Tuesday, February 26, 2013

What's It Like to Be You?



Ask someone that today.

Then listen to what they say.

It may just be the most powerful thing that ever happens in the life of that person.


Thursday, February 21, 2013

I Want to Change This About Me


Where did the strange piece of "wisdom" originate that the things we hate most in others are the things we are guilty of ourselves?


Time and again I've tried to reconcile this statement, but just can't find the truth in it. It's not that I haven't looked really hard or dared to be honest enough with myself.

The things I get most upset about in others are things I don't struggle with. Therefore, compassion doesn't come easy in those instances.

When I'm guilty of something I see others doing, I tend to rationalize their behavior. I do this because I understand how hard it is for them to change in that area. I can readily wrap my arms around them and say, "I've been there, and I know it's hard," or "it's not so bad..."

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Who Wants Speaking Opportunities?

"How do you get speaking opportunities?"

I'm often asked this question.

I haven't really struggled. And there are a few reasons for that, some of which may surprise you. I'm actually really content to stay home and write til' the cows come home, but people keep asking me to come speak. I'm humbled and honored, each and every time.

I believe one of the reasons I continually get invites is, I know how to do exactly what I'm asked to do.

Don't ever underestimate this.

Even if you're good at what you do, maybe even GREAT at what you do, you have to become good at doing whatever people ask you to do.

How good you are at what you do doesn't really matter to those bringing you in unless you're actually delivering what they want. If you're a chef and someone asks for chicken cordon bleu and you deliver them a lobster, certainly lobster is amazing but if it's not at all what they wanted, or they may even be allergic to it, they are never going to ask you for anything again.

A while back I was asked to serve on a speaking team for a conference and there were three other people on the speaker team, all of whom did exactly what the host told them NOT to do. We were all instructed about how important the time factor was in keeping the conference on track.Everyone was given 30 minutes per presentation. I came in right under time, but all three of them went over time, so much so, I literally saw sweat pouring down the face of one of the conference organizers as they dabbed a handkerchief to their face with one hand and looked at their watch with another. Rule #1: Leaders do not like to be stressed! (I know, I am one.)

Were the other speakers good? Actually they were great.  However much of the impact of their message was totally lost on the organizers due to how stressed they were about lost time and the subsequent need to adjust the schedule. And, the crowd was getting antsy from sitting way too long. After the conference was over I never heard much about the other people's messages despite their great content. I did however hear from both organizers, "Deanna, you delivered exactly what we asked for and we just can't thank you enough."

I've been invited back since.
I haven't seen the other three people on any marketing materials for the same organization.

I've asked people to do things in the church we pastor. For instance, I may ask someone in the church to share a brief illustration for five minutes about the Holy Spirit and the next thing you know they are taking fifteen minutes to tell everybody about a turtle they picked up in the street that was a divine appointment. Needless to say, no matter how great what they shared was, I may be a bit slow to trust them with a microphone again.

Here's the point -- obedience brings rewards, not just obedience to God, but to those we answer to.

What do I mean, "answer to"? Well, although when I visit another place I am not under the authority of that pastor, leader or organizer on a regular basis, when I come in as a guest in their organization I am under their authority just for that event.  Larry and I went to speak at a marriage conference in New Bern, NC this past weekend. We were not there under our own authority but that of the pastors of the church, John and Bonnie Watford. We came and did exactly what we were asked to do, and the weekend was very blessed.

I have noticed when some people get their first invitations to speak, they go bonkers. They feel they need to go on and on because they've never been given the chance before. They sorta think, "think is my big moment!"  So they feel compelled to share everyyyyyyyyyything they know. 

BIG MISTAKE.

This usually means it will be even longer before they get another chance.

Do exactly as you are asked to do.

Interested in more posts on this topic? I did a series a while back on keys to effective speaking. Check it out here.

 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

I love to learn

One thing I love about traveling to different places to minister is the learning factor.



When I travel to speak somewhere I have three goals. The first is to give 110% to what I've been brought in to do. I want to give above and beyond what is expected. The second thing I love is encouraging and affirming the leader(s) publicly as well as privately in between sessions. And the third thing I love is learning all that I can from others. I'm like a sponge! When I travel somewhere as the speaker I usually come home with pages full of notes of what I've gleaned from other people. 

When I travel alone it's always a challenge to come back and try to explain to Larry whatever it was that I experienced and learned. During times like this weekend, it's great that we are together and there is no explaining to do. 

I have always loved North Carolina and in recent years it's become even more special to me with the connections and reconnections I've made with people there. This was my first time to have the privilege to come to New Bern. We came at the invitation of Cindy King, one of the leaders here in the church where we're ministering this weekend, as well as within the NC district, but we had never met the lead pastor, John Watford and his wife Bonnie. They invited us, trusting Cindy's recommendation.
 
Cornerstone is one of the healthiest churches I have ever had the honor of ministering at, and Pastor John and Bonnie are two of the strongest leaders and most interesting people in general that I've ever met. They are kind of hard to describe, but I'll just say, I'm crazy about them! Rarely have I met leaders who possess such an intense passion and love as they not only display, but actually  live out. I have learned so much in just a short time.

Larry and I have finished teaching all of our sessions for this weekend -- four of them. We are savoring every last moment we have spending time with our hosts. We have one last dinner with the Watfords tonight and I'm going to soak in every bit of what we talk about.

One thing I love about the Watfords is, they are the same way. After service today at lunch they said, "Whenever we have a guest minister join us, we ask them to give an honest critique and tell us everything about their impressions from the time they drove onto the property to the time they left... 

We struggled to find anything to critique. The place is nothing short of amazing, probably in part because the pastors have asked the hard questions.

I love learning!

 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Staying Married



 
I've heard it said:

“If you want to DO more for Jesus, stay single; if you want to BE more like Jesus, get married.” 

What is meant by this admonition to "be more like Jesus" regarding marriage? He was single, after all.

Simply put, you will have to become a lot more like Jesus (loving, forgiving, etc.) in order to stay married.

Because it's hard. Really hard. 

Even when you choose well. 
Even when you start out the "right way."
Even in the best case scenario.

Anything worthwhile is hard work.

Being like Jesus means cultivating the fruit of the spirit. 


Last night Larry and I opened our hearts vulnerably to the couples here in  North Carolina, sharing some of the challenges we've had in our relationship. 

Without a doubt, marriage has required me to become more like Jesus more so than anything else in my life. My husband often tells people he's responsible for making me a prayer warrior! :) 


More than parenting, more than pastoring, marriage has tested every resolve I have.

But it's worth it. 

If you are married and in a rough spot, there are a lot of things I could encourage you to do today but one that has really helped me more than any other is concentrating on developing the fruit of the spirit.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

3 Marriage Boosters
Get 'Em While They're Hot!

In honor of Valentines Day today I'm re-posting three of my favorite marriage posts.

Larry and I are flying to North Carolina this morning, as we'll be the speakers at a marriage conference there this weekend.

I love North Carolina and can't wait!  Keep us in prayer. The thing I'm looking forward to most is seeing what God does in the marriages of those present at the conference. But I do have to say that a close second is having Larry Shrodes with me in a hotel room for four nights! Yipppeeee! We are so hot for each other, we set hotel rooms on fire. You think I'm kidding?

Okay, for three of my favorite posts...


Why You Should Have Sex As Much As Possible

Living a Honeymoon All The Time

3 Ways to Succeed In a Marriage With Someone You Don't Agree With

 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

When People Whose Kids Are a Mess Criticize You
For the Way You Raise Yours



For seven months now I've been writing an advice column I was asked to write for Insight, a Tampa Bay newspaper. Then two months ago, another newpaper, Epoch, asked if they could cross post the advice column. From time to time I publish some of the questions and answers here on my blog. Here's one that published last month. It comes from a reader who is getting hassled by family for the way she's raising her kids.


Dear Deanna: 

I am often criticized by my family for how my husband and I are raising our kids who are  teenagers. The ironic thing is - some of their kids have gone off the deep end, so to speak, yet they criticize me for being strict. It’s very frustrating.
~ Dawn

Dear Dawn:

My best advice to you is to get yourself a blindfold and a good pair of ear plugs. You'll need it to block out what family members and friends who don't share your values will say.

My husband and I often heard these things over the years:

“Aren’t your expectations a little overboard?”’

"Do you really think all this discipline is going to work? Isn't that just doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results? That's kinda insanity if you ask me..."

"You don't let them stay overnight with friends from school if you don't know the kids parents well or agree with their values? Isn't that kind of controlling?"

"Kids will be kids. We did a bunch of crazy crap too when we were kids. Why should your kids be any different? You turned out alright in the end."

"You should just let them go out with whoever they want to, and not worry so much. You're too strict. You're like a parent from the 1950's or something..."

"You're so old school."

"You can't put your kids in a bubble, you know."

 Okay, so hindsight is 20/20.

Most of the people who said things like this to us now have older teenagers or adult-children who are a rip roaring mess! I'm so glad I had tough skin while raising teenagers. At the end of the day you're the one who's going to have to answer for how you raise your kids. So raise them right. You're not raising kids, you're raising adults. 

Go forward with confidence!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

How to Comfort Others (Part 3)




If you missed parts one and two of this series, check 'em out here and here

Today we're talking about what TO do in comforting someone, as opposed to what not to do. 

DO…

Let it be all about them.
Give them an opportunity to fully express themselves without interjecting your own story unless they invite it. Every person experiences loss differently. No loss is unimportant, but they are different for each person.

Affirm What’s Important to Them
Let them share thoughts, memories, conversations, photos, etc. 

Use Appropriate touch 
A hug, an arm around or a pat on the hand. If they are uncomfortable with that, maybe just sitting nearby.

Respect their boundaries
Sense what they need, read between the lines. Do they need you close by? Do they need space? Do they need a compassionate ear? Do they need someone to just be near without talking?  

Note: grieving losses is exhausting work and takes a tremendous amount of energy.

Listen, Listen, Listen!
Give the person opportunity to talk without interruption. Listening with compassion is the greatest gift you can give.

Express sympathy
Say something as simple as “I know that nothing I can say can take away the pain of your loss, but I want you to know that I care about you and I am here for you.”

Welcome tears
They are as natural as breathing. Reassure them, tears are  nothing to be ashamed of.

Cry with them if you are moved to do so
Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.
Romans 12:15

The greatest help to my husband and I after our miscarriage happened the day Jeff Ferguson knocked on our apartment door. He was the dean of men and the baseball coach at our college. We had no idea what to expect when he came in. I was sitting on the sofa with my knees drawn up to my face, just staring into space and crying. Larry had been rearranging furniture that didn't need to be rearranged, just trying to "do something." 

Jeff came in, sat on the sofa with us, and cried. 

He offered up no scripture verses or a sermon or easy answers. Just tears, and "I'm so sorry." It meant the world.

Another friend asked me, "what time of day is hardest for you through all this?" I said, "at about 10 pm." She said, "I'll be praying for you every single night at 10." I can't even describe how much that meant! 

Help them get professional help if necessary
They might be at a loss as to where to go. Help them find a place.

Notice practical things they may need help with 
When someone is facing loss, they often don’t have the ability to take care of practical everyday things.Notice things like: food/meals, cleaning, child care, pet care, etc.Maybe just show up and say, “I came over to walk the dog for you. Is that okay?” If they say no, don’t push.

Pray with them and for them!
It’s the most powerful thing you can do. 

"Share each other's burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ."
Galatians 6:2

Ask the Holy Spirit to help you as you help them 
"If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you."
James 1:5 

 Don’t Waste Your Own Pain
Regarding our own pain, one of my favorite sayings is, “don’t waste the pain.”
God never wastes anything…we shouldn’t either.”

Take the pain and let it become a platform.
Share it and let those who relate to it, and gather near. 

In case you’re unaware of a biblical precedent for this...

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. – 2 Corinthians 1:3-4


Saturday, February 09, 2013

How to Comfort Others (Part 2)




Did you miss part one of this blog series? Check it out here. 

Today we're talking about things NOT to do if you want to comfort someone who is hurting. 

DON'T...

Let the fear of saying the wrong thing lead to you saying nothing. 
Push past your own anxiety, and reach out. Learn what to say. 

Share clich├ęs or pat answers like, “it all works out for the best” or “just turn it over to the Lord…”

Mimimize the loss, compare the loss, or share why YOU feel they were or are blessed by the loss.

For instance, when my husband and I lost our first child to a miscarriage, it was a horribly painful time. It was then that I learned just how much people lack wisdom on how to comfort people. As I was standing at the altar crying after the miscarriage, an older woman approached me and put an arm around me and said, "Pastor Deanna, I feel the Lord wants me to tell you it was for the best that you had the miscarriage. With the unhealthy direction your pregnancy was going, the baby probably would have been retarded anyway." 

Yes, I am serious.  That really happened.

First of all, what a horrible thing to say. Second, it just made me extremely angry and didn't help AT ALL.

Then a few weeks later another "older and wiser" lady approached me and said, "Don't be sad! You're young. You'll have more kids!" Hmmmmm. My question to her was, "So, if another young woman had a two year old that died would you say, "Oh, don't be sad. You're young...you'll have more kids?"

Grrrrrrrrrrr.

Larry and I have always keenly felt the loss of our first, although we went on to have three more. And, it took me about a year to move beyond the loss.

Pepper them with platitudes like, “It’s okay, he’s with Jesus now”  if a friend/family member has died.
Chances are your friend or family member probably doesn't WANT the other person to be with Jesus. They are grieving because they miss them. They may be angry that the person is with Jesus. People are not just processing where their loved one is -- but the fact that they miss them terribly and will not see them again here on earth.

Make theologically ridiculous statements.
Things like, "God took him/her because He needed another angel..."

Be Dimissive
"Well your grandmother was 93. Of course she was going to die…”

One again, it's not just about the person who is gone, it’s about those left behind and how they feel.

Minimizing someone else’s loss is NEVER positive!


Tell the person they have to be strong, or tell them not to cry. 
Giving them a safe place to express their pain is really important.

Put Them On a Timetable
People move forward at a different pace.

Avoid saying things like: “Shouldn’t you be over this by now?" 

“Your boyfriend broke up with you six months ago? Aren’t you dwelling on this for too long?”


Again, dismissing someone’s loss - never positive.


Tell them, “God won’t give you more than you can bear.” 
Not only is this just another Christian cliche, but quite honestly you have no idea the magnitude of the load they are bearing. They may be at a dangerous place emotionally or mentally where they can't bear any more without professional help. Be a compassionate, non-judgmental voice. If they say they can bear no more, help them get professional assistance to bear up under the weight of their circumstance.

Tomorrow in part 3 I'll be sharing a  list of things TO do.