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Where were you on 9/11? September 10, 2010

My husband and I were talking last night about impact events. An impact event is a moment never lost in the stream of daily minutia. That is why we celebrate and mourn them; weddings, births, deaths, national tragedies…we feel compelled as humans to venerate the day so we never forget.

My parents still remember where they were November 22, 1963, sitting in their school classrooms wondering why their teachers were to choked up to talk. On January 28, 1986 I was home sick from 6th grade, watching television at the neighbor’s house when cartoons were interrupted to watch the live Challenger launch and then explosion. I remember driving to work on April 19, 1995 sobbing in my car when the Oklahoma City bombing was reported on the radio. These days are etched on my memory as vividly as my wedding day and birth of my children.

September 11, 2001 was an impact event felt the world over. My husband and I were in a small outback town in Australia. He was there on deployment, and I had flown to meet him. Our one year old daughter was in Chicago with her grandparents, and we had called in to check on her before going to bed. His mother answered the phone and said turn on CNN, which we did…just in time to see the second plane angle to the building and plow through. I was numb. My mother-in-law was sobbing, clinging she said to our daughter. At the time she had an office in the Chicago Sears Tower. She did not go into work for days after the tragedy, because our world had gone mad and no one knew what might happen next.

My husband and I started to pack. Within 30 minutes a car was sent to get us from our hotel, and sped to the safety of base. I spent the next two days in an underground bunker with 300 Marines preparing for…for who knew what at the time. These incredibly brave men and women were mobilized, horrified, sad, even devastated perhaps…but ready and resolved. I envied them. I couldn’t stop crying and worrying. I envied them because they could do something about it, and all I could do was kneel at the base chapel alter and pray.

They began to mobilize and I had to leave. That was a surreal drive through the outback…by myself…going 120 mph (no speed limits), dodging road trains…trying to get back to Darwin to get a plane into Sydney and then perhaps home. I barely made it to Sydney. I landed at midnight, and Ansett Airlines went out of business minutes after I landed. I was fortunate to get a hotel room in Sydney, there were very few left.

The atmosphere in Sydney was so different from the week we had been there prior. It was somber, reflective and a little frightened. I will forever be indebted, as an American, to the Australian people. They were supportive and loving to what felt like an instant community of refugees. They held memorial services for us in their churches. Everywhere I went there were hugs, tears, offers of support and prayers from complete strangers.

For me, and the many Americans I met there…waiting like me to go home…getting on an airplane felt as frightening as climbing Mt. Everest. I got one of the last tickets on the first plane to leave Australia. All I wanted to do was get to Chicago and hug my daughter tight. The only ticket I could get was into Los Angeles, and then it was unknown when I could get a flight from there…but at least I would be on home soil. I guarantee you, America never felt as much like home to me as at that moment.

It took almost eight hours to get through Sydney airport security…and no one in that line cared. We wanted them to search everything. I was flying United, and the pilot and flight attendants gave instructions through tears. Strangers hugged each other and put down their books to talk with their seat mates. People shared stories, prayed together and even held hands during take off. When we finally landed at LAX, a cheer strangled through tears and sobs, went up through the plane. On man knelt on the terminal ground and kissed it when we got off the plane. We were Americans, in that small microcosm of our country, we were united.

Landing in LAX was like stepping into a war zone. National guard soliders with M-16s and police officers geared like SWAT almost outnumbered the passengers. I literally had left one country a month earlier and returned to a completely different one. Eventually I made it home to hug my baby. I didn’t let go for a long time. I was grateful though…there were a lot of mothers who would never hug their babies again.

Although we will never forget 9/11, the farther away we have moved from it, the more its lessons fade in our minds. That is why we need to venerate the day – listen to the reading of the names, remember to hug your family, pray with a complete stranger, and hold the hands of our fellow Americans in gratitude for the wonderful country we live in.

Always Remember…Where were you on 9/11? Share your story in the comments below.

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The Self Fed Church November 21, 2008

You can’t self-feed if you don’t know how.

The spiritual discipline of personal devotion has a flashy new name…self-feeding. Basically it is an old thought, retooled to fit into an emergent church model. The two are not synonymous though. In some cases “Self-feeding” has become a patsy of churches that cannot figure out how to provide “food” for all levels of the believers that attend. 

Don’t get me wrong, I strongly believe in personal devotion and prayer. I believe we should read our Bible’s, and spend time in the presence of God. I don’t believe church should be the sole source of spiritual food you intake. However, when a church proposes that self feeding is a substitute for the role a church SHOULD play in spiritual growth and development, then I take issue with it. 

The challenge is this… self feeding is an important part of spiritual maturity, but…  You can’t self-feed if you don’t know how. This is where emerging churches fail it’s membership, we expect believers to jump from salvation to maturity without teaching or providing the tools for them to get there. We also ostracize and turn the mature believers we desperately need TO teach the new believers away. It is the perfect storm.

Often we expect those that have been at our churches for a year or two to be “up to speed”… right? They’ve been in a pew long enough. Now, when they start to complain… that they have heard the same recycled series several times, aren’t getting their serious questions about faith answered, are being asked to serve in areas they aren’t prepared, called or trained for… we tell them, well you need to “Push away from that table, feed the babies in the church and self feed if you feel lacking.”

There is the huge divide that I see in the church today, you tend to have more mature Christians that have been saved for a long time, and you have new believers  who have become born again in the past 1-5 years. Basically, you have believers that the church depends on to do the “work” of the body, mentoring and teaching, and those that need to be fed and grown…and both often complain that they are not getting fed enough. 

Why is this true?

In our attempt to grow larger as a church we have skipped over a few major rungs…like teaching how to develop spiritually, theory and foundational doctrine, hermeneutics (how to study the Bible), how to use study tools, how to teach, how to mentor…. these are not subjects you can breeze over in the 20 mins of sermon time from the Sunday pulpit. It is not enough. Believing may be the first major step on the Christian walk, but in order to grow healthy, balanced babies into adolescence and adulthood, you have to TEACH them before sending them out onto the firing line.

That brings me to teachers. We need them desperately in the post-modern and emergent churches…and we are showing them out the back door as fast as we bring them in the front. Teachers tend to be the older, more traditional Christians that don’t always fit exactly into the “DNA” of the adrenaline set. 

We tend to be a drag, not wanting to throw all tradition and foundation out the window.

We don’t want a million half run programs, we want a few really solid ones. Quality vs. Quanity.

We believe that a healthy church, in balance, is one that continues to educate the mature believer while empowering them to reach out to serve the up and coming ones.

We don’t want dumbed down doctrine, and don’t believe that the quick and dirty brass tacks is enough to grow new believers into effective, mature ones. Why are we warming over doctrine, to make it more palatable?

Amazingly enough, the newer converts want the same thing…. it’s the church leadership that often doesn’t. I believe we need to be relevant, and relational…but we also need to be responsible and reverent. I want all to feel welcome… not ostracize people that have been hurt or turned off by the traditional church… however, we also need to love them where they are, and love them enough to help them grow. When I was in youth ministry one of the toughest challenges was how do you relate but not relent? Why are we afraid of asking people to live their lives to a higher standard?

 I teach a Survey of the Bible class. It is amazing to have Christians at all different points in their walk of faith. What I am realizing is that those who are at the 3-5 year point have a serious hole in their development. They don’t know how to study the word, and they don’t feel like they have a forum to ask the hard questions…like if I am saved, can I still sin? Wow…. with a basic like that… somewhere we have failed.

 As a church we are so busy “Doing the Martha”…. doing the work, the business, the trappings of a cool ministry…. trying to relate to all kinds of new interesting people… trying so hard to be “relevant” … that we are leaving the reachers and teachers, far behind in a wasteland…. armed only with the advice to self feed themselves out of it.

Mature believers will “self-feed” more effectivly when they are refreshed and rejuvenated in God’s word. Often it is the more mature members often are the ones in spiritual desert. They feel left out in this “seeker sensitive” church  model. All the work, and none of the sustenance. And what do we dare tell them? Obviously you are not self feeding…you are not serving… The modern architects of this seeker model, Willow Creek  (link to CToday article) in Chicago have just come out with a change of course, realizing that they have left their foot soldiers without MRE’s and ammo on the battlefield.  They now plan to gear their weekend services to help mature believers grow their faith.

Why now? Was it because their study revealed that 63% of their dissatisfied mature membership has considered going to another church? Did they realize that… by leaving them behind their services and ministries started to show fatigue, their offerings took a dive? Are their tried and true veterans leaving the church because they aren’t feeling like there is anything left for them…and the leadership won’t listen?  

So what can we do? How can we close the back door while leaving the front opened as wide as it can be? Not by another campaign, or thirty day blitz, or rewired program. First and foremost, as a corporate body seek the Lord fervently for His direction… not just a day, or a week…but until He answers. When He does answer, be willing to change course even if it goes against your grain. Try listening to the believers at your church that make up it’s fabric…not just the new cool members… Listen to those that have put in the time and resources…listen with an open heart and mind. Instead of being a personality driven church, be a God driven church…changes of heart must start at the top. Provide teaching at all levels. Invest in keeping the mature Christians in your church, try studies geared toward them. Have open “no questions barred” forums, where believers can ask the tough questions of faith…. and don’t provide pat Christianese answers, but dig deep together.

These are just some suggestions, I would be interested in hearing some of yours as well. Let’s be open and invite people to jump into this wonderful walk of faith…. but lets also take the time and resources to help them to become complete, balanced and healthy…

 

Immersed in the Spirit July 8, 2008

As many of you know I produce and direct live stage and music shows. My producing partner and I are directing the 1st Annual Temecula Gospel Festival this September. What a blessing!

I am so excited to share with you a new, powerful song that will be one of the cornerstones of our shows. This recording is a studio demo, so imagine it with a full band and choir… please take the words in and IMMERSE in the majesty that is our God.

The song was written by my friend, an amazing singer/songwriter David Paul Regier, who is the worship pastor of Southwest Christian Church. It is sung, by another friend, Scott Hill. Scott has mad skills as a vocalist; we featured him on our show Temecula Live last season. He is worship pastor at Murrieta Valley Church, and formerly was a lead singer with the Hill Family Singers. If you like these guys, check out their myspace Worship at the Merc . They do a monthly praise and worship night at the Old Town Temecula Theater Mercantile. It is an amazing night of praise and worship featuring regular and guest musicians and vocalists. I have to tell you that tickets go fast, and are only available by reservation. The will also be featured at the Temecula Gospel Festival. Auditions are open for the Festival, so if you are a regional So-Cal solo artist, Christian Group/Band or Choir, I highly recommend you try out. August 16, 2008 More information about auditions! or to register to audition

And now click the link, be blessed… IMMERSED … it’s worth it, I promise!

 

Let God be God June 23, 2008

I believe that God heals us…body, soul and spirit. 

Sometimes it is through miraculous healing. Sometimes it is through the medical knowledge that resides in  God’s amazing creation…the brain.

I believe that God is a refuge in times of trouble.

I believe that God will work all the muck and mire in our life out for His glorious good.

Do you believe that God is enough in your life? Do you believe that there is nothing impossible for God? Or, are you like me, praying in faith…but also in parallel… that God will help my unbelief.

In order to allow God to be God in our lives… we need to trust Him. Do you at your core, trust Him for everything? To be honest, I have a hard time with this one. Some things, the ones out of my control I can give to Him, but the ones I clutch tightly too…the ones I need to give up…I often can’t. He wants it all. Our lives are like a jigsaw puzzle. The beautiful, complete picture can’t be realized when you are hiding pieces. 

We are also under attack. The moral fabric of our nation is eroding. The earth is groaning in labor. Hitting closer to home, our lack of knee time… my lack of knee time… is allowing the enemy of our souls inroads in our lives and those that are dearest.

We need to stop this cycle and be the ones to stand in the gap for each other. So many of those closest to me are taking hits in the face. It is time to stand together and pray for each other.

No, I mean now.

WAKE UP! Why do we starve ourselves on popcorn prayer when God’s amazing banquet is set and ready?
WAKE UP! We are under attack, and it’s time to fight back. Together, corporately…as a body of believers, whatever that might look like in your life.

I am praying for Alex, a friend and pastor who is facing some of his families hardest days right now. For Wade, a pastor who’s daughter is in need of an immediate, miraculous healing. For my friends, here in one of the hardest hit (financially) areas in our country, who are losing their houses, their jobs, their families. For my husband, who is in Iraq for the fourth time…for my children who are struggling with it.

Lord, we bless your holy and righteous name. You alone are worthy of our praise, and we thank you for the blessings…seen and unseen.. that you bring to our lives. Right now, where we sit… move us out of our complacency, move us out of our lukewarm faith, help our unbelief. You are a God of miracles. You are our healer, our friend, our deliverer, the lover of our souls, a strong fortress in times of attack in our life. Help us, we implore you…Help us allow you to be those in our lives. Forgive us the sins that so easily beset us, and guard our hearts and minds against falling into their trap again. Breathe afresh on our weary souls, Lord. We desire your spirit to fill us anew every day. We love you Lord, to you be all the honor that we can’t even fully express within ourselves. Amen 

I was blessed to run into the videos below that express, in worship…how I am feeling. Alex, these are for you. 

(Excerpted) On the evening of Sunday, March 9th 2008, thousands of worshippers gathered to fill the Acer Arena in Sydney as Hillsong Church recorded their latest live worship album. It was an unforgettable night. An encounter with God that left the thousands who filled the stadium humbled and in awe of the wonder and grace of God and the reality of Christ. We come together and we say, “This is who we are, God. We need You, we love You, and we’re going to give everything to You.

It was a night of unified faith and expectancy, with moments all will never forget such as when Michael Gugliemucci, who has battled his own health crisis against cancer for two years, walked confidently on stage, oxygen tank in hand, declaring the promise of God and boldly
Singing the words to his song ‘Healer’.

The evening culminated with a loud and victorious declaration of, ‘With Everything’ and a holy moment that all who experienced will remember. As the band left the stage and the name of Jesus on display, the people were not ready to leave and with little accompaniment, they broke into spontaneous song and continued to worship God.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

God’s Amazing Grace May 15, 2008

A friend posted this video on his blog (Thanks Eric). I was moved to tears. Wintley Phipps starts out with a little history on John Newton’s hymn and Spirituals. It ends with one of the most beautiful renditions of the song that I have ever heard.

I have always loved this song. It tells the story of all pilgrims that traverse this world through time and place. It tells my story.

 I have been thinking a lot lately of the trappings we array ourselves in; the careers we hold, the houses we live in, the things we own and tightly cling to. The worth we try to squeeze out of them… a mere trickle.  All God asks is that we clothe ourselves in His Grace. That we put our worth and faith in it’s unfailing promise…a promise that will never fade, wear out, or run out of batteries… worth that is a tremendous flood.

We overcome all obstacles, stress, fear, our past, our present and future through Christ’s amazing grace. I challenge you, while you listen to this song, allow God to immerse you in it.

And another one if you want to continue basking…

 

 

Souls Don’t Have Color April 29, 2008

I was raised in Seattle. A city known for it’s integration and acceptance of people, no matter color or creed. My parents taught me, and I teach my children that in this nation… in this world, we do not “judge people by the color of their skin but by the content of their character”…it’s whats inside that counts. I truly believe that this world would be a boring, flat existence if we were all the same. Every note of the eternal symphony composed by our Master Craftsman is meant to be there…without omission. So why do I feel so insulted, so wronged by the newly touted Right Reverend Wright? The sacrifice that my husband and hundreds of thousands more have paid for in blood… profusely shed… for his right to to yell from a bully pulpit… God Damn America… feels trodden upon like a filthy rag. Well that infuriates me.

Why are you trying to divide America down lines that don’t exist for most of the people that I know? We are all God’s children, “black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics”… instead of dividing, why not try to “join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!” Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.

The paragraphs above are as far as I got in this essay.

I can’t go on… I don’t have the words. Tonight, I am eternally grateful for better writers than I. Specifically for,  John Moody, Executive Vice President, News Editorial for FOX News

Memo to Reverend Wright: Do Souls Have Color?

 

I’m white.

I’m Christian.

 I’m American.

 I’m not a racist.

And I’m offended by Jeremiah Wright. The Trinity United Church’s former pastor put on nearly an hour of smug mugging for the cameras at the National Press Club in Washington. Among other things, he repeated with a kind of glee that the attacks on 9/11 were retribution for America’s sins. He tried to distinguish African-influenced Christian churches in the United States from those that are not. He said, in part, that his recent plunge into the limelight “just might mean that the reality of the African-American church will no longer be invisible.”

What reality is that, reverend? How is reality visible or invisible? Is it a different reality from my church? Who says so? God? Or just you? What the heck, to be polite, are you talking about?

Let’s be clear: Reverend Wright has the right to say what he wants; that is the beauty of this country that he believes has so wronged him. His remarks are protected, even if they offend me, which they do. I, too, have rights, including the right to offend the Reverend, which I expect this will do.

I attend a Roman Catholic church where the pastor and most of the congregation are white. Yet my pastor would no more speak of white America, or the white church, or the hardships imposed on white people by the U.S. government because of affirmative action, than he would say “Goddamn America”. This does not mean that there is uniformity of opinion in my church. I know that my pastor and I disagree on issues of politics. I know that because we have talked outside the church, not because he preaches his politics from the pulpit. I would find it impossible to attend if he did this, because that would be an abuse of his position. His job is to help me in my quest for eternal salvation, not to tell me the kind of world he wants to live in until he and I achieve that goal.

He does not preach in order to divide. He preaches to bring comfort and hope to those in the Lord’s House.

Wright speaks about white racism while espousing the kind of hateful, bitter (yes, I know that word’s been used before) division between white and black that is the essence of racism. Do I know what goes on inside his head? No. But neither does he know what thoughts I secretly harbor.

“Be not deceived, God is not mocked,” Wright said, quoting Galatians 6:7. Reverend Wright, who dislikes being judged by sound bites, omitted the first passages of that biblical book. “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such a one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. 2 Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. 4 But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. 5 For every man shall bear his own burden.”

Whose burden were you bearing when you spoke, Reverend? If Americans have sinned, are you ministering to them in the spirit of meekness? You speak of the black church, yes. But what of the white church? Do churches have colors? Do souls? Are you and your church superior to mine? Allow me to tell you: you and it are not.

Your words, reverend, were an affront to me, but of far more importance, to the Almighty. You can still atone, but remember, God is not mocked.

John Moody is Executive Vice President, News Editorial for FOX News.

Please take a moment, and thank Mr. Moody for his poignant and appropriate words. They were heartfelt, honest and fair. He spoke for many of us that don’t know how to express what we feel. Thank you, Mr. Moody.

GOD BLESS AMERICA

 

American Idols Shout to the Lord April 14, 2008

First Off….

Praise God! Christ was preached.

I had to rewind my TIVO several times before it sunk in, then I called a bunch of friends to verify. I have mixed reactions to it…and I have heard downright Pharisee”ic” reactions to it. The bottom line for me is this, American Idol is the biggest venue and “pulpit” on the planet these days. Take it for what you will, but one of the most powerful testaments to the majesty and redemptive grace of the Living God was sung in front of a needy and spiritually dry world. I was praising!

Let’s invite people to jump into this fantastic adventure with us, instead of walling them off with spiritual piety. Christ came to the sick… needy, downtrodden, unloved, unworthy… hmmm…us. When did we as Christians stop making Christ accessible to all?

When God is glorified, it is worship. If we won’t, God will raise up rocks… or tv contestants?

Christian music falls into two categories for me…Worship to God…singing directly to Him in praise and adoration… and Songs about God… Songs about God, stir the heart, talk about how great and wonderful He is, testify into our souls….and can serve as a wonderful evangelism tool. Shout to the Lord, in my mind, falls into both categories…

and who knows if that song wasn’t written…for such a time as this. 

I don’t know the condition of the souls that sang it. I don’t know the motivations of who chose it. (I would have liked to be a fly on the wall in the production meeting when it was selected.) I am not going to “judge” the musicality. Only God, is to judge the heart. What I do know is the Bible says:

Philippians 1:15-18 (NLT)

15 It’s true that some are preaching out of jealousy and rivalry. But others preach about Christ with pure motives. 16 They preach because they love me, for they know I have been appointed to defend the Good News. 17 Those others do not have pure motives as they preach about Christ. They preach with selfish ambition, not sincerely, intending to make my chains more painful to me. 18 But that doesn’t matter. Whether their motives are false or genuine, the message about Christ is being preached either way, so I rejoice. And I will continue to rejoice.

And, if you are looking for a great read about making Christ accessible check out Rob Bell’s Velvet Elvis…highly recommend it!

I didn’t hear the “Idol gives back” track, so I am just going to lay a shout to the next evenings full version, check it out….and hey, leave a comment…taking all comer’s.

 

 
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