What Does She See?

On Monday, the Bradenton Police Department’s Facebook page shared this photo taken during a badge pinning ceremony for the 5th grade safety patrol from Sea Breeze Elementary. And it made me pause.

For those who don’t live in Bradenton or within a mile of this school like I do, the officer in this photo is Bradenton Chief of Police Bevan. She’s doing what I’ve seen her do on a few occasions and when we met. She’s looking this 5th grader in the eyes and taking in the person she’s shaking hands with. The look says something without words. If nothing else, those words are, “I see you.” But I’m curious what exactly does she see? And what does she hope this student is seeing in return?

No question in my mind this 5th grader is seeing something. Her age seems unimportant. In this second, she’s hearing and seeing something that could stay with her much of her life. The look on her face made me pause and ask, “What does she see? What is bringing that look of responding without words?”

Rather than suggest what those answers are, I’ll leave you to chew on it. Whatever the answers are, they bring joy. Joy to the Chief of Police. Joy to the Safety Patrol member. Joy to the photographer. Joy to this observer.

May they both continue to see and give joy!

Advertisement

Shame Nation (book review)

After reading Curt Thompson’s The Soul of Shame, I determined to find other books on the topic of shame. I found several and chose to read Shame Nation by Sue Scheff next. What I thought I was going to learn and what I ended up learning were not the same, to my advantage.

The title implied one thing in my mind. By the time I got into chapter two, I realized Scheff’s focus was on the epidemic of online hate. Through the first five chapters of section one “The Rise of Shame Nation,” Scheff gives great detail to exemplify exactly what’s at stake when it comes to digital shame. Some of it I knew, but I quickly learned I didn’t know enough. That section alone is worth the read. In the following three chapters of section two “Preventing and Surviving an Onslaught,” Scheff gives all of us much needed wisdom that could curb disasters and literally saves lives.

Your online behavior should be the best reflection of who you are off-line, but so many of us don’t live up to that ideal.

Chapter 3, I Can’t Believe They Posted That!

But what I found most helpful was the final section, “Beyond the Shaming.” Scheff gives several illustrations of people who’ve taken their online shaming experience and turned in into purpose, action, and healing for themselves, their community, and beyond. An amazing resource listing at the end of the book contains 40 examples, the majority I had never heard of. The ones that stood out to me include…

The results of online shame and hate hit home in April in our area when a 12-year-old died by suicide due to cyberbullying. After leading a response to a request to equip parents against bullying of their students, I’m convinced we cannot talk about this epidemic enough. Scheff has given parents, educators, counselors, and community leaders more than enough knowledge to respond to and change their community from one of shame and hate to one of kindness and compassion. I encourage you to add this book to your library.

I-35 Lesson #1

This past weekend included many firsts. Seven of them were…

  • Flying Southwest out of Sarasota
  • Visiting Kansas City, St. Joseph, and Des Moines
  • Renting a Truck
  • Buying a Garmin watch
  • Touring the Glore Psychiatric Museum
  • Running a full marathon one day and running a half marathon the following day
  • Driving I-35

These firsts were part of attempting the I-35 Challenge: Run in Kansas City on Saturday then run in Des Moines on Sunday. Looking back on this trip, I have takeaways that I wasn’t even looking for, not expecting, didn’t know was coming. I’m calling these the 1-35 Lessons.

I-35 LESSON #1: Inspiration comes in many forms.

If you’ve never ran a race or had the chance to be a spectator, I encourage you to make it a goal. Whether it’s in person or virtually, you’ll see things that make you turn your head, raise your eyebrow, clap your hands, maybe even shed a tear. If you look long enough, pretty good chance you’ll find inspiration. For example…

In Des Moines, there was a team of runners who stood out because they were wearing red. But the real reason they stood out was because they were all pushing a wheelchair carrying a disabled person. That’s no joke. They are called My Team Triumph. Check out their mission from their website.

Then there’s this guy. I passed him during the race, but didn’t know his story until hearing him talk about his hobby of running when we happened to be on the same flight the next day. Take a guess how many marathons he’s ran. If you guessed 10…nope. 100…not even close. Try over 700.

These images and others will be in my mind for a long time. These runners showed up. They didn’t settle. And if they had supporters like mine following them virtually and freaking out from home, they didn’t disappoint.

Lesson: Inspiration is around us every day. Take time to reflect, acknowledge, and follow. It may lead you to many firsts of your own.

Crossing the start line in Des Moines…26.2 down, 13.1 to go

Heard

(Final post in a 5-part series collaboration)

In the first four posts of this series, my guests have shared how they hear from God. Here’s a recap with a link to their post:

Dawn: worship, prayer, personal devotions, preaching, meditation, relationships

Bob: putting God first, asking Him to speak, aligning priorities, talking about him with others

Erin: peace from God after season of prayer, Spirit conviction, through others

Aaron: vision from within (words, peace), scripture

Before I answer the question, I believe it’s helpful to answer another question: What might be keeping me from hearing God’s voice? I believe that can be answered with this word-Noise. God is always present and available, but it’s quite possible he can’t be heard over all the other noise. And if I’m honest with myself, all that noise is entirely within my control.

“If I’m moving at an insane pace and there is no room in my life for quiet, I will miss God’s voice.” –Lance Witt, Replenish

So if I earnestly want to hear from God, I have to control the noise. And what that most likely means is tuning it out. Tuning out:

  • Distractions like social media
  • Voices contrary to godly dialogue (in my own head, lies from the enemy, subtleties in media/entertainment, misguided thinking or content from well-meaning people)
  • By slowing down
  • By scheduling quiet

Once I’ve handled the noise, then I’m ready to tune in to hear from God. Dawn, Bob, Erin, and Aaron have told us how they tune in. Here are five ways I tune in:

  1. Community. As an introvert, a community of one sounds fine to me. But I’ve learned that I rob myself and tune out the voice of God when I resist being in community. So my community consists of small groups from church, routine meet ups with like-minded men, being coached, and engaging in Sunday services by expecting to receive a personal message from God to me.
  2. Journaling. I’m not legalistic about it, but often journaling is a helpful exercise during or after reading scripture. When a thought or challenge surfaces that needs some exploring, that’s what guides how I approach my journal entry. Sometimes it looks like a paraphrase of what I read, putting into my own words or applying it to a current situation. Sometimes it ends up being a written prayer. Sometimes it’s bullet points. Sometimes it’s an outline for future teaching use. If you haven’t tried it and would like some direction, I suggest reading The Divine Mentor by  Wayne Cordeiro. Journaling has the potential of opening up an avenue of conversation that otherwise may not happen.
  3. Prayer. In order to hear from God, prayer should be viewed as an ongoing dialogue, a two-way conversation.  You might say a paraphrase of “pray without ceasing” would be “never hang up the phone.”
  4. Asking and Expecting. Similar to dinner conversation or an email thread, the dialogue of prayer should include more than input from one party. For my part of the conversation, I try to include questions that require an answer only God could give, such as:
    • “How did I do with that interaction with my coworker today?”
    • “What are you trying to say to me through that verse that just came to mind?”
    • “What encouraging words do you want me to share with the grocery cashier?” Ask the question and wait for the answer. He’ll answer the email when it’s time. Or it may wait until the next meal. That’s part of recognizing his sovereignty.  But it’s up to my end of the conversation to ask the question.
  5. Responding. Since all believers are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, there is little doubt that he speaks to us. I have found that one of the best ways to tune in is to simply respond when he speaks. Much like a child who has been called to dinner or given any other direction from their parent, a respectful, “Heard,” helps both parties know they are connected.  And a “Thank you” can’t hurt either.

So what’s your answer? How do you hear from God? A DJ on thejoyfm Tuesday said he got a message from God through feeding his fish. One thing is true-God’s ability to be heard is unlimited. We five writers would like to hear how God is heard by you.

Twist on a Good Question

If you are in church leadership, it’s possible in some conference or workshop you’ve been asked this question: “If your church closed its doors, what would the community lose?” Another way to word it, “Would anyone notice if your doors closed?”

Someone at my church recently shared they’d heard this for the first time. They responded like we probably all did the first time we were asked: Thoughtful, Challenged, Evaluating.


Last week I shared that question with someone else, but for a different reason. A comment had been made about my role at the church, to which I made a twisted connection with this question.

What if this question dropped from the corporate level to a personal level and every church member and staff member asked, “If I walked away from this church, what would be lost?” Another way to word it, “Would anyone notice if I stopped bringing what I’m currently bringing to the table?”

Now that’s completely different. But what would happen if every child of God thought more about what they bring versus what they receive? What would happen in the community if believers said, “I’m here. I’m for you. I’m bringing what I got to the table. I’m not going anywhere. How can I help?”

Balanced Communities

Community. Whether we want to be or not, we are in community. And lots of it.

  • Family 
  • Work
  • Church
  • Neighborhood
  • Politics
  • Sports
  • Charities
  • Hobbies

And the list could go on. And in all of these various communities we find ourselves in, we have a role as either a receiver or a giver; ideally, in the best of communities, we all work at keeping a good balance of actually being both.

We tend to focus on how much giving determines a community’s greatness. Generosity no doubt strengthens every fiber of a community. But let’s be honest; there are some challenges with being all about giving and disregarding the value of receiving. 

Jesus illustrated this in the scene where perfume was lavished on him. No one could out give Jesus. Yet he illustrated the humility to allow someone to give to him. Did he really need what he was receiving? Some thought no; he believed otherwise. A better question would be, how did Jesus receive the service from others that he taught them to give? In order to fulfill his own teaching of love and peace, he had to allow himself to receive it.

I’m not the best receiver. I’m a much better giver. What has helped my growth in receiving is this definition of community: experiencing Jesus’ love through other humans. I can’t control their giving and receiving, but I certainly can control mine.

Here’s to balanced giving and receiving in all our communities!

It Started With a Question

The question came last summer. I was searching for something. But it wasn’t really for me. And maybe that’s why the answer was so good.

My job as assistant pastor at a church is not normal. (Everyone said, “Amen!”) No need to get into all the possible answers to the wrong question here, so suffice it to say my job makes me ask myself a lot of questions. Last summer I asked the same question I’ve asked myself for several summers; but I was looking for something different, something deeper. And that’s why the core question I was really asking was this: “How can we go deeper?”

“We” referred to our church. “Go deeper” referred to our relationship with our ministry partner, Ballard Elementary School. This relationship has existed for five or so years. It’s very healthy, even admired by other churches and schools in our county. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t need evaluating and tweaking and improving. So to do these three things, we ask questions.

This time I got an answer that I hadn’t received before. Looking back, I believe the answer came because we weren’t asking how to improve an existing program but opening the question up by looking for other options, avenues, and pathways yet unexplored. The answer was revealing, refreshing, and certainly unexplored. That answer was, “What about connecting with the art teacher?” I dove in.

Long story short, we met and now are walking a path that is unlike anything either have experienced before. Students and their families are creating lifelong memories because an assistant pastor and an art teacher are collaborating on their behalf. And this collaboration has opened the door to a whole new ministry of the church in the form of an art gallery. Didn’t see that coming (more on that in an upcoming blog)!

But how can you see something coming when you don’t ask the question? 

How can you expect a different result when you keep asking the same question? 

How can go you deeper when you only ask questions about the surface? 

What could start in your corner of the world by asking the right question? 

What if you started by asking, “How can we go deeper?”

Fruity Fridays – Choose Love

by Eric Vorhies

The fruit of the Spirit is a gift from God that allows us to get a glimpse into His incredible personality. Love is no exception.

But do we have the understanding of love that is trying to be conveyed through Gal. 5:22-23?

Love – We fall in and out of it. It can be blind or it can happen at first sight. It can be learned and made. It is how we feel about those closest to us and our favorite food. It is closely associated with matters of the heart and things we are most passionate about. But is this the kind of love that the Spirit is gifting us?

I do not believe that the fruit of the Spirit is a list of feelings as much as they are a list of choices that God gives us the power to choose through him. Love is no exception. Just as God loved us, we can choose to love.

Isn’t that the real power of love? Despite how we feel about something or someone, we can bridge that gap and have communion with them. This is the exact desire of God’s relationship with humanity.

God created humanity knowing its depravity.

God sent Christ to permanently restore communion with humanity.

One day, Christians will live in perfect community with God forever.

God is love. It is the driving force behind His relationship with us. Though it is filled with overwhelming emotion, it is a very deliberate choice. And we too have been given similar choices. Through the Spirit, we have been empowered to choose love despite our feelings.

Today choose love…

Choose to love those who think differently.

…look differently

…act differently

…choose to offer a bridge to build community rather than building a wall.

nelson