Wednesday, February 21, 2007

PERSONAL NEWS FOR FEBRUARY CATCH-UP...I have blogged so little in February, I thought I'd update you on what has been happening in a chatty, newsy blog so you can get clued in on our life lately. I'm going to TRY not to get lost in the details because my time will run out on me.
I'll back up to January a bit to give some context to February. Two big events happened in January that were sort of culminations of a dream I have had since we moved here three years ago January--the start of at least a Women's Bible Study for all ages and the development of a women's ministry that would help the whole church (vs. something separate only dealing with women). I think I'll put this in a Journal form and it will be easier to follow.
1/9-Second meeting of our Leadership Team--first real business meeting, start of study of Peacemaking Women by Tara Barthel and Judy Dabler.
1/18-First meeting of our Bible Study--I had expected about 10-15, but 22-25 signed up! ages 16-80+ I would say that our average attendance is 20! I'm dumbfounded.
Our Bible study is on Colossians and involves preparation and discussion. The group has done really well participating. It meets weekly and despite the preparation which is agony and time consuming for me, the lesson is fun.

1/21-Ron's favorite uncle in Talequah, OK passed away at age 93. His death was sudden but not exactly unexpected due to his age and diminishing health. He was alert and able to get around but was getting weaker and weaker. We decided to go to his funeral since so few of the extended family could get there. It was a week after that really bad ice/snow storm in OK/MO and parts of IL. (Some of the motels where we stayed still had a lot of the electric co. people staying there as well as some people without their electricity on yet. It was still VERY cold.) We were glad we went to the funeral and got to see the family. It was about a 10 hour drive. We were there for a few hours and then had to head home. It seemed like we weren't there for very long, certainly compared to the drive, but we were glad we got to go.

2/5-7-Moody Founder's Week-We took a couple of days and went to Founder's Week at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. We went for the speakers (only the ones we really wanted to hear were later in the week) but we went when we did to hook up with a good friend of Ron's from when he was at Moody...and beyond in some of his other schooling. He and his wife have ministered in Canada for years (where he has always been a citizen). The last we saw them was in the mid-70's! As you can imagine, we have all changed a bit since then. We had a lot of fun together.

Of course, we have had our share of lousy weather, absolutely frigid cold (single digit and sl. below 0 is my definition!) and the most snow since we have moved here. That translates into lots of days staying IN the house. I can't really sew because I have all this studying to do for weekly Bible studies and monthly leadership team so this extrovert has struggled with cabin fever some.

2/17-last weekend a couple from our church that was married at a justice of the peace the first time around, had a renewal of their vows to celebrate their 50th anniversary. Their attendants were the original two!! It was very sweet and a first for Ron.

Now I'm caught up. This weekend will be the church valentine party called Sweets for the Sweet. It should be a lot of fun.

COMING EVENTS: March 2-3--a few of us are going to Covenant Seminary for a Seminar by Diane Langberg called: Behind Closed Doors:The Abuse of Power in Marriage, the Church, and other Relationships. I'm excited partly because of the young women who are going to the seminar and I have found Diane to be an excellent and wise speaker from whom I have learned a lot. I'm glad she will be so close.
The next weekend we are delighted to be going to the baptism of our sweet grandson, Walker, in Franklin, TN. It has taken his parents longer than they had anticipated to find a church home, but now they have found it in Parish Presbyterian Church with George Grant as their pastor. Of course, Walker's grandfather (Ron) will also be able to participate in the baptism as well. He has loved being able to have that privilege so far, with his three grandchildren, thanks to the graciousness of their pastors.
Well, this has been a very informative email. I got my links worked out, so i was able to get you linking all over the place. Blessings to you.

AND NOW FOR MY FIRST FORAY INTO WRITING...a book review on My motivation was greed:) Tara Barthel was giving away free stuff for those who would write reviews of her and Judy Dabler's book Peacemaking Women. That was a no-brainer. I'm recommending it to all kinds of people already, why not get a free CD of a retreat for doing it? So I did. Actually, I had to do it twice!! I had the first one almost done and hit a wrong button and poof!, it was gone into the world of computerland, never to be seen again. I had just edited it and everything. Talk about irritating! Of course, the second version wasn't nearly as good, but I got it done and sent it, notified Tara, and my free CD is on its way as we speak! I'm becoming a sucker for free prizes (that are worth something to me). There may be some additonal side benefits from that simple book review down the road as well. We'll see. You'll be the first to know;) (that's a wink isn't it?)

Our Ladies' Leadership Team (soon to be renamed) that meets once a month is studying this book together. It is a great study. we're also discussing many issues re ministry, leadership, community, outreach, etc. that get my brain working overtime. It is quite stimulating. Last night we got into some interesting discussion re leadership. Afterward, I was wishing I had asked some more follow-up questions--probably in the areas of spiritual gifts. My views on leadership have changed considerably over the years. For a long time, I felt that everything could be resolved with pure consensus. Now I realize that we are to submit to our spiritual leaders (not blindly mind you) b/c they are "spiritual" leaders. That puts the pressure on us when we are choosing them to be sure they are the people with spiritual gifts, maturity and godliness that they need to be. We need to pray especially for them to have the wisdom they need to make the tough decisions. When we disagree, we need to go to them and ask questions of them realizing they may not be able to give us all the facts that went into their decision-making because of confidential information. At least we will have presented our questions to them and not gossiped about them, their decision, and the possible motives behind them when we are really unaware of the true facts of any of it before we talk to the person.

Spiritual leadership is not something over which we are to get "big heads" because it is purely of God and His enablement that we are able to do it. He sovereignly gives the gifts (and can take them away), He energizes the growth in grace, He brings about the maturity through the circumstances He brings into our lives. There is nothing about the process that develops a spiritual leader that should cause him/her to be proud. Once the person is actually in a position of leadership, there is rarely much to build up one's pride (apart from appearing publicly, if that does it for you) because there is always someone who is unhappy with any given decision (big or small), always a reason for others to criticize (because they don't know all the facts behind the decision-making process), always a reason to attack your motives (which they absolutely do NOT know!). I guess that is what is at the heart of the matter re spiritual leadership! Those of us who are in that position, realize how far short our motives fall at any given time and we realize that apart from Christ and the Gospel of grace working in our lives, this job is an impossible one! Isn't that where God wants us to be? Totally aware of our need for Him? I guess if the complainers and attackers bring us to that point, we can even be grateful for them:)
But where are those who at this point are not in positions of spiritual leadership in a given church. Hopefully, they are developing their arenas of spiritual leadership whether in their family, a group at school, or their sphere of influence. That's the thing about spiritual leadership. It isn't always the kind that is out front, leading a group. That's why each church needs everyone to be spiritually leading in their area of spiritual gift under the authority of the spiritual leaders of the church. I think of the encouragers and exhorters who often work stealthily conversation by conversation, building up people, exhorting them in appropriate ways from God's Word. Churches need more of them, church leaders need a lot more of them influencing people in the church in Godly ways of living, encouraging people in the church to live out the gospel in the ways God has equipped them. That is only a minor illustration of using one gift in a few ways.
Spiritual leadership...especially in an actual leadership position in a local church carries with it a LOT of responsibility before God and before other people. I certainly don't want to minimize that at all. But the leader cannot be paralyzed by his/her own realization of personal inadequacies, personal desires of followers or other factors when it comes to decision making. Yes, I am more than inadequate before a holy God, but I am "in Christ" now. I have all His resources available to do His work in His way. I need to listen to the people I am responsible to lead, but I don't have to do things the way they want, especially if they are spiritually immature or unaware of other ways to carry out the same mission. I am their leader. I have to do what is best for them spiritually in a way that will cause them to follow. Part of that involves knowing where they are, seeing where they need to go and figuring out how to bridge the gap with them and for the glory of God.
I have to decide whether I am going to please God or please people or to say it another way, who do I fear most, God or people's opinions. If my first concern in making a decision is what x will think or how y will take this decision, I'm making an idol of other people. I'm very familiar with that. I lived in that prison for MANY years. I still go there sometimes. It is a horrible place. My primary concern needs to be what does God want? What does His Word command? What will He think about this decision? For both now and eternity that will have been the most important concern.

Friday, February 02, 2007

HOW DO YOU LIKE THE NEW LOOK? for the few of you who read this, I changed to the new blogger/google account today AFTER I did all my posting and decided to go with a different template while I was at it. Can you tell that I am ready for spring? It is frigid here right now. This morning it was something like 2 with a windchill in the -single digit range with a LOT of wind. I'm staying in today. Between reminding me of my years near the beach in FL, the tropical waters of Jamaica...ooooh! I can't even go there. Needless to say, these are very soothing/restful colors for me. I hope you enjoy the new look for now. I need something that does NOT look like winter!

IT'S FEBRUARY AND TIME SEEMS TO BE FLYING...January seems to have completely melted into thin air. We missed the first week since we took our Christmas break in Seattle then and caught colds from the grandchildren that carried over into our time back home. I've been in the middle of starting a women's Bible study at the church and although most of the hard work was done--choosing the book/materials, deciding on the day/time to meet with the leadership team, and publicizing it. There is the constant work of preparing the lesson each week. For some, that isn't any big deal, for me it is agony. Preparing a lesson does NOT come easy. First, I have to prepare it for myself, then I have to plan how to teach/lead it. I am NOT a teacher. I can facilitate group discussion and add in points. I can even make some good points, but I am not a teacher. My transitions are NOT smooth. I guess I know enough about what makes a good teacher to know that I am not one. I do know I married one. I consider myself fortunate since I have had to listen to him in varying degrees for over 35 years:) I am somewhat gifted in encouragement and exhortation so I can lead a group but I am not a teacher. The good thing about this is that to survive all the preparation and leading of the class, I have to depend on the Lord. I am convinced that is why He often puts me in this kind of situation. In this situation, there is no way that I can coast! To add to my "agony", the group I thought might get as big as 10 or 12 (my comfort zone) blossomed to 25 and although they haven't all been there in one week, 28 are using the books and studying! It has changed how I can even teach the class!
I'm getting over the hump in our Bible study now where it is starting to be the actual Bible study. Last night we were discussing different things about the theme of the book, key verses, etc. It was fun hearing the discussions about different verses and why different ones thought they were key verses:) It was also interesting to hear how different people summarize and divide a book. Some want to cover every detail, others want to get the broad picture. Did I mention that these discussions carried over in a group of about 20 women ranging in age from 16-80+? There was laughing and smiling as well as seriousness happening. Our prayer time ended last night with prayer in groups of 2's and 3's for our specific application and our asking for help from the others in our small group for accountability if needed.
So between the Bible study (good), a visit to family (good), a quick trip to OK for the funeral of Ron's favorite uncle (age 93) last week (sad but good to see family), and now second colds for us in a month (ugh!) and facing a couple of days in Chicago at Moody Founder's Week walking out in weather that will be 15 degrees tops(!), we dread the weather but look forward to seeing at least one of Ron's very good friends from his days at Moody and after (overall, good). It has been mostly a good month with the last few weeks being extremely frigid. This is not the warm winter that last winter was.
Meanwhile, I have been keeping up with my TBR reading by listening to tapes of books from my alternate list. (I haven't had time to read.) I'm trying to get off the TV and listening to audio tapes is a good way to do it. I'll have to blog later on some of the books I "read". Good-bye January 2007. I hope February doesn't fly by quite so fast so I can get something done.