February 24, 2010


In my last post, I told you about God using music to speak to me. Sometimes He uses other methods, up to and including hitting me on the side of the head with a church bulletin.

I once spent a year teaching in Children's Church with first and second graders. The kids were old enough to carry on a decent conversation, and it was at 11:00, which is about the time my mind enters full gear, so all was well in my Sunday morning world.

After that year, a decision was made to eliminate Children's Church at 11:00, as our service times were changing and an 8:30 worship service was added. The thinking was that adding an additional service would require more children's workers for the younger kids while their parents were in the new service.

While Children's Church had only been offered at 11:00 for a year, a Preschool Worship had been available for 2 or 3 years, so it was decided that Preschool Worship should continue at 11:00.

In the week following the announcement of that decision, countless people asked me if a Preschool Worship would be offered at 8:30. I looked at them as though they had lost their minds. Are you kidding? 8:30 a.m - when on Sunday mornings in particular, my brain is still wondering why my body isn't still sleeping?

"I can't imagine," I responded. "Who in their right mind would agree to do it?"

I walked away from all of those conversations still repeating the line to myself, "I can't imagine."

The following Sunday, as I went into worship, the Divine Miss M, our Preschool Associate at the time, stopped me and asked if she could talk to me for a second. (The Divine Miss M is very soft-spoken and not a Bette Midler type at all, but she is truly angelic enough for Divine to fit.) Miss M pulled me off to the side and told me that our pastor had decided that Preschool Worship should be offered at 8:30. The Divine Miss M was just wondering if I could think of anyone who might want to lead it. Anyone at all?
I stood there looking, I'm sure, like a deer caught in headlights and replied, "No, I can't think of anyone who would want to do that." She looked very disappointed, but I was too busy breathing a sigh of relief that her gifts were centered around children - and clearly not in sales - to think much about it.

As I walked away, I thought to myself, "What are they thinking? Are they nuts? I just can't imagine!"

By now I was entering the worship center and an usher handed me a bulletin. I looked down to see that our Administrative Pastor was filling in that Sunday and the title of the sermon was Imagine.

That was the moment that I came painfully close to cussing out loud, right there in Big Church.

There was no mistaking it. God was speaking to me and He didn't have a lot of time to mess around because the 8:30 service was going to start in 2 weeks. I have no idea what the scriptural text for the sermon was that morning because I was too busy arguing with God to hear any of it. "I don't want to do it. You know I'm not a morning person. What do I know about preschoolers? Why can't somebody else do it? Anybody else???"

I lost the argument, but came out a winner in the end as I spent the next 3 years teaching Pre-K and Kindergartners about worship. As is usually the case, the kids taught me far more than I taught them. They taught me about God's love, they taught me about worshiping God with full abandon, and they taught me not to speak too literally to 4-year-olds. (An offhand comment about putting up walls between God and ourselves led to a prolonged discussion about the color of the wall. Oops.)

And the opportunity that God brought my way when I least expected it taught me that God can fill our lives with children in ways we never imagined.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. - Ephesians 3:20-21

February 19, 2010

God's Perfect Pitch

I am not particularly auditory. I sang O Be Careful, Little Eyes with preschoolers for years before I realized it was sung to the tune of If You're Happy and You Know It. And I have to confess that I only realized it was the same tune because I saw O Be Careful, Little Eyes in a children's hymn book, and right there at the top of the page it said, "Sung to the tune of If You're Happy and You Know It."

Despite this, God often speaks to me in an audible way, and He often does so through music. It's not like I hear voices, yet I do hear His voice, and often through my own.

One time I got off the phone after a particularly frustrating conversation and was fit to be tied. I remember gathering clothes for laundry, still fuming from the phone call. I threw clothes across the room and slammed the closet door shut - or at least attempted to slam the bifold door - and suddenly realized I was humming.

I stopped dead in my tracks. What was the song? Even though I was humming, I had no idea what I was humming. I had to listen to my own voice for a moment before it came to me.

O, what peace we often forfeit, O, what needless pain we bear.
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

That's right, What a Friend We Have in Jesus. With that, He turned my anger into laughter.

Who says God doesn't have a sense of humor?

This morning, I was thinking about friends who need prayer today and began singing Praise to the Lord, the Almighty...then seamlessly - totally without realizing it - went into a children's song, My God is So Great...

My God is so great, so strong and so mighty, 
There's nothing my God cannot do.
My God is so great, so strong and so mighty, 

There's nothing my God cannot do.
The mountains are his, the rivers are his, 

The stars are His handiwork, too.
My God is so great, so strong and so mighty, 

There's nothing my God cannot do, for you!

Is He speaking to you?

February 18, 2010


I watched You've Got Mail over Valentine's weekend...twice. As much as I love the movie, it has always bothered me that both Joe Fox and Kathleen Kelly are in serious relationships when they begin their online correspondence. There's something more than a little creepy about that. If they weren't happy, and clearly they weren't, why didn't they end their relationships before pursuing one another online?

Apparently in real life, it can be even creepier. We've come to recognize that there are people who deliberately look for online relationships  - elationships - with no intention of ever meeting. There was an article about it last week on MSNBC Technology & Science. Read the sentence that sums it up:

Now, there’s a new online annoyance — the person who doesn’t want to meet but is all too happy to email, text, tweet, IM, or scrawl on your Facebook wall indefinitely. They don’t want a real relationship as much as its virtual doppelganger.

A virtual doppelganger? Why would anyone want that? The article suggests a few reasons.

For some, of course, it's the same thing that's gone on since the beginning of time, a way to pretend to be something you're not.

For others, it's not about finding a relationship - it's about collecting people. They add these virtual relationships as friends to their Facebook pages, as though they were trophies.

And then there are those for whom it's just a way to pass the time.

If you're in an online relationship, believe me, I want you to experience the ending from You've Got Mail. I want you to meet really nice people who want the same things you want, and who are honest about who they are. I want you to be Joe Fox and Kathleen Kelly finally getting together at the end of the movie with Somewhere Over the Rainbow playing.

But more than anything, I want you to be careful. I want you to guard your heart and your mind because you're not dealing with Joe Fox or Kathleen Kelly. You're dealing someone real, who might not be looking for what they say they're looking for.

Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Proverbs 4:23 (NIV)

February 14, 2010

Trust His Heart

I was not planning to write an official Valentine post because it just seemed like such a cliché. I did briefly consider it, though, when a couple of weeks ago the lyrics of a song came to mind, but I never made it beyond the thought.

But today is Valentine's, at least for a couple more hours, and God has reminded me in a most tangible way about the song. The granddaughter of my friend, Nancy, posted an item on Facebook about a conversation she and Nancy had a few days ago. They were talking about the frustrations and the unknowns of fighting cancer, when Nancy said, "There is a song, you know, when you can't see his hand, trust his heart..."

As you may have guessed, that's the same song I considered posting for today. I first heard it sung by Cynthia Clawson, and it has brought me a lot of encouragemenet over the years, as it's doing for Nancy and her family and friends now. I'm not sure who actually wrote the lyrics, because I'm finding conflicting information online but it looks like it's probably Babbie Mason.

You can find it on YouTube, but here are the words. I hope they encourage you, especially if  "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" is stuck in your head this Valentine's. Remember you're never alone.

Trust His Heart

All things work for our good
Though sometimes we don't see how they could
Struggles that break our hearts in two
Sometimes blind us to the truth
Our Father knows what best for us
His ways are not our own
So when your pathway grows dim
And you just don't see Him
Remember you're never alone

God is too wise to be mistaken
God is too good to be unkind
So when you don't understand
When you don't see His plan
When you can't trace His hand
Trust His heart
Trust His heart

He sees the master plan
And He holds our future in His hand
So don't live as those who have no hope
All our hope is found in Him
We see the present clearly
But He sees the first and the last
And like a tapestry
He's weaving you and me
To someday be just like Him

God is too wise to be mistaken
God is too good to be unkind
So when you don't understand
When you don't see His plan
When you can't trace His hand
Trust His heart
Trust His heart

He alone is faithful and true
He alone knows what is best for you

God is too wise to be mistaken
God is too good to be unkind
So when you don't understand
When you don't see His plan
When you can't trace His hand
Trust His heart
Trust His heart

Lady Bloggers Society

The Lady Bloggers Society started following me on Twitter last week. It's a great new forum for women bloggers. Today, they're hosting a Sunday Tea Party, which was a great chance to become acquainted with other bloggers. Check out their site!


February 11, 2010

Valentine Revenge?

A few years ago, I broke up with the Christian radio station right before Valentine's Day. It had been coming on for awhile. Perhaps it was just a failure to communicate, but I felt like I was invisible to the station.

I did my part. I invited the station into my home and my car, but the station left me feeling like a third wheel. I kept thinking the situation would improve, that the station would change its ways, but alas, it didn't happen. And shortly before Valentine's Day, I had enough and I walked away from the relationship and never looked back.

I had my next radio relationship already picked out. It began innocently enough, with me listening to their Sunday morning programming. But I soon found myself leaving the station on into Sunday afternoon, and then into Monday. I gradually fell out of love with the Christian station.

What caused the rift? The Christian station's focus on couples. Focus doesn't even begin to cover it. Everything they did revolved around couples. The on-air conversations, the promotions and giveaways, and as Valentine's approached, the bad situation only got worse. The only time they ever mentioned single adults was when they ran ads for a dating service. I found myself wondering if they even knew that Jesus was single.

When I left the relationship, I fantasized about being part of the Arbitron radio survey during the all-important February sweeps. That would be my chance to let the Christian station know how badly they had neglected me.

I had all but forgotten my lost radio love, when a couple of weeks ago, I got home and saw Arbitron on my Caller ID. Could it be? Would this be my chance to fill out an Arbitron diary during February sweeps?


A few days later, I was home when Arbitron called again. Not only were they asking me to fill out the diary during February, the week they picked was February 11-17...Valentine's week!!! I considered it a (somewhat delayed) answer to prayer.

But then it occurred to me that I couldn't even remember how many years it had been since I last listened to the Christian station. Maybe someone on staff had finally figured out that roughly half of the population is single. Maybe it was worth checking on before totally dissing them to Arbitron.

So over the last week, I listened to my old friend a few times. And you know what? Maybe it's the time of day that I've been listening, but the station seems to have improved. Even this close to Valentine's, it's not making me crazy with couple talk.

I still prefer the station I switched to after I felt jilted by the Christian station, but it's OK. When I was in the car for 10 minutes this morning before realizing the Christian station was still on from last night (I really meant to change back before getting out of the car), I was only mildly annoyed that the Christian station would find itself in the very first slot of my Arbitron diary for the all-important February sweeps.

The truth is, if I can't remember how many years it has been since I walked away from that radio relationship, I guess maybe it's time to let go of the grudge. =)

February 6, 2010

Man Caves or Women's Clubs

Apparently men hate going to church even more than singles in general. So imagine the number of men in the single adult ministry, where women greatly outnumber men in most singles classes. Those who think singles classes = singles scene could not be further from the truth.

There's a whole movement dedicated to trying to get the church to become more welcoming to men. Check it out at ChurchforMen.com. On the Pastors/Leaders page, you'll find this quote:

There are signals in the sanctuary. Let’s say a common working stiff named Nick visits your church. What’s the first thing Nick sees? Fresh flowers on the altar. Soft, cushiony pews with boxes of Kleenex underneath. Neutral carpet abutting lavender walls, adorned with quilted banners (or worse: Thomas Kinkade paintings). Honestly, how do we expect Nick to connect with God in a space that feels so feminine?

I think their point is absolutely valid. I can tell you from writing this blog that men will read the posts with a picture of a power tool, but a picture of a flower? Um, not so much.

Combine the reticence of men to go to church with the demographic disparity between men and women in many of our cities, and you can understand how it's so easy for the older singles classes to become women's classes in the blink of an eye. Check out this map from WhosYourCity.com.

I live in a city where single women outnumber single men by at least 10,000.We're in the hole going in. But that's not enough.

Sometimes we seem to go out of our way to created a self-fulfilling prophecy, to create a place where men feel like they don't belong.

I love to watch Sell This House on A&E. You may have seen it, too. Potential buyers walk through a house that's not selling and their comments are recorded. The comments are played back for the homeowners, and most of the time, it's a painful experience. The strangers who comment on the home don't know the owners, and they see things the homeowners have missed. My all-time favorite comment came from a young man in his 20s who saw the dated furniture and lace doilies and remarked, "It looks like dead people live here."

The 50-something homeowners were horrified.

After I saw that episode a few years ago, I started looking around my church and wondered what the guy who saw dead people would think.

We have areas in our church that have been beautifully decorated...by women. And they look like it.

We have too much artwork that looks like someone's grandmother chose it. We'd probably be better off if we left the walls blank. (In design, blank walls are considered "negative space" and are often a design advantage.)

We have a commitment room where people who make professions of faith meet with a counselor in order to join the church. A room with silk flowers on the tables. The flowers are supposed to make it feel homey.

If the home is a funeral home, then yes, those silk arrangements are doing their job.

Read the New Testament where the early followers of Christ lived with a sense of adventure and excitement. If we want today's men to feel like they're on the adventure of their lives by choosing to become followers of Christ, well, silk flower arrangements aren't sending the right message.

Then I look at the single adult classrooms and I shudder.  I think most men have a harder time with the idea of singleness than most women do. As hard as it is for women to walk into a class by themselves for the first time, it's even harder for men. And too often what we give them when they walk through the door is nothing but reasons to never return.

It doesn't feel adventurous when there are at least 5 women to every man who is in the room.

It doesn't feel adventurous when you walk into a room where people grab a donut, sit in their chairs and stare at a wall until it's time for class to start.

It doesn't feel adventurous when you walk by a singles classroom that is decorated for Valentine's Day. Seriously. A heart on the door, and hearts on the wall. We're not talking about symbols for Wild at Heart here.

It doesn't feel adventurous when your class has dumped a Super Bowl Party in favor of a Valentine's luncheon...and a chick flick.

It doesn't feel adventurous when women take all of the leadership roles and never ask for input from men.

Feeling like an alien who has landed on another plant is not the kind of adventure men are looking for. But that's what we've given them.

Is it too late to create a place where men will feel welcome? I hope not. I think the encouragement we receive from other followers of Christ is just as much needed in the lives of men as it is in the lives of women. But we have to find a way to make our churches and our classes feel more like man caves than women's clubs. It's more than decor - although clearly that's the first message we send. Our attitudes have to change, too.

Otherwise we might as well just paint the walls pink and be done with it.

February 2, 2010

Living Heroes of the Faith

I have a grandblog. My friend, Lea, who has been married pretty much forever, began reading my blog this past fall. As the mother of 5, she often had younger mothers ask her for advice and one encouraged her to write about her own experiences. So Lea found encouragement from my blog to go online and now women from all over are reading about her trials and triumphs as a wife and mother. Her blog isn't limited to parenting, however, and I often find myself feeling convicted by her posts at MyLetterstoEmily.

Last week, she wrote about Miss Edna, who Lea called a Living Hero of the Faith.

Lea's one of my heroes.

So is my friend, Nancy, who like Lea, has not wasted any of her life experience. Nancy was married and the mother or 4 boys when her life turned on a dime. Her husband died suddenly when Nancy was in her late 40s or early 50s. If I remember the story right, she had at least one son still at home when her husband died from a heart attack.

I've heard Nancy joke about getting angry at her husband for leaving her too soon. I'm sure she probably didn't find much to laugh about at the time. They had moved out east of the city expecting to grow old together in that house, yet Nancy was left to live there alone for many years. It was only 6 or 7 years ago that she moved into town to be closer to family, to church, and to friends.

She had spent years working with youth, as mothers raising their families often do. Widowhood gave Nancy a new passion, a passion to work with single adults in the church. Over the years, she has helped local churches begin single adult ministries from scratch, and she has kick-started a few others. I met Nancy when she was serving as a director in one of the other classes in my church. Not long after that, when her peers were counting down to retirement, Nancy accepted a part-time job as a minister to singles at another church in town. She continued to work another full time job as she built that ministry. Nancy understood that wholeness can come only from a relationship with Jesus Christ - not from another person - and she was willing to do whatever it took to make sure others who were single understood that, too.

A few years later, Nancy stepped down from the singles ministry job and returned to my church. As youthful in spirit as she is in appearance, she continued her full time job, as she graciously took on responsibilities in my church, teaching, helping to lead our single adult council, and singing in the choir.

Not long after she came back, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She went through the chemo, lost her hair, and throughout it all, maintained an amazing amount of calm. She was frustrated when her hair grew back with a totally different texture, but she just grinned and learned to deal with it. I know she was exhausted and at times felt awful, but I never heard her complain.

Nancy recovered, and took her gift of teaching to a class outside of the single adult ministry, teaching in one of our church's largest classes. She has still ministered to single adults through that group. The class is diverse, with members ranging from their 50s to their 80s, men and women, married and single. It's one of the classes that made it possible for singles in our church to find a mixed class to call home. Now there are many classes in various age groups that are open to both singles and couples.

Nancy has not slowed down, even after retirement. She has led a women's Bible study downtown at noon every Thursday for last few years. She has a co-leader, so she could be free to travel to see family whenever possible. There are a couple of guys who she loves to spend time with, often hitting antique stores and I think a few estate sales, as well. She cheerfully stepped out of her own class for a few months to help my single adult class get started 4 or 5 years ago. She opened her home repeatedly for dinners, game nights, and Bible study. I know it was a lot of work, but she was happy to do it. When the women in our class had an old-fashioned tea party, Nancy gave several of us beautiful gloves to wear.

Nancy is blessed with the gift of wisdom. I can't tell you how many times I have called her to vent about some frustration, or stopped to talk to her in the parking garage, or caught her leaving the choir loft, and she always has the right words, and can usually turn my frustration to laughter.

I have no idea how many people Nancy has mentored over the years, but I feel blessed to be one of them. She could have pursued marriage after her husband died, but instead, Nancy chose to allow God to use her in the lives of others.

Nancy is facing the challenge of her life right now. Cancer has returned, and it's extensive. But Nancy and I had another friend (and hero), Kathy, who once had just as dire a prognosis but lived more than 6 additional years. I don't know if Nancy will be blessed with weeks, or months, or years, but I do know that she trusts God with all of her heart, and He has brought her through so much in her life. She has already been blessed with something her husband didn't have, the chance to spend more time with their sons, to see her grandchildren grow up, and to see a couple of her sons walk her granddaughters down the aisle.

Death does not scare Nancy, because she knows Christ has won the victory over death. Join me in praying for Nancy, that God will give her as much quality time as possible, that when the time comes, He will allow her the same dignity with which she has lived, but that before that day comes, she will be able to spend time with each of her sons.

Nancy, you have no idea how many people you have touched through your faithfulness. May God surround you with a cloud of witnesses, blessing you as you have blessed so many of us. You are loved.