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Let’s commit to being present.

I find myself often picking on kids and teenagers about their cellphone/tablet usage and accusing them of being zombies, slaves to their screens.  Honestly, though, I’ve been observing adults in the same zombie-like state lately.  And if I’m very vulnerable, I’m often that slave.

Recently, I’ve found myself encouraging my leaders to unplug during Sunday service, although I’m fighting the same temptation to shoot off that last text during LifeGroup.  What’s wrong with me?  I’ve also recently observed many parents on their phones while at kids’ activities and missing opportunities to interact with their children or even, chaperone them safely.

Why are we on our phones so much? For some of us, it’s just a habitual action that is so connected to our muscle-memory that we just do it unconsciously on impulse.  For some of us, it’s an intentional (or even unintentional) escape to avoid interaction with others – including our kids.  For some, it’s a constant need for stimulation.  For others, it might be fear of missing out on what’s going on in the rest of the world.

For whatever reason, I’m addicted to my cellphone and more dependent on it than I should be.  Are you?

When I reflect on the life of Jesus and look through the Bible, everything points to being present in the moment, paying attention to what Holy Spirit is doing and how we should be responding. In Ecclesiastes, time and time again, the author expresses how fleeting life is here on earth, just like the book of Matthew, the Psalms, and so many other books of the Bible.  We are short blips of story in the meta-narrative of God and our time to impact, influence, and experience life is limited.  When I look back on the highlight reel of my life with Jesus, do I really want to account for all the time I spent on my cellphone?

Be encouraged parents. Tuck the cellphone away today and watch your kids rehearse that dance number one more time or pick wildflowers during their soccer game.  I’m committing to making sure I do the same.

Ecclesiastes 5:18-20 | The Message (MSG) | Make the Most of What God Gives

18-20 After looking at the way things are on this earth, here’s what I’ve decided is the best way to live: Take care of yourself, have a good time, and make the most of whatever job you have for as long as God gives you life. And that’s about it. That’s the human lot. Yes, we should make the most of what God gives, both the bounty and the capacity to enjoy it, accepting what’s given and delighting in the work. It’s God’s gift! God deals out joy in the present, the now. It’s useless to brood over how long we might live.

Psalm 118:24 | ESV

This is the day that the Lord has made;
    let us rejoice and be glad in it.

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How do we set an infant up for lifelong faith?

I believe the nursery is one of the most fundamental ministries in the church for both infants and parents.  For parents, it’s an opportunity to allow others to love your baby in the name of Jesus.  For infants, it’s a fundamental moment to get to know the people of God and to know that God loves them.

During this phase of life, babies just want to know, “Am I safe?” Therefore, it’s our job to consistently embrace their physical needs.  When we answer the repeated question, infants experience God’s love and also know that God’s people love them.

“You are the More Knowledgeable Other in the life of your baby.  You are meeting their basic physiological needs by feeding them, keeping them clean, and placing them in a safe place to sleep.  You are the person who helps your baby understand that it is not a good idea to pull the cat’s tail. You are the person who lets your little one experience new things” (http://justaphase.com/the-one-question-all-babies-ask/).

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I’m not a parent yet, but I’m observing a lot in our nurseries and with my friends parenting.  I really love the resources from Reggie Joiner’s It’s Just A Phase collection of books for parenting through every age group.  Honestly, as a teacher, I’m so grateful for a resource that takes into account the physical, social, and mental development of a child so that we can minister best and appropriately to their spiritual development.

I highly advise taking a look at this collection of books on Amazon for the resources appropriate for where you are at in your parenting journey. And…snuggle your babies.

What does it mean to be a Christian leader?

Yesterday we had our VictoryKids semi-annual leadership meeting.  We reviewed the Scripture in 1 Timothy for the qualification of overseers and deacons, which I translate to the qualifications of a Christian leader.  When I first read the qualifications, I thought, “I’ll never be this. I’m never going to make this mark.”  Blameless? How am I ever going to be blameless?!  My spirit was prompted by the Holy Spirit then that these words were not meant for condemnation and exasperation, but rather for conviction and exhortation towards growth.

Two of these qualifications really jumped off the page for me for areas of growth for the Church and myself.

  1. Don’t be a slanderer. Okay so we don’t really use the word slanderer in 2017.  However, do we gossip?  Do we criticize our leadership? Absolutely.  As leaders, we need to lead with our words and attitudes.  We need to be quick to show grace and slow to complain.
  2. Respectable.  How does one become respectable?  That’s not going to happen over night.  The process is slow and arduous and requires us to be faithful in little, tedious tasks before we’re trusted with ‘nobler’ tasks.  Through daily faithfulness to God’s Word, we will slowly grow and change – and awhile after that, we become respectable to others.

1 Timothy 3:1-13 – English Standard Version (ESV)
Qualifications for Overseers

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

Qualifications for Deacons

Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. 11 Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. 12 Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. 13 For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.

Lessons on teamwork

This summer didn’t turn out the way I thought it would (mind you, I’m writing this in the beginning of August).  I thought I would power through a summer with a fabulous and earth-shattering Vacation Bible School at our church and hop on a plane two hours later to do it again in Cayo, Belize.

Granted, those things did happen.  However, it occurred in a far less sparkly fashion for me personally.  A week before VBS was starting I got quite sick which was followed by a diagnosis during the middle of VBS that I had another bout of mononucleosis (turns out it’s a myth you only can get it once).  Now this certainly did not factor into my grandiose plans of being a rock star in ministry for 3 straight weeks.

Suddenly, I was forced to slow down because it’s physically impossible to just ‘work harder’ to make sure VBS is smooth, safe, welcoming, and fun.  In addition, I couldn’t just show up in Belize and muscle my way through serving.  I had to look to my left and to my right (and up to Heaven) and trust my team.

You see, for me, the struggle with team has always been trust.  I hated school projects.  I struggled on my sports teams.  Please don’t make me do that work presentation with another co-worker.  Do I trust that someone will do what they said they will?  Will they do it the way I want it done?  Do they care about it as much as I do?  I’ve heard so many people say these things to me and so many times these scripts have played in my head.  In fact, as a school teacher, group projects always solicited groans.

The last 10 years have been full of personal growth when it comes to the value of a team.  The first step in eating the humble pie when I was in my twenties came when I learned that I even needed to have a team – I have lone ranger, cowboy-like tendencies.  I know that great leaders have a great team and I have placed so much value on having a team for so many years since that lesson.  In fact, I invested most of the last 8 months recruiting my VBS team.

This year the Lord allowed me to grow in a new area of team.  The team was in place and this year I learned to trust that the team can handle anything thrown at them without me being present or participatory in every moving part.  Unfortunately, I’m so thick-headed that the only way I could be coerced to exercise trust was to be physically incapacitated so that I couldn’t sprint from station to station to micromanage.  When we were in Belize, my singular contributions felt minuscule in comparison to the scope of ministry our whole team was doing.

We know the ending to this story.  God did far more using the hands of so many talented and amazing individuals to expand the Kingdom than I could have ever done with my hands.  I am richly blessed by a team of people that surround me and point me to Jesus.  I can’t express the gratitude to the King or His people for the last 3 weeks of grace and joy with words.  But I’ll always try: VictoryKids’ Team rocks!

An attitude of gratitude

Although that sounds cheesy, I must admit that so much changes when we approach life, our walk with God, and others with gratitude first.
It’s also how to approach being a leader.
It’s easy in your workplace, family, friend group, neighborhood, or wherever you have relationship to fall into a rut of thinking you’re the only one who does the work, you’re the only one who cares, or you’re the only one capable.  Yup…it’s easy to fall into the rut of pride.  Pride “carries with it a connotation that displays an inflated sense of one’s own worth or personal status and typically makes one feel a sense of superiority over others and can easily make someone look condescendingly at others” (Jack Wellman).
Pride says “only I can do this,” “no one can do better than me,” and “it’s all about me.”  However, pride also sounds like, “I always make the sacrifice” or “They never [insert ANYTHING].”  It’s when we focus on ourselves and all of our observations of the world are filtered through how we affected it or how it affects us.  Pride is all about the self, but it wraps itself in many deceptive packages.  I’ve learned that when I start describing situations or people in absolutes like always or never, that I’m probably slipping into a proud moment.  It is pride when we presume the roles and importance of others.
There’s a coffee maker in the office — I bet you already know where this is going.  More frequently than not, I need to fill the reservoir.  When I’m coffee deprived and I need to add water to the machine, it feels like another hurdle to my caffeinated joy.  “I always fill the coffee machine.  No one else does.  Everyone uses it and I’m left to be the responsible adult who refills it.”  When living in my complaint-driven sin, I struggle with a ‘woe-is-me-I’m-the-only-one’ complex.  In reality, EVERYONE refills the coffee maker and I don’t refill it after I use it EVER.  When we choose to believe that we all fill it and I actually express gratitude that we even have access to a nice coffee maker, the extra minute seems absolutely painless.  I’ve also just actively combated pride.
Every day, I push myself to practice gratitude for those around me in order to grow in my own personal humility. I make it a practice to acknowledge that I can’t do ‘it’ (whatever ‘it’ might be) without those around me.  Maybe you can take a step to grow in gratitude today too?