Sunday, October 28, 2012

An Unshakable Bond

Two pastors, one from Mexico, one from Canada, working together at church planting with an unshakable bond which exceeds elementary understanding. These men of God, from opposite ends of the North American continent, are working together for the cause of Christ, plowing through language and cultural barriers that would sideline most.  What a privilege we had today to meet together in Whitehall, WI and work together with the new church plant there.  Pastor David Johnson preached through an interpreter at the main service, while Pastor Moises Rodriguez, who made the 2+ hour drive after leading his own morning worship service, taught the children in the children's ministry.

After the service, the group gathered to share a meal and more time of learning, fun and fellowship.

David and I were honored with a special cake, made by one of the ladies, and a generous gift for our future:

Pastor Moises Rodriguez and Pastor David Johnson are blessed with a special bond which has allowed them the privilege of planting three Hispanic churches!  We're very excited to see what God will do next. I praise God for the high privilege of being a part of this ever-growing, ever-changing ministry God has allowed us to be involved with.

It is truly phenomenal to see God at work in the lives of the men, women, boys and girls He puts in our path.


Friday, October 19, 2012

A Confrontation Gone Right

Confrontation is hard for most people. Fear is usually the reason why.  Personally, I am not afraid of confrontation; I rather like it. I like it because it gets stuff done. Confrontation heals relationships. It makes a path for open communication.  It's a good thing, but it's a hard thing. It requires listening, grace, patience and tolerance for another person.

I remember the first time I had to confront someone about my kids.  Elaine* was a deacon's wife in my husband's first church.  She had raised three kids, I had just had my 2nd. My little boy was acting up in church while I fussed with his baby sister and Elaine had had enough. She turned around, told my son she'd throw him in the baptism water if he didn't settle down, then turned back around to face the front. I was appalled!  I told my son in no uncertain terms that she was not going to throw him in the water.  I then tapped Elaine on the shoulder and calmly asked her to please not speak to my children like that, nor tell them things that aren't true.

This sent Elaine over the edge for a while.  For three weeks, she shunned me in church (this is a common tactic of a lot of women in churches). I did what I always do; attended regularly, remained faithful in all I did and prayed. And waited.  I would try to speak to her each week at church, but she strongly avoided me, making it impossible.

After three weeks, Elaine and her husband stopped by our house.  Elaine told me she was sorry, that she should not have spoken to my son like that. She expressed how she was just exasperated with his behavior. I reminded her that he was only 2 years old and I had my hands full with his baby sister. This church had no nursery. She saw my point, I saw hers. Little kids can be exasperating. She began to help me with the kids. It was very sweet.

Elaine and I are friends to this day. I have a tremendous amount of respect for her because even though she hated confrontation, she was willing to learn from it and heal our relationship in the process.  As friends, we have never looked back.  She learned that deacon's wives can't go around telling the pastor's wife how to raise her kids.  I learned that standing up for my kids is always the right thing to do.  And we were both rewarded with a friendship that has lasted 28 years!  Imagine!  This is what confrontation can accomplish.

This is a good thing.
I am so blessed to have her in my life.

*Not her real name.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Decisions, Decisions

Some decisions are harder to make than others.  Captain Obvious strikes again! That is a "Duh" statement.... Of course some decisions are harder to make than others. The majority of our decisions aren't so hard, however.  Quite frankly, we make some of our decisions harder than they need to be.

Think about streamlining your decision making and simplifying things for yourself. It's easier if you base your decisions on a few non-negotiables.  Here are a few of mine and how they play into my decision making:

Do the right thing no matter what.

Sometimes, this can be as simple as getting up and getting a shower.  Sometimes, for me, it means make dinner for the family even when I don't feel like it.  Or clean the bathroom even if I don't feel like it. Other times this can mean defending someone who has been or is being wronged. This always means being honest. Just last week, my son and his wife enjoyed a nice dinner at a favorite restaurant.  When the bill came, my son noticed it was $15.00 short.  He immediately told the waiter and had it corrected, even though it would have saved him $15.00 to keep quiet.  He acted on principle, not on convenience for himself. He did the right thing. This was not a hard decision for him; it was a given. Acting on principle and not emotion or convenience gives clarity to decision making, taking the mystery and confusion out of some decisions. And you'll sleep better at night.

Put others first.

This is always a good idea. When we put others first, we can often see the right decision better than we can if we are constantly focused on ourselves. It's amazing how putting others first ends up helping our decisions fall into place. It gives us an unselfish motive and we become genuinely more concerned for another person than ourselves. This shows in our decisions; this shows in our lives. Part of this is realizing the decisions we make affect others and not just ourselves. No one is an island unto him or herself. When we decide to build someone up, it affects the person we're building up as well as others who hear. On the other hand, when  we decide to gossip, it affects the person we're gossiping about for sure, but it also affects the person we're gossiping to. They are dragged down and often left wondering what we're saying about them behind their backs. Building someone up actually makes your character shine and you'll look better than one who beats people down. Maya Anjelou said people rarely remember what you say, but they do remember how you treated them. This is a good thing to remember.

Act, Don't React

Every day is filled with things we can react to.  We can get so caught up in our reactions that we fail to act on our own plans, motivations and, well, decisions. Acting on life, rather than reacting to it, is a great way to help focus and make rational decisions. When we are being reactionary, we can't make rational decisions because we're too focused on either defending ourselves or feeling burdened by whatever it is we're reacting to. Acting on principle takes away the urge to react to things, giving clarity. I remember once when we were visiting a family in our church and their young daughter came up behind me and put her hamster on my shoulder.  I think she, and her family watching, expected a reaction.  You can be sure, I was unnerved and certainly did not want a hamster on my shoulder.  What I did next surprised her entire family, however. Instead of screaming and running away, I looked at the hamster, then calmly moved my eyes to this young girl's face and, without raising my voice, said to her, "Rodent on my shoulder.....never a good idea."  She immediately removed the hamster and never did that again. (I can't say I would have had such a controlled response had she put a spider on my shoulder, however!) Acting on your own, internal principles instead of reacting to things and people around you is one of the most empowering things you can do for yourself and this practice will give you decision-making clarity.

Take Responsibility for your Choices

Even if you make the wrong decision and have to endure consequences, take responsibility for those choices, learn from them and don't fall into a pattern of blaming others. When you know internally that you own your decisions, you will be more likely to take your time in making them, thus avoiding negative consequences as much as possible. Taking responsibility and owning decisions is a key trait of successful people.  Instead of blaming others and acting as though they had no choice but to react to something, successful people own their decisions, good or bad, and learn from them.

So, there are a few things which help me make decisions.  This list is not exclusive to leaning on the Word of God, acknowledging the LORD in all I say and do (Proverb 3:5&6), but that's a "given" with me and what all these other things stem from.

Happy Monday!  May your decisions benefit others all throughout this coming week.

Monday, October 1, 2012

A High Privilege

Last week, I had the privilege of attending the Mosaix Global Network Retreat in downtown Chicago with my husband and a number of others.  I call this a privilege because it was by far a privilege for me to have the opportunity to attend such an event with people such as these whom I met there.  

This group is highly motivated to identify and overcome any and all difficulties, hardships, cultural biases and any thing else which could possibly get in the way of reaching the lost for Christ.  More than life-long friends, I will spend eternity with these men and women who are sold out and committed to the Gospel of Christ and determined to tell the world about His great gift of salvation to all.

Why do I feel so privileged?  Because, growing up, I never thought I could be part of something so much bigger than myself, let alone do this work for the Lord God Almighty. I was spent as a child, wrapped up in survival as violence and fear dominated my life and caused me to shrink in the presence of anyone at all, let alone leaders of a pioneer movement to unite the world through ethnic outreach.

I'm excited, thrilled, humbled and highly eager to be part of this movement and this group of dedicated people. Praise be. Praise. Be.