight and you go through a process of steps to total forgiveness.

The person I'm forgiving has caused consequences that I have to live with each day, at least for right now.  I wish I could change that, but I don't have the power to aside from prayer and fasting (which I'm doing).  I don't know when the consequences will be gone, when I will stop bearing the day to day difficulties inflicted by this person.  I did figure out in recent days that I can't afford to go on without forgiving because the unforgiveness itself was beginning to affect every area of my life.  Unforgiveness has a way of doing that.  It stealthily does it's work without you even realizing it for a few weeks or even months until something or someone finally wakes you up to the fact that you've become bitter.

Dr. Karen Piderman of the Mayo Clinic says this: "If you're unforgiving, you may pay the price repeatedly by bringing anger and bitterness into every relationship and new experience. Your life may become so wrapped up in the wrong that you can't enjoy the present. You may become depressed or anxious. You may feel that your life lacks meaning or purpose, or that you're at odds with your spiritual beliefs. You may lose valuable and enriching connectedness with others."

I found all of that to be true in my case.  I was paying the price personally in my body, and mind.  My life had become so wrapped up in the wrongs (which is easy to do when you wake up everyday paying the price for the wrongs)  it was difficult to enjoy anything present - because they were still affecting my present!  I didn't see a way out.  I felt trapped. I justified my lack of pursuing forgiveness based upon the continued consequences.  I've had a wake up call and decided I couldn't afford to wait until the consequences were over to begin the forgiveness journey.

I wish it were instantaneous and not a journey.
I wish it didn't hurt this much.
I wish I was going through this process without feeling the pain of current consequences of their actions.
I wish I wasn't in pain.  Forgiveness would be a piece of cake without pain.
I wish they would apologize, but they haven't, and probably never will.
I wish something supernatural would happen to take away the remaining consequences of their actions.

I wish there were total closure of all the mess they created, not just for me, for everyone. I'm just one person and my offender is definitely an equal opportunity offender. My heart aches for the others who have been hurt more than it aches for me on many days.

I wish all of these things...

But I don't always get what I wish for.  And neither do you.

The thing all of the above wishes have in common is that I have no control over any of them.

When we don't get what we wish for we can wallow, or we can obey.  The only alternative is disobedience and more pain!  I figured out a few weeks ago that all I was doing was heaping pain upon more pain.  It was a vicious cycle, perpetuated by me.  A cycle where no one was winning and I was losing my very health over it.

The one person I can control on this journey is me.  So I'm obeying God and moving toward total health and wellness of my entire being.  I invite you to join me if you are having a similar struggle.  There is comfort for me on many days just knowing I'm not alone.  A lot of us didn't get what we wished for, still aren't getting it - and might not ever.  That's a harsh reality but we can do something about it by making a decision that as far as it depends on us, we're going to do the right thing.  If you're on this journey with me today, I wish that from Seattle to Singapore I could wrap my arms around all of you who read my blog.  I can't do it physically but please consider this a virtual hug from me to you.  (((((((hug))))))))

Much love,

Thursday, May 19, 2011

How to wake up each day and change lives
before you even get out of bed!

In this post I'm going to share how I wake up each morning...in a life changing way!

Yes, I'm serious.

Call me crazy (it's been done many times before) but I had the thought a few days ago while riding my bike that somebody may actually benefit from hearing my routine on how to wake up everyday and change the world before you even get out of bed!

First let me say, I don't like to wake up.  I love to sleep.  I mean I looooooove to sleep.  So waking up in itself is a challenge but my own special routine makes it not only bearable but pleasant and actually makes a difference in the world.

Life changing?  Making a difference in the world?  I can sense what some of you are thinking now.  Must she hype everything?  Is everything she does or participates in really A-May-Zing, life changing, off-the-chain, phenomenal, yada yada yada?  Well, in a word...YES.  I choose to live that way.  You can too.

So, back to the wake up routine, now that I've chastised all of you who may criticize me for justifiably hyping everything in life. 

I need at least 15 minutes to wake up.  I set my alarm for 15 minutes earlier than needed and hit the snooze twice.

The first time it goes off, I just hit it, roll over, wrap my leg around Larry's leg, slide my arm around his waist, run my toe over his calf a few times and go back to sleep. 

The second time it goes off, I hit the snooze again, and this time I stay awake.  My eyes are still closed but I'm awake.  I press the side of my face softly on Larry's back and begin to silently pray for him.  I don't speak aloud so as not to wake him - the goal is to bless him, not irritate him.  I begin to pray for whatever it is that I know he needs that day.  No one but God and I know all the facts about the things that weigh my husband down at times.  Even with his very best friends in the ministry he shares but a small portion.  I understand the complex reasons he feels the way he does many times, why he went to bed with a heavy heart the night before, the challenges he faces when he wakes up each day.  Every pastor faces them, and like other pastor's wives, with my own husband I understand the ones that are just unique to him.  I keep my face pressed against his back and sometimes move my hand to his head to softly rub it while I pray that he would have the mind of Christ for the day ahead.

Larry always sleeps longer than me in the morning because he doesn't take as much time to get ready to go as I do.  But I must say there is nothing like it when I go to sleep before him at night and a little later he comes in.  There are times I've been awakened by a hand in the small of my back, and I am awakened when I hear him softly praying.  Years ago when I experienced a betrayal in the church, I would cry myself to sleep  at night until the Lord healed me from the pain of that situation.  Larry knew what I was dealing with in my heart and many times I'd feel his hand on me in the middle of the night, just softly praying.  I never acknowledge that I know he's doing this.  I pretend I'm asleep even after I wake up. I just lay there, in the still of the night, listening to him.  Why?  Because I don't want to spoil the moment.  It's such a wonderful thing, I don't want it to end.  Of course now he'll know because he's reading this blog, so I've been exposed, and now he will whisper, "Sassy, are you awake?"  And I'll have to tell him...because we have a core value of always telling each other the truth if we ask for it.  (And sometimes, even when we don't...another blog post for another day.) 

There are a lot of books written about intimacy in marriage.  I've written one of them myself.  There's a lot to be said for great sex within a marriage but I will say that there's nothing more intimate and life changing any of us can do besides pray for our spouse.

And that, my friends, is how I wake up each day.  If you have a spouse, try it.  If you don't, may I suggest that you take a few moments quietly before you ever even get out of bed to pray for whatever God lays on your heart?  History belongs to those who pray so even before you get out of bed each day you can change the world!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Leadership That Connects
Part 3


Monday  I began a series on leadership and ways to connect with those we lead.  Tuesday I continued it with Part 2 and  I’m continuing with those thoughts today with three more ways we can do that. 

7)  Process relationship before task.    In every meeting that I personally lead I make this a priority.  Before we get down to business we have some discussion about our lives and how things are going.  Many times people don’t hear a word you say because you have no idea what other things are going on in their lives.  Sometimes people come into our meetings burdened down about things like reports they’ve received from their doctor, a wayward child, a layoff they experienced that week.  At other times they may be excited to give a praise report about something.  Meetings go much better when they’ve had a chance to share those things first, with others who care.  And I shouldn’t have to say this but for some who may need it, I’ll just say – YOU NEED TO CARE!  Once they share these things, you need to care.  If you don’t care, do  the world a favor please, and resign.  Let somebody take your place who actually cares about people. 

8)  Value their ideas.  As  a leader my role is not just to share “my project” and then send everyone running to accomplish it.  That’s no fun!  (Well it might be fun for me, but it’s no fun for anyone else on the team and gives them little motivation to stay!)  Some of you reading this are just now having the light go on about why some people have resigned from your team.  The goal is to have the team develop the project with me as the facilitator and then send us running as a team to achieve it.  People don’t get excited about working hard toward something they never had a part in developing.  Shared ownership is so important. 

9)  Have fun!!!  Our team gets together not just to do business but to eat...and eat, and eat, and eat. ::smile::  We’ve been found doing everything together from the Electric Slide to watching movies or just hanging out with a cup of coffee and talking about stuff on our minds.  If something isn’t fun at least part of the time, who wants to be a part of it?  

I hope you’ve enjoyed these tips on connecting as a leader.  

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Leadership That Connects
Part 2

Yesterday I began a series on leadership and ways to connect with those we lead.  I’m continuing with those thoughts today with three more ways we can do that.  

4)  Take advantage of every possible way to connect.   Social media is here to stay.  It’s not a fad. If you believe that, please note that some people said the same thing in the past about cars and phones.  The most important thing is to connect face to face however these days it’s easier than ever to be a leader who connects because social media makes it easier than ever.  Facebook, Twitter, text, and e-mail are just a few great ways to connect , encourage, update, motivate, etc.  I'm doing this literally ALL THE TIME with our team and probably connect with no less than 20-30 church people a day through facebook comments, private messages, chats, tweets, etc. not to mention phone calls or in person meetings in addition to that.  Social media really simplifies things A LOT.  Before the age of the internet I probably sent out about anywhere from 10-30 handwritten cards a week through regular U.S. Mail.   I still send cards once in a while, but in comparison it's nothing to what I do online, even if just for cost purposes alone.
 
5)  Respond to people asap even if you don’t know the answer to their question or concern.  There are times when people contact me about things that may take me time to decide. I don’t just leave them hanging without answering them at all.   If I know the answer to something I try to answer them within 24 hours. If not it’s my goal to at least send an e-mail within 24 hours saying, “I got your message.  I don’t know the answer to that yet but I’m working on it and will get back to you on it asap.”  People appreciate the response that you have heard them and are contemplating their concern even if you don't know what to do about it yet.


6)  Don’t be afraid to invite people’s feedback.  Insecurity is the downfall of many leaders.  I'm one of those people who will dare to confess my failures.  I'm going to make a confession to you here that years ago when I first started leading I had a horrible habit of asking my team, "does anyone have any questions or comments?" and before anyone could even say a word or barely breathe, I'd quickly go into a closing prayer before they could have time to respond!  They were just getting ready to tell me what they thought and I'd close my eyes and launch into, "Father God, we thank you for this meeting..."  [sigh]  I'm serious!  How wrong is that?!  It's amazing I survived in leadership.  Why did I do this?  Because back then I feared feedback because I was insecure.  Sometimes we dread feedback  because we are afraid of the unknown.  This prevents us from growing as people and as an organization.  I might not always agree with people’s feedback but I’ve found that normally there’s at least a shred of truth to it even when I don’t agree with it and that shred alone is a valuable piece of information that I need to keep moving forward as a leader.

Come back tomorrow for my final three insights on how to connect on a deeper level with those we lead.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Leadership That Connects
Part I

“Our daughter is absolutely amazed at the way you connect with your leaders!”  This was said to Larry and I a few days ago as we were at district council talking to a pastor and his wife who are long time friends.   Our children have connected over the years and become friends as well.  This past Christmas their daughter who is a bible college student was hanging out with our kids on what happened to be the weekend of our leadership Christmas party at our home.  About 70-80  people attend this event, as the leaders also bring their spouses and kids.  After witnessing this event and being part of it, she couldn’t wait to go home and tell her parents all about it.   She couldn’t believe how much fun our team had together and the bond that exists between us.  Hearing our pastor-friends talk about this sparked a thought for me on sharing some ideas on this subject. So, today begins a series about things I believe are important in really connecting with those we  lead.

1)   Spend time with them.  Nothing replaces T-I-M-E.  I’ve heard it said that this is how children spell love, but at the heart of things, time is important to everyone.   It’s impossible to invest in people you are directly leading without spending time with them.  It is possible to influence others without spending time with them.  I do it every day on my blog and facebook!  And so do a lot of other leaders, however what I am saying is that if you are DIRECTLY RESPONSIBLE for leading someone – if you are THEIR LEADER and you are not spending time, you are an influence, but the impact of  your leadership is limited.  Let me also add that influence can be good or bad.  If you are feeling like your team is a bit disconnected the first place you may need to look at is your calendar.

2)   Value them.  You can’t value them without spending time with them, so this goes back to #1 but I must expound a bit.  Leaders out there, let’s never lose the wonder that God has entrusted us with precious people to lead.  Even difficult people!  I’m going to change the name on this for obvious reasons but one time Larry and I were discussing a difficult person that we were leading and he said, “You know, Ralph is a knucklehead!  But he’s MY knucklehead!”  We should thank God even for the “knuckleheads” that he has given us because every one of them is a soul – every person is valuable in the eyes of God and He has given us these people and we will answer for how we lead them.  Never lose the wonder that God entrusts you with people…the most precious commodity on earth.  

3)   Listen to them.  Leaders, we don’t know it all.  Rick Warren says, “All of us are smarter than one of us!”  We need to listen to those on our leadership team and for that matter we need to give value to what ANYONE says and at least take it into consideration.  That doesn’t mean we are double minded and go off on a bazillion rabbit trails but it does mean we at least hear people out.  Do you really take time to hear what is in other people’s heart?  One time my husband was bent down in the aisle at the church talking to one of our Celebration children.  As they were engrossed in a conversation one of the adults approached and gave absolutely no regard for what my husband was talking about with this child and interrupted and started talking to Larry like the child didn’t even exist.  Larry quickly cut them off and said, “Excuse me, but I’m talking to a member of the church.”  The person got the message and waited their turn while this child held a conversation with their pastor.  Everyone at CC is valuable and if they have something to say to the pastor, they will have the  opportunity to do so.  

Tomorrow and Wednesday I’m going to follow up with some more insights on connecting in leadership in this three part series.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

I know, I know!

Why, why, why am I posting yet ANOTHER post albeit just a day later about my dog Max?

I feel just a little guilty to do two Max posts in a row since a few friends at district council told me this past week they actually use my blog as their devotional each day.  JESUS HELP US.  What have they done on the days I post a recipe or some trite observation like this?  They might die on the vine spiritually if I do this too many days in a row.  ::smile::

I missed him so much while I was at council.  I miss him when I go overnight anywhere.  I miss him even if I'm at the office!  Who couldn't miss this adorable face?  He's just as kind as he appears to be in this photo.  Yesterday I came home from life coaching and I was exhausted.  I planned to lay down for a few minutes and get up and start working on things.  Max laid down next to me and three hours later we both woke up.  Now THAT'S a nap.

Okay, today's Sunday so I don't feel too awful bad for my friends who are reading this blog as a devotional.  You should be going to church today but if you're not and you just need something spiritual without finding it for yourself, consider this...my dog Max has more fruit of the spirit than most Christians.  We can learn a lot from him.  He's more loving, joyful, peaceful, etc. than most of the people I meet in daily life.  It's pretty pathetic that we can be outdone in spiritual fruit by a dog, so let's determine more than ever to cultivate the characteristics of Jesus in our lives.  There now...you have something for devotions today.  Read Galatians 5:22 and you're all set.  Here, since some of you might be too lazy to  look it up just click this link here.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

100 pounds of sweetness!

I missed him so much while I was at district council...



Here we are taking a little nap together yesterday on my day off...Fun Friday!  Max has been snuggling up to me since we brought him home at just a few weeks old, at two or three pounds.  He was so tiny he could fit in the palm of one hand.  For the first few months of his life he slept right under my chin each night...until he was old enough to stop crying at night and go into his kennel.  I could have put him in the kennel the first night but his whimpering just broke my heart, and I couldn't do it.  He stayed with me and was comforted by the warmth of sleeping right under my chin.  I didn't mind...although I won't speak for Larry.  :) 

Max soon matured enough to sleep on his own each night.  Even so he still spends a little time snuggling with me each day and we take a nap if I'm off and able to take one.

He still has the same pattern of sleeping right under my chin...will often  come and plop down on me -- all 100 lbs of him!  Doesn't matter how big he gets, he's still Momma's baby...

I hate when I have to leave him.  My kids all chide me about how spoiled rotten he is.  They say, "Mom, you've raised him to be such a baby!"  Yep.

Home sweet home...back to kids, our sweet bulldogs (Max and Maddie), and Celebration Church...where I'm leading women's life coaching today.  Yay!

It's gonna be a great morning!

Friday, May 13, 2011

"Just warning you:
I'm fixin' to get on my soapbox..."


I've said this many times before I talk about something like the second coming of Christ, the end times, the rapture, holiness, righteousness, sanctification, sin, etc.  I don't hold back in preaching on these topics -- I believe any preacher is held responsible for this before God, especially pastors.

I have made the "soapbox" comment so many times (and our church people never mind, they actually love it!) that one of our members, Todd Stewart, made me a soapbox as a gift!  The Sunday he presented it was just TOO FUNNY.  I was so touched.  Nobody wanted me to take it home, or put it in my office, they wanted me to keep it nearby so we keep it in the choir room.

On Mother's Day Sunday I was preaching at Celebration and I was getting ready to talk about Jesus coming back and I said, "now folks, I'm fixing to get on my soapbox again," and (this was  not planned) but Todd quickly ran to the choir room and as I was making my point he ran on the stage with the soapbox.  I got up on it and kept preaching and the congregation just roared.  They laughed even harder when one of our church photographers, Lourdes Manners, ran to the front and captured the moment, which you see above.  Even on Mother's Day when preaching a special message to the women of CC about being empowered by God for our role, I was compelled to weave into the message truths about salvation, the second coming and being ready.   We had an invitation at the close of the service and several came to accept Jesus for the first time, or re-dedicate their lives.  THAT NEVER GETS OLD!!!

After church a precious couple that has come to Celebration in the past year came to me in tears.  They hugged me and just wept and wept.  I will not share their names here for what in a moment will be obvious reasons.  We will call them Jerry and Janet for anonymity sake.  Janet held on to me and just cried and she said, "Thank you, thank you, thank you!  Please never, ever stop getting on your soapbox!  We don't know where we would be without it!!!"  Jerry is every bit a manly man but he stood there with tears just coarsing down his face, saying the same thing.  I'm about to share something that really angers me and I know it will be controversial with some but I am compelled to speak it.  Normally I am 110% pro-pastor here on the blog and everywhere else.  I have a heart for pastors and their spouses and when anybody comes to me about something concerning a pastor they can be assured except in EXTREMELY rare cases that I am going to come down on the side of the pastor.  I am one.  And if we can't support each other we're in real trouble.  This is one of those rare cases for me however when I do not come down on the side of the pastor.

This couple came to us from another local church - an independent church that has exploded in attendance over a short number of years of it's existence.  It's very contemporary -- nothing against that - so are we at CC,  but I'm just setting the stage here so if you're reading this you can get a picture of the church.  The church has been in existence less than 10 years and already numbers in the thousands.  They consider themselves evangelical and have the best of everything when it comes to music, lighting, facilities, programming, etc.  They have excellent marketing and full color glossy mailers are often in my mailbox at home advertising their next event or series.   Jerry and Janet not only sat in this church for the past six years,  but they were a part of the programming ministry for the weekend services.  In all the time they were part of things there they never heard EVEN ONCE about Jesus coming back, the end times, holiness, abandonment to God, or any of that.  According to Jerry, when someone in leadership asked the lead pastor to speak about the second coming he said he, "didn't want to scare anyone" so chose not to do so.  WHAT??!!

I never just take people's reports like this at face value.  I want to investigate it for myself.  Fortunately this church has a podcast and so I went to it and listened to them.  Interestingly enough in their entire archive I can't find ONE THING about Jesus coming back, nothing about holiness, sin, or even about the authority of the Word of God!  (Jerry tells me 99% of those attending don't bring their bibles and usually if the bible is referenced in a sermon there it's one or two lines, shown on a screen but even the pastor doesn't bring a Bible.)  WHAT??!!

There were plenty of messages in the archives about living a better life, having a better marriage, being a better parent, having peace, and achieving success in life.  There's nothing wrong with any of that in fact we have preached messages about that at CC, and I want to be clear about that.  I'm not against preaching about a biblical understanding of all of those topics.  However all of that is secondary to the central message that Jesus was crucified, risen and coming again for His church!  Many times what we do in today's church is temporarily medicate people through phenomenal worship music (let's be real, anointed music IS very soothing), and soft messages about how to "have peace" or "let go of fear."  It seems the majority of messages preachers are bringing today are about how people can FEEL BETTER.  You know, we're never going to be free and truly FEEL BETTER until we REPENT and GET RIGHT WITH GOD and prepare ourselves for HIS COMING!!!  (Yes, I'm on the soapbox now.)  We can even love others, but still not be right with God.
While we must love others (and are known that we are Christians by our love) it's not impossible to love someone and not be right with God.  I have an atheist friend.  She loves me very much, and I love her. She feeds the poor and gives to good causes.  But sadly, she's not a believer and would readily admit that to you.

Jerry and Janet thanked me with tears streaming and said, "Thank you for being our pastor, for caring enough to tell us the truth, for getting on that soapbox."  Jerry went on to say, "Pastor Deanna, sadly enough our former church is going to be filled with a lot of  people after the second coming.  Those people know nothing of what's to come  and they might be as full after the rapture as they were before!"  Jerry wasn't saying this with a critical heart.  He said it in brokenness, weeping for lost souls.


I encouraged Jerry and Janet to meet with their former pastor and lovingly share concerns about this.   Jerry's response was that it's impossible to meet with their former pastor, even when they were members.  He said, "He comes to church after the service begins.  He is driven to the service by someone in the leadership team, comes in a different door every time and is escorted in by four people wearing earpieces who are the church "security team."  And, he is unreachable by phone or other means."  [sigh]  That's another blog for another day...

I told our church last week that one of my goals as a pastor is that when Christ returns, I want Celebration Church to be a desolate place, where not even ONE Celebrator can be found!  My goal is for our church to be totally void of even one person who calls CC their home, after the rapture.  I want people we owe bills to or others who need to find us to be in total bewilderment that they cannot find one person who knows anything about this place because WE ARE ALL GONE.  (Insert wild cheering here that occurred when I said this...)  There are many goals I have as a leader but none more important than my goal that everyone that Larry and I pastor make it to heaven.  What greater responsibility do we have as pastors?  I want these folks to be a success in life.  I want them to have peace on earth.  I want them to be free of fear, to have great marriages, great families, to love others.  I want them to be happy.  In spite of having all that in their lives and doing all these things if they miss heaven and hell is their eternal home these other things mean nothing.  

Pastors, please, I beg you -- don't shy away from preaching the truth of God's Word.  Care about your people enough to tell them the truth.  There's nothing we can do for the people we shepherd that shows more love and care than to make sure their souls are cared for, with their eternal destiny clearly addressed.  Every soul will live FOREVER...the question is...WHERE?

Thursday, May 12, 2011

So who are you gonna be today?

Oscar Wilde once said, "Be yourself!  Everyone else is already taken."  One thing I've discovered is that it's really exhausting to change depending on who you're with.  I have had to risk friendships or losing opportunities in order to be myself but it's not worth it to me to live any other way.

At times I've known if I answer truthfully I'm going to lose a friend, but chose to do it anyway.  It's really an easy choice for me now realizing how painful the alternative is.  What a miserable life trying to figure out who you're switching to be real quick so as to make sure you don't upset anyone.  In reality when you do that you upset the most important person of all. (God)


In Bible times merchants would sometimes keep rocks of different weights that were marked wrong, "scales" that were inaccurate when they saw certain buyers approaching.  If they knew these people had more money they would pull out a dishonest scale to charge them more.  In other words, they changed based upon who they were with, for personal gain, albeit short lived personal gain.  Proverbs 11:1 says, "The LORD abhors dishonest scales, but accurate weights are his delight."  

I realize I'm taking a risk by what I write at times .  I've lost people from my life because of what I've blogged though never intentionally.  It would never be my desire to hurt someone.  At the same time, I'm not willing to be anyone other than who God has made me.  Living free is not something I'm willing to negotiate.

A few years ago I got a call from a friend who pastors a church.  They were really upset and in the process of making a decision about possibly letting go of a staff member.  They wanted my opinion on what had taken place.  It's not uncommon for me to get calls like this for a number of reasons -- I'm a pastor, a pastor's wife, and a career coach and have lots of good friends and never mind making the time to listen or help if I possibly can.  On this day my friend was very upset because on their church's women's retreat over the previous weekend the youth pastor's wife did something my friend considered  "very inappropriate".  My mind could only imagine what they indiscretions were.  Imagine my shock when my friend shared with me that the youth pastor's wife had been in a hotel room at retreat with a bunch of ladies in the church and they were singing the song, "Brick House" and dancing!  (Gasp!!)

Next came the question from my friend:  "So Deanna...what would you do?  Would you fire a minister on staff for conduct like this by them or their spouse?"

I took a gulp, and knew I was probably getting ready to lose a friendship and also ministry opportunities.  You see this was a friend I also preached for several times before and had a very good relationship with but I could see the writing on the wall...

I said, "ummm...well, I guess this might be the time to confess to you that Brick House is on my IPOD, and is one of my favorite workout songs..."

I thought my friend was waiting for a lightning bolt to come down and strike me straight to hell.  They have very strong convictions about both "secular" music and dancing.

I said, "NO, please don't fire them!!  In fact give me their phone number so I can invite them to my next party or maybe even hire them..." 

I was honest with my friend, even knowing their convictions are a bit different from mine. And that's okay.  They appreciated my honesty.  We're still friends.  I've preached for them since.  I resisted the temptation to sing Brick House before asking the church to open their bibles that morning.

On another occasion Larry and I traveled many miles away to a wedding in another state.  The pastor and spouse (from another AG church) were there and are wonderful people who performed the wedding ceremony.  During the reception I was having a grand time just being me, enjoying all the festivities.  The pastor's wife of the church sat in the corner quietly and looked as if she wanted to join in the fun but held back.  She glanced at the people doing the Electric Slide with wistful eyes.  You could tell she was really wanting to join in with everyone else but she was afraid of what might happen if she did.   I was quite  sweaty and parched after doing a round of the Chicken Dance.  I got a cup of punch and sat down for a few moments to rest and she came over to talk to me and said, "You look like you're having so much fun, Deanna.  It must be so nice to NOT have your church people here..."  I knew this would probably depress her more but I told the truth.  I said, "Actually, I wouldn't change a thing if my church people were here!  I decided to be me a long time ago, and they accept me for who I am.  I decided a while back that being myself wasn't an option."

How about you?  Do you morph into someone you're not in order to keep relationships or opportunities?

I believe this is a hard but necessary question for all of us, especially in leadership.