Church People Can Have Fun Too!

Church People can have fun too!

And my church is proof.

This year our church gathered once again for an open house in our home and we had a blast. Some really funny things happened this year. Some planned and some not so much.

Like the coat rack crashing and all the coats being left in a pile on the floor. As people left they had to dig through a pile of coats to find theirs. I noticed that the people who floated in after the coat rack catastrophe just decided to wear their coats. Of course that could also be because of how cold we keep the house. It’s not good for the hostess to have a hot flash with church people in her home. She’s able to shed some clothes faster than grease lightening.

The food was so good – lots of great meat dishes came this year which was wonderful. The desserts and appetizers were stellar as well.

I’m not sure Sophie’s friend knew what she was getting into when she home with us after church Sunday. Bless her heart. We put her to work as much as the rest of us. She and Sophie cleaned, cooked and served punch! I hope she’ll want to come back over sometime.

Okay but ya’ll the best part of this year’s Open House?

Oh my goodness.

In response to this church announcement shown a few weeks ago we had a special guest show up unbeknownst to me or anyone else except two people. Randy didn’t even know about it.

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Rowanda Mcsomething-something showed up as “Bonita Beehive’s” sister. And because I was just serving punch at the Open House as “Melody” and wasn’t expecting said sister to show up I had to go and get my Bonita Beehive on and come back downstairs.

When I got downstairs Rowanda starting showing me some of her purse contents which included a small mason jar of “special punch”. I’m still in shock at all this going down and a crowd is gathering. Suddenly I hear, “Sing if the ocean were whiskey.” I knew the song but small kids were there and I just really couldn’t sing it the right way with them there. So I made a church version which replaced “rye whiskey” with “punch” and it just didn’t sound right at all. In more ways than one. It was just flat out wrong funny. But we were laughing so hard. This man from our church who dressed up as ……wait for it……HIS MOM……wore everything of his Moms. Down to her hair. I’m not kidding. Everything he had on was hers. I wish I had gotten a picture of his boots because he had ten rings on his boot laces. And ya’ll he’s really not crazy. He’s legit normal with a wife and son and leads mission trips and loves Jesus. Promise. Don’t judge.

What I love about this picture above is my hubs lol-ing so hard in the background. This is my ticket out of trouble. If he gets called in before the deacon board to ‘splain hisself and he says, “But it was my wife.” I’m gonna whip this picture out to gently remind him just how funny he thought this was all by hims own self. Bonita ain’t no dummy.

So this is the part where I always fail at pretty much every hostess type event I do. You will see beautiful lights and unnecessary but fun details such as garnished platters and pretty flower arrangements and such but then you might notice there ARE NO FORKS or that DEAD PLANT to greet you as you walk up the front steps. This is so me. I can never pull it all the way off you know what I mean? But I think if I were to be able to pull it all the way off I’d soon take credit for it and think I’m good at it. When in actuality it’s about people gathering and being together.

I love my church family and I love that we can laugh together and play and have fun. I love that we can work hard together and let our hair down together. That we can learn together, have hard conversations together and keep showing up even if when we’re not all pulled together. This is what I love.

The Impact of a Church Family

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I looked at Sophie and said, “Honey, don’t ever leave a good church. Even when you get old always stay rooted in a Christ centered church as long as you’re physically able.”

My heart has been so full once again of the Body of Believers that have come alongside our family to pray, encourage and support during my last surgery a little over a week ago.  I can’t imagine going through such big life events without my church family.

A group of ladies came and prayed over me before my surgery and people have sent cards, meals, calls and visits to tell how they’re praying for my recovery and for our family. It makes such a big difference.

I think a lot about people who are not plugged into a church family for whatever reason. And I miss the effects of community for them. Many people don’t even know what they’re missing because they’ve never experienced it before. Others have experienced it but for whatever reason left the church.

When a healthy (not perfect) church does what Christ calls the church to do then the people are encouraged and the world sees something beautiful. Something they can’t always put their finger on but they want a part of it too.

I’m thankful I’m a part of a church that prays. That bears one another’s burdens. That speaks truth. That forgives when we don’t always get it right and that loves in the midst of the difficult.

Do you have this kind of community? If not, I would love to pray for you as you consider taking that step into finding a healthy body of Christ followers. If you do have this already what is it that you love about your church community?  I’d love to hear. 

4 things to the Woman still waiting to be a Mom:

To the desiring woman still waiting to be Mom,

It’s hard, isn’t it? Still waiting. Hoping that this would be the Mother’s Day you celebrate as a Mother with a child in her arms. While you’re still hanging on to hope and know God has a plan there’s still a deep ache inside your heart. And you wonder if you can make it to Sunday morning service where all the Mother’s are recognized. The oldest, the youngest – if it’s like our church there will even be some sassy and fun categories that you can’t help but laugh at. The prizes of course are fun to win and you’re happy for your friends. But you still wish it could be you this year.

I have some words for you based on real life personal experience.

God has not forgotten you. He is working out a plan for you that is far better than you can possibly know. It doesn’t feel like it but it’s true. One day you’ll be encouraging others with the same words as you look back and see all that God was doing while you were waiting.

A few things to consider during your wait:

It’s okay if you cry. I didn’t do this well. I hid my tears many times and felt like if I cried that I was in essence saying God wasn’t enough for me. And that is so far from the truth. One year on Mother’s Day – soon after a failed IVF cycle –  we celebrated Mother’s Day at my Mom and Dad’s house with all our family. As soon as we got to their subdivision the tears starting welling up. I held them in all morning at church. But as soon as we pulled in they gushed. I asked Randy to back out of the driveway and do circles until I could pull myself together. And of course the guys don’t know what to do with us when we cry and it’s just all around awkward. But looking back I wish I had been more willing to cry openly.

 Don’t beat yourself up if you simply can’t make it to church on Mother’s Day. I know this goes against the grain of so many in my former circles of friends. You just don’t miss church – like ever. I never missed a Mother’s Day due to these reasons (probably more out of pride than anything) but going back I’d give myself more grace. One young woman struggling with infertility called me up one year and explained her struggle and how she didn’t think she could sit through a service that coming Mother’s Day Sunday but she was feeling very guilty about it. I told her to stay home and don’t feel bad. You’re not a wimp if you need to sit Mother’s Day Sunday out because the pain is so great. Not everyone needs to do this but if you do – don’t feel bad!

 Keep a journal. If you’re waiting on a baby through pregnancy or adoption start your journal right now. Include specific prayers and ask God to show you Bible verses for your child. Record these things because when you look back a few years down the road you will be amazed at all the things God was doing behind the scenes – on the Mother’s Day when you sat holding back the tears; on the days you looked at yet another negative pregnancy test. God was working through all of that to accomplish something greater. You may not see all of it but you I promise that you will clearly see traces of it if you start recording and then look back.

Don’t totally roll your eyes when someone says, “But you can still be a Spiritual Mother.” (Spiritual Mothering could be defined as bringing one under your arm through discipleship.) A little eye roll, yes. Because I get it – and you get it – Spiritual Mothering is great and all that but you still really want to be a physical Mother with baby hanging on hipster hip. But don’t let this baby wait distract you from why you’re here on this earth. It’s to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ. So keep praying and asking for God to work his way in what Motherhood looks like for you but don’t dismiss Spiritual Mothering – bringing others under your arm of discipleship – it’s not second class Mothering.

Lord, for my friends still waiting – let them know you aren’t waiting. You are actually working a plan you have for them. Help them to trust you in this process. To cry when they need to cry. To cling to scripture and record their heart’s cry so they can one day look back. In Jesus Name, Amen.

 

When manly doesn’t feel manly

I love it when other people come alongside our kids and speak truth into them. Sometimes it takes hearing things from someone else for it to take deeper root. This week Mitchell was fortunate enough to have a mentor of his pour a small but powerful nugget of truth into his life.

When Mitchell was asked by his little sister and her friend to cover their lemonade stand on our busy road he was reluctant. You know…..15 year old man-child boy sitting behind a lemonade stand just didn’t feel cool. But he did it anyways with some arm twisting from a certain somebody I know – okay, it was me threatening to duct tape him to a tree.

When we got back from buying the supplies Mitchell bolted inside as if taking cover from a zombie apocolypse and in the most dramatic way said, “Mom, Of ALL people to drive by and see me…..Mr. Jackson drove by and saw me there. Mr. Jackson! He waved to me. NOT cool, Mom!”

Let me explain why this was a big deal to him. Roger Jackson is a man in our church who taught Mitchell to shoot, takes him to gun shows and lets him down in the man-cave to see how bullets are made. Think Duck Dynasty sitting on the 7th row of your pew at church. This is who caught Mitchell selling lemonade at the end of his driveway.

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I could kind of see his point. I halfway apologized for making him to do it and went on with helping the kids with the lemonade stand.

About an hour later I get this text from Roger:

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I read it aloud to Mitchell in front of his little sister and her friend and the look on Mitchell’s face…. pure vindication!

And this Mama’s heart? So blessed and encouraged.

Blessed that a man in our church would take the time through a passing voice text to instill a powerful teachable moment to a young man who looks up to him more than he even knows.

And this is what the Body of Christ does – she speaks truth into each other’s lives. It’s the men in our churches training not only their sons but mentoring and speaking powerful words of life into their friends sons as well. It’s the women in the church coming alongside and loving, praying and speaking truth into the lives of other women and children. It’s how God designed the church.

 

 

Ministry Helps

If we have a relationship with Jesus then we are called to make disciples of Jesus – that means we get to bring others along with us in our walk of faith. Individuals walking out our own personal faith and bringing others alongside…..that’s ministry. As Christ followers we’re all in it. Granted some are called to a more official role of ministry than others but we are all in ministry.

So as we walk our faith and bring others along let’s be learning and growing constantly.

I’m sharing two resources today that will help us relate to others around us as we walk our faith out.

Randy bought this book for all the staff: Center Church by Tim Keller

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My head sort of exploded after reading the first chapter and I haven’t picked it back up yet but this week my goal is to get back in it. It’s good stuff as anything by Tim Keller is. Just be prepared to read slowly, underline and re-read. I will say this book is probably most helpful for those in pastoral or  leadership roles within the church.

Then I found these really cool Connect Cards that I’m dying to purchase soon. It can be awkward to engage in spiritual conversation sometimes. How do you go from “how’s the weather” to “what do you think about God?” with unbelievers. And even in small groups of Christ followers getting the conversation from surface to transparent is not always easy. I still believe modeling transparency is the most important practice in helping others learn to be transparent but these cards are a great additional tool to help get conversations started. I will be purchasing them soon.

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What are you learning in ministry right now? Please share – we’re all in this together. 

 

 

Our first pastoral retreat

We’ve never been on a Pastoral retreat weekend before and so I wasn’t sure what to expect. But it was really a neat time of praying, planning, vision casting, laughing and sharing with the church pastoral staff and a couple training in ministry.

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A family in our church opened up their lake home for us to stay for the weekend with our families. The men went up early on Friday and the wives and kids came up Friday night and we stayed through Sunday afternoon.

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The kids had a blast on Saturday afternoon because it warmed up enough for them to play outside. A huge help was having a young married couple in our church watch the kids while we had our sessions on Saturday. There were six kids in all ranging from ages 2 – 14 so it was loud at times but it worked and we wanted the families to be together.

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At meal breaks we all pitched in and grabbed our food. I have to brag on my man because he did the food planning and buying for this retreat. And he did so good. Good with the amount of food, choices, etc.

We are blessed to be among a pastoral staff who genuinely love God with all their hearts. They love their families and they love the work of the church and what God has called them to.

Ministry is a heavy weight. It’s heavy because you are loving and leading people through incredibly joyous times and also through incredibly painful times. It’s heavy because there are huge decisions to be made that can shape and direct the course of the church. Much prayer and seeking God goes into it and honestly that can be quite draining at times. There are unique burdens and responsibilites that come with it but there are amazingly rich joys and rewards. It is an honor and gift to be called into ministry. We don’t take it lightly. This weekend we were able to seek God on matters, talk with each other and pray together about the things we love most.  And we wait in expectation to see what all God has in store for our church community the next 12-18 months. We even planned out 10 years loosely knowing God has the complete right and control to trump every single thing on the “planned agenda”. It is his work not ours.

Friends, please pray for your pastor’s and their families. I can’t tell you how much it thrills my heart when someone comes up to me and tells me, “I am praying for your family. I know marriage is hard and I’m praying for your marriage and your family.” Ladies, don’t ever take it offensively when someone says they’re praying for your marriage or think in your head, “OMGosh why does she think my marriage is in need of prayer?!! I need to give off a better impression of a stronger marriage.”  No, not at all. The truth is we all stand in desperate need of prayer for our marriages, in our parenting, in our family needs. And your pastor’s home is no different. Cover them in prayer as you cover your own family in prayer.

 

 

 

 

How the church can walk beside recovering addicts

I am learning from a new friend who is serving God by showing up weekly and walking beside women recovering from various addictions. Our conversation started with a few questions about how to help those who are struggling with drug and alcohol addictions. What started as a conversation ended in this blog post. Thank you, Sally, for writing this so that we can all have a better understanding of how to help others. My prayer is that God will keep using you and us to love each other well. 

Those People: How the church can walk beside recovering addicts

If it’s Wednesday, I’m in rehab.

I don’t go alone. A bookkeeper, a housekeeper, a horse trainer, and a nurse go with me. Usually we drive separately, then meet in the dark dirt lot in front of the sun-weary blue flat-roofed building so we can enter together. One of us grabs the clipboard from the nail on the wall to sign all of us in. (For some reason, we sign in, but don’t sign out.)

Inside the room to left  are two sets of  bunk beds. A menagerie of bedding and personal items clutter the space. (But, the rules state to keep personal space clean and tidy, or something like that.) There’s another sleeping room, then on the right is the meeting room, or the Black Sofa Room, as I call it. Six 8-foot long sink-in-deep black pleather (plastic leather) couches surround the room, like they’re guarding the walls. They’re cold in the winter and slippery in the summer.

There’s no carpet.

Sometimes, when we enter the “sofa room”, women are gathered in the room already. Sometimes, we sit alone, waiting to see who will join us. Through the picture frame windows we watch the people traffic pass by and by. Will they come in?

In time, the door will open. One will come in. Another will follow. Another will follow.

Introductions.

Handshakes.

Hugs.

They’re hungry and thirsty, so we start.

But, first we open in a thanksgiving prayer to Jesus for making a way for my friends and I to bring a study of God’s Word into this house, to nourish those who come to be fed.

I Don’t Know What to Do Either

Wednesday night is Bible Study Night in this home to women residing here temporarily while they work to overcome their addictions to drugs and/or alcohol. Some come here from jail. Some are brought here. Some walk many miles to get here. All are here by choice. They have a lot on the line: their lives, their children, their marriages, their jobs, their homes….That perspective makes it pretty easy for my ministry partners and I to give an hour or two of our time each week to bring hope to those who are searching for it. What we do is not a big deal, really. But, I’ve learned some people (Christians, mostly) think it is.

My ears have caught cast-out comments like:

“I wouldn’t know what to do,”

“That’s quite a ministry you have” and

“I’m glad you are reaching out to those people,”

Is there an invisible barrier between “us and them”? I wonder, is there a wall that separates “Christians” from “those people”?

Those People

Those people? Naively, I never considered the women (and young children) living at the home as different from me. I never considered that stepping into their lives would draw attention–or not. All I knew when I joined 3 other women was that those struggling to overcome addictions are

Someone’s daughter

Someone’s mother

Someone’s wife

Someone’s sister

Someone’s granddaughter

Someone’s friend

They’re hurting

They’re lonely

They’re scared

They’re lost

That’s about all we know when we show up on Wednesday night. That’s really all I need to know because God knows and He says He equips us for what He calls us to. I believe that. Do you?

My only hope in writing this post is that I am able to give you just enough courage to reach out to women just like you who got hurt, then got lost. This is not a how-to post; it’s more about bringing some understanding to who “those people” are so you can ask God what, if anything, He asks of you.

Let me share insights I’ve gleaned over the years of walking beside women in recovery, working to overcome addictions:

Be A Safe Person

Trust is earned and addicts trust slowly because they’ve been burned by so many. Remember we’re all wounded; some of us just show it more than others. Maybe you can relate. But, you do not need to know what to do or say in every situation. Just let them know (by showing not telling) that you’re a safe person so they can be honest with you.

Practice listening and reserve judgement.

Be Available.

This doesn’t mean you need to meet every single request yourself. (Read ahead to the part about boundaries.) A little goes a long way. There are several little things you can do to help women in recovery build a bridge back into mainstream life:

  • Invite her to church, if she doesn’t have transportation or doesn’t want to go alone. Encourage her into a safe body of believers where she can enter into a supportive community and find fellowship. (We all need that.)
  • Invite her to an event.
  • Ask casually if she needs anything. (Anything practical!)
  • Always pray with her and for her.

Walk with Her

Bringing a new friend with you to church or an event attracts attention. Trust me. People are curious and they want to know who’s with you. When asked, I try to help her protect her privacy by simply saying “this is my friend so-and-so (first name only).” I think it’s important that each woman is seen as my “friend” and not labeled as a resident of the local drug and alcohol recovery facility. If they want to volunteer that information, they can.

Keep Clearly Defined Boundaries

Just so you know, addicts usually don’t have clear boundaries, particularly if they were born into a family of addicts where there were no boundaries. So you need to establish a few, in love. There’s nothing fancy needed here, simply “Let your yes be yes and your no be no.” Keep roles and responsibilities defined. You’re the grown up in the relationship. It’s OK to say no.

One word of caution: If you’re a people-pleaser, rescuer, co-dependent or enabler personality, you may want to support a recovering addict from a distance. The path in and out of addiction is often writhe with lies and manipulation. If you have trouble with boundaries you might get tangled in a web of manipulation while thinking you’re just being helpful. Know thyself.

Speak the Truth in Love

No matter the conversation or situation, love conquerors all. Speak the truth in love. Addicts have lived a life of lies. They need Truth and they need Love. Just like all of us. Bring strength, not pity. Bring encouragement, not condemnation. Be supportive, not enabling.

Keep It Simple

Our human nature is to complicate things. But, God’s way is simple

In the Book of Matthew, Jesus said: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[Matthew 22:36-40 (NIV)]

I know God cares deeply for the the lost and hurting and He rejoices when we care too. So, as you’re praying about what God is calling you to do, please pray about:

Who is God to you?

How does God see “those people”?

Then you will know what to do.

If you enjoyed reading this post, please share it with your friends.

Disclaimer: I am a layperson. I do not have a formal theological degree or training, I’m not a counselor, psychiatrist, psychologist, or ‘ologist of any kind. I am not a specialist or have any formal training about drug and alcohol addiction. This post is written from my personal experience and insights. Nothing more.

Sally Olson is a writer, blogger, wife, and battle-­proven homeschooling mom to sons. God, good words, good coffee and honest country living refresh her soul. She blogs about apples and country life at Garden Valley Homestead.

 

31 Days: Day 11 – Reaching out in church

Outreach doesn’t have to take place outside the walls of our church or church family although that’s where we normally tend to place outreach. We have plenty of opportunities within our own church walls to get outside of ourselves and focus on loving those around us.

One of the first things I think about is new people visiting church. For those of us who have been churchin’ it for lightyears we don’t think twice about going to church. But for some people it’s a very hard thing. They’re uncomfortable or afraid they won’t fit in. They keep showing up but it takes more guts than anyone realizes.

So one of the things we can do to reach out within the church walls is to simply introduce ourselves and offer a warm welcome to people we don’t know. And then at some point ask if you can sit with them or invite them to sit with you. It’s okay that you’re not sitting in your “regular seat” – you know, the one you assigned yourself 54 years ago.  I’m a big believer in moving around for your church seat. It seems crazy but you actually can get to know people just by sitting next to them if you attempt to reach out in the slightest. We might be surprised at how much it can mean to simply sit with someone.

Another great way to reach out within our own church walls is by having people over. This is becoming a lost art in our busy and fast paced culture. I will be sharing some great resources in the days to come about this topic of hospitality as a means of outreach. The Lord has put two books in my lap in the last two months that have changed the way I think about this topic. I can’t wait to tell you more about it. I’ll be giving one of the books away and hope you’ll come back for a chance to win a copy.

So as you go to church tomorrow maybe just maybe think twice about planting yourself in the same pew chair you’ve sat in for the last 6 months. What if you looked for a new face. And then sat with them and introduced yourself to them. Who knows what doors God might open through your intentional seating assignment.

31 Days: Day 2 – Why outreach is important

Day 2

Why is reaching outside the walls of church so important these days?

It’s because inviting people cold turkey to Sunday morning church isn’t working like it used to.

Gasp! You’re the preacher’s wife and you don’t think inviting people to church is effective? Like your man is the preacher dude and all.

I know. And he’s a mighty fine preacher too. Like I actually  understand what he says and everything. And if I can track with this preacher anyone can. He’s awesome.

Hearing God’s word taught is so important and crucial to our spiritual growth. I’m not in any way minimizing the preaching of God’s word. At all.

And don’t get me wrong, I still invite people to church. I’m a huge advocate of church and I’d be crazy not to tell people about something I love so much. But with that said I believe that most of our in depth, real life conversations with unbelieving friends, co-workers and neighbors will happen outside of the church walls. They’ll happen around the break room table, at the park, on your front porch and many times when and where you least expect it.

And this is why being ready to reach out is so important. It will take the church within the walls being the church outside the walls to connect dots, have real conversations with people and see life change.

What’s interesting though is that many times God uses outreach to bring people in to the church. Once a connection or relationship is built through a natural, Spirit-led conversation with a friend, co-worker or neighbor they usually end up wanting to come to church with you.

But that’s not the end goal of outreach. Sharing the love of Christ is. Sometimes it ends up in that person coming to your church. Many times it doesn’t. Being Kingdom minded means we are okay with sharing and leaving the results up to God.

 

When prayer makes us feel “needy”

Our church is learning about prayer. Like God really wants to teach us about this because he lined up so many different platforms for us to soak up what he has on this topic through things like: The War Room Movie, An event on prayer for our women, A sermon series on prayer, etc. All these things had been planned long ago but all fell at the same time. So cool.

Part of our learning about prayer has led our church to a prayer project. We (all attenders interested) are talking to leaders in our community and asking four questions:

  1. From your perspective of service, what are the greatest needs or challenges facing our community?
  2. What major project or obstacle will you be dealing with this quarter
  3. What dream do you have for our city that seems so large or hard that only an act of God would change it?
  4. How can we specifically pray for you as you serve our community?

We are meeting with city officials, principals, Social Services, Emergency Personnel, Domestic Violence Leaders and so much more.

Why are we asking these questions of these community leaders?

Because they see things we can’t possibly see and understand. And because we believe prayer changes things. No matter how great we’re doing as a people and a community we will always stand in need of prayer.

So if you’re local and you see these signs around town in yards…..

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Know it’s a positive thing. We love our city and we believe God works through prayer. We are committing to finding out how we can pray specifically and we’re trusting God to work. We don’t think we’re better than anyone else. We don’t think our city is going to hell in a hand basket. We just know our own need for prayer and we know our God is faithful to help us. So who are we to withhold that kind of goodness from others. May He bless our little town that we are growing to love more and more.

Father, you know what our city needs more than we do. Would you open our eyes to know how to pray, how to love and how to serve our city. Be the God of our city. Let us be your hands and feet. Let us serve you well and love others the way you do. We all stand in great need of you and you are exactly what we need. In your name, Amen.