Tuesday, January 31, 2012

3 Ways to Get Something Done When You Want to Run Away

Do you feel overwhelmed with what's on your plate? Are you depressed when you see things around you piling up?

Here, look at this person's kitchen:

Now...don't you feel better?


I've been at the place where I want to run away. At times my responsibilities feel so enormous I fantasize about crazy things. Don't worry, I'm not thinking of murder or abandoning my family or stuff like that.  Normally I dream of things like spontaneously taking off for a vacation with no prior planning, or living in a house so far in the woods, no one wants to come there.  Yes my friends, these are my wild fantasies.

When my imagination runs wild, most times it runs to a little cottage in the forest with a pointy roof.  Something like this...

As you can see, fancy is not the goal of this escape.

True story -- my daughter has a friend she goes to school with who lives so far in the woods I can't go there without getting horribly lost every time. I even get lost when the friend is in the car with us, instructing me on where to go! Seriously!  And it's so far back in the boondocks, my GPS loses a signal. It's maddening! So, I just made a rule that Savanna's not allowed to go there anymore. The girl has to come to our house every time if they are going to be friends. I know, that's probably one of the meanest things you've ever heard but honestly I don't have time to be getting lost in the woods all the time. For the sake of time management I just said, "Savanna, she has to come to us if you're going to be friends." (I know, I won't win Mom of the Year for that one.) Back on topic...

I have been so overwhelmed before that I let my mind drift to my little house in the middle of the woods that nobody can get to.  It has no phone access, but it DOES have WIFI.  Ha ha ha!!!

All this to say - I understand those of you who are dealing with a pile of stuff to do and aren't even sure where to start. May I offer these suggestions? Instead of escaping to my little house in the woods, I do this, and it works for me.

1)  Start with something close by, something small that will take you about 15 minutes to do. For me this is sometimes just cleaning off my kitchen counter.  Once you see that finished space, it gives you a sense of accomplishment and a little vim and vigor to do something else. Rarely do I stop with that 15 minute project.  I normally go on to do two or three other things before I call it a night.

2)  Put on some music as a backdrop if you are doing menial things that you don't have to concentrate on. Go to Spotify or Pandora and make a playlist of songs that encourage you. These resources are free, by the way. I use them every day.

3) Make a list of things you need to do.   Break it down into smaller increments - more specific than you thought it originally needed to be. For instance if you have two bathrooms don't just write "clean bathrooms" on the list. Make each bathroom a separate item on the list. If you have sermons to prepare don't just say, "write sermons". List each sermon separately.  Each time I cross something off my list it's an occasion to do a happy dance.

Remember my friends, anything you get done is better than doing nothing. You can't talk a ball over a fence! It's time for action. Take a step. Do one thing and let it lead to another. Then celebrate your accomplishment.

Monday, January 30, 2012

What do people think when the phone rings and it's YOU?

In your business, or ministry are people eager to take your calls or do you play endless phone tag?

Do people get excited when they hear your voice on the phone?

How quickly do people return your calls?

Do people want to help you? 

Are you the family member that makes other family members praise the Lord that caller ID was invented?

These are things you might want to think about.

Nobody's responsibilities are peachy 100% of the time. We all have parts of our job or our life that we may not enjoy as much. A lot of people procrastinate or put those things off, simply because they aren't looking forward to it. I'll admit, I do it too at times.

Today I had a draining call and after I hung up needed an Advil. And I thought to myself, "What's the takeaway from this? What can I learn from this?"

Rather than ruminate about the call and how I thought the other person should change, I decided to relate it to improving myself which is the best thing any leader can do. We can't change others but we can do something about ourselves. I thought to myself:

I want to be the voice everyone wants to hear on the other end of the line when the phone rings. When I call people I want them to do a little happy dance and go, OH. MY. GOSH. it's Deanna Shrodes on the phone!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This is the best thing to happen to me today!

I never want someone to avoid my call, or feel like they are getting a migraine when we hang up. You've heard of the morning after pill? Somebody should invent the after-the-phone-call pill. Pastors alone would keep the pharmaceutical company that creates it in business.

Seriously, now. Being a person who lights up somebody's phone world is possible. How do I know? There are people who do it for me. There are people who call me and I can't wait to hear what they have to say! I base this on all of our past conversations. This is doable. It's not just wishful thinking. 

I can be the voice everyone wants to hear when the phone rings. So can you.

Let's try it.

What would be possible in our lives, in our leadership if people couldn't wait to talk to us because it's just so darn pleasant?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Formula for change


It's really that simple.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

How are you different?

This is Steve Martin's business card.

It's different.

I really love it.  I've been considering what's going to go on my new business cards that I use exclusively for writing. This post yesterday was really timely in helping me to develop my ideas.

Different is good. The world has so much of the same. God didn't create you to just blend in.

Stop blending in and embrace different.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Why you need to SAY IT and say it now!

 If you think something and it has the power to increase someone in any way, say it now.

Say it today.

Say it to them.

Don't wait a second longer.

You never know how that word may affect them. It may bring healing to their soul. It may change the trajectory of their career. It may convince them to keep going with a worthy goal they considered giving up on. It may just save their life.

Say it, and say it now.  Text them. Tweet them. Facebook them. E-mail them. Stop by their house. Do what it takes, and do it now.

Lately when the Lord has brought a friend to my mind and impressed upon me to pray for them, I communicate with them right then while I'm praying. Sometimes it's at 3 am. I don't call and wake them up of course, but I send a message for them to find when they wake up. Many of them have told me it's one of the best thing that's ever happened to them. Others have said, "you have no idea how this changed the course of my week."

Don't just think about people.
Don't just pray about people.
Tell them.

Telling them means everything.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Struggling with wanting your own way all the time?

I believe most people's prayers are simply directed along the lines of how they want things to go. Prayers of total surrender aren't easy to come by. There are some things we don't need to pray about, because they are already spelled out in the Bible.  Other things aren't clearly stated and we have to seek the Lord as to His will.

What about the things we're not so sure about?

I've come to believe this.  True faith is letting God make the decision. Faith is not really faith if we just insist on having our own way in prayer and sound like a broken record telling God what we want rather than surrendering to what He wants.

True faith is believing that God will do what is best for me.

True faith is holding on to His promises, knowing that even if He makes the decision in a direction that is hard for me, I know He will see me through.

True faith is trusting God to make the decision, knowing He will strengthen, uphold and even carry me at times.

There are times that the things I juggle are so overwhelming I don't know that I'm going to do or how God is going to solve things. True faith is trusting Him to lead, guide, protect, heal, and intervene the way He sees fit.

True faith isn't believing that I'll get my way. It's trusting in the fact that He is good and will act on my behalf in just the way I need at the time.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

What I learned from Wife Swapping

Lately Larry and I have been catching up on past episodes of Celebrity Wife Swap. If you're not familiar with this show, what happens is that the wives exchange households for a week and experience what it's like to be part of another family. Those paired together are always opposites and provide a guaranteed opportunity for conflict. There are hilarious as well as heartwarming parts of every episode.

Without exception every wife is shocked by the way the other woman's home operates and how the family members relate to one another.  Usually they learn at least one positive thing from the other, while also discovering the weaknesses of each family unit. There are times a wife can't handle the differences, goes ballistic or has a crying jag and and quits.

There's something I've realized watching a bunch of these shows.  Every family has unique dynamics that would be seen as bizarre by others. Even if you're not a celebrity, you have these idiosyncrasies, I guarantee it!  My family has them too. Things like the fact that we all work best at night and it's nothing strange for any of us to approach someone else in the family to discuss a project or work on things together at 3 AM. We've got two huge dogs that are literally part of the family who are never in kennels while we're home. Max and Maddie live right alongside us, sometimes on top of us while we sit on the couch! In our house Larry cooks just as much as I do and he's really good at it.  We make our decisions as partners, and we have raised our children together in every sense of the word. (I've learned that many people don't. Even if there's a Dad in the home many view the kids as Mom's domain and she does most of the caring for them, and decision making regarding them.)  At home we live in PJ's.  When someone's coming over, we have to let everyone in the family know to get dressed, depending on who it is. We have some friends who are so close, we stay in PJ's even if they do come over.

This is insanity to some people, but it works for us. I could handle being on Wife Swap without melting down or quitting, but I don't want to. My life works for me although most wouldn't understand it or want it. That's one of the things I believe is most important when people consider how to handle all their roles and responsibilities well. If what you're doing works for you, don't worry about whether what you do would be accepted by others. They might not understand that you are a family with a stay-at-home-dad or that your family doesn't eat meat or that you sing the Doxology before every meal. It's your family. You're the only ones who have to understand it or live it. Go about your business and when somebody finds out one of your family idiosyncrasies and says, "you do WHAT?" resist the tendency to doubt yourself or feel lesser than.

Is it working for you? That's all that matters. Let it work.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Go cut a hole in the roof. I dare you!

Are you facing roadblocks on the way to your dream? 
God gives people creative ideas to get things done in an unconventional way. Think about the biblical account of the  four people who wanted to bring  their paralyzed friend to Jesus for healing,  but couldn't come through the door because the room was already so full.  They brainstormed to think of how their goal might be reached to get their friend to Jesus, and ended up cutting a hole in the roof and lowering him down to Jesus. It worked!

Maybe today you're in a situation where conventional things aren't working. You can't get through and when you try, you encounter "Catch 22's". Things like being told, "you've got a lot of talent but no experience."  You think, "How am I supposed to get experience if somebody won't give me a chance?"

You can stand there and get frustrated.
You can complain.
You can quit.
Or maybe...

it's time to cut a hole in the roof.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Typical conversations with my 20 year old

Friday afternoon 1/20/12
Standing in our kitchen at home

Jordan: Hey Mom, I'm soooo excited for tonight.

Me: What's going on?

Jordan: I'm going with Paul, Jorge and Hayden to see my favorite bands at the House of Blues in Orlando tonight.

Me: Which bands are these? The ones you go to where people get punched in the face while they're listening?

Jordan:  Yeah, yeah, but they're amazing. Tonight it's August Burns Red, Texas in July, Silverstein and Letlive.

Me: I will just never understand why anyone would want to go back to a concert where they get punched in the face...maybe you could explain this to me.

Jordan: Mom, mom, seriously... it's not about being punched in the face.  Some of these bands have an amazing message. You need to consider the lyrics.

Me: Be careful, Jordan. I get a little concerned with this hardcore stuff. Do you think this environment lends itself to people bringing drugs to these concerts? I'm thinking there might be some people smoking weed at the very least.

Jordan:  Mom, get real, people smoke weed at every concert. You've just never realized it.

Me: Every concert? Hmm.  That's strange. I've been to so many Gaither Homecomings and nobody  has smoked weed that I've seen.

Jordan: They do, you just don't see them.

Me: [eyebrows raised] Really? I had no idea. So you mean while the Gaither Vocal Band is singing "Let Freedom Ring" people get inspired to get free and smoke some weed?  

Jordan: Yeah, happens all the time. You just never noticed it.

Me:  I never knew that. Thanks for enlightening me. Well, I want  you guys to be careful tonight. Drive careful to and from Orlando, and stay away from the weed.

Jordan: Of course, of course.  I'm really hoping to get a picture with the drummers from August Burns Red and Texas in July and talk to them.

Jordan and Matt Greiner from August Burns Red

Me: I hope you do hon, that would be so great.

Saturday morning, 3:30 AM
Jordan walks in from concert wee hours of Saturday morning. Larry and I have waited up for him.  Huge smile on his face, so excited.

Jordan: Mom! I talked to both of them and got a picture!!  It was sooooo awesome. It was the best night ever!!!!

Me: Wait...first I need to know, did you get punched in the face?

Jordan with Adam Gray from Texas in July
Jordan: [sheepishly]Yeah, I did. See, I have a little bruise under my eye. It's alright though.

[I look at him and sigh, and shake my head - wondering how long it will take for the bruise under his eye to go away.]

Jordan: Yeah, it was awesome!!!  [Bouncing around the room while he talks] I can't wait to show you all my photos but my phone is dead.  I got to meet the drummer and talk to him about how he flips his sticks when he plays and how I learned to do that from him. It was so amazing!!!  He was like, "does your neck get cut when you flip your sticks?" and I was like, "yeah, yeah that happens all the time!" and he was like, "I hate when that happens" and I was like, "I know, right???!!"

Me: I'm glad you had such a good time. Let's go to sleep and we'll look at your pictures tomorrow.

Jordan:  Yep! Good night mom. Love you.

Me: Goodnight, babe. Love you too.

Saturday, 1:30 PM
I am sitting on my bed, with my laptop, still working on getting details wrapped up for Sunday's service. Jordan comes in, sits next to me on the bed.

Jordan: [groaning in pain]  Ughhhhhhhhhhhhh....

Me: What's wrong hon?

Jordan:  Whiplash.

Me:  From what?

Jordan: The concert last night. I'm so sore today. My neck hurts.

Me: Why? Sore from what?

Jordan:  I banged my head so hard to the music.

Me:  Oh.

Jordan:  Hey, my phone is charged now, so I can show you the pictures.

[I look at about thirty pictures and 3 videos he recorded on his iPhone of the bands performing.]

 Jordan: Look at this one.  It's Jake Luhrs from August Burns Red.  He's the frontman singing this song, Salt and Light.  On this one right here he's singing, "I’m the harbinger, not the author of these timeless words. Led by the Comforter I sing to you. And if my throat were to be cut from ear to ear, I hope that these words would carry on in these songs that I pray you sing one day. We sing for you. We sing for you. We sing for you. We sing for you. We sing for you. We sing for you. We sing for you. We sing for you."

Me: Wow, that's awesome. I'm glad you had such a good time but I'm sorry your neck is sore.

[Reaching over to rub his neck.]

Jordan: That's okay, it was so worth it.

Sunday 12:45 PM
In the car on the way to lunch after church. Jordan is listening to videos on his iPhone.

Jordan: Mom, listen to this...it's Jake Luhrs from August Burns Red giving his testimony.

Me: [laying back in my seat, exhausted after church on Sunday.] Okay...go ahead, turn it up. I'm listening.

Jordan:  [midway through video] Mom, are you awake?

Me: Yep. I'm listening. Just have my eyes closed...

[end video]
Me: Wow. That is really good. You're right Jordan, those guys are making a difference.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Be still and know

These are condensed notes from the message that I preached today at Celebration. I also expect this to go on our podcast sometime this week for anyone who has interest and might want to listen.

How long has it been since you’ve been still? 
I mean absolutely still and listening for God to speak to you?

I love stillness but have to be intentional about it.  I have a hate/hate relationship with my phone. 

Lately as I’ve been researching for a book I’m writing I have been reading a book entitled Mad Church Disease by Anne Jackson.   In it, Jackson writes about her journey of pastoral ministry and the burnout and breakdown she went through. She realized she was melting down after returning text messages in the shower. She felt so pressured and so many expectations to respond to people immediately that she  actually had her phone in the shower and was texting.   She ended up needing therapy to get back on the road to health.

Before we think this is so crazy, let's consider our own habits. I know when the WIFI is temporarily shut off on our CC campus during any given service, we have people go bonkers about it and run to the media booth asking what's wrong. God forbid we not be connected for a few moments. 

On December 29, 2011 the New York Times published this article entitled The Joys of Quiet. My friend Sue Duffield passed it along to me and I was really affected by it. This article speaks of the overwhelming noise in our world today and the great lengths people are going to get away from it and unplug. 

Is it wrong to be connected? Certainly not. There’s a place for it – not to mention it's a missionfield. In fact, last week I was privileged to have a part in leading two more friends to the Lord through Facebook. Technology is a wonderful thing, but we’re meant to rule it, not have it rule us.
We have to learn stillness. There is a balance.

Psalm 46:10-11 says, "Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth. The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress." 

We want God to be exalted in our lives. We want to feel He is “with us.” We want to feel that we are not alone, that He is protecting us, that we have a refuge, a fortress.

Many people feel God is not with them. Even on social media people cry out, “where is God in my life right now? Why is this happening?” I see these kinds of statuses every week from people who feel abandoned and alone.

I had a thought, maybe they’re not with God. That’s why they don’t feel God.

God always wants to be with us. But do we want to be with Him? 

If you feel like God’s not with you maybe you need to ask if you’re with Him!

The Word of God tells us to draw near to God and He will draw near to us.

This doesn’t mean we need to throw away our computer or TV’s or go to extremes. Ever been to a wacked out church where they tell you to get rid of your TV’s and shut off from the world completely? Yeah, that’s called a cult. 

Ecclesiastes 7:18 says, "It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other. The man who fears God will avoid all extremes."
God isn’t asking you to throw away your TV or your computer or your phone. But He is asking you to take time to get still before Him in quiet time, and to honor Him when His word is going forth corporately.

If we want God to share amazing things with us and do amazing things we have to set the atmosphere.

Consider Abraham. God stopped by Abraham's tent on the way to judge the wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah.  Can you imagine looking outside one day and seeing the Lord walk up to your door with two angels? If that happened to me I’d be calling to my husband and kids saying, “please, somebody wipe down the bathroom, quick!” Of course the Lord being omniscient would already know that it's dirty...

Abraham rushed out to meet the Lord and the angels, washed their feet and made them something to eat.  Abraham was faithful to God and honored and created the environment for God to speak countless times – set an atmosphere and so the Lord came and started telling Him things.  Now there’s an environment for communication.

When I tell my husband something unimportant I might shout it from the other room.  "Hey, do we have any paper towels in the cabinet?" This doesn't require looking into each other's eyes. When I am discussing something important about our relationship, our children, our church life, we have to be connected -- not running by or shouting from the other room.   

 How much more important is God?  We’ve got to set the atmosphere for His presence. We cannot just blend in with our culture and expect Him to follow us around as we run. Do we honor God’s presence?  I will answer that...

There is a lack of honor today for the presence of God. If you do not believe that watch all the people that talk to one another during a message or walk in and out  like they are at Target or Walmart during worship. There are dimensions of spiritual things that will never be revealed to the  apathetic worshipper. If we want something different in God we have to honor His presence, take time to stop, be still, seek His face and follow His leading into new levels of His presence.

There are “secret things of God” and He  longs to share them!! The amazing thing is that He doesn’t want to keep His secrets hidden. Any of us can discover them,  if we’re willing to take the time and be still. It’s not His heart to keep them hidden but He’s not going to share them with people who don’t honor His presence.

Some people think they are going to miss something if they abandon all else for getting still in God's presence. Not true. We get our best ideas, our best solutions, the answer to all we need in His presence.

Isaiah 40:31 "But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. 

When God wanted to speak to Moses in Exodus 3 He makes contact with him initially through a burning bush – an angel of the Lord appearing to him in a flame of fire from the bush. The bush burned with fire but was never consumed. Through it God started speaking directly to Him, telling him all kinds of things…telling him He had heard the cries of the people, telling him that He had called him to go and deliver them from their captivity. He told him he would lead them into a “good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey.”  

This was a powerful word he received, perhaps the most powerful thing ever communicated to him, but here is a major key, he had to turn to see it and then hear it. 

Exodus 3:3 "And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt."    

If we want to see and hear great things we have to STOP AND TURN ASIDE!!!

Will you set the atmosphere like Abraham? Will you take time to set the environment so you can hear the secrets He will share?
Will you turn aside like Moses? Will you turn aside and stop to hear the word that God wants to speak to you?

Will you take time to BE STILL AND KNOW that He is God in your life? If you're feeling like God's not with you or He has abandoned you rest assured, He's with you -- but ARE YOU WITH HIM?

Altar time was supposed to begin with this song...technology prevented it. God is still God. He is with us and brings about good things about even when the best laid plans go awry. God is Still God by Seth Nix came on instead. Not my first choice but all is well. :)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Frustrated? Time for a dance dance revolution!

Yesterday was my day off but with the way my schedule shook out this week I ended up pushing two  articles that were on deadline off until the last minute as well as three job seeker coaching sessions. That doesn't make for the best day of rest, but it couldn't be avoided this time. I worked on the articles late Thursday night after getting home from a district women's leadership meeting that I went to in Orlando early that morning. I kept nodding off as I was writing, I was so tired. This doesn't lend itself to creative writing.  I was upset with myself because my self-imposed deadline to get it done was Thursday night before bed. It just wasn't happening. I vowed to give the first moments of the day Friday to finish the articles before I did anything else.

I woke up and immediately began writing and was in perfect rhythm. Writers understand this -- it's the place of being where your fingers try to keep up with your thoughts and the words feel as if they are tumbling out effortlessly. I was on track to finish up before my coaching calls were scheduled to begin and then the interruption came that changed up everything. Normally I would verbalize my frustration to my family. But I'm trying many new things lately, and I know that often in life if we want a different outcome it's going to require doing something different. So I thought, why not respond to this irritation with something new? Maybe even something a little crazy. I said nothing and instead chose to do a wild dance in my nightgown, through the house. 

 So after this wild nightgown dance, the dogs were all charged up as well so I took them out to the back yard to go potty. While we were out there had a chat with both of them about being glad that they are neither mice nor men. ("The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry." ~ Steinbeck) The plans of women often go awry too. Dogs seem to do okay and come through relatively unscathed. No wonder people use the term "lucky dog."  After the mice and men speech with the dogs out in the yard, (You thought that was a joke? No, I really do have conversations with them like this) I took them back inside, and made a cup of Newman's bold coffee, settling back in to finish the two articles. After the coaching calls were done and I could finally take a few moments "off" Dustin came in and talked to me.

Dustin:  "So Mom, are you all done with your little insane dance or whatever that was this morning?"

Me:  "Yep. Did you like that? I was trying new things in life. Shaking up the routine. Would you prefer for me to verbalize my frustrations, or dance them out?"

Dustin:  "Um...neither one, quite honestly.  And if you're going to dance like that again you might want to at least consider adding some music."

Me: "Oh this dance needs no music, it's so revolutionary."

Dustin:  "Mom................ you're crazy." [Shakes head and walks away.]

"Some people never go crazy. What truly horrible lives they must live."  ~ Charles Bukowski

Friday, January 20, 2012

What makes you afraid?

"You don't write because you want to say something; You write because you have something to say."  
                                        ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald

So, you have something to say.

Are you saying it?

If not, why?

What makes you afraid about saying it? Identifying what makes you afraid is really important. When you identify your fears you can deal with them, and move on with the call to share what God has placed in your heart.

Sometimes fears are realistic, other times not. Whether or not, God never intended fear to stop us because fear is not of Him.

Just because fear is not of Him doesn't mean that some things we feared may never happen as we fulfill the call. Sometimes we will face giants and mountains but God never intended a giant or a mountain to stop us.  That's why He gives us the keys of the Kingdom to move mountains and defeat giants.

I have learned that God's grace covers me even when fears about facing a giant or a mountain come true.  Even when I face these things it's much better to walk through that which I previously feared with His grace covering me, than live with the regret of knowing I didn't fulfill my purpose.

I will say it. And I will not fear. The Lord is with me.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

When they try to suppress you

Years ago when I was first starting out in the ministry an older minister took me aside and sternly said these exact words:

"Deanna, if you're ever going to be successful in the ministry you're going to have to learn to suppress yourself."

I knew what the word suppress meant but just to get a fuller picture I went home and looked it up in the dictionary.  


verb (used with object)
to put an end to the activities of (a person, body of persons, etc.): to suppress the Communist party.
to do away with by or as by authority; abolish; stop (a practice, custom, etc.).
to keep in or repress (a feeling, smile, groan, etc.).
to withhold from disclosure or publication (truth, evidence, a book, names, etc.).
to stop or arrest (a flow)

After this comment was made I quickly decided to suppress anything that person ever said to me again by stopping it at my ears and never letting it get into my spirit.

God never saved anyone to suppress them. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Why it's good to speak up, even if it gets you killed

When you take a risk and share your heart you run just that, a risk.

Sometimes when you share your heart you lose everything.

Who knows but that such an unsettling event might be the catalyst that moves us to make the mark we are called to make on the world?

Yesterday a friend in ministry said to me, "Deanna, you are a voice, not an echo." That put some things in perspective for me. 

I'm really excited right now about a few things I've written that are getting ready to be published that for me are revolutionary. One is an article that I was requested to write and it's very edgy. It's pushing the limits for sure. Perhaps even disconcerting, but a message that is desperately needed. I can hardly wait to see it in print but more than that I can hardly wait to see what changes it may bring about in some people's lives. The other is the current book I'm working on. With every day I become more impassioned about the message. Yesterday I shared with a friend that I've never heard anyone say what I'm about to say. Now, that can be dangerous! Usually when I hear someone say they are getting ready to preach or write something nobody else has ever heard I'm thinking heresy or kookiness. Never fear. What I have to say is neither heretical nor kooky, but it is courageous. It's a timeless message with a new creative and courageous face. 

Sharing your heart can bring huge repercussions.I can even get you killed but the thing is, your voice will ever be immortalized for everyone to hear if that happens. If you doubt that just think of Martin Luther King or John F. Kennedy.

No one will ever truly silence a voice unless they give up or give in. You may lose your paycheck, your car, your house,  your job, your friends, your family or even...your life. Your blood will cry out from the ground.

The only one who can really silence a voice is the one who speaks. God will never silence what He has requested in the first place.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

An inside look at WHY many pastors DON'T share their heart...

Yesterday I posted something my friend Gary Boggess from church wrote about the reasons he's glad he's not a pastor. If you didn't read that post it's necessary to read that one to understand this one so if you missed it you might want to go there.

A lot of people responded on facebook to that post, in fact right now it's up to 28 comments on two facebook pages although no one commented here on the actual blog site.  Other pastor-friends and their wives wrote to me privately to give their thoughts since they felt they could not safely post their thoughts publicly.

All church people who posted comments were of the belief that pastors should be free to speak their mind like anyone else. Several of our Celebration Church members shared their appreciation for how I do speak boldly on certain issues and they encouraged me to never hold back. I appreciate that. 

I want to follow up today and to try to bring greater understanding as to why many pastors do hold back.  My husband, for example, rarely "shares his heart." You see, it's not as simple as, "just share what's on your heart and let the chips fall where they may." Chips can hurt. They can hurt A LOT. 

Let me preface this by saying some will think this is over the top. Think again. Sadly, I know people personally that all of these things apply to. Some of them apply to me. I could give names and locations, but would never betray a sacred trust of a friend and colleague. (All names below have been changed.)

God fearing men and women will not hold back in preaching on the power of the cross or salvation, or the core doctrines of scripture. But many stay silent on most everything else. Let's peel back the curtain and find out just a few reasons why. If some pastors or their wives could talk without repercussions, they would tell you this:

I shared my heart...and five families have left the church.

I shared my heart...and now I can't make my mortgage payment.

I shared my heart...we are now losing our health insurance.  My wife has breast cancer. We don't know how we're going to pay for her treatment.

I shared my heart...and now I've been betrayed.

I shared my heart. The Bricker family is very upset about it. Jim Bricker talked to me last night and told me his wife is upset and doesn't want to come to our church anymore after I shared what I just did. I can work through this myself but it was hard to hear my 10 year old cry herself to sleep last night.You see, Ashley Bricker is her best friend and last night at church she told my daughter they were leaving and they wouldn't be able to play together anymore.

I shared my heart.  This morning when I woke up I opened my e-mail I received the most hateful letter. Most people think this person who is a long time member of our church is so godly. They would be shocked to read this letter, I've been verbally cut to shreds. I won't share it with anyone but my wife, because I play fair even when our people don't. Sometimes I don't even share those letters with my spouse. She takes it harder than I do and sometimes it's easier for me to shield her from things that I can protect her from.

I shared my heart. Today when I got to the office the secretary let me know the district superintendent was on the phone for me. It was the first call of the day. He called to let me know somebody had contacted the district office about me sharing my heart. He was compassionate and didn't agree with my accuser. He prayed with me about the issue, but it still hurts that it ever happened.

I shared my heart. The board meeting didn't go so well the other night. This week I've been having terrible chest pains.

I shared my heart.  We're losing our house.

I shared my heart. Some people have de-friended me on facebook but they are posting about me in an unkind way on the pages of many members of our church.   Some of this is not overt where other members of the church would pick up on it...status updates like, "We miss you but we sure do loooooove our new church and our new pastor! God is sooooo good. Would love to see you soon...visit sometime? First A/G service is at 10:00."

I shared my heart. Unfortunately it had to do with a leader who is one of the kids' Sunday School teachers. Now in class my son is singled out unfairly in every class. The other Sunday when we came home he was crying and said, "Dad, I just don't want to go to church anymore." He's beginning to associate church with pain and that hurts my soul...

I shared my heart. I have no idea how we're going to buy groceries this week.

I shared my heart. The sanctuary looks so empty now.

I shared my heart. At least my wife and my dog are still on speaking terms with me.

I shared my heart. This past week I had my second heart attack. The doctor says I really need to consider a career change to something that isn't so stressful. 

I shared my heart. Some people in the church said I need to be more transparent, open up and tell what's really on my mind. Now those same people are circulating a petition about me.

I shared my heart...and was asked to leave. I have no idea where we're going to go.  

I shared my heart.  I told the congregation some of my thoughts about the political climate we are currently in, briefly mentioned the election and preached boldly about making Godly choices based upon Christian values. The church just lost our 501c3 status.

Monday, January 16, 2012

"I am soooo glad I'm not a pastor..."

My friend Gary Boggess from church sent me a private e-mail the other day and among other things had this (below) to say.
As a believer, I am soooo glad I am NOT a pastor. I can speak my mind... mention something I heard about, quote from anything, copy and paste unpopular Bible scriptures as I feel led to. I can disregard being politically correct and speak directly to-the-point whether it brings laughter or serves as a needed suggestion or painful reminder. I can risk being right or wrong in order to speak my honest opinion. I can be blunt if needed, or rebuke whatever I feel needs rebuking without being worried that I'm stepping on a parishioner's (a giver's) toes. I can raise a flag, sound an alarm and generally do anything God puts on my heart to do without having to apologize, hide, duck or sanitize it to the degree my inteneded contribution is rendered so vague, that I have to pray that I successfully make a point at all. THANK GOD I am not a pastor in America today!!!"

When he said this to me I thought, "that's something people need to hear." So I asked him, "Gary, can I publicly share that on my blog?" He said, "sure!" 

I think this is a very interesting comment.


Sunday, January 15, 2012

A day with a special touch...

Today was such a blessed day. The presence of God was  strong as usual at Celebration and we also had special guests with us today ~ missionaries Joe and Ann Trementozzi, and their daughter Beth Ann of Special Touch Ministry. The Trementozzi's are US Missionaries to people with disabilities and their families. they create awareness in the church at large to the need of reaching this population with compassion and giving to them an adequate witness of the gospel of Jesus.

The people really responded to their ministry with quite a number of folks making a connection to get involved in their Special Touch Getaway. We're real excited about our people being a part of this.

I had the privilege of taking Joe and Ann to lunch. Their daughter had plans with some other friends who had come along, and as for our family it was just me. Dustin and Savanna had fine arts rehearsal and Larry and Jordan were blessed with tickets to the Penguins hockey game today.

I took our guests to lunch at one of my favorite spots, The Red Elephant. They absolutely loved it. The manager seems to be super impressed with how many first time guests I've brought to Red Elephant. He came out and talked to us for a while. We're cooking up something special for the Red Elephant and Celebration Church. (More details to come later!)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

To create new, do new

I asked myself this question this morning when I saw this on a friend's facebook page.

And I immediately shifted gears, put everything else aside and pursued the greatest dream of my heart.

How does it feel? Wonderful.

This post by Seth really affected me this week too.

I acted upon my dreams this morning and moved forward in creating a different outcome. What can you change for a different outcome?

Friday, January 13, 2012

Some people will never understand this...

And that's okay. Just let us be as we lavish love upon the fur-kids of the world.

It doesn't mean we don't care about people. We do care. In fact most of the people I know who are great pet lovers are also the greatest philanthropists.

If you're not a dog lover, you might not understand the overwhelming intensity that many of us felt about Tank's reunion this past week. You might think we've lost our marbles. That's okay, we think you've lost your heart. ;) 

Before I go on with this post, let me say that we were delighted that CBS 10 posted the video and article about Tank and his Celebration Church reunion yesterday. Click here to watch it. (But then come back!)

If you haven't realized it, there is a revolution in America about dogs.

Dogs have always been loved and known as the most loyal companions ~ "man's best friend". But things have gone way beyond this. Dogs aren't just dogs or friends anymore. They are family members. Wake up and smell the dog treats if you haven't already!
There are approximately 78.2 million owned dogs in America. The majority of dog owners have more than one dog. Most dogs today don't have names like the ones people named their dogs years ago -- things like Spot or Fido. The majority of dogs today have "people names" that sound more like a kindergarten roster.  For a list of the most popular ones in 2011, go here. You'll find the list filled with names like Bailey, Bella, and Sophie. Interestingly, Max is #2 on the list. People tend to name their dogs today as if they were naming another child.

I have had a few friends think I was a few fries short of a happy meal when it comes to how I feel about Max & Maddie.  Where do I even begin? I don't like being away from them. Even on vacation! Until we have the appropriate "babysitter" selected, I'm concerned. By the last day of vacation I feel like if I have to go one more day without seeing them I just might pop!

I think about them all the time. I have countless photo and video of them on my iPhone that I look at when I'm out of town traveling and have been known to show them to anyone from hotel clerks to servers at restaurants. I Skyped with the dogs when I was on my last Africa missions trip.   Coming home to my "babies" is the highlight of my day and snuggling up even better. 

Max and Maddie affect my health in a positive way. There are times I can literally feel my blood pressure come down when I am interacting with them.  An article in the Washington Times confirms the powerful physical affects of pet ownership: "Studies show that pet owners have improved cardiovascular health and immunity to diseases. If a majority of U.S. households had a pet, America could save $790 million and $1.5 billion in health care costs, according to a study by the National Institutes of Health."

I'm not alone in my thoughts. I'm just one of millions who believe this way. Read this insightful article from TIME to get an idea of how much times have changed.  If you really want to go a level further, read this.

Just yesterday my boss called me for the sole reason of giving me a praise report about her cat, Calypso! This is not odd to either one of us or to many other people who also pray for their pet's health concerns.

Last year our church did a prayer outreach in the community where we went to many houses in in the neighborhoods surrounding the church and prayed for people in their homes. When we came back to the church to compare notes we asked what our teams noticed most. One of the things that came up with every single team was that almost every home we visited had a dog and most had more than one. Even if the people weren't home when we knocked on the door, we could hear the dogs barking.

People who have pets as a real part of their family realize why it was so important for us to see Tank safely home.

God cares about our pets.

Lives have been changed by Tank being reunited with his family. I'm so blessed to have been a part of it.

I thank God every single day for my fur-kids. I am so blessed to be a bulldog Mom.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

And yet another lesson from Tank's miracle

Barbara Lynn let us know that she took Tank to the vet yesterday and he received a clean bill of health!  Praise the Lord.

What does this show? The mercy and grace of God.

A dog, out in the wild, fending for himself for almost a year...

Not only does he survive, but he comes out of the journey with no broken bones, no worms, no diseases.

Like the 3 Hebrew young men, he has come through the fire, not even smelling like smoke!!!  Somebody give a shout NOW!

Our God is so good.

I think of a lot of things that could have happened in my life, but didn't. It was only because of the grace and mercy of God that I'm standing today! 

He's taken me through many dangers, toils and snares! Like Tank, he's taken me through the storms and the dark of night. If it had not been for the Lord on my side...

Listen to this, one of my favorite songs today and think about how good God has been to Tank, to you and me.

Your grace and mercy brought me through...
I'm living this moment because of You...
I want to thank You, and praise You too...
Your grace and mercy brought me through.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Lesson from Tank's miracle

 Last night Tank's reunion was shown on Fox News 13 and CBS 10 News. As soon as links go up online I will post them here and on my facebook page. I cried all over again last night watching the CBS interview. They shared that last month the family put Tank's Christmas stocking up, hoping that he'd return even though it had been 10 months.  

The thought occurred to me that Barbara Lynn and her family may not even have realized how precious Tank was until they lost him for 10 months. A lot of things are that way in life. Like one of my mentors, June Coker says, "They don't miss the water til' the well runs dry."

Beth, the reporter from CBS, spoke to my husband off to the side last night and said, "Pastor, you have awesome people here!"  Larry told her that we know just how blessed we are and are so thankful.

Once again I am reminded of just how amazing the people who surround us are. I can't even describe the feeling that I had when Donna pulled up in her car with Tank. As they rounded the corner into the parking lot, Tank had his paws on the dashboard, wide eyed and expectant, tail wagging as the people clapped and cheered his arrival. Mike opened the car door and transferred the leash from Donna to Barbara Lynn while Georgia, one of our celebrators, put a little kerchief on Tank that she had specially made for him that has a "map" on it. (So he never gets lost again.) It was just precious.

Most everyone including Beth from CBS stayed until it got dark outside. At one point the cameras were already put away in vehicle but Beth said, "we need to get the cameras out again!" because the outpouring of love just continued. Out they came and she began taping again.

Tank got so many hugs, kisses and even notes of love from the children, I lost count. Barbara Lynn got countless invitations to church. Beth gave me her card and said, "whenever there's anything else happening at this church, please give me a call." Dinah, one of our Celebrators said, "Well Beth, we'd be calling you all the time because this is a church of constant miracles!"

I recently heard it said that one must never take your blessings for granted or what you are granted gets taken. 

 Do you recognize the blessings that you are surrounded with?