Creating New Communities: Spring flowers, tropical fish tanks, and new church starts.

A community of blossoms on a tree signal the beginning of spring.

Spring inspires us to take on new Adventures.

As the season of spring erupts all around me in the blooming tulips and blossoming trees, I am hearing about people starting new adventures as well.  Several of my pastor friends are starting new congregations, and others are teaching historic churches how to create new life.  I have friends who are beginning new jobs after long periods of unemployment, and others who are moving into new companies with new responsibilities of leadership.  Each of us at some point will enter into a new environment and begin the work of creating a community within.  Whether we are involved in new church starts, new jobs, or starting a new venture, I have been thinking about the questions,  “How do we create a new community?”  and “What makes a community sustainable?”

An experiment in creating a community: a tropical fish tank

Our daughter won a goldfish at a county fair two years ago and remarkably it was still alive at Christmas.  As her parents we decided that she was mature enough to have a tropical tank as her Christmas present.  For five months now my daughter and I have been hard at work creating a tropical fish tank of community fish.  In a very tangible way this experiment in creating a tropical tank has my daughter and I discussing how to start a community, what makes up a good community, and how it can sustain itself. Continue reading “Creating New Communities: Spring flowers, tropical fish tanks, and new church starts.”

When Cancer Strikes the Family: Turning Adversity into an Adventure

What do we do when we hear the news "you have a tumor?"

Be strong, and let your heart take courage.

These are powerful words.  How do I let my heart take courage?  So often there are times when the news is so overwhelming that we are filled with fear and trembling especially when we hear the words, “You have a tumor.”  How can we take courage in those times?

Learning to Cultivate Hope

It has taken me some time to find my voice again.  Recently I became discouraged after I received some disappointing news and I stopped writing in my blog.  I am reminded of a time 6 years ago when we heard those words, “You have a tumor.”  As pastors we are to be cultivators of hope and promise–faith and joy.  But what happens when life seems to be filled with more downs than ups?  How can we learn to cultivate hope in the midst of adversity?   Continue reading “When Cancer Strikes the Family: Turning Adversity into an Adventure”

When the Principal Calls—Helping a Good Kid get Back on Track

When Good Kids Make Mistakes

The best toy in the toy store–a broom.

Last week I was standing in line at a toy store and I saw a little boy about three years old very excited about the present his dad was buying for him.  You might imagine it was a car or truck, maybe a building set, or even a sword or light saber.  Any of these would have been expected for a little boy to be excited about, but to my surprise this boy was delighted to have a kid sized broom and dustpan.  Like many kids, he wanted to hold his new toy while standing in line.  He took the broom and began sweeping the floor and singing…”Clean up, clean up, every body do you share. Clean up, clean up, everybody everywhere.”  I was amazed by the sheer enthusiasm this child had for doing his share and getting to work cleaning up messes on the floor.  Generally speaking kids and adults alike do not like cleaning up messes.

Give your kid the best chance for success and  plan for failure.

One of the best pieces of advice I got as a mom of toddlers was to give them the best chance of success and plan for failure.  What do I mean?  When we bought our new home the dining room was carpeted.  The highchair sat on carpet and three times a day our son would throw food on the floor and we would have to get down on our knees and dig the food and crumbs out of the fibers.  The carpet was never really clean and so we were upset every time our kid did what kids do, make messes.  We decided to pull up the carpet and put in a hardwood floor.

When the floor was installed, I was as excited as that little boy in the toy store was to sweep up the messes my kids made.  What once was a headache and chore became easier to manage and my attitude was much happier.  The broom was always close by.  We planned for failure when they were learning how to drink as well.  We gave our kids tiny steel cups to drink from and put about a tablespoon of liquid in the bottom.  If they spilled it, it was no big deal to wipe up.  If they drank it quickly, we would give them a refill.  When my son fought to hold the spoon I was feeding him with, I gave him his own spoon too.  Two spoons allowed for us to be successful.  Two spoons changed my relationship with my son.  No more fights…for now. Continue reading “When the Principal Calls—Helping a Good Kid get Back on Track”

Losing my Voice and Finding it Again

I lost my voice last week. It turned out to be bronchitis.

These past two weeks I have been battling bronchitis. 

One morning when I was very sick I woke up with no voice.  I had but a whisper to talk, and that too was strained.  The morning routine with our 13 year old and 11 year old is an intense schedule.  They each have to move through showers, breakfast, backpacks, packed lunches, and chores all in the space of 1 hour.  The last 10 minutes are especially rushed with me yelling, “don’t forget your lunch!” and “hurry up you’ll miss the bus!” or “practice piano before breakfast.”   Suddenly with no voice and no energy the “mom voice” did not exist and my children were on their own.  Fortunately they made it to school on time with all their stuff in tow.

The urgency of needing my voice back was compounded by the fact I had to teach a class on the book of Nehemiah that evening.  I was trying to imagine teaching the class without talking much.  It wasn’t going to work.  I realized that without my voice, I had no profession.  No voice meant no ministry.

For a brief moment I realized how dependent I was on my voice.  Without a voice pastors cannot provide counseling, we cannot teach, we certainly cannot preach.  Our work is based on the art of communication and building relationships.

Fortunately, my friend Swati came by and took me to the clinic where they gave me a breathing treatment and diagnosed me with bronchitis.  Within 5 minutes my voice returned.  I had thought that my voice was gone, but what was actually gone was my breath.

In Hebrew the word for “breath” ruah is the same word for “Spirit” (to learn more click here).  It is the Spirit of God who dwells within us that is found within our own breath.  We breathe in the breath of life and the Spirit of our Creator with each breath.  When our breath leaves us at the time of death, then we say that our Spirit is gone.  While I still could breathe, I had not the strength to speak.  My voice was weak because the breath flowing through me was not strong enough to speak.  My air pathways were constricted—too tight for the ruah to flow.  Thus, my spiritual power as I understood it was certainly weakened.

What about those who have no voice? Continue reading “Losing my Voice and Finding it Again”