2/9/09

But Who Can Blame Her?


Yes, indeed.

Truth is stranger than fiction.

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2/8/09

A Study Of Comparisons..


I don't know about you, but we love us some good games. Lately, we've been arguing bonding over Apples To Apples, which may or may not be a game for 'children to adults' that turns adults into laughing, yelling children.

Good times, y'all.

Good times.

Does anyone else play Apples to Apples?

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Leadership 101

If you know my real-life history, you're already acquainted with the previous jobs I've been blessed to be a part of. If you don't, just nod along and act like you already knew.

I've been elbow-deep in ministry and church organization/administration in one form or another for half of my life and have a sincere passion to see the church working like God intended. It's why I emphasize structure and the reason I study the psychology behind leadership and group dynamics.

When I'm asked, I make suggestions and observations in these capacities. And when I'm not asked and it's none of my business, I'm careful to keep my suggestions to myself. No one appreciates unwelcome opinions, right or wrong. ;o)

But I was intrigued and a bit saddened by a recent report of a [to remain nameless] newly-minted youth worker who is, by all previous indications of character, not at all fit for the task.

Is this my business? Not at all. Am I offended by it? Nope. I'm honestly, sincerely praying strength and wisdom and integrity for this person. Does it make me super-duper holy and charitable to mention it and then ask you all to pray? No, definitely not that either.

So why am I bringing it up?

I'll take 'Opportunity to Reiterate the Importance of Leadership' for $500, Alex.

While I hope this youth committee member will discover a burden for mentoring and growing young people, I'm struck by a few all-too-common points.

1 - This person lives life on the edge of appropriate behavior as the church teaches.
Yep - the church that this person now holds a position in.

2 - This person is related to the pastor in a very close way.

3 - The appointment is a position given by the pastor.

Knowing this, any discerning saint, parent, or leader might be hesitant to stand behind the decision. Not because of a dislike or even a vendetta. In this case, and in fact, in most cases, the opposite is usually true. The person in question may very well be popular and well-loved. But there's a problem when a ministry appointment has more to do with proximity to the pastor or leader than with Divine appointment.

Is this really common? You can bet on it, sweets. I've seen many, many leaders appoint family members to positions because they want them there.

But growing up in the proverbial fish-bowl and knowing exactly when to raise a hand during the worship service or to bless someone's heart during a conversation, while an asset to the ministry [known as 'tact'], does not a minister make.

Locating people with the burden and passion for a specific ministry is easier said than done, though. Why?

Maybe God is dealing with a person and they're hesitating.
While they're hesitating and God's being a gentleman,
there's approximately 0 people to drive the church van
and order the pizza and organize rousing games
of pin-the-scripture-on-the-Bible. So you improvise and cobble
together a team of people who might be creative enough to pull it off.

The person God has called doesn't fit your mold.
Maybe the prospective youth leader wears chucks and
band t-shirts under his church suits. Maybe she has
a stutter or a past that people talk about behind her back.
Either way, you're sending up frantic prayers
asking God for a reassurance or 10 about His choice.

The timing of the leadership change
isn't in line with God's timing.

Sometimes, harried and harassed leaders longing for a round of
Chinese fire drill, church ministry style, can jump the gun when
it comes to jumping ship. At this point, a $450,000 Fannie Mae-
executive-style retreat would be great for rejuvenation, but if that
isn't in the budget, a little volunteerism and understanding works, too.

But there are ways to seek out those with a burden and a passion for the church or for the outlying ministries of the church family.

Encourage, foster, and promote growth.
Don't discourage people from taking part in ministry.
Don't consistently rely on the same group
of people to head up the 'important committees'.
Teach leadership values and qualities.

Be willing to disciple, and make discipleship
a requirement of your leaders. By all means,
your leaders need to be willing to foster growth
in their assistants - and they will be, if you are.
Leaders who white-knuckle their position
like it's their ticket into the pearly gates
are in dire need of re-prioritization.

Know where to place new workers.
There are few things more disheartening than repeatedly sharing
with a leader your intense burden for the Koolaid For Kids ministry
and, after nods of great understanding and promises of future
involvement, being placed in charge of the Puppies For Jesus ministry.
Sometimes the 'burden' is actually a desire, to be fair.
It's not wise to let everyone who claims to have
a burden take control of a ministry, but there are many,
many tools for gauging a person's abilities or fit
for a specific position. Try asking a few questions like these:

What are your spiritual gifts?
· What are you passionate about?
· What are your natural abilities?
· What is your personality type?
· What are the spiritual markers in your life?
· What do others see in you?

Asking the tough questions like these, sending prospective
workers here for a personality profile
or here for a spiritual gifts test, and using those
tools to pinpoint the proper places for people to minister?
That's smart leading, y'all.


Trust me. I understand that not every leader has the luxury of choosing prospective candidates. Sometimes, a person is appointed simply because there is no one else. No one better, no one worse, no one available. But as a leader, you set the tone for future leadership teams. And as a leader, it's your God-given responsibility to instill positive leadership qualities in the people you are nurturing. And maybe someday those sheep will be empowered and burdened to lead others.

After all, that's how you got your burden. :o)

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Whoa, Whoa, Whoa, She's a Lady!

Being the happy little shoe collector that I am [and owning works of affordable art like these shoes from Tarjay like I do]:

My future daughter [y'know, should there be one!] has absolutely no hope against adorable little creations like these from Heelarious:



Y'all, pray for her now.


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Brokenness - The Pruning Season

You removed a vine from Egypt; You drove out the nations
and planted it.
You cleared the ground before it,
and it took deep root and filled the land.
Why have You broken down its hedges,
so that all who pass that way pick its fruit?
O God of hosts, turn again now, we beseech You;
Look down from heaven and see, and take care of this vine,

Even the shoot which Your right hand has planted,
And on the son whom You have strengthened for Yourself.
[Ps. 80:8,9,12,14,15]

So it's not just me!

There's a lot of living that a blog can't cover. Sure, I can share with you that I'm in a place of transition, but it's much harder to share with you the reasons surrounding those changes.

Why, you ask?

I'm so glad you asked.

Well, for one, not
everything that happens in life is worthy of discussion. [Even though the whole 'less is more' concept is a difficult concept for a mouthy little thang like me, trust me.]

And for two, I can promise you that stating and restating and restating and restating a situation only serves to embitter and then to justify that bitterness.

And for three, I've got nothing, I'm not gonna lie. But two bullet points is just weak.

So here's the deal. I find myself in angst about the place that I'm at - emotionally, spiritually, and physically -
aaaaaall the time. You could say I'm that girl who Must Have The Answers. Like yesterday, please. In fact, I wonder about this place I'm living in almost as much as I wonder about the place that I'm going.

I know, I know.

Nosy.

But I'm not alone in my questioning, so God's got a little experience with nosy control freaks curious followers like me. The Bible is filled with laments just like Asaph's - laments from God's chosen ones. The favored few. The ones who took part in miracles and saw wondrous manifestations of His glory and grace. They struggled to understand the painful parts of the journey, too.

They also understood, just like I do, the words of Asaph, written from a broken, grieved soul, that resonate in me. There is no questioning the fact that I have been uprooted and replanted and cut back and covered in blossoms and plucked bare and uprooted again. Oh, yeah. I know that painful pruning process all too well.

And while my soul knows that everything that has shaken and twisted and bent me in a veritable tornado of emotions and misunderstandings and raw, open wounds will one day be a testimony for the purpose of His glory, that knowledge doesn't always filter down into my heart.
In fact, smack dab in the middle of circumstances beyond my control, I've been guilty of saying things like
'God, I can't ask you for Your opinion right now. Last time I followed Your plan, bullet point by bullet point, You brought me into this mess. If You don't mind, I'll just curl up in a corner for awhile.'

Because even if I don't have answers, curling up in a corner away from the storm is easier than striking out into the unknown again. Because, you know, avoidance = GREAT survival plan.

Right?

Oh, ok. Maybe not so much.

I know in my mind that He has great and beautiful plans for me
[and you, too - I see you back there. Yes, you. I see you!] because He said so;

“For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” [Jeremiah 29:11]

And that those visions of who I will become were formed even before I was born;

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you. Before you were born I set you apart!” [Jeremiah 1:5]

But there are those days of life between new birth and the fulfillment of a promise that must be survived. And then there's the little matter of my inquiring heart longing for reassurance that the storm will end. And that I'll survive it.

And that's when the redeeming, restoring, sustaining love of a God who sings over me with songs of love is what I need most.

And
that's when I'm ready to be still and dwell in this promise;

"And now, here's what I'm going to do: I'm going to start
all over again. I'm taking her back out into the wilderness
where we had our first date, and I'll court her. I'll give her bouquets of roses.
I'll turn Heartbreak Valley into Acres of Hope.
She'll respond like she did as a young girl,
those days when she was fresh out of Egypt.

At that time —this is God's Message still— "you'll
address me, 'Dear husband!' Never again will you
address me, 'My slave-master!'
I'll wash your mouth out with soap,
get rid of all the dirty false-god names;
not so much as a whisper of those names again.

At the same time I'll make a peace treaty between you
and wild animals and birds and reptiles,
And get rid of all weapons of war.
Think of it! Safe from beasts and bullies!

And then I'll marry you for good—forever!
I'll marry you true and proper, in love and tenderness.
Yes, I'll marry you and neither leave you nor let you go.
You'll know me, God, for who I really am.

"On the very same day, I'll answer" - This is God's message -
"I'll answer the sky, sky will answer the earth,
Earth will answer grain, and wine, and olive oil,
and they'll all answer Jezreel.
I'll plant her in the good earth.

I'll have Mercy on No-Mercy.
I'll say to Nobody, "You're my dear Somebody"
and he'll say "You are my God!"
[Hosea 2:14-23, The Message]

His words. His plan for my life.

Faithful is He who calls you, and He will also bring it to pass. [1 Thess. 5:24]

His promise. Restoration to the joy-filled days of new hope, when dreams were created and songs burst out into celebration.

So even though I can't see the thread connecting the past to the future in my present, it's there, holding me together, reminding me of a promise of healing for the broken vine and rest for the weary soul.

Restore me, O LORD God of hosts; cause Your face to shine on me. I know this; on that day, when Your answer comes, I shall be saved. [Ps. 80:19, paraphrase]


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2/5/09

Multi-Culturalism, Blockbusters, and Taco Bell.

I know.

Random.

But to properly sum up my life these days, only a string of almost-incoherent babble [a la facebook's word verification] or a Wordle cloud will do.

Since I can only chuckle about wouldn't dream of making you read a puzzling array of random words like that, I'll go for it in listed form.

You can thank my melancholy mom.

1. I have spent a few weeks with some of the most precious gals New Zealand and Australia have to offer, and I'm delighted to say that we enjoyed every second of their visit. Well, aside from the seconds spent crammed into my little Honda with 5 girls and their accompanying luggage. 'Cause even 'this is going to be SO funny later' has its limits, y'all.

2. I'm becoming multi-cultural. Yes, for real. I learned a whole song in Maori. It's called 'Jesus is Here' and it's lovely, but much lovelier when Val sings it. And I learned my Ghanaian name. It's Abinah, which means 'Girl born on Tuesday' and is, according to Ghanaian culture, the name that God intended for me, being a girl born on a Tuesday and all. And I order whole meals in Spanish sometimes, too. I'm going places!

3. Jesus has been using some incredible people and experiences to pour His love on me, and I'm so, so, SO grateful/hopeful/unworthy/excited about the things He's speaking into me and the people He's brought me into contact with. More on this later, you can count on it.

4. I'm back in school, hopefully serving out my next-to-last semester of torture at university. My classload includes algebra, which I have successfully avoided during my entire scholastic career - until now - and screenwriting, which serves absolutely no purpose for me except as an English credit. I'm totally going places with my screenwriting career.

5. I'm job-hunting again. And may I say that whoever is responsible for this economic recession needs a good scolding? Thank you, I feel so much better now.

6. I have discovered a passion for chocolate sour cream donuts that will surely be the crowning glory of my diet. Because what spells health and well-being like deep-fried, glazed goodness? I can be thankful that my new obsession has replaced my deep-rooted love for the cheesy gordita crunch, at least. Donuts are way better.

Right?

And with that, I'm off to write a paper and finish folding my clothes and cook dinner and design a business card and run to the grocery store and edit a video, among other things.

See you here soon!

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