Song of the Day (Day 23)

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This past Sunday, our whole family sat on the couch, nursing colds and exhaustion. Instead of going to church, we watched Mark Driscoll’s recent sermon about the 3rd Commandment. As always, listen until the very end. Your heart will melt, throb, kneel, and wonder… in reverence for God.

Not related to the 3rd Commandment: One part of his sermon inadvertantly addressed my fear of teaching the Bible.

Driscoll showed a photo of himself several years ago, preaching a sermon series called “Vintage Jesus”. In the photo, he was wearing a T-shirt with the word “JESUS” on it and a screen printing of a man’s face (presumably Jesus). He said that, since that sermon, his conviction about reverencing Jesus has grown so much that he wouldn’t wear that T-shirt today. (And not just because it doesn’t fit him any more.) He humbly explained that Christians are ever-growing, and that God gives us grace so to keep learning.

Driscoll’s example was particularly sweet to me as I prepare a chapel talk for the Christian high school where I originally taught something totally wrong from the Bible. Yup, as I embark on this venture with God, my first opportunity “just happens to be” a return visit to the place where I got spooked about teaching the Bible in the first place.

Eight years ago, I promised myself I would never teach at Chapel again because I felt wrecked for teaching something so blatantly wrong to impressionable students. But, God has poured His grace into my heart and shown me that it’s not the end of the world. What I’ve forgotten is that in the same hour of misspeaking on God’s behalf, I was able to correct the wrong teaching in front of the students and take full responsibility for getting it wrong. I emphasized the truth so that they wouldn’t be confused. They asked some questions and then… they were over it. They probably haven’t thought about it since. But sheesh, it’s taken me a bit longer to shake off. The staff are happy to have me return (and would have been happy to have me back the day after I messed up… they are so gracious).

I believe that this is the door that God has opened for me. So, here I go.

Would you pray for me as I walk in the grace that God gives to each of us?

It’s the grace to learn, to grow, and to move forward victoriously in Christ.

“But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.” 2 Corinthians 2:14

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rose

I could have kept this journey to myself. Some days, I think I should have kept this journey to myself. After Day 1 of 31, I admitted to Ryan that this endeavor would be far more humiliating than I anticipated. But if I had kept it to myself, I wouldn’t be half as honest. Nor would I work as hard as I’m working.

Making this journey public has the distinct benefits of humility and accountability: both are blessings from God.

What’s more? Simply letting other people know that I’d like to grow, I’ve received such generous advice. I’ve been so blessed by friends who’ve jumped right on board and pushed me along (please, don’t stop now!).

For example, in the past 24 hours…

* Stef recommended that I contact the Christian organizations on campus in our university town. She confided that her college Bible study was always looking for guest speakers and would have loved to have known that there were women in the community who were eager to help. I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of this on my own, but I needed Steph to point it out for me.  So, I got right to work and sent some emails out!

* Then, one of Ryan’s co-workers emailed a book suggestion and placed the book on Ryan’s desk that very day. Thanks, Chris!

* Two other friends sent the link to a fabulous article, “Pastors Need Women Teachers (and Vice-Versa)” that answered many of my yet-unspoken fears (Did you think  I actually expressed all of them in a few measly posts?! Not a chance.) Thanks, Jen! And Dan!

 ***

As it turns out, people want to see me grow. And I desperately need their help. This is the way it is meant to be.

“For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.”

…from 1 Corinthians 12

I guess what I’m saying is, imagine what might come your way if you just happened to mention that you’d like to grow…

 

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This isn’t the type of book I read in one sitting. Or even five. This is the type of book that I work through word by word, prayer by prayer. Through it, God is shoring up my heart.

“Have you ever agreed with the whispers of doubt and found yourself living with a sense of discouragement and defeat? Have you felt paralyzed by insecurity, and let it stop you from living confidently? If so, you are not alone.” p. 22

I’ve had an autographed copy sitting on the shelf for two years. I didn’t read it because I didn’t want to face my self-doubt. Strangely, hiding behind certain insecurities felt safe. But when God began beckoning me to grow as a Bible teacher, I had to come face-to-face with my insecurities. (Remember all of those fears I listed? They were steeped in insecurity!) One day in September, Renee Swope’s A Confident Heartpractically jumped off the bookshelf at me. I knew it was time to dig in.

“Those of us who struggle with insecurity and find ourselves in the shadow of doubt often get there because we are seeking our validation in people’s opinions, our worth in accomplishments, and our identity in excessive commitments. It can only go on for so long before something breaks.” p. 52

The message of Renee’s book is based on the daily practice of identifying our insecurities and replacing them with the truth of God’s Word. Not a new approach, just a new and personal application for me.  It’s truly relieving.

“We become secure as we know and rely on His love more and more. It is a moment by moment, day by day experience where we process our thoughts, emotions, and decisions with God, positioning our hearts to let His perspective redefine ours.” p. 62

Renee thoroughly addresses the common self-doubts of “I’m not good enough,” “I’m such a failure,” “I don’t have anything special to offer”, “I can’t stop worrying,” and “I can’t follow God consistently.” I am basking in the scriptures that she highlights… God is so good at soothing the frail Christian soul. At the back of the book, Renee includes a list of 31 Doubts-Replaced-By-God’s-Truth (my title, not hers). These are like gold to me because I do shut down when I feel weak, embarrassed, or inadequate. I desperately need the relief of God’s Word for my heart and mind.

It just so happens that A Confident Heart is the Proverbs 31 Ministries’ book study right now. They just started and would be delighted for you to join in, too!

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Thinking

Amy Carroll shared an acronym with me to describe the process of growing as a speaker:  she said, “you’ve gotta live in the PIT”. That stands for Putting In the Time. I get that. If I want to gain experience, develop key lessons, improve as a speaker, and learn more about people, I’m going to have to work hard and make myself available to teach. Plain and simple.

I’ve been working on my check-list and did lots of contacting this week. For accountability’s sake, I’m reporting in.

* I contacted our pastor, youth pastor, and college pastor offering to speak at upcoming events. I told them that I am hoping to become a better Bible teacher this year and would appreciate the opportunity to teach, if it would be helpful to them. They each thanked me for the offer, saying that this year’s schedules were already full, but that they’d keep me in mind. (Note to self: send a reminder email at the beginning of the summer when most youth pastors and college pastors are beginning to plan for the upcoming school year.)

* I contacted the local Christian School and offered to speak at a chapel. They took me up on the offer right away! In fact, I’m scheduled to speak on October 28th. They even said they could record the session for me, which may end up being my first audio sample! (I’ll have to let you in on my plans as I assemble the lesson…)

* I contacted the local MOPS group and offer to speak at a meeting. The coordinator was so sweet in her reply and seemed grateful for my offer. Again, their docket is full for this year, but she’ll keep me in mind for the future.

* I contacted Sherilyn – a wonderful local speaker – and she enthusiastically agreed to meet next week! I’m compiling my list of questions…

* AND, I made some inquiries into that Certificate in Women’s Counseling that I may have earned 5 years ago. Someone is looking into it for me. :)

 

Whew.

I’m just happy that my self-doubts and insecurities didn’t keep me from clicking “SEND”.

It’s a start.

Do you have any other ideas about people or organizations I could contact to gain more experience ?

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Viv (Our sweet little Viv, all those years ago…)

I’m going to seminary! Well, not really. But kind of…

I sent a brief email to my pastor, letting him know what I’m up to, and asking him for suggestions about how I might grow as a Bible teacher.

His reply was so supportive and sincere. He suggested that I take advantage of some wonderful (and free!) online seminary courses – like Covenant Seminary  and Reformed Theological Seminary. He told me to look for courses in Biblical interpretation (hermeneutics), systematic theology, Biblical theology, and preaching / teaching (homiletics).

And now, 10 minutes later, I’m registered for seminary! (I didn’t even have to write an essay about my greatest regrets, my global hero, or what makes me special.) I’m hoping that these non-credit courses will enrich me, one lesson at a time. There are approximately one million amazing courses to choose from, but I’ve finally selected one course from each seminary.

Here’s my plan.

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From my desktop (while folding laundry, doing my make-up, in the morning before the kiddos wake up, etc.):  I decided to begin with a course called “God & His Word”, taught by Dr. Michael Williams at Covenant. It covers: “the doctrine of Scripture, including inspiration, inerrancy, and the principles of biblical interpretation; study of the person, works, and attributes of God.” That ought-a keep me busy for a while!

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From my iPhone (while cooking, cleaning, running about, etc.): iTunes University was surprisingly easy to install on my phone. RTS has very clear directions on their site. Once the program is on your phone, you can browse the available courses and add them to your library. Then, you can put your phone in your back pocket and go to class wherever you are! I’ll listen to a course about the Gospels.

I am so grateful that other teachers have made their lessons available to all of us. What a gift from God.

 

 

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book

This is an inaccurate portrayal of me reading Andy Stanley and Lane Jones’ Communicating for a Change.

It would be much more realistic if I had a furrowed brow, a broken heart, and was hunched over the book with a pen in one hand, frantically underlining every word. I’d have a journal by my side as I copy the book verbatim and scrawl backflipping thoughts with excessive amounts of stars and exclamation marks. Oh, and let’s not forget the tears. Lots of them. Yes… I think that would be a truer picture of how I look when I’m reading this book.

Amy Carroll recommended it on a Saturday. Amazon shipped it to me by Tuesday. I swallowed it whole by Thursday. And now I’m starting over again.

I can cross this off my to-do list (yay!), but in the meantime, God is using it to turn me inside-out.

The biggest shaker-upper for me: I haven’t cared enough about the people listening to me.

Until now, my greatest motivation for teaching has been that I “feel God’s pleasure” when I teach. (You know, like Eric Liddell felt about running?) I love teaching because I feel full of the Holy Spirit. He fills me up, gives me ideas, and seems to work through my teaching. It’s awesome! Underneath all selfish or prideful motivations, I teach because I love Jesus… and I love when He works through me. I truly believe that anyone could do anything as long as God’s Spirit is bubbling up within her. For me, the bubbling-over happens when I teach.

But these days, God is opening my eyes and heart to moreI can feel Him beckoning me to a new reason to surrender my life to Him: “I serve God because I love Him… and I love the people He created.”

I hate to admit it, but when it comes to preparing a Bible lesson, I don’t often think about the listener’s struggles. I don’t often yearn for her life to change. In fact, I rarely expect the audience to gain anything useful from my lesson besides stimulating information and an admiration for God.

I’m usually content that they are sitting in their chairs, listening to me. I rarely daydream about what they might do with the information once they leave the building. I’ve been content that people simply hear the Word of God, while God Himself is extremely passionate that people do His Word. To make matters worse, I’ve never recognized this major hole in my teaching. Hence the broken heart.

“If you think about it, your delivery, your style, your humor, your conclusions, your timing is all about… you guessed it… you. At some point we’ve got to begin caring more for the people in the audience than the person on the platform. When we do, our presentations take on real significance. Until we do, communication is really all about us.” p. 92

So I have begun asking God to change my heart. I’ve been begging Jesus to give me His love and insight about people.  Before I teach another person, may I receive the gift of caring deeply about her life. 

“And Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:37-39

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to do list

While some of this process to “fan a spiritual gift into flame” is taking place in my heart, some of it will take place on paper, too.

When we start a fire in our wood-burning stove, we literally put our face into the oven and blow at the embers – slowly and steadily - until they ignite into flame. There are certain things that I’ve just gotta do to fan this speaking gift into flame.

So here I am, with my head in the oven, staring at an ember. I’ve got my work cut out for me.

By the end of the month, here are the things I’d like to accomplish as I face into the ember that God has given me and start fanning it into flame. I’ll try to keep you posted as I tackle each thing…in no particular order.

1. Study to show yourself approved.

* Call the Registrar’s Office: Five-or-so years ago, I worked very hard on a Certificate in Women’s Counseling from Westminster Theological Seminary. Then I kept having babies. Today, I have no idea if I actually earned the certificate or if I still have some hours, papers, or projects to complete. I’ve gotta figure this out so that I can complete the program and be honest when I include it on my resume.

* Start studying: My pastor recommended that I check out some excellent materials that are available online for seminary-level instruction. He said that many are free, if I’m not looking for course credit. (More on this later.)

* Start reading: A Confident Heart by Renee Swope and Communicating for a Change by Andy Stanley and Lane Jones

2. Surround yourself with wise council and godly mentors.

* Get to know Sherilyn: This woman is a beloved teacher in the area, encouraging young mothers and offering retreats for women of all ages. I’ve got a whole list of questions to ask her…

* Continue to meet with the “Young Wives Club”: that’s what I call a group of women who have gathered together to pray for one another and encourage each other primarily regarding marriage.

3. Begin!

* Contact my pastor, youth pastor, and college pastor offering to speak at upcoming events.

* Contact the local Christian School and offer to speak at a chapel.

* Contact the local MOPS group and offer to speak at a meeting.

* Compose a speaker’s resume. (Ay yi yi.)

* Make a sample video of myself teaching. (Here’s hoping you’ll be the first to see it at the end of the month!)

***

SO, here we go! Would you pray for me?

And by all means, send along your insights, website recommendations, book suggestions, and questions!

 

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Ryan_with_kids

(Day 11 of “31 Days to Fan a Gift into Flame”)

I sat at the funeral of a young man from our community. He died a tragic death and the church was packed with people who loved the family. In the middle of the funeral service, I stopped mourning his death and began mourning his life. His mother got up to the microphone and publicly thanked his aunt, saying “She raised him because I was often busy ministering to other people.” She didn’t seem sad about this, but I was. I thought, “I hope I never, ever minister to other people at the expense of my children.” I don’t think the young man died because his mother abandoned him for ministry, but I do think his – and her – lives could have been different, if only…

***

Ten years ago, I was on the Speaking Team for a wonderful ministry. About once a month, I’d travel for a 2-day weekend to speak at events that encouraged teen girls to walk with the Lord in modesty and purity. It was a wonderful opportunity and I truly loved it. But, no one knew that my marriage was significantly immature and suffering. Ryan and I couldn’t discern that my extra work and traveling were taking a toll on our weak marriage. I didn’t know how to intentionally strengthen our marriage so that it could thrive in such circumstances. In combination with many other struggles and circumstances, our relationship sunk so low that we were on the brink of divorce.

As God healed and strengthened our marriage, I had to cut way back on my ministry work with other people – that meant no speaking or teaching for a long time – anywhere. In fact, I didn’t travel anywhere without my husband for years. We needed major TLC to become stronger in the Lord.

Now 10 years later, we gasp at the miraculous work God has down in our personal lives and in our marriage. We are truly amazed. Our relationship is 100x stronger and we both have matured significantly. (How’d that happen except by the grace of God?!) Ryan fully supports me in my spiritual gifts and has always encouraged me to walk with the Lord and to serve Him faithfully – in our home and out of our home. Yet, I’m afraid that if I commit more time studying, speaking, and traveling, I’ll blow it again. I’m afraid I’ll leave Ryan feeling lonely and our kids feeling lost.

I’m sure you’re familiar with the common storyline of “The Woman Who Neglected Her Family in the Name of Ministry”.

Sadly, we see it all of the time.

No one sets out wanting to live that story, and yet it gets lived over and over again.

At the same time, we’re also familiar with the common storyline of “The Woman Who Worshiped Her Family Instead of God.”

Either woman could be me, but I’m praying for rescue.

I’m (slowly) learning that life doesn’t boil down to two extreme possibilities:

1. Don’t speak, and protect your family.

OR

2. Speak, but abandon your family.

If God is beckoning me to develop this gift for His glory, then He is calling each family member to join me: we’ll do this thing together. We will walk by faith and not by sight, and we’ll trust God to help us.

As each member of our family walks with the Lord, develops spiritual gifts, and offers his or her life in ministry, here are a few things we’ve gotta hold onto:

* We must treasure the lessons we’ve learned. May I always practice the lessons I’ve learned about honoring and serving one another. May I hold-fast the truths about God’s purpose for the family unit. And my I exercise disciplines like keeping healthy boundaries and saying “yes” or “no” at the right time to the right person.

* We must know who we are in Christ. I must always be a Christian first, Ryan’s wife second, my childrens’ mother third, cherishing these relationships far above my desire to be a vibrant and generous teacher.

* We must serve as members of the Body of Christ, for Christ’s sake. Alongside my desire to protect my family, I must be a vibrant and generous teacher, if that is what God deems good. So I’ll have to communicate openly with my family and invite them to join me in ministry. Already, Ryan and the children pray for me before I speak or teach. I ask them for ideas. They ask me about the lesson ahead of time; they want to know how it went afterwards. I know they see themselves as a part of the ministry; this is a priceless gift I must steward well.

Above all, regarding any spiritual gift, ministry work, or family life, this will always be true:

“Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you…”  (Matthew 6:33)

***

What do you think about this common dilemma amongst Christians?

What has enabled you to “do all for the glory of God”?

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When I spoke on a marriage panel the other day, my dear friend and mentor sat front-and-center, supporting me and even taking notes. But the truth is, most of what I said probably came directly from her or from books she has suggested; I even stole her lines.  This woman has prayed and fasted diligently for our marriage for 9 years. She has helped us through the most difficult times and has rejoiced with us in the best times. I love her dearly and was delighted to have her support.

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But in my nervousness, I forgot to publicly acknowledge Lois at all. I missed a great opportunity to honor one of my most beloved teachers. Thinking back on it, you can imagine how many times I’ve made the McKayla Maroni face to my self: “not impressed”. Before launching into my talk, I wish I would have taken a deep breath and looked around the room. I wish I would have considered who was there and what I needed to do with that information.

So I’m going to tape an index card to the front of my Bible with reminders: “Things to do before you speak”. 

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Here’s what I have so far:

1. Pray. “…thine own dear presence to cheer to and to guide…”

2. Look around the room (gratitude, acknowledgements, sensitivities?)

3. This is for Christ’s sake alone.

 

Would you help me out? What would you add?

 

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