Tuesday, May 22, 2012

No Bull

I was the kid that was made fun of and picked on repeatedly growing up. So my insights on this topic come from not only learning how to deal with bullying but on how to overcome this issue…not only with people, but emotionally as well. One thing we all need to remember is that every bully is someone who has some sort of power, but is extremely insecure in their own life. Belittling and hurting others is the only way that they know how to have value in their own life. The second thing that we need to remember is that church and societal culture over the last 50 years has made bullying possible to the levels that it’s gotten to because of the untrue philosophy of “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all”. Nothing stops a bully faster than someone who stands up for themselves. And nothing makes bullying more possible than someone who doesn’t feel that they are allowed to defend themselves. Each of us has to ask ourselves this one question, “who determines our value?” Many people determine their value based on what other people think. Others determine their value on their self worth. The trouble with this is that setting our value on our own sinful nature or someone else’s sinful nature is that we devalue ourselves. It’s not until you truly understand that God created you with a purpose and regardless of what happens in your life, the value that God has given you remains constant. This same God created you with a body that protects itself, if you feel heat-you react to protect yourself. Why is it that when your body tells you that you are about to be hurt physically OR emotionally by someone, the church and society today tells you that you can’t defend yourself and hopes that someone else will fix the problem. Does this mean that if you accidentally burn yourself on the stove that you need to leave your hand sit there burning until someone else can come and protect you? Definitely not!!! The same goes for our interaction with other people. It is ok, Scripturally, to ignore somebody and walk away if they are treating you wrongly. I am sure this isn’t politically correct, but as a kid, it’s ok to punch somebody in the nose and tell them to leave me alone, as an adult, it’s ok to tell someone to “shut up and leave me alone!” Not because that’s what’s in your heart, but that’s what bullies understand. What we all need to remember, is that regardless of what society and churches teach us today about just being nice to everybody, the Bible teaches us that there is a time and a place for defending ourselves and others. There is a time and a place for taking action to protect ourselves and others. A great example of this: Was Jesus being nice when He took the time to build a whip and chase the “bullies” out of the temple? No, He was protecting His Father’s house and the people who were unable to defend themselves. Why did He do this??? He did it because He loves us. And sometimes loving people requires discipline and justice. And at the same time, He loved the same people He was chasing out of the temple. We, too, need to come to grips with the understanding that it’s ok to defend ourselves and STILL love someone and that God won’t take our “heaven card” away because we weren’t being nice. If anyone else has questions, feel free to get ahold of me at 241ink.org.

Signed,
“Stupid Dyslexic Kid” who is actually succeeding in the world, regardless of what everyone told him as a kid!

Geremy

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

I Want


You know when your kids come to you with the ever-famous question “I want...” and they don’t realize what it takes to get those things?
 Are adults any different?? 
Go to almost any church in America today and you will hear these statements: “I want young people in this church, I want our church to grow, I want a good youth program, I want...I want...I want.” 
Over the last few years, my husband and I have worked with many churches and organizations who have asked us “what do we need to do to make our want a reality?” A majority of the time, when presented with a Biblical plan of action, the “I wants” turn into “I don’t want to”. 
Here are a few examples...
“We want high school students in our church!” But when the high school students came, they were told that they were too noisy and were literally locked out the church by members who didn’t want them there. {{I don’t need to expound on the fact that it was well below zero and that the kids stood outside waiting...}} 
“We want to reach young adults!” But they were unwilling to put any time, effort or money into internet ministries because “we don’t have time for that”. 
“We want everyone to be included!” But then the young families are told that if they can’t find childcare for their kids, don’t bother coming at all. 
“We want our church to grow!” But then you hear, “but don’t expect us to work anymore than Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights.” 
“We just don’t understand why young women don’t want to come to activities!” But when given options on how to reach those women then they say, “No one ever did that for us, why should we do that for them?”  
“We want the parents to stay too!” But then those parents overhear church members throughout the community talking about how those kids and parents don’t meet their expectations. 
So, what do we tell our kids??? Stop. Being. Selfish.
We tell our kids that we need to think about others before ourselves. But as you can tell by these examples, and countless other true stories, that churches have forgot that lesson. 
So instead of telling you what I think you should do, let’s just see what God has to say about it.
Don't be misled: No one makes a fool of God. What a person plants, he will harvest. The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others—ignoring God!—harvests a crop of weeds. All he'll have to show for his life is weeds! But the one who plants in response to God, letting God's Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life.
When you happen on someone who's in trouble or needs help among your people with whom you live in this land that God, your God, is giving you, don't look the other way pretending you don't see him. Don't keep a tight grip on your purse. No. Look at him, open your purse, lend whatever and as much as he needs. Don't count the cost. Don't listen to that selfish voice...
My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God's Spirit. Then you won't feed the compulsions of selfishness.
When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

It’s not about us. It’s about what Christ does for us. And the only way to share that love with others is by unselfishly caring for other people. 
These “I want” Christians that we’re talking about have forgotten how to be kind. Stop being mean and start caring about people in Jesus’ name. Think about how your words and actions will affect others and their eternity. 
What we need to remember is this: Our one and only focus is what Jesus is calling us to do; to humbly share the Gospel thru our actions and our words. When you do that, God will use you in ways that you would never expect.

Kirsten

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Isolation


One of the most heartbreaking things today is the movement to isolate our children from the world in the name of protecting them from sin. Recently, there was an article written in a rather prominent Christian magazine that was a call to action for Christians to take their kids out of all public schools in America. Why are we as Christian leaders arguing about the troubles of an institution that was left to the ravages of the lost, because of our own arrogance in thinking that we can do life “more perfect” in our own churches? As you can imagine, with a topic this hot, there was a huge amount of discussion following the article. Most of the people in this discussion have forgotten that we as Christians are called to be IN the world and not OF it. We are NOT supposed to be good examples of the “bruised and bleeding” Pharisees who acted so perfect that they would not even look at sin. Those people avoided sin to the point of walking into things. What if Jesus had this mindset, that He should not look at sin? Where would we be? I haven’t researched it yet, but I would guess that most of the people arguing the point that we should get out of public schools are the same people wondering why 94% of churches in America are in decline. Could it be that they have removed themselves from the sick and hurting of the world to the point that they have no one else to minister to?

After 25+ years of ministry, Bible college and private Christian schools, I have found that it is a whole lot easier to follow God’s word, to stay faithful to His calling and gain the support needed~IN the world, IN the public schools, IN the colleges and universities that are not infested with this pharisaical mindset.

So as not to fall into the same trap of the people complaining and discussing how to stay AWAY from the world that He has called us to lead to Him, let’s talk solutions.
In a recent survey of our community, people stated that they wanted to know more about God but no one would tell them about Him, or they didn’t know where to go to ask about God where they weren’t condemned. So my husband and I are starting a Bible study for those who genuinely want to know who God is. We take an active part in our community so that people can see what God can do for them by what He’s done for us. We make ourselves available to those who have questions about who God is and we answer those questions genuinely and without belittling them for asking. But most importantly, we are raising our 4 kids to love people as Christ loved them, teaching them how to stand up for their faith in any situation. Not just the ones that the church thinks they should be exposed to, but the situations that God provides. We do this so that they do not have to be exposed to the hypocrisy of the “perfect church mindset”, but to live with an example of Godly people sharing Christ’s love to everyone regardless of their situation or status, the way that Christ loves us. We do this so that our kids will be an example to others, just as we have been an example to them. 

And for anyone who thinks this is just someone ranting and raving, let the fruits of our ministry speak for themselves. We have seen 1,000’s believe and follow Jesus and 100’s go into the mission fields by following God’s call into the world; where the sick, the dying and the lost are, the ones God has called us to share the Gospel.

Kirsten

Friday, March 2, 2012

>100%

Go to almost any church in America and you can hear someone say “you need to give everything to Jesus”. While at the same time, as I write this, 94% of churches in America are in some rate of decline. Something that’s been on my heart for the last couple of years, working in and for several churches and ministries, is that churches say they want to change the world through their ministry but they don’t understand why they are not growing spiritually or in numbers.

(disclaimer: numbers of attendees or dollar figures are NOT what I am talking about in this blog)

One of the unseen, chronic habits of churches in this situation is this:
They ask people to give 100% of their lives to God but do not allow them the ability to practice it. I think the best place to start in this discussion is to realize that God gave each and every one of us gifts, talents, and life circumstances so that as a group of believers we can meet specific needs of the people that God will put before us. So what does this mean???

A church or ministry can not and must not try to follow a formula or template for meeting the needs of others. What we must do, is take a look at the people that God has provided and use them to meet the needs of the people that God puts before you-without man made barriers.

But take a look at any of the churches that fall into the 94% that are declining, and you will find an organization that unknowingly requires people to give less than 100% of their abilities to serve the God that has changed their lives. Churches do this by limiting resources, not letting go of past failures, legalistic behavior, putting personal preference above effective ministry, negativism, and the list goes on.

So how does this play out??

I would love to give you examples of this, but the reason I haven’t written this blog yet, is that every time I try to come up with an example, there are too many ways a person could look at it and completely miss the point.

Instead what we need to look at are some basic Biblical principles.

Don’t try to make your organization something it’s not! Take a good solid look at who is there, and who God has called you to minister to.
Provide the resources for the people in your organization to be creative to their fullest potential as God leads them. Don’t ask them to give God their all and then not give them the resources available to you.
Don’t get angry, upset, annoyed, offended, hassled, inconvenienced, or bothered by God providing you with people, gifts and talents that are outside your comfort zone.
Remind yourself that your personal opinion does not equal God’s will or truth.
Realize that change is not bad.
Are you prayerfully, as a body, working together to follow God’s call?

The solution to this problem is simple, but admittedly one of the hardest things to do. Simply ask yourself, “how have I, through my words or actions, told someone that they can’t give 100% of their gifts to God”. If you can’t find any, look harder, they’re there! Then, as a group, intentionally create an environment where people can give God 100% without fear of being shut down.

Geremy

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Wrong Question


In the movie IRobot, Detective Del Spooner, played by Will Smith, is investigating the death of a dear friend, Doctor Alfred Lanning, the father of the three laws of Robotics.  At first, the Doctor’s death appears to be suicide, but then, aided by a holographic “memory” of the now deceased doctor, the detective begins suspecting foul play.  To the first few questions asked to the holograph the response was not what Detective Spooner wanted, they focused on why he, a homicide detective would be called on for a suicide.  Finally the Detective switched his perspective and asked the question differently, from the Doctor’s perspective, 
     
"That, Detective is the right question."  

While the Doctor doesn't answer directly the question burning in the brain of the Detective, his response gives the Detective the path that will ultimately lead to a final showdown with the evil that is running amuck in this sci-fi film. 

This exchange echoes in my head and heart as I have sought of late to change my perspective on life and ask the right questions. 

I lost my job in April, it was unexpected and abrupt as terminations usually are.  This began a journey over the next 9 months of looking for a new job, all the while wondering what good I was and questioning God and why he would allow me and my family to suffer this pain and potentially disastrous financial fallout. 

“Why can't I just get a job?”
“Why can't I take care of my family?”
“Why are you playing with me?” 
“Why won’t anyone hire me?”

Then something happened and I stopped blaming God.  My questions turned deeper, and began seeking God.

“God, what do I need to learn from this time?”
“How can I  praise you in this storm?”
“Help me be a Godly father during this trial”
“This hurts, please comfort us in our pain!”

You know what happened?  I still couldn’t find a job, but what I found was much more than a job, I found a place of peace.  I realized that God had never left me and my family.  I was just looking in the wrong places for Him.  Like detective Spooner I believe I was asking the wrong question.  My questions to God were "Me" centered, selfish. 

Do I believe God cares about my job? Well, yes and no.  Yes he cares for our housing and food and clothing; read the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew. But He is more concerned with the greater issues of my heart than with the issues of my pocketbook and especially my pride.  

Now, before I declare myself cured of all selfishness and errant thoughts you should know that I am still very much in the midst of this process.  I wanted to write about it though, because as I look around I see so many people suffering and hurting as businesses fail, houses are taken away, and lives are torn apart and all. This, seemingly, while God just “stands by” and watches.  You and I are not the first to accuse God of ignoring those in pain, look at the Bible for the story of Job, a man who had everything he needed in life and suddenly it was all taken from him?  Job had a right to be ticked, and ticked he was.  Sitting on the ground covered in ashes listening to the “advice” of some friends, Job unleashes his feelings about his life: 

"Why does God bother giving light to the miserable, why bother keeping bitter people alive, Those who want in the worst way to die, and can't, who can't imagine anything better than death, Who count the day of their death and burial the happiest day of their life? What's the point of life when it doesn't make sense, when God blocks all the roads to meaning?” 

Brutal. 

Don’t be afraid to tell God how you feel, He can take it.  But after you get it all out, spend some time listening to what God is telling you.  He does love you and He does care about your every day needs.  Even Job, before he has everything restored remembered God, 

“Still, I know that God lives—the One who gives me back my life—and eventually he'll take his stand on earth. And I'll see him—even though I get skinned alive!—see God myself, with my very own eyes. Oh, how I long for that day!”

A bit dramatic maybe, I don’t think I will get skinned alive, at least not in this country.  But I do long for the day when I will see God with my own eyes, I pray I will be ready.  This pain and suffering is God getting me ready, purifying me, purifying you.  Don’t waste this time, and this pain, seek after God with all you have and see what He does.  I’ll be honest, it may suck, Jesus does not promise us an easy life. John, one of Jesus’ friends and disciples, who wrote about His life chronicled this discussion with the other disciples. 

“Jesus answered them, "Do you finally believe? In fact, you're about to make a run for it—saving your own skins and abandoning me. But I'm not abandoned. The Father is with me. I've told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I've conquered the world." 

Only Jesus can promise you peace.  Only Jesus knows the path you and I are on.  In the words of John Fischer, “I’m just one old hungry beggar, showing you where I found food.” 


The Mailbox


A few years ago, my family moved into a new house on a small acreage. While far from elaborate, it is safe to say that it was our “dream house.” One of the first things that I noticed while driving up to our new home for the first time was the placement of the mailbox. I grew up in a home with a mailbox attached to our house, right next to the front door. You could literally crack the door open and reach your arm around the door frame to grab the mail. This was very convenient, especially on those cold and blistery Minnesota winter days.

However, this was not the case with the new house we had just moved into. In fact, the driveway was quite long and, to make matters worse, it was hilly (and did I mention this was in Minnesota?). Most winter days I looked like Bambi on ice while navigating the long icy hill on a cold and slippery winter day. I am sure any passerby would have been very entertained watching me comically slip and slide my way up to retrieve the day’s mail. Getting back down is a whole separate story that I will save for a different time.

Oftentimes, I would mumble, grumble and complain the entire way to and from that white complex of wood and steel. “I am tired, my back hurts, I have had a very long day, why can’t they just bring it to the door like they used to, most of the items are solicitations anyway, does winter have to last five months, global warming...really, etc.”
Little did I know that, shortly after moving into our new home, my health and life would be held at bay for nearly a year while both become prisoner to a medical issue. In the following months, my rare journeys outside of the house were isolated to occasional visits to medical centers and eventually back to the end of the driveway to retrieve the mail. At my worst, I would have given most anything for the ability to make that climb. In fact, a trip to that piece of wood and steel became a main objective. This was a goal that had never entered my radar screen before and a task that I had always and completely taken for granted
After a few months, I eventually felt well enough (and the need to get out of the all too familiar four walls of my room) to retrieve the mail. To be quite frank, the first several trips were extremely difficult. That short walk and exertion of energy would be enough to throw my body into a complete frenzy of pain and the need for hours of sleep. However and in spite of all of this, I noticed something had changed. Something big.

After the ability was taken away for me to make the daily walk to the mailbox and then given back again, I had a newfound appreciation for the ability to make that once embittered walk. Now, rather than grumbling or complaining during that trek, I found myself being thankful for the ability to walk, even if it was slow and painful. I was also, for the first time, noticing and feeling gratitude for ears to hear birds chirp and sing, eyes to see the radiant colors of a Minnesota fall landscape, a nose to smell the lilacs coming off the breeze, a heart to pump blood, lungs to breathe, etc. I could go on and on. I began (perhaps for the first time since I could recall) to notice and be thankful for nearly everything that I once viewed as annoying, along with noticing (and enjoying) the simple pleasures that I once allowed to pass me by on my journey to “bigger and better things.”

I am extremely grateful for this experience, because, while I lost the convenience of good health for a time, the situation forced me into a realm of necessary reflection and perspective. I was forced to take things at face value and to re-prioritize the values in my life. In fact, I believe I have the unfair advantage of having something, having it taken away, and then graciously receiving it back again. Like so many important things in life, we often understand our appreciation towards something once it is no longer present.

I still deal with lingering effects and most likely will for the rest of my life. I may even relapse. That is all the more reason to make the absolute most of the moments that I “have.” Nothing puts things into perspective quite like not knowing when things may change or how much longer things will be “well.” I choose to view the challenges that I face as reminders of my “Great Awakening.” I choose to live (not simply exist) now and intentionally.

Don’t let the perceived “little things” pass you by or let annoyances distract you from living intentionally. We have the far-too-often overlooked right to choose gratitude today. Exercise that right daily. Identify, understand, and establish your priorities. This will help you live intentionally. Take a few moments each day to express gratitude. This will change the lens you view life through. You check your mail every day...why not check your perspective?

All I Want For Christmas


This Christmas we’ve had an opportunity that no one ever prays for. But I’m thankful that we got it. 

Simply put...we were just plain old short on money. Now it’s not like we are in the same situation that a lot of people are in across the country. The cupboards and freezer are full of food, we are not at risk of losing our house, we have 2 working vehicles and the 6 of us are for most part healthy. 

Over the last 15 years, I can’t remember a Christmas holiday where we weren’t working for some kind of ministry or church. 

And this year, we had big plans to have some meetings about some new ventures. 

But here’s what happened...

Payments from businesses came late, reimbursements from some organizations that we’d worked for never came at all, and by the middle of December we just didn’t have any money to pay for gas to even go to church. 

It was then that God reminded us that we had never spent a Christmas at home at our house with our family...just being us. We then made the decision to not go anywhere, but to simply stay at home and together as a family learn what Christmas is really all about. So, the plans were made that instead of buying presents, with money we didn’t have, we would make presents together for each other and those we love, with the resources that God provided.

On Thursday, December 15th, knowing that we had no money to get to church for the kids’ Christmas program on Sunday, we knew that we had to go to church for worship practice. It sure didn’t make sense to go to church that night...but we knew we had to go. We ended up having a very long talk with our pastor about everything that was going on and walked away knowing deep down inside that everything was going to be ok. 

And that’s when it started...

Friday, December 16th, 11:30AM. Got the mail. In it...a couple Christmas cards and a check that was a month early from a client. Now we have money for gas and utility bills. 

Sunday, Dec. 18th. Went to church. It was definitely a good day. The kids’ Christmas program was priceless! 

Monday, Dec. 19th. Got the mail today. More Christmas cards...and the rebate check from our new furnace we had to buy last month. Money for a few needed things and the ability to give a Walmart gift card to another family in need. 

Tuesday, Dec. 20th. 7AM. We’ve got a business loan payment due today. Better get that done. Look at bank website. Cool! An unexpected gift! Plenty to pay that loan payment! 11:30AM. Get the mail. Another nice pile of Christmas cards. Fun to read! Read 1 card and see that this certain friend’s extended family decided to lump their Christmas gifts together and gave us a rather sizable check! Really!! I can hardly see thru my tears! God is opening doors that will give our family the opportunity to give to others. 

Wednesday, Dec. 21st. Today we had to go to Bismarck for business supplies. We also got a call from a friend to stop by since we were in town to get our Christmas card. When we opened it, there was yet another monetary gift. It’s kinda getting crazy now!

Saturday, Dec. 24th. It’s Christmas Eve. I got a visit from a friend who left a Christmas treat for me with a Christmas card that had enough money in it to cover the last expenses we had for December. 

And so it was, we as a family cooked, baked and created Christmas treats, made gifts and decorations. We were blessed with the opportunity to share Christmas with people who had recently lost loved ones, who were without jobs, people who were missing family and with those we love and some that we’d never met before. 

This Christmas showed our family that one of the best gifts of all, is to NOT get what you are expecting.  

Kirsten