Monday, August 18, 2014

Invited Into Healing Prayer

By Allison Bollegar

Whether through heartfelt cries or written liturgical prayers, humans have yearned for healing and God's kingdom since long before Jesus arrived in the flesh. Jesus carried on the tradition of prayer and encouraged prayers for healing as a way to let people know that the kingdom of God was with them (Luke 10:9). Works done in Jesus' name continue to testify to the kingdom of God being with us today.

In Luke 10:1-10 we are invited into the kingdom-work of Jesus, into healing prayer. Jesus appointed 70 disciples in addition to the 12 and he said to pray for even more laborers. We are the answered prayers of our early brothers and sisters in Christ. We are laborers for and in the kingdom of God. By bringing love and peace, by healing the sick, and by testifying that the kingdom of God is near, we continue the ministry Jesus started. We share the same Holy Spirit that was given to God's people at Pentecost and we rejoice in the promises of Jesus.

Prayer
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Love is the distinctive of Jesus' disciples. He reminds his followers of the importance of love in John 13:34-35: "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." All of the prayers that we offer and works that we perform for the sake of God's kingdom are nothing if we don't love those we serve.

An emphasis on the kingdom work of prayer and a focus on love for God's people offers a starting point for prayer. Differences among people of prayer provide an opportunity for us to learn how to love, pray, and labor with people who are seeking God's kingdom but may have different expressions of prayer than us. The kingdom of God is here!

Allison Bollegar is the founder and executive director of Grace and Gift Ministries, www.graceandgift.org.  She is currently working on a double master's degree at the Iliff School of Theology and at the University of Denver. Her healing ministry and educational pursuits in psychology, social work, and divinity provide hands-on ministry experience as well as vision development.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Slow Growth and Puny Tomatoes

By Tracey Bianchi

I've always wanted the title of "expert gardener." Wielding a green thumb, plunging my hands into the earth, kvetching with others about compost or pruning. Standing at day's end with dirt on my forehead, hands on my hips, looking skyward to wonder when it might rain again. I imagine a crop of exotic vegetables and a mesclun salad that could land on the cover of Real Simple.

Stuck
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Reality- in mid-June I hastily snatched up the remaining four tomato plants from our farmer's market knowing that real gardeners planted weeks ago. The hold out plants were slightly yellow, wilted, gasping for water in dusty, leached soil. It was all they had left. I dropped them into the ground, hoping for salad options by the weekend. It's now August and the plants are still wilted. Bright yellow blossoms seem reluctant to turn into fruit and my husband keeps asking, "So are we going to have enough for salsa?"If only they would grow faster.

Metaphors of growth and farmer's fields dot our Scriptures revealing the fact that good growth takes time. Last summer we removed a dying, 70 year old Ash tree from our front yard. It took decades to mature and stretch out limbs. I'll be dead before another tree envelops this home in its shady fold.

Spiritual growth takes more time than we want to give. We are sold lies that we should be able to ramp up the perfect prayer life, let go of grief, or kick an addiction in a few small steps. Most of us who have even dabbled in the Scriptures know that Jesus never ever, ever never suggests a fast-track to the fruit of the Spirit and yet, we still seek quick results.

Reality-can't show up a month late with drab little plants and expect prize winning crops. Instead, I have a few measly tomatoes all the while wishing for the crimson, juicy fruit my neighbor has across the street. The four plants didn't fail but they didn't thrive either. But next year? Next year I will pick lush, verdant plants in the early season and plant them on time. Next year, the tomatoes will really come in.

What if next year a drought or insect attacks my little plot and I am left aching again, replanting and waiting yet again. And on it goes. Is it any wonder that Paul lists patience as a fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5?

So as these tangible summer days give way to the tumbling leaves of fall, may you embrace the long, arduous journey of spiritual growth. May you wake every morning longing for a new lesson rather than new fruit. And may the fruit of your labor eventually lead you to the arms of the Good Farmer Himself.

Friend O Mine
More from Tracey Bianchi here!
Tracey Bianchi is the Worship and Teaching Pastor at Christ Church of Oak Brook, a congregation of 3000+ in the Chicago area. She (along with Adele Calhoun) is a co-author of the forthcoming book True You: Moving Beyond Self-Doubt and Using Your Voice (InterVarsity Press, January 2015).  traceybianchi.com 

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Gift of Telling the Truth

Dorothy Littell Greco

I have struggled to consistently tell the truth for most of my life. While my lies rarely impacted others and were certainly not of the magnitude of Pinocchio's or Charles Ponzi's, they were, none-the-less, untruths. According to Pamela Meyers in a recent TED talk, "We are deeply ambivalent about telling the truth."

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Though I did not realize this until fairly recently, my ambivalence was connected to my fear and shame. I lied because I wanted to be liked and accepted by everyone. I did not lie about my achievements or status. I lied when I was angry or had feelings that might be perceived as threatening or negative. When my boss asked if things were going well, I lied because I feared that if I admitted how much I hated his misogynistic comments, I might lose my job. When my husband asked how much I paid for my new outfit, I slashed $10 off the price because I was afraid if he knew how much I actually paid, he would be unhappy with me. Bottom line? I valued being liked and accepted more than pleasing God.

Ninety-nine percent of the time, no one ever noticed my deceitfulness. No one except God. As the Holy Spirit gently convicted me, I began to notice how often Scripture mentions God's disdain for lying. Until this point, I actually thought my lies were inconsequential. After all, I wasn't lying about my tax returns or infidelity. I had conveniently created a gradation of truth telling, rather than seeing it as a choice between two polar opposites. We either are telling the truth or we're not. In God's economy, white lies are still lies.

Relish
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My two greatest desires in life are to love well and to be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ. Since Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44) and God never lies (Titus 1:2), I needed to choose sides. I began to confess to my husband or close friends whenever I misspoke, no matter how trivial. After about a year of this humiliating behavior, I noticed that my fear and shame were losing their grip. Lies no longer unreflectively rolled off my tongue. Obedience began to trump my desire for popularity. I still fight to speak honestly when I know the truth might create waves. However, knowing the ultimate truth - Christ - has indeed set me free.

Dorothy Littell Greco photographs beautiful things, writes about relationships and following Jesus in a sometimes confusing world. You can find more of her words and images on her site (www.dorothygreco.com) or by following her on FB (https://www.facebook.com/DorothyGrecoPhotography) and Twitter (@dorothygreco).

Monday, July 21, 2014

Love in Action

By Karen Schelhaas

It's a balmy 102 degrees in Juarez, Mexico this time of year, and the contrast to our home in Colorado is stark. Roads are foot-thick layers of dust and the homes dotting the landscape are colorful mosaics of scrap metal, cardboard, wood, and plastic. The only green splashes are a few sparse vegetables that hard-working families have had the vision to plant and nurture, adding color to their plates of rice and beans and tortillas.

I'm no expert on short-term missions trips. I know for sure that no one transforms an entire community in a few short days, and it quickly becomes clear that there's far more to learn than to teach or contribute. Our family of seven, including our five children ages 8-16, drove 10 hours straight south of Denver, and crossed the border in New Mexico.
Nice Girls
Check out "How I Learned I Could Change the World" from our Nice Girls issue.
We brought a truckload of donated diapers and formula, the 43rd such load commissioned by my friend Quinn after she started Babies of Juarez. Pastors of local churches then distribute the gifts as needed, combining the spiritual with the physical. Quinn's vision was a visceral response to the excruciating 6-month waiting period during which families in Juarez choose not to name their babies due to lack of good nutrition. I got to hold a chubby one-month old boy during a food outreach we provided for the community, and when I asked his mother his name, she shook her finger at me and said quietly "no nombre, no nombre". Slowly but surely, though, Quinn's tireless efforts are kicking that miserable 6 months to the curb, hoping it will exist solely as a cultural norm rather than a necessary evil, and there's evidence to support the growing shift. Chubby babies bring joy, no matter where you live.

We also worked alongside a family building their home, viewing their long-prayed-over dreams slowly emerging out of the dirt and taking shape, a monument of sorts. We watched our teenager hang drywall and install windows while we helped our younger children bang nails in to the roof, covered in splotches of gooey tar and robin's egg blue paint. In the end, there were giant, beautiful words the father voiced at the house dedication, eyes moist and lips quivering as the keys dropped in to his hands. "Thank you to our great God, for He is a God who hears us," he said. Indeed. The family's house got built with boards and nails, but my guess is that as they lovingly turn it in to a home in the months ahead, they'll remember it being stitched together with a lot of joy, laughter, and answered prayers.

The whole trip was an effort to move toward people in love because God first loved us, which, to me, is the essence of missions. Playing soccer on a dusty road in scorching heat with dozens of local kids, holding a baby we hope will live more than 6 month, tears shed by thankful parents at the house dedication, and the dozens of caricatures my husband drew, morphing gorgeous people into funny keepsake cartoons - all of it has our kids begging to go back, the togetherness etched deeply in their bones.

Shame
More from Karen Schelhaas here!
Karen Booker Schelhaas lives in Highlands Ranch, CO with her husband and five children ranging from ages 8 to 16. When she's not teaching, cooking, jogging, cleaning, gardening, entertaining, chauffeuring, volunteering or counseling, she can be found at her kitchen table with coffee in her veins, slowly putting her stories into words.



Monday, July 7, 2014

Safe Haven

By Melodi Leih
I watched a small bird from the couch in my living room. I was captivated by it over several days. I have no idea what kind of bird it was but it was quite small. I saw it repeatedly fly from the wooded area in our yard to the fence post outside my window. I was in awe of how this little bird carried such large twigs, moss and other foliage from one place to the next. I wasn't sure why it kept coming to the same spot on the fence until I discovered where it had built its nest. It had meticulously placed twig after twig, branch after branch in the wreath on my front door.
Like many moms I know, this bird took her time creating an environment where her little ones were protected and could thrive. On occasion I saw a few other birds appear to be watching as she created this safe haven. It reminded me of moms I have seen critique other moms on their mothering or how they keep their home.
As I watched this little mommy bird I thought of the many times as a mentor I have been able to add to the environment moms around me are creating. The interesting thing I discovered is it really hasn't required much of me except my time. Being present is what they have needed. Being there to listen, pray, share coffee or an encouraging word has been enough for the women in my small circle to continue to gather what's needed for the safe haven they are creating for their families.  
Influence
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One of the most impactful gifts I have received was the gift of time. It was a gift I had not asked for nor did I realize I desperately needed. However, that gift has helped me learn to be more mindful and invested in others. Whether you formally mentor or just invest in other women in your life, it is simple to live out this gift. Recently I sent hand written notes to some women and the impact from this small act was more than I could have imagined. Other ways to invest time might be sharing wisdom from scripture or inviting a few women in for coffee and Bible study. Helping with practical needs such as child care for mom friends is another way to invest in healthy families.
 
What I have learned from the little bird out my window is women work hard to protect, provide, nourish and love those in their nest. They also need a place to stop and rest to be able to continue that work. You can be a place of rest for women by investing and being present in their lives.



Melodi Leih is a MOPS Mentor at Hermitage Hills Baptist Church in Hermitage, TN and Regional Developer for MOPS International. She is married to Mike and has 3 beautiful children and an amazing son-in-law. She enjoys music, reading and time with her family.
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Sunday, June 15, 2014

Knit Two, Pray Two

By Tracey Solomon
Dipping the knitting needle into the next stitch, I wrap the yarn and pull it through. As I do, the beautiful lavender, silk yarn glides through my fingers. Wrapping for the next stitch, I whisper prayers for the future wearer of this offering of yarn, handwork and love. "Lord, bring comfort in these stitches." "Lord, let these stitches be a reminder of your love and mine for the wearer."
Knit I dip the needle into the next stitch and continue knitting and praying.
I'd love to say this practice was inspired by a Victorian era women's devotional practice I'm trying to revive. Or, that it came to me by divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Or even that I read about it in a book. I didn't. I'd like to because they sound better (and holier) than the truth ...
Prayerful knitting happened by accident one day, when I was multi-tasking. A friend was struggling through something and I decided to knit her a "hug." I wanted to make something tangible to remind her of my love, and God's. I prayed for her between the stitches.
Which is when I discovered that knitting helps me both focus and stay awake while praying!
See, I have a problem with sitting still and focusing on prayer. When I try to sit still and focus, one of two things usually happen:
a) I get distracted (Oh look! A squirrel) and forget I am praying . Which is like putting Jesus on hold and forgetting him. Nice.
b) I fall asleep. Which is not the same as resting in Jesus. Trust me. I'm not resting. I'm asleep. As in drool may be involved and I could possibly snore. Snoring is not a prayer language. Just saying.
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So for me, prayer is not just a spiritual battle, it's a battle between distraction and exhaustion. Maybe, I have "prayer-colepsy" or "PrayDD." Whatever you call it, I'm glad I've discovered that if I pray while I'm doing something. That way I can stay both focused and awake.
So I pray when I'm knitting. And while folding laundry, and sometimes in the shower. I rarely fall asleep in there.
Knit two, Pray two.
It works for me.
What about you? What works for you when it comes to prayer? Do you have struggles with prayer? What does your prayer time look like? I can't wait to hear!
Tracey is married to her high school sweetheart, Kyle. They have 3 sons. Tracey serves on the Board of Directors at MOPS International and has a background in pastoral counseling. She loves to knit and is passionate about reaching, connecting with and learning from that "other woman," the one who's different from her. She writes about it on her blog, A Mile in Her Shoes, at www.traceysolomon.com.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Show, Don't Tell

By Margot Starbuck
Though I'm not proud of it, when I am really passionate about communicating something, I create merch.
Since I'm a stinky salesperson, these inspirational products eventually get jammed into nooks and crannies around my home. In closets and under beds are stashed countless bracelets that say "Beloved," t-shirts that command "Live Love," hats that instruct "Walk With the Lord" and buttons that announce "I Am For You."
This morning I noticed a cutie pin-back button I designed to inspire writers, and snapped a pic to post on Facebook.
The small turquoise button proclaims "Show, don't tell," and my caption simply offered, "For my friends who write..."
What writers have been told, and what readers know implicitly, is that "telling" quickly becomes wearisome. When a writer "tells" too much, readers shut off their kindles and go pour themselves a Diet Coke. "Showing," though? That's where the magic is. When a writer shows-through vivid stories and dialogue and description-readers keep reading.
One of my most visionary friends, Kenny, left a comment on Facebook below my photo, adding:
"For my friends who present. For my friends who lead. For my friends who sell. For my friends who parent. For my friends..."
You can bet my blue button I've been noodling on smart Kenny's insight all day.
Kenny had opened my eyes to the fact that what I knew to be true about writing well is true of speaking well. Leading well. Selling well. Parenting well. Whatever opportunities we're given to influence others are enhanced when we show. Not tell.
Writing a book to tell my neighbors how to love their neighbors-which, with the best of intentions, I actually did-may not be as effective as learning the names of grocery checkers and Target cashiers and speaking to them by name when I'm out doing errands with a friend.
If my neighbor Donna wants her fifteen-year-old daughter to keep her paws off her cell phone when she gets her driver's license next year, telling her isn't as effective as Donna burying her own phone in the glove compartment.
The sellers of Vitamix blenders know that paying staff to demonstrate their product in the aisles of Costco-where potential buyers can see and hear and touch and smell and taste-is much more effective than trying to talk customers into buying a Vitamix.
Whatever opportunities we're given to impact others are enhanced when we show. What does showing look like in your sphere of influence this week?
Margot Starbuck's most recent book, about the face of God that smiles on us, is called Not Who I Imagined: Surprised by a Loving God. Connect at MargotStarbuck.com