Monday, June 27, 2011

Help Others Grow

June 27, 2011This past weekend, I had the privilege of sitting under the teaching of Jim Watkins (editor for Wesleyan Publishing House and ACW Press), Dave Branon (writer for Our Daily Bread), and Bob Hostetler (author) at a local American Christian Writer’s Conference. Though each presentation was filled with useful information, it was the generous spirit of the presenters that amazed me. Each instructor was available to the conference participants during breaks and meals. They gave encouragement as well as information. They were gracious, kind, and selfless in their interactions with us.

As they shared parts of their journeys (including having trouble keeping current on their blogs, the necessity of keeping a day job while feeding the freelance habit, and the difficulties of publishing in today’s market), I was encouraged to discover I am not alone; It appears professional writers have the same challenges and suffer the same indignities as the rest of us. I was reminded that it’s possible to remain positive despite the demise of so many magazines and publishing houses. That God is still in charge. And that God has given each of us a gift and we are called to bless others through a responsible use of that gift.

What do you know that others need to know? Are you willing to share your expertise with others? Whatever your gift or specialty, it’s likely there are others around you who could benefit from learning what you know. Find someone today and share a word of encouragement or instruction. Spread God’s blessing to you among those you know and watch God’s Kingdom grow.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Prayers and Priorities

My heart aches for the Japanese people - so much devastation and heartache in such a short time. I pray for their continued salvation, both physical and spiritual.

On a personal level, there's nothing like an earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear crisis in another country to make one re-evaluate one's priorities. If you ever hear me complain about anything again, please, just tell me to shut-up.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

I'm Back...

I am a pathetic example of a blogger, I know. Bloggers are supposed to blog at least once-per-week. I haven't blogged in six months. YIKES! But I refuse to give-in to the urge to deep-six the blog. Truth be told, I spent the summer preparing for the seminary courses I taught in the fall. Then I spent most of the fall fighting repeated episodes of the flu, along with juggling all my work, family, and ministry responsibilities. (Is that TMI?)

Much has happened in the past six months. Some of it blog-worthy. But I spent all my extra time writing for publication (my goal these days is to send out a minimum of three pieces per month). So the blog was, again, neglected.

Perhaps this new year will bring a renewed effort to communicate via the blog. This tiny post is a good start…

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Jill Briscoe's Life Lessons

A few blogs back, I sang the praises of Jill Briscoe. Recently, I had the privilege of sitting under her teaching. A local radio station brought her in town for an event and she took time out of her busy schedule to provide some "Life Lessons" for a couple of hundred women. Born out of years of life and ministry, Jill's life lessons were deep and relevant.

Though I wanted to shout "Hurrah" when she said that "People want the Word of God taught...the veracity of the Word of God is does not need bells and whistles" (see my previous blog for the context of why I loved that statement), the life lesson that impacted me the most was her reminder that ministry "is not going to be done without's going to cost you at some point." I knew that already, but, the truth mitigates the surprise and some of the pain.

I remember hearing Elisabeth Elliot say, when speaking about reeling from the pain of losing her husband Jim on the mission field, that she lived through her days saying to herself "Just do the next thing..." When we suffer, sometimes all we can do (and all God requires of us), is to "just do the next thing."

Of course, Jesus is no stranger to pain. I can't think of any suffering that has come my way that my Savior hasn't also suffered. There is strength to be gained through knowing that we are not alone. That others have walked the same path before us and survived.

Time permitted the teaching of only five life lessons. I could have listened to Jill for hours. Because it's her material, I will refrain from listing her other four life lessons. If you ever get a chance to sit under her teaching, please do. Your spiritual life will benefit and so will your heart.

Thanks, Jill, for your words and for your faithfulness to God, which are a great example to us.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Long Time No Blog

Long time no blog. Lots of reasons for ignoring it. Busy doing other things.

I write every day in my journal and as a part of my time with God. I freewrite and engage in writing exercises. I spend a fair amount of time writing for publication as well.

What is it about the blog?

It is not for a lack of opinions that I neglect my blog (just ask my friends and family). Could be fear - fear of what others might think about my opinions. Fear of being labeled and judged. Fear of rejection based on an impression given without being given a chance to explain what might not be clear.

Heard another warning on the radio about blogs and other social media. On the one hand, publishers like their writers to be involved and posting. On the other hand, current or potential employers might not like what they read.

What to do?

Try to be kind and gracious and trust God. While I am responsible for what I write, still, Scripture is clear that He is the protector of my reputation.

Yea God!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

And Again...

I appreciate the positive response to the previous blog about retreat speakers. The consensus is as follows: 1) Women do not want to be manipulated; 2) Women want to know Jesus better; 3) Women want to be taught deep things from the Word about how to live today.

Yes, women want to laugh and have fun. So have a funny skit. Or invite
Anita Renfroe to do a comedy routine. Just don’t invite a speaker who talks more about herself than she does about Jesus. Or one who crams the Bible into her funny/tragic story-grid rather than running her stories through the grid of the Word.

Some have asked which speakers I think get it right. Three come immediately to mind:
Anne Graham Lotz (who is Christocentric), and Kay Arthur and Jill Briscoe (who are Bibliocentric). I’m sure there are more that belong on the list, but none come to mind right now.

Some argue there is a place for entertainment in a retreat setting. I don’t have a problem with entertainment; I just have a problem when entertainment and Bible teaching get mixed up. I love to laugh (and do so every chance I get). And I certainly don’t think those who teach the Bible need to be boring (the Bible certainly isn’t boring). But there is a problem when, after the conference, all the attendees can remember are a couple of the funny stories and nothing about how the Bible applies to their lives.

I don't mean to sound like I get it right all the time. I certainly mess-up (and often). Much of the laughter in my life arises from the stupid things I do (and the women I teach every week could tell you plenty about that). But my goal in life is to glorify God and to handle the Word in a way that honors him. That goal often requires me to sacrifice stories and other information that doesn't meet the proper exegetical guidelines.

Okay, I think I'm done now. Again, I charge those of you who wish to be out on the speaking circuit: be as funny/tragic as you wish, just make sure that 1) you handle the Bible well; 2) that God is the hero of all your stories; and 3) that you talk more about God (the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit) than you do about yourself. Amen and Amen.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Do The Work!

I attended a women’s retreat recently. As is common with these events, it was both good and bad. On the good side, there were lots of women who seemed to enjoy the day. The food was good and laughter and the noise of fellowship continually filled the room. The speaker was engaging. She attempted to come across as “everywoman,” someone just like us. The day went with nary a hitch and God bore some fruit among the women at my table (Yea God!).

The bad stemmed mostly from the speaker’s talks which were unfocused and contained some errors of fact. Her talks had not one “Big Idea,” but several. And, rather than coming from the exegesis of a single passage, the talks were proof-text filled delivery devices for funny stories.

The question I have is: Why do we women settle for this? Our churches do not allow the pastors who teach us from the pulpit on Sunday mornings to resort to such tactics. I rarely hear my pastor (or a guest preacher) misquote Scripture, use Scripture out of context, attribute quotations to the wrong person, ramble about with four or five vaguely associated points, or make a funny story the focus of the talk. Yet, I hear this stuff all the time from women speakers.

My challenge is not to the Women’s Ministry Directors who depend on the speakers’ best tapes to choose a retreat speaker, but to the women who market themselves as speakers: Please learn how to prepare a proper message. Read some sermon preparation books (begin with Biblical Preaching and The Big Idea of Biblical Preaching). Take a homiletics class from a Bible college or seminary. A women’s retreat talk may be more than a sermon, but it certainly should never be less. Do the hard work. Don’t rely on funny stories to carry the day. Spare us the manipulation of feelings which occurs when you tell us hilarious stories followed by heart-wrenching stories. In fact, don’t rely on stories at all to carry your message. Yes, stories are necessary to engage the audience and to make your point. But each story should exemplify the specific point the biblical passage is making. If it doesn’t, don’t tell it.

OK, I’ll get off my soap box now. It’s a good thing it is God who bears the fruit. He can use anybody, anytime to do his work. And I thank him for the good things that did occur yesterday. He was there and he blessed us. To him be the glory, honor, and praise.