Why I’m Rewriting My Task List Today

I’m a “get it done” kind of girl.

Make the lunches. Do the laundry. Plan the event. Meet the need. Accomplish the goal.

You get the idea. Each day has a task list to be tackled, wrestled to the ground, and annihilated. Ok, that might be a bit strong, but some days are a battle against the clock to get it all done, and my competitive (or, should I say perfectionistic) nature goes into overdrive.

I am not alone. Our culture is full of get it done people. We love “doing.”

We earn the degree. We make a living. We exercise. We plan events. We run errands, manage finances, serve our churches, and overcome crises. We. Do. All. The. Time.

Yet this morning I was reminded that “doing” doesn’t always get the prize. “Doing” only accomplishes my agenda; it doesn’t accomplish God’s. (Newsflash: God’s agenda almost always looks differently than ours.)

So what is on God’s agenda? Character.

Scripture is full of stories in which God is far more concerned with who someone is rather that what someone does. God urged:

  • Adam and Eve to be faithful
  • King David to be honest
  • Jonah to be obedient
  • Esther to be brave
  • Daniel to be determined
  • Hosea to be committed
  • Peter to be loyal
  • and, Paul to be willing to suffer for Him.

In God’s economy, being is better than doing. Character matters.

As I came across Psalm 15 today, God pricked my own heart, my attitudes, and yes, even my task list. Check it out:

“Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent? Who may live on your holy mountain? The one whose walk is blameless, who does what is righteous,who speaks the truth from their heart; whose tongue utters no slander, who does no wrong to a neighbor, and casts no slur on others; who despises a vile person but honors those who fear the Lord; who keeps an oath even when it hurts, and does not change their mind; who lends money to the poor without interest; who does not accept a bribe against the innocent. Whoever does these things will never be shaken.” (Ps 15:1-5 NIV)
As I allowed these words to sink into my heart, I became acutely aware of the kind of person God desires me to be: blameless, righteous, truthful, and kind. He instructs me to keep my promises, even when it is inconvenient, and He urges me to meet the needs of others without expectation of return. You see, God is far more interested in my character qualities than how many balls I can juggle.

Occasionally, my task list shouts at me, demanding that I respond to the tyranny of the urgent. Today, however, will not be one of those days. Today, I will be. I don’t have the luxury of tearing up my task list, but I can use Psalm 15 as a filter for who I am as I work.

What about you? Are you falling victim to the tyranny of the urgent? Are you managing your task list rather than cultivating your character? Today, be still and know that He is God. Nothing else is as important. 

Pinterest Paid Off

My middle child, Madison, turned 12 years old this month, and since she has been the recipient of far too many hand-me-downs from her older sister, I decided to surprise her with a birthday bedroom makeover. We sold all of her furniture (thanks to online yard sale sites on Facebook!) and designed a fresh, more mature environment for her to enjoy. Can I just say, I had a blast?!

She chose gray, navy, white, and a pop of chartreuse for her color scheme, and I began hunting for bargains. I found an upholstered headboard on clearance, chests on sale to use as nightstands, bargain bedding (with a bonus coupon discount), and a stunning chest of drawers for free (thanks to a major find in my in-laws’ garage). Toss in a few knick-knacks for style, and her room was a wrap.

But, I haven’t mentioned my favorite part. Madison wanted a full length mirror, but I didn’t want something too typical. I wanted barn wood. I wanted big. I wanted a bit of color. So, I did what any woman would do: I searched Pinterest. And let me tell you, Pinterest paid off! I found a pin about weathering new wood to create an older look. The lumber cost $15, I had all the paint I needed, and I grabbed a set of Christmas lights from the attic. This first picture shows the wood after I had painted and sanded it.

before

This one shows the completed project. The lighting is poor, but you get the idea:

after

Apparently, all those hours surfing on Pinterest in bed late at night really do pay off….which is shocking since I have hundreds of pins I have never actually put to use.

So this project can get marked off of my to-do list, and I have one very happy 12-year-old!

Do you guys have a Pinterest pin that really paid off? 

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I Fell Off The Wagon

What was your New Year’s Resolution? If guilt is making you choke just a little as you recall your commitment, you are in good company. Maybe you, like me, have fallen off the “new year, new me” bandwagon.

For 2015, my family made a year-long resolution to focus on spiritual virtues. One each month.

In January, we focused on encouragement. In February, love. March was all about displaying joy and a good attitude. We have tracked our progress on oversized post-it pads hanging in our den by writing down the ways we’ve demonstrated these virtues. As a parent and wife, I had moments of sheer pride as I witnessed my family soaring.

Then, April came. dun, dun, duuuunnnn.

Our intention was to focus on kindness. Easy, right? Suuuurrreeee.

We simply didn’t do it. We didn’t take advantage of teachable moments. We weren’t proactive. And, there were several moments days when all of us were plain mean.

So what do we do when we fall off the wagon? Get back on! So what if we messed up, missed out, or took a few backward steps? If we fall down, we get back up!

This month, our family is focusing on RESPONSIBILITY. (The irony wasn’t lost on me.)

Being responsible isn’t just a notion instilled in us by our parents to clean our rooms or arrive on time for work. It is a character virtue commanded by God for His children to be accountable for our lives and actions. It is a moral obligation to behave in ways that honor God.

The bible explains that each of us are personally responsible for our lives. Check it out:

The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them.” Ezekiel 18:20

God even explains that we will be rewarded for our responsibility (or lack thereof):

“Tell the righteous it will be well with them, for they will enjoy the fruit of their deeds. Woe to the wicked! Disaster is upon them! They will be paid back for what their hands have done.” Isaiah 3: 10-11

Did you notice that God wasn’t describing rewards and consequences in Heaven or Hell. He was talking about life right here on earth! Don’t miss this: responsibility reaps rewards; irresponsibility reaps consequences. 

Now, that’s not new info, is it? It’s actually a relatively elementary thought. Yet, often the most elementary thoughts are the most profound.

Consider these things:

  • We are personally responsible for our actions.
  • We are personally responsible to work and provide for ourselves and families.
  • We are personally responsible to obey God’s commands.
  • We are personally responsible for our response to the Gospel.
  • We are personally responsible for telling others about God’s great love.
  • We are personally responsible for our character.
  • We are personally responsible for our spiritual growth.

Yet, we often avoid responsibility by shifting blame to others. It’s someone else’s fault. We excuse laziness. We ignore God’s commands. We fear talking about our faith with others. We rationalize poor character. We blame the church for not being “deep” enough. 

If responsibility reaps rewards, these excuses for irresponsibility are leading us down a path of demise! Let’s choose instead to be accountable for each moment of each day.

Why not join my family in taking personal responsibility for life this month? Choose an area and start walking a path that leads to rewards!

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4 Steps To Understanding The Bible

It happened again. Someone asked for a bible study recommendation, and I was scrambling to recall the name of any number of great books I’ve read. Beth Moore, Lisa TerKeurst, Henry Blackaby, Max Lucado, Kay Arthur, John MacArthur….all great writers and lovers of God….all from whom I’ve learned.

But, sometimes I don’t want to recommend a book.

Sometimes I want to recommend THE book.

The Bible is what all bible studies are based upon (hence the name. read: sarcasm), yet we often rely more on books written about the Bible than on the Bible itself. I’ll be the first to agree that all of us benefit from someone explaining the deeper truths of Scripture, helping us apply those truths to our attitudes and decisions, and providing us with action steps. Yet, if we don’t learn for ourselves how to read our Bibles, we will stunt our own spiritual growth, not to mention miss out on special personal moments with our Heavenly Father.

So, how do we do it? Here are 4 easy steps:

  1. Make a Plan: Make a plan for what you will read. Choose a particular book of the Bible. Or select a topic that interests you using an online search engine to discover bible verses about your topic (or go old-school with an actual concordance).
  2. Get Context: Who wrote the book? Why was it written? When was it written? Who was the audience? What was the environment/setting? A Life Application Study Bible not only provides this kind of info for each book of the bible, it also provides footnotes explaining the verses.
  3. Highlight Key Verses: As you read, take notes. Highlight important passages. Underline verses that speak to you personally.
  4. Summarize: After you’ve finished reading, write a few summary statements to explain what you’ve noticed in the book/passages. What is the bottom line? What does God want you to know? What can you learn about God’s ways or purposes?

Here is a quick peek at my own Bible notes after reading the book of Hosea (yes, I write ALL in my Bible):

bible

There you have it. An easy, 4-step process to dissecting Scriptures for yourself. To be sure, it takes more effort than sleepily reading with one eye still closed after the alarm sounds each morning. And it takes more effort than grabbing a book of the Christian bookstore shelf. Yet, if we choose to make the effort, our spiritual growth will soar! God will be faithful to use His Word to make us wise, deepen our love, and prevent us from stumbling.

Who doesn’t want that? Who doesn’t need that?

Maybe today you need a fresh encounter with God. He’s waiting for you…..right there in black and white. 

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7 Day Contentment Challenge

In a “more, more, more” society, Mountain Lake Church has taken the plunge for more, too.

More contentment, that is.

For the next 7 days we are attempting to cultivate grateful, appreciative hearts rather than stoking the raging fires of greed or materialism. And since I greedily just ate my kids’ Easter candy and then coveted new patio furniture, I figured I better join the challenge. Check it out

contentment

I’m diving into this challenge (now that I’ve eaten the candy and logged off of Pinterest), and I’ll be honest enough to say I don’t struggle in all of these areas. I tend to be grateful for and generous with what God has already given me. However, when my eyes wander to my neighbor’s back yard or a HGTV design show….well, I become acutely aware of what I don’t have.

And what I need.

Right now.

Like a back patio with fire pit. I need that. I’m virtually positive that most of my problems would eradicate if only I had a covered porch (with recessed lighting, of course) on which I could lounge while writing bible studies and returning emails. For sure, I would be sitting on deep, cushioned chairs with candle lanterns hangings from the support columns and cute outdoor curtains tied back for visual detail.

But, I digress. Apparently, I really need this challenge.

So, today I’m taking steps to succeed. My eyes won’t be wandering the millions of pins on Pinterest or the stellar episodes of Fixer Upper (I totally want to be Jo and Chip’s friend). I won’t focus on what I don’t have. Instead, I will treasure what God has already given me. A thankful heart is a happy heart, and today my heart will be ecstatic!

What about you? Will you take the challenge, too? If so, figure out which step trips you up the most and make a plan to win! 

1 Timothy 6:6 But godliness with contentment is great gain.

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Perpetual Planning Paralysis

more actionI’m not one to make rash decisions. No spontaneous big purchases. No impetuous schedule changes. I’m what one would call a “planner.”

When hosting parties in my home, I orchestrate the details of guest lists, seating arrangements, and clean up well in advance of the soirée. When I supervise church events, oversized post-it pad papers full of instructions plaster the walls of my planning sessions. And if my husband offers a last minute change to any of my schemes, well let’s just say marital discord looms.

Being a planner has its upside. Considering all the details of an event or decision helps to avoid pitfalls like surprise expenses or overlooked guests. The world needs people like me. But all that planning has its downside, as well.

Let me give you an example. I’ve been planning a bedroom makeover for my 6th grade daughter. Her room is a hodgepodge of hand-me-down’s, and it’s time to give her a more grown up space. For the last several months (months, I said), I have pinned paint colors on Pinterest, made wish lists at Target, and searched decor ideas in magazines. Months. I have plotted and planned for months without taking any real action. No new furniture has been purchased. No wall has been painted. No old things have been thrown out. Apparently, I have become stymied in perpetual planning paralysis.

Well, no more. Determined to break out of my slump, I posted pictures of my daughter’s current bedroom suite to an online sales forum, and it sold in 20 minutes! That’s right, I’m the genius who sold all of my daughter’s furniture without anything to replace it. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting such a quick response, and now I feel slightly disconcerted knowing I must make quick decisions to complete the room red0. Painting the room and choosing furniture will most likely rock my world for the next few weeks, but it needs to happen. Too much planning and not enough action were getting me nowhere fast. Taking the drastic action of selling everything was just the kick-in-the-pants I needed to get moving in the right direction!

Maybe you aren’t a planner, like me. Maybe you are more of a free spirit that takes action when the mood strikes. Either way, all of us must take action in life.

In decisions.

In relationships.

In discipleship.

In leadership.

Planning paralysis and moody moments can rob us of becoming the people God created us to be and being effective in the hand of God.

Are you a perpetual planner? Do you, like me, simply need to take action? Or do moody moments prevent you from doing the things you ought? Do you need to:

  • have that difficult conversation you’ve been dreading?
  • cut up your credit cards and create a monthly budget?
  • engage in a mentoring relationship?
  • exercise?
  • disciple your family?
  • date your spouse?
  • use your God-given gifts in the church?
  • step out in faith?
  • obey what God has commanded of you?

Clearing out an entire room of furniture was the drastic action I had to take to start moving in the right direction. What drastic action is needed in your life? Don’t get paralyzed by perpetual planning and don’t wait until the mood strikes. Take action to become the person God created you to be! Take action to influence the world around you! 

I want to spur you on! Tell me: are you are a Perpetual Planner or Free Spirit? What change do you want to make?

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Prove It

love_heart_uidaodjsdsewThis month my family has taken a challenge to focus on acts of love toward each other and the world around us. Our goal? To perform one act of intentional love each day. In a world full of self-centered antics, Shawn and I want to disciple our kids to love others, and we want to inspire them to be proactive in their faith. Each morning we look at the huge post it paper I’ve hung prominently in our den to choose from a list of 30 ways to show love. Then, at dinner, we chat about our day and tell stories of who we loved and how we loved. Check out a few suggestions from our list:

Include someone

Plan a surprise

Go the extra mile for someone

Give someone your undivided attention

Invite someone to church

Make someone’s life easier

Be a shoulder to cry on…without having all the answers

Find something in common with someone different than you

Say I love you

Simple, really. But, small actions like these can have a grand effect. More importantly, talking about it as a family ingrains in each of us the most important commandment Jesus ever gave: LOVE God, LOVE people!

My challenge for you today is this: Find a creative way to love the people around you (family, co-workers, neighbors) and allow God to stretch you in this area. After all, love isn’t love until it’s proven. Include your family and have fun! And if you have a good experience let me know!

Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 1 John 4:7-8

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The Best Teams Do THIS!

She didn’t like me, and she told me so. Very bluntly. I was naively blind to her frustrations, and she was kettle pot of irritations waiting to explode.

And she did. She pulled me aside to vent her anger leaving me stunned and speechless. As I reeled from her biting words, my mind struggled to understand how she and I got so far off-track.

That was 2 decades ago. We worked together in the mortgage industry, and it was my first experience with staff teamwork, or lack thereof. That season of my life taught me many lessons, not the least of which was love (especially on a team) is work.

These days my experiences with teamwork are vastly different. Not because our team is composed of Godly Christians who always do the right thing, but rather because our team lives by a code – a code which guides us to interact wisely and avoid those “off-track” moments.

The Code is our set of Ministry Team values at Mountain Lake Church. It sets the tone and trajectory for how we get things done. Each of our 7 core values is important, but I daresay one is critical.

Honesty.

Working alongside people with different agendas, personalities, and strengths presents its challenges, but those challenges are exponentially multiplied when we aren’t honest about how we feel. When our staff relationships become strained, our ministry quality takes a dive. Have you ever found yourself in these situations:

  • When that staff member makes a hurtful comment, we give the cold shoulder and avoid him/her.
  • When a team member overlooks us, we feel underappreciated and grow bitter.
  • When the actions of someone else costs us, we choose not to help him/her in the future.

Conflict happens. On every team. In every church. On every staff. Unresolved conflict leads to an unhealthy team. The key to success, however, lies in our response to conflict.

At Mountain Lake, we’ve chosen honesty as our response. Leaning on Ephesians 4:15, we have agreed as a team to speak the truth, in loving ways, to each other. These conversations are:

  • always done in private.
  • never “vented” about to other people.
  • handled immediately.
  • initiated with phrases such as, “You probably don’t realize it, but when you said____, it bothered me.” Or, “I’m sure you didn’t intend any harm, but when you ______, I was a little frustrated.”
  • ended with grace.

We’ve learned that the best ministry teams are made up of people who love each other. We’ve also learned that love takes WORK. Some teams aren’t willing to work that hard. But the best ones are.

If you or someone on your team is struggling in this area, let me encourage you to be honest, talk through your issues, and offer grace to one another. It’s not easy, but it’s oh, so worth it. Join us at Velocity 2015 for more great ideas like this….I have it on good authority that the Pastors’ Wives Track is going to be the bomb!

Ephesians 4:15 (NLT) Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.

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Show Me The Love

Each month I write an article for a local magazine, Up In Cumming. As always, I like sharing the articles with you guys! Hope you enjoy!

 

As I thanked my friend for a lovely evening and prepared to leave her home, she encouraged me to drive slowly. Apparently someone was posting the license plates of potential subdivision speeders on the neighborhood Facebook page. I chuckled because this wasn’t the only neighborhood dealing with the exact same problem.

Theirs is not the only community experiencing a war of words on social media, either. One neighborhood Facebook page publicly names offenders and offenses of conflicts. Still another airs dirty laundry – as prayer requests, of course. My own neighborhood Facebook page has had its share of grievances and conflict, too. I am relatively sure every group Facebook page falls victim to occasional disagreements.

Do you know what each of the people who write online posts about these situations have in common? They are right. Speed limits should be obeyed. Conflicts should be addressed. Prayers should be offered. Did you know, however, that it’s possible to be right without being righteous? To be correct without being kind? Any time we wag a moral finger in piety or hate we are guilty of being right without being righteous.

With Valentine’s Day upon us, this month is all about love – kind sentiments and thoughtful gestures. Yet, love is truly more meaningful than a dozen roses and a box of candy. Love is seeking to understand before being understood. Being kind to people who don’t act or think the way we do is one of the most difficult things we will ever attempt, yet if we teach ourselves to think beyond our own desires and seek to understand another’s viewpoint, we just might reach common ground and peace.

For example, instead of complaining about the shenanigans of the neighbors, invite them to dinner. Get to know them. Then, love them.

I’m not suggesting we deliver roses and candy to our neighbors. I’m suggesting much more practical application, and the Bible is replete with ideas.

Motivate one another (Hebrews 10:24). Serve one another (Galatians 5:13). Humbly relate to each other (1 Peter 5:5). Be tender hearted toward one another (Ephesians 4:32). Don’t provoke each other (Galatians 5:26). Forgive one another (Colossians 3:13). Handle disagreements in private in order to protect one another’s dignity and reputation (Matthew 18:15).

If ideas for loving our neighbors are needed, God’s Word is a one-stop shop. But before we forward this page to that difficult person in our lives (there’s always one), let’s turn our wagging finger around and focus on ourselves. The bottom line is if each of us becomes a better lover of people, most of our conflicts would end more quickly and less painfully. Being right without being righteous will never win friends and influence people. It only serves to alienate.

Love, however, covers a multitude of sins. Ours and theirs. Whether we are the offender or the offended, let’s choose gentleness. Let’s choose respect. Let’s choose empathy. Let’s choose love.

1 Corinthians 16:14 “And do everything with love.”

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This Muscle Needs Stretching

encouragementBeing a parent is sometimes a thankless job. Moms and dads drive kids around town, take care of them when they’re sick, and solve childhood crises all without much encouragement from the people around them.

Being a teenager can be exhausting, too. Heavy school work loads, peer pressures, self-esteem issues, and transitioning from child to adult…..well, who wants to face all of that without a little understanding from the people around them?

What about being a younger child? Or a neighbor? Or an employee? Or a boss? Don’t we all face issues in our daily lives in which we could use a little encouragement? A pat on the back? A “way to go!”

I think so. That’s why this month my family has taken a challenge to be better encouragers. Not only do we need encouragement from others, but we need to learn how to encourage others, as well. This is a spiritual muscle we ought to stretch!

So, here is our working definition:

Encouragement: something that makes someone more determined, hopeful, or confident.

Our goal: do or say at least one encouraging thing each day.

Simple enough, right? Well, I thought so, too, until about 1 week into our challenge. When I realized that our encouragements only consisted of compliments to others (Your hair is pretty or I like your jacket), I knew we had better expand our understanding of what it means to encourage.

Now we have more specific goals. Check it out:

THINK positively! 

  • Bring sunshine into the room!
  • Catch someone being good!
  • Ask God to give you a positive attitude!

SPEAK positively! 

  • Make more positive comments and fewer negative ones!
  • Show appreciation, support, and respect!
  • Compliment before you complain!

THAT’S encouraging! Our challenge isn’t magically turning my family into 5 perfect people, but we are learning from it. After all, perfection isn’t the goal, transformation is. Slow, steady transformation into who God created us to be.

What steps could you take today to be a more encouraging person? Go ahead. Stretch that muscle. We all need the exercise. 

Hebrews 10:24 Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.

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