Saturday, March 31, 2012

Help people. It works.

Yesterday was our day off and I started out by sleeping in until noon. No, I'm not kidding. I am usually so tired that on my day off I often don't wake up until afternoon.  When I just allow myself to sleep and don't set the alarm, there is no telling what time I will wake up. The bummer of this is that half the day is gone but the upside is, I really do need the rest.

Once I woke up and showered, Savanna was walking in the door from school. She's used to this whole mom-moving-really-slowly-on-Fridays thing and is not at all surprised when she gets home and sees that I am just waking up and starting my day. 

We spent the evening in Tarpon Springs with Jordan and Savanna. This is one of our favorite things to do as a family.

We eat at Hellas.


It's the best place to eat there. I get the same thing every time. A small greek salad, moussaka,and greek vegetables. Then we walk around in the shops for about an hour and stop back at Hellas for a dessert. Usually I get a cherry napoleon or baklava. Yesterday I had both since Savanna didn't want her last two bites of baklava. For anyone who's wondering, I counted every one of the calories on My Fitness Pal, and it was all legal. ::smile:: Fitness Pal is what Larry and I use in our weight loss efforts. I'm really proud of him. Since he started last year, he's lost almost 50 pounds. I'm working hard on catching up with him.

We saw this sign at a store we visited:



Savanna and I walked down the street to shop and while in a small shop where we looked at jewelry and clothes, I suddenly had to use the restroom. Bad. But there were no public restrooms in the vicinity. I told her to stay in the store until I came back, and planned to walk all the way back down to Hellas, since I had just made a purchase there, and they have restrooms.

The store owner heard me tell Savanna to stay put until I came back. And she said, "M'am...we have a private restroom, but I'll let you go here."   She explained this was a rare thing because their restroom is not set up for customers and doubles as a storage room. She was embarrassed about the mess, but wanted to help me. I could have cared less about the mess and appreciated her offer.

When I came out of the restroom I whispered to Savanna that we were definitely going to buy something there simply because of the lady's kindness. I asked her if she had seen anything she absolutely loved and sure enough, she had her eye on a charm bracelet.  

Making the bracelet purchase was not on my radar before walking in there. But once the lady helped me, I felt compelled to do something.

It's now on my schedule to go back and purchase two more charms from the same store for Savanna's birthday next month.

Come to find out, the owner of the store has a second home in Citrus Park, FL. This isn't too terribly far from our church. Savanna had a conversation with her about Celebration and invited her. By the time I came out of the restroom, she was requesting directions to the church and I gave her a business card.

Helping people really is the key to so much.  Sure, it's the "right thing to do" but if most people realized what a chain of events they can set off if they simply just help people, they'd be surprised.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Lessons Learned from Whitney Houston's Toxicology Report

Turning the television volume all the way up in my bedroom, I quickly dashed to the bathroom, leaving the door open, so I could pee after holding it for almost four hours.

I didn't want to miss even one moment of the Whitney Houston Homegoing service. Like millions around the world, I was practically glued to the television that Saturday morning, taking in every moment of the service, from Kevin Costner’s unforgettable remarks to Bishop Marvin Winans powerful message. 

My TV was so loud it drowned out the sound of the flushing toilet and water swishing in the sink as I washed my hands. Drying them and running back to the TV, I  managed to keep a watchful eye online. Friends in other countries were posting status updates on Facebook. They were tuning in as well, and gave a running commentary on the service. Without exception all of us remarked that the tears were streaming down as I Will Always Love You began to play and Houston’s casket was wheeled down the center aisle of the church

Cissy Houston’s bold decision to have the funeral at New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, NJ brought the whole world to church that day.

Being a long-time fan, I have every project Houston has ever recorded and a DVD of every movie she’s made. Her music was the soundtrack to my teenage life. Perhaps this is why her and Michael Jackson's deaths were both so unsettling to me.  Their music means so much to our generation.

Along with countless others, I prayed prayers that she would win the battle against her demons, as she called them. In a 2002 interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer, Houston said of her struggles, “The biggest devil is me. I’m either my best friend or my worst enemy.”

Like many others, I was hoping against hope that when the toxicology report came in it would reveal no current drug use as the reason for her death. I really believed her when she said she was clean in the last interview she did with Oprah Winfrey. All of us who were fans wanted so much to believe. But on March 23 we all learned the truth – cocaine and heart disease were responsible for her accidental drowning in the bathtub at the Beverly Hilton.

An outspoken Christian, Houston shared openly and often about her faith, and about her weaknesses as well. Some Christians and non-Christians alike questioned the validity of Houston’s faith if indeed she perished from drug abuse. It was only hours after her death that I began to get private messages from a few of our church people asking my thoughts about this.  I also noticed that my facebook newsfeed was full of comments from people of all walks of life, regarding where they thought she might have ended up. Everyone had an opinion, that's for sure.

Here's what I believe. Addictions do not determine one’s faith or lack thereof, nor can they be used as absolute proof of one’s eternal destiny. However, they do rob us of our quality of life. And, if the battle against addiction is not won, it can take our very life, as evidenced by Houston’s death.

Millions myself included grieve that we will never hear her voice live again on earth, that there will be nothing new from “the voice,”... the “National Treasure” as Oprah Winfrey calls her. What can we do now beyond the grief, and extending prayers to Houston’s family?

We can learn.

It was jarring to me that Houston was only a few years older than me when she passed away. Although my kids think I’m ancient, they’re mistaken. These days, life for many in their forties and fifties is just starting, as people often enter into the greatest season of their lives and careers. This recent post by Seth Godin echoes many that declare that fifty is the new thirty. Houston was just 48.

I don't do cocaine. But I have some demons of my own. I have always struggled with eating habits that could lead to my demise if I don’t get them under control and keep them there. This coupled with a habit of allowing an unhealthy level of stress to exist have always been my “”demons” if you will.

We need to do more than gossip, grieve, shake our heads with a tsk tsk, or say, “I told you so” to the toxicology report. Let’s learn.

My takeaway from the loss of Houston is that I don’t want to lose the battle with my own demons. And the thing is, like Houston, we have a choice. 

We can confront personal demons or deny them.

We can ask God for help, or we can refuse what He has to offer.

We can invite those in our inner circle to help us, or we can go it alone.

Each of us is a gift to the world – a treasure to those who surround us in our circle of influence. How tragic it would be for our quality of life, or our very lives to be taken from us because we allowed our demons to win?
The greatest love of all
is easy to achieve
learning to love yourself
it is the greatest love of all
Houston lost the battle with her demons.


Love yourself enough to win yours.

Fight back.

Fight some more.

Don’t give up!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Praying in his new year...

What's a better birthday gift than a bunch of friends surrounding you and praying a powerful prayer over your life?


It's better than chocolate cake...although that was really good. :)

 Sisterly speeches are good too...

and so are sisterly hugs. 

Brotherly thoughts are good too...

and the blessing of Dad is incomparable...

Thank you, Lord, for another year...

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

"Hey Mom, I just invited 174 people..."


Tonight we're having a celebration of Jordan's 21st birthday after the service at Celebration. I prayed that we'd just make it to 18 with Jordan, things were so precarious at times. And here we are at 21! God is so good! What an amazing son he is.

If you're wondering what I'm talking about when I say things were precarious, go here. Especially if you are a frustrated mom, please do yourself a huge favor and read it.

If you are a worried Mom, let me encourage you today with this:

  • God makes no mistakes.
  • He knew what He was doing to give you the specific children He gave you.
  • LOVE them. It works. More than anything, LOVE them. Openly, unconditionally, radically...LOVE THEM! Show affection, give words of love, blessing and encouragement.  Ooze love for those babies even when they are not babies anymore.
Just one of the many ways I show my love to my kids is by making their favorite foods.  Jordan's favorite cake is chocolate. This is the cake we're having tonight:


You can find the recipe for it here. 

This cake is so good it would make a tadpole slap a whale!!

I made four of them for tonight. Yes, count 'em, FOUR. They are HUGE,  each one of them the equivalent of two full sheet cakes. I made four instead of the two originally planned because last night Jordan told me he invited 174 more friends at the last minute.

This is part of being a Mom. You loooooooove your kids even though they tell you at the last minute that they have invited 174 additional people you didn't know about to a party.


I know, I know... they probably won't all come. 

But what if they all did?

It could by some miracle happen, and I believe in miracles.  Like the fact that my son who was on the roof of McDonalds at two years old is still alive today.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The lost Mom

Last night I went for a walk with a friend that was supposed to be about an hour but ended up to be much longer. We ended up going to her house to talk afterwards. I didn't really worry because Larry had taken Savanna to the Pirates spring training game, Dustin was working at the hospital, and Jordan was at the beach with his friends. I thought I'd be home long before any of them got back so I didn't bother to leave a note or anything but I did tell Larry I was going walking with a friend.

Jordan got back earlier than I did. He went through the house and saw that I was no where to be found, then called his Dad to ask where I was. Larry told him I had gone for a walk much earlier. Jordan got concerned and left and started looking through the neighborhood for me. He called my phone numerous times but I never got any of the calls because in our neighborhood they most often drop.

Twelve calls never went through. My phone never rang even once.

He went on his longboard throughout the whole neighborhood looking for me. In the midst of his frustration he saw a white conversion van approaching. He put up his hands in the middle of the street to stop the van and when the driver rolled down the window, he said to him, "I'm looking for my Mom. Have you seen any women walking around?" The man said no and Jordan said, "Listen, my Mom is missing. Do you mind if I check the back of your van?" (Yes, seriously!) The guy said, "Ummmmm....she's really not in here but sure, you're welcome to look...

He did.

Obviously I wasn't in there, but Jordan wasn't taking any chances.

Moments later after making the 13th call on his phone, he finally got ahold of me. I told him I was at the friend's house, two miles away. He said, "I'm on this street right now, looking for you! You've got me worried sick!"

I apologized profusely. 

Two seconds later he was at the door and walked in to the friend's kitchen and hugged and kissed me and told me he was so glad I was okay.

I was so touched and realized once again just how blessed I am.
 
Jordan and me, dancing by the Christmas tree, December 2011

Monday, March 26, 2012

Heroes Among Us

Tom and Phyllis Benigas were with us yesterday in service at Celebration.

They served as our Assemblies of God Pen-Florida District Youth Directors for 24 years, and are now headed to Europe on the missionfield. It was such a blessing to have them share about their new direction, as well as have Tom preach. Many people received a touch from God at the altars at the conclusion of the service. Phyllis's book was such a hit they ran out of them and had to go get another box from the car to make available to the people! I began reading it this morning and it's just wonderful. 

The best thing for Larry and I was the opportunity to publicly thank them for all they have invested into our kids. They have invested in all of Pen-Florida's kids for 24 years, but I am particularly grateful for what they have poured into our three children.

My husband shared with the church that there was a time in his life that Dustin was really hurting and in need of healing. He had experienced mistreatment from a few members of another church we pastored. It was Tom and Phyllis' ministry that really made the difference in his life. (Read Dustin's story here about his healing. He wrote about it in this essay for college.) Today, Dustin is no longer a hurting young man. He is serving in ministry and touching countless lives himself.

 Year after year the Benigases gave tirelessly to make youth and PK camp life changing experiences for our kids, and reached out to them through e-mail and facebook and all sorts of ways, to encourage them. They still always hear from them on their birthdays.

It is important to give honor to whom honor is due. I'm so glad we had this opportunity. Pray for Tom and Phyllis as they fulfill their mission to Europe.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

I can't wait for today...

to see who is going to come to Celebration Church for the first time.

I wonder if I'm going to smell like pot again when the service is over?

Today we have Tom and Phyllis Benigas, missionaries to Europe, with us as our guest ministers.  They were our Pen-Florida district youth directors for the past 24 years and now they are going on the missionfield. We are all very excited to have them with us today, and also looking forward to our "Raise the Roof" fundraiser after the service, which is to raise funds to do new construction on our youth and children's wing. It's gonna be a great day! 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Are you just hanging on for dear life?

"I wish I could just follow you around..."

Someone said this to me last night after I preached at a regional women's event at Victorious Life Church. 

The truth is, if they followed me around this week they would have just found me hanging on for dear life. Have you ever felt that way? That you were just praying that God would help you get to the next day?

Not many people in the audience last night, if anyone, would have guessed that this past week I have struggled through daily headaches, elevated blood pressure, and a work agenda that took me until after midnight each night to accomplish. In spite of all that God was so good to us last night. Whenever I get up to speak, I wonder why anyone ever invited me. Every single time I ask, "why am I here?" It blows my mind that people show up. I never lose the wonder of being asked to share. I walk through the door when someone invites me in. Then the Lord shows up and does really cool things. There is nothing better than God doing cool things.

As far as "following me around"some people have done that but they quickly get disheartened when I just put them to work.In fact, it's kind of a joke around Celebration that I will even put a visitor to work. If somebody's standing around I say, "here, I have a job for you..." Nobody stands around for long if they are with me because I don't have the luxury of standing around.

Some people have a glamorous view of ministry but can I just tell you that I prayed a desperate prayer this week?  My prayer was that God would just "get me to Saturday."   Last night when we got home I collapsed into my husband's arms in the kitchen and he said, "what's wrong?" I said, "you know I've just been praying that God would just get me to Saturday" and he looked up at the clock and quipped, "well, you have 45 more minutes..."

There are people praising God for all kinds of things big and small today and the truth of it is, I praise Him that on this Saturday morning, I'm here all in one piece. I confess that I haven't managed all of my responsibilities very well this past month between my multiple jobs although I've tried. There are so many times people ask me, "how do you do it all?" and I say that at times, I don't and have to let some things go.  I want you to know that's not just poppycock. I really mean it.

People think I'm just letting go of jobs like polishing silverware. No. I wish!

Want proof? Here you go.

My house has not been dusted in weeks.

While Larry and I were away last week the kids had people over and somebody wrote, "yo, yo, clean me" with their finger in the dust.

I'm too tired to be embarrassed.

But finally today...I will dust.

Just wanted to give a dose of reality to those of you who think I'm just being nice when I console you about not getting everything done that you want to get done.

And it doesn't make you a terrible person.
Nor a person out of God's will.


When I think of the people who were touched this past month and remember tears at the altar, and hearing, "I'll never be the same again..." what's a little dust? Or even a lot...lol   

And with that said...people often ask me what I'd do if I came into money or wrote a million dollar best seller. There is no question. I'd hire someone to clean.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Hunger Games Premiere Worth the Wait

Why would people go to a movie hours ahead of time and sit and wait in a dark movie theater? Those who have never read The Hunger Games books may wonder about this. In fact, I know people are feeling that way. I've already received e-mail from a friend this morning asking, "what's the deal with this movie? I saw what you wrote about it last night on Facebook. Explain it to me..." (They were not criticizing, simply wanting information to see if it was something they should read or see with their kids.)
 
After working very late every night this week trying to catch up on work, I topped off my exhaustion by fulfilling a promise to go to The Hunger Games premiere with my family. It was a promise I was excited to keep. Although really tired, I was never tempted doze off during the movie. Having devoured the books after my son nagged me into reading them, I was counting the days for this moment! 

I thought we would leave at 11 pm to go over to the theater which was one all the way across town, but I was mistaken. Dustin informed me we would have to leave several hours earlier to get a decent seat. Although we purchased our tickets weeks ago, I soon found out that good seats were another issue altogether. Why were we at a theater all the way across town? Because the two closest to us were already completely sold out of tickets many weeks ago!

We left at 9 pm and by the time we got to our theater some of the them were already filled. The one we were originally assigned to be in was filled so we were sent to another one -- yes, three hours early!

Upon entering the room we were pleased to get seats in the row we normally like to sit in at movies, and we were surrounded by a plethora of middle schoolers who were absolutely bouncing off the walls. I'm only slightly exaggerating. Some of them were shouting, singing, dancing, laughing, even playing charades...anything to pass the time for three hours. I caught up with mail on my iPhone since I was still behind on things and catching up.

Finally the movie started. I felt my pulse quicken I was so excited, and during various parts of the movie I found myself anxiously gripping the sides of my chair, although I already knew what was coming.  

I laughed. I cried. Silently.

The girls behind us weren't so silent. The sobbed aloud during several parts of the movie.  Afterwards, Jordan said, "Mom, those sobbing girls behind me were getting on my nerves sooooooo much."  I explained to him, everybody responds differently.  

The theatre full of people burst into applause at the conclusion.

It was worth the wait, for sure.

Most of all the family time = priceless.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Why I smelled like pot this past Sunday

Midway through the service on Sunday as the announcement videos were playing I thought I'd lean over on the platform and ask my son Dustin (who serves with us in ministry) how his morning was going. Both of us had been up super early working on things for the service. We made it through an early morning rehearsal and then Christian Education hour but had hardly said two words to each other.  Now we were in our usual spots right next to each other on the platform and I leaned over, gave him a hug and said, "how ya doin' this morning, babe?"

Dustin pulled back, gave me a strange look and he said, "ahhhhhh,Mom...did you wear that dress when you were in the Bahamas this past week?" I said, "no, it's a clean dress that I took out of my closet this morning." 

His eyes were big and he seemed somewhere between alarmed and amused and said, "Mom...you smell like pot. So strong Mom, it's really overwhelming." 

"What? Are you SERIOUS?"

"Yes, I'm totally serious. You reek Mom, like pot."

"Wow. I dunno Dust...that's strange. I have no idea why I would smell like pot."

So at this point I was wondering what in the world was going on because I did not smoke pot, nor do I ever. (It's not just a matter of not "inhaling," LOL!) So I conferred with others who confirmed that I smelled and came to the conclusion of what must have taken place. 

Immediately prior to service, I had gone up to the CE building and used the restroom, then came back down through the foyer, cafe and breezeway on my way into the sanctuary, stopping to hug a whole bunch of people and greet them their way in to the service. This included long-time members, visitors, new folks, all sorts of people. Then I headed to my spot on the platform where church was ready to begin.

We have all kinds of people coming to Celebration Church.  

We have people coming who have moved here, been believers for 30 years and love the church and make it their home.  

We also have people who are coming to the altar to accept Jesus who end up telling me their "stage name". ;) 

We have folks who write on their guest cards, "sorry, I don't have an address right now -- I am homeless."  

We have people coming who have addictions, dysfunctional homes, and all kinds of problems big and small.

And...we have people coming into Celebration who smoke pot.

I'm not recommending smoking pot, by the way. I'm not endorsing it, or saying it's right -- especially being that it's illegal, I'm simply saying we're a church who is reaching people at all different levels in their spiritual walk. For a church that is reaching the lost, I believe it is normal. We meet them right where they are.  It makes me so happy that we are reaching people who feel they need to numb their pain by smoking pot. What a privilege to share with them the truth of the healing power of Jesus, to see them grow as the Holy Spirit works on them.

So many people are concerned more about their comfort level than people pain. Do we care more about our discomfort that someone may walk through the church doors high, or do we care more about speaking to the pain that drove them to smoke drugs? I want to listen, then speak to the pain, and offer freedom in Christ.

In retrospect I shouldn't have been a bit surprised that I smelled like pot.  I'm a shepherd. What do true shepherds do? They hang around sheep and they generally smell like them. 

 In his book, “Love Acceptance and Forgiveness”, author Jerry Cook says,  “Jesus hung around with sinners, and if we’re too holy to allow people to blow smoke in our faces, then we’re holier than Jesus was.  Love acceptance, and forgiveness. Those three things are absolutely essential to any ministry that will consistently bring people to maturity and wholeness.” 
 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

If you want to change lives, try this...

I was was just an elementary school girl when Sue Duffield and her husband Jeff came to my home church to minister at a banquet. I looked like this at the time:


 If you're a first time blog reader, just so you know, I'm the one on the left. ;)

Sue and Jeff had been married just a short time and were on the road full time, ministering. They looked something like this, as I recall:


 I thought they were the coolest people I had ever met in my life.

They had just made a new recording (back then they were eight tracks and cassettes) and we got both of them to take home after the banquet. I remember my sister and I wore them out! We would listen and sing along and jump around in our room. (I did a lot more jumping around than she did. I was goofy that way. I sang into the hairbrush, actually pretending to be Sue Duffield.)

Over and over I sang  her song, "Bread Upon the Water."
  
"Good measure pressed down, shaken together running o-----ver...soon it's gonna come back home, come back home, come back home on every waaaaaave..."
 Lord have mercy, I sang that song  until everyone was probably soooooo sick and tired of hearing it. Some people expressed just how tired they were of  it, everyone except my grandmother, that is. She liked it so much she even asked me to sing it to her when she was in the hospital before she passed away.  Bless her heart, grandmas can always be counted on for things like that.

Sue was like an icon to me growing up, with a velvety voice that just kinds of flows out like warm caramel every time she sings or talks. They ministered at "C.A. Rallies" as they were called back then, and district youth convention. I acquired most every 8 track and cassette that the Duffields ever made. My favorite was a song Sue wrote and recorded years later entitled, "The Other Side." Every time I heard it, I was convicted and challenged. 

After high school I went to bible college and met Larry and we began youth pastoring. The Duffields came and ministered at both churches where we were youth pastors, in New Jersey and Ohio. They had evolved yet again:


 and again...


By the way, although I play the piano, I never set out to play just like Jeff Duffield.  Anyone who tries to do that is just naive. You will never achieve it so you might a well give up before you start and quit wasting your time. LOL

They have seen me in every stage of my life -- as a young school kid, a teenager, youth pastoring, lead pastoring, when our children came along, and now as they have grown up and ministering for the Lord themselves.

I am blessed to lead the Assemblies of God Women's Ministries for the Tampa section. Last night we had Sue and Jeff minister at our women's event which was held at Celebration.  This is Sue and Jeff nowadays:


Still traveling full time and making a difference in lives, more than ever before.

They could hardly believe it when "the baby" (Savanna) greeted them at the door. She's grown so much since the last time they were here. Here's one of the times Sue was with us while we were lead pastoring when Savanna was just five years old.


Sue did an amazing job last night and women's lives were touched. Young girls lives were changed. But I must selfishly say that the most amazing thing for me happened before anyone got there.

Sue and Jeff were setting up and checking their sound equipment. I was running to and fro getting details wrapped up regarding the event and was in the back of the sanctuary getting a file off of my computer for the announcements when Sue approached. Drawing near she took my hand and said, "Deanna, can I just say something?" I had no idea what was coming, but in that I'm-about-to-say-something-really-profound-Sue-Duffield-kind-of-way,  she leaned in and said, "Deanna, can I just say how proud I am of you?" And then she repeated the statement for effect.

And what an affect it had.

So what's the point of this post? Just a Duffield love-fest? Yes, and no. There's a leadership lesson here.

Last night when I introduced Sue, I shared with the women that someone once said, "It's nice to be important, but it's more important to be nice."  For all of Sue's talents and accomplishments the greatest thing about her is that to the core of her being she's a person who genuinely cares. You can have all the talent in the world but if you have no concern for others you won't go very far.

"People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." ~ John Maxwell

By the way, speaking of John Maxwell, Sue Duffield was a contributing author to one of his books,  Everyone Communicates, Few Connect.


When many evangelists struggle to get bookings, she's pretty much booked solid about 200 dates a year and it just keeps growing. Some of that is talent, but I believe a lot more of it has to do with integrity and genuine care. I've observed this in her for over three decades now. These are footsteps worth following in, although no one could ever fill them like she does.

There is still so much I see in Sue Duffield that I want to emulate. Thank you Sue, for leading the way for women and girls of all ages. And, for showing those of us in vocational ministry how to walk worthy of our calling. As one who travels and ministers outside of our church, I have also learned so much by watching Sue Duffield's example. I want to be just like her when it comes to her amazing ability to connect not just with audiences but one-on-one which is even more important. 

One more thing...last night the decor was beach/tropical. Sue was given a lei to wear by our ladies who had organized the decor. After the night was over, as Sue was getting in her car to leave, she was saying goodbye to some who had gathered around. A young girl from our church named Kaylyn was just enamored with Sue and was talking to her.  Sue hugged her goodbye and gave her the lei that was around her neck before she got into the car and left.

Later on as we were cleaning some things up, Kaylyn walked over to me and with more excitement than someone her age talking about Justin Bieber she said, "Pastor Deanna, Sue gave me this!!! You know what? You met her when you were about my age! And now, she touched my life too...isn't that so awesome?!!"

And on it goes...

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Be different...but never indifferent.

People are often encouraged to be different. That's a good thing.  God created us to stand out, not blend in.

Different is good. Indifferent is bad.  


Indifference is actually deadly.


I'm preparing a message to preach this weekend at a women's event. I was asked to speak on the theme, "Greater Things." Those aren't possible if a person lives with indifference. If we really want to live in such a way that we make an impact we have to be concerned about something beyond ourselves.   


When you only give attention to yourself or your own agenda, you've actually started to decay. One of my favorite authors, Elie Wiesel once said, "because of indifference, one dies before one actually dies." He also said that, "...the opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference.”

If there's one thing I never want to be it's indifferent. Because I want greater things. And they only come through daring to be different by forsaking indifference in all it's forms, even subtle ones.

By attending to others, we arrive at a new level that would never have been possible had we remained fixated on ourselves.

Monday, March 19, 2012

3 Ways to Tame the E-mail Monster

Ever get messages that make you want to reach through your computer and choke someone? For me, this would include occasions where people e-mail me in the morning and by afternoon are sending another e-mail asking why I haven't responded yet. It happens to me all the time, no exaggeration. No one has done it to me today probably because everyone knows I just got back from vacation and am plowing through mail and an assortment of other things.

Last week while I was away my friend Melissa Kelly graciously stepped up to handle my blog and Facebook for me. I know you may wonder, "why do you need someone to handle your facebook? Has facebook become so important you need someone to manage it while you are on vacation?" The fact is that blog traffic is very dependent upon facebook updates and I wanted my guest bloggers last week to get the most traffic possible. These ladies had something really important to say and I wanted everyone to be aware of it. So I asked Melissa to post url's for my blogs on Facebook and keep up with any comment moderation necessary.  So Melissa "took over" my blog and facebook Monday morning and by the afternoon before our cruise ship had even set sail, I had this message from her:
"BTW when I posted the [blog] link this afternoon to the post today and the news feed comes up and shows how many messages you have...WOW!! I knew you were in high demand but WOW! You had at that time like 99 messages. Goodness. Glad you posted that I am posting the links for you! You are a highly sought after woman! You can trust that I will only be on long enough to post the links and answer if needed any comments. Love you!"
The reality of the insanity of my inbox hit me even more having someone else point it out. Honestly, I thought for a moment about having Melissa pose as me and answer as many of my e-mails as she wanted to save me time when I got back.  Ha ha! But since she's the mother of four young children, and holds multiple roles in her own life, that clearly was not a viable option.  Having her do just what I asked her to do in the beginning was a huge favor.

Ninety-nine. 99. NINETY NINE. Ninety-freakin-nine. 

This was on Facebook alone, by 1:00 PM. I shared in another post that between several e-mail accounts and multiple jobs, and Facebook, I usually get about 300 pieces of mail a day. 



I handle them all.
By myself.


I haven't had an assistant for two years. 2. Two. T-W-O. 2! 2! 2! T------W-------O.

But who's counting? I'm not complaining, at least in this post, but I am stating fact. [sigh] I manage my email and and most everything with the help of a few volunteers that are absolutely worth their weight in gold.  When I meet someone new and they ask me what I do in life I say, "I juggle."


Quite honestly there are days I hit a wall when someone emails me at 1:00 PM as a follow up to a 9:00 AM e-mail that says, "I emailed you this morning and I still haven't heard from you yet. Is there something wrong with your account? I just needed to know the answer..." [insert scream here] 

Okay, this rant is a purposeful one. It's not just to sound off about my mail issues. (By the way, I have a general rule, to answer it all within 24 hours, unless I'm on vacation.) 

Here are 3 things that help me tame this monster. 

1) Delete junk first

Junk includes forwards, and most newsletters I never subscribed to. Now, some things I never subscribed to, but I actually want to read. These would include ministry friends newsletters and things like that, when they have added me to their list. If it's a friend's communique, I don't delete. But when an insurance company or phone company sends me something, I delete.  And I usually take it one step further...

2)  Take time to unsubscribe each week

I go through once a week to permanently unsubscribe from publications or lists I have not subscribed to and have no interest in. I take about 15 minutes a week to go through all folders including SPAM and unsubscribe from these and I notice it helps volume of mail the next week. I also go through my Facebook inbox and "leave the conversation" of anyone sending me mass e-mails about putting my bra or panties color on my Facebook status to support breast cancer, or sharing where I put my purse in support of the same. I give financially to breast cancer awareness however I don't have time for these e-mail games and conversations. I also don't participate in things like recipe exchanges or chain letters of any kind.

3)  Touch it once.

I answer mail when I open it. I don't table it for later. I open it, and answer it. Unless something requires a more thoughtful response and the creation of a "special" e-mail of sorts. In that case it's still high priority to get it done in 24 hours and get it off my plate.

I hope this helps you in taming the e-mail monster. It still won't stop the clueless person from asking you why you haven't answered their e-mail since it's been a whole 2.5 hours since they e-mailed you. But it will help you.


And what does it help me to do most? It helps me to get to the people that I really want to converse with. That's never an irritation, in fact it's one of the sweetest parts of life! Today I shared 7 brief inbox exchanges with my dear friend Kristy, and it's been the nicest thing that's happened to me all day. Well, that and sharing lunch with my husband. E-mails like this are never a burden, they are a blessing. But in my experience, you have to clear out the junk to get to the blessings.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Who wants rest? 3 Helpful Hints



God has been speaking to me more about rest. Everyone needs it. Leaders especially need it!

I require solitude to function at my optimal.  We all have needs in this regard but many of us feel really guilty about being assertive about it. Why is that so?

I don't know whether I'm getting better at being assertive or whether I am just too needy when it comes to rest in this season of my life to care about offending anyone.

In just a moment I'm going to share with you three new ways I've found to make it easier to rest. No, they don't involve a cruise. I know I just came back from one yesterday and my faithful readers who know that may be thinking, "Great. She's going to tell us to go on a cruise. Impractical! Irrelevant!  I can't afford it nor do I have the vacation time to take..." Relax. That's not the direction I'm headed. But please do indulge me for a moment before I tell you the three hints, while I share with you a few peaceful memories from this past week since these were what triggered this post.

While we were in the Bahamas this past week we were strolling the streets and came upon Christ Church of Nassau. Thankfully it was open and we went in and quietly walked around, sat on a pew, and silently reflected.
I am in awe of the beauty of older churches.  My practical pastoral self also tends to asks strange questions as well while I'm in these places. Ones like, "How much did it cost them to provide individual prayer kneelers for every single person?" I start to think about what the unique stresses may be upon the ministers of this particular church which is not just an old church building but a fully functioning congregation at the present. And, I fight off those thoughts while there and try to snap back to the tranquility of vacation and let vocational ministry thoughts go.


The beauty of Key West was my favorite on this trip and I had time for rest and introspection. My favorite thing about time off is that I usually have my tea in bed when I first wake up, and quiet time with the Lord. And, I don't fret about the time at all.  My first tip to you today to bring you into a greater place of rest and peace is a book by Sarah Young entitled Jesus Calling. Amazon sells them for $10.80 and up. You can order this book without breaking the bank. My friend Jessica Smith told me about this book and then presented me with a copy when I was in Oklahoma. She actually realllly blessed me with the leather edition and it's become my new best friend that I carry with me everywhere in my purse. Reading my Bible and Jesus Calling was the first thing I did every morning this week. You can do that too. And trust me, it will bring you rest -- real rest,  and change your life.
 

I enjoy silence whenever I can get it and being around tranquil waters like these is just the perfect scenario but when it's not possible I rely on playlists. My second tip to you today is to sign up for a free Spotify account. Then make playlists that help you relax. My friend Gayle from church recently recommended some to me that I am really enjoying: Liquid Mind, Keiko Matsui, Michael Dulin, Joseph Firecrow, Pat Matheny Group and Andreas Vollenweider are just a few I'm listening to that help me relax. I even play them at the office during stressful phone calls. My "Bring Deanna's Blood Pressure Down" playlist on Spotify has become another new best friend.

My third tip to you today is to take a step forward and be assertive about what you need regarding rest. For so many years I didn't. I regret few things in life, but I do regret that. Learn from my mistake.

And speaking of rest ~ abundant thanks to all of the guest bloggers who shared here all week long and gave me a rest while also blessing those reading beyond measure. You rock.


Saturday, March 17, 2012

Has Someone Reached Out to You For Help?
Guest Post: Melissa Kelly

Maybe you're not a professional licensed counselor, a pastor, or someone in an "official position".  Many women choose someone to share with first who is not one of these people.  My friend Melissa Kelly has been in both situations. She's served as the person in the official position of leadership, and also served on the other side of things, just being approached as a friend. I call Melissa a "go to" person. A lot of people trust her with challenging situations and she has unique experience to speak to this. No matter what place you find yourself in today, here's some great advice from her about helping those who are in pain. Just a reminder that all of our guest bloggers this week are available to chat with you in the comment section here on the blog or on my facebook page where the blog also publishes. 
  
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There have been so many times that I have sat at the end of a phone call, Facebook chat/message or next to someone on a pew or couch as they have poured out their brokenness.  There have been countless opportunities to sit quietly, praying secretly for the right words to say and many times only being able to say, “Let’s pray.”

Being “the person” that many people come to does not come without responsibilities.  As that person, you have to be able to speak truth into the situation, be available and set boundaries as well as know what is shared with you is strictly between you and that person.  Unless what is shared is life threatening, it should NEVER be repeated, PERIOD.

Honestly, this is not a ministry that is seen or heard.   I believe it is a ministry that God works in and through you.  It’s not something whereby you can stand up and say, “Hey come to me I will pray with you and be the emotional and spiritual support you need...”  If that is what you think I got news for you…NO ONE will come to you for prayer!  It’s not something that you can get a degree for either.  Don’t confuse your ability to “be there” as the spiritual/prayer support for friends with being a professional counselor.  You have to know your limitations. Many times the issues/situations that are presented to you may require licensed professional counseling.  

This is a humbling position to be in.  If you find yourself being the person that people tend to come to in confidence for prayer, know that God’s call upon your life requires much of you and it’s not something you should go around and boast in.  I have to say that sharing with everyone here in this post about“being that person” is hard for me because it is not something I boast about or talk about that often.

I believe there are some of you reading this today that God uses through your commitment to pray for others when they come to you.  You are that friend that everyone comes to for prayer or advice and sometimes it feels like you have no one to turn to yourself.  Let me encourage you by saying that the time you spend listening to others brokenness and praying with them does not go unnoticed!  Your prayers DO make a difference! God does see and hear all that you do.  He knows who He should send the broken to and I can tell you it’s not going to be that person boasting in “callings and titles!”  He will send the broken to the trustworthy, honest and those that can show His love to them.  

Can I encourage you today?  If you are “the person” that is always “being there” for others make sure you spend time in prayer.  Not just for those that have come to you but for yourself.  Seek the Lord for guidance, strength, even emotional and spiritual rest.  

Listening to other people's brokenness can be draining and that is why it is so important to be spending time reading God’s Word and speaking to your Heavenly Father.  Don’t allow the brokenness of others to bring you down spiritually.  You have to set boundaries and realize that although you care about their well being, these are their hurts, not yours. Release what has been told to you into the Lord’s hands and let Him heal the brokenness.

 Maybe you are the one that is breaking inside and need someone to confide in and are searching for someone you can go to for spiritual support.  Maybe you are fearful to open up to someone because of past hurts or the fear of what others will think of you.  Take that step and reach out!  Everyone needs someone.  It’s how God created us…we need each other.  

Sometimes finding the person you can open up to is difficult when you are hurting because of the fear of being hurt even more.  I get that, I have been there as well.  I thought I had found someone I could open up to and they used it against me and it hurt even more than the original insult.  That is when I realized that I have to be cautious and ask the Lord to show me who to go to.  Thankfully I have someone in my life that I can open up to and share what I am going through and never have to worry about what that person thinks.  She is “my person” that I can let the walls down and share openly with. She is the first person I have met that will stop everything to pray with me and many times it’s the first thing she will do before she even shares her advice.

 Here are the top qualities of a prayer partner…

1. Trustworthiness – Without this there really is no point in listening to others or sharing your heart with someone.

2. Does not gossip…does not share with others as “prayer requests” especially if the person asks that it stay between the two of you.

3. Honest - The ability to admit you/they do not have the answers but know the One that does.

4. Committed to prayer.  If you say you are going to pray from someone…THEN DO IT!  Don’t just listen and walk away…always pray with that person if you are able to. (I will admit I have not always prayed immediately with the person if we were online chatting or messaging through emails but I have ALWAYS prayed for the person and in some cases prayed daily for that person till they received their breakthrough.)

5. Speak the truth – Sharing your experience and opinions may help but only if they are grounded in the Word of God. Using scripture to address situations is always the best choice.  

6. Compassionate – Trying to understand what the person is going through is more helpful that just having answers.  Sometimes the person may have the answer and they just want someone to listen to them and support them.

7. A Listener – Hurting people don’t need someone to talk at them.  They need someone to listen to them first and foremost.

These are the qualities I seek out in someone that will “be there” for me and I try to always be for those that seek me out.  Scripture tells us, “Bear ye one another’s burdens so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Gal. 6:20) 

I pray that as you are used in your daily life that God will use you to do just as this scripture says.   

Blessings!







Melissa Kelly and her family make their home in Mount Sterling, Kentucky. She is a minister, a minister's wife, a mother of four young children, and a prolific blogger. She is a writer for the Pastoring Partners Network, and someone countless people depend on for wisdom and prayer, particularly in life's challenging situations.