Tooting God’s Horn

thNow Jericho was strongly fortified because of the Israelites—no one leaving or entering. The Lord said to Joshua, “Look, I have handed Jericho, its king, and its fighting men over to you. March around the city with all the men of war, circling the city one time. Do this for six days. Have seven priests carry seven ram’s-horn trumpets in front of the ark. But on the seventh day, march around the city seven times, while the priests blow the trumpets. When there is a prolonged blast of the horn and you hear its sound, have all the people give a mighty shout. Then the city wall will collapse, and the people will advance, each man straight ahead.”

So Joshua son of Nun summoned the priests and said to them, “Take up the ark of the covenant and have seven priests carry seven trumpets in front of the ark of the Lord.” He said to the people, “Move forward, march around the city, and have the armed troops go ahead of the ark of the Lord.” (Joshua 6:1-7)

Even when God tells us to be bold, it can be frightening to be noisy and call attention to ourselves, because we know we’re getting the attention of the enemy. People in Jericho certainly heard the hubbub going on outside their walls. Sure, God was more powerful, but I imagine many inside those walls were planning their attack and defense.

No matter what attention we call to ourselves that we’d prefer not to have, we need to be confident in God’s plan. We need to follow Him well, not rationalize what we should or shouldn’t do because of our own preferences. We need to make sure we’re making noise under His direction, not just because we think it’s a good idea. It will probably look a bit different in both style and timing for each of us. That’s how God works. Instead of giving a one-size-fits-all-so-just-copy-someone direction, He says, “Listen well to Me, and follow Me well. I will lead well.”

We can trust Him even when we don’t understand.

Chill, Christian

Cat_Ready_To_PounceChristians can be relentless.

Perseverance can be a good thing when it’s well-directed, when we persevere in faith. But faith that is on constant battle mode, like a cornered badger, reveals a stressed, anxiety-laden faith instead of a faith marked by trust in God. We can be convicted with an urgency to stand and speak up, but that’s very different than sinking our teeth into someone or foaming at the mouth to pounce.

It’s not impossible to be kind, patient, gentle, and loving when confronting people and issues. All of those things (and more) are fruit of the Spirit. If our faith-filled lives and our interactions with others don’t include the fruit of the Spirit, we have a problem. When we’re known more for our relentless attacks more than we are for the character of God, we need to chill and take a look at ourselves and our faith.

Dealing with a Surprise Attack

imagesHave you ever received a surprise slap during a conversation? That experience when you feel a judgment, accusation, or confrontation comes out of nowhere?

Sometimes, you know it’s coming. It’s been brewing for awhile, waiting for just the right time and situation to spew forth. You can brace yourself for it. But when it catches you by surprise, it’s difficult to receive. Instead of responding, you might react…by lashing out, justifying yourself, or shutting down.

How can you prepare ahead of time for something you don’t know is coming? How can you remain sensitive to the possibilities of the relationships around you without taking everything personally? How can you take on a new perspective, one that takes you into consideration (after all, you’ll have quite a time completely ignoring your own perspective) but also widens the scope?

Sometimes, when people attack, accuse, or judge you, it’s not as much about you as you might think. Sometimes, they’re struggling through their own stuff, and you’re available at the time. Something you do or say reminds them of what most irritates them about someone else, or themselves. Perhaps you’re a safe sounding board, and even though you wish they’d take a less aggressive approach, they need to process out loud without a lot of interference. They might be questioning some things on their own, but they’re not quite ready to get personal with their questions. In fact, for the time being, they might have built up walls of protection to resist any personal reflection, because it’s just too daunting to face. It’s easier to examine and interrogate someone else’s life than their own.

You might never know the exact reason for the slap, and in the moment, it might not help a lot anyway, unless you’re willing to quietly use it as a motivation to stay engaged and be compassionate. Confronting the reason when emotions are already high will likely make the situation worse. Besides, your assessment of the situation might be wrong.

The bottom line is, someone is taking jabs at you, and you want to jab right bag and accuse, attack, and judge. So…do you? Should you?

Take a deep breath. Ask yourself, “Is there some truth in what she’s saying to me?” Pause before you get defensive. Maybe God wants you to learn something about yourself that you would prefer not to face, especially from “that person.”

Ask yourself, “How can I honor God in my response?” If you’re able to calmly assess that it really isn’t about you, why take offense to it? Why not help the person process? Give her respect. Ask her questions to help her clarify what she’s thinking. Let her express herself, while responding in a kind way (kind, not as in becoming a doormat for people to walk on, but as in honestly engaging in caring conversation).

Sometimes, people seem to wrestle with themselves and others when they’re actually wrestling with God. What seems personal is…but it’s more about a personal relationship with God than something between you and the other person. Of course, God uses relationships to grow us, so pay attention. Do it His way, and you’ll grow toward Him and honor Him. How you respond is about your relationship with Him. Let Him determine what you need to take as personal. He’s not surprised by the slap. He saw it coming…and He also saw how you’d handle it and use it to trust Him.

Pay attention to God along the way. Then, when you’re faced with a surprise, you’ll be as prepared as He intends you to be. You have what you need…or rather, WHO you need. Trust Him through the situation. Honor Him with your response.

The Doubt and Confidence of Your Calling

Today’s guest post is from my friend Gloria Lee. Enjoy!

393290_10150363917819007_140620465_n“Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.” Ephesians 4:11-12

I turned 41 this year. I have never been married. I don’t have children. However, God called me to be a children’s pastor.

When I first started out as a children’s ministry intern 20 years ago, I was intimidated by parents. They were all older than me. I was just getting my hands wet in ministry. I knew I had a lot to learn.

I went to seminary and received my masters in Christian education. I spent three years studying how I can better minister to children and families. I still felt intimidated by parents. They were still older than me with more life experience. I was young and timid. I knew I needed to build confidence, but I thought it would just come with age, life experience, marriage, and kids.

Approximately 10 years into ministry, I was convicted that my role as the children’s director included starting conversations with parents about being the primary faith leaders for their kids. I also knew my role wasn’t just about teaching the kids but it was ministering to the families, including matters pertaining to parenting. I started sharing with the parents separation anxiety tips when they drop off young children, resources to help parents lead their kids in their faith, and other information I had read in books and articles.

One Sunday, a group of parents started attacking me verbally. They told me that my job was teaching children, and I had no business telling parents what to do. I was completely taken aback by their comments. They continued to tell me that everything I had to say showed my lack of experience as a parent, and I wouldn’t be telling them these things had I been a parent. I was in a state of shock because I was only sharing with them what I had learned working in public and private schools for years, from reading many books and articles, and from classes I had taken in school. Confused, hurt, and shocked, I went home that night and cried myself to sleep convinced there is no way I could be called into children’s ministry as a single woman without children.

I was ready to throw in the towel. Things got worse, and I didn’t want to disturb my senior pastor with church matters during his sabbatical. I had weathered through some tough ministry times before… I had been attacked for being a female leader in the church, I’ve had to carry the children’s ministry through months of ugly leadership division that resulted in a church split, and I even had a pastor threaten to “blacklist” me if I didn’t do as I was told (his demands had more to do with my personal life than ministry such as not being allowed to have a roommate because parishioners shouldn’t see how pastors live outside the church—yes, ridiculous I know!). But this time, my confidence was completely shaken… and I was convinced I had completely misunderstood God’s calling and entering ministry was a big mistake. I must have misheard His calling.

I wrote my letter of resignation and got up the courage to call my senior pastor on his sabbatical. During our meeting, he looked at me directly in the eye and said “My wife and I trust you with my own children. You have played a big part in my kids coming to know Christ. I call you when I need parenting advice. I believe with all my heart that God has called you to minister to children and families. I want to affirm you of your calling. I have no doubt in my mind I hired the right person for the job.” Tears kept streaming down my face, but I wasn’t convinced. A couple weeks later, my pastor affirmed my calling from the pulpit. The group of parents that had attacked me left the church silently.

But the story doesn’t end here. That experience alone left a huge hole in my confidence. I found myself apologizing for not being a parent when I talked to parents. I found myself quoting authors and speakers, but not speaking from my own knowledge or experience. One day, a missionary I respect said, “How are your kids?” I answered back, “I don’t have any kids.” She said, “Of course you do. You have hundreds of them. You care for each one’s spiritual health, sometimes more than their biological parents. Your interaction and experience with hundreds of kids make you more experienced than most parents.” Her words were medicine to my soul, and I started my road to healing and regaining confidence in God’s calling for my life.

Since then, I have worked hard at connecting with other children’s pastors who have excelled despite not having their own kids. I have worked hard at being confident in my role. I have worked hard at leading and encouraging with God’s authority rather than apologizing for my status. I have worked hard at honing my knowledge and skills.

Earlier this year, I was at a gathering of children’s ministers in my area. During introductions, I caught several newbies saying “I don’t have any children of my own so I’m not sure if what I’m doing is correct.” I felt the strong urge to empower them and tell them to embrace God’s calling and be confident in their roles.

Today, I know with confidence that God has called me to minister to children and families. I have 20 years of experience in children’s ministry, and I have had the privilege of ministering to hundreds of children and parents. I am confident of what I know, and I continue to learn more. I don’t pretend to know and feel as parents do. But I know that God has given me the gifts and authority to equip, encourage, and support families.

I turned 41 this year. I have never been married. I don’t have children, AND God called me to be a children’s pastor. What is God’s calling for your life? How have YOU found confidence in His calling for your life?

gloriaConnect with Gloria on her blog, Facebook and Twitter.