“Duped by the Devil”

“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.”

2 Corinthians 10: 3-4

Have you ever been so caught off guard, tricked or blindsided by someone that you were so stressed out that you could hurt something?  I’m talking so mad you could even throat punch someone? I have. 

After stepping down from Women’s Ministry, I found myself in a season of sabbath rest. Or so I thought. I was almost prideful of this rest thinking, “God is so good to me…giving me this season off. Wow…God’s really blessed me in this quiet season.”  I even became “that mom” that dropped her kids off at church on Wednesday nights and went back home to enjoy more of my “sabbath rest.”  

My sabbath season was full of self-pride which softly faded away as a sudden jolt of sadness overcame me one night during worship and prayer.  I was reading 2 Corinthians 10:3-4 and it just spoke to me, lept off the page, convicted me in the Spirit, and started my war against the enemy.  

It was then that I realized that what I thought was a season of sabbath was not. I had been duped by the devil. I had withdrawn from all leadership, including my prayer and accountability group.  The devil had me where he wanted me; isolated and listening to his lies. He convinced me that rest was good and had wooed me with nothing-ness on church nights.  It was easy to hear his quiet whispers and I found myself settling for half truths.  The devil is a liar, because when I thought I was thriving in a season of sabbath, trusting God’s word showed me that I was really drowning in a season of sadness.    

I have never been so mad.  When I read 2 Corinthians 10: 3-4,  my eyes were opened to the lies of my flesh, because now I was on to the devil. I’ve asked myself over and over, “How did I end up here?” and “how do I not do this again?” I knew God was showing me that I had put my trust in my own flesh; that’s what happens when I chose to live in isolation apart from a community of believers for any amount of time.  

2  Corinthians 10:3-4 states that we have divine power for war and we can destroy those strongholds. This is not a simple skirmish; this is a full on war.  I have thrown myself back into asking friends to hold me accountable again. When we go to war against the enemy, we have to trust God’s weapons of warfare for divine power: His Word, prayer & community.  That throat punch is going straight to the devil because This. Is. War. I am done being duped by the devil!

You’d Better Believe It!

**In 1994-1995, I traveled with around the world for a year with the international, performing group called, Up with People.  I lived on a bus with 122 cast mates, 90+ host families, and performed a broadway style show while doing community service in every town we visited.  I came across this reflection piece recently that I wrote in 1998, after a psychologist prepping me for M.Div degree at seminary  told me I was too shallow, too idealistic, and too perfect in my worldview.  I was appalled!  Furious to be exact.  So I wrote this letter to him.  I never gave it to him and long forgot about it, until I pulled out an old file of stories that I’ve been saving for “someday.”  I’ll be 50 this summer….25 years since I traveled that life-altering year…so I guess now it’s finally, “someday!”            

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            The year I traveled with Up with People I saw, felt, lived and experienced more grief, hurt, and excitement than most people do in a lifetime. 

          While traveling and performing with this international group, I lived with gang members in Reno, Nevada, San Diego, California and Florence, South Carolina. I heard their stories of drug abuse, sex, and murder.  My dear friend and cast member was a former member of the Crypts and had to move and start her life over to get away from the gangs. I was there and I felt her pain as she relived it with the current gang members.  Don’t tell me I don’t know struggle and strife.

             I lived in a homeless shelter for a week and met people with stories that could not even be made up on soap operas. I lived amongst them and spent endless hours in their humble midst realizing that I could be one paycheck away from being with them.  I’ve sat and cried with Bosnian refugees in a Red Cross refugee camp in Denmark. I’ve watched their home videos and heard their stories of fear and horror about Saravejo being bombed. Don’t tell me I’m shallow.

                I’ve performed for the King and Queen of Norway one day and worked with street kids the next.  The kids wanted to know if I could get the king to help them find a home; “No, I’m sorry. I can’t.” Don’t think I don’t know pain and hurt from that 11 year olds eyes. I’ve met families who have slept on the floor in their own home so I could have a bed to sleep in. They told me I was the only way their children could ever experience the outside world.  Don’t think I don’t know pressure.

               I have friends in 22 different countries who are from the richest and poorest countries in the world. I know their struggles with racism, terrorism, fear, poverty, and social injustices. I’ve heard countless stories of how my Irish friend views the world from his Catholic, homosexual perspective. I know what it is like in the Czech Republic since the Iron Curtain has been lifted.  Magda and I are years apart in age but she touched my life forever. I’ve seen the pain of a mother’s face who just had twins that were born prematurely. Anja lives in Russia and she wasn’t sure her babies would live because the health system is far less than adequate. I’ve watched the sunset over the North Sea while on my way to perform the United Nations Social Summit of world leaders. I knew that the next day I would be working with AIDS patients in Copenhagen.  What kind of social justice is there?! I can meet world leaders but I can’t help an AIDS patient.

         That year I traveled I saw, felt, and experienced more than most people do in a lifetime.  Seeing the world like I have has changed me forever. I am from a great family because I have met the rest of the world.  I know the pain, hurt, and struggles that people have. I may not know it dramatically in my own personal  family, but I’ve lived it through the 93 host families I lived with and through the 120 people in my cast that I lived with for a year.

           So, yes, compared to the rest of the crazy, pain filled, political injustices of the world, my family is wonderful.  I am who I am because of the simple matter of being appreciative of who I am, where I come from, and how God has blessed me.  If it may seem that I “put on my best face” and portray myself as “perfect” you’d better believe it that I do for how can I not with all that I’ve seen and all that I’ve been given? You’d better believe I know all these things because I know who I am!

 

The Bag

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You might think this just looks like an amazing bag. You might even look a little closer at the tag and see that it’s an expensive, amazing bag. You might look a little closer and see that it’s a NOONDAY bag. That would explain the “amazing” part. And if you’ll look even closer, on the inside, you’d see that it’s from Guatemala!! If you know me and my missionary travels, you’ll know what this new bag really represents to me.

The friend that gave it to me said she was literally just sitting at a party and that I had been on her heart lately. We are in a Bible study together with other teachers at our school and she was just thinking how grateful she was that we get to work at a place where there are Christian teachers and she just thought God told her that I would be blessed by that bag….. so she got for me! She will admit at first she was like “but I don’t know her all that well to be getting THAT bag.” But she trusted the nudging of The Spirit and she was obedient to the Spirit’s moving. She was blessed by her obedience and in her giving.

 It was amazing to watch her face, with tears in both of our eyes, as I told her that this bag is made in Guatemala and even moreso to be able to tell her that I used to live there! That it’s the only other country where my heart really & truly lives! I told her this not just a bag, but but to me, it is my heart wrapped up in a present!! A present that I’ve literally eyed for over a year and have never wanted to splurge that much on for a bag, just for me! I even looked at buying it again just last month but ended up just wishing……

And so I’ve learned this about presents this Christmas season…..

When the giver, the gift & receiver all collide into one present, it must surely be the truest form of gift giving at its best. It’s must surely be how God meant for His son to be for us….. the perfect gift for all of humanity wrapped up into one blessing…. the giver, the gift & the receiver all in one.  And in the end…. God gets all the Glory when even just one of us listens to the Spirit’s nudging and actually follows through!  May we all give more of ourselves this Christmas season simply just by listening.

Merry Christmas!!

L.I.S.T.E.N.

YIKES!! This acronym thing  it out of control.  However this one isn’t mine!!  I’m just blogging, processing and trying to remember this from Kelly King’s book, “Ministry to Women: The Essential Guide for Leading Women in the Local Church.”  (Wow…now that’s a title!) 

She states that we can best share our faith stories by listening better to those around us and reminds us of the Scripture in James 1:19, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.”  She used this L.I.S.T.E.N. acronym from David and Norman Geisler in their book, “Conversational Evangelism.”  (See….it isn’t just me with the acronyms). 

Learn their story

Invest time in them

Search for gaps in their beliefs

Throw light on their beliefs

Expose cracks in their beliefs

Navigate the conversation carefully

How can we effectively do this?  We have to be better listeners and avoid what I call the “Yah! Me too” syndrome.  You know…when someone is talking and you’re trying to make a connection with them, or perhaps not, you’re just simply talking over them and hogging the conversation, and you start telling your version of the story they are really trying to tell you.  

I believe we can all be better listeners by:

1) affirming the speakers own words;

2) not comparing their story to our own story; and

3) don’t be a “yah me too” conversation hog. 

Wrecked for His Glory

Been sitting on this in my “back pocket” since one Saturday in October of 2016.  It’s time to “put it out there” and just share it on my blog. I finished reading Kelley King’s book about ministry to women. In it, she asks for women know know/voice/understand/name their “why” for ministry.  I LOVE that God gave this to me 2 years ago and I love that I DID write it down.  I want to be able to look back, point and say, “THERE! THAT’S what God said & HERE! This is what God did with that. 

Hmmmm….a book you say?!  Maybe someday…maybe not.  Probably just a blog for a small handful of readers.   I don’t know but when I stand on “this” side of something that God told me He was going to do and I can point “there” and say I was warned……it’s all God and it’s all good. Just like the book Annie F. Downs wrote, “Remember God,” I have GOT to write it down….for that reason alone…to do just that…..remember God.   

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October 2016

I’m either crazy or God is fixing to wreck my world for women’s ministry.

Its a quote from the Spirit to the depths of my soul: “I’m going to wreck your world over the next year for women’s ministry.”

But God you’re going to have to bring my husband and family alongside me. I’m all in. Not sure about them.

No. YOU are going to bring them alongside. It’s a call to have & to answer.

I know this feeling.  I’ve been here with you before, God! It’s a calling. It’s my calling. Maybe it’s time I get it right. Maybe it’s time I give up the complete feeling of guilt for not living out my calling to serve the church that God called me to so long ago. I can’t even imagine what it feels like to live without this guilt. Somewhere. Down deep inside me. Way deep. Stuffed down and away for years is my true and holy calling.

But for now, I’m going to throw up. It’s so overwhelming –your love and your grace and your power. It’s humbles me to the very depth of my soul. My inner most being — wrecked for your glory.

Ohhh….. Ding!  Can you hear it?  Can you see the lightbulb above my head? This is how I got wrecked…all of these events through a series of soul-searching conversations with God are how I noticed that God was “wrecking me” for women’s ministry and wooing me back to my true calling. 

*I cried from my gut about finding my preaching stoles boxed up and put away in storage. My calling has NEVER gone away. I just keep “stuffing” it away. God still calls me to serve the church. I’ve known in my head but maybe now I’m getting it in my heart again.

*In a time of prayer and worship you’ve whispered to me– in the worship center singing and praying to God– I remember the exact day, Feb 16, 2016.  Matt said we need someone to lead women’s ministry. He texted me that a couple of weeks ago. I’ve saved it. Like a “marker”. A turning point. THAT text haunts me. Like– it’s me. It’s my calling. I kept hearing Jesus say in my spirit–I’m going to wreck your life over the next year for women’s ministry. Ok. Great. I’ve got a year.

*Panicked at a Wednesday night prayer meeting, called Regenerate, that I might absolutely gut cry when speaking about CHASE. It’s in that that I’ve come back to my calling. It’s through IF that I’ve felt God calling me to BELIEVE (my rock) and to LEAD (my domino). Feeling so humbled and so close with God these days that it’s just that RAW. …. Glorious and beautiful. Scary and frightening.

* Through  the Chase Bible study I’m stepping out of fear and stepping into my true & holy calling.

* During Choir one night, I was about ready to spiritually throw up because God calling ME to convince my husband about my calling. WOMENS ministry. I am to bring him along side. Not just God. Me. I barley even made it through choir without my heart racing. I knew then that God had answered a prayer. No God. Not this! Not ME telling my husband I want to do women’s ministry more. Not me. You God. You do it.

No. It’s you.

I’d rather you do it Lord!

I think I almost begged God for me to not be the one to tell him I still have a calling. He knows it….I was a Methodist minister when he met me!   He’s always been supportive. He’s not complained about IF and Bible studies. But still, I shut down. And here– here is where I think is another instance of when I have resorted to food. I know this feeling. When God bubbles up, its sometimes so overwhelming and so much to process that sometimes it’s too much to process. And so– instead of dealing  with God and recognizing a great work that He really IS doing within me– I stuff Him and my feelings and my calling back down. Under the surface. Under the food. I stuff it. I stuff myself because it’s so much bigger than me.

I’ve asked myself why I gain weight. Here’s what God’s been showing me– I’m accomplished and fully capable of a lot of things.   Many God given talents– teaching. Leading. Singing. Church. I seek God for guidance and strength in all of these but I am not 200% dependent upon him for accomplishing these things.

So huh… I’m trying to be in control of my own life. I can’t do it without Him, but to do this weight loss— I have no strength of my own. It will only be accomplished and do-able because of him. This way….HE. GETS. THE. GLORY. NOTHING BUT HIS GLORY! But this weight thing– I’ve never controlled it. And now I hear a faint whisper from God that I’m trying to grasp. He tells me it’s the one thing that I will never be able to do without Him. It will be because of Him. For His glory.

Really?? God cares how much I weigh??!  No. It’s about letting God move and be and do through me in this way. (Ha! “In this weigh.” You’re so funny God!) So that to be sure — that when it’s said and done- I will have depended only on Him. And I will succeed only because of Him. I must fully and completely surrender. My life. My will. My control. All to God. All for His Glory.

So here we go. Mark the date. God said He’s wrecking my life over the next year:

To quit depending on myself.

To quit stuffing my calling down with food.

And to let God have complete control. Complete surrender.

This is about to being wrecked for the good. Wrecked For a calling. Wrecked for making a disciple.Wrecked for not making myself known but wrecked for giving God all the glory.

And when I even remotely think of leading women’s ministry — I’m so unworthy. Sooooo not enough. So not qualified. Soooo not able to measure up. But again– that’s when God will carry me & will do my tasks and order my steps. He will be my guide; will be my “enough” and will make me worthy. And it will be solely in order to give Him the glory. Not about me. Not about a degree. Simply about a calling; and a God who gets all the glory.

So just when I start to doubt — and think I’m crazy in my head– I go back to what God taught me all during the 2016 year through IF studies– to BELIEVE. Luke1:45, “blessed is she who believes that the Lord will fulfill his promises to her!”

Ok. So maybe I’m not crazy after all. But if I am– I’ll give God the glory! ☺️

Evangelism is Everyday

Kelly King, women’s ministry specialist with Lifeway in Nashville, has an amazing new & practical book for ministry to women.  One of the most important things I not only want to remember from this book, but really need to learn, is from a section in her book about “how to reach the lost and/or unchurched.”  These are my thoughts on this section in her book.  On one hand, it was like a checklist of things and on the other hand, it was a to-do list for ministry to women.  

1. Determine who needs the gospel! Make a list. It should be an easy list to make. A list of a friend, neighbor, co-worker or someone in the community who is spiritually lost and needs some sweet love and a whole lot of Jesus.  

2. Pray for them…..not just once…but ongoing. When we tell someone we’re going to pray for them… really do it!  Don’t just do it once, but everyday…evangelism.  Everyday!

3. Be aware of the daily divine appointments; D.D.A. (oh no…another acronym?! In all fairness, THIS one doesn’t spell anything!)   Meaning, be sensitive to the Spirit’s leading & prompting.  Our daily routines and schedules are really to be seen as our opportunities to reach out to others.  There are way too many times that I know the Spirit is leading me and I get too busy to stop and follow the leading.  But I also am quickly reminded that those encounters with Jesus are life giving to everyone involved.   

4. When we do ministry to women’s events, we need to always talk about evangelism and emphasize it.  We need to allow space and create time to talk about spiritual things, and more specifically to allow women the grace to talk about spiritual questions they have or are struggling with.  None of us have the answers and we need to be specific and intentional about sharing salvation.  We can no longer assumer that everyone in our church events have been saved and had that true “conversion” experience with the Lord and in their faith journey . 

5. And, because of the increasing number of the lost and unchurched people in our communities, we need to let every conversation with a non-believer move them 1 step closer to Jesus.  I am a firm believer that all too often we don’t give God credit for what He’s doing and how He’s working in our lives. We all need to be sharing the stories of our faith journey.  We can feel overwhelmed and inadequate in sharing the Gospel, but if we will just share and tell what God is doing in our lives then it doesn’t have to feel like a “big deal” and we can surely communicate about that. 

 

 

JOY or J.O.Y.

 It isn’t even the time of the year yet when we really start thinking about the next year and what 2019 might hold for us.  Yet this morning during my quiet time, I found myself already reflecting on my word from this year…. JOY.  I’m sure I was way too uptight and overstressed and forgot to enjoy the little things with my family…the homework, the pig shows, the daily ins & outs. And so, at the end of 2017, I made it a goal for this year to remember to TRY and enjoy all of that more.  This season of kids, show animals, sports, laundry, school and homework won’t last forever and I want to have JOY in the midst of it.  So as I sat there, in my cozy, comfy corner of my little world this morning at 5:30am on a  Sunday morning, I found myself wondering if I had lived with enough JOY this year. I’ve been sad, mad, and disappointed at myself that I didn’t write down everything this year that HAS brought me joy.  But then, I asked myself WHAT has JOY really even looked like this year? 

I was mad at myself that I didn’t make a list of all the little things my husband & kids did and said that just made me giggle, roll my eyes and find pure joy from within.  As I continued to reflect, I had 2 thoughts that rattled me about that word JOY……did JOY really look like what I thought it would look like all year?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  But I do know that God always reminds me that what I think I am doing is never what I really AM  doing.  He’s funny like that.  He really whispers to me in a still silent, knowing moment and for me, it is more than I can process most of the time. 

I looked at the pretty, little, decorative, gold-foiled box I have on my fireplace mantel that has “JOY” on the lid. I saved it from a Christmas present last year.  In that small moment of self reflection, I sensed God show me that I didn’t miss the year of JOY like I thought I had.  God showed me for this year my JOY has been about what brings us joy as in J.O.Y.   “Jesus.  Others.  Yourself.” THAT wasn’t the “joy” I thought I was seeking all year.  But I know in the core of my being when God is talking to me. And that’s what He showed me.  That I’ve spent the past year searching and trying to live with joy all the while I was already fully and wholly (holy?!) living for J.O.Y.  

Let me elaborate.

J is for Jesus.  I can think clear back to January and know that it was then when Jesus was calling me…. (again!!! I get it this time!  I do.  Really! )… to serve in a role as a leader for a ministry to women.  I spent many hours and days and weeks just focusing on Jesus alone….fasting, understanding my calling, discerning His voice, answering the same call He’s always given me.  I spent months seeking and yearning for Jesus alone….for His will, His voice, His calling.  I found Him and He found me.  

O is for Others. After that, somewhere in the middle of the year, I found myself completely willing to serve others in a purpose-filled, intentional ministry to women. I have been knitted together with an amazing group of women God gave me to serve alongside.  They have blessed me, challenged me, comforted me and cheered me along while we all began to figure out how to develop this ministry to women thing in our local church.  And my family has been a huge part of this.  I need to be better about including them in the ministry God calls me to. I has to not just be about me.

Y is for yourself. Today in Sunday School, our lesson was on the part of the Lord’s prayer where it specifically says that we are to pray for ourselves… “Matthew 6:11b–“give us this day…” . We need permission to take care of ourselves.  I know that all too often God speaks to me, calls to me, challenges me, whispers to me, and is so gracious and kind and compassionate that it is SO overwhelmingly good…. that I can’t take it all in.  I know that God’s been calling to me about ministry and “something” more specific lately, in addition to ministry to women. But when I sense it, I stuff that feeling, that deep-knowing and calling down; deep down inside of me.  And I’ve finally acknowledge that I do that with food.  I’m a stress eater and I’m learning that and ready to begin to stop that cycle.  I have a note on my phone from the fall of 2016.  I’ll have to share that soon because its a “prequel” to this post perhaps… more like a “how did I get here” post. Sometimes God’s Spirit is so big and so much, that I honestly don’t take time to deal.  I don’t allow myself to feel it, in all of His glory.  Half the time I think I’m crazy because no one else around me is saying these things that God is telling them or calling them to.  No one else is saying, “God told me this…” in our conversations.  Maybe we just aren’t all sharing it?  Maybe God IS telling them and they just don’t know how to name it?  But me…I know.  I’ve known since high school how God speaks to and moves within me.  So, today, I’ve taken the time to reflect, to process and to pray.  I call it a “R.U.T.” A “Retreat with Unstructured Time.”  (I know…I have a thing with acronyms. I just “see” them when I’m thinking.  Weird, I know!).  But the idea of a R.U.T. came after a women’s weekend retreat at Falls Creek this spring.  (J is for Jesus, remember?!)   The retreat was great!!  But again…as much as I loved being away, I still needed time to process everything God was showing me.  (You know those old coffee pots that “percolate” and take awhile to make the actual coffee?  I’m like that when it comes to thinking and processing.  I’m not like an instant, Keurig cup of coffee at all. Mainly, because we get too busy with life just happening all around us that we push God aside or away.) And so I told everyone I wanted a retreat where we didn’t “do” anything but one where we just got to “be” with God.   Aahhhh!  Time away.  Alone.  Nothing to “do” just time to just “be” with the Lord.  I need that a couple of times of year I think.  Time to take what I’ve written in my journals, time to lean into what I sense God telling me, time to process it all; just time to deal and feel. Time to simply cry with God, because of God.  

I’m awed and humbled at the goodness and grace and mercy of God.  To be able to sit and simply ask Him, “what is it we are really doing here?”  Have I really missed the joy I thought you had for me all along this year?  Goodness no!! His J.O.Y. is far better and greater than what I could have been looking for all along the way through the days and weeks and years.  I shake my head at Him and smile.  

In the early hours of this morning, while I was thanking God for being His sweet, faithful self and giving me “joy” greater than I knew, I began to wonder what His word would be for me in 2019.  Would it be about losing weight for real? (There’s a post about that coming I’m sure!) Just like God always does with me, He whispered, “serve.”  Serve?  Serve, really?!  Ok….not sure what you’re going to do with that; how that will look differently than it already does?!  Serve?!  Um…ok.  I shrug my shoulders as if to say, “Ok….you got it.  Whatever.” 

Then in Sunday school, I was gently nudged and reminded about the very quote that is God’s calling to me.  It’s a quote and calling I’ve held on to, stuff down, run away from, and stepped into and away from for over 22 years.  A calling that led me to Bolivia, to  seminary, and everywhere since then: “You have to go.  You have to serve the church.”  Serve.  That’s it!  That’s where that word comes from….of course, back to my true calling.  Ask God a question everyday, “how can we serve you?” OH!  WAIT! You see what He did there?!  It’s a “we” now….I  see that clearly…it’s not about just me.  It’s all of us…..my sweet husband and my 2 kids.  It’s all of us….ministry for us all.  Again, no clue what that will remotely look like.  I have deep secrets and wishes and hopes and dreams of what that might look like, but for now I’m just trying to choose obedience over outcome. I’m trying to process the calling….without shoving it down with ding-dongs and stuffing it under food,  all so I can experience the joy in the midst of the J.O.Y.

FBC Elk City Vision, Mission, Values

So here’s another aspect of structure and foundation work that we’ve prayed through in order to get started with a new ministry to women; our vision, mission and values statements.

VISION

Ministry to Women Equipping Team First Baptist Church, Elk City

As a group of women being transformed by the Gospel, we serve to impact our community and our world for Christ.

MISSION

The Ministry to Women of FBC seeks to:

ENGAGE​ the women in our church and community in authentic relationships; EQUIP​ them to grow in the grace and love of the Gospel

so that they ​ELEVATE ​Jesus in every circle of influence.

*​VALUES

Biblically-based:​ God’s Word is our guide and authority, and we seek to preserve His truth so as to be salt and light to our community. ​2 Timothy 3:16

Love-driven:​ We strive to fight for the highest good in each of the women we engage. We will balance truth and love so that our manner of love bears witness that we are children of God. Ephesians 4:15-16, John 13:34, 1 John 5:2

Committed to Unity:​ We will seek unity in the body of Christ and strive to address all conflict biblically. ​Ephesians 4:3, Matthew 18:15-17, Galatians 6:1

Grace-grounded:​ We acknowledge our complete dependence on the goodness and grace of God, and will be diligent to extend this same grace to others. ​Ephesians 2:8-9

Relevant:​ We will effectively communicate the message of Christ in our culture and context. ​1 Corinthians 9:22

*Everything herein, done under the authority of our local, pastoral leadership of First Baptist Church, Elk City.

Walking by F. A. I. T. H.

Walking by F. A. I. T. H.

How God led us to start a ministry to women @ FBC Elk City

Video link here

Recently I was asked to sit on a discussion panel with other women leaders to talk about how we have launched (or re-launched) a women’s ministry in our local churches. When Amy Cordova, the women’s ministry specialist from the BGCO offices in Oklahoma City, asked me to do this I had to take a step back and think, “how did we really get here?” I just talked to the Lord and said “what is it that you’ve really had us do on this journey?!”

As I began to write in my journal, I remember thinking that the first thing that our team ever did was fast and pray. We committed to each other to fast 2 different times over the next 30 days as we sought guidance from The Lord. We committed to pray “together” at 5:30am every morning for a month. So I wrote that down & I a skipped a line and I wrote down what I remember us doing next. I wrote down accountability…. we held each other accountable for doing the fasting & getting up every morning at 5:30 AM to pray.

Then I realized the next thing that we did was invite others to join our group. We looked at who was on our leadership team at that point and who we were missing and still needed. So we invited others. God has provided different women across four generations to be on the leadership team. Our ages range from women in their 30s to those in their 60s. I started to see a pattern of an acronym developing as I wrote this out. God was clearly revealing this to me as I prayed, reflected and journaled.

Next I realized that we just sat and talked about things that we knew our church needed and things that we needed to create in order to provide a foundation for the structure to do ministry out of. We talked about the vision for ministry to women & the mission that we thought would be consistent with our church’s and which biblical values that we hold to be the most important Gospel truths. So we wrote out a vision, mission, and values statement. We also created a flow chart of how different ministry teams will operate within the church structure.

Once we had all of this structure and the foundation in place, we knew that it was time to host an event to share all of this!

At this event we shared our hearts, we shared our confessions & failures, and we crossed the generations with the women of the church. We casted a vision for them about what women’s ministry can look like and paired every woman that attended with a prayer partner. It was our hope that this could begin to provide a deeper and meaningful connection with women so they can get to know each other better. We hope that it would begin to connect women on a more spiritual level.

As I was writing and journaling all of this, I realized that every action we did began with a letter that spelled out the word faith.

F. A. I. T. H.

Fasting & Prayer

Accountability

Invite others

Talk about Vision, Mission & Values

Host a kickoff event

Just as we began with fasting & praying back in January, we have now circled back around to that very specific act again. Of course there’s always prayer with everything we do, but you add fasting to that with a deep yearning for guidance & clarity from God, it’s a different level of prayer life. We’ve hosted a kickoff event, have casted a vision and started fall Bible studies and now are back earnestly seeking the Lord for specific acts of faith for what’s next; for how we move forward. We feel engaged with the women of the church at large; we feel equipped to move forward with God’s leading; and we try to elevate Jesus and the Gospel in everything we do.

And so…. how did we start a ministry to women? We started by stepping out in faith. I truly & wholeheartedly believe that if you do nothing else but seek the Lord and build relationships with others along the way, God will lead you and guide you to a ministry that is better than you could ever create on your own.

Just step out & walk in F. A. I. T. H.

Shannan Cloud, M.Div.
Leader, Ministry to Women
FBC Elk City
firstwomenec@gmail.com

Why I Love D.I.G.I.T.A.L. Tools

FULL NARRATED “CLIPS”

VIDEO LINK HERE 

I have the privilege of working with amazing leaders from the Oklahoma State School Board Association and passionate #oklaed teachers to help create digital books for education.  There will be 50+ books across all grades and all content areas that will be formatted in an ePub resource and once we get them all ready for publishing, they will be available to download…..for FREE!  Just to clarify ….. these will be TEACHER RESOURCES activities and digital tools aligned with Oklahoma Academic Standards! Whooohooo!   As one of the team leaders said, “Finally Oklahoma will be FIRST and NOT last in something!” 

So over the course of the past 3 years, and now even more so creating curriculum and digital books that will be specifically geared towards students creating digital products, I have been able to see first hand the transformation in my pedagogy, my students engagement level, and other teachers mind shifts!  So after working this past week with a great group of ELA High School Rockstar Teachers…..this is my  reflection about why I love digital tools.

Why I Love D.I.G.I.T.A.L. Tools

D is for daring. We need to be daring in order to collaborate with others! I love the freedom in allowing students to create digital projects of their own choosing. In doing this, I’ve realized that they learn better from each other when they collaborate and they can work at a higher level of thinking than what I would normally challenge them to do with a lecture and worksheet. It’s daring to let students have more freedom with digital tools!

I is for innovative. My school has 1-1 ipads from PreK to 12th grade and I’ve been challenged to be more innovative in the past 3 years thanks to this.  I’ve realized that this means letting students come up with their own ideas of how they show me their evidence of understanding! They are being innovative in creating digital comic strips, rewriting the ending to a story/chapter in Pages or Book Creator; creating a digital poster or movie in Clips to analyze characters; and participating in online video class discussions.

G is for greatness.  Surely no one shows up to work everyday and strives to be average, mediocre or sub-standard?!  I love digital tools and I love being able to guide my students and challenge other teachers to greatness while using them. It is exciting to encourage others to go beyond what they typically would expect to do in a classroom. The challenge is to be stretched beyond their comfort zone to in order to strive for greatness!  

I is for increase student engagement.  As educators, we have to realize that students don’t just need to be given the lesson and answers anymore; we need to increase their level of engagement in the classroom to expand their thinking skills so that they can discover ideas and answers for themselves. As we move away from being the only source of right answers in the classroom, we will increase student engagement exponentially.  

T is for thinking outside of the box. Using digital tools requires taking what you already know and going one step further to brainstorm how you can take that worksheet and turn it into a digital creation. You have to think differently.  It’s not about which teachers are more creative than others, it’s simply about asking how can a lesson be more engaging, collaborative, and creative. As educators, we must simply learn to ask the right questions that will get our thinking outside of the box!  We don’t want others to “box us in” why would we do it to ourselves or to our students?!

A is for amplify. One of my favorite digital tools is a video response format called, Flipgrid. When I realized that the quietest student was speaking up and speaking out and participating like never before in classroom discussions via this digital tool, I knew that I was on to something! This is was a defining moment for me in “going digital.” This format was not only new and innovative, but mindshifting in letting student’s voices be heard on an equal playing field in the classroom.  For me, this felt like I could connect better with my students in a one on one dialogue and reassure them that I DO “see and hear” them!

L is for learning I’m becoming more and more convinced that when teachers are pushed just slightly (or a lot) out of their comfort zone, they will learn more than they ever thought possible. I’ve seen teachers who have spent hours struggling with using digital tools in their classroom.  Sometimes its difficult to work through the effort it takes for learning new technology because sometimes it’s just easier to use pen and paper. But, when you see a teacher have their own “ah-ha” moment, it’s worth the struggle. I love being able to teach teachers and encourage them that the struggle to go digital is worth being daring, being innovative, striving for greatness, increasing student engagement, thinking outside of the box, amplifying student voices, and learning new ideas so that everyone can love using D.I.G.I.T.A.L. tools!

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