Sunday, September 7, 2014

Saying Yes to Flips

By Caryn Rivadeneira

Seven minutes before the show started, my co-host Melinda leaned over and asked if I'd take the reins that day. We'd switch roles: She'd be the co-host, while I assumed the host role.

I said yes-as I usually do-before I even fully realized what saying yes entailed. Four months into this new job I'd become used to co-hosting Midday Connection, meaning I'd go ahead and ask questions of our guests, occasionally welcome listeners back after breaks. I'd even gotten close to good at simultaneously reading Facebook comments, listener emails and notes from the producer while listening to our guest, but I had never before signaled to our engineer that we were ready for our first "break," nor had I watched the clock creep closer and closer to zero as I tried to "hit the post"-ending my words with the music.
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My first attempt failed. I started a new sentence without enough time. Time ran out. The music stopped mid-sentence. I stopped talking, letting "Hope," of all words linger alone in the air, thinking we were off air. Turns out, I could've finished my thought ("...you stay with us."). The engineer would've worked me in. 


I didn't know. But I do now. And I'll never forget.

This is just one example of the crazy ride this-venturing into a career in radio without much (okay, any) experience-has been. Though I am a trained journalist and know how to identify angles and ask conversation-inducing questions, a print journalist career can only prepare you so much for radio. Questions need to be sharpened; background affirmations or chuckles need to be axed (there's no editing "um-hmms" and rambling questions in live radio!). And all this learning has only been compounded by my mid-life status. When I thought my career path was obvious, here I am again. Starting something, learning something new.

Although this results in-requires, actually-failure, anxiety and life being flipped upside-down, being given an opportunity to learn something new is one of life's great blessings. Because in newness, though we have failure, we also have growth. Though we have embarrassment, we find opportunities for accomplishment. Though new opportunities may flip life upside down, in newness, comfort and complacency-two things that get in the way of what God is calling us to do-get tossed overboard and let us fall right into a sweet dependency on God as we step into his calling.

So how about a little challenge in the back-to-school season: What if we all start or try or commit to learning something new? Something way out of our comfort zone? Something that terrifies or stands to humiliate us? But something that will stretch us toward becoming more of who God has called us to be?

Broke
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Caryn Rivadeneira is a writer and speaker, along with being co-host and producer for Midday Connection, a production of Moody Radio. She's the author of five books, including the newly released Broke: What Financial Desperation Revealed About God's Abundance
(IVP, 2014). Connect with her at carynrivadeneira.com.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Painting as Worship

By Christa Parodi 

When I heard the words, "He won't love you any better when you become better. He loves you 100% right now," I desperately wanted to believe, and even more than believing, I wanted to live with that kind of freedom. I had the head knowledge, but I had not really experienced the "I love you as you are" kind of love. The "try harder" and "do more" part of me wanted to see what it would be like to safely gaze into the Father's eyes and see what he sees.

As this journey unfolded, I found myself on the floor one day moving paint around a canvas with my fingers in circular loop patterns. Bravely I showed up at a Christian worship arts conference all by myself. For this serious, color-inside-of-the-lines kind of girl, this was a long over-do invitation to play-to get messy. Insecurities and the pressure to perform started to mysteriously melt away as the tears started to flow and drip onto the swirly painting. Salty tears were mixed with a rainbow of vibrant colors. Even though I did not know where this worship art experience was taking me, I knew it was my custom designed ride to finding that place in the Father's heart that I was desperately hungry for.

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While this healing encounter on the floor was messing me up in the best way possible, Jesus was gently opening doors that would impact my community back home. Sliding open two barn doors and inviting women into a sacred space where worship and art collide was the next step that took place in this unlocking of the heart journey.

Stepping foot into what I have named The Worship Barn is an invitation to simply receive love from Jesus. This isn't one of those step-by-step painting classes. Tenderly an atmosphere of vulnerability is birthed and worship flows heavenward and is so brilliantly poured right back all over us. There's nothing to produce. It's worship. It's wholeheartedly partnering with the Holy Spirit and realizing that he really is steadfast and we don't have to be afraid.

As I host workshops for women I have realized that craving a space filled with permission and wonder isn't just my own unique longing. Creatively, women are opening up those dry, weary places in their hearts. Brush strokes glide and fingers pitter pat while healing oil is released over them by the Lord. Learning how to live from that place of not having to strive has been given fresh revelation and experience in this barn. In the process of painting, God has lifted my head and led me on a journey that has helped me come to him and bring others along as well. May we stay wide-eyed, sit on the floor with our King and let him fill our lives with color so we can spread the color of love to a "God-hungry" world that is waiting with their paintbrushes.


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Christa Parodi is passionate about inviting others into a creative space to discover more about the extraordinary love of God. As founder of The Worship Barn she gives artists permission to let their worship and art collide. Christa lives in Ocala, FL with her husband and three children ranging from ages 12-19.

Monday, August 25, 2014

The "Gift" of Singleness

by Michelle Watson

Recently I went to one of the most amazing weddings I've ever attended. Haley and Caleb are two who have done it right and the feeling of joy on their day was literally palpable.

Before the wedding started I was catching up with my friend Dan, a guy I haven't seen much since serving together on a youth staff in our early 20's. If you were a fly on our shoulders, here's what you would have heard:

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Me: I LOVE my life! As a single woman I have so much freedom in this season as God keeps opening so many incredible doors!
Dan: Well, it sounds like God has given you the gift of singleness.
Me: I'm not so sure that's it.
Dan: Yes, it definitely sounds like God has given you the gift.

With that, the wedding started. And without even realizing that Dan's comments had been rolling around in my head during the ceremony, as soon as the couple exited the church I realized that something wasn't sitting right. I turned to my friend and continued.

Me: I don't actually know what the gift of singleness is but I know that I don't have it. I'm open to marriage if God brings a guy along. But I can tell you what this is about: I don't fight the Father anymore.
Dan: Maybe you don't have it then.

A couple of weeks later I was at a conference and told my friend Paul this story, prompting him to say something from the platform: "If you're single today then for today God has given you the gift of singleness." Without hesitating, this prompted one woman to shout out, "But what if you don't want the gift?"

I can relate. I'm 54 and have never been married. I used to think something was wrong with me because a guy hadn't chosen me or deemed me worthy of taking his name. But I'm so over that now.

I finally decided to get on with living my life whether I had a husband or not. I finally decided not to fight my Abba Father anymore. I finally decided to accept where he has me rather than constantly demanding he do life on my terms.

I guess you could say that for me the gift of singleness is exactly that: a gift. I'm constantly in relationship with a Father who allows me to participate in what he's doing, and for me that has nothing to do with my martial status. And that is the best gift ever!

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Michelle Watson is a passionate God-follower whose mess has been turned into her message. As founder of The Abba Project she helps dads decode their daughters. Her recently released book is Dad, Here's What I Really Need From You: A Guide for Connecting with Your Daughter's Heart (Harvest House, 2014). Connect at drmichellewatson.com.



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.

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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
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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.

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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
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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.