Saturday, December 8, 2012

Fun Christmas Game! "The Great Photo Challenge"

To my fellow pastor's wives--many of us plan Christmas parties for staff, women's ministries, leaders, volunteers, etc. during the Christmas season. It can be a stressful time trying to create a fun experience for other people, but it doesn't have to be! Here's a game I made up that was a big hit. Of course you may have to adapt it to the group you are entertaining.  We had about 75 men, women, and youth at our Christmas party & everyone loved it:
The Great "your church name" Christmas Photo Challenge
Your challenge:  to be the first group (group of 4-6) to take all 10 pics.

With the people at your table, get the following pics*:

STOP! First, make a sign with your team name.*
GAME RULE: Make sure someone holds the sign in each picture!


1)   Every group member out in front of the building with coats on & BIG smiles.

2)  Woman w/ scarf joyfully holding her hands up

3)  Man holding ornament wearing sunglasses & serious scowl on his face

4)  3 people under a table looking scared!

5)  3 people shouting on their phones

6)  2 people on the stage pretending to sing opera style

7)  Woman holding a present looking VERY surprised!

8)  Every group member in pic stoically holding something RED

9)  Man wearing Santa hat** & peacefully holding a Christmas CD

10) Every group member wearing your napkin like a bib and desperately holding your glass out


Take all pics on the same camera/phone

Don’t forget to show your team’s sign in each pic!
*When you pass out the instructions, provide paper & a few markers for their sign
**make sure you are wearing this when you give out the instructions for the game

Friday, November 16, 2012

A Warning to Wives

 I’m troubled in my spirit by a trend I’ve seen in the church. 

What is it?  Wives who pull their husbands out of church because they are dissatisfied.

Here’s the scenario.  The husband and wife join the church and become involved in meaningful ways.  But over time, the wife begins to notice little things that bother her, and these annoyances get in her spirit.  The nursery has some issues.  The youth doesn’t have a full time youth pastor.  The women don’t have enough Bible studies.  There’s no opportunity to sing solos.  Somebody’s offended them.  They’re not appreciated.  Their family is having a crisis and somehow it’s the church’s fault. There’s someone in leadership with a past.  Her husband is serving so much that he can’t sit with her in service. And the list goes on and on.

So, they begin the constant “dripping” to the husband (Prov. 27:15).  The complaining.  The negativity.  The negotiating.  The positive talk about what other churches in town are doing.  “The church down the street has amazing leadership.  The church across town has more Bible studies.  The church so-and-so goes to has more programs for our kids, etc.”  Manipulate lately?

Then there’s the husband. The husband starts out happy.  He’s using his gifts and talents in service to the Lord.  He has gained credibility and a respectable position in the church. He’s reading his Bible and growing in his faith. He has brothers in the Lord whom he’s accountable to and he enjoys spending time with . . . ALL good, except for his dilemma- his wife wants to leave.  He loves his wife. He wants her to be happy.  He gets weary from her constant depressing commentary. He is caught in between his own desire to stay and his wife’s desire to go after something “better.”

How does it end?  The wife wins.  

Here’s what she doesn’t know.  Men who love going to church are rare.  According to David Murrow, in most churches the only man who practices his faith is the pastor! He explains,

“Let me be blunt: today’s church has developed a culture that is driving men away. Almost every man in America has tried church, but two-thirds find it unworthy of a couple of hours once a week. A wise Texan once told me, “Men don’t go to church ’cuz they’ve been.”
More than 90 percent of American men believe in God, and five out of six call themselves Christians. But only two out of six attend church on a given Sunday. The average man accepts the reality of Jesus Christ, but fails to see any value in going to church.” (Why Men Hate Going to Church, by David Murrow)

So, why in the world, if your husband loves going to church, has found a place to serve using his unique gifts and abilities, and is experiencing the great adventure of reaching people for Jesus, would you drag him away? 

Ladies, I’ve been dissatisfied in church.  And sometimes for valid reasons.  But, I believe when we see problems in the church we should go to our knees and begin to pray.  There are no perfect churches and no perfect church people. Stop and ask yourself-is my discontent really because of the church I’m attending or my own lack of intimacy with Christ?

Girls, do you REALLY want to be the spiritual leader in your home?  Do you REALLY want to take your husband away from Godly men?  Men who will stand by your husband and counsel him to overcome worldly temptations like pornography, addictions, anger issues, etc?  Men who will challenge your husband to be more like Christ?  Be very careful not to unwittingly become part of the enemy’s plan to steal your husband away from his walk with Christ.

Of course I believe there are legitimate reasons for leaving a church (which I won’t go into in this blog post), but leaving a healthy church you’ve served in should be done with great care and great prayer. A good test of a church’s health is:  Do the leaders have integrity?  Are they active in carrying out the Great Commission?  Will they make room for you to serve using your gifts and abilities?  Do they preach the word of God? Do they have a vision to reach the lost in the community and spread God’s love?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Shakespeare, Carpe Diem, and Virginia Trees

Our 1st visit to Williamsburg, Va.
Autumn is God’s "carpe diem" reminder.

When we first moved from California to Virginia, my kids were in awe of the endless rows of trees.  People would ask them, “What do you think of living on the East Coast?” Each would answer something like, “There’s TONS of trees . . . no, really, I’m not even joking, they’re EVERYWHERE!”

Soon, our first autumn in Virginia arrived and with it, a new appreciation of trees.  The trees began to change colors, and we couldn’t seem to get enough of the gorgeous hues: maroon, cherry red, purple, auburn, burnt orange, yellow-gold, etc.  We took visitors on drives up through Williamsburg and northern Virginia with a destination in mind, but secretly I just wanted to see the trees.

All too soon, the leaves began to turn brown.  Lonely, barren trees emerged.  The unwelcome winter arrived.  

Every year now, I’m intentional about planning outdoor events to enjoy nature’s splendid show before winter comes.  The local news even reports the “highest peak time” for the fall colors, ensuring viewers they won’t miss out.  Apple picking, pumpkin patches, and fall festivals summon people out of the house and into nature.

In life, sometimes we’re in such a hurry to get to the goal that we don’t celebrate the beauty of what God’s doing all around us.  Every day something wonderful is ours if we’ll just pay attention—“Blessed be the Lord, who DAILY loads us with benefits, even the God of our salvation.” (Ps. 68:19)

During Autumn, God reminds me to seize the day. Enjoy the beauty and joyful times of life, no matter how small or fleeting.  The changing colors of Autumn inspired Shakespeare to write the words “love that well which thou must leave ere long.” (Sonnet 73)  How will you make the most of today?

Monday, September 24, 2012

When You Don't Feel Spiritual At All

We’ve all been there . . . so don’t beat yourself up.  You don’t feel spiritual.  You don’t care about anyone but yourself.  And the last thing you want to do is pick up your Bible.  You’re in good company; even the giants of faith had bad days.

Elijah hit an all-time-low after achieving his all-time-success.  I Kings 18-19 records this powerful prophet of God’s rise and fall.  It began with Elijah’s back-to-back victories during a spiritually dark period of Israel's history—he confronted a wicked king, called down fire from heaven, killed 400+ prophets of Baal, ended a drought, and physically ran ahead of Ahab’s chariot all the way to Jezreel (a distance of 20 miles). 

After these extraordinary victories, does the enemy leave him alone?  No way!!! Jezebel, the king’s evil wife, threatens to take the prophet’s life. 

Physically and spiritually exhausted, Elijah ran for his life, found a place to hide, and asked God to let him die.  God didn’t condemn Elijah for his lack of faith.  Instead, he sent an angel to comfort and nourish him.  Then, he “benched” Elijah for forty days.  During this time, Elijah didn’t prophecy; he didn’t heal anyone; he just walked alone to Horeb, the mountain of God. In the end, Elijah was quieted to a place where he could hear God’s whisper, and he was given his next assignment.

When we’re physically and/or spiritually depleted, it’s not the end of the world.  But something’s got to give. By failing to slow down, we put ourselves in a vulnerable place. 

For me, the lowest times of ministry are when I’m physically sick.  Usually this follows a “high”—an outstanding event, a successful outreach, a speaking engagement, etc.  Maybe this has happened to you . . . you’re blowin’ and goin’ and BAM!  You receive a knock out punch and you’re down for the count.  Benched.  Sidelined.  Momentum gone.

I’ve found this is the way the enemy usually attacks me.  A broken toe, tennis elbow surgery, knee surgeries, infections, anxiety, things too embarrassing to mention—these are just some of the physical issues that tripped up my forward motion. 

During these times, I struggle to want to pick up my Bible.  All I want to do is climb in bed and watch endless hours of TV.  Escape from the pain, escape from disappointments, and just enjoy a dull, mindless day blanketed in self-pity—this becomes my to-do list. 

As a producer, I think many times I get in a mindset that if I’m not producing, I’m not valuable.  The same goes for being a pastor’s wife—if I’m not reading my Bible and praying, then I’m not worthy to be in ministry.

Sometimes I think God “benches” me because I have to remember the world can go on without me.  I am reminded that God loves me even when I’m not feeling spiritual or being productive. 

Perhaps God, in his mercy, allows me to feel broken and experience my own humanity for my own good.  I regain some necessary leadership qualities like humility, compassion, and gratefulness.  And doesn’t encouragement take on a whole new meaning!  One person texting or calling saying, “I missed you today” means the world to me.  I am reminded that when I check on a sick friend with a Facebook message, text message, or phone call it does make a difference.

When I’m in my “mover and shaker” mode, I can become frustrated with (what I see as) other people’s lack of commitment.  People drop out, get sick, lose steam . . . it happens.  And guess what, it happens to me too!  Suddenly, I stop judging others because I’ve taken a look in the mirror and—big shocker—I’m no different! 

Thank God for these times on the sidelines; let God “reboot” you as a leader who walks in love and understanding.  And just as He did for Elijah, let Him whisper words of life in your ear.  Whether you’re “benched” for 4 or 40 days, you’ll be ready for your next assignment.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Would My Life Inspire a Movie?

As the guest segment producer on a TV show, I happened to meet three people this week whose lives inspired movies.  Sometimes when I meet well-known people, I’m disappointed by how they really act behind the scenes.  But these 3 did not disappoint-they were warm, kind, enthusiastic, and larger than life.  It’s as if each one left an imprint of inspiration on me.  It got me thinking, would my life inspire a movie?  As I reflected on my encounter with each, I started to see common themes in their lives.

First, let me briefly introduce you to these extraordinary people:

Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger is the real Rudy from the movie –you guessed it—Rudy. Rudy dreamed of playing football at the University of Notre Dame despite his small size, his poor grades, and his family discouraging him.  After overcoming great obstacles to get into Notre Dame and on their football team, he was finally allowed to play in the last game of his senior year.  I won’t give away the best part.  The movie Rudy is ESPN’s #4 best sports movie of all time. 

 “Papa” Joe Bradford is the inspiration behind the new movie Unconditional.  Joe overcame childhood poverty, nearly died from a snakebite, and served time in prison.  Even after dedicating his life to God, his health declined rapidly and he spent nine hours a day on a kidney dialysis machine.  After the costs of a high-risk kidney transplant, he and his wife Denise were financially destitute and moved into Nashville’s projects.  While living among the poor, they began a children’s ministry, provided food to other families, started a youth choir and a drama team, and created an educational program. 

Finally, Angus Buchan is portrayed in the movie, Faith Like Potatoes.  A brand-new believer and poor South African farmer, Angus began reading the Bible and preaching to his crops.  He saw miracles—a bumper crop of potatoes during a drought, a heavy rainstorm appeared after he prayed for God to put out a fire that threatened his crops, and a corn crop destroyed by hail seemed to resurrect itself after three days.  God told Angus to start men’s conferences in South Africa, and he rented huge stadiums by faith.  Miraculously, God brought thousands of men to come hear this unknown farmer.  Today, over half a million men come to these conferences.

These are some characteristics these three heroes of faith have in common:

1)  Passion-  Angus’s passion is to raise up godly men.  

Papa Joe’s passion is caring for needy children.

Rudy's passion is Notre Dame football.  Rudy loved football and Notre Dame so much, he was willing to play on the practice team—taking the tackles from guys twice his size. In the end, he only got to play a total of 27 seconds in a real game.  Passion will empower you to continue when circumstances say you should just quit.

2)  Faith-  Rudy believed he could play for Notre Dame.  

Angus believed his potatoes would grow despite the drought. 

When Papa Joe started his feeding program, he and his wife didn’t have any food to give away. By faith, they passed out fliers in their projects, promising food on a certain day. Their prayers were answered when a large food bank promised them food, only to cancel their shipment 24 hours before the day of their food distribution called “Walk of Love.”  No problem—Joe and Denise started praying.  Within a few hours of their promised food delivery, a woman they didn’t know called and gave them $8,000.  They bought $40 grocery gift cards with the money and made their deliveries on time. 

3)  Courage-  Rudy took repeated tackles on a daily basis from guys twice his size. 

Every day Papa Joe works with children in the inner city he puts his very fragile immune system at risk.

Angus’s courage is the stuff of legends.  Hysterical with grief, Zulu tribal women came to Angus one stormy night, begging him to bring their friend back from the dead.  At first he said no, but the women reminded Angus about this “powerful Jesus” he always preached about. Convicted, Angus reluctantly entered the hut where the woman’s body was covered with a blanket.  All the women in the village gathered to watch.  Angus took the blanket off the woman and started to pray.  As he continued to cry out to God, he felt led to grab her hands and pick her up.  As he pulled her up from the dirt floor, she opened her eyes and began to breathe.  How much courage would you need to pick someone up who is dead?  Hello!!  A lot! 

4)  Just plain ol’ hard work-  Each of these three worked hard, physically worked hard:  Rudy practicing football, studying to keep his GPA up, working as a groundskeeper on his off-hours; “Papa” Joe walking the streets to deliver food, leading choir practices, directing dramas, and raising 7 children of his own; Angus building a chapel, planting & harvesting crops during harsh seasons, preparing and preaching sermons.  Nobody makes movies about lazy people.  Lazy people don’t change communities.  Making a difference is hard work.

My goal in life is not to be the inspiration for a movie*.  That would be amazing, but highly unlikely and very boring! The best stories are born out of adversity, and who would ask for more adversity? But just as these three heroes of the faith, I do want my life to motivate others to be everything God desires them to be.  I want to be a hard-working, courageous woman of faith and passion who loves people and doesn’t run from challenges.

Angus Buchan gave me a tiny pocket-size jar of mustard seeds right before his 700 Club interview.  He also keeps a jar in his pocket everywhere he goes (he said it wasn’t a good luck charm).  Angus told me it’s a daily reminder that if we just have the tiniest bit of faith we can move mountains . . .

(*If it does, I want Sandra Bullock to play my role—lol)