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.

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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
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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

Monday, June 2, 2014

Why Can't We All Just Get Along?

By Elisabeth Klein
I met with a new friend recently who is still processing a broken relationship. She has done the hard work, she has turned over every rock. And yet she can't seem to fully let go (her words, not mine). She said something like this, "I just don't know why two Christians who once loved each other well can't end things better than this. Is this really the best we can do?"
I have struggled with this so very much. It seems to me that two people who claim to know, love, trust, follow and obey Jesus should be able to relationally have their acts together, that they should be able to be - at the very least - civil with each other.
Even so, I have a few people in my life who I do not speak to. A small few, but still. These few do not like who I am. And with these few, I have had to come to terms with the reality that distance is the only thing that will make our relationships - or lack
Forgiveness
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Forgiveness?
thereof - work. They are no longer in my life.
In each of these cases, I have had to choose to move on with a ridiculous number of loose ends dangling between us. Feeling completely misunderstood, completely judged, and sometimes lied about.
Over the past couple years as I've grappled with being divorced and what that means. The primary relationship I was in for the past two decades could no longer be sustained and that made me feel like a relational, emotional and spiritual failure. But I have come to realize something-not everyone gets along. And that's okay.
This may seem like a cop-out. Or like something a divorced person would say to make herself feel better.
But really and truly, it's just a fact.
We live in a fallen world. Jesus has not set all things right yet. There is sin and addiction and abuse and people make mistakes all day every day and hurt each other. Sometimes there is nothing that can be done but to part ways.
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So in some quiet moments when past hurts come to mind, I must cling to the grace of it all. Jesus died for things like this. Some things - no...many things - he has resurrected in my life and I am reaping the benefits. But still others, I will have to wait. And I must learn to wait.
Elisabeth is a single mom to Sara (17) and Jack (15-1/2). She loves spending time with her kids, her friends, reading and writing. She is the author of Moving on as a Single Christian Mom, Living Through Divorce as a Christian Woman: Questions & Suggestions, Surviving in a Difficult Christian Marriage: Questions & Suggestions, Unraveling: Hanging onto Faith through the End of a Christian Marriage, At the Corner of Broken & Love; One Girl, Third World; He Is Just That Into You;In Search of Calm: Renewal for a Mother's Heart; and Calm in My Chaos: Encouragement for a Mom's Weary Soul. Visit her website at http://www.elisabethklein.com/. If you are in a difficult marriage or find yourself going through a divorce, she has created two private groups on Facebook that she would like to invite you to. Simply email her at elisabeth@elisabethklein.com for more information.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Does Appearance Matter?

By Carla Foote

I was struck by an article I read recently on a mainstream news platform, regarding whether or not women should color their hair as they start graying with age.

First of all, the obvious gender issue - there are no articles about whether or not men should color their hair!

Then I felt the weariness of the topic - another article about appearance and women. Would we ever get past the "What we look like" issue to be able to freely live and work based on our minds, hearts, gifts and abilities?

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As a 54-year-old woman who decided about 10 years ago not to start coloring my hair, I wondered whether or not the article even applied to me. I am happy with my choice of hair, and I appreciate my friends who have made different choices. Then I scrolled down to the comments, something I try to avoid on websites, since people often put on their crazy side when commenting online. And I felt the fear and resignation of my sisters ...

This comment summed up the thoughts of so many:
I color my hair, period. And will continue to do so as long as I work in middle-management in corporate America. I am 65 years old and don't want to be laid off because I look like I'm ready to retire anyway. Most folks think I'm in my early 50's.Yes, yes, age discrimination may be against the law but in practice it's alive and well.

So even though the article encouraged women to find their own style and not be afraid of gray, the comments made it clear that such a decision was risky in terms of career aspirations for older women.

What about the church? Surely those of us secure in the fact that we are made in the image of God and redeemed by Jesus can be more courageous in our appearances. After all, there are lots of older women (and men) with active roles in the Bible - Sarah and Elizabeth come to mind. The Bible even commends older women to teach younger women. Surely churches and Christian organizations haven't succumbed to the new and young is better than old and gray push?

Or have we?

When we quietly push older voices to the sidelines because we are looking for new, younger voices, are we saying that there isn't room for a harmonious blend of old, new and in-between voices speaking truth to all generations?

When we discard church programs which seem dated in favor of the newest strategy, are we throwing out discipleship principles that have worked for years in favor of the chase for relevance?

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Don't hear me wrong. I am absolutely in favor of the relevance of the gospel message for upcoming generations, and to shared leadership between generations. But can the church be a place where all ages are welcome at the table, and where the appearance of being older doesn't necessarily mean that we are irrelevant to the Christian community?


Carla Foote's dark brown hair is now streaked with gray. She loves connecting with and learning from women of all generations. She is the FullFill blog manager and also writes and edits through  www.FinePrintEdit.com.