31 Days: Day 28 – How outreach can provide the breakthrough we all need

I will never forget the night God woke me up to show me Isaiah 58. I still have written in the margin of my Bible, “I was awoken in the night for this.” Is ‘awoken’ even a word? It was on May 5th, 2006. Not sure the significance of the day I just know that God wanted me to see how serious He is about helping the poor and needy.

Isa. 58 contrasts man’s version of fasting with God’s version of fasting. Man is all like, “God, why haven’t you noticed and seen our fasting? We humbled ourselves and you’ve not noticed.” (vs. 3) And God is like, “You do as you please on your day of fasting and it all ends in quarreling and fighting. You can’t fast like that and expect to be heard. Fasting is not just a one day event.” (vs.4)

God explains his version of fasting (vs.6-7) 

  1. Loose the chains of injustice
  2. Set the oppressed free
  3. Share your food with the hungry
  4. Provide the poor wanderer with shelter
  5. Clothe the naked
  6. Don’t turn away from your own flesh and blood

I feel like God’s heart is bent towards the weak, vulnerable and marginalized. My theology tells me he loves us all the same. It also tells me we are all weak and in the same need of God. But somehow I can’t get away from seeing/feeling that there is a very tender place in the heart of God for those who are poor, needy, abused and vulnerable on this earth.

God turned the entire fasting system upside down by laying out his version of fasting which had nothing to do with prayer, food, memorizing or quoting scripture which is what we tend to think of with fasting. Of course there’s a place for that. But it’s extremely interesting that when God uses the term fasting he uses terms like feeding, clothing, sheltering, freeing.

God explains what happens when we participate in his version of fasting (vs. 8-11)

  1. Your light will break forth like the dawn
  2. Your healing will quickly appear
  3. Your righteousness will go before you
  4. The glory of the Lord is your rear guard
  5. You will call and the Lord will answer
  6. He will be there when you call for help
  7. Your light will rise in the darkness
  8. Your night becomes like the noonday

Wow, that’s some pretty powerful rewards for caring for the poor. For providing shelter for the wandering. For freeing those entrapped. For sharing your food. For clothing people. For remaining faithful to your family.

Are you needing a break through in your life? Do you need healing to appear quickly? Do you need to hear from the Lord? Are you longing for light to break up the darkness?

Then consider putting into practice true fasting – the version God lays out in Isaiah 58. It’s well worth the sacrifice. And let’s be honest – it will be a sacrifice. Suddenly giving up rich foods for a few days seems more palatable. But God never calls us to something he won’t equip us for.

Lord, show us how to take care of each other. Strengthen us to do your will. To fast the way you want us to. To love the way you love. We stand in need of you daily.





31 Days: Day 27 – Margaret Feinberg shares what NOT to say to someone with cancer.

I love Margaret Feinberg and her way with words, her wisdom and her willingness to share from the middle of where she is. Even when she’s walking through a scary and hard place. As such was her recent bought with breast cancer. Her study “Fight Back with Joy” was a timely and powerful study for me. It ministered to me during one of my most vulnerable times emotionally. I felt like God designed that week’s homework just for me because it so ministered to me. I literally found myself pulling out my homework book and re-reading passages from it. It looks like a highlighter exploded in my book.

Today I found this post she wrote called 5 Things You Should Never Ever Say to Someone with Cancer.  It’s worth the time to read. It fits right along with the things we’ve been talking about the last few days.


31 Days: Day 26 – Taking care of the needy

“…Blessed is he who is kind to the needy.” Proverbs 14:21

“He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.” Proverbs 14:31

There is so much in scripture about taking care of the needy. Sharing food, lending money and defending rights are ways we can show kindness to the needy. We bring honor to God when we do these things. But there’s also another side to taking care of the needy – there is incredible reward for those who obey God’s word in this area and the dividends are amazing. It reveals the heart of God so much because the fruit of taking care of the needy far outweighs the sacrifice that might be involved in it. We’ll look at that tomorrow. But for today let’s know that it is God’s will for us to take care of the needy around us. Let’s not look on them with contempt or judgment.


31 Days: Day 25 and I’m about to die – somebody reach out to me!!!!

Ha Ha! I’m half way kidding but not really. I’m about to die here with this daily writing gig but it’s been a good challenge for me personally. With two days notice for this challenge and it falling during an incredibly busy time I’ve had to prayerfully wing it. But thanks for hanging in there with me – all one of you. My hubs maybe. Ha! Ha!

I wanted to share a few pictures today of my brother who came through this weekend while on his way to visit a friend who had cancer surgery in Baltimore. He drove 12 hours (our house was half way) to sit in a waiting room for a few hours to be with the family, pray with them and then head back the next day. Now that’s a ministry of presence. The man he went to see is in his discipleship group from church and they are a close knit group.

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John was able to watch Sophie run in the fund run at school and made Mitchell a bike ramp. The kids love him so much. He’s a fun Uncle and we enjoyed the time with him.

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Love those hats guys!

31 Days: Day 24 – 5 Practical ways to comforting others

When it comes to knowing how to comfort others we can sometimes overthink things. We might be afraid we’ll say the wrong thing so we don’t say anything at all. Or we might draw the conclusion that hurting people need space more than anything and so we don’t show up. But I believe God wants us to be involved in each other’s lives. He wants us to bear each other’s burdens and accoreding to scripture he wants us to comfort others.

5 Practical ways to comforting others:

  1. Show Up.  Just be there.
  2. Don’t feel like you must quote Romans 8:28 to the person grieving. Yes, we know that God works all things out for good….but let’s be careful how we throw that verse out. Timing and tone make a difference. We don’t want to convey a flippant spirit of “Oh it’s all good. You’ll be fine.”
  3. Shut up and dance. Okay, not really but be okay with silence. And tears on your shoulder.
  4. It’s okay to laugh. In fact, timely humor can be a much needed relief.
  5. Pray – it’s one of the greatest gifts we can give to others.

Of course there are a million tiny other ways we can comfort others but the things to remember is that God gives us the comfort to share with others.

31 Days: Day 23 – Comforting others as a means of outreach

II Corinthians 1:3-4  – “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”

Isn’t this awesome? According to these verses God comforts us in our affliction. He does this because he loves us but he there’s also another specific reason why he comforts us. It’s in those little words “so that”. He comforts us so that “we can comfort those in any trouble…”

How are we qualified to give comfort to someone else? It’s because we’ve been given comfort from God himself. And so with that very comfort we receive from God we can in turn comfort others.

We can’t help but see God’s love for us as individuals but also for the church in these verses. We are designed to share the comfort we receive from God to others. It’s a way of reaching out and loving others the way God wants us to.

Have you been through a crisis or a painful season of life? Do you remember the comfort God gave you? He might have seemed distant or even absent in those initial moments of tragedy. Perhaps for weeks and months you felt this way. The truth is He was there all along. And as believers and followers of Christ we receive comfort from him in those times. We may feel and see God’s comfort right away and we may not but eventually we will. And when we do we have a beautiful gift to share with others.

Here’s a question for us to think about. How are we using the comfort God has given us to comfort others?

Tomorrow we’ll look at practical ways of comforting others.



31 Days: Day 21 – Just Walk Across the Room/Bill Hybels

I want to share a study that Randy and I have used in both small group settings and a large group setting. Bill Hybels has such an incredible heart of outreach and he shares practical ideas and thoughts in this dvd series called “Just Walk Across the Room”. Hybels makes the point that it’s really not that hard to reach out – sometimes it simply involves walking across the room. In this study we hear of practical ways to share the Gospel over a lunch appointment – on a napkin! Seriously, you can’t get more practical than this study. It’s great stuff.

31 Days: Day 19 – A Community Prayer Project

Our church has been in a season of prayer for our community and I can’t help but want to share in this space what God is doing.

It started with a vision for a prayer series Randy had for our church. He had this in his heart for months before starting it in August. What was awesome is that the movie “War Room” came out just as Randy began the series on prayer. Our church went as a group to see it on opening night and what a powerful message that movie is!

Part of Randy’s vision for our church was to be praying for the needs of our community. But in order to do so we needed to know what the needs were. So as a church family we identified leaders and organizations in our community that we could speak with in one-on-one ten minute interviews. The last three weeks we have been meeting with organizations like Family and Children Services, Domestic Violence Shelter Directors, Principals, City officials, etc. We call ahead and ask for a short appointment. During the appointment we ask four identifying questions and take brief notes. If the time permits and the Holy Spirit leads us in such a way we pray at the end of our time but not in every case. We  assure the person we will be praying for their organization specifically and in the ways they’ve communicated to us.

As a church we’re still in this prayer process but so far we’re learning a lot about our community and prayer. In both of my community interviews mental health issues were a part of the specific prayer need. I’m anxious to hear how the rest of our community interviews will be shaping our prayers as a church.

Randy asked us this question Sunday morning as a church. “If all your prayers were answered for the last 3 months who or what would be impacted?” Would just ourselves and families be impacted? Not that praying for ourselves and our families is a bad thing. Of course not. But who and what else are we praying for?

Praying for our communities is important. It’s the foundation of impacting our community.

So even if you don’t have time to host interviews in your community you can still pray for your community. You know some of the needs already. Your prayers matter. They make a difference. Imagine what would happen if we all prayed for our communities every day.

The winner of Come to my Table by Sue Donaldson is Kristin Hill Taylor and the winner of How to love your Neighbor without being weird by Amy Lively is Kelly Chripczuk.

Kristin and Kelly I’ll be in contact for a mailing address today via email. Look for a copy of your book in the mail soon! Thank you to Sue Donaldson and Amy Lively for donating a copy of your book – either to read & review or to giveaway. I appreciate your heart for others and want a tiny bit of it for myself!



31 Days: Day 17 – Use your talents to reach out

Outreach is a heart attitude. It’s not an event. It’s not a church line item. It’s a place of heart that aligns itself with the heart of Jesus in loving people right where they are. Sometimes people come to us in our churches but most of the time they don’t. We as Christ-followers must go to them. People who need to know Jesus are all around us. They are next door to us. They sit in the office next to us. Their kids play soccer with our kids. She’s the lady you see every week at the bank. He sits in front of you at church. We are one of those people too. We need Jesus as much as our neighbor next door and remembering that will help us not be judgmental or condescending as we engage with our community in sharing life changing Truth.

If you’re looking for ways to reach out to others a great place to start is by looking at how God has gifted you. What do you love and enjoy doing? Maybe you know your spiritual gift and maybe you don’t.  (A spiritual gift is something given to a person when they become a follower of Christ. Not only does the Holy Spirit indwell that person but there is a special gifting given in order for the building up of the church. It’s not like you open a box and it says “congratulations you won the gift of encouragement” or “teaching” or “exhortation”. No, it’s not like that. It’s more like as you walk with Jesus and grow in your relationship with Him he equips you and prepares you to serve others in specific ways. You’ll figure it out with him over time.)

There are a million tests out there to help you discover your spiritual gifting but sometimes I wonder if we put too much into those tests. Like what did the Apostle Paul do before the Myers-Briggs test came out? But I see nothing wrong with these tests either.

So whether you know for sure what your spiritual gift is or not look at how God has equipped you. What are you good at? What do you enjoy doing? How have you helped others in the past?

Pray for God to give you an opportunity to serve others in a capacity that He will be glorified. And remember it’s okay to serve in an area that is NOT your gifting or in an area you don’t love and get the warm fuzzies.

I’m doing that right now in the kids department at our church. But I’m surrounded by excellent people who are gifted in this area. This is how bad I am at leading kids stuff – I had a group of 15 kids and quite a few are non-readers or are just learning to read. But I have at least 8 excellent readers in 3-5th grade. I handed out scripture verses to be read and who did I give them to? ALL the non-readers!  I gave long verses to these precious still learning to read kids and it took 20 forever long minutes to sound out all the words. Who does that? Yeah, I’m just not a great kid teacher. Oh we have FUN together playing but when it comes to classroom management, thinking through a lesson fully, organizing, etc. I’m not your girl. But we’re making it and nobody has died yet. So yes, we can serve outside our spiritual giftedness but looking for ways to serve within our gifting is great too. And the non-readers might thank you.

Do you cook and enjoy it? Then consider doubling your next recipe and deliver to a single Mom, a new Mom, a family dealing with sickness or a shut-in. I had a friend in GA who when her children were little and serving was a bit limited because of all that was on her plate she did just this – she cooked for people as she cooked for her own family. She was already in the kitchen so she just made more. We were the recipient of her divine meals on several occasions. One time I watched her walk up to a new Mom with triplets in a grocery store parking lot and offer to make dinner for their family.  Such a beautiful outreach ministry. And she viewed it as that as well.

Are you great with kids? The more the merrier?  How about inviting neighborhood kids over for cookies and milk. Make halloween cookies together and then let the kids run around the backyard and play. Host a backyard party if you don’t want the kids inside. Throw out some cookies and juice and all the scooters, bikes and riding toys you can find.

Like to read? Start a book club with a few other people in your neighborhood. Choose a book with purpose and material worth talking about and discussing. Like 50 shades of gray probably isn’t what you’re going for in outreach. Yeah, not that one please.

Is hospitality your thing? (by God’s design it’s actually all our thing)  Offer your home up for a youth group event. Invite people over for dinner. Have tea on your front porch. There’s a lady in our church who does this and our youth love going to their home. They purpose to use their home for God’s glory and for reaching out. They do it well. Another lady in our church  makes the best ever pound cakes. She makes them up and freezes them so she can just pull one out and take to someone in a time of need. Oh and yes we do NEED us some poundcake sometimes ya know. This poundcake anyways – takes the yum factor to a whole new level.

So you get the point – take what you’re already doing, what you’re good at and take it up a notch or two in terms of outreach. Use it for purpose. For God’s purposes.




31 Days: Day 16 – The Ministry of Presence

The ministry of presence = showing up and simply being there. It’s a powerful statement even when words aren’t used. To just be there.

Sometimes words are exchanged and God’s word is part of that and many times not.

Don’t feel the need to fill in the silence with words, scripture, stories of how you understand but really you have no idea (and that’s not your fault). Silence makes us uncomfortable and awkward making us attempt to cram the silence with words. Sometimes God gives us words of comfort and encouragement to share with others but when he doesn’t lets be okay with it.

Jason Gray shared a powerful story at a concert a few weeks ago. He was talking about pain and how we try to avoid it so many times. He was walking though a difficult season himself and he sort of unloaded all that was going on with one of the  guys in his band. Jason said he felt weird and strange about it and figured the guy was going to offer lots of advice next. But instead his friend said, “Okay, I’m going to do two things: I’m going to hug you and we’re going to just stand there for two minutes.” Jason said it was kind of awkward the whole man-hug thing at first and they laughed about it but then he just let go of the awkward and cried and cried. The other guy never said a word to him. The two minutes was up and he said he will never forget the power of that moment. The ministry of presence.

“Not Right Now” is a song Jason Gray wrote in the midst of a season of pain in his life. It’s one of our favorite songs in our household right now. I hope you’ll enjoy it too.