Showing posts with label Vocational Calling. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Vocational Calling. Show all posts

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. 


Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Top 6 Takeaways of My Hometown Conference



A beloved tradition of mine is to venture to my hometown each summer and help at my mom's conference. Know Your Impact is a cost-efficient and highly-equipping opportunity for educators of all settings.  In the above pic, the keynote speaker is presenting my mom with a gift of appreciation. What fun! 😁

From "Mrs. Beautiful of MHS '04" telling me that I get prettier with age, πŸ˜‚ (#ConfidenceBoost) to learning new ways of using technology in the learning space, KYI was filled with takeaways, but for now, we will start with the top six.

Doc Brown getting rid of implicit biasses one amAzing talk at a time. 

Doc Brown sets the standard for Keynote addresses. 
  • Every second of Doctor Adolf Brown's address was infused with his endless knowledge of behavioral science. From laughing to dancing to crying and creating, my brain has never held so much oxytocin/many endorphins in a lecture hall. I loved how his vocational calling as a professor/dean/author/speaker was so beautifully integrated into his life as a dad and husband. His wife was even on his PR and Tech teams--so.Cool! He had many tweetable tidbits, but my fav might have been, "Genetics may lower the gun, but environment pulls the trigger." If your event is needing a keynote speaker, check out his website and search no further. Seriously, if you want motivation with some sharp undertones of spirituality and heaping doses of research, he's your guy. 
The fantastic musician, Mitch Michael with my Mom, my sister from another mister, Hilary, and future YA Author, Anna Rhea

When you're following a divine nudge, God will bring about the "right" people to partner with you towards the goal.
  • Back in January, my mom joined me as I presented at a Children's Pastors Conference in Orlando. While she was there she was recruiting musicians for KYI. As we dined at the Royal Caribe Hotel, we heard the glorious sounds of Mitch Micheal and he agreed to offer up some tunes at her KYI conference. He is an insanely versatile pop rock/acoustic/acoustic rock artist. He can do Cash one second then jump up three octaves and do Coldplay. Insane! He's amazing on guitar and his voice is beyond lovely. Check him out! 😍
  • As I have shared before, my favorite teacher of all-time is my choir teacher from middle school and high school, Mrs. Catherine Lindsley. Two years ago, I met her partner-in-crime, Hilary Strum and she and I have since bonded. Although I only get to connect with her when I am in Mabank, I honestly feel that she is my sister from another mister. πŸ˜‚ Her friendship has been a blessing on both a personal and professional level. 
  • One workshop that I attended was on using Google forms to connect with the parents you serve. Anna Rhea was the presenter and after one-minute into her content, I knew I was learning from a highly creative, competent, and hilarious person. As we got to talking, I found out that she is an aspiring YA writer with some books already completed. I connected her to another Winfield author, Andrea Berthort, and I can't wait to buy her first book. ❤ To add to this, Anna and I are now niche-mates and will be trading publishing advice for editorial work on my next book. How fun is that?! 
Christian parenting resource author, Callie Grant
  • I also had an awesome conversation with Christian parenting resource author, Callie Grant. She was another one who my mom recruited while at the Children's Pastor's Conference in Orlando. Instead of premarital counseling books, she writes resources for parents to use while they are expecting a child. Her work is beautiful and unique. Click on the above link and see how it can enhance your church's serve. 

Region 10 Autism Consultant, Layne Pethick 

Layne Pethic taught me to move differently with my toddler and screen time. 
  • Did you know that both Steve Jobs and Bill Gates limited their kids to twenty-minutes of screen time a day? πŸ˜• Yep, it's true. This is shocking considering that the average kid in America spends seven hours a day in front of a screen when kids really should not be in front of a screen for more than two hours a day (and kids under five should only be in front of a screen one-hour a day). Layne taught us that too much screen time increases cravings, alters kid's mood and causes inconsistencies in speech. After being in front of any screen, all of us need around five minutes for our brains to scramble back into place before transitioning on to the next thing. 
  • Layne's presentation was based on 55 neuroscientific studies and he shared that the latest research is pointing to the sad increase of anxiety and depression in teens due to increased screen time. 😒
  • The three things we need to support healthy brain development at any age? Layne proclaimed, "conversations, play and being in nature". (It's really not that surprising, right?) 
While I was presenting at KYI, my Aunt Nancy (and Dad, and Grandparents) 
filled Henley's days with fun. 

I am (almost) ready for Henley to go to preschool. 
  • Fear has been overwhelming me lately as a parent. Pour on the courage, Lord! Help me to gather up my gumption! πŸ˜† As my offspring turns four in the fall, I am shockingly terrified of sending her off to preschool. However, as I saw how much fun she had with my Aunt, and all of the neat things my Aunt taught her, it gave me a glimpse into our new chapter. And what I saw made this wimp-of-a-parent a lil' bit bolder.  

Me and my bold offspring, Henley June

Here we are exploring the "7 Dwarfs of Setting the Brain up for Success: The Internal and External Factors that Affect Every Learner".

As a presenter, it is helpful to set out promotional materials on the tables/chairs before folks arrive. 
  • When I have presented in the past, I always waited until the end to share fliers on my book, workshops or online book club. And I always wait for folks to ask for them first, as to not come off as pushy or cocky. However, since I was offering three different workshops at KYI, I figured I had nothing to lose in doing a little experimenting. With this said, during my last workshop, all of my promo materials were awaiting folks at their tables as they arrived. The timing of this experiment was also golden because most of the people got there twenty-minutes early. (Who are these people?!)To my surprise, people were actually interested in them.πŸ˜† Most took them home, some took pictures of them, and the rush of book sales after my presentation was more than those of the past. (Insane!) Most importantly, this intentional time for them to explore what I was all about enriched our conversations because they knew the ways that my services could help them. From now on, promo materials will always be set out at the start! πŸ’ͺπŸ’“πŸ™‹

My fav hometown dining spot, Vetonis

There is just as much comfort found in change as there is when things stay the same. 
  • In the fourteen years since I flew north, it seems that one of the rare things that remains unchanged in my hometown is my fav restaurant, Vetonis. This place is very near and dear to my heart. I learned how to go on dates here. I won a speech scholarship here. I got shot looks from my mom for eating an entire calzone (on multiple occasions) here. πŸ˜…(#NotAshamed) When I think of my years in Texas--I taste the sub-par pizza of this almost out-of-place mom-and-pop joint. It nurtures me on every level, and I am so thankful that the menu, like the wallpaper, has not changed in two decades.  On the flip side, I am thankful for the change in my relationships. My Dad and I are much more capable of healthy convos now then when I was in school, and I am so grateful. I am thankful that we have both evolved as emotionally mature humans (for the most part). I have also reconnected with friends from my teen years in new and fresh ways because of KYI, and this calls for much rejoicing as well. 
Thanks, Mabank, for a refreshing time, and in closing, I will share two of your eye-catching murals.

"The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese." Prez. Willie











Monday, June 4, 2018

Aidy Bryant and Goals

source 

Back in 2012, Saturday Night Live was enhanced with the addition of Aidy Bryant. Through her roles as  Huckabee Sanders, a cop in Dyke & Fats , and of course--the many hilarious digital shorts, her values, writing, and acting have been "instrumental in shaping the new and distinctly feminine comedic sensibility" on the forty-plus-year-old show, as expressed by Anna Silman


As one who stands in awe of comedy writers, I was stoked to see that Aidy had just tied the knot with another comedian. (Yay, love!) This excitement led to a super-fun sesh of social media stalking and to the discovery of this lil' gem. 



Aidy's Instagram from Second City less than a year before she made it onto SNL

Now, the only things that I love more than well-written comedies are goals. I love setting them, reaching them, and in the process, I love exploring why it is that some get going when the going gets tough and others don't. I am eternally curious about the spirit of resiliency.

For example, have you ever wondered if Dolly Parton's self-talk is that different than "Rosemary's Granddaughter", Miss One-hit-wonder, Jessica Andrews'? 

Questions on grit are music to my ears! ♭♮♯

With this obsession, you can see why Aidy's above post caught my attention.

Here she was, just doin' her insanely talented thing at an improv club and while on a break, she's watching SNL-- a goal that would be obtained in less than 9 months.

Do you think she knew when she snapped this pic that she would be auditioning for SNL?
Probably.

Do you think she thought that she would actually make it?
Possibly, but then again, 32 of the most famous comedians failed to make Michaels laugh.
Did she even stand a chance?😳

Regardless, here she was on her break watching SNL. Not only was she choosing an R&R activity that would naturally polish her skills, but her present surroundings were filled with the hopes of her future. (And boom goes the dynamite!πŸ’₯)

I know what you're thinking. The hilarious SNL sketch with Aidy on vision boards?
Coming right up! πŸ˜‚


Ok, now that we have returned to our seats after rolling on the floor with laughter, back to goals.
Is this true? Does surrounding our present with our hopes for the future actually catapult us toward tomorrow's goals? 

Yes.

Our goals begin to not only feel more attainable but also real as we 
marinate our days with them in a variety of multi-sensory ways.

My daughter, Henley, havin' a good ole' time by my vision board

As the psychologist, Barbara Nussbaum teaches, “This holistic experience [of things like vision boards] allows us to connect emotionally to our goals and our process in reaching them. When we invest the time to visualize, in detail, we become more emotionally connected to our wished-for goals,” she says. “And emotions are the glue that connects us to what’s most important in our lives.”

Along with being the glue, discerning our emotional reasons behind a goal is like putting the pedal to the metal on the road to success. In Weight Watchers, we call this "Finding Your Why", and each person's "why" is written in a very visual spot on her weight log so that they are constantly reminded of their reason for joining. 

Not only do our physical surroundings affect the shelf-life of our aspirations, but our relationships do as well. (Big time!) As the famous motivational speaker, Jim Rohn (and my Dad) teach, "We are the average of the five people that we surround ourselves with the most." This means that our view of self, habits, and even goals are all transformed (for better or worse) by those in our social circles. This also means that it should come as no surprise to us that Aidy's besty is another extremely talented and driven comedian. #YouAreWhoYourFriendsAre

Aidy and beloved officemate, Kate McKinnon at 2014 Emmys.

Basically, the more intimate (Is that awkward?πŸ˜•) we become with tomorrow's goals today by filling our surroundings (physical and emotional surroundings) with the hopes of them, the more efficient we become at growing toward them. 

I know what you're thinking, 
"Meg, I still think vision boards are lame, so what else ya got?" 

I hear ya, so here are some other tips to fill today with tomorrow's achievements. Tweak and apply however you best see fit.

When the goal of writing a book struck my heart, I made some major changes in my life. I got off of every board/committee that was not helping me achieve this goal. (I got off of all of them.) I hung up quotes and pictures of some of my favorite writers around my desk, bed, and closet. Now don't tease me, but I put a little shelf right by my bed and it held my most beloved books. For some reason, I wanted them closest to me while I slept--osmosis, maybe? πŸ˜‚

While I folded laundry or washed dishes I would listen to Ted Talks by some of the best communicators. I got serious about practicing mindfulness in hopes of decreasing my negative self-talk. I gave up 1.5 hours of TV at night, so I could get up before the fam and write. Since my brain operates best in the morning, I fiercely protected this time. Me at my kitchen table with Google docs, Mozart, and coffee still gleefully pull me away from my pillow. After two years of nurturing this habit, my days are incomplete without it. 

My creative corner of the world, i.e, kitchen table

I began reaching out to actual authors on social media for advice, and to my surprise, most of them responded! I honored my free-time by filling it with healthy friendships that gave me life, and I found that even in my lil' midwestern town there were five published authors, who I could annoy with questions. πŸ˜‰

So, that's what it looked like for me, but what about you?

What is a goal that is on your heart?

If you have a moment, whip out your favorite pen and reflect on these questions. 

Do you see, feel (smell?) or hear reminders of this goal throughout your day? 
If not, what is one simple way that you could? 

However your brain is wired, do you have a space created where you can work towards this goal? 
If not, what would your ideal workspace look like? 

When is your brain most alive? Morning, afternoon, or night? 
What routine could you establish based on this to work toward your goal? 
(Even if all you have is thirty minutes a day, these add up real quick and can make a huge difference.) 

Are your relationships setting you up for success re: your goals?
(Relationships that suck the life out of you also suck the creativity and focus out of you.) 
Is it time for some boundaries to be established with certain loved ones?

Most of the time, the biggest roadblocks in reaching our goals are our minds. 
How are you at being nice to yourself

If you were to support your best friend toward a goal, 
what would you tell him/her? Write or say those things to yourself. 
(And if you really struggle with negative self-talk, I would highly recommend the work of Ruby WaxNot an overstatement, but her work saved me and improved everything.) 

Know that the God who calls you 
will stir up courage within you,
will accompany you in your waking, 
will sustain you in your seeing.

Monday, May 21, 2018

The Waiting Room: When Waiting on God to Talk Back Gets Hard



Yep--all of the clergy are gallivanting about in Israel, so ya got me. Don’t worry, we won’t be making flames with red glitter or having you act as one of the disciples in front of a gutsy fan.
 (Or, will we?)

My name is Meg and for almost a decade now, I have been blessed to serve as the minister to children and families here. It was not an easy gig to land, in fact, it took me spending some time in the slammer.

The year was  2008 and I was so done with ministry.

As one who spent most of my life as Mandy Moore’s character from the film, Saved (a tightly-wound, Bible-thumping Holy Roller), I had reached spiritual burnout. To add to this, I had just had an ugly falling out with a teammate, and the scars left me done with ministry (a call that had been on my heart since I was 13).

Don’t get me wrong, I was not done with Jesus or spirituality. I was just done with church, done with organized religion, and for my “big life plan” that meant done with seminary.

Although I had applied to seminary (and actually had gotten in), my bruised spirit would not let me go. I decided I would serve as a teacher in my home state--Texas.

Before I could fly south and begin this new chapter (away from the messy and draining world of ministry), there was one last thing I had to do. I had to go on a mission trip to Epworth Children’s home in St. Louis with the Discipleship Team at Southwestern. I might have stopped being a holy roller, but I was still a cheap-skate who had already paid for it, so I went.


As we arrived on the campus, they asked for 3 female volunteers who could lead a time of worship for some of the “children”. Leah, Megan and I volunteered. We were then escorted by a security guard. (Yes-you heard me right.) A female police officer led us down this dark, gray, and cold hallway.

She shared that this particular hall was for young women who did not do well in a Juvenile detention center . Due to their crimes and behaviors being so foul, they now resided here. I hesitantly smiled and hoped my discomfort would not hinder whatever God had planned for this unexpected time of worship.

The guard punched in the code to the thickest door I had ever seen. As it opened, sounds of chattery teen girls filled the air. I did not think hardened criminals would be talking about prom dresses and contouring, but they were. These young women were articulate, beautiful, and surprisingly hopeful. Never had my expectations for a moment been so far off.

After some high-quality mingling, we awkwardly transitioned into a time of worship through song. We passed out song sheets and I began to strum and sing the song “Jesus, Lover of My Soul”. Everyone sang along, and by the first chorus, I lost myself in the song and closed my eyes in prayer.

As I opened them I noticed a girl in a pink shirt and a high pony with her eyes tightly shut and tears streaming down her face as she sang. The image pierced my memory. As I looked at her, I heard the Holy Spirit speak within me (I guess God resorted to words because I was so oblivious to God’s voice at that point.), “I made you for this. I made you for this.” (And I guess God repeated it, just to make sure I got the point.)

Once we left Epworth, I vetoed my teaching plans and started applying for church gigs. That same week (I kid you not) Pastor Beth called me and told me that they were hiring a Children’s Minister and here I am 10 years later.

As I entered Epworth I was

Waiting, and conceitedly clueless. 

This was a moment that I was not even aware that I needed to be waiting for God to speak because I had it all figured out on my own. If I was waiting at all, I was most certainly cluelessly waiting for the wrong thing.

FreeImage.com

Fast forward six years. My husband and I are in a hospital room and I am lying on a plastiky, metally bed. Our high-risk pregnancy has made it to the eleven-week mark and the CVS test is about to begin. Due to my funky chromosomes, creating life was a mere dream of ours for years and here we were seeing her on a black and white screen.

He squeezes my hand as I sing hymns and cuss through the pain of the needle in my stomach. What hurt more than the physical pain was the fear that pulsated through me.

Will our child be ok? 

Between the nervous looks between Garrett and I, the doctor shared how he had never had a patient sing hymns before, but that cussing was a common response to the pain. Our nervous laughter was interrupted by a miraculous sight on the monitor.

“Well, would you look at that...” the doctor said, “He or she’s waving at us.”


As Garrett and I looked at the screen, we saw the tiniest little hand greeting us, as if to say, “Hey, mom! Hey, Dad! What’s goin’ on? I’m doin’ great in here!”

While it would be another week before we knew that Henley was healthy, that sacred sight was enough to still my scared soul. God shared a message of courage and comfort that day, not by words, but by sight.

In that hospital room, I was

Waiting, and anxiously afraid. 

The situation was totally out of my control. No choice of mine would make things any better. I was just fearfully waiting on God to do something because there was nothing that I could do. The problem was way bigger than me. I was just waiting; waiting and anxiously afraid.

Image result for Miki de Goodaboom painting of widow
Miki de Goodaboom
And then we get to 2018. We arrive at today. Over the last few years, a very special relationship of mine has been broken. With a horrible decision swept under the rug by others, I am really struggling to forgive. Time has passed, yet I see no signs of healing.

While I have witnessed first-hand just how miraculously God can communicate and am confident that God will do it again, I now find myself asking, “God, what are you saying in this moment? Will things ever get better? How do I move forward in a relationship in which there is such a strong disagreement? I want to restore the relationship, but how? God, share with me the steps you would have me to take. Speak again, Lord. Speak again. I am open and I am trusting, speak again.”

Right now, in this tough situation, I am

Waiting, and seeking next steps. 

Another way to look at this type of waiting is shared by one of our pastors here, Dave. He shares that months before he was called on by the bishop to serve at our church, he began feeling a divine nudge towards something different.

He could not quite articulate what he was being called to, but he shared these faint whispers with his wife months before the phone rang. He remained open and keenly tuned in to the Holy Hums, and when the call came, it was obvious that this was (we were) his next step.  (Side note: Dave has always comforted me over the years with his famous line of, “Don’t doubt for one second that God will graciously redirect you if you have misunderstood the nudge in some way.”)

When I am waiting, and seeking next steps 

Some parts of how this turns out are within my control. My thoughts and actions can make a difference. I know that God wants me to move, and I am willing to take the necessary steps, but I am unsure of what these are. I am aware that the Holy Spirit will guide and equip me, and I am open and listening for direction.

I am waiting, and seeking next steps.

I am waiting, and conceitedly clueless. 
I am waiting, and anxiously afraid. 
I am waiting, and seeking next steps. 

I am sure that Jesus’ closest friends were, on some level, waiting in similar ways on Pentecost.

Being one of the most popular of Jewish festivals, Pentecost was a time of celebrating the giving of the law to Moses (the ten commandments) and the new harvest. It’s name, ‘Pentecost’ comes from the fact that it fell on the fiftieth day after Passover (a holiday that celebrates how God protected the Hebrew people as they escaped the reign of Pharaoh in Egypt.).

Like most holidays, everyone took off of work and every Jew within 20 miles of Jerusalem would have gathered to celebrate. Needless to say--the place was a-buzzin’ (and we see this in the listing of the countries in today’s Bible verse) . Everyone showed up for the party--except for Jesus’ closest friends. Yes, they were there physically, but I would not say that they were in the party mood.

FLickr
There they were in a place where Jesus had met them many times before--the upper room. There they were in a space where so many lessons of loving service had been taught; where the bread was broken, feet selflessly washed and the proof of wounded hands shown. Here was where Jesus had asked them to wait for the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The weeks building up to this moment had been extremely puzzling. From the cross to the tomb, from the tomb to the sky, nothing was certain but uncertainty. Not only were they unsure of what God was going to do next, but they were unsure of what they were supposed to do next….so they waited.

Rembrandt 
Perhaps his disciple and friend, James, was waiting, and conceitedly clueless.

After all, he was known for his rash decision making and his inability to apply the gospel to earthly matters. Even up to the time of the ascension, he was questioning Jesus about what all of these weird events meant. He might have been waiting, but I doubt this “son of thunder” (nickname) was reflectivity waiting on the right thing.



Maybe there was some waiting, and conceitedly clueless going on in the upper room that day.

James Tissot 
Perhaps his pal, Peter, was waiting, and anxiously afraid.

The disciple that experienced every feeling at the highest, most animated extent was most likely anxious at Pentecost. From what we know of Peter, scenes like him reactively cutting off ears of those trying to arrest Jesus, sheepishly denying he knew Jesus (#groupThink) or impulsively jumping off boats to be close to Jesus were all too common. “That’s so Peter,” was most definitely an inside joke among the gang towards another ’s swift change of mood.

Maybe there was some waiting, and anxiously afraid going on in the upper room that day.


Perhaps the disciple, Andrew, was waiting and seeking next steps.

Being known as the truth seeker who worked in the background of his brother, Peter, Andrew led others to Jesus. At all costs and with great methodology, he valued and sought after truth. Feasibly on this holiday, high above the hype in the streets, Andrew humbly opened himself up and waited.

Maybe there was some waiting, and seeking next steps going on in the upper room that day.

Regardless as to what type of waiting was taking place, their patience was suddenly rewarded as,



“Without warning, there was a sound like a strong wind, gale force—no one could tell where it came from. It filled the whole building. Then, like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks,”

(Like other times in the Bible, NT Wright teaches, "these scaredly strange moments are described with practical words and very real senses".)

“and they started speaking in a number of different languages as the Spirit prompted them.

 There were many Jews staying in Jerusalem just then, devout pilgrims from all over the world (remember--because of the holiday?). When they heard the sound, they came on the run. Then when they heard, one after another, their own mother tongues being spoken, they were thunderstruck.”


Here, unlike anytime before, these flaky friends and distracted students heard the voice of God in a way that shook them to their core. Not only were they convinced of the message of Christ themselves, but the message permeated through them in a way that it became contagious to others.

After the waiting, God did talk back, but the message was not theirs to keep.

Moved by the winds of the Spirit, it was time for them to leave the comfort of the upper room and go out into the streets. They would not go alone. They would be equipped with a boldness of speech, draped with wisdom and the Spirit would make it possible for others to know the healing love of Christ through their work.

Or as one of my favorite authors, NT Wright puts it,

“If Pentecost is simply all about us having new private religious experiences, however exciting and dramatic, we are turning Christianity into a private hobby.
 The gospel of Jesus Christ is nothing if it's not public truth, issuing a costly and dangerous challenge to the world's conceptions of truth. The world of the first Christian centuries was full of competing and clashing cultures, religions and tongues, and the followers of Jesus discovered that the tongues of fire which rested on the apostles enabled them to address these different cultures with a fresh judging and healing word of truth.
May it be so again in our day.”

No matter the type of waiting you are doing,

Waiting, and conceitedly clueless 
You are unaware that a situation needs redirection/recreation from the Holy Spirit or you are waiting for the wrong thing.

Waiting, and anxiously afraid
 You are in the midst of something that is completely out of your control and you are worried out of your mind.

Or

Waiting, and seeking next steps 
You feel the Spirit nudging you to act because a huge part of this situation is totally within your control, but you are unclear of your next steps. You are open and seeking them.

Know that you were not made to wait alone. Your tribe is here with you and God will talk back, but the message is not yours to keep. It’s for the benefit of others as well. 

With the help of the Holy Spirit moving through you and our community, we now offer up this space for a time of intentional waiting. Feel free to simply breath, pray, and seek as the following questions guide you.


How are you waiting today? 

 Are you waiting, and conceitedly clueless? 
(You are unaware that a situation needs redirection/recreation from the Holy Spirit or you are simply waiting on the wrong thing.) 

If so, what was a recent conversation that left you surprisingly defensive? What were you talking about? Offer this observation up to God, and if it occurs again, pray that the Holy Spirit would open your eyes and  (if necessary) adjust your vision. 

 And taking this question beyond yourself--are there other sides of the story that would be helpful to hear? Can you ask him/her to do coffee this week? Or lunch? Can you attend that meeting and just observe--just listen?

Are you waiting, and anxiously afraid?
 (You are in the midst of something that is completely out of your control and you are worried out of your mind. Whether it is the poor choices of one you love, or a diagnosis for yourself or another--there’s nothing you can do to change the outcome.)
estralla canziani

Are you making space in your day for this grief? Are you letting yourself lament? Pray that the Holy Spirit would help you to discern which parts of this situation are truly within your control and which ones are not. God is faithful. God will ground you in wisdom and adorn you with peace.


 And taking the question beyond yourself--is there someone who is going through a similar type of waiting who would benefit from hearing your story? How could your story offer healing to another? You do not wait alone. Hope awaits us in each other. 

Or 

Are you waiting, and seeking next steps?
(You feel the Spirit nudging you to act because a huge part of this situation is totally within your control, but you are unclear of your next steps. You are open and seeking them.) 

 Are you making time to listen intentionally? Or are your days too loud? Too full? When did this divine nudge begin? What do you know for certain that this nudge is not? What do you know for certain that it involves?

 And taking this question beyond yourself--is there someone within your community who has a similar interest? Perhaps someone who had a similar nudge a few years back and noticed it too?  Could you call him/her and swap stories? 


You were not meant to wait alone. 
We are here with you.
God will talk back, but--
the message is not yours to keep,
it’s for the benefit of others as well.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Tomato, Banana: The Differences Between Children's and Youth Ministry

"Tomato, toma(h)to?" It's more like, "Tomato, banana" when it comes to comparing Children's ministry (KidMin) to Youth Ministry (YouthMin).

Yes, they both coexist in the figurative fruit bowl of careers, but these two callings are vastly different.

It makes sense that one is often confused/enmeshed with the other, for there are some similarities. They both involve lesson planning, pastoral care skills, and volunteer teams to lead homo sapiens that are not yet adults. However, upon a closer look, one can see just how different these two gigs actually are.

When compared to YouthMin, KidMin takes more:
  • Volunteers due to the regulated kid/adult ratio. Not to mention that the variety of developmental needs of early to middle-aged kids will require a plethora of gifts among your volunteers.
  • Relational work with parents due to the child being less independent. Parents are (usually) much more protective when their kid is in elementary school, so more connections with parents are needed. (#SaysThisHelicopterMom) This will also call for a teacher who is comfortable with her participants being more dependant on her. 
  • Classroom management skills. Kids reveal when they have checked out mentally much quicker than teens.  Plus, kids (usually) have more energy than teens.

When compared to YouthMin, KidMin takes less
  • Work getting kids through the church doors because they have fewer options of outlets to be with their friends, most kids don't own their own car, and it frankly takes less to impress them. This is not permission to lower the standards of your KidMin programs though! You are not running a YMCA! Make fun the means to the end, and the end goal is always authentic spiritual formation! πŸ’ͺ 
  • Managment of peer relationships and dating drama. 
  • Breaking down of the emotional barriers that a teen might put up as she's trying on different identities as part of her healthy social development. (Thanks, Erik Erickson!) Ya just can't beat the authenticity with which a 4th grader presents herself, and I think in a sense we spend a lot of our adult lives trying to return to this state of presence, wonder and sense of self. Whoa--that got deep *real* fast! Lo Siento...

Contrary to popular belief, both YouthMin and KidMin involve:
  • A leader's ability to tap into a silly/fun mode of being/leading. Up that retention in their brains--make 'em laugh! You are telling the greatest story ever told, tell it with joy! Make the lasting impression that church *can* be fun. 
  • The talents to play the "political church games" enough to shift member's mindsets on what valuing kids and teens as equal and heard members of the Body of Christ looks like. 
  • Biblically sound teaching pedagogies. While in YouthMin, you want to guide your teens in safely thinking abstractly on the mysteries of the faith. In KidMin, you want to understand theological truths so well that you can transpose complex concepts into age-appropriate forms *without* dumbing it down to some weaker version of an Aesop's fable. (Get that out of here!)  

This a huge subject matter and I am excited to hear from you below on the other differences and similarities between these two vocations.✌❤πŸ’¬

Monday, April 30, 2018

The Samuels Among Us: An Interview with Myself


Last month, I interviewed four persons who entered into a full-time ministerial position under the age of 25 and remained in that same position for at least 5 years. After many requests (one), I think it's only fair that I answer the questions that I expected others to answer. Asi que, here we go! 

As one who entered into a full-time ministerial career at a young age, is there something about this profession that makes it weird? If not weird, what makes this type of work unique when compared to other professions?

For sure, this is such a weird gig. Only the called survive in this line of work, and not only survive, but thrive! Before I go any deeper into the weirdness of serving on a church staff, I must first express how weird my story is--how weird I am. πŸ˜‚ I am an odd-ball of a case because I have (thankfully) served on the same church staff since I was 18, and I turn 32 in two months. With this said, my story might read a little differently than others.

Ok, back to the weirdness of the gig to which I have been called. Serving on a church staff as a minister is weird because:
  • People consider the weirdest things as "good donations to the children's and family ministry program". Wallpaper, a (new) catheter, and a stack of old photo albums take the cake as the oddest over the years. 
  • It is assumed that you live like an Amish-nun (Not a thing, but a funny image!), and are not up-to-date on the current trends of fashion, entertainment, or technology. 
  • Folks confuse necessary relational methods from a minister with a desire to be their new best friend. 
  • In honor of being nice and in the name of (how they are defining) 'grace', churches sometimes discount (actual) talent and emotional maturity when selecting volunteer leaders. This lack of standards can be a huge liability and end up hurting the entire team/tribe. 
  • Never will there be a place where volunteers have so much power. This can be a good thing (priesthood of all believers and such) if the above point does not happen, but if it does it will take a strong staff to do some major damage control. 
  • Because all of our staff's job descriptions get blurred by our church members, sometimes blame is misplaced. 
  • When you live in a small town, some always think you are "on the clock". It takes years to teach folks how to treat you when you are at Nieves with your family. (What?! Ministers eat chips and queso?! What?! Ministers leave the church?!) 
  • It is so odd that some want their church to grow and be sustainable, but are highly intolerant of the noise of kids and youth in the said church. It's as if they don't see the connection between the two. 
  • Some were raised on translations of the Bible that were somehow filled with typos. Their versions were sadly void of the stories of Esther, Mary, Joanna, and Lydia. I'm so sad for them because they have been misinformed and believe that women can't lead in the name of the Lord. πŸ˜‰ Occasionally running into these folks is most likely the weirdest thing about the gig. (Let it be known though, I preached my first sermon in the Bible belt, was a chaplain on the east coast and serve in the Midwest, and I have never run into this with members of my own tribe.)  These people are out there though, and we really need to get 'em better versions of the Bible.πŸ˜† 
What is one common misconception of those who serve in full-time ministry settings that you would like to correct?



We are not all like Hilary Faye in Saved or Ned Flanders in the Simpsons. Most of us are genuinely caring people (and I thankfully serve alongside these types). Some of us are not socially awkward.  We are normal people who are capable of feeling the full range of emotions. We have hobbies, vices, friends, and families. We have a work hat, and a mom hat, a wife hat, and a friend hat. And at our best, we know when to wear each one and when to not.

What was it about this ministerial “gig” that made you feel called to it? 
  • The ability to advocate for the church's role as a supplemental family to kids of troubled homes
  • The opportunity to encourage others (of all ages) in their gifts and empower them towards action
  • The love of building strong teams
  • The excitement of exploring the relationship between neurology and spirituality              I have always loved learning about the brain, and one gets to do this a lot through lesson planning or motivating different types of personalities on a team.
By your 5th year, what percent of your job involved these pieces that brought you there in the first place?

Thankfully, I now get to do even more of this type of work than I did when I was first hired.

During your first year on the job, who was your mentor? What made him/her a good mentor?

I was most likely guilty of having too many 'mentors', and by 'mentors' I mean people who I wanted to impress so that I would feel better about myself. So, they weren't really mentors at all, just lil' signs of my emotional unhealth at the time. (Yes--I'm going to make up a word and leave 'unhealth' right there for the moment.😁)

Thankfully God has worked wonders in my heart over the past 14 years since I entered into this church family, and looking back I would consider 4 persons as true mentors to me when I was a mere rookie.

My boss, Dave, has always encouraged a healthy work/life balance for me. And since I came out of the womb a workaholic, this voice was greatly needed. Another strong one over the years has been Rev. Ashlee Alley, my campus minister at college. She was an awesome mentor because she was never afraid to speak the truth in love, and she was very self-aware/self-disciplined. I would also say that the way we are wired is a tad bit similar.

Dr. Michelle Adler was another one who was fierce in the secular classroom and in the religious #KidMin realm. She also carried out her calling as a mom with great conviction and honor. Her compassion for kids with special needs was always inspiring to me, and her confidence was contagious. When I got to Bethel Seminary, I met Dr. Denise Kjesbo who is a powerhouse leader in children's ministry and she models being an academic and a practitioner very well.

All in all these 4 were great mentors to me because they had seen me at my most confused, most emotionally unhealthy and loved me through it. I think they might even still like me. πŸ˜†

What did your day of Sabbath (rest) look like during the first year? What does it look like now?

Jo Saxton teaches that "Sabbath is not the absence of activity, it is the presence of peace." As a high-energy extrovert, the permission this grants is so freeing. Don't get me wrong, my mornings are incomplete if I don't make time to meditate, pray, study and journal, but my limit of introspective time is 3 hours.

With this said, my ideal day of sabbath rest is taking time to be outside (running, walking, collecting sticks with my daughter) and being in conversation with some of my favorite homo sapiens.  I also love going to antique stores or playing board games. These two things are oddly refreshing to me.

Unlike viewing Sabbath as something I honored one day a week (which I used to), I now view it as something that needs to be part of my daily routine. I take 20-minute power-naps 6 days a week and have a tight schedule that intentionally involves times of playing and resting. Unlike when I first started out in the church, my mindset is now to play and rest much harder than I work. And by doing so, my work is much more focused and fruitful. This mentality will also sustain me in my career/calling much better than my old one.

Did you ever have a moment when you wanted to “throw in the towel” (quit)? Sharing as much as you feel comfortable--what all occurred? 

Yes, there have been days that I felt I was in the wrong gig, or that my efforts were all in vain. These days come about when an idea was moving way too slow or an incompetent, emotionally unhealthy volunteer was getting way too much say in how the ministerial work was carried out.

What changed your mind and kept you in the game/ in line with your vocational calling?

My secret for success? I care way less about certain things now. Yep--some things that used to really ruffle my feathers (Ya know, parts of the whole political game of doing church in a small town?), don't even bother me anymore. Being mindful of our thoughts and feelings are forms of practicing healthy boundaries.  I am very picky now about what I do with my emotional and mental energy. It is truly all I have control of in my life, so I cherish it. I choose to focus my energy on the areas of the church to which I have been called and I don't let the others steal my joy. I just don't care anymore. πŸ˜‚

For those youngsters out there who are feeling a Divine Nudge to enter into full-time ministry, what advice would you offer them? 

Nurture those friends that love you as a 'you' and not as a 'minister'. Make time for these persons at least twice a month. (yep-no more, no lessπŸ˜‰) If you are married, give your spouse a break and don't always talk about church-work. You are a fun person, you really are, and your spouse deserves that version of you (and you do too).  Work will be there tomorrow, and there is nothing to be gained by ruminating over it while you fold bath rags. So for now, talk about the next episode of Sneaky Pete and eat ice cream together after your daughter is asleep.  Also, read these books on vocational calling. And above all else--make time each day to simply let God love you. #SpiritualDisciplines

Monday, April 9, 2018

Mindy, Monty, and Ministry: What Comedians Teach Us on Leadership


While some watch sports or cooking shows, I am slightly (ok--very) 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 (written by the blogger, Leah Hartman) 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.

While it has been proven that laughter is healing on a holistic level, today I would like to explore another gift that comedians give us, and this the gift of wisdom in our ministerial leadership.

Source 
After the first 5 years of Saturday Night Live, Lorne Michaels (its creator) left the show due to burnout. Want to be sustainable in your leadership? Tighten up those boundaries. 

This can mean different things. To me, it means that I do not talk about volunteer needs when I am off-the-clock unless the person brings it up to me first. I don’t want others to run away when they see me in the bread aisle for fear I might hound them for their time or talent. I also keep healthy boundaries by only speaking on issues that I am “over” (#busychurch) and delegating the rest to the right personnel. This naturally builds up the rest of our team and eliminates some potential miscommunications.  (I won't bore you with thoughts on rest, work, and play, but all I got to say is that Colossians 3:23 teaches us that in everything we do, do it as if we are doin' it for the Lord. So work hard, but play and rest like you are doin' it for the Lord! πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‰) #ExegeticalHumor

Michaels returned 5 years later armed with stronger boundaries and for forty-plus years now, the show has been killin' it.


Source
Tina Fey shares in her book Bossy Pants that the talent must outweigh the crazy (lack of emotional health) in the comedian in order for the show to be a success. 

A volunteer’s vices must not upstage her talents; if so this is a liability to your team and the reputation of your program. A high maintenance teammate can be a huge distraction from the ministry to which God is calling you. Plus, your other teammates will suffer if the majority of your attention is used on damage-control for this one person.

After the second or third apology to parents, you might need to take a page out of my boss's book and ask, “Is this simply a rough edge of this volunteer who is serving out of her gifts and has loads of potential?” or “Is this is a red flag that this teammate is either A) not emotionally/spiritually healthy at the moment to fulfill this role or B) not serving out of her gifts?” Either case calls for an honest conversation. The latter calls for a potential break from serving or some grace-filled redirection towards a different position.

Source 
The birth πŸ˜‰ of the Mindy Project by Mindy Kaling taught us that when it is heart-work, you don't just survive the hard work, you thrive in it.

Kaling based her show the Mindy Project on her Mom who was an OBGYN. Her show got picked up by FOX on the same day that her mom passed from pancreatic cancer. To say Kaling is close with her mom is the understatement of the century. She considered her a soul-mate. While the grief was insurmountable, Kaling honored her mom's legacy in doing what she was made to do and created an amAzing sitcom.

When you serve in the nonprofit world, it is a necessity (sometimes) that tasks end up on your plate that are not inline with your gifts/passions/job description. I get it, I really do. However, I would be wary of these tasks taking up too much your time, because they will slowly diminish your grit. Doing heart-work (the tasks that our hearts fiercely beat to do) is how we thrive in the moments of ministry that are gut-wrenchingly hard. Like yeast building up bread, time given to heart-work builds up our resiliency over time.

Source
The Dana Carvey Show taught us that no matter how talented a team is, timing is everything for an idea and to make sure that your vision is the same as your supervisor's. 

In 1996, after leaving SNL, Carvey joined comedic greats like Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell and Heather Morgan in starting his own variety show. Despite all of the talent, this show failed due to its crummy time-slot (It was shoved next to Home Improvement. I mean, come on?!) and the big dogs at ABC trying to squeeze Carvey into a different comedic box than he was feelin'. Seriously--there are so many illustrations on teamwork and innovation in their documentary. You have to watch it, friend.

Think long and hard about the timing of your next big idea. Is it being set up for success by its "time slot"? What does this season of life look like for your parents? Your volunteers? Also, communicate this idea to your supervisor clearly and get him/her on board before moving forward (or else, you will get fired after only 7 episodes).πŸ˜†

Source
The Monty Python taught us that other teammates are sometimes needed to carry another teammate along. 

Many don't know this, but the best actor in the bunch (their words, not mine), Graham Chapman, was an alcoholic. In fact, he was late and often clueless of his lines while shooting The Holy Grail. Throughout this time, the other Pythons patiently loved him through it and helped him reach his potential as an actor. They believed in him and their love paid off as Chapman went on to star as the lead in their next flick The Life of Brian and totally crushed it.

Sometimes, in order to be a healthy team, we have to fling another's arm around our neck and lovingly carry her towards the best version of herself (personally and professionally). Can I get an amen?!  (I feel a sermon coming, I'd better move on to the final lesson.)

Source
Miranda Hart teaches us that vocational callings evolve and that our talents can be used to offer healing to others along the way. 

Where do I begin? I have so much love for this chummy (actress/comedy writer/ author/director/producer/mental health advocate) comedian's work. I first "met" the fabulous Miranda Hart on her sitcom Miranda on Hulu when I was on maternity leave. Watching it was like taking shots of oxytocin--instantaneous joy and warmth. Her work was such a cathartic release for me during this nervous season, that for the next 3 years while my husband worked nights, I would fall asleep to her show. Yep, I have watched Miranda episodes over 800 times--impressed?πŸ˜‹

Arabelle Weir hit the nail on the head when she said that, "Miranda is the sort of performer whose funniness is timeless. Every tiny thing she does is amusing. She'd have been a great "turn" in 16th century England or 1930s vaudeville. She can't not be funny: everything about her – her expressions, her mannerisms, her pauses, even her silences – are funny. It is an unlearnable and rare quality."

Ok, I will stop bragging about Miranda Hart. (But, here's the link to her show, just in case you want to check it out.πŸ˜‰)

Bottom line--the underlying value of her work is to offer joy and comfort to others. This is shown implicitly through every word she (very methodically) speaks or writes and explicitly in her work with Comic Relief and other causes for mental health.

While serving in full-time ministry comes with its challenges, (That's a whole other comical post.) we get the privilege of joining people in life's most sacred moments. In these times, may we follow Hart's lead and be fully present, and then explosively share comfort or joy.

I am curious to know who your favorite comedians are, please share 'em in the comment section!