Christmas

 

From the moment I stepped through the door of “ministry” my view on the “holidays” changed. Thanksgiving became navigating phone calls of both those wanting to drop off an extra Turkey, mixed with getting them to the families who needed them. Christmas became about a sprint to take care of others. There were children in the ministry who needed toys, families who needed a meal, the hurting who needed an extra dose of compassion and love.

I never realized I could so easily lose sight of Christ in a time of year when I talked about Him so much. One year when my own children were toddlers, I confess that I drove around on Christmas Eve searching for a tree with my husband all while sobbing about how I had been so busy making sure everyone else in need had a wonderful Christmas my own kids got lost in the shuffle.

There it is. From Thanksgiving through New Years the tension lies in the giving.  When you enter this “job” called “ministry” it feels less like a choice and more like a requirement.   Honestly? Resentment can easily set in. “Why do we HAVE to do so much for others?” we ask while smiling and telling the world how much we love taking care of everyone.

What can we do to take it back if this is the pace set before us?

Seek Christ Before, During & After the “Holidays.”

 No brainer right? Still I think we can forget this time of year should be an extension of an everyday relationship. He doesn’t get pushed aside when we have purposed to be with him on the “non” holidays. These times are merely steps along our journey with Him.

Remember WHY we give:

 This time of year is often when the distress of others bubbles to the surface and it can come out in ugly ways. “I thought you were a Christian,” has been said to me on more than one occasion when I didn’t “give” in the way someone in my ministry desired. If I think this is about me or them, then I can get really ticked off at this attitude. Instead, I have to remember I give because of the gift Christ is. I give because Jesus gave his life extravagantly. I give because He loved me first.

Be Creative

Find some things in this season that bring you joy.  Make some choices that help you remember why this is a great time of year. Do you fry your turkey? Do you have an Advent devotional? Are you a Christmas Carol fanatic?  What works for YOU and YOUR family to take this back and remember the Lord in the midst of it all?

10 Minutes a Day

 Find 10 minutes everyday to stop and slow down purposely and be quiet. Breathe deep and take a few moments to sit and only think only about HIM. Tell him why you are always thankful for everything He is.

Make Time For Those You Love

We can get so busy serving others we do forget those closest to us. Our eye can be to “just get through this time.” Make 5 minutes for those you want to embrace this season. Don’t let them be “one more thing to do” on your list.

Maybe the sprint is different for you. However, no one expects you to implode under the weight of what “Has” to be done. The Lord just wants us to be His. We aren’t the ones asked to save anyone. Most of all simply remember this isn’t the only time of year Jesus shows up.

What do you do to take this time back?

Leneita

@leneitafix

Outreach … Bah Humbug

Leneita Fix —  November 6, 2013 — 1 Comment

gift

It’s that “outreach” time of year again.  Perhaps it’s because many really believe “Santa is Watching.”  We just finished up some form of Harvest Party or Trunk or Treat for Halloween. Now we will turn to food baskets and Christmas gifts for the “less fortunate.”

Now before you accuse me of being a “Scrooge,” I am not against helping the Body of Christ reach the least, the lost and the lonely, especially during the “holidays.”  I certainly am not against those in need receiving a special touch this time of year.  Anyone who knows me will tell you I feel like we all need to feel a little “spoiled” every once in awhile.  In other words, let’s give extravagantly.  Where I get hung up is on the approach.

I hate “Outreach,” because that is how we see it- as an event.  We mark it on our calendar and a couple of times of year we tell the world what we accomplished.  We gave out X number of  plates of food or reached X number of shut ins or saw X number of shining happy faces get gifts.

We love to quote Matthew 25:35 & 36 when the Lord says this,  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”   He is talking about a lifestyle, not an occasion.

As we enter this season I wonder if we can see it as an extension of who we are anyway.  This is a great opportunity to meet a hurting and aching world that would love a little “Holiday Cheer.”

As we look forward to the “Season of Giving,” I just wonder if we can approach it differently by asking ourself these questions?

If I Get NOTHING Out of This Would I Do It Anyway?

There is a way of serving that is really more for us.  We say that it is about “the Lord.”   However, take a look at your heart. If you don’t get even a “Thank You,” “no satisfaction,” nothing at all,” would you still serve?  We want the answer to be “YES,” but is it really?

Do I Give or Remove Dignity From Those I Serve?

There can be an attitude of “you need this,” sometimes when we give.  In what you are doing, does it allow the person to feel empowered?  If you give something are you looking down on the person as “lesser, even if not intentionally?

Is This An Extension Of Who I Am?

It can be easy to point to those “events” as the time to get out and “Do Something.” As long as we have the attitude that we can “show up” and then “go home,” our selfishness stays intact.  We can’t MAKE anyone be selfless, but we can show service is often about seeing the hungry, thirsty & lonely DAILY.

So go for it!  Serve meals on Thanksgiving and wrap an extra present for a child whose parent is in prison this Christmas.  Show a little extra love and then on January 2nd keep it up!

Thanks for loving students,

Leneita

@leneitafix



The Ministry Race …

Leneita Fix —  September 10, 2013 — Leave a comment
prerace
Sunday I ran my first half-marathon in Freeport, ME.  It’s a longer story but just know that this 41 year old just “took up running” six months ago for the first time in her whole life and fo fell in love with it, because it is a great stress reliever.
 As we set out it was cool, and raining, with gusting winds most of the way.  I knew this particular race was considered “moderately difficult.“ What I did not know is that it is possible to create a 13.1 mile course that is primarily up hill the whole way.  It is probably the greatest physical challenge I have taken on to date.  As my husband and I ran together we prayed, laughed chatted, and of course got thinking about how a literal race like this one we are told Biblically to “run” for Christ
As we plugged along  (up hill) here are the conclusions we came to:
1. It’s about the finish line.
running finishI am a severe asthmatic.  In practicality this means it slows me down and I end up towards the back of the pack. I hate this.  I am competitive, driven by nature and I want to “win.”   In my journey with Christ, how often to I compare my race to those around me? How often do I decide that if you are “famous” or have what others think of as a “successful” ministry, that you are the “winner?”  Paul tells us to run as if we will be the winner in 1 Cor. 9:24.  However, it is about keeping our eye toward the finish line. Christ simply wants us to keep running with Him and keep our eye towards ending well.  The celebration is in the finishing.
2. It’s also about the race

house

If we are only ever thinking about the finish line we just might miss the journey.       In our day on Sunday:
Cool turned to warmth.  Rain turned to sun.  The wind pushing in our face eventually ended up at our backs.  We passed by fields of wild flowers,  haystacks, and dilapidated farm houses with bright yellow doors.  Keep your eye to the horizon,  enjoy the path you are on and who you are with..
3. Don’t forget to laugh.
runningThe first hill was steep.  We looked forward to the downhill.  Then we got to the top and  it dipped and went up once again.  Isn’t life like that sometimes? Then the rain went from drizzling to pouring, before it got better.  All sorts of ridiculous circumstances kept hitting us.  We started making jokes and just absorbing that sometime it’s in the craziness we find the greatest joy.
4. Take it one hill at a time
At one of our water stops we joked with a policeman about the difficulty of the course.  He smiled and said these profound words, “Focus on one hill at a time.”  Trials will come and when the focus is on that reality we can get overwhelmed.   Instead,  with Christ, conquer the hill at hand.   When you reach the next one, you are another step forward.
running 1
This race of life is yours, it’s about being in it with Jesus.  Sure some will pass us, the terrain will be tough and it might all sound like a Hallmark card.  However,  it’s the only one we have,  we should run it as hard as we can.
Remember in the end we too want to say:
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2 Tim. 4:7
 
I would love to hear about your life “race” these days, tell me about it!

I’m sure you love most if not all of your volunteer ministers.  Face it, they give up their time and energy to help you, walk with teens and serve the Lord.  What isn’t there to like about them?  In fact if we were to sit down over coffee (Your buying), you would have some amazing stories to share about how you see God working through them.  Bottom line: MINISTERS ARE IMPORTANT

Since you can’t do what you need or want to do with out your volunteer team it’s imperative that you show them YOUR APPRECIATION.  While they might not be on your Christmas list this year, you need to make sure that they are thanked and celebrated.  So, what does that mean?  How does thanking and rewarding your volunteer ministers look like?

Sometimes there is an internal push back to thanking our ministers because you can’t afford it or there are just too many to track.  Again, you might be gracious for all that they do; however, unexpressed gratitude isn’t really true gratitude at all.  If you feel that gratitude isn’t a natural habit of yours, than consider these three tips:

Free Goes Far – Sometimes the best gifts are the ones that take little money; but, lots of thought.  If all you are receiving in your mailbox these days is junk mail, you know how incredible it is to receive a handwritten note or card from a loved one.  Next time you want to thank a volunteer take a minute or two to write out a card and mail it to them.  Even if your only note is, “Thank You” it will go a long way.  If you receive an email from a parent or a student that talks about how that volunteer has impacted their life, print it out and stick it in the card.  It will show your ministers that not only do you appreciate them; but, so do the people they serve.

Praise Them Publicly – Brag on your team.  Whether it’s in front of the congregation at your church, or to one of their family members, let them know how proud of them you are.  It might be a little embarrassing for them; however, when you praise someone publicly, it rallies a crowd behind them.  They go from joe-minister to “BIG TIME” volunteer instantly.  Let them know that they can be proud of themselves.

Do For One Even If You Can’t Do For All - There are going to be times when you have the opportunity to spoil at least one of your volunteers.  Maybe someone gave you an Ipad to give away, tickets to the ball game or money to spend.  This is your opportunity to find someone in your ministry to praise.  Then comes that voice, “If you can’t do for all, don’t do it for anyone.” that holds you back from expressing your gratitude.  You’ve been taught to treat others fairly; however, you risk depriving someone of the accolades that they deserve.  When you can do for one what you can’t do for all, you aren’t showing partiality.  Instead you are showing the individual how much you appreciate them.  Too many times when you give something to everyone, it looks formal and insincere.  This is taking opportunity of a blessing you received to pass it on and show someone else that they are blessed too.

There are many ways to thank your volunteers, and how you thank them is going to depend on who they are, and what you have to give.  The important thing is to always think outside of the box.  Let others know how important your team is to you and pour out the appreciation.

How do you thank your volunteers?

Chris (Twitter)



Here is a snippet of a post from Leneita Fix who is a youth worker near the Jersey Shore and had Superstorm Sandy pass right over her community. Its a great piece and an opportunity for us to get students involved to give to help those most in need right now. Please read and go check out the full post for the rest of the info about how to get involved today.

BEFORE THE STORM: This past Sunday I had the opportunity to speak at a local church.   I had wrestled and prayed about what to share.  Hurricane Sandy was looming off our coast.  The projected path was literally set for over my house on the Jersey Shore. For days, news and weather channels were raising panic within all of us calling this,  “Frankenstorm.”   Tense laughter filled aisles of supermarkets as water was eerily missing from shelves.    So as the Lord spoke to my heart, asking me to talk on Jesus calming the storm in Luke 8,   you can imagine my reaction.   I wouldn’t talk on “that,” I couldn’t imagine it not sounding corny.   Although He tugged at my soul harder, I made a different set of notes…

As I sat in the pew awaiting my name to be called,  I heard Christ once again ask if I might talk about this story.   The church was only half full as I stood before the congregation.  Many were already home making preparations for the impending doom.  Exchanging notes, I set out to tell of 12 disciples scared for their lives in the midst of what I believe could have been a hurricane.   All the while their Messiah was asleep.  What stuck out to me from this passage was a phenomenal idea.  Yes, we all know that Jesus calmed the storm.  This is important.  However, I don’t really think that was the point.  You see when the winds have been subdued Christ rebukes his friends for their lack of faith.  Why?  They should have understood that no matter what HE WAS THERE TO PROTECT THEM.  As we left that day, I knew the sermon was for my own heart.  As this colossal threat stood at my door what would be my own reaction?  Would I know that no matter what happened,  Jesus was close at hand,  caring and loving all of us.

AFTER THE STORM: Now I sit on the other side of this monster storm.   Jesus did not push back this mammoth into the sea.  It’s power did not dissipate.  Instead it plowed through the homes and neighborhoods around us.  The pictures many are witnessing on CNN are literally blocks away from me.   Personally,  I am thankful for friends who took us in to evacuate the coast.   Our house is still standing, with  some shingles off the roof. We were  and are safe.  However,  the house next to us is standing with a tree on the roof.  The streets are barely passable.  We know many who have lost everything: homes, cars,  all their “stuff” is gone.  You may be watching it on a screen, I am looking into the eyes of those I know. Important places in the life of our family are literally washed out to sea.  Sitting in stunned silence,  you wonder what to do?  Where do I start?

WHERE WAS GOD IN ALL OF THIS? Luke 8 is the beginning.   Christ is not asleep.  He is here to take care of us.  He is needed in this area more than ever.  As we began the clean up today,  I was struck with at thought.  All of our “stuff” may be in jeopardy at any moment still we are standing together. Thankfully,  my family  and friends continue to have  each other.

THE REALITY IS HITTING: At this point on the “inside” we don’t really know what to do.  We keep waiting to wake up from this dream and have “normal” restored.  There is no routine.  No school.  No work for many to go to.  We have no idea when many of the children will be able to go to school again,  as  it is acting as the shelter for those who like us,  can’t be in their home.  Some are wondering with no home at all what will be next.  Others,  (like us) just can’t be there full time because it is cold, and dark and has no water.  So you sleep at home and find some place to be during the day. There are curfews to get off the streets at 7 PM.  Power and will not be restored in some areas (like at our home) for another 14 days.  We are all just pulling together and figuring out the best way to stand together.   Local churches are simply grilling hot dogs and giving them out.  We are just making sure neighbors are alright. I am thankful that many of my friends have family where they can go.

We are only beginning to assess the needs in our own community. Currently,  we can’t even get to them to know what else they might be without. It is starting by being neighborly.  Neighborhoods are camping out and working together to pool resources.   My husband stopped by our street today and gave away food we didn’t need to those around us.   It’s as simple as knowing we have not been abandoned or forgotten.  We can’t be swept up by the massive effort it will take to come to the other side of this.  There is one bigger than all of us who remains in charge.

Go here to read the rest and see how you can help.

-Geoff

 

Last week I was able to attend the Holy Trinity Leadership conference at Royal Albert Hall in London. I wrote previously about Nicky Gumbel’s Main Session and today are my notes from another main session from Judah Smith of City Church in Seattle.

Judah Smith – On Church Leadership Session 1 

Leading is about giving – A leader who stops giving finds themself on a lonely walk. Our People want to follow generous leaders who are generous with time, love, passion and wisdom. He also asserts that great leaders give value to people – leadership is always about giving.

Leading is about expecting nothing in return – When we give or preach or serve, do we expect something back? Are we looking for affirmation, acknowledgment or appreciation and if we do, what do we do when we don’t get it. Leading with strings attached will rob us of fulfillment and satisfaction. Our people do this sort of thing to us as leaders and its brutal, so why would we do it to our people?

Leading is about consistency – Leaders act in consistency with their character, action, word and conduct. People are drawn to consistent leadership, and the truth is that a shooting star never helped a lost hiker and the same goes for us.

Leading is about loving – Loving must come before leading, and when we are loving and leading people, our position doesn’t matter as much. We need to fall in love with God and what He is doing, and bring our people along to be a part of that mission.

GS – Twitter



In 2009 the amount was $41.2 billion. Last year saw impressive growth, moving up to $45 billion. That’s almost a $4 billion increase in a single calendar year. It may sound like Wall Street employee bonus checks, but this is the amount of money Americans spent at retailers on the four-day Black Friday weekend, which includes Cyber Monday.

That’s roughly $11 billion spent per day, primarily on consumer electronics and the accessories and media that make them hum. Throughout the entire holiday season–essentially Black Friday through
Christmas day–more than $450 billion was spent last year in the United States. This, on top of the billions we spend the other 360 days of the year on the same products. It’s hard not to pass judgment on this type of frivolous spending, particularly when there are so many needy people in the world, in our own neighborhoods. To be sure, many of these purchases are intended to brighten the holidays for a lot of unfortunate children and families, which has given me and my family time to reflect on just what holiday giving is all about, and how we could change our pattern to better reflect our personal desires to live in a better world.

For a lot of years we made “Christmas Angel” purchases at our local shopping mall, helping to meet the specific requests for underprivileged kids. We don’t have a lot of money, but we certainly have more than so many others and knew we could easily help a child or two have the same bright and cheery Christmas morning as our own child. This form of giving brings our family a lot of happiness, but we’ve always wanted to do more.

We started looking for charitable organizations that were already helping children around the world, primarily to see if we could find a really good fit. In short, we want our charitable donations to do the most good. Our search yielded a great deal of exciting and even inspiring information. Did you know that for a measly $4,500 nearly 500 people in Sudan and Sierra Leone, Africa can drink clean water from their own well? For $6,500 the same number of people in Uganda and Kenya can get the same clean, fresh drinking water so badly needed. The amount of money spent on one holiday weekend in the United States could build 10 million freshwater wells.

Now, they don’t need that many wells, but that’s the point. If we spent a mere 10% less on just Black Friday weekend and put that $4.5 billion into a charity like The Water Project or the Advent Conspiracy through its partnership with Living Water International, we could effectively end the very serious and lethal water problems in these four African countries, which include drought and contamination.

We looked further into this and discovered that $10 will provide fresh drinking water for one person for an entire year. Ten lousy bucks! $50 will help an entire family, and $250 will provide fresh water to an entire classroom for a whole year.

Less than a twenty-five percent of what is spend over Black Friday weekend, and approximately two percent of what is spent throughout the holidays–$10 billion– will solve this problem once and for all.

Can you imagine these Central African nations with no water-related problems? So can we, which is why we’ve made a couple of important choices this year. As in years past, we’ll eschew Black Friday and all its trappings, and we’ll ensure that we help an entire classroom have fresh, clean drinking water for an entire year. Won’t you join us?

Imagine what we could do for hunger!

Tim is a marketer for Cabledeal.org. He is an avid promoter of global issues and prayerfully wishes there was more he could do to help those with true needs. To learn more about Tim and to see what he is up to follow him on Twitter @TimLCooley.

Thought this video about tithing from Mariner’s Church was exceptional. Good stuff.

JG