Practicing Christian

My journey to getting it right….

Following THEIR example

Another Youth Sunday has passed at my church and I can honestly say I am impressed by the our young members are putting forth. I am always pleased to see them participate in the service (whether there was arm twisting involved or not), but two moments tickled and impressed me so that it made me think about the examples WE set for young Christians. First, I’ll mention my young friend Jaelyn, who presented a four-page biography on the life of Madame C. J. Walker as an early kick-off to Black History Month. It took a while as she carefully read through all of her facts, but she was very clear and very well-spoken. I should take the time to mention that Jaelyn is not yet 8 years old. At 7 or 8 years old I think I barely had the words to “Jesus Loves Me” memorized, and this baby is saying words like “tenacity” and “dedication” like they were words in the Dick and Jane primers some of us remember from grade school. Also, she didn’t just read the words in front of her–she was extremely expressive and engaging. When I complimented her on a job well done, her grandmother told me that she tried to talk Jaelyn into editing her piece a little so there wasn’t so much to read, but Jaelyn would have no part of it, saying “the people need to know these things.” That child, as my grandmother used to say, has been here before.

But what most delighted me this morning was during collection when our youth ushers came to pass the plates. There were two young men of high school age listed in the bulletin, but I discovered as I turned to pass the plate that they had a helper–three-year old Sean, dapper in his necktie and sweater vest and taking his usher duties quite seriously. True, his mom was standing with him and pointing him to the correct rows to go down, but he brought the plates up to the altar without her. Didn’t drop a thing, didn’t trip and fall, bowed at the altar and did his day’s duty. Once done, he bounded back down the aisle to his mom and said, “I did it!” Would that we all would have that level of excitement about church and God and service. The main purpose of having Youth Sunday outside of giving them a voice is to teach them what they are to do, but I think they–all of them, but particularly Jaelyn and young Sean–are OUR role models on this day. May we proudly and cheerfully worship and serve, and bound down the aisle to celebrate with our Father that “we did it!”

P.S. I am told that, upon being guided on what to do and when, young Sean said, “I got it, Mommy.” Now I KNOW THAT one has definitely been here before…possibly a few times.

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Is it an Obstacle or an Opportunity? | Michael Hyatt

Is it an Obstacle or an Opportunity? | Michael Hyatt.

Finally watched the video yesterday. Not quite what I expected, but it illustrated the message quite well. As a dancer, I have often encountered obstacles that I had to get past–one performance had me resort to my backup CD (since I couldn’t use my Zune) which wound up skipping and getting stuck. Determined, I had the audience clap the rhythm so I could finish the piece. Despite the hiccups, my new little niece was fascinated and I received many compliments on my performance. Even this past Sunday (again due to lack of new technology and the inability to use my Zune), I had to improvise with a microphone and a Magic Bullet speaker for the contemporary service’s Hymn of the Day. Brand new song, unfamiliar to the congregation, and yet we pulled it off. This is opening minds and doors as far as more active participation within our current membership, and possibly leading to better outreach and growth. May we always manage to take those available lemons and make some lemonade and meringue pie to share with others.

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Not to Forget–POP Reflection

The following musings are based on my Portals of Prayer devotion for today, Saturday, January 28, 2012. Associated readings are Micah 7:18-19 and Psalm 103

Who is a God like you,
who pardons sin and forgives the transgression
of the remnant of his inheritance?
You do not stay angry forever
but delight to show mercy.
You will again have compassion on us;
you will tread our sins underfoot
and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.

I know all too well about throwing past sins into the sea of forgetfulness and seeing them wash up like those proverbial starfish on the shores of Rehash. I am faced daily with the consequences of many bad choices and cannot help to keep picking those past sins back up. Unlike the tale of the starfish though, I keep putting them in my backpack and carrying them around instead of throwing them back out to sea. In my head, I know that I have been forgiven….and yet my stubborn brain and spirit refuse to accept the message and lighten the load. It tends to be hard to embrace the Father’s mercy when the human forgiveness is slow or less obvious in coming, and since those are the reactions you can see more readily it makes it easier to pick up that heavy bag instead of lightening the load and moving forward. When do we see God’s forgiveness as enough? This will always be a work in progress for me, but maybe if I focus on the progress and not the work, those starfish will stay in the ocean.

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Useful to the Master–POP Reflection

The following musings are based on my Portals of Prayer devotion for to Tuesday, January 24, 2012. Associated readings are 2 Timothy 2:20-22 and Psalm 119:89-104

My devotion reading today focused on making ourselves ready to do good work for the kingdom of God. The vessel comparison was illustrated through the types of dishes we use–the company or holiday china versus the plain, everyday earthenware, the crystal butter dish versus the bacon drippings can, the Waterford crystal goblet versus the chipped jelly jar. It further paralleled the appearances of the vessels with Timothy’s early experiences as a pastor–how the people may have looked down on–or even ignored–the young, inexperienced, “common” young man as opposed to revering him and holding him in esteem like a wiser, “shinier” church leader.

It made me think about the readings on a couple of different levels–the role of appearances and our perceptions of importance or usefulness. Many have looked at a sharply dressed, well-spoken, dynamic preacher and given their full and undivided attention, yet will walk past and ignore the rumpled street preacher delivering the same message. As much as we shouldn’t, we as Christians DO tend to judge a book by its cover–or judge a gift by its shiny wrapping–when it comes to what and who we’ll believe. I’ll admit to leaning toward pastors who can keep me engaged in their message, but I’d like to think that it’s the lyrics and not the melody of the Song that sticks with me. On the point of usefulness, the part [of 2 Timothy 2:21] that speaks about cleansing from common use to be set aside for special purposes made me think of a skit The King’s Players (a performing arts group from one of the Concordia University campuses) did called “The Littlest Part.” Every actor plays a piece of this Grand Machine, with the littlest part have so seemingly simple a part she is mocked and sent away by the “more important” pieces. As the Creator of the Grand Machine assures her that her contribution IS important, the Grand Machine goes haywire and cannot function. It made me think of the “one body, many members” verses (Romans 12:4-6; 1 Corinthians 12:12-31), demonstrating that different parts have different but no less important functions, regardless of their size, shape and scope of function. The usher passing out bulletins is of as much service as the lector–even more so if the usher is wholeheartedly delighting in the Lord in his service and the lector is merely regurgitating the .words before him in order to conclude the service and get home to the television set.

I’ve heard it said that worship is not about how or what you feel…as a human and a “practicing Christian,” it is my only gauge thus far. I’d like to think I at least try to give my full attention to all parts of the service, whether I am an active participant or an eager listener. At the very least I am trying to be a cleansed common vessel, ready to be in service.

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Intentions and that troublesome road

I started this blog with, yes, the best of intentions. I set it up well before my first post hit the Internet on New Year’s Day–even made sure to have a couple scheduled because I knew I’d have a busy time with New Year’s and Kwanzaa and just everyday life. And then my computer decided it didn’t need to recharge itself anymore. True, I could definitely have found another source to type and post from–and I did initially. Went to my mom’s and scheduled three more posts. Even got a Nook Tablet for Christmas that gave me Internet access until my laptop came back. But then typing by touchpad started to frustrate me. So I said, I’ll write them by hand and catch up–I’ve got sermon notes from Sunday services I could transcribe and some other topics I want to address and then type and pre-schedule. yeah…never happened. Worked on the other blog and some household stuff, plus prepping for my new York adventure…but no blog posts. I’d like to console myself with having faithfully done my devotions every day without fail, but even those I missed days on. I’d eventually play catch-up, but it’s not the goal I set. And of course I’m beating myself up about it. But I’m back (as well as my laptop) and I INTEND to play catch-up and get back on track. I’m going to make the effort. And that’s all God asks of us anyway, right?

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7 principles to Catalyze your church–article share

Here are seven principles to catalyze a community whether you are trying to start a church, small group, ministry, a non-profit organization:

Principle #1: Cause creates community.

Our cause = moving people to become the person God created them to be.

Principle #2: Meet the needs of those around us.

We need to seek to meet the physical, emotional, economic, and spiritual needs of those around us. We should be pursue helping change the environment and change the individual who is looking for change.

Principle #3: Reach out to Xenos

Hospitality means loving strangers. A similar word, “hospice,” means “a safe place.” Our homes, our businesses, and our churches should become safe places for strangers to experience kindness and love.

Principle #4: Develop authentic friendships with those you know.

Are we loving, serving, and influencing our family, neighbors, co-workers and friends? Jesus was willing to ruin His reputation to reach out to others who were far from God.

Principle #5: Allow people to belong before they believe.

We should never allow our convictions to become a litmus test for friendship. In fact, we should actively pursue friendships with people – even people with whom we may disagree.

Principle #6: Raise up a team of leaders to replace you.

MPAC = Ministry through a pastor, assimilator, and catalyst. We need to make decisions based on who is not yet here rather than who has been here the longest.

Finally, and perhaps most important: Principle #7: Start Over!

courtesy: www.churchleaders.com

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Congregational ennui–article share

The following article came across my computer from ChurchLeaders.com and I believe it succinctly addresses issues that plague congregations. While written from a negative viewpoint, I hope this will also affirm things your congregation is doing right in these areas!

1. The Vision Is Not Clear
If people don’t know where a church is supposed to be going…then it will attempt to go everywhere and eventually wind up nowhere. (Interesting experiment–ask people this coming Sunday at your church, “What is our vision” and see if people give you the same answers or different ones.)

2. The Focus Is on Trying to Please Everyone
There is NO church on the planet that will make everyone happy every single week…and…according to the Scriptures that isn’t really supposed to be our obsession. Too many times we become so concerned with offending people that we actually offend Jesus.

3. Passionless Leadership
When a leader does what he/she does for a paycheck and not because it’s their passion…it’s over. I’ve said at this site before…I want difference makers not paycheck takers. AND…also…it is hard to be passionate about a place when a person’s average stay at a church is two years or less.

4. Manufacturing Energy
If a program is dead in a church…then it needs a funeral and the people need to move on. Investing time, energy and money into something that is dead will not revive it. Celebrate the fact that “that” program had its day…and then move on. AND…quit trying to fire people up over events that you would not attend if you were not on staff.

5. Lack of Prayer
Many times we work so hard putting our ideas together than we actually think there is no need for the supernatural power of God to be involved. Prayer should not be the good luck charm that we stick at the beginning or the end of what we do…but rather it should be our constant desperation to see God do the undeniable among us. Intense desperation often brings undeniable revelation!

6. Unwillingness to Take Risks
When our focus becomes to play it safe rather than to do whatever it takes to reach people far from God…it’s over. NOWHERE in the Scriptures did God ever ask anyone to do anything that didn’t involved an “oh crap” moment. We’ve GOT to be willing to embrace the uncertain if we want to see the unbelievable.

7. Disobedience to the Scriptures
Matthew 28:18-20 , Mark 16:15 , Luke 24:48 , John 20:21 , Acts 1:8 , II Corinthians 5:16-21 , Luke 19:10 …I could go on and on…but we MUST understand that Jesus didn’t come to earth, live here for 33 years, give HIS life for us and then return back to heaven to intercede for us so that we could get in really little circles and talk about ourselves and condemn those who are not as good as us. We are called to REACH PEOPLE FOR GOD–PERIOD!

8. Selfish Attitudes
Matthew 20:28 says it all…and if we are going to be more like Jesus we’ve GOT to serve others rather than expecting the church to be our servant all of the time. When a person (or group of people) refuse to embrace that a call to follow Jesus is a call to serve…then we’ve lost sight of who He is and eventually we will make being a Christian all about Jesus following/serving us rather than us taking up our cross and following Him!

Blessings and strength as more are empowered to be leaders and “bridge-builders” to their community and to their neighborhood!

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No time limits on God

A few days ago my niece posted the following status on Facebook:

Ahhh…. I hate whn ppl put a time frame on God. Y does it matter how long ur in church. How bout God put a time frame on his air ur breathing. Whn u at a game and they go into over time r u upset. R whn ur shopping… or waiting in line for som Jordans. Really ppl. 3, 4 hrs is the least u cld gv God he did give us life after all Ugh…..

She makes a good point–after all, it IS His world, and we’re just living in it. And it is a small sacrifice on our part considering all of the sacrifices God in all of his personages has made on our behalf. But what do you do if the atmosphere makes that time feel more like a chore than a privilege? I’ve been in short services that have felt like hours and in long services that have flown by. How do you spend the time without connecting to the fellowship?

A radio ministry I listen to spoke about the nature and quality of our worship, stating that us “feeling” it is irrelevant. We are not supposed to “get” something out of our worship, as the act of worship is not intended for OUR benefit, but for God’s. The marvelous, melodic praise team, the dancing and the shouting, the preacher and his Powerpoints–those are not the reasons to worship. We worship because it is what we owe God…and we owe him the best of it. We can’t say that we “put in our time” and that’s sufficient for God. Not only is that parceling out the time due to God, but it’s generally lip service and not wholehearted.

On a personal note, I definitely struggle with focusing during service–I usually have 500 other things on my mind, and when I do try to focus solely on the sermon it takes so many tangents from the Bible text I have no idea what I was supposed to have learned. The order of service is so ingrained in me that it’s easy to zone out there, too. Where do I begin to find a connection? I suppose it lies in a true relationship with God, and I’m working on that, too….though saying it after 4 decades of life is a little hard to admit. But I will try harder…and hope that I’m offering my best.

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“Church Planter” by Darrin Patrick on Vimeo

“Church Planter” by Darrin Patrick from Crossway on Vimeo.

via “Church Planter” by Darrin Patrick on Vimeo.

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Here we go….

So, I’ve started a new blog….

I wanted to do this as an electronic outreach for my church so we could re-spark the membership’s fire and zeal to more fully participate in the service and fellowship activities.  And I do believe it would be a good tool, but here’s the thing: I’ve never been fully comfortable in my Christianity.  I have a running joke whenever someone asks my religion that goes “I’m a practicing Christian–and one day I’ll get it right.”  That is about the stage of spiritual maturity I’m at–there’s so much I don’t know and don’t understand, but I’m expected to act as a leader for our children and teens.  How do I help guide their spiritual path when I can’t read my own road map?  Sure I had some moments of clarity with other pastors and through other members, but those touchstones have either moved on or passed on, and I don’t feel any more connected to church or God than I did before.  And I really want to.  I really want to do more than tally my to-do list during the sermon (or worse yet, nod off), I really want to be able to sing with heart and feeling and not be self-conscious because I can’t hit the notes, I really want to leave church on a Sunday refreshed and longing to come back, rather than counting the minutes until service is over.  Some of my contemporaries have found their answers in another church, some just stopped going altogether (only to resurface if someone needs marrying, baptizing or burying), and some just continue to go through the motions–like me.  I served as a Sunday School/VBS teacher, a liturgical dance group director, officer roles in various church organizations, but have always felt like I shouldn’t be there with my own doubts and confusions coloring my worship life.  But I long to connect with God in a way that will uplift me personally AND enhance any leadership role I take.

And thus, this blog.  Now I warn you, it won’t be pretty.  I’m probably going to hurt someone’s feeling with what I say.  I will work to keep these pages as clean as possible and not actively curse, but there will be controversy–though I will try very hard not to name names, some of my friends and acquaintances may see themselves in my posts.  I welcome the discussion, because I KNOW there is no perfection in me.  Not even in a 30 mile radius.  But I want to work on it.

So, I’ll keep practicing….

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