What the church can learn from the community of AA

 

 

Alcoholics Anonymous or AA is the name of a group of men and women who acknowledge that addiction to alcohol is ruining their lives. Their purpose in coming together is to give it up and help others do the same. They realize they can’t pull this off by themselves. They believe they need each other, and they believe they need God. Some people don’t believe in God and sadly instead call on a “higher power”.

**I especially love Celebrate Recovery as a Christ-centered recovery program as well as Teen Challenge. I reference AA today because most people are familiar with it and even though I’d prefer Celebrate Recovery or Teen Challenge as a program I still see something beautiful that is formed inside AA that the church should take notice of. **

I’ve never attended a recovery group so I don’t know firsthand but I’ve repeatedly observed some important things in many people who have. They took the time to share with me and these are things I keep coming away with as a general observation.

  1. A strong commitment to each other in the group – what is shared stays confidential and there’s a respect for that ground rule. There doesn’t seem to be judgment or condemnation. Instead there’s a general understanding of each other. Everyone is at their lowest. Level playing field. The weakness is great. And there’s something in that low, weak place that creates a deep bond with those also in the same place.
  2. An outright acknowledgment of their problem. “Hello, my name is____________ and I’m an alcoholic.” It’s stated at the beginning of every single meeting. Each person states is aloud as they start their meeting. An ownership of their problem publicly. Ironically everyone sitting beside them say the exact same thing. And somehow saying it loud over and over again and hearing it from others solidifies the fact that they’re all in the same boat.
  3. An understanding of just how important their “meeting” is. For some it will be a life long commitment knowing that missing a meeting can be the start of a downward spiral. It’s not the meeting itself that produces some kind of magical moment but the connection and motivation from the group is often what one needs in a weak moment. In a Christ-centered group the Bible is their source of Truth and Comfort. Calling on the Holy Spirit for help and strength is where they turn. And this is crucial in daily sustenance for not only the alcoholic but for the depraved sinful person as well. For me. For you.

What if we as the church recognized our own personal weakness and lowliness for what it truly is. If we viewed our sin and the consequences of our sin as sickening as the effects of an alcohol addiction.  I wonder how that might impact our connectedness and community with each other.

Instead of being tempted to share the latest gossip or negativity about a person I wonder if we might cut each other a break more often. The eye rolls and avoiding certain people might disappear. When tempted to tear down someone with words we might pause and realize they’re actually a fellow brother or sister connected in a deep way. And you don’t do that to your own. Nor should we do it to outsiders. But we treat those in the body of Christ especially well according to Paul. (“So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Gal. 6:10)

If we are convinced we all have the same great massive need and that we have been rescued by the same great, one of a kind, real life hero, Jesus Christ, then I wonder if we’d understand just how important our “meetings” with each other actually are. Whenever they are….. Sundays or midweek.  , These meetings for Christians are critical in our own survival of the world. The “meeting” itself is not magical. It’s the coming together with the presupposition that we’re all in the same great place of desperate need for the only One person who can fill that need. Nobody is better than the other. The need is the same. The solution is Jesus and He is the same yesterday, today and forever. And that’s why we can go home filled with hope. Hope that even when we slip and mess up we have a place of safety to return. Not only that but it can be a safe place to say out loud, “Hello my name is _______ and I messed up royally this week.” But none of that can happen until we acknowledge our deep depravity and need for grace.

We need the community of Christ-centered brothers and sisters speaking Truth into us. Praying for us. Encouraging us and being there through thick and thin. Relating to and understanding that we have more commonalities than we think. The deep low of sin and the incredible high of being redeemed by our Savior is our common ground as Believers. It’s level ground at the foot of the cross. We’re all in the same state.  If we really see it as this – as being a part of a group of people who have been rescued from  our-sinful-selves then I believe deeper community will take place in our churches. The kind you see in AA and Celebrate Recovery groups.

My prayer is that the local church will see her great need for divine intervention because of our sin on a daily basis. That we will hit rock bottom and see our greatest need for Jesus.

How do we practically cultivate a spirit of deep healthy community within the local church? Because recovery groups, focus groups, prayer groups, theology groups are not the same thing as the church. There’s a very important distinction between Christ-centered groups and church. But we’ll talk about that later. Come back this week for more discussion.

 

 

 

 

Pushing through the Awkward in Friendship

Our small group met at a Pizza place for discussion over the book Messy Beautiful Friendship last night. Ya’ll we do book clubs all wrong. We meet every few weeks and discuss about 64 chapters at a time. It’s ridiculous but somehow it works for us and we like it.

Last night we discussed hospitality. Christine Hoover talks about “back door” friends. You know – the kind that don’t have to knock but just come on in. Maybe you grew up with back door friends. Our family did. Mrs. Flora lived next door with her husband and three sons. She had a signature knock with an added “yoo-hoo” but the knock meant nothing. She was just letting us know it was her coming through our back door. Our families, along with others on our street, were the best of friends going to each others homes often for dinner and parties. Sometimes it was pot luck sometimes not. Planned and unplanned visits. But there was a lot of “company” that didn’t feel like “company” growing up.

So our group started talking about how things seem different now. A lot less back door neighbor type friendships. We are mostly a group of 30 &40 year olds. Times have changed since growing up with backdoor friends. We are busy now. It used to be that the kids were little and under foot and no time to get the house ready for people to come over. Now the kids are older but we don’t want to miss time with them before they head off to college.

We talked about how it’s really easier to huddle in our own families than open our doors to other families. It takes planning and initiative to have others in our homes. And honestly sometimes it takes pushing through awkwardness as well. The awkwardness of not always having a perfectly cleaned home.

I hosted something in my home recently and when everyone left and I was working in the room we’d all been in and something caught my eye. It was dangling in midair. It was a pine straw needle at least 7 inches long. As I got closer I realized Charlotte’s web was taking residency in the corner of our dining room. Not only that but I could’ve written the names of everyone at the table in the layer of dust on the secretary in the corner of the room. I’m not even kidding. It was that bad. Of course nobody said anything about it but I KNOW people had to have seen it. I don’t even want to know what others might have noticed as they’ve come to our home over the years. These are just a few of the awkward things we’ll have to push through in order to build community with those around us. But it’s worth it. Because as we set aside our desire for things to be “perfect” we discover the beauty of real friendship and it takes us places we’d never experience without pushing through the awkward.

Our group started laughing at the fact that nobody offered up their homes to meet in for our discussion on hospitality. We all had really good reasons for not meeting in our homes. It’s Summer. I’m going out of town and super busy. My kids are leaving for the Army. I don’t get off work until late. I hardly know some of you people…..legit reasons. Like we totally get each other.

But guess what. We all decided we want to push through the awkward for the sake of beautiful friendship and we changed our plans for our next two meetings. Instead of meeting at the Japanese Restaurant like planned we’re meeting in our homes.We put out the “the house may not be clean” disclaimer and when one of us said, “it may be sub sandwiches for dinner because we leave out of the country a few days later” someone quickly offered and said, “Nope, you provide the plates and cups and we’ll bring the food. It may be chicken from the store but we got the food covered.” And I have no doubt we’ll enjoy our time together in our homes where we do life with our families and hopeful with each other a little more often.

And friends, this is what learning and growing with each other looks like.

 

 

Celebration of Influence

A ladies event I participated in years ago called “Celebration of Influence” has impacted me every year since. The luncheon was a special day where the ladies in our church invited someone who had influenced our lives in some way. We treated them to lunch and did everything we could to make them feel special and appreciated.

We chose a gorgeous log cabin in the mountains that hosted weddings and other events as our venue. It was beautiful.

Each lady in our group had taken time to write a letter telling the person we invited how they had influenced our lives personally. Letters were placed at each place setting with their names inscribed on a place holder.

After we shared lunch together we gathered in a circle and heard brief snippets of how our friends and guests had influenced our lives. It was so neat hearing from each other and how their guest had influenced them over time. We had a special speaker as well and she spoke on friendship and sharpening each other.

Ever since this time together I have taken on the practice of listing the people of influence in my life each year. Not an exhaustive list but I pray and ask God to help me see the people he put in my path the past year who had influence on me in some way. And then I pull out the old fashion paper and pen and I write a letter to that person. Stick an address and stamp and I just threw a Celebration of Influence party. It’s that easy.

So maybe you’d be encouraged through this to think of just a few people in 2016 who have influenced you. They might know already but chances are they don’t know the extent. Why don’t you tell them? And as you’re thinking about who has influenced you offer a prayer to the Lord asking Him to help you be an influence in somebody’s life in 2017.

Proverbs 27:17
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.

When Jesus wants us to act like a three year old.

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What a tender picture of these preschoolers laying a hand on their Operation Christmas Child box and praying for the child who will receive it.

One little girl chose to give her very first baby doll. An adorable doll with a yellow gingham dress with lace trim. Like cutey patootey put-in-the-cedar-box-and-save-for-your-great-Granddaughter cuteness. Mama was struggling about this one because it’s a bit of a keepsake (you know how we Mama’s are about the firsts). It would be easier and less heavy on the heart to just go buy a brand new one like all the other items being boxed up. But the three year old wanted another little girl to have her favorite baby doll.

I love that this Mama’s heart was trumped by her heart for God. She wanted her little girl to walk in that love and give selflessly. Who are we to mess with what God is doing in our kids hearts?

Have you been there before? We talk to our kids about loving God and others and how we should pray for the homeless man we see out our window and then our kids come back with, “Oh, I know what we should do Mama. We should invite him to come home with us!”

Errrr, well……and a slight laugh of “bless him he doesn’t know any better.”

My good friend had that conversation with her son last week. The three year old wanted the homeless man to come over to their house. The Mama’s heart has been burdened for this man for a long time. They see him on the streets all the time.

What do you even do with that?

I’m the first to say that fear would keep me from having a complete stranger in my home. I’m more street wise than that.

I regret not letting Sophie give ALL her money one time as a gift to someone. She was so little and didn’t understand the value of money but her heart is so very generous and I snuffed out her desired act of radical generosity because it didn’t make sense to me.  You don’t give ALL of it. Be generous but with limits. Be a wise steward which means it needs to make sense on paper and always leaving money left over.

You give a baby doll but not the one that means a lot to you. That’s too special to give to someone you don’t even know.

Sadly this is my thinking at times and when I say it out loud it makes me cringe and sick to my stomach because I know it’s not the perspective our God has on things. I don’t want this to be my earthly vision of things.  I want to have a three year old’s perspective when it comes to loving others. Perhaps this is what  Jesus was talking about when he tells his followers to become like a child.

I don’t know what it always looks like and I don’t always do it well but I’m learning and watching the radical generosity and love of our God through the Bible. And I love it. I want to extend this kind of love to others.

So the next time someone accuses you of acting childish – don’t necessarily take offense to it. Unless you like stuck your tongue out at someone or fell down on the ground and threw a temper tantrum in the church aisle because they didn’t use the hymnal or something. Yeah that’s not cool childish behavior.

Well, I’m off to go play in the sandbox.

Ya’ll have a great weekend!

 

 

 

 

 

Powerful words to frame our circumstances

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This spoken from a friend Mama whose little girl has CF and is fighting for her life right now. This spoken from Jesus to his Father as he faced death by crucifixion.

These are hard words to utter sometimes. Because God’s will isn’t always what we desire or want. We can’t see the whole picture and understand his ways and so life just won’t always make sense to us. But the reason we can be okay with these words “Thy will be done” in every single circumstance in life is because of who our God is. Even in the midst of not understanding his ways He is good. He is faithful and won’t ever leave us. He is compassionate and His mercies are new every single morning. He is fully aware and knows everything about our circumstance. The details of the valley you’re walking right now – I’m walking right now – He knows it. And while He might seem distant and far away, He is not. In His silence He is not punishing you or me. He is working his will and his plan. Trust that he is good and his love for us is individual and intimate. This is why I can say, “Thy will be done.” It might come with tears streaming down my face and a meltdown on the front porch but I still want these words to reign in my life. These words to hover and frame every single circumstance and season of my life.

It’s not easy to do. I’m preaching to myself friends. My Mom is very sick in the hospital and being six hours away and unable because of my own surgery recovery to be there has been extremely difficult for me. My sister and brother live within 5 minutes from my Mother so they are giving me updates and keeping me in the loop all throughout the day. My Mom fell a few days before coming to help us with my bowel resection surgery in August. A CT scan didn’t reveal anything going on with her head and her back injury wasn’t addressed through X-ray or CT scan. Three other Dr. visits and Urgent Care visits still didn’t reveal the hairline fractures she had in L2-4 in her back. It was when she was taken to the ER and admitted that they did a CT scan of her back and realized this. But she has now developed something called “Ogilvie Syndrome” which mimics a bowel obstruction. The Dr is 99.9% sure this is what it is. If medication doesn’t take care of it then she’ll have to have surgery removing a large portion of her colon. She’s been through so much in the last two weeks and experienced pain like she never has before. There are risks with the medication and there are risks with the surgery. And all I can do and the best thing I can do is pray and tell God, “Thy will be done.”

I had my meltdown moment for the first time yesterday on the front porch. I was hiding from our daughter because I didn’t want her to see me cry and then upset her on behalf of her Grandmother. I texted my sister and said, “Mom’s going to be okay, right?” She called me a few seconds later and I answered all sniffly and she said all big sister like, “Quit crying. She’s going to be fine.” And I laughed.  And I got my head back on relatively straight. You see sometimes I replace those powerful words with “My will be done.” And so it’s a process of speaking Truth to ourselves and to each other. Reminding our hearts of what our heads probably already know. Walking in those Truths and knowing we won’t always get it right.

Well, friends, I would be so touched by your continued prayers for my Mom, Sue, and my sister, Linda, who is her main caregiver right now. Will you pray specifically that God will heal my Mom? But at the very top of that specific request let’s tell God we want what He wants because we trust him more than we do ourselves.

Thank you so much.

 

Small bites of powerful Truth

I have loved my YouVersion Bible App the last two weeks. Because I’m an all or nothing chick still longing to be somewhere in the middle I either read my Bible in large consumptions like an in depth Bible study or I don’t do it at all. I’ve never been one to read a single verse and call it time in God’s word.

But the last two week’s that’s exactly what I’ve been doing. I’ve been relying on my  YouVersion Bible App and the verse of the day to give me my daily portion of God’s word. I have a hard time reading on pain meds so when I do it has to be small quantities. This app has been perfect for me and I’m coming away with a renewed outlook on spending small portions of time in God’s word. I’m also still using my May Book prayer and gratitude journal to record what God is putting on my heart. I have loved this practice so much that at the end of the 40 days I just might get another one!

I’m also wanting to help Sophie and Mitchell get used to their You Version Bible App so they can navigate it well enough in a moments notice when they need to pull from scripture. Let’s face it – our kids are most likely going to be using their digital devices to read God’s word. We might as well help them get into a habit of using it daily. There are some great devotional plans through YouVersion for teens, families, etc. All kinds of reading plans. And it’s all free! A great resource.

 

Great reads & Bible Studies

Thought I’d post about a few great reads that have been helpful in my life lately…..

Giddy Up, Eunice by Sophie Hudson

Sophie Hudson is absolutely hilarious and yet deeply profound. You will simply love her. I love this book that reminds us God designed us for relationships – with Him and with others.

The Armor of God Bible Study by Priscilla Shirer is A+mazing. I’ve had the chance to join an existing women’s group the last few weeks doing this study. And I’ve loved it so much. The study. The ladies. The discussion. Everything about it has been so wonderful. This is a 7 week Bible  study with 45 minute teaching sessions. Homework is 5 days and takes about 20-30 minutes give or take. I love how LifeWay is mostly producing 6-7 week studies now and this seems to be a good fit for many people. The study I’m in is not bound by the weeks and takes more time to discuss the homework before moving on to the videos. So you can do it however you’d like.

Tough Guys and Drama Queens – how not to get blindsided by your child’s teen years. by Mark Gregston.

A few of the chapters: Overexposure to everything; Overresponsible Parents, Irresponsible Kids; Loss of Gender Differences; Authority Cannot Be Forced; Relating is More Important that Winning; Pick your Battles Wisely; Offer Freedom to Make Mistakes.

And what I want to order soon is this……

Because I love Fern Nichols and these dvd’s are her teaching a 6 week prayer curriculum which includes time for discussion and prayer. You can order this brand new curriculum at the link below

Igniting A Passion To Pray DVD Set – Moms In Prayer

What about you? What are you reading right now that’s having an impact on your life? 

 

 

 

 

Faith isn’t enough

Faith isn’t enough.

Ya’ll I didn’t say it.

God did in a powerful set of verses in Corinthians.

Here’s the gist: We can preach like Billy Graham. Dig wells in Africa. Work like crazy to rescue sex trafficking victims. Speak in tongues. Be a martyr. Give away everything we own to the poor. And have the kind of faith that moves mountains. But……

BUT if we don’t have love there’s no gain whatsoever. 

One might assume all those really great things is the equivalent of love. Why would you give away everything you own if it wasn’t fueled by love right? Or become a martyr – who would do that if they didn’t have love for God and others. But we must not assume love is the same thing as service, faith or hard humanitarian work.

Here’s how God defines love in I Corinthians 13.

It’s patient. (letting go of the sighs, loud voice and rolling eyes when repeating something you already said ten times to your child.)

It’s Kind. (offering to help someone you don’t know. others first – me last.)

Love isn’t envious. (not becoming distant to a friend you once were close to but not anymore because you’re jealous of her: house, kids, husband, income, etc.)

Doesn’t boast. (doesn’t brag about that promotion or latest accomplishment to co-workers and friends.)

It’s not proud. (doest brag about that promotion or latest accomplishment – inside your mind and heart.)

Love is not rude. (doesn’t say, “your service stinks here – where’s your boss?” it offers grace instead. Maybe you don’t return as a customer but love isn’t a rude customer.)

It’s not self-seeking. (doesn’t approach life saying, “what can I get out of this?”)

Or easily angered.  (honking at the lady in front of you who is still sitting at the green light)

It doesn’t keep score – (“that’s the 100th time he left his clothes on the floor”)

It doesn’t delight in evil  (“well they got what they deserved!”)

Love never fails. (we succeed every time we love the way Jesus loves.)

So yeah, let’s keep digging wells, rescuing sex slaves, giving to the poor, preaching and having faith that God can do anything. But let’s remember that God is most interested in us loving well.

I have circled four items on God’s love list that I need his help with the most. Check yourself and see where you’re coming up short. And ask God for his help and watch how you transform and grow in loving others well.

 

5 things I learned in June 2016

Looking back on the month of June and realizing I stumbled on some things…….

I discovered these two musical treasures last month – “Hamlet’s Question”. These kids are awesome. I happen to know the family of one of them. His parents were our worship leaders in GA. Their entire family is so talented. Major brains going on in that family. Anyways, we’re talking to them about coming up for a gig in the Fall for a house party for our Neighborhood. Hoping it works out. I love them!!

and I really like this song…….

There actually is an art to fashion & style in clothing. My sister has it figured out and because she knows I need all the help I can get when it comes to this kind of stuff she sat down with me and showed me some cool stuff that I didn’t know. Like styles that are flattering, colors that look the best, best way to wear tunics, etc.  She helps others learn these basics of style and fashion as well. You can check her site out at Best Look for You. She also speaks and does home shows. FUN!!! She does Skype sessions for those not local.

After much reading I’m learning from older, wise Moms who have parented or are still parenting in the digital age that it really is best to hold off giving our kids a smart phone as long as possible. Mainly because they just have access to everything when access to the internet is in their hands. 3rd graders with iPhones really isn’t necessary. We don’t have this figured out for our kids yet.But I will say our 15 and 9 year old do not have a smart phone and the devices they do have definitely have an internet filter on it – net nanny is great!

There’s truth in this statement and I’m just now realizing it: “The older they get the more expensive it is.” Speaking of our kids. We have a teenage son. That’s all I need to say for those of you ahead of me in this parenting of teens thing. You’re shaking your head. Things like now buying men’s shoes, braces, sports fees, phone bills (for some – we’re still not giving in on this yet), FOOD! hair products – because all of a sudden it matters.

This used to be my favorite song driving to school. I had a tape – yes, a TAPE cassette with this song on it and would blare it all the way to school every morning and afternoon. Ironically I’ve heard it a lot recently – I think a commercial has it as background music or something right now and heard it on the radio at the beach. Too funny!!!

Well, people, it’s not profound this month but it’s a few new things. I love this practice of writing down things I’ve learned each month. I’d have better posts if I didn’t wait until June 30th to start writing.

Happy July 4th friends!

4 ways to help your kids minister to the elderly

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In a world where gaming, selfie-perfecting and Instagram following consumes our kids, as parents, we need to be proactive in helping them become outward faced.

None of us are born this way. Until Jesus comes in and rescues us from ourselves we will be hell bent on serving ourselves. And that’s the beauty of Jesus. He radically transforms. Whether or not your child has a relationship with Jesus at this point there are some things we can do to help them become more aware of people around them. And the nursing home is a great place to start.

Trust me, we don’t have this figured out by any means. Just ask me about the time one of our kiddos asked an elderly lady, “Are you going to die soon?” Oh dear. But we have learned a few things and maybe they’ll help you as you seek for ways to help your kids become more outward faced.

A great place to start is your local nursing home. You really can just show up and start visiting people. Going around 11:00am seems to be a good time because most of the residents are up but are not eating lunch quite yet. And just a simple knock on the door is fine – poke your head in and just say something like, “You don’t know us but we came by for a visit if you’re up to it.”  Most everyone is so welcoming of it. A few things to remember upon your nursing home visits with kids:

  1. Pray before you go. Ask God to give ya’ll a heart to love the people you come in contact with on that visit. It might mean listening to a long story. Or telling a story to a very lonely depressed soul, or going to the store to get something they need. Being wide open to what God has in mind – not what we have planned – will be well worth it even if it seems uncomfortable at the time.
  2. Embrace the uncomfortable. And there will be uncomfortable times. Like when you child says, “Ewwww, what’s that smell?!” upon walking in a room. You can’t prepare them for everything and so just take these moments as teachable moments for the ride home. And don’t let the uncomfortable moments keep you from going back. Like the time Ms. Linda gave me the card back that I made for her. She didn’t want it. My kids eyes were bugged eyed in shock and disbelief. Ha! It was pretty funny actually. Satan would love to throw anything our way to make us give up on being ministers of mercy and compassion.
  3. Speak Truth. There is nothing more powerful than giving someone the Truth of God’s word. Speaking, praying or giving a card of scripture is one of the greatest gifts we could give to someone. We have found that most people love a homemade card. I buy colored 4×6 blank index cards at Michaels or Hobby Lobby when they go 50% off and throw some stickers on there and print off a verse of scripture and glue on the card. Sometimes I’ll handwrite it. And I have a set of verses that I have found great comfort in during times of difficulty or just favorite verses that I go to regularly. These are the various verses I use. And remember we prayed before the visit so I feel certain the right person will get the right card with the Truth of God’s word they need to hear that day. This is how our God works.
  4. Conversation Helps. This is hard for kids. Early on our kids didn’t do much talking. They would give hugs and say Hi but now that they’re older we’re trying to help them move more into initiating conversation. So we talk about what questions they might could ask a person they’re visiting. Or what things they could talk about that would interest the other person. We certainly don’t have this figured out yet. On our last visit I asked this lady pictured above what her advice to Mitchell and Sophie would be. And she gave some excellent advice about minding your parents and finishing school. I want my kids to know there’s a wealth of wisdom in the older generation and we need them. And yeah, they might get some screwy advice if you keep asking that question to everyone you visit in the nursing home but what a great platform to talk about these things with your kids later.

Here’s a few more stories of our visits to the nursing home – some just plain funny and some really sad. Don’t spend too much time on our stories – go build your own and come back and tell me how it went. I would love to hear how it goes.

What made us the “nicest white people ever”

The other side of the window

31 Days: Day 7 – When outreach doesn’t go like you expected