Friday, August 31, 2018

Grow Something Wild & Unruly: The 11 Songs that Shaped Me

Baby Blue, George Straight 
As a small human, I would sing this to my dad over the phone while he was fighting in the Gulf War and Bosnian Conflict. This showed me a glimpse of how talents could be used to offer healing to another. 

Ave Verum Corpus, Mozart 
As a choir nerd, this tough piece quickly became one of my favorites as a teen who had just made the Texas All-State Choir. This song signifies the sweet fruit of focus and grit. 

Creep, RadioHead 
First off, this is the most fun song to do on Guitar Hero, and my little sister and I did so often. This song speaks to me about my occasional feelings of inadequacy. It speaks to how awkward I feel when my extrovert tongue gets the best of me in social settings. 

Cowboy Take Me Away, Dixie Chicks
Ironically enough, this spoke to my newfound independence as I drove to school without my parents with my sister. A true coming of age song, yeah? "I want to touch the earth, I want to grow something wild and unruly. I want to walk and not run, skip and not fall." #DixieChicksComeBackTour

Every Song She Sings, Mariah Carey
 "Fantasy", "Dream Lover", "Obsessed", "Touch My Body", have all taught me that it's ok to be sexy--even fun. Still today, I play her beats as I prep for a hot date. 

Hurt,  Jonny Cash
 As a goal addict/recovering workaholic, this song is a cautionary tale to me and is truly haunting to hear or watch. Achievement is not everything. Plus, it's insane that Cash (#theLegend) passed away so soon after this final song of his was recorded. 

Bach, Cello Suite No.1 
This tune rings of innovation to me. This is my creative process in song form. All that I feel while creating is summarized in this score. So--here is 10 hours of it, because that's how much you will want after you hear it once! 😄

Future Days, Pearl Jam 
This is mine and my husband's song. It spoons me and sounds like the sunrise. It is simultaneously challenging and comforting. It speaks to the beauty of fermented love that only partners who have been together a while obtain. And like a married couple, the instrumental part seems to evolve throughout the entire piece. I mean when the song begins with that soft piano I always think "Hold up--is this the right song?" Plus--Eddie Vedder's voice? I mean come on, pure butter! 

Teach Me How to Dougie, California Swag District
As a young professional, before kids, some friends and I spent a whole new year's eve party learning how to Dougie. This is one of my favorite memories, and I will forever annoy wedding DJs with this request. I was reminded as an over-stressed minister of the healing power of dancing and laughter. This song reminds me that adults can (and should) still make time for fun. 

How He Loves Us, David Crowder 
During my high-risk pregnancy, this was my mantra. I sang it every morning and when I first met Henley, the first words out of my mouth to her were this song. The imagery of "sinking in an ocean of God's grace" was just the comfort I needed. This song? Pure perfection.

Let It Go, Demi Lovato
I know, I know, I shouldn't, but I honestly prefer the Lovato version of this annoying earworm. Henley sings this nonstop, and as an uptight helicopter mom, I need this daily reminder of when to back off and let her speak/choose for herself. As the first song that Henley learned on her own, it taught me that this precious being that I helped to co-create has a voice of her own, and it’s adorable. #Differentiation

Have any of these songs touched your life in a similar way? What songs would be on your list as those that shaped you the most? Any song represent a milestone for you? Share in the comments below! 😊

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Meg's Top 5 Tips for Writing a Book

Do you have a book idea that you actually want to complete?😃 Maybe an idea that has been on your heart for the longest time, and you are finally ready to go for it?  Then seek no further than my five top tips. These five carried me through my first book  and they are currently carrying me through my second. Before and during the creation of your manuscript, I encourage you to constantly be creating these five things. Watch vlog (Such a fun word!) below, and let me know what tips you would add or which one of these is most challenging for you in the comment section. 💜

Monday, August 13, 2018

Mountaintop Momentum for the School Year

Similar to this blog post, there is the occasional ministerial idea with which one struggles with knowing where to start. What committee can coordinate this? Is there enough in the budget for this? If so, what line-item do we use? Who’s an expert on this subject? What PR pieces are needed? What’s our church’s history with ideas similar to this one? What skill sets are needed to pull this off well? Is the fellowship hall already booked that day? In the slew of questions that usually catapult us towards a solid execution, Henri Nouwen counters this rush with an invitation to pause (say what?!) and seek the Holy Spirit’s perspective.

“So often in ministry,  I wanted to do it by myself. If it didn’t work, I went to others and said, “Please!” Searching for a community to help me. If that didn’t work, maybe I’d start praying. But the order that Jesus teaches us [in Luke 6:12-19] is the reverse. It begins with being with God in solitude; then it creates a fellowship, a community of people with whom the mission is being lived; and finally this community goes out together to heal and to proclaim the Good News.” 1

Ministry must begin with solitude because it is in this sacred space where we claim our belovedness in Christ. With this, one can handle any amount of failure or success (and the stress that accompanies both). Moments with God alone gradually rid us of any need to prove anything to anyone; because we are already beloved. This freedom permits us to authentically guide others in discovering their belovedness.

Similar to Jesus praying all night on a mountaintop, culminating his community of disciples, and then ministering together around Judea in Luke 6, our strongest start for the Fall is to make time to be with God and God alone.

Due to the variety of personalities, life stages, and daily rhythms the spiritual discipline of solitude will look different for everyone . For some it will be during long commutes, for others, it might be walking around the lake. My time of solitude is in the still hours of the morning. Ever since Lent last year, I decreased my nightly TV time by an hour so I could wake up early for prayer and study. While my family is still asleep I rediscover my belovedness at my kitchen table.   Spotify’s “Deep focus” station, Starbucks’ “Breakfast Blend”, and my Doterra oil diffuser set the stage for a sacred time of solitude. I open up my the Upper Room’s  “Disciplines” and dive into The Word heart first.

It is in these mountaintop moments that the questions worth asking and the path towards the answers reside. The following are some for this new school year that have bubbled up recently at my kitchen table. I pray they add to your moments of solitude as they have mine. May the Holy Spirit speak to you through questions and in time, the answers.
  • Is each of the children’s and family ministry team members serving out of his/her gifts? 
  • Is joy easily cultivated while CFM teammates serve? How can I better support them in this endeavor? 
  • I have entered a holy covenant with my staff. There will be days when loving will not come easily. Am I in tune with the Holy Spirit in my efforts to love them well? 
  • Is there someone I love that is living in “darkness”? Am I avoiding an uncomfortable conversation with them because I have forgotten that Christ calls me to take the healing light into the world? Is it possible that God has created me for such a time as this? Am I needed to speak life and light into this moment? Do I  know that darkness cannot overcome light?
  • Are there portions of my heart that need to be purified? Any thoughts or feelings that reveal my own brokenness? Have I repented over these lately? 
  • As I peek into the new year, are there any seasons that could unintentionally threaten my discipline of solitude? How is the Holy Spirit guiding me to protect this time? 

 Leadership Magazine Spring 1995 

Monday, July 16, 2018

Seeing God in the the Giggles of Your Summer Binge Watches

While some watch sports or cooking shows, I am slightly obsessed with well-written comedies. So much so, that my friends threw me a shower that was themed Saturday Night Live. There was a “Mom Jeans” skit and more Chris Farley impersonations than one could imagine.  My utmost respect & admiration is given to comedic writers. Laughter is the sweet fruit of the highest form of happiness and these literary geniuses bare this in a simple sentence. Ha! Just like that, that stressful work memory is now silenced by the sound of one’s own glee.

As Proverbs 17:22 teaches, “A cheerful heart is good medicine”. Studies have pointed to the healing power of laughter time and time again. A few belly laughs naturally open the floodgates of oxytocin in the brain. This hormone (found in both genders) not only fills one with love and joy, but it is also a bonding agent in relationships. Sharing a good laugh biologically binds us together. Chuckling is a day at the spa for your psyche, i.e. it’s a natural de-stress tool -and it’s way cheaper than therapy!

So if you are seeking some R&R from your vocational ministry, I would like to share with you one of my greatest loves. While the church realm can be a tense place to serve, it can also be quite humorous, and nothing makes that more apparent than the shows below. They each serve up some freshly diced chuckles and some pippin’ hot theology. And if you’re like me, you have an appetite for both.

With this list, please know I am not suggesting the following:

  • The theology presented in these shows is 100% sound.
  • These shows should be watched by your students. Although, they are full of quality clips for sermons or lessons.
  • Binge watching all 5 of these shows before school returns should be a goal.  #challengeaccepted

All of these can either be streamed on Hulu or Netflix. Along with the links to the show’s page, I have added some of their main theological themes. Feel free to add any that I missed in the comment section.

    • Spiritual disciplines
    • Christology (the study of Jesus Christ)
    • Pneumatology  (the study of the work of the Holy Spirit)
    • Communal living
    • The cloud of witnesses of our faith
    • Vocational calling
    • Forgiveness/Mercy
    • Justice
    • Theodicy (the problem of evil)
    • The separation of Church and state #giveuntoceaser
    • God’s Sovereignty

    • Soteriology (the study of salvation)
    • Grace (God’s unmerited favor)
    • Works righteousness (Can grace be earned?)
    • Vocational calling
    • Immortal Souls
    • The religious pluralism of our culture

    • Vocational calling
    • The Domestic Church
    • Stewardship
    • Grace

    • Eschatology (the end of days)
    • Our fallen nature/Sin (The destruction that can be done with the misused power of religion is quite sad in this show.)
    • Forgiveness/Mercy

    • Is this finally a Protestant example?! (yes.)
    • Although this show is laugh-till-you-hurt-good, one specific episode puts it on this list. It is the first season’s fifth episode, called “Godfellas”. This hilariously portrays a praise band forming and the lead trying out for altar boy. Holy Moly! Talk about funny!

Saturday, July 7, 2018

One-Year Anniversary of the Bluebonnet Child Book

A year ago today, the Bluebonnet Child book was printed for publication by Wipf and Stock. I viewed this as an omen of sorts since July 7th is my best friend's birthday. While seeing one's idea printed on paper is exhilarating, hearing folks share of how this lil' book has enhanced their serve to kids truly takes the cake! In honor of this day, I suggest that we all eat cake and that I repost the original PR blog that was shared many moons ago. 

Can you picture a child who has fallen through the cracks? You know--that student who makes your job ten-times harder, but it's impossible to stay mad because you know what darkness awaits him at home? Though we don’t quite know how to address it, there are kids like this in every church and I call them Bluebonnet Children. This is their book, and if you have a heart for kids, this books is for you.

The renowned bluebonnet flower grows in poor soil.  One would never guess this to be true, but the bright, proud bonnet tells no lies.  Not even unkempt soil can keep a bluebonnet from producing its lovely blossoms. People can be similar to the bluebonnet flower.  They too can be born into poor soil with environmental and contextual challenges.  Kids from neglectful or abusive families are called Bluebonnet Children.

We are trained in Children’s and Family Ministry that the parent is the primary faith nurturer.  But what happens to a child who does not have a healthy parent to nourish him?

While it is tempting to leave such work up to the professionals of the courtroom and counseling sessions, the faith community can also play a formative role and act as a supplemental family.  This book offers helpful tools and inspiring stories to catalyze the entire congregation towards action. The tale of the Bluebonnet Child is heavy, but in Christ there is hope.

The Bluebonnet Child: Finding Grace in Poor Soil is a ministerial resource that guides readers to adopt the Triple-A Approach. With this approach, they can become more aware of the child’s story, advocate for her needs, and theologically articulate how the healing power of Christ is at work in her life.  Each chapter is full of concrete examples and educational tactics that are immediately applicable in one's ministry setting. This is an intentionally short work (twenty-four-thousand words) for the busy practitioner. 

The Bluebonnet Child brings a unique voice to the conversation on healing through trauma because it is written from a theological perspective, as opposed to an autobiographical,  or psychological/ legal one.  Its foundation is James 1:27 which calls the Body of Christ to care for the orphan, the loveless and the fatherless.  Unlike similar reads, this book seeks to improve the systemic issues latent within Children’s Ministry programs.  The author is well-versed in developing healthy volunteer teams - the bedrock of a Children’s Ministry system. Regardless of a reader’s prior knowledge of theology, psychology, or educational theory, this book will hold his hand and lead him into the light of this dark work. Readers can also earn CEUs for this book through a two-week online class/book club where they can discuss its contents right along with Meg and others.

So if a kid's face came to mind as you read this, may I encourage you?😌 Don't be intimidated by this dark topic. Don't think that only counselors and caseworkers can make a real difference. Don't think praying as you turn down the other aisle is enough. You are needed, and this book will hold your hand as you extend the other out in hope. 

Get your copy of The Bluebonnet Child: Finding Grace in Poor Soil on Amazon or shop local at Graves Drug Store Online

Sunday, July 1, 2018

"Where Jesus Prayed", By Danielle Shroyer: A Book Review By Meg

This scrumtrelescent read will fill you up like Thanksgiving Dinner (minus the Tums). It is a rich dish that covers many facets of the Christian faith. It is hearty in the sense that it is satisfying to those of all levels of Biblical literacy.   With each page, readers are led into a different time and culture by Pastor Danielle Shroyer’s authentically wise and witty voice. She is both a credentialed spiritual director and tour guide.

Upon traveling to the Holy Land with her fellow pilgrims, Shroyer had planned to take a break from her “word-crammed” life.  A desire to do more sensing and less talking filled her as she discovered that “Jesus was more human, more real, more divine and more beautiful” than she had ever imagined. Thankfully this break was short-lived, and this literary souvenir can now be shared with the masses. If one is on the fence about checking out this masterful two-hour-read, prepare to be persuaded.
  • Each chapter is based on a  word or line of the Lord’s Prayer that thematically intertwines with a specific destination on her tour. This makes this book a versatile resource for any small group or sermon series. 
  • Carter Rose’s photography is a life-giving spiritual discipline all on its own.
  • While some might be weary of a boring geography lesson, they can expect the exact opposite. Shroyer has a magical way of getting her readers emotionally attached to each timeline and map that her words depict. She writes, “ The air in Galilee feels...FULL. [...]It’s as if the air had more energy in it.[...]I wonder if that’s because Jesus’ imprint is still here, somehow, as he left behind a trace of his own  life-giving force that even two thousand years cannot erase.” She describes the sea of Galilee as Jesus’ routine commute (Galilee’s borders had been divided into quadrants), “Jesus spent much of his life traversing boundaries. Where others were labeled by place or tribe or religious affiliation, Jesus saw fractured hearts, dismembered dreams, the ache of alienation, hopes faint as a whisper.”
sea of g .jpeg
  • Each chapter drips with mind-boggling facts of our Christian story. She writes of the Synagogue in Magdala that was discovered in 2009. It remained in nearly pristine condition for two-thousand years safe underground. To add to the surprise, it was hidden less than two feet below the earth. Amazing!  The new sanctuary in Magdala, Duc in Altum (“into the deep”) honors all women ( named and unnamed) who had walked with Jesus and led others on their walk as well. This part of the book is truly empowering. Tissues will be needed. 
  • Shroyer would not be doing her job as a Pastor if she did not close the book with a booming benediction, and that is exactly what she does. The final destination on the tour is the Chapel at Shepherd’s Field.  Here where the Shepherds heard angelic sounds, Shroyer sends her readers out with, “You remember that you were made for: praise, and joy, and a heart that delights in the glories of this world and its Maker, Savior, and Keeper. You were made to be loved and to discover that love with boundless overflowing joy. You were made to see stars, to witness miracles, to watch love be born into this world, to proclaim it ever new each morning.” 

Monday, June 25, 2018

An Ode to My Donaghy: The Dance of a Senior Pastor & a Children's Pastor

Like Liz Lemon on NBC’s 30 Rock, I too have been richly blessed by the professional friendship of a suave, very-opposite-of-me mentor who has been in the biz for quite a while. For a decade now, similar scenes of me rushing into his office to be either picked up or patted on the back have occurred. He has encouraged me to: grow my position, use our “company” as a writing laboratory, and to “get a life outside of work so I can survive work”.

Many a meeting have I sat across from him studying his techniques with hopes of one day replicating them. He’s keenly aware of the undertones and red-tape of our faith community. His stealthy strategies never cease to amaze. While he’s much more humble than Jack Donaghy his confidence is rooted in his calling and I feel every church employee should get a cup of coffee with this guy.

As Lemon beautifully illustrates, one’s vocation can leave her high on a mountain one minute, then feeling hopelessly ill-equipped the next. A kind mentor is needed to survive this roller-coaster. I know I would have burnt out years ago if not for the confidence, creative freedom, and Michael-Scott-like-wit of my senior pastor.

Similar to Donaghy, Dave would humbly brush off the label of a mentor at first-but for different reasons. There have been times when he denied being my boss when introduced, “I’m a work colleague”, he would say, “a teammate”. I realize now that instead of me gluing my identity to him and striving to write my story as his, he was implicitly nudging me to trust myself more. Who doesn't need this lesson?! Instead of using my days to impress him as the authority in my “real-world” life, he desired for me to focus this energy on impressing the only one worth imitating -Christ.

The time has come, in fact, some would say it’s long overdue. It’s time for an ode to my Doneghy-an ode to my senior pastor. I shall no longer see you as a master and I the young grasshopper. I shall now see you as a friend. Know that whatever type of servant-leader I am in my fifties and sixties will be greatly due to serving alongside you in my twenties and thirties. Before the relationship status is altered, and we become equals, here are the top ten things I have learned from you.
  1. Make the white elephant in a meeting the centerpiece on the table so everyone can get a good look at it. 
  2. Never triangulate between teammates-ever. (DON’T DO IT!) 
  3. Quirky humor has a life-giving and morale-boosting effect at even the most life-sucking, tactical and operational meeting. 
  4. Strive to love (really love) every member of your team, and may your prayer-life be infused with this love. 
  5. Assume the best in people. 
  6. Celebrate your teammate’s strengths, and honor their weaknesses. Realign your expectations of them based on these so they are set up for success.
  7. Make a point to acknowledge the sacrifices your teammates make-in private AND in public.
  8. Know how to intentionally use silence as a tool for powerful conversations or brainstorming sessions.
  9. Timing is EVERYTHING; new programs, funding, the flow of formative worship-it’s everything. 
  10. There is a healthy balance of an “open-door” policy and also maintaining healthy work-life boundaries and you, Sir, wrote the book on it.