Thursday, August 30, 2012

Facing My Biggest Fear--Public Speaking

When I was growing up, I feared public speaking.  Understatement.  For most of my life, my voice would shake when I spoke in front of a group of any size.  In high school and college, I had to take speech class and I barely made it out alive.  At church, I could teach small groups of jr. high girls or younger, and that was my limit.  Don’t ask me to teach boys, high-school students, and certainly not adults—

In college, I wanted to study English or History because I loved those subjects.  But, I knew those two majors would only prepare me to be a teacher.  Teaching was not a career option for me, because that would require speaking in front of people!  Why would I subject myself to that torture?  So, I majored in Psychology.

God had other plans for me.  After moving to northern California, I couldn’t find a job.  I worked temporary, meaningless jobs.  I wondered, “God, is this all you have for me to do?  What is my purpose?”  Several months later, out of the blue, I was offered a job teaching in a Christian school.  My current job was so miserable, so dreary, and so boring, that I thought teaching couldn’t be any worse than what I was doing!  I would give it a try.

The big day arrived. With great anxiety, I went to pick up my class.  They were quietly lined up in our before-school day care room.  Those 5th graders looked like angry, mischievous miniature giants (if there is such a thing)!  I was terrified!  I led them upstairs to our classroom and introduced myself.  I was doing my best “fake-out”--trying to act strong and confident.   Little did they know I wanted to throw up!  About that time my husband came to my classroom.  I stepped out into the hallway, and he said, “Listen.  No matter what, don’t ever let them see you cry.  Be strong—you can do this!”  I still laugh at his advice to this day, but I took it.  No tears!  I stiffened my spine, put a smile on my face, and strutted back into the room.  I opened my mouth to teach, and surprisingly, I didn’t die.

In total, I spent 14 "no tears" teaching years in Christian schools.  True to my passion, I ended up teaching English, History, and Bible to jr. high and high school.  But I had to face my fear.  You see, God calls us to do things that are beyond our natural abilities.  He wants to get the glory.  Don’t be surprised if God asks you to do the thing that scares you the most.  

Speaking at my church--Still a challenge, but I know God is with me!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Is it OK to Laugh at the Church?

I just rented the movie Blue Like Jazz.  I may be wrong to admit it—but I especially liked the scenes where they poked fun at the church.  For example, in one of the first scenes, the youth pastor tries to explain the meaning of the cross to children while doing his best Spanish accent and using a Mexican puppet. Next, he brings down a cross-shaped piƱata, and when it breaks open it’s full of pre-filled communion cups (the kind we use at our church).  The kids are very disappointed at the obvious absence of candy. 

In another scene, the assistant youth pastor is wearing some plastic armor in front of his church congregation, illustrating the armor of God.

This brought back memories of my days working in youth ministry--how many cheesy, non-relevant illustrations have I used over the years?  I apologize now to anyone who had to witness one!

Am I wrong to laugh at this?  A movie is making fun of the church—oh dear!

Actually, I have been laughing at the church my whole life.  I grew up a p.k. (preacher’s kid) and let me just tell you—we laughed almost daily at the crazy stuff that happened in church!  Here are some of the funny things I’ve witnessed in church:

  •         A visiting evangelist once got very “full of the spirit,” and he decided to come down from the platform and preach while walking back and forth across the front pew.  Unfortunately, his fly was down.  On top of that, pews 2-4 were filled with young people (the young people in our church always sat down front).  Let me just say, there were many stifled giggles that Sunday!

  •         One morning a woman in the congregation stood up and announced it was Flag Day.  Without missing a beat and before the pastor knew what was happening, she came up on the platform and led everyone in the pledge of allegiance and a song (I think it was God Bless America).

  •         Flag woman also brought her accordion one night.  For some bizarre reason, the pastor allowed her to perform.  Not only did she play and sing,  she made a grand entrance from the back, playing her accordion along the way.

  •         Another time, a very old woman came on the platform during “testimony” time and told the pastor that God helped her write a song.  The pastor made the mistake of asking her to sing it (before asking her what the song was about).  The song was about her dog.  She was a horrible singer.

The stories are endless.  I have funny stories about the Christian school I attended in jr. high.  In addition, I work at a Christian media company.  We have crazy stuff that happens behind the scenes all the time. 

In the end, Blue Like Jazz reveals a redemptive side of the church too.  And that’s the thing.  Even with our quirks, the church is still the best thing going.  I love every church I’ve ever had the privilege of attending.  That doesn’t mean I haven’t come across my share of hypocrites or serious flaws in each one (at times I’ve been the hypocrite and the flaw!). . . it just means that the good FAR outweighs the bad.

I think it’s time the church lightens up and learns to laugh at our own goofiness.  So what if we’re not perfect?  There’s a little “crazy” in all of us.  Do you have a funny church story?

*Blue Like Jazz is pretty intense (a Christian college student leaves his faith and explores other beliefs and lifestyles)—I would say, depending on the maturity, it’s appropriate for ages 15 and up.  I would recommend teens should watch with adults.  It will generate some good discussion.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Your Old Men Will Dream Dreams

My parents, John & Bonnie Wilkerson

My father is 82 and suffers from severe dementia. Once an eloquent speaker and charismatic pastor for over fifty years, he rarely puts a sentence together anymore.

But when he dreams at night, I believe he’s in his right mind.

A few nights ago, dad was talking in his sleep. My mother woke up and began to listen closely to understand what he was saying.

He got up out of bed and stood in the center of the room. Dad pointed and said, “You pray.” Then, as if looking at another person in the room he said, “You pray.” Once again, he turned and said, “If you pray too, it’s like we have a prayer chain . . . the prayer of agreement. God will answer our prayers.”

Mom immediately said, “John, what would you like to pray about?”

Right then, mom said it’s as if Dad woke up. He didn’t know what she was talking about, and he was confused. Mom gently put him back to bed.

Acts. 2:17 says, “Your young men will see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.” Perhaps my father is still on this earth to dream dreams. What if, in the spirit realm, my father is seeing future events? What if he is praying and interceding with the angels?

Another time my father sat up in bed and said, “We have to be united.”

What if he is prophesying as he sleeps?

My grandfather always prayed this scripture over his children, “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” (Phil. 2:13) Sometimes I question why God doesn’t go ahead and take my father home to be with Jesus. But I have to trust that it’s God’s good will and pleasure to allow my dad to live with dementia. How comforting and encouraging to realize that my Dad is still able to minister during the night! What a powerful nighttime warrior against the enemy!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Two BIG Questions We All Need To Answer

What is the cause within you? What is your one big thing?

These two questions have been “in my face” lately. Let me explain.

This summer four teenage girls and I spent a week serving at the Los Angeles Dream Center. How did I end up there? Matthew Barnett, the founder of the DC, was on our show in 2011 to promote his book, The Cause Within You. While talking with Pastor Barnett in the green room, he and his brother-in-law really encouraged me to bring a short-term missions team to the DC. That conversation ignited a desire to go check it out.

The experience changed me.

The now mammoth Dream Center really started the day Pastor Barnett made one seemingly insignificant decision—he would go help people living on one block near his dying church in the crime-ridden area known as Echo Park. Meeting the needs of one person and one house at a time, he brought people groceries, clothing, school supplies, furniture, and even helped make small home repairs. Now the ministry has expanded and feeds 40-70,000 people a month, offers a 9 month men’s and women’s drug recovery program, restores girls escaping the sex-trafficking industry, houses homeless families . . . well, the list is endless.

When I got home, I began to read The Cause Within You again. Now that I’d been to the Dream Center, the stories came to life and carried a deeper meaning. This fall, my women’s group at church is going to read the book and ask ourselves, “Have we found the cause within us?”

Sometimes when God is saying something He puts an exclamation point on the end. Actually, this exclamation point was another question, “What is your one big thing?” Phil Cooke, author of One Big Thing, was on the show today. His book answers questions like, “What could I be the best in the world at doing? Where could I be remarkable? Where do I stand out?”

Phil says most of us are looking at our “job” to be our one big thing, but that’s not always the case. It has to do with what we’re most passionate about. In his book Phil writes,“. . . people respond to passion. Passion is one of the most contagious emotions on the planet, and people will line up to follow it, especially when the passionate person has credibility.”

I am on a quest to find my “one big thing”, a.k.a. my “cause.” I believe for ALL of us a core ingredient in our big thing or cause will be serving. How can I bless others? How can I love people?

Phil lists some questions to help you find your one big thing:

#1 What comes easy to you?
#2 What do you love?
#3 What drives you crazy? (Phil says, “The thing you hate the most could be the problem you were born to fix”)
#4 What do you want to leave behind? (Phil’s answer: a lasting legacy)

Now go find your cause and you’ve found your one big thing!

The "Dream Team"- Three in One Church's first youth missions trip