Category Archives: Faith

Mercy vs. Compassion

We are in the middle of a series at church called Be. It’s based on the Beatitudes, and it has been really good. Two weeks ago, the message was about mercy. How Jamey Johnson described it has really impacted me. Here’s what he said.

Jesus is saying this: I will give mercy TO you, when I can get mercy THROUGH you.

He talked about the difference between compassion and mercy.

Compassion is: bringing justice to the innocent

Mercy is: God’s ministry to the guilty

That really hit home. How many times have we mixed up these two words? Compassion is easy. It’s an emotional response to the needs of others. But, mercy? That is just plain hard! Mercy is showing love to the people that you are justified in giving the verdict “guilty” to. Many times, these are the people who are closest to you that have hurt you deeply.

He told an incredible story about his life growing up and how hard his relationship was with his Dad was. It was very powerful. While I can’t relate to the way his Father treated him, I think we can all identify at least one person in our life that needs mercy. It is one of the most difficult things we do in life.

His message really resonated with so many people. He has an incredibly raw, authentic way of speaking and relating to people. I would highly encourage you to listen to the podcast here (titled Jamey Johnson 6/24/12).

I also recently read an incredible book by my author friend Mary DeMuth. It is her memoir, and describes how incredibly difficult her childhood was. Many of us may not have made it through what she endured. But, she did. And she has shown incredible courage by sharing her story and showing mercy to her family and the people who hurt her. You can check out her book, titled Thin Places, here.

As I said, I can’t relate to the horrible things that people have endured in their childhoods. But, I can certainly relate to having someone close to me hurt me. I think we all can.

Jamey’s question at the end of his message was this:

What would it look like to show mercy to the person who has hurt you the most?

For me, it looks like getting over myself and my hurt feelings, and showing the love and grace of God to others.

What do you think about mercy? Have you had a hard time showing it to someone close to you?

1 Comment

Filed under Authenticity, Faith

The chase

You’re chasing me, always

This is a line from a song by an amazing band I love called Seryn. And that line always makes me think.

Kid chasing seagulls

Kid chasing seagulls (Photo credit: mikemol)

A few years ago, and for the majority of my adult life, that line would have caused stress and tension for me. I knew God was chasing me. He would tug at my heart and ask me to make a decision. I would continue to build a wall. I would struggle to keep the illusion of control that I thought I had.

Now, it no longer causes that type of reaction. What do I feel instead?

Comfort

Peace

Happiness

Security

Now I know that regardless of what happens in my life, God will continue to chase me. He wants me to have a relationship with Him. He wants me to trust Him.

It’s amazing what a difference it makes when you say yes and start running with Him, instead of away from Him.

How have you felt God chasing you?

3 Comments

Filed under Authenticity, Faith

Does your Pastor have a bodyguard?

Does your Pastor have a bodyguard?

Mine doesn’t. I have heard of Pastors who do. I find it a little strange, although I know there are well known Pastors with huge followings who might need one. So far, mine hasn’t. But it does make me chuckle a little to think about it.

Although he doesn’t need a bodyguard, I am learning that he needs something else. He needs people to protect him. With prayer, encouragement, love, and understanding of the incredible time and life commitment he and his family give to us. Of course, other than prayer, he has not asked for this. And your Pastor probably hasn’t either. If he has been lucky, he has been getting this from his inner circle of friends and close community members. But, I think it should trickle down farther. I think our church communities should do a much better job.

Someone said, “We need to protect our pastor and his family”, to me recently.  I have always believed that, but over the last few years, I have come to understand how important it is.

I often have the opportunity to speak with new families about what makes our church so unique. Most people are typically drawn to our Pastor and his teaching very quickly. He is dynamic, honest, and extremely relational. I remember feeling the same way when I first started attending.

And then came the first summer. The summer is when he takes extended time off. I remember for the first few years, I dreaded summer at church. Because I knew he wasn’t going to be teaching every week. I knew why he takes the time off. He does it to reconnect with God, relax, spend more time with his family, and reset his thinking and priorities. But back then, it didn’t matter to me. I didn’t like it. I preferred his teaching over others. I liked his funny stories. I always got something out of his message. That was not always true with some of the other people teaching.

And then one day it hit me.

All of those things were about ME.

I wasn’t thinking about him.

I wasn’t thinking about the amount of time he spends preparing his message each week.

I wasn’t thinking about the countless hours he spends with the staff preparing for each series and teaching to be impactful.

I wasn’t thinking about all of the thousands of things he does that go along with his profession.

I wasn’t thinking about how he doesn’t have a Monday through Friday job which only asks for 40 hours a week.

I wasn’t thinking about the sacrifices his family makes so that he can do what he does.

He is a Pastor.

His job could go on 24/7 every day if he allowed it.

And quite honestly, I was choosing my attitude towards the other people speaking. I was determining that I wouldn’t get anything out of their message. And it wasn’t fair.

I have gotten to know my Pastor and his family pretty well. I absolutely love their hearts and where they are leading this amazing community of people. And I now realize how much he and his family need a break from leading. He needs to be able to step away, and spend quality time with his family. He needs to silence all of the noise, and truly spend more time with God. I have watched him learn to adjust his schedule to do this more throughout the year, but the summer is the time when he can really focus on that. They have learned what they need to avoid burnout. And I think that is wonderful.

This year, he and his family are taking a long trip to Thailand. And I am so excited for them. As I think about what it will do for them to be out of the country, spending time together and planning the adventures that await them, I can’t help but smile. I know what they have invested in our community in order to make it what it is. And it has not been easy. Now it is our turn to invest back in them. To help them know how much they are truly appreciated. To give them time to rest.

This advice isn’t just for my church family. You can easily apply it to your Pastor and his family. My heart aches when I read stories of Pastors and how they are treated by their own church community. The fighting and struggle and heartbreak is sometimes unimaginable. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Does your Pastor understand the value of taking a break?

What do you think of the idea of protecting our Pastors?

7 Comments

Filed under Community, Faith, Family

LifeChangers – A New Addition

LifeChangers

It’s a series about people just like you and me, who decided to do something different.

They decided to change their life, or the lives of others around them.

They are inspiring.

They are making an impact right where they are.

They are passionate.

They are full of life.

And they are willing to share their story.

Every once in a while, you meet people who you instantly like. When I met Grant and Kellee at the Quitter Conference in February, that was my reaction. They were so sweet, and had a unique energy about them. They have a neat story. A life-changing story.

They have been married for eight years, and have two young, beautiful daughters. They are huge college basketball fans and love the Kentucky Wildcats. They are currently living in Ohio, and starting on a new journey. A journey that started with an experiment.

Last Thanksgiving, Grant’s best friend was visiting and told them about a book called The Radical Experiment by David Platt. As soon as Kellee heard what it was about, she instantly wanted nothing to do with it. She thought it sounded too extreme! But, Grant really wanted to do it, and ordered it that night. They ended up finishing the book in a few days.

The main focus of the book is around a radical response: living the gospel in ways that are true, filled with promise, and ultimately world-changing. The book really overhauled their perspective and altered their whole life’s direction. They started the Radical Experiment on January 1st, 2012, and committed to being open to whatever God wanted for them…with their time, money, careers, service, etc.

They specifically committed to:

1. Reading the Bible in a  year

 2. Praying for the entire world, by country

3. Committing their lives to a multiplying community-their House Church

 4. Sacrificing their money for a specific purpose

 5. Spending a week in another context- for example, a mission trip.

Kellee thought God was just preparing them to give abundantly this year, both in time and money, so that’s where her focus was at the beginning. However, as they continued with this radical shift in perspective, He quickly showed them that He wanted them to pursue something they were completely not expecting. He wanted them to pursue foster parenting and/or adoption! This was quite a shock at first. Remember, they have two small children. And this was not something that either of them had planned.

Over the last few months, they have quickly finished their homestudy and licensing process. From what they have learned in training, fostering is very, very difficult. It seems to be a great thing for the birth parents and the foster children, but not necessarily the foster parents! They are scared they won’t know how to handle issues like abuse. They are nervous about adding more kids to the mix, when they already feel stretched thin. They’re also scared about the attachment to the children and the loss they’ll feel, when they go back to their birth families. Kellee has blogged some really honest, emotional posts during this process. I have loved watching this journey they are on, and am so inspired by them.

I asked them what advice they would give to people considering becoming foster parents.  They said they would urge people to look at WHY they want to do it. Initially, Kellee was not really interested in connecting with the birth family. She’s now come to realize that this is a huge part of the fostering process, and she now prays that she’ll be able to minister and build relationships with the birth mothers. Also, adoption used to be their focus, and fostering was just a means to that end. However, the Lord really changed their hearts, and they now really WANT to foster, even though it means that they will have to work towards getting the children back to their birth families. They still want to adopt, but don’t know if that will happen in this process or internationally. They are truly open to whatever God has in store for their family!
 
I asked Grant and Kellee how we could help them, and they said that our prayers are greatly appreciated. They would love prayer for wisdom and confidence as they get ready for their first foster child placement, most likely happening sometime this month.
 
You can read more about their journey on their blog, http://radicalkeys.wordpress.com.
You can also follow them on Twitter: @kelleekeys and @grantkeys
 
I am so thankful to have met this amazing couple, and look forward to watching how God will use them in the lives of kids who need the love and support they have to offer. They are definitely LifeChangers.

4 Comments

Filed under Encouragement, Faith, Family, LifeChangers

Different paths

I have learned to appreciate the fact that everyone is in a different stage in their faith walk. I know this because my husband and I are in very different stages, and took completely different paths to get where we are. I also have friends in varying stages as well, from no faith at all to completely unwavering faith.

I used to believe that there was a “destination” that people worked towards. That’s what I was taught. I know now that isn’t true. Everyone’s faith walk looks different. There is no destination. It’s a continual journey. Just when we think that things are going great and we are right where God wants us, that can change in an instant.

Road Sign

Road Sign (Photo credit: freefotouk)

I have learned that it is silly to want someone to be where you are spiritually. Do I want them to experience a relationship with God? Absolutely! But what I go through looks different than what the person next to me will go through. The amount of work it takes to change my heart may be completely different than how someone else is impacted.I’ve also realized that God speaks to people differently. Sometimes it’s through music or nature or poetry, and sometimes it’s in a conversation with a friend. For me to expect someone else to hear or see things the same way that I do is pretty close minded.

One of the things that my pastor continually challenges us to do is to take one more step forward in our journey. Whatever it is. It looks different for everyone. But, if you are moving forward, and challenging yourself to grow closer to God, you will be amazed at where this journey will take you.

Have you experienced this? I’d love to hear from you.

7 Comments

Filed under Belief, Faith

Your Pastor

I am so incredibly thankful for my Pastors. I have two. They are very special to me. Not only do they teach me (and our entire congregation), but I am also lucky to consider them friends.

I often joke with our lead pastor that there are light bulbs going off over my head during many of his sermons. God speaks to me through him. That used to really freak me out! But, over the last few years, I have learned to really crave that. It is pretty amazing how the Holy Spirit can take his words and spread them out among us in different ways. We hear exactly what He wants us to hear through him.

I have been fortunate to have had many special Pastors throughout my life. I’m amazed at how they have helped our family over the years. But, I think what makes my Pastors now so unique is that they are truly allowing God to lead their paths. They ask us to pray that they will always hear God’s voice and obey. And then they put the plan in action. In the past, I have seen so many pastors limited because they felt God wanted them to do one thing, but the denomination or congregation or others blocked them from doing it.

The other thing they are is real. I joke with them that when I first started attending, I was testing them because I didn’t believe they could truly be as authentic as they appeared to be. I was wrong. They are. And I can’t imagine ever being a part of a community again that doesn’t understand how necessary this is. I am thankful to my Pastor and his Dad for leading our church through an amazing transition that led us to this point. I was not a part of the church then, but I am definitely benefiting from their hard work and willingness to follow God’s plan. And I am truly grateful for that.

I had a conversation the other day with someone who said they wished their pastor was as real as an author we know. It made me sad. And, I’ve read many blogs and articles and books that describe Pastors who don’t feel they can ever be authentic with their congregation. That breaks my heart.

So, how can we help our Pastors? I personally pray for them, and their families. Daily. And, I encourage them at every opportunity I can. Unfortunately, that’s something they don’t get nearly enough. They typically hear complaints or frustrations.

So, have you encouraged your Pastor today? Try it, and see what happens!

 

5 Comments

Filed under Authenticity, Encouragement, Faith

Be Quiet and Back Off

“Be quiet and back off. You are getting in my way.”

Not exactly something I expected to hear from God. Now, I know what you’re thinking. That is crazy. Did you really hear it from God?

Yes, I did. I am learning to listen more closely when He speaks to me. This is not something I have always experienced, believe me! And it is something that is somewhat scary at first. Sometimes it is a gentle simple voice. And sometimes it is very clear. Like this time.

What was he talking to me about? My frustrations and impatience when it came to my husband’s faith walk. I had just gone through an incredible transformation and truly learning to find my own solid faith for the first time in a very long time. I was excited! I wanted everything to be perfect. (Why do we always think that way?) I wanted him to feel what I was feeling and to experience it together.

Is that a bad thing to want? I don’t think so. However, when I heard those words I realized something extremely important. His faith walk is different than mine. Everyone’s is. What speaks to me isn’t going to speak to him. What excites me isn’t going to excite him. Constantly nagging him or expecting him to immediately be where I was, was unfair.

So what did I do? The only thing you can do when you clearly hear an instruction from God.

I shut up.

I backed off.

I got out of the way.

I stopped trying to control something I had no control over.

Did I stop praying for him? Absolutely not.

Did I tell him that God said this to me? No. (Not at that moment. More on this later!)

Did I stop trying to control everything and trust God? Yes.

Which makes me wonder. Who was the lesson for in the first place?

My husband or me?

So my advice to anyone who is frustrated with a spouse or partner or child and their faith walk is to BACK OFF. Be a quiet example of what it means to have a relationship with God. But don’t try to fix them or expect their experience to be like yours. In most cases, that is the worst possible thing you could do.

I’d love to hear something that you’ve clearly heard God say to you, and what you did about it.

8 Comments

Filed under Authenticity, Belief, Encouragement, Faith, Life lessons, Marriage

Book Review – Going Deeper, Becoming a Person of Influence

This was my first Gordon McDonald book. He took a unique approach. It is a fictional book, but based on the real story of how he helped transform his church and cultivate a group of “deep people”.

I love the story, and the details about how they went about the process of investing in a core group of people. They realized that there were plenty of good, well-intentioned people, but not very many of them were deep people. They wanted to be examples of how to live a life centered around Jesus and share life together. They wanted to develop exceptional leaders who had spiritual maturity and who would know how to inspire others to grow deeper in their faith.

The book follows the process through which Gordon and his wife develop the idea of growing deep people, how they bring in others to join them, and how they present it to their church board. The decision to cultivate this group of people would require that he step back from some of his traditional duties. It is a great example of how an idea starts with a prompt, and then grows as you are more willing to talk about it and get the opinions of others.

This part from the preface encompasses the main idea of the book. “When you think about it, we do seem to know how to get unchurched people to visit our buildings and enjoy our programs. We even appear to know how to persuade many to acknowledge personal faith in Jesus. But some are saying that what we do not know is how to produce the deep people who are supposed to emerge after that. We do not produce them, at least, in the quantities that are necessary to the challenges of our times. The result is a growing scarcity in spiritual leadership. And the implication is that without an abundance of deep people- spiritual leaders – tomorrow’s organized church could be headed for irrelevance…..What might happen if a church made the development of deep people its highest priority?”

You learn about a core group of couples and singles who go on a journey with Gordon and his wife to spend one night per week for an entire year together. They focus on studying the bible, discussing leadership, and learning to care deeply for one another. They also go through some challenging and turbulent times, and learn the need to show grace and love to one of their members.

If you are looking for a great book that will challenge you to think differently, then this is it. It was an easy read, but the concepts presented are also very encouraging. I would highly recommend it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book review, Faith

Prayers of Blessing for 2012

It was really neat to be able to attend church on New Year’s Day. I don’t recall having done that in a very long time. It was a perfect way to pause after the holidays, reflect on the past year, and focus on the new one.

We went through the process of choosing three words that reflected our family in 2011, and three words that we hope will be reflective of ourselves and our family in 2012. Then, we were given the opportunity to have prayers of blessing prayed over us by a pastor or staff member. It was beautiful and a great way to start the new year.

Here are my three words for 2012.

1. Focus

2. Intentional

3. Trust

I look forward to writing more about these words in the months to come. They also compliment my #FinishYear goals as well. Happy New Year!

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under #FinishYear, Faith, Motivation

They’re on the ocean floor

This weekend, our church will host our annual BBQ & Baptism. It is an amazing experience that I have had the opportunity to help coordinate for the last few years. We spend an entire afternoon honoring and celebrating with those who have decided to take that next step in their faith journey and be baptized. Our staff is wonderful about planning every detail to ensure that the day is unforgettable.

I can honestly say that this is one of my favorite events that we host each year. It is such a unique and special day, as we celebrate with those who have made one of the most important decisions in their faith journey: to publicly proclaim their relationship with Jesus.

The stories that I get the opportunity to hear are always amazing. Although the day takes an incredible amount of planning and coordination to pull it off, it is one of the most rewarding experiences that I have the privilege of being involved in.

It always makes me think of my own story, and my baptism a few years ago. What an emotional and freeing experience that was. There is nothing like the feeling of going under that water and coming up clean. The song Ocean Floor by Audio Adrenaline captures it so perfectly.

“Ocean Floor”

The mistakes I’ve made

That caused pain

I could have done without

All my selfish thought

All my pride

The things I hide

You have forgot about

They’re all behind you

They’ll never find you

They’re on the ocean floor

Your sins are forgotten

They’re on the bottom

Of the ocean floor

My misdeeds

All my greed

All the things that haunt me now

They’re not a pretty sight to see

But they’re wiped away

By a mighty, mighty wave

A mighty, mighty wave

Your sins are erased

And they are no more

They’re out on the ocean floor

Take them away

To return no more

Take them away

To the ocean floor

Although this video was shot around the theme of serving at our church, you can watch Some of my story here.

So, what’s your story? Have you been baptized, or are you considering it? I would love to hear from you.

Also, you can check out some amazing videos that capture the essence of the day here: The Orchard’s BBQ and Baptism

Leave a comment

Filed under Baptism, Faith