It’s been two months since I started a new job as Director of Academic Operations at a college in Miami. It’s the first time I work in the for profit sector, the fastest growing sector of education today. So far it has been a fascinating and challenging ride. These schools often cater to older or working students in vocational fields. And unlike traditional higher education, for-profit schools have been much quicker to adopt technology to assist learning and to tailor schedules to students’ needs. As someone who comes from the traditional public sector, it has been a learning process. However, I still have a role as a bivocational executive pastor and student (going for my second Master’s in Instructional Design), so my blog will take a different shift. More focused on education and the learning journey but yes, I will still share inspiration and empowering thoughts. After all, that is at the core of who I am as an individual. So beginning the new year, it will be all fresh content. See ya then. In the meantime, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
My thoughts today are to “finish well.” Every time my brother and sister-in-love (who happen to be pastors) come over from NYC, we always get to talking about life and ministry. We are each other’s venting buddies. We all love what we do but sometimes…..This weekend, as we (Hiram & I) shared why we sometimes feel like just throwing up our hands and saying “forget this”, one thing that rung in my brain is at the end of the day, what matters is that I finish well. There are a lot of starters in the world but not a lot of finishers. But finishing is what counts.
I find this quote to be true, “After everything is said and done, more has been said than ever was done!” Life is filled with the best of intentions. Some ambitious intentions we are incapable of accomplishing; others we could have achieved, we did not for one reason or another. People’s lives can be like that; people run out of time, or energy, or resource right before completion.
Sure, there are many everyday things that may not matter much. But there are some consequential things that will matter a lot. Think of how that can relate to friendships, marriages, families, careers, plans for retirement. No bride or groom ever stood at an altar with thoughts of a failed marriage; no parent ever held a newborn child in their arms, thinking they would be too busy at work or negligent at home. What I am trying to communicate to you is this…meaning well is a good beginning, but wins no awards for lifetime achievement. Paul asked the Christ-followers at Galatia, “You ran well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?” Galatians 5:7 NKJV. Is something hindering your progress?
In my own life, I can come up with a few things that have hindered me in the past or could hinder me now but I won’t to protect teh guilty. LOL! Sometimes it could be life circumstances like an unsaved or uncommitted husband/wife, lack of resources, lack of a support team, an illness in the family, being a caregiver for someone in the home, not having time due to parental duties, working with people or being part of a team that are vastly different in values, cultural understanding, and matters of leadership that it drives you batty but if God has told you to do something, none of these reasons are good enough to quit. Sometimes, it is simply analyzing the season we are in since that dictates if this is the season to be still or the time to keep plodding along (but that’s another post).
The Apostle Paul looked across the span of his faith-life and wrote, “The time has come for my departure. I have fought a good fight; I have finished the race; and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me – the crown of righteousness that the Lord, the righteous Judge will give me on that great day of His return.” 2 Timothy 4:7-8 NLT. Finishing well requires tenacity to “fight a good fight,” resolve to “finish the race,” and integrity to “remain faithful.” Between the success of the good fight and the finished race is the essential task of remaining faithful – the same from beginning to end. Can God and others count on you? Then, the crown and His “well done” awaits.
Jesus’ example should inspire us all. Upon the cross, Jesus said, “It is finished! . . Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” That was not resignation but declaration, not the whimper of a dying man’s surrender to a cruel fate, as some standing by must have assumed. Had they listened with their hearts, they would have heard instead the triumphant voice of Heaven’s Champion who embraced his eternal destiny and would storm the gates of hell, “leading captivity captive, and giving gifts unto men.” Ephesians 4:8-10 NKJV.
What have you begun that you need to finish well – college? Graduate school?, a new job, a new ministry position, promises given to loved ones, marriage vows promised, business agreements, or spiritual commitments? Today I remind you that the goal in life is so very simple that it can be captured in two simple words … finish well.
My prayer for you is that God give you all you need (joy for the journey, strength to deal with the things that hinder our desire to fight to the finish, and love for those who make us want to pull our hair out and not continue to do for them what we’ve been called to do).
I want to finish well. I will await God’s voice that will let me know when it’s time to move on to the next chapter of my life. And when that time comes, whatever I am doing at that time, in all areas of my life will be well finished. “I have fought . . I have finished . . I have remained faithful.” 2 Timothy 4:7 NLT
A philosopher once observed, “The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.” We might dispute his conclusion, arguing instead that man’s need for God is the deepest need of human nature. However, I think we would all agree that people—including ourselves—have a need to feel valued and appreciated. Mark Twain expressed how much the affirmation of others meant to him when he said, “One compliment can keep me going for a whole month.”
This week’s mentoring moment is focused on the 3A Addiction: APPROVAL, APPRECIATION, AND AFFIRMATION. Something I think many people get addicted to and get distracted with, more times that not. How deep is this need? Consider the little boy who said to his father: “Let’s play darts. I’ll throw and you say ‘Wonderful!’” One individual said, “There are high spots in all of our lives and most of them have come through encouragement from someone else. I don’t care how great, how famous or how successful a man or woman may be, each hungers for applause.”
I believe the need for encouragement is why many leaders, both secular and in the church, keep a file of good reports and letters of encouragement that they will refer to during challenging or discouraging times. I actually have files for cards and emails that people have sent me in the past. When I feel down, when I’m asking myself why do I continue to do what I do with all the “meanies” I’ve crossed paths with, I pull out those cards. Yes, I really do. It is said that Abraham Lincoln used to carry around a newspaper article in his pocket that described him as a great leader. Proverbs 12:25 says, “Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad.”
While there is a negative side of seeking what Jesus called, “glory from men,” some of the ministers I interact with are not approval addicts and are not seeking to be worshipped. Rather, they are like Paul, who was:
* Encouraged by Titus (2 Corinthians 7:6),
* Refreshed by Onesiphorus (2 Timothy 1:16-18), and
* Strengthened by the brothers from Rome when they came out to welcome him to their city. The Amplified says, “When Paul saw them, he thanked God and received new courage” (Acts 28:15).
Encouragement from others does help us keep going! What happens, though, when people don’t encourage us? What happens when they are not appreciative of our efforts? It can be disheartening when you’ve poured your life into someone, only to discover that as soon as you’ve helped them through their crisis (or crises), they now feel “led” to another church or they disappear from your life (or church) without so much as a goodbye.
I posted yesterday on my Facebook and Twitter that we can learn a few lessons from David and the Apostle Paul. David learned that you can’t always count on people to reciprocate your kindnesses appropriately. Psalm 35:12 says, “They reward me evil for good, to the sorrow of my soul.” The Apostle Paul made a fascinating statement as well: “And I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I am loved” (2 Corinthians 12:15). We’ve already seen that Paul benefited from the encouragement of others, but something far greater than human response motivated and sustained him in his ministry, especially when others didn’t respond with appreciation and gratitude for his ministry. After being in ministry for about 25 years, I can tell you that the majority of the time, you “don’t get no love!”
I wrote this for myself and I wrote this for you reader, because I know that we ALL go through times when we are encouragement challenged. When the ones you expect to give you the “atta girl or atta boy” are very quiet. Seems they forget that silent gratitude impacts no one. But the thing about this thing we call ministry is that more often than not, we have to continue in spite of it ALL, the negative people who bash every idea, the critics who you can never seem to the please, the back stabbers who smile in your face but are plotting against you and the two-faces, those who tell you one thing and hang with your haters the next telling them something about you.
You may have heard that great statement before, there was a time in David’s life when no one was encouraging him, as a matter of fact, everyone around him wanted to kill him. That’s when we read, “but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God” (1 Samuel 30:6). Never underestimate the power of talking to yourself! Zig Ziglar said, “The most influential person who will talk to you all day is you, so you should be very careful about what you say to you!” If others don’t encourage you, encourage yourself! The Apostle John said that we “shall assure our hearts before Him” (1 John 3:19).
OUR FINAL SOURCE OF APPROVAL, APPRECIATION, AND AFFIRMATION
We need to embrace the fact that people will never meet our deepest needs. God is the Ultimate Rewarder, and we should look to Him accordingly! In Romans 2:29 and 1 Corinthians 4:5, we find that our praise will come from God (I encourage you to read those verses in contrast to John 5:44 and 12:43).
Hebrews 6:10-12 says, For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
When people express appreciation toward you, that’s great. We can enjoy a sincere compliment (watch out for flattery, I usually say thank you but keep it moving…today people love you, tomorrow…well LOL), but we should realize that the accolades of men (or the lack thereof) do not constitute our purpose for being or staying in ministry.
The appreciation of people can give us momentary gratification, but it is the praise and the commendation of God that will give us lasting and eternal satisfaction. So it’s important to spend time with him so that the Holy Spirit can feed us what we need most from the source we can’t tap into any other way.
I love the way the Max Lucado ended his book, “The Applause of Heaven.”
“You’ll be home soon, too. You may not have noticed it, but you are closer to home than ever before. Each moment is a step taken. Each breath is a page turned. Each day is a mile marked, a mountain climbed. You are closer to home than you’ve ever been.
Before you know it, your appointed arrival time will come; you’ll descend the ramp and enter the City. Woohoo! And you know what, on a side note, it could be sooner than you think! (I’ve had many friends my age or younger die from one day to another!).
You’ll see the faces that are waiting for you. You’ll hear your name spoken by those who love you. And, maybe, just maybe—in the back, behind the crowds—the One who would rather die than live without you will remove his pierced hands from his heavenly robe and. . . applaud.” Imagine that moment. It will all be worth it!
Two great lessons we learn from Hebrews 11 concerning the endurance Moses exhibited are that (1) he was looking ahead to the great reward that God would give him, and (2) that he endured as seeing Him who is invisible. I think we need to do the same. Let’s look at what God will say “Well done my good and faithful servant” and let’s believe in our greatest cheerleader in heaven when all we hear is mass silence while doing good for other people. Don’t give in to the 3A addiction from people. Seek approval only from the one that matters. Our LORD and Savior! And yes that means that you will most definitely stick out like a sore thumb. But remember, God created you to stand out not fit in!!!
May you be powerfully encouraged, knowing that the Lord is pleased with your efforts, and that all of heaven is cheering you on in your race! You go with your bad self!
Hidden within you, you have one of the most powerful tools unknown to mankind. One that has the capabilities to change the course of history. What is that tool? It is your God-given gift!
The gift is in us, but we have the responsibility to stir it up. The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you” (2 Timothy 1:6).
In the New King James Version of the Bible, the verse is translated, “Stir up the gift of God.”
The gift is not something we learn.
It is something God gave us.
It is something we need to discover and then stir up.
No one else can activate your gift for you.
You have to do it yourself.
You stir up your gift by developing, refining, enhancing, and using it.
That’s where education comes in.
Education can’t give you your gift, but it can help you develop it so that it can be used to the maximum. Proverbs 17:8 says, “A gift is as a precious stone in the eyes of him that hath it: whithersoever it turneth, it prospereth” (KJV). In other words, a gift is like a precious stone to the one who has it, and whenever he stirs it up, it turns into prosperity.
If you use your gift, it will prosper you. Many people are working for money (although I know that we need $$$ to pay them bills LOL) but that’s an inferior reason to work. We must work for the vision within us and you know why…when we don’t do what God wired us to do, we are unfulfilled and if we get to our death bed, we die with potential inside.
In addition, I want to remind you that you are not to mimic the gifts of others. You are wired the way you are wired because the people God has planned to come in contact with you need what you got, and you need what they got, get me? So there is no reason to hate on a sister and her gift. Stir up your own gift.
Unfortunately, many people are jealous of other people’s gifts. Let me encourage you not to waste your time on jealousy. Jealousy is a gift robber. Jealousy is an energy drain. Jealousy will take away the passion of life from you. You should be so busy stirring up your gift that you don’t have time to be jealous of anyone else or to feel sorry for yourself.
I read an article about Louis Armstrong, the jazz artist. He reportedly applied to go to music school and was brought in for an audition. They gave him scales to sing, but he could sing only the first two notes properly, so they told him he didn’t have what it takes to be a musician.Imagine that! Who has counted you out because you didn’t fit the mold of the gifts already present in the house?
The story said that he cried because they rejected him from the music program. But Louis told his friends afterward, “I know there’s music in me, and they can’t keep it out.” He eventually became one of the most successful and beloved jazz musicians. He sold more records and made more money than scores of others who were more talented at singing.
Now he is forever etched in the history of music. Although we are all born as originals, most of us become imitators. Stop copying, be you and yes I know it takes alot of courage to be the you God created!
I used to think about becoming like everyone else and joining the rat race. However, then I realized that if all the rats are in a race, and you win, you simply become the Big Rat!
I recommend that you get out of the rat race, stop competing with the community, stop being in a contest with society, stop trying to keep up with the Joneses, stop trying to please everybody, and say, “I’m not going to be a rat. I’m going to find my own niche.
I’m going to make room for myself in the world by using my gift.
To encourage you to do just that, I have planned through my organization Center for Emerging Female Leadership a series of Sistah Stir Ups where you can meet and mingle with like-minded gifted sisters who know they got a gift (s) inside and are ready to step out and make room for themselves in this world. With or without the blessing of denominational figures, pastors, family members, etc. The world needs what you got, don’t let anyone tell you you don’t got a gift (s)! Got it?!!
My mom is visiting with me from Puerto Rico for two weeks, I have a week left with her and I’m trying to spend as much time with her as possible. Last night, we got into a discussion of “blessing” or “la bendicion”. In my culture, when I was growing up, it was customary to ask for “la bendicion” before we left the house and our parents would always say “ Que el Senor te bendiga.” Mom was telling me how much I have on my plate, that she sees my life and she sees how strong I am (and how busy) and that she’s proud of me but that I have a hard life. I said, “mom you are right, my life is a life that no one even knows but through it all, I know that I’m blessed in spite of it all. That’s how we went to bed last night. Then this morning I woke up with the word blessing in my spirit. As I asked God to elaborate more on why this word was in my spirit, I heard a still small voice tell me, “begin to pronounce blessings over your family.” I continued to dwell on that and basically came up with the notion that God wants me to use my mouth!
I often ask my oldest son, you know you are blessed right? And he does, what most teen boys do, nods to quickly get me to stop talking. But I need to do as the Jews do from now on. Why? Because what you believe and say to your loved ones every day matters. For orthodox Jews, on Friday evenings in their homes, the father lays his hands on his children and pronounces God’s blessings over them. No wonder Jewish children grow up to be winners in the fight of life! They become some of the world’s greatest inventors, bankers, musicians and entertainers.
Although a minority race, the Jews have produced the most number of Nobel Prize winners. I believe that it is because they bless their children in the same way the patriarchs of the Old Testament did. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob released God’s blessings upon their children by laying hands on them and speaking forth the blessings. (Genesis 27:27–29, 38–40; 48:14–16)
In the New Testament, the apostles pronounced blessings over the churches they were preaching to. To the church in Philippi, Paul declared, “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19) John released a powerful blessing upon Gaius when he said, “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.” (3 John 1:2)
My friend, bless your loved ones. Declare over them, “The Lord blesses you and surrounds you with His favor as with a shield.” Speak forth your own blessings by declaring, “Thank You Lord, You prosper me and I am in excellent health!”
As our children prepare to return to school, let’s take the time to bless them enough that they hear it proclaimed. They will leave the house with confidence knowing that our God has them covered. Let’s use our mouth for more than “clean your closet”, “do your homework” or “your punished!” Pronounce God’s blessings over your children and they will grow up to be winners in the fight of life.
It’s 6:58 am on the morning of my older son’s 15th birthday. I woke up early today because last night my honey didn’t give me the help I usually need to go to sleep which means I usually am wide awake by 5 AM. But that’s not what’s important about this moment. What’s important is that I believe God would have it that I open an email about a book that in my normal decision-making book buying process I would probably never read. The book is Dream New Dreams by Jai Pausch, the wife of the late Randy Pausch, author of the Last Lecture.
You see, I usually buy informative books. Books that will teach me something. Books that will challenge me to grow. I very seldom buy autobiographies or novels, I guess I find them to be a waste of time. Yet the description of this book drew me in so early in the morning. I am not a morning person and figured after my husband left for work I would go back to bed myself yet I read the excerpt provided by Good Reads and I think I was crying by the third page. And then it hit me. I never really did cry.
You see, I have had to dream new dreams. When I was told I would be becoming a mom. I was elated. My first born son, other than the umbilical cord being tangled around his neck at birth requiring a C-section has been and I thank God for this, a healthy child. It’s his birthday today and I’m so blessed to be his mom. But my youngest, even though I had a great pregnancy for some unexplained reason was born at 26 weeks. He was doing well until an infection which is natural for preemies to get, wasn’t treated immediately by medical personnel and he ended up with mennigitis. The roller coaster of my life went into full speed and sparing you all the details, he’s had 29 surgeries in his soon-t0-be 13 years of life. But the thing is that I really never stopped for too long to think of the entire dream shattering part. I wanted two perfect babies. I got to perfectly amazing, life changing boys. Yet, it cost me something.
I never really did cry about the cost of living life with dreams that were not my dreams. But new dreams that rose out of the pieces of broken ones. Being a caregiver to a medically fragile child is exhausting purely and simply because life is lived with the unexpected. At any given moment, he can throw up, go into a seizure, have a shunt malfunction, and a whole slew of other possibilities. But I’ve learned to live my life and continue to pursue what I believe is God’s destiny in my life. I continue to pour into others who can understand that my time is limited, my schedule can change at any moment in spite of the reality of being a caregiver on top of being a wife and a mom to a healthy, normal child.
Yes I cried when I was going thru! I cried praying for my son, I cried feeling pain but I never cried for me. You get me? I never really did cry about the things I would never get to do; the stages I never got to see, the aimlessness I feel often when the reality of my beautiful son’s prognosis stares at me when I’m busy getting excited about what God is doing in my life. I never really did cry about the opportunities I’ve lost, the jobs I had to say no to, the city I had to leave in the height of my career because I chose to be a good mom over anything else.
I guess this book, in its first few pages really touched my heart. I guess buying books like this one can still learn a thing or two. As I write this, tears are still streaming down my face. I guess it’s simply because I never really did cry. But thank God He gives us the ability, the want to, to dream new dreams.
This morning as I read my morning devotional I came across an advertisement for the book “Letters to a Future Church” with contributions from significant voices like
- Andy Crouch
- Ron Sider
- Tim Challies
- Peter Rollins
- Sarah Lance
- Makoto Fujimura
As I looked around the Intervarsity Press site, I found one written on women and of course felt I need to share it because I believe it is a question many of us women would ask. Here it is:
To the church in North America:
I don’t suppose myself to be an all-knowing critic. In fact, I find a great comfort in finding my own fault, rather than assessing the faults of others.
Having said that church, I feel it necessary to pose a question to you.
All throughout the narrative of scripture, God asks questions of His people. From the garden to the cross, our God questioned, inquired and queried those whom He loved. Questions have the ability to open up new worlds, explore new possibilities and unearth depths we may not have known before.
So it is with humility, gentleness and as much respect as I can muster, I pose my question to you.
A question I don’t presume to be answered with ease.
A question that is nuanced and textured.
A question that has been asked from those who have gone before me and a question that I fear will be asked long after I have returned to the earth. But a question nonetheless that is banging at the door of my heart with a steady beat.
Pleading for a voice.
I tread lightly asking you, the North American church, such a question.
I tread with ease and care because I know with my question I step on years of rich Christian tradition, theology and doctrinal stances. I tread on rules, rituals, and routines that have long been in place. I tread on fellow brothers and sisters earnest and sincere beliefs. Please know church, as I tread, I tiptoe with honest and thoughtful care.
North American Church, broken yet beautiful North American church, the question I ask you is this:
Where are your women?
Women with scars, women with baby weight and blistered feet.
Women who are daughters, women who never knew their fathers.
Women who knew force at the hands of the men they trusted, women who know deep abiding love at the hands of the men they trust.
Women who are friends, fellow travelers and faithful family members.
Where are your women?
Women who till fields. Women who run companies. Women who change diapers. Women who mend souls.
Where are your women?
Listen to the wind words, the Spirit blowing through the churches.
Oh church, I see your women in the pews.
I see them spiritually shaping and discipling the hearts and minds of people in other countries, as they serve as missionaries all over the world.
I see them creating the constructs of our children’s first encounters with God as Children’s Pastors and Sunday school teachers.
I see them calling our congregations to worship God in music and penning hymns of glory to God as Choir directors and musical leaders.
But I don’t see them standing in front of our churches, microphone in hand, passion in their bellies, sharing their rich stories with us.
Women, it seems, are disqualified from shifting the souls of men.
Able bodied to lead, aptly called to serve, everywhere else but behind the pulpit. I don’t hear their voices resonating through literature, headlining conferences or enriching our understanding of Jesus through their perspectives and giftings.
Those voices are scarce, almost silent. Sometimes they drift in the wind, tossing to and fro. But they never stay long, they are not constant.
Where are your women?
I fear that storytellers rich with wisdom, living under the authority of compassion and steeped with long suffering love are being laid to rest without ever being given voice.
Their stories go with them.
To the ground.
To the dust.
Are you awake?
Listen to the wind words, the Spirit blowing through the churches.
I see everything you do church. I see your love, faith, service and persistence of your passion. I see your labor and your good works.
But where are your women who are preaching and interpreting the canon of Scripture? Where are the women preaching powerful, faithful, and compelling biblical expositions of the life, work and mission of our Christ? Where are the women calling our communities of faith to stare long and hard into the eyes of our Savior?
Have you hidden them church?
Have you relegated them to the sidelines?
It seems Church you have empowered and encouraged women to be disciple-makers by prayerfully speaking the Word of God to others, in whatever way and to whatever extent that their gifting and circumstances allow. Just not behind a wooden structure called a pulpit.
I can’t help but wonder Church, if years from now, when our generation is gone, will the Christian minds of tomorrow wonder what we were thinking, when women changed the world and were left silenced in the church?
Silenced in His kingdom.
Women will always be, by nature lovers. They hold their lives loosely in their hands and pass it around, like Communion. Their whole life, a Eucharist of service and love and sacrifice through mundane tasks and mountain top moments alike.
Women. The crescendo of God’s creation.
But church, where are your women?
Are your ears awake?
Listen to the Wind Words, the Spirit blowing through the churches.
No single sweep of my pen can underline an answer to the question of women in ministry. But my spirit, oh my spirit longs for to hear the voice of the daughters of Christ.
To see daughters of the King, full of grace, beauty and radiance take their place with the sons of the King in teaching, preaching and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom.
The good news of the Way.
The good news of our God.
My dream church of North America is to see men and women together engaging in radical subordination and mutual submission, holding hands and holding authority together to steward the message of bountiful and wasteful grace.
To let every mouth proclaim the good news of the gospel and the hopeful call of Christ.
It’s more than just equal rights.
It’s a longing for all who come into the Kingdom to join in community and be empowered to participate in a revolution that spreads the Way.
Together. Men and women. Sharing, teaching, preaching, calling.
So that the world might taste. So that the world might hear. So that the world might see and know that the Savior has come.
North American church, that I love so dear…
My conscience beats that we are all called
To be voices of justice, revolutionaries, prophets and priests.
Women of the way, women with flaws
With cellulite and acne scars
Women with two feet on the ground and arms open wide
Beautiful women with the spark of the divine.
I will listen for your voices, you narratives, your exegesis.
Your passion, your perspective, your musings on Jesus.
To the church of North America, broken yet so beautiful.
Listen to the wind words, the Spirit blowing through your steeples
The wind of the spirit is empowering your women.
Give them voice as the creator has.
North American church!
As I mentioned in this post way back when, I always get reflective during certain times of the year. In less than a 1/2 hour it will be the last day of April and officially my birthday month will come to a close. I had an amazing month celebrating 47 years of my life with friends and family.
I went to Puerto Rico and enjoyed time with an old friend who was very important to me at a certain phase in my life, I saw my mom which reminded me that parents don’t always do the things they ought nor learn the lessons they themselves sought to teach their children yet I need to be more hands-on with her as she continues to age (strategizing to see how that can happen).
I just returned from a wonderful 7 day cruise with my immediate family and my sister-in-love and her husband. Yes, we actually like each other that much that we can vacation together. LOL! Plus we managed not to talk “church” that much. Imagine that. Four pastors.
While I didn’t get to go out to many birthday dinners this month due to my schedule (and I thank those who asked to take me out!-maybe I can extend my birthday month to make up for that lol), I feel incredibly blessed to have at least five people who love me for me and not what I do for them.:-) (In Jack & Jill movie -Mexican Gardener voice, I’m kidding!)
But seriously, although I’ve been hurt by bad religion, messed up Christians; although I’ve experienced things I don’t wish on an enemy; although my life is not perfect right now, I do feel grateful. Yes, my life has been an adventure. No. More like a wild ride on a roller coaster. But you know me, I can’t complain.;-)
You know how it is right? Have you been on a roller coaster? The harness clicks in place and muscles tighten as I head up the sharp incline. The slow ride to the top provides ample opportunity for the tension to mount. By the time I’ve reached the summit, my excitement level is somewhere between “Woohoo!” and, “What was I thinking?”
My heart leaps and my stomach groans as I crest the top of the summit and race down through sweeping turns. Screams of excitement pierce the air while the ride picks up speed. Everyone hangs on for dear life. It’s an exciting ride!
Yes, a roller coaster ride is in many ways like what my life has been—a ride of faith with ups, downs, and lots of adrenaline-pumping excitement. My challenge is often not hanging on hard enough—that is, not trusting enough. When I seek my own pleasures in life rather than trusting God’s plan, I find myself at the end of the ride with that dreaded feeling of dizziness. The times when I’ve sought my own way or made my own decisions have proved painful and discouraging. On the other hand, the more I trust in God and the tighter I cling to His Roller Coaster Life Manual (the Bible), the more fulfilled and rewarding the times have been.
I’m now 47, and the years are going by with incredible speed. I still find myself waging the life-long, and sometimes painful, pursuit of seeking God’s direction for my life. Yet, at the same time, I see God’s hand and guidance through every decision. Like the picture above states, I may not have ended up where I intended to go but I think I ended up where I needed to be. I don’t know how long I will be pastoring in my current church (maybe three more years maybe until I die), I don’t know what will become of CEFL, the book that is waiting for word from my agent, etc. etc. but at 47, I can truly say that knowing you are in the center of God’s will is the most rewarding and exciting place of all. Yes, in terms of vocation, there have been many offers for higher-paying jobs, great opportunities if I just moved from FL, even jobs where my hubby could be a stay-at-home dad again (which he is great at by the way) but they weren’t what God wanted at that time. They were perhaps the right opportunity, but they came at the wrong time.
To you who read this, learn this now from this 47 year old Latina, I assure you that there’s nothing more exciting than discovering who God has made you to be and following that passion with all your might. For me, that means communicating truth, building organizations and inspiring people, as well as helping them find purpose and fulfillment in their lives. So seek first God’s Kingdom and His righteousness—and I’ll see you at the end of the ride!
As I’ve mentioned in various parts of my blog or Facebook, if you have a job to do in the Kingdom, you should do all you can to do it right and as well as you can at your current level of understanding. Have you ever dreaded when someone was called to pray in the congregation or small group? I have. Reason? The person probably didn’t do one or more of the things I’ve listed below. Here are some tips for praying in public, please do share with your friends.
Keep it short!
The model prayer that Jesus gave his disciples is short. It takes only 30 seconds to speak this prayer (Mtt 6:9-13).
Don’t use empty, hallow words
Jesus warned against using “empty repetitions” (Mtt 6:7). Some prayer leaders pad out their prayers with meaningless churchy phrases. For instance, instead of saying, “Please keep us safe on the roads tonight”, they might say, “As we leave this place and go our various ways, we beseech Thee that Thou wouldst grant Thy children journeying mercies that they might safely arrive at their intended destinations”. Ugh. How I hateth thateth!
When you lead in prayer, speak for the congregation, not to it. It is not your task to reprove, rebuke, or exhort the church. Your task is to lead the church in a prayer to God. Preaching to God, and hoping the message will rub off on the congregation, is not a proper use of the ministry of public prayer. When we want a preacher, we’ll let you know. Or maybe not…if you can’t stay within a time line for a prayer, could be possibly trust you with a sermon?
Be aware that public prayer is not the place to mention private matters that means don’t air someone’s dirty laundry for all to hear i.e. “Lord we come before you on behalf of Susan who is in deep pain following the news that her husband is a dirty, rotten liar and cheater. Help her during this time to forgive and give her peace.”
I’m back from vacation. Checked on some things I missed while I was away. Made me think about ALOT. I didn’t want to think about ANYTHING yet. Not until tomorrow. Sucks for me. But it is what it is. Reality is like a speed bump in a small car when you are sitting in the middle, it hurts. ANYWAY, I digress. I’ll wrap up all my miscellaneous thoughts with this one statement, “sometimes thinking radically different from the people around you is well…depressing!” I tried to resist even writing about this but this is what writer’s do right? They get an itch about something and they have to spit it out. It also helps not fearing you’ll lose your job. I figure if I’m told I’m “released” to my next level of ministry it was “God’s timing” LOL.
I’m amazed at what people think is awesome preaching…standards have drastically been lowered. Just because you preach to thousands doesn’t mean you even know what you are talking about. Just because you are a pastor doesn’t even mean you could preach. Some people just don’t have that gift. And let’s face it, just because people come to the altar (usually the same folks who still haven’t figured out they have to do some of the work on this discipleship journey) doesn’t mean there was life transformation. Right? Honestly, I think people just lie. Lie about saying “pastor that was awesome”. Lie when they scream when a person’s name is called who is going to be preaching because they think that is what the people in power want to hear. Sometimes religious calisthenics are exhausting for some people. Ok, ok some people do mean it. (Happy now) Religious calisthenics are also excruciating for second chair leaders. By this I mean, the things people do just to 1) keep the peace; 2) keep their job; 3) keep the facade going on who they want people to think they are. There is even a book that was written about the balancing act of 2nd chair leaders who have to do ALOT of calisthenics (More on 2nd chair leadership in my blog post tomorrow and I’ll be upfront. I have found that the blogs and articles that have educated or inspired me the most are from ministry leaders who kept it real). Pick up the book here
Now what is hard about 2nd chair leadership is that sometimes (a lot of times) you would do things differently then your first chair leader. You think different, therefore you would do different. Now while there are great benefits to diversity in styles on a team, it is serious hard work not to run to the hills.
Now when it comes to preaching, my thought is that it is an honor. It’s a privilege. Shouldn’t be taken lightly. People always talking down to you (like you are some kid), telling you to google them (sounds sort of smug to me- oh by the way google ME! Oh my, did I just tell you to do that?).
Why is this such a tick for me? Well because preaching is about hope, it’s about bringing forth transformation not just information, it’s about moving people to evaluate their lives not manipulating them with spiritual mumble jumbo. The word even says that “For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, EVEN THE ELECT!” (Mat 24:24).Yes, even Christians, Christians who toot their horn about how many years they have served the Lord, etc. etc have the possibility of being deceived. Why? Because so many people are impressed with signs and wonders forgetting that the devil (little d) can perform the same things, use the same people God does. Do you get me? So that alone should not impress you. When a calling is made, people moved by the Spirit will respond. General calls like if you want God to heal you? (DUH), if you want peace, joy, more money, etc. will always get people to the altar. These kinds of calls are ok, sometimeWhen a preacher preaches in the power of God, the results are remarkable. The element of the divine in the preaching must be first and foremost in the preacher’s preparation AND delivery. The Holy Spirit within the preacher will then do the work that only he can do. The call to preach is just that - a call to preach. The call to preach, however, is more than just preaching. The call to preach is a call to prepare. Too many pastors have refrained from preparation while they await the Holy Spirit to do all of the work. To me that is just a poor excuse. God expects preachers to prepare sermons as much as possible and allow Him to prepare the preachers.
Who do I think is awesome? Regardless of your personal theology, these speakers are not only eloquent but the evidence shows they prepare and deliver great messages with thought of their audience, etc. So who falls in my book as awesome? TD Jakes awesome. Pastor Steven Furtick of Elevation Church, Rev. Jackie McCullough awesome. Rev Alfred Smith Sr. Awesome. Rev. Vashti McKenzie. Awesome. Rev. Renita Weems. Awesome. Rev. Claudette A. Copeland. Awesome. I could go on and on.Many of you are great preachers too, I even live with two pretty good ones!! Passion, Anointing (Spirit) COMBINED WITH CONTENT is awesome. I don’t even think I’m awesome. Anyway, Awesome is NOT EMOTIONALISM. Not Babbling brooks, not wing-ism, not spiritual manipulation. (Do you even know when you are being manipulated?) Am I wrong? People evaluate what/who you listen to and stop being so impressed!
With all this said, pastors who preach and teach every week hardly get encouragement when a message is good or touches someone’s heart or moves someone to action. If you hear a message and it moves you, touches you, informs you, transforms you…please do let that speaker know. MOST “not all” preachers are their harshest critics, feedback especially if you can give detailed feedback i.e. your use of illustrations were great, the movie clip you showed was so appropriate, although I would have followed your message better if you did XYZ, the overall nugget I got from it ABC was useful in my life right now because of 123. This helps the person hone in on what is good and what they need to work on and if there wasn’t anything good in the sermon (without trying to search hard for that one little crumb of a nugget), don’t feel sorry for the speaker and go up for that reason LOL or yell amen just because you can’t stand silence. When you do things like that, you really do a disservice to the Kingdom. God can use anyone yes. But God expects those He calls to do their part. You faking it because you feel a “bendito” (a sorry) for the preacher makes them think they are better than they really are and for the love of God, don’t recommend a bad preacher to someone else with your highest recommendations just so they feel good about you (you are such a good friend) or to get them from hounding you to speak at your church, that is also a disservice to the Kingdom.
Do you think I’m wrong to write this? What is your take on what I said? What is your personal method of evaluating preaching? Please do share your feedback on this post or on the topic of preaching in general.