Gas Pedal or Brake?

carWow. It’s been a while since posted here at SharpenHer. Life has been full of vacations and deadlines and to-do lists and family commitments. My days have begun early and ended late, and my brain has been cluttered with details that need attention. Do you have seasons like that? I bet you do. We all do.

I’ll be honest. I’m a “do it all” kind of person. I can manage our household, balance the budget, and help my 5th grader tackle a science project. I can help my 3rd grader review for a test, teach at church, and shop (endlessly) for just the right shorts for my 9th grader. I can counsel a friend and stick to an exercise routine. I can pressure wash the back patio and replace the kickstand on my son’s bike. If it needs to be done, I can do it.

But I know I have limits. We all do. Even those among us who have the zeal of the Energizer Bunny. Learning when to push ahead and when to apply the brakes in life is one of the most critical lessons I’ve ever embraced. Over the last few weeks, I’ve needed to apply the brakes in some areas in order to push ahead in others. The myth of balance (the idea that I can be all things to all people at all times) is something I gave up long, long ago. Instead, I’ve learned that seasons will come when certain segments of my life will require more of my focus….sometimes intense focus. When those moments come, I respond.

Are you overwhelmed with responsibilities or demands? Maybe you need to let go of the myth of balance, too. Accept that busy seasons come. Make a plan to navigate all the demands….and make a plan to rest when the busy season ends. Those segments of time should have a definite end and should be followed by a time of refreshment.  If you don’t see an end in sight, that is an indication that you’ve allowed your schedule to run your life. Your goal, however, should be to run your schedule.

While I’m focusing on demands that require more of my focus, I’m listening to what God is saying to my heart so I can share more lessons and encouragement with all of you. Before long, I’ll be back in full swing around here! Until then, stay sharp, my friends!

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What Pastor’s Kids Want Their Parents To Know

Many of you know that I write for Flourish.me, a website for pastors’ wives and women in ministry. A post was written by two other site contributors, and the info was so beneficial to those in ministry that I wanted to share it here, too. I know some of you are raising kids while you serve in ministry leadership, and I also know the many struggles your kids might face. Interested in knowing what your kids wished you knew? Check it out here.

Happy Monday, friends!
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The Things I Learn At Starbucks

A friend and I were at Starbucks talking about….well, things friends talk about. We covered a whole host of topics – God, marriage, relationship, you name it, we covered it. At times, we listened and empathized. Other times, we offered each other wisdom and advice. I left energized with new ideas and a new motivation to tackle my agenda.

We all have areas of our lives that we wish we were better at, more adept at managing. All of us have areas of our lives – public and private – that we could simply improve. From friendship to parenting and from spiritual growth to personal integrity, we can all agree that life sometimes gets the best of us causing us to recognize our needs for improvement.

I think many of us have great intentions of making our lives better, but the routine of daily life robs us of our focus on the BIGGER picture, so we’re left doing the same old thing day in and day out. Sound Familiar?

But something happens at Starbucks when I meet a friend. 

When I spend time with someone who is walking the same road I am in life, I am gain insight and ideas to challenge myself. When I let someone else know what I’m thinking and what’s testing me, I’m much more likely to take action steps. Gaining insight and admitting my weaknesses brings about growth….change!

Would you like a Starbucks moment with a friend? I’ll save you the trip. Join us at Mountain Lake Church this Thursday for Band of Brothers (7AM for the guys) and Girlfriends (7PM, you guessed it, for the ladies). We’ll connect, create friendships, hear what God has to say about issues we’re facing, and most importantly, learn how to make beneficial changes in our lives.

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I Want To Learn From You

Everyone is good at something. Probably several somethings. We all have talents or abilities that add value to us, to our families, or to the people with whom we work, and I believe we can learn from each other.

I spend time on a regular basis with other women who are in ministry leadership, and I am always interested in what they are good at doing. How do they love and encourage their ministry teams? How do they involve their families in ministry? If they lead a women’s ministry, what is it like? What are some ways they disciple others? What is one good thing they’ve implemented into their life? You see, I figure I might be able to apply their good ideas to my life and reap tons of benefits.

Maybe you are the go-to person at work when an event is being planned. Maybe you have a special way of inspiring the troops. Or maybe you have created a fool-proof plan for coordinating the activities for your family members. Maybe you have a creative way for investing into others or maybe you are the bomb-diggity at running a financial budget.

What are you good at doing? What could I learn from you? 

  • If you are in ministry, what are 2 or 3 ways you invest into your ministry team? If you are a pastor’s wife, what are a few of the best things you do in that role?
  • If you are a stay at home mom, what have you mastered? What are a few of the best things you do to add value to your family?
  • If you are in the paid workforce, think about your contribution to your fellow employees. What sets you apart? What are a few things that help others?

Think about your life, your abilities, your daily tasks. What do you do that others might learn from? What could you learn from them? Proverbs 18:15 says, “Intelligent people are always ready to learn. Their ears are open for knowledge.”

I’ll go first. In my role as a pastor’s wife, I write an email newsletter for the women on our ministry team each month. In it I share a devotional thought/leadership challenge, upcoming events, and a few fun tidbits. This monthly communication allows me to build a sense of unity on our team, as well as to encourage and celebrate them.

Here’s one more: in my role as a mom, I use Google Calendar to coordinate the schedules for my family of 5. We all share our calendars with one another so we can view daily agendas and avoid double booking ourselves. Being able to view my husband’s calendar before I book appointments (or for his assistant to view my calendar before she books appointments for my husband) helps us avoid blunders.

Now, it’s your turn! What are a few things you do well? In leadership? In parenting? In relationships? In budgeting? In planning? Let’s learn from each other today!

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43 Birthday Gifts

birthday presentI’ve been on the journey of life for 43 years as of today….not nearly long enough to absorb all the knowledge in the world, but long enough to gain a little wisdom. Funny how “on the job” training teaches so much more than a school book. Here are 43 bits of wisdom I’ve learned over the years:

  1. Expect big things from God because He is able to do far more than my feeble mind can comprehend.
  2. God cares more about who I am than what I do. Character matters.
  3. Plan my work and work my plan. Satisfaction comes when I’ve accomplished my goals.
  4. My failures don’t define me. My passion for God does.
  5. I must look beneath the surface in order to judge correctly. Snap judgements can be costly.
  6. Instead of a “Woe is me” attitude embrace a “Let me at ‘em” attitude. Pity parties don’t solve problems.
  7. I must train myself to accept the pitfalls of life and respond in God-honoring ways…to be happy on the mountain top and in the valley. It won’t happen naturally.
  8. God stands beside me like a great warrior. I am not alone.
  9. Almost all of God’s commands have something to do with how we are to treat other people. Relationships are a BIG deal to God.
  10. The discipline of my emotions is found in the training of my responses.
  11. I am my children’s best teacher.
  12. Drop the super-hero mentality, and reach out for help.
  13. The goal is to win the relationship, not the fight.
  14. I might bear a good name but I can choose to sully it. I might bear a sullied name, but I can choose to reestablish it.
  15. At the end of my life, I’ll most likely be measured by how well I loved (and was loved) rather than by how many tasks I accomplished.
  16. When I choose my own wisdom over God’s, I deceive myself and invite disaster.
  17. Jesus hung out with the wrong crowd. I should, too.
  18. Remembering what God has done in my past gives me confidence that He will provide for my future. Walking down Memory Lane with Him builds my faith.
  19. Know the difference between a criticism and a critique. Teachability is valuable.
  20. “One more” of anything won’t make me happy. If I’m not happy with what I have now, I won’t be happy when I have more.
  21. If my giftedness outweighs my character, disaster awaits me.
  22. Dysfunction is not deviating from the norm. Dysfunction is deviating from God’s best.
  23. Laughter is good medicine. Laughter with my family is the best medicine.
  24. Life as a Pastor’s wife means I’m on display for all to see. Therefore, I will model transparency with integrity….not perfection.
  25. I must take care of myself physically, emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually. Neglecting any area will hinder my overall health.
  26. The way I steward my leadership role effects they way other people think of themselves, their abilities, and their value.
  27. It is possible to accomplish every goal I set for myself and miss God’s purpose for my life.
  28. Life was intended to be my time to get to know God and His ways.  I shouldn’t substitute that for chores and a honey-do list.
  29. It is refreshing to let my hair down and forget the demands of life for a while. Do it often.
  30. “Take care of self” and “Look out for #1″ sound good in theory, but those thoughts fly in the face of God’s way of living. To model my life after the example of Jesus, I should serve, give, and love generously.
  31. Don’t protect my time. Don’t guard it. Give it all up to Jesus. Use myself up for Him. He will refresh and protect me better than I ever could.
  32. If God commands it, do it.
  33. If God prohibits it, avoid it at all costs.
  34. My daily choices reveal my trust – or lack thereof – in God.
  35. Most bad decisions are the result of asking the wrong questions or tying to impress the wrong people.
  36. A desire to please people can cripple me when making leadership decisions. Aim to please God alone.
  37. Finishing well is its own reward. To know I’ve done my job in a spectacular fashion….to know I’ve improved…..to know I’ve impacted people…..that’s fulfilling.
  38. Unresolved issues only lead to more issues.
  39. I cannot control how others act, but I can certainly control how I react.
  40. Showing kindness, mercy, and forgiveness in the face of hurt and betrayal is a better choice than living with anger and resentment.
  41. Don’t let life catch me off-guard. Do the work necessary to be prepared for the opportunities God sends
  42. Compliment loved ones. To their face. To others. My encouragement means more that a thousand pats on the back from well-meaning friends. 
  43. My life is a stage, and it is a privilege to stand on it. Thank God daily.

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Lies We Believe

Lies-We-Believe_Webcurrentseries-f239edd56e5b842d9f7dc5bb91d56ab5I was watching The View the other day when Whoopi Goldberg promoted a new weight loss technology. She claims to have gotten outstanding results from a machine that radiates heat while hovering over a person’s midsection. Apparently, all that is required to lose unwanted pounds is the ability to lie on a table and allow the heat to melt the fat away.

Lies we believe.

We ought not believe something that is so obviously false, yet marketers make such appealing promises that we lose all reason and find ourselves buying the lie. We do it everyday, don’t we?

We believe we’ll be happier with one more outfit or a better car. We believe we’ll be better off with the next promotion or a different spouse. We buy the lie that if God really loved us, He would change our situation.

Ever been there?

The TRUTH is satan deceives with lies that cause us to want more than we have and to doubt God’s provision for us – as if God is purposefully withholding good things from us. Just as he tricked Eve in the Garden of Eden, he tries to manipulate us with clever promises that twist God’s truth. We fall for it far too often.

Why?

Why do we become so easily entangled in the allure of satan’s tricks? How can we overcome the lies satan seductively whispers in our ear?

KNOW THE TRUTH.

I knew when I watched Whoopi demonstrate the weight loss machine that it was a farce because I knew the truth: weight loss only comes from a healthy diet and exercise. There is no shortcut.

The same is true in our spiritual lives. If we want to overcome the lies our enemy uses to trip us up, we must know the truth: God’s Word.

When I know Scripture, I know how God relates to His people. I know how God works. I know the depth of God’s love for humanity. I know God’s expectations of me. I know how to best live my life.

Most importantly, when I know Scripture, I can clearly identify when satan offers me what only God can deliver.

We could all avoid needless pitfalls in our lives if we knew the Truth so well that we could laugh in the facing of a tempting lie.

Why not join Mountain Lake Church for a 21 day journey to knowing the Truth. We are reading through the book of John – 21 chapters in 21 days – and writing down the truths we learn about God and His love for us. You can track along in social media by using #KnowTheTruth.

We don’t have to fall victim to the lies satan cunningly whispers. God has given us a weapon to defend ourselves: His word. We can know the Truth, and the Truth can set us free.

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A Surprise Encounter

Three years ago my husband and oldest daughter went on a World Care trip to Haiti to help in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake. Their plan to help rebuild a school and assist with a medical clinic was cut short when they were involved in a horrible car accident. Hannah received a severe concussion and a broken collar-bone, and Shawn’s shoulder was separated. Both had multiple cuts and bruises. Needless to say, they came home early. Caring for them over the following weeks brought many of my emotions to the surface as I was face to face with what could have been a tragedy.

But my family wasn’t the only occupier of my thoughts. My mind often wandered back to the driver of the truck, a Haitian pastor with whom our church team had partnered. He had suffered the least physical injuries, but his truck had been totaled…a truck he had intended to sell in order to pay for the cost of rebuilding his damaged home. Although I have heard a few updates regarding Pastor Ricardo since, I’ve often wondered how he is.

Well, wonder no more. Last week, I met Pastor Ricardo and his wife, Kendra, face to face. They were in the States for our Velocity Conference, and when he introduced himself to me I grabbed him by both shoulders. “YOU are the pastor who was with my family in the wreck?! YOU are the one who lost your truck?! YOU are the one who suffered with Shawn and Hannah?!” Then I hugged him. Tightly. I shared that he was often in my thoughts, and I how happy I was to finally put a face with the memories. Here is Pastor Ricardo and Kendra with Shawn:

shawn and ricardo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also had the chance to reunite Hannah with Ricardo and Kendra. Kendra was so kind to Hannah, embracing her like a mom. The wreck and the search for medical care had been a frightening experience for my then 12-year-old daughter, and Kendra never had a chance to connect with Hannah before she and Shawn flew home. Here are Hannah, Kendra, and Pastor Ricardo celebrating their reunion:

Kendra talking

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What you can’t see is me. I’m the crazy mama taking all the pictures while I’m wiping tears out of my eyes. That’s why the pictures are so bad….I couldn’t even think clearly to turn the flash on.

Sometimes things happen in life with people we’ll never see again. And, then, by some strange turn of events, we see them. Treasure those rare gifts. Celebrate the connections you have with people and love them well. You never know what tomorrow will bring.

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An Odd Vacation Destination

MLC Tower 1There is something odd about the people of my church. Something different from the other churches I’ve served. Something refreshing, but rare.

They vacation at church.

Or, something like that.

We hosted our annual pastors’ conference earlier this month, and just like each year for the past 10 years, we asked our church members and attenders to consider assisting us during the event with set up and takedown, greeting, registration, and hospitality. We never have to recruit extra volunteers; apparently serving at Velocity is a hot ticket item. Again this year I talked with volunteers who actually used their vacation days to work from sun up to sun down serving strangers.

It boggles my mind, really. I mean, Velocity isn’t cool drinks and white sandy beaches. It’s not restful. It doesn’t pay much – just a Velocity t-shirt and a sore back. But the volunteers tell a different story. They say they are inspired as they listen to our main stage speakers. They say they gain insights in leadership and help for their own marriages in our breakout classes. They say they hear the “behind the scenes” stories of pastors and churches across our nation – stories of what God is doing in their churches and the challenges those pastors face. As our volunteers host and greet, they overhear all kinds of things, and they grow. They worship. They bless and are blessed.

Conference attenders notice. The number one compliment we receive as a leadership team just might be about our people. Time and again we hear how helpful, friendly, and genuinely interested our volunteers are. We’ve heard stories of them meeting financial needs of conference attenders, praying with them, and getting home addresses in order to mail encouraging notes long after the conference ends. In so many ways our volunteers “pastor” our guests, and our volunteers find great value in their service.

Sometimes value is worth more than a vacation. Just ask the camera man who worshipped between camera shots during our main sessions. Or the worship team who left exhausted but felt closer to God. Or the registration team who was energized after meeting so many new people. Or Mike, who when asked by a conference attender if he could quote the mission of Mountain Lake Church, confidently responded, “To belong in healthy relationships with God and others, to become more like Christ, and to bless our world.” Mike knows our mission….and his purpose….and that in itself is extremely valuable.

So while I mixed and mingled with the conference attenders, I hugged the necks of our volunteers, I slipped into back rooms to give high-fives, and I asked what God was teaching them. I love those people….God’s people….our partners. They chose to vacation with me last week….at church….and I’m thankful for them.

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A Look Back at Velocity 2014

velocity2014-500So a week has passed since my favorite conference of the year, and I’ve had a bit of time to reflect. Here are a few quotes that caught my attention:

Don’t bankrupt your marriage and ministry by making withdrawals without also making deposits. – Matt and Sarah Keller

If it’s true that leaders are learners, what are you learning? – Dave Ferguson

Too many of us in ministry want the fame of game day without the pain of training. – Shawn Lovejoy

The essence of leadership is embodying what we want others to become. – Derwin Gray

You aren’t remembered for your entrance. You’re remembered for your exit. – Rick Bezet

Have we exchanged studying the Gospel for sharing the Gospel? – Brandon Hatmaker

I want to be famous in my own home. – Mark Batterson

We don’t have an information problem in the church. We have an application problem. – Pete Hise

But maybe my favorite quote was not from a main stage speaker. It was a Tweet from a conference attender, Nick Carnes:

“Cameraman stops between shots to raise his hands in worship. That’s why I love #Velocity14 Conference. Not just a conference, it’s church!”

These are the ideas and challenges that gave me food for thought last week. Maybe you’ll stop to think about them, too. All the knowledge in the world means nothing without application, so make today a day of CHANGE!

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Hallmark Cards and Jesus

From the SharpenHer archives…

I originally posted the following in 2011. In light of the current teaching series at Mountain Lake called Be Mine, I thought it was worth a repost. Enjoy!

A couple of days ago, I started a new Bible reading plan using YouVersion on my iPhone. It’s called, “What Is Love?”  February is the month of love, so I figured it would be a good fit.

The plan is very elementary – just one verse and a couple of questions to ask yourself – but, don’t let that fool you.  If you take time to reflect on the questions and apply the answers to your heart, you’ll find that this “elementary” plan is quite deep. Let me give you an example.

Day one began with the world’s most recognized verse on love, John 3:16.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”

Have you ever thought about what this verse really means? Go a little further than the obvious promise of Heaven for those who believe in Jesus. Take note of what this verse reveals about the extent of God’s love for all of us.

1.  He loved the world in spite of our sins, failures, betrayal, and unrighteousness. He didn’t wait for us to “earn” His love.  He freely gave it.

2.  He loved us to the point of sacrifice.  Loving us cost God greatly.

3.  His love is available to everyone. That means everyone.

4.  He was willing to get out of His comfort zone (by leaving Heaven) to reach out to us.

5.  By His love, we are offered a gift we don’t deserve – eternal life with Him.

6.  Finally, He is our model.  He is our example of how to love others:

      *in spite of their shortcomings

     *even if it costs us something

     *even when we’re uncomfortable

     *even when others don’t deserve it

Let those truths sink in a bit. His love is astounding, isn’t it? So, while the world around us is busy with Hallmark cards and boxes of chocolate this month, take a moment to think about what real love is. God set the standard for all love relationships when He first loved us. Here’s the standard: when you love someone dearly, you are willing to give freely, to the point of sacrifice. Can you measure your love by that standard?

Thank God He modeled the way for us. Now, get out there, Believers, and show the world what real love looks like!

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