It takes what it takes…

“It takes what it takes”. – Schnase 

Wise words to apply to life in general. 

I’ve been in turmoil to help my church keep up with the times.  To remain relevant and fresh for those who choose to worship with us.  We are a United Methodist Church in Western PA.  We are not in the Bible Belt or even in an area that is particularly thriving.  We are located in a town that is depressed, drug ridden, and fighting to come back or maybe to stay alive.   

How does a church stay relevant in this kinds of a town?  I find myself praying for God to show me how to lead well into this season.  How do we reach people for Christ when people aren’t sure Christ is what they want.  When soccer and hockey somehow became more important than corporate worship.  When getting our own way starts standing in the way of worshipping the God who created us.  

How do we reach a generation whose parents hover and the kids know best?  Where will this generation find comfort when life gets rocky? What will their solid rock and foundation be?  

I think there is hope! I think it takes what it takes and we don’t stop until we figure out what that is. As a leader I would rather try and fail then fail to try.  

Corporate worship, hymns, candles, communion, prayer, authenticity all have a place. God will open this generations hearts to it. We need to ask for it.  We need to seek and we shall find. 

We, 40,50,60 year olds need to let go and let God! Remember our job is to prepare for the next generation.  Ask the younger people, the next generation, to sit on our boards and leadership teams then listen to what they have to say!  Listen! Act! Don’t be afraid to change! If your not changing your DYING! 

There is a place for contemporary worship but I think there is still a place for traditional worship as well.  Maybe the coffee house is the next thing or home churches. But there is something about walking into a traditional sanctuary once in a while to remember and feel and smell the good and bad of church.  Yes, the good and bad.  Church hurts and heals. 

Break me, heal me, use me. A bold prayer. It has gotten me far.  It takes what it takes! Choose life. Choose change! 

Sweet Moments of Wellspring

screen-shot-2015-09-01-at-3-23-23-pmA sweet moment, an image I cannot get out of my mind.  An image I treasure, savor and find joy in.

I suck as a friend, I’m busy, I have things to do I don’t take the time for friendships.  It is hard for me to let people into  my life to see who I am at my core.

There are very, very few people that I can be myself with; my children, my mother, my husband that’s about it.  In the past year I’ve been involved with a ministry called Wellspring.  It teaches people, men and women, to live more fully from their whole heart. It teaches people, like me, who have closed most of their true heart, therefore true selves off from the world, to begin to feel again. To begin to live again!  To live the way God created us (me) to live.

It awakens feelings, passions, joys, sorrows so deep in you, you don’t really remember they existed.  Their surfacing is a surprise, even to you. When you realize a new smell, or memory, or thought, it is like a gift or puzzle piece revealed at just the right time, placed in just the right space to make sense.

God is at work, so gently, so gracefully, very diligently bringing his children back into his presence.  He does it at the pace you can handle, not to fast, not to slow but just right because He knows it is all you can handle.  God uses his people, carefully chosen for each task.

We have a team called a fellowship, built of women (or men) to walk this path together.  It is meant to hold each other up, to be prayerful, to challenge, and to hold each other accountable.

My team is made up of three other woman that I would not otherwise have become friends with.  Remember I SUCK at being a friend!   I would never have made time for  relationships with these women without the prompting of Wellspring.

The sheer beauty in each of the relationships is amazing.  We are unique, we are complicated, we are in different places in our lives, and that is ok.  We are bonding through a journey I don’t think any of us expected would be like this.  We are awakening together and walking through territory none of us have tread before.

The sweet moment came when one of the women had an exceptionally tough day. She was sitting on the floor of a chilly room doing some work and another in our group asked if she could sit with her.

I was leaving the room and I turned around, for whatever reason, and when I did I saw what I truly think was a gift God chose to give me that day.

I saw pure joy in two women who love each other the way Jesus intended for us to love one another.  I saw tenderness, care, happiness, surrender, I saw Jesus radiate from one friend to another in need of a few moments of nurturing.

It was as beautiful as a summer sunset over the ocean when the sky is a beautiful pink and the water is calm and peaceful.  The scene was calm, peaceful, heartfelt.  It was sweet; a gift I am thankful I did not miss.

In leadership we tend to lead from our heads all to often.  We make decisions based on the facts, which is good we need to do that.  But, we can’t forget that we have hearts too.  We can’t forget the people and situations we manage have beating hearts!

God gives us the tools we need to lead well. He even gives us Biblical principles.  Wellsprings helped me heal from numerous leadership hurts. We need to have thick skin as leaders, but we are human, we get hurt! It is lonely at the top, yes it is but we need to find people we can trust, outside of our family, to pray for us, walk with us, be our fellowship to help us weather the storms.

God wants us to live and only through keeping our whole heart open can we do that. Provers 4:23 reads “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” NIV.  The words that come out of your mouth flow from your heart.

Are you leading from your whole heart or your broken heart?  I challenge you to examine your heart and see.  I lead from my broken heart for many years.  I have a long ways to go and although not easy, being on the journey is worth it.

 

 

 

What’s on your mind….really 

  What’s on my mind asks Facebook each time I log in. What’s on my mind?  

I hold back so often so I do not hurt the feelings of some of my followers.  I know if they read my posts they will know I’m talking about them. I would love a safe place to vent and not hold back. A place to say exactly what is on my mind. Maybe I just say sorry now. If you read this and get offended just stop reading. 

What’s on my mind is: if your a person who gets everything handed to you, don’t rub it into the face those of us who work for every stinking thing we own, do, think about, or consider!  Just be grateful and shut up for heavens sake. Get drunk quietly, be responsible for five minutes, stop depending on everyone around you to keep handing life to you on a golden platter!  Keep your mouth shut and keep walking. We are working our butts off while your getting your nails done so please shut up and let us work!  Let us be proud of our accomplishments because by golly WE DID IT OURSELVES! 

What’s on my mind? Put yourself in the other persons shoes.  Stop being selfish. There are two sides to every story, every situation!  How do you take a 20+ year relationship and toss it out the window because your to shallow to have a conversion!  Or did you really just not care all those years and I was to stupid to not know it. Wow.  Who was I to think when two adults have a misunderstanding one adult would, I don’t know, talk to the other! Now there is a novel idea! 

What’s on my mind? I want authentic. I want genuine. I’m tired of games. I’m tired  of relationships that aren’t strong enough to get through the tough stuff or sturdy enough for genuine conversation. When do adults mature enough to understand that loving well means taking the good with the bad.  That life isn’t all chocolate and roses but sometimes it is mud and rain.  

2016 is going to be the year of lean and clean for me. No more surface. Clean is the area of relationship, house, office. You name it. Bottom line if you don’t want to know for real what’s on my mind you might not want to ask. I would encourage you to think about, pray about, read about loving well and speaking the truth in love.  

If there is one thing that gets me in trouble it is not clearly communicating my wants and needs.   Recently someone I love dearly said to me that I am famous for saying I will do something and then not following through. That statement cut me to the core. At one time in my life, when I was insecure and juggling 8 people’s schedules, that may have been true. Today not so much. 

We grow, we mature, we learn.  So, what is on my mind is to be a better person by clearly letting others know what is on my mind but remembering to do so in a loving and graceful way. 

Best part of the day…..

  What was the best part of your day? Have you thought about it? December 22, two days before Christmas Eve “the most wonderful time of the year” and have you stopped long enough to enjoy the moment?  

A friend gave me a gift today. A gift from her heart and it was the best part of my day.  

She spent months perfecting this gift, not for me, but in general.  She shared the journey with me, which was part of the gift and she doesn’t even know it!  She and her gift were the best part of my day! Just as good as the gift is the fact that this year, in taking the time to breath, I’ve  noticed! 

How fun to look back on the last months and realize the details of a story that ended in such satisfaction, not only in my joy of receiving, but in the joy of my friends satisfaction of finishing the beauty of her project!  We had moments of copier room conversation around the project that just seemed like conversation. But after reflection was part of a larger equation.  What are we missing by rushing the details. What other gifts are passing us by because reflection is not part of daily life.  

Recently I was challenged to build reflection time, even if only a few minutes here and there, into my days to see how God might be working in my life.  It has been very difficult to do. The task has been a real burden at times. But today I’ve seen the fruits of the labor and it brought joy.  

Five minutes. Sometimes five seconds to reflect is all it takes to realize the details of the story. Today was the ah ha moment, a gift. A very sweet gift.   

Just breath. The moment is within.  

Just Breath 

 It starts. The week of Christmas is here.  We finalize the details, purchase the last gifts, wrap, perfect, plan, work the plan. It’s over. Did we blink. How did it go so fast again?  Am I really taking the tree down?

This year I’ve made the choice to savor the moments. They will come again next year for sure but they will not be the same! The air will change, the time will change, the people may change. We never know what a day may bring. Stop for a few moments and notice what you have. Even if you don’t think you have anything you have something.  You do!

God has a plan for us. He wants us to work that plan even more than the details of our hectic Christmas week plan. He wants us to spend time paying attention to Him, building our relationship with Him, knowing Him so that we can have the ultimate gift!  HIM! Even if it’s for just a moment. Notice Him. He’s right there. Loving you. He is!

The price has been paid.  Christmas was only the beginning.  Celebrate! Enjoy. Relax. Breath. Just for a moment! Feels good! 😊

“Simply”….is it really what it seems?

“Our job is to simply populate the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Richard Sterns-Unfinished) When I read this sentence the word “simply” popped out at me. “Simply” to populate the kingdom of heaven sounds so incredibly easy. How can it sound so easy but be such a daunting task? Do WE make it hard?

My job, career, is serving as the Executive Director of a United Methodist Church in a town that is drowning in drugs, causing all the problems that come with addiction. Our city has turned into a low-income, welfare filled town. Walking down the main street of our city breaks my heart. There are so many who look like they have no hope. I want to shake them and say, “There is hope, you can turn this around, the high from drugs does not have to be your high! You can experience the love of Christ, the hope of a future, the love of a church family.”

Our church is not perfect, we have the stereotypical “christian” sitting in our pews. We also have people who truly care about “populating the kingdom of heaven”. They are being the church instead of talking about the church. There are many who attend church,  then walk out the door and turn back into the person Jesus does not want us to be; hypocritical, gossipy, cynical.  But, there are many who take the sign above the door seriously; “You are now entering the mission field”.

How simple is it the “populate the Kingdom of Heaven”? To reach others for Christ, to help people understand getting to heaven is not about how often you attend church but the relationship you have with Jesus Christ. Sure, worshipping God with a community is important to spiritual development but what happens outside of the church is just as important. The personal and ongoing relationship with Jesus is the key to “simply populating the Kingdom of Heaven”. The difficult part is helping people understand there is more to it than “saying” you are a believer of Christ.  There is also action involved, doing, being the hands and feet of Christ, being in community with Christ.   There is a God who loves us beyond what we know as love. Our time on earth is short.  We are on earth working toward eternity.

I ponder the statement: “Our job is to simply populate the kingdom of heaven” with a heavy but hopeful heart, knowing there is so much to do.  Wondering if it is so simple, that we make it hard.

I’ve taken a couple of days to let this statement settle in my heart. I know the only way to the kingdom of heaven is through Jesus.  I want YOU to know, accepting Jesus is truly simple and that is the key to the kingdom of heaven.  The hard part is being and doing and loving and living as Christ calls us to live.  The hard part is understanding the Father (God), the Son (Jesus) and the Holy Spirit (the one God gave us to live in our hearts) as the Trinity.  We spend a lifetime trying to grasp the concept after we accept the job.  The hard part is making the changes in our selfish, worldly lives to BE like Jesus.  To forgive, to extend grace, to be patient and kind, to live the fruits of the spirit.  The struggle is real; and worth it!

What does it mean to “simply populate the kingdom of heaven” to you and how are you helping to do just that!

Good Ole Boys are not that good.

There is nothing worse than the ‘good ole boys’ club. You know, that group of men who think they rule the world.  Their decisions are the only decisions, women are to be seen and not heard, we all know at least one!

‘Good ole boys’, let me tell you a little something about intelligent women who are authentic in the way we conduct ourselves.

We can negotiate a deal based on facts, needs of the organization and can produce a win/win when possible.   We are not people who will play “good cop/bad cop” or “wink, wink” at another in a meeting, especially a male,  just to open the door to a later conversation. We have more respect for ourselves and our significant others than to “wink, wink” at anyone!   We do not sit back and let people, no matter the gender, walk all over us.  We will not stoop to the levels ‘Good ole boys’ want us to so that we are seen and not heard.

We are able to have intelligent conversations that will result in compromise.  We can be pretty and intelligent all at the same time, imagine that!  Women in leadership are just as productive as men and more productive than the ‘good ole boys’ because we work out of ethical and moral behavior.  We make decisions that will take our organizations to the next level every day with honest and non deceptive conversations.  It is said that women make better leaders because we are compassionate!  In all honesty, I learned my leadership skills and continue to develop under strong male figures.  Men who respect others based on their talent, not their gender.  Men who are TRUE leaders because of their strong character, morals, and values.

Don’t underestimate a good woman in a leadership position.  We speak our minds in an assertive way, not aggressively.  We treat others with respect, always.  We solve problems well. We care about people, regardless of if they are in the club.  We seek authentic, professional relationship.

I am thankful for leaders who understand the value of respect to others.  I am thankful for the way a good leader, male or female, seeks to build up those around them.  I am thankful for the strength I have to not give in to any ‘Good ole boy’!  I pray the self awareness of people who put themselves above others is revealed to them and they want to change.  We all have areas to work on right!  Maybe the ‘Good ole boys’ eyes will be opened by authentic, honest, forthcoming people who call this unacceptable behavior to their attention through honesty, authenticity, and respect!  The best way to teach is by example right!

Staff Meetings Stink…..or do they? 

Staff meetings stink.  They really do!  Whether you are running them or participating in them they are just not fun!  Except mine of course!

The purpose of  a staff meeting is to distribute information right.  To gather those you work with and make sure everyone is on the same page, update about  organizational issues, to bring issues to the table for discussion and hopefully decisions.  This week I had the most unusual staff meeting I’ve ever had. Really, in my 25 years of working and staff meetings I’ve never encountered anything like it.

My staff consists of 15 people who attend staff meetings and another 15 or so who are a big part of the organization but not full-time and daily members of the larger organization.  Each week we gather and I try really hard to have good information to share or educational topics that will help us all to grow in our jobs.  This week we had a guest, Larry Bolden, the creator of an organization called Wellspring.  It is a ministry to help people grow deeper in their walk with Christ in a very unique way.  Wait, don’t stop reading because I brought up God!  Please!  You can learn more about Wellspring at a later time.  You gotta hear about this staff meeting.

So, Larry  leads my staff into a time of sharing, from our heart, our true heart not a false or inauthentic place, but a genuine place.  He asked one simple question.  (Let me tell you most of us are going through the Wellspring journey at this time.  Some are further along than others but there were several at the table who have not experienced Wellspring at all.)  The question was, what have the personal/relational benefits of Wellspring been to you?  The way Larry set up that one simple question created a safe, authentic space for this staff to share; to be vulnerable, to learn more about each other, and to love each other well.

Staff become an extension of family after a while.  So often we spend more time with our coworkers than we do with our chosen families.  At times, boundaries are overstepped. Families broken, people broken because of unhealthy work relationships.  Just as our families need to have healthy boundaries, so does a staff.  At this meeting, all typical business boundaries went down the toilet.  All gloves were off.   We were a room full of people who genuinely care about each other and showed it! As we shared the ways Wellspring has helped us in our relationships, conversations, communication skills, how to work better with each other, how to understand each other, and how to care for each other, this staff grew closer as a team.  We let our guard down long enough to remember we are people, who are important to each other, to God,  that we need each other, we need to encourage each other, love each other well.  Relationships were healed. People genuinely loved others as Christ models for us, just as the Golden Rule says we should.

This type of meeting took courage. It is not easy to balance friendships and supervisory relationships in the work place.  This meeting was dangerous in overstepping unspoken boundaries.  It was ok though. It was passionate, affirming, compassionate all at the same time.  It was the single meeting in my career that I will reflect on for years to come.  It was that special.

Wellspring changes the way you think as a leader.  It will change your organization because it will change you.  This particular staff meeting changed us. The space to be vulnerable with staff – unheard of!  Healing. Relational.  Living from your heart. Amazing! If you want to learn more about Wellspring I’m here and a big fan!  Love Well.  Even your staff!

NYC Here I come!

It is always fun to visit your kids in THEIR  homes!  Its great to have them ask you to take off your shoes. Its really hard not to say something like “really? I have to take my muddy wet shoes off, hum!”  It is fun to see what traits you’ve given them and what they’ve grown to care about.

The best part of the weekend was our Friday Night pizza party!  Yes, two grown women sitting in bed crushing a pizza and bread sticks – and I mean CRUSHING in a city that never sleeps!  It was the best!

Actually, the best part of the weekend was just hanging out with my girl.  We didn’t do anything but we did everything! We made memories that can never be taken away!

We visited the 911 Memorial together, she was 10 – I was 34 on September 11, 2001. Two perspectives on the day that changed our world forever.  The moving stories, memorabilia,  personal memories of where we were and what we felt that day.  It brought me back to a time in my life that is personal, painful, and changed our country forever. It also made me appreciate just where I was and what I was doing.  On my train ride in I sat with a person who was on the 67th floor of the 2nd tower.  The fact that he is alive is a miracle in itself.  It made me sad to hear his story. He tossed his marriage out the window and has made choices that have hurt him.  He saw the aftermath of 911 as “you only live once, have fun” but now realizes fun comes with those you love!

Relationships are unique.   Going to the city you would think we would want to pack the weekend with all kinds of activity while all we really wanted to do was visit, walk, talk, drink coffee!  So, we did.

Leaving today was hard for both of us. We won’t get that time back.  We cried and hugged and promised another trip soon.  A longer trip.   Probably doing the same things, only more of it!

While waiting at Penn Station for my train today feeling sad and alone, I noticed more than usual police and military presence.  I couldn’t help but think, “if today were my last day on earth would I have regrets”. Will this be the last time I say goodbye to my daughter?  Will I see my other children?  Will I see my husband at the other end of this trip?

I felt myself mourn the loss of a marriage and a family but celebrated the family I have now.  Remembering the choices I’ve made to get here.  Thanking God for his willingness to come into my life and turn the messes I make into good if I let Him.  Enjoying the smells, sights, sounds, touch of life.  Watching the hustle and bustle of Penn Station on a Monday morning I thought about the hundreds of stories standing around me.  Watching expressions, how people treat each other, seeing laughter, tears, people embracing people.,,,,,,,,

Love the one your with.  Love the God who created you.  Don’t regret…….be kind to others.

Simple Pleasures

  

Who would have thought the first smell of freshly cut grass would be so pleasant.  Enough so that it stopped me in my tracks today.  

Running, literally, from meeting to meeting today, the smell of the first cut of the season was purely delightful.  Spring has spring.  Snow is done. The air is warmer.  The smells are crisp and the birds are happy.  

What a surprise that something so simple and expected could be rejuvinating.  It made me think about how simple life can really be and how complicated we make it.  I am the biggest offender of packing to much in, raising my stress levels to unbearable.  God stopped me right then and there, before the most difficult meeting of my day, to say: I got this. It’s easy.  Trust me!  

Relief! Simplify.  Take one extra second to notice something ordinary and appreciate it!  Rejoice in it!  Let simplicity sink into your day. Smile!  That one second is worth it! 

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