Why Attend Small Group

It's funny how despite reminders on my phone and a color coded calendar I occasionally overlook the date for school pictures or even the deadline for school fundraisers, but amazingly can recall what someone said over a decade ago. I suppose once something gets in my heart it sticks.

Since we got married, Brandon and I have been in some type of small group at our church. Traditionally, it's been referred to as "Sunday School," but the same gathering has been given a more modernized term, now known as "small group." Whatever we may choose to call it, it's been an instrumental part of our family's development.

Through our time in small group, people have spoke volumes into our hearts. And while the small group leaders are obviously a huge component of what has been delivered in that time, it wasn't the small group leaders alone who always seemed to give exactly what we needed in the particular season of life, our marriage, or our family.

For instance, I remember our friends, Penny and Daniel being transparent, giving our class some humble insight into what may potentially unfold on any given Sunday morning in their home when their girls were little. Daniel shared that although there were occasional mornings in which they had to run out of the house with dishes left in the sink, it seemed to irritate Penny increasingly more on Sunday mornings-- until he brought it to her attention. After which she realized it wasn't so much the dishes that bothered her as much as it was a tool being used to steal her heart and focus away from what the Lord had in store for her in service those particular days.

This awareness seriously revolutionized our Sunday mornings. When our children were little, if they happened to be screaming and crying through the process of trying to get ready, if Brandon and I were irritated with one another, if the coffee mug lid leaked on the outfit I finally decided to wear, if we were running fifteen minutes late (or possibly even more), and yes, if there was a disaster left in the kitchen, I'd think, "This is what Daniel and Penny were talking about. This isn't going to distract me from what I'm about to give and get today."

And in the instance I forgot, someone else remembered. Let's face it, sometimes we just feel like saying, and may actually go right ahead and say, "Forget it!" That's been me. Especially in the instances of running super late. But that is when Brandon would say and does say, "No, we're going." I'd argue, "What's the point? We're only going to be there for like twenty minutes before class is over." Brandon wouldn't and doesn't let up, so we load up. We may be grumbly and gripey, but we go. And we are always so glad we do. It diffuses and distracts from whatever mishap may have occurred. We grow, realizing what we would have missed out on, even if it is sheer determination that gets us there. The realization reinforces our commitment.

I'm going to share another instance in the next post of how someone contributing in small group has revolutionized the dynamic of our home. I hope you come back and receive from it. It's all in effort to pass on to you what others have passed on to us-- those thoughts which have been influential and effective for our family.

Today, let me leave with some encouragement (and maybe a little nudge) to get involved in a small group if you're not already. Here are a few things to keep close to your heart:

1. Shop around. Okay, that may not be the best term to use, but cut me a little slack. I've heard some people say that some churches are clickish. Well, yes. They are. ***WHAT?!?!?!**** Did I really just say that?! I did. (❤️ and ☺️ ). Let's change our view of it a little. "Clickish" has such a negative tone to it, but honestly, we can't take 600 people for instance and expect everyone to have the same interests and personalities. I mean, good grief, there are only 6 people in my house and I only have about three meals that please every single one of them. Every other dinner is consumed from a grateful heart and a hungry belly, not necessarily from an enthusiasm for what's on the table. We can't please everyone, every time. With that in mind, when you're at church pray and ask the Lord to direct you as to where He wants you to serve and receive in the body of believers. There is a place for you. I promise. But it can take a bit of effort in finding it.

2. Be transparent. Okay, again. I say that with caution. I'm not implying you walk into a class and air your dirty laundry (and yes, we all have dirty laundry-- from the pulpit to the pew we all need a good wash cycle). What I'm trying to encourage is for you to find a group of people who are willing to walk life with you, sharing the struggles as seamlessly as the celebrations. Brandon and I have so many times, I mean SOOO many times thought and expressed, "We're not the only ones." Daniel and Penny's dirty dish story may have not been a three point spiritual lesson, but it was profound for a young couple with a young family. I mean people-- I'm going back to a memory over thirteen years ago. You can't convince me that's not profound right there! I'm so grateful for their transparency and I hope to sharpen others by my willingness to be the same.

3. Seasons change. And so will your group. This doesn't mean we drop the relationships, it just means we get to make more. We haven't been in the same group with Daniel and Penny for I don't know how long, but they'll always be in our treasure chest of special people. A motto I share frequently is, "life is about people." We need people. We need personal connection. Allow the Lord to move you in the different seasons to make those connections He desires to work through. Now that's not saying change all the time. Let's be people who commit, but when we've grown from young married to a family with young children to raising teenagers (Lord, help us all), we need to receive from, give to and be sharpened by those who have been-there-done-that or who are doing and surviving (😉 know you're not alone).

Alrighty. Ready. Set. Go.

Find that group waiting for you! You have something to contribute and something to receive.

I'll meet ya back here next time to share another nugget deposited into us by our small group. It's a good one.

Hebrews 3:6 NLT But Christ, as the Son, is in charge of God’s entire house. And we are God’s house, if we keep our courage and remain confident in our hope in Christ.

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I'm Fine

I walk around like everything is fine, but deep down, inside my shoe, my sock is sliding off.” This message caught my eye when posted by a friend on social media. Of course, my heart was moved when I read the first half thinking, “she’s going through something.” Upon completing the sentence I truly laughed out loud understanding the sentiment exactly. It happens to me with a certain pair of boots. I must wear long socks, otherwise, there’s no inconspicuous swipe-it-with-my-index-finger type of retrieval maneuver. No, I must take the boot off entirely to fetch the sock that is nearly off my foot, scrunched up down around my toes. Irritatingly uncomfortable, I must say.

Nevertheless, we wear it well. We stroll around cool and casual without the slightest indication something is not right. We don’t let on something is out of place. We don’t expose our sock is driving us nuts!

The reality is, all of us are walking around with our sock sliding off at one point or another. All of us.

Why do we act so casual? Why do we walk along without the slightest indication something is wrong?

I’m sure you realize we’re not talking about socks at this point.

A short time ago, someone contacted me about a woman who needed a bit of encouragement in a trial she was facing. The trial was similar to one I had experienced before, but one I’ve not shared with many. We met for a visit. As I listened to her pour out her heart, mine broke at the memory of going through what she was enduring presently. The Lord stirred me to share with her the testimony.

Sharing the testimony was timely and effective. While it brought the intended comfort and encouragement to her, it was apparent that it came unexpectedly.

We all walk through things others may never imagine.  However, it is wise to demonstrate prudence in sharing the storms we face. For one, some who do not have the same insight, do not understand, and our sharing can render us vulnerable to attacks. We must listen to the Holy Spirit in seeking counsel.

Secondly, we don’t want to magnify the storm. Personally, I’m not a sweep-it-under-the-rug kind of girl. I’ve been a fighter my entire life. It’s why I’m alive today. And it’s not something one can switch on and off. While I was commended for my spirit to fight as a little girl, as an adult now, it can make some people uncomfortable. Although I’m geared for conflict resolution, wisdom is essential to know the difference between progressing toward resolution and merely magnifying. We must know when our speech is magnifying the problem or resolving the problem.

Third, if we haven’t taken it to the Lord, we must not take it to another. As much as I’m a people person, as much as I crave and truly need the interaction of others, no one on this planet has everything I need. Speaking to the Lord and allowing Him to guide who we need for godly counsel is exercising complete trust in Him. And as a result, removes vulnerability to attacks and provides dimension to what we’re facing.

I share this for you to be encouraged. Our tests aren’t the focus. We wait for divine intervention and share the testimony in His timing.

So what’s so encouraging about that?!

It’s that everyone has a sock sliding off!  Whether they're talking about it or not.

Thinking back to last week’s post, in addition to feeling overwhelmed, what is another vision killer to reaching our goals?

It’s assumptions.

We assume that everyone else has a sock nicely in place not causing an ounce of irritation or aggravation. We may even have toxic thoughts like, “So-and-so has it all together. They’re so strong in their walk with God and here I am dealing with this garbage. I could never be the kind of person or Christian so-and-so is. I’m just sick of trying.”

First of all, we must all stop trying so hard and find rest in His power at work within us. II Corinthians 12:9-10 NIV “But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Secondly, know that assumptions are a tactic the enemy utilizes not only in our church, but in our homes. There is a lot of defeat, and potential disappointment, which can come from assuming the comfort of another’s walk. We walk through trials strong and confident, because our trust in God. It doesn’t mean everything is fine and dandy. We’re all walking through stuff at some point.

Remember, we all have a pesky sock sliding off every now then.

We’re not always fine.

Allow me to close with a passage by Lysa Terkeurst. These words spoke encouragement and healing into my storm of 2015. I pray it blesses you in pursuing your goals for 2016.

Humility and wisdom are a package deal. And often people who have the most wisdom have experienced the most humility. Or sometimes even the most humiliation. A wisdom like none other can arise from those hard places that bring us low.

When I’m going through stuff that makes it hard to make good decisions, I want to turn to people who have been through some stuff. And not just people who went through hard times, but those who came out on the other side carrying some wisdom from which I can learn. Real wisdom- wisdom that’s been unearthed in the messy, untidy, mud-puddle places of life. When this kind of wisdom sits in the heart of a person who is vulnerable enough to drop their pride and share what they know- that’s a gift I desperately need when going through some stuff.

Lysa Terkeurst The Best Yes -pages 209-210

*in reference to: James 3:13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. and Proverbs 11:2 When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.

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Casting Crowns sing a beautiful song on the subject titled "Stained Glass Masquerade" ~ you can listen to it on the following link ~


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Time for Investing

Investments are a very important piece of an individual’s assets. We research and ask questions about investments because we know it is important for our future. We only have so many years of earning power. As we age, we understand the probability that our bodies won’t have the ability or stamina to maintain a full-time job. Therefore, we take a little of what we make now, to invest for a time to come. We do without a percentage of our earnings, to tuck away, to allow and grow, to use later. Brilliant. Except for when things don’t go as we plan. One of my favorite movies is Cinderella Man, the story of James Braddock, a boxer who exhibited the utmost character in a time of detrimental circumstances. You may be familiar with his story. If not, you’re certainly familiar of the history, the time in October 1929 known as Black Tuesday, when the stock market crashed and the country experienced the ten-year turmoil known as The Great Depression.

Our generation counted it’s own financial losses a few years back. The recession of 2007-2009 had a great negative impact on countless people’s investments. We watched the government step in with the Troubled Asset Recovery Program (TARP) bailing out the banks and the auto industry. The housing bubble and credit crisis provided this generation it’s own experiences with unwanted investment outcomes.

We track portfolios of stocks, bonds, mutual funds, real estate, cash equivalents, certificates of deposit.  We keep records on our 401K and Roth IRA, we watch our stock tickers, we manage our brokerage accounts, we keep tabs on the Wall Street Journal. We work to insure a strong financial future, but how much attention to detail do we invest when it comes to our relationships?

Just like our financial investments there are life investments we must work to build, work to grow, and work to protect if they are worth any value to us. But what happens when a relationship experiences it’s own “crisis” or it’s own “Black Tuesday?” Do we walk away? Count it a total loss? Or do we fight for what we’ve already got in it? Do we fight for what could be recovered, for what could be re-invested?

In every single detail of our life, we must know, there is an enemy on the prowl. This enemy seeks to devour (I Peter 5:8). We know his intent is to steal, kill and destroy (John10:10). But the better news is, we know who wins! We know greater is He who is in you and me, than that loser thief who is in the world I John4:4. (Okay, loose translation on that last one, but stay with me.) The point is, identify the source of the attack. Call it for what it is and face it head on! We are overcomers! Mighty Men (and women) of Valor (Judges 6)!

People are not disposable. They’ll hurt you. They’ll bruise you. They’ll mistreat you. And I’m not talking about strangers; I’m talking about people we have RELATIONSHIPS with. An offense doesn’t have the impact coming from someone we’re not close to, as it does coming from the person we are. So how in the world do we handle those situations?

Again….can’t repeat this enough—know the source. Every good and perfect gift comes from the Father, and the serpent would love nothing more than to destroy it.

Be strong and courageous. Don’t close the door. Don’t walk away. Who wins if you call “uncle” or tap out? People you love are worth fighting for; relationships are worth saving. And it takes a strong, courageous spirit to commit to resolution. Remember what the Lord spoke to Joshua after the death of Moses. Joshua was commissioned to lead the people across the Jordan River into the Promised Land. Three times the Lord told Joshua to be strong and courageous, Joshua 1:6, 7 & 9. Three times! Why did the Lord repeat it? Because it wasn’t an easy assignment. And it wasn’t a simple suggestion. It was a command. When we are faced with having to do something difficult or challenging, remember Joshua 1:9, “This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

I highly recommend reading The Bait of Satan. This book about forgiveness points out how the enemy uses offense to bait people. So guard yourself against offense and walk in forgiveness.

Embrace the storm. Another quality point from the book is the concept that when a tree is planted it has a shallow root system. Much like the beginning stages of relationships we form. Storms stimulate the tree to send it roots down deeper for stability. When we face a disagreement or an argument (the storm), we know what the outcome of the relationship can be if both parties refuse offense and reject bitterness (a stronger, deeper more genuine relationship).

Finally, remember, there is life and death in the power of the tongue. Proverbs 18:21, “The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.” Guard your words. Resist the temptation to share your hurt with any other than the person you need to seek resolution with.

There is a relationship management system far greater than any we can implement for our finances. Seek God’s face. Get in His Word. Pray for wisdom and understanding. Relationships are a very important piece of an individual’s assets in life. Your mutual funds aren’t going to celebrate your life when it’s over at your memorial service. Your IRA isn’t going to tell your children the stories of love and compassion you intend to leave them.

Yes, we only have so many years of earning power. Invest wisely.

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In Need of Others

Did you ever read the book, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned In Kindergarten"?  Whether or not you read the book, maybe you can remember back to those kindergarten days.  I attended kindergarten in the afternoon, so I’d get to sleep in and lounge around in the mornings.  My Grandma made me pancakes every morning and then took me to school. I remember learning the “I’m a Little Tea Pot” song and thinking how funny it was to see Mrs. Matthews make a spout with her arm and sing, “when I get all steamed up hear me shout, ‘tip me over and pour me out!’”  I remember the letter of the week showing up at our door and thinking it was completely magical.  What actually happened was an older grade student would place the inflatable letter at the door, knock and run.  When one of my kindergarten classmates opened the door, there was our letter of the week! But perhaps my greatest memory in kindergarten was the self-realization that took place.  I discovered how much I loved people.  My parents thoroughly enjoyed telling the story about their first conference with my sweet teacher.  She informed them that in all her years of teaching, I believe it was around 30 at the time, she had never had a student move to all the tables in the first nine weeks of school.  Mrs. Matthews was trying to find a place for me to sit where I wouldn’t talk to anyone, but she soon discovered that I’d talk to whomever she set me beside.

These memories returned to my mind a couple of weeks ago while I was sitting around my kitchen table with some of my co-workers; John, Kersten, Bette and Stuart.  The afternoon had been spent with a small group of people who were strangers to me just a little over a year ago, but now felt like family.  Our little get together was more than just eating, swimming and enjoying a sunny afternoon together.  Our afternoon was about relationships and the value it gives to the lives that take time to build them.

This all leads me to wonder, “How does social media inhibit the potential of our relationships and friendships?”  Do we have a false sense of connection because we can conveniently post a comment or like a status?  When someone dies, is sufficient sympathy and comfort expressed online?  When one undergoes surgery, is love and support given through electronic communication?  Don’t get me wrong.  I utilize social media practically everyday, but I am mindful of letting it become the foundation for my friendships.

The most precious product we have to give is our time.  And I’m confident that those investments yield the greatest return.  How?  People change people.  Whether you are reaching out, or you’re being reached out to; it will change you.  Sending a card.  Making a meal. Meeting for coffee.  A call just to pray.  I realize the cost; the commitment of time, the awkwardness felt reaching outside our comfort zone, the risk of rejection.  But remember who it's for?  The time, the awkwardness, the risk?  It's for others.  For a creation God loves so very much.  People.

I pray we are provoked to make a positive evaluation and challenge to the relationships we hold so dearly in our lives.  May we consider the lives of those around us.  May we have purpose and intention in every life we touch, and acknowledgement and thankfulness for those who touch ours. 

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 ~ NIV Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.  But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.  A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

“You may never have proof of your importance but you are more important than you think. There are always those who couldn’t do without you. The rub is that you don’t always know who.” ― Robert FulghumAll I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten


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