Get to the Root

imagesIf my step has turned from the way, my heart has followed my eyes, or impurity has stained my hands, let someone else eat what I have sown, and let my crops be uprooted. (Job 31:7-8)

Do you see uprooting as more negative or positive?

How have you experienced it in your life?

What do you feel is being uprooted or needs to be uprooted right now?

The planting and harvest process is a constant one, and we often have an overlap of seasons. We might have things we plant at the same time that we need to prune something else and uproot something else. If we try to categorize everything in our lives into nice, tidy rows, we might be surprised to find out we’ve missed some things. If our lives fit into a spreadsheet, we’re missing something. Because life is messy. It has overlaps and overflows.

When we uproot something, we need to get to the base of it. And it’s not just things that we know are unhealthy and negative. Transplanting something so that it remains healthy and can continue to grow requires uprooting, too. If you don’t get the roots, the transplant won’t be successful. We all experience transitions on a regular basis. How healthily we deal with the transitions makes a big difference. Do we leave a big section of our roots behind, or are we willing to uproot and move on? Sure, we might struggle for a bit. Transplants often do. There’s a period of adjustment, and it can be long and difficult. But we only make it more difficult when we’re not willing do the hard work and sacrifice required.

Sometimes we need to get to the root of something in order to check its health. We need to know what’s going on deep within. Maybe the root system is solid, but maybe it’s not. Sometimes, we build root systems out of assumptions and tradition, and we need to question its stability. We need to make sure we’re getting the best flow of the best nutrients into our lives.

Reach out to someone who has helped you establish strong spiritual roots and share your gratitude with him or her. Reach out to someone today and help strengthen his or her spiritual root system with encouragement and truth.

Lessons from the Produce Aisle

aisleI often work with and write for churches and ministries. Sometimes, lessons and reminders come in some odd places…like the produce aisle. Walking through the store’s produce aisle can be filled with a variety of colors, textures, and aromas. However, not every color, texture, and aroma is pleasant. Let’s take a stroll together and perhaps learn something about ourselves, our ministries, and the people we live and serve alongside.

The Mushy Apple. Sometimes fruit is picked too early or left on the shelf too long. The result is a tart, grainy, unpleasant fruit that is past its prime. In ministry, people live and serve in their prime when they’re in the center of God’s will, but it involves constant vigilance and adjustments. Discovering who God created us to be is a continual process. Even when we know the gifts He has poured into us, God will often instruct us to use them in different ways with various situations and people. Life in ministry isn’t predictable, because God wants us to rely on Him through an ever-deepening relationship.

The Limp Lettuce. Sometimes fruit is mishandled. When attention isn’t given to the proper temperature, storage, and transportation, the end product isn’t as excellent as it can be. In ministry, something similar happens when we mishandle people, including ourselves. Even good intentions of forming teams can negatively affect the outcome when we quickly assign people to roles without listening to their passions or when we fail to consistently evaluate and make necessary adjustments. We must be disciplined in the process of ministry, and we must be intentional in disciplining people.

The Infested Plum. Sometimes fruit is exposed to something that feeds and breeds on a vulnerability. Once fruit flies find the fermenting sugar in a piece of fruit, they quickly multiply and infest the entire box, crate, or shipment of fruit. In ministry, even the slightest vulnerability can attract a small issue that initially goes undetected but soon multiplies out of control. In order to avoid infestation, we must commit to vigilant examination. Focusing on spiritual health involves detecting anything that’s potentially unhealthy. Early detection is key.

The Leaky Watermelon. Sometimes fruit is damaged but still looks good on the outside. A hard bump against each other might create a small crack in the rind. It looks fine at first, but with each jostle along the journey to the produce shelf, the crack slightly shifts until the inside begins to leak. In ministry, people often look fine on the outside, but bumps along life’s journey can create problems when undetected. Just because someone looks okay on the outside doesn’t mean the inside is okay. We need to pay attention to and care for people around us.

The Baseball Peach. Sometimes fruit hasn’t been given enough time to develop, so even when it’s on the produce shelf, it’s not ready to be savored. In ministry, we need to trust God’s timing. We often want to be ready for something more quickly than God’s timing. We sometimes want to put off something longer than God intends. We don’t’ decide God’s perfect timing. We simply respond in obedience every time.

The Grape Cluster. Sometimes fruit seems to multiply. We don’t find just a single grape hanging on the vine. Grapes grow in clusters. When a vine is damaged, an entire cluster of grapes suffers. When the growing conditions are excellent, the entire cluster of grapes is scrumptious. In ministry, we need to cluster with others. We need to pay attention to how those around us are doing, because we affect one another. The growing conditions we’re in are similar to the growing conditions of those closest to us. We want to grow healthy together.

The Needy Strawberry. Fruit needs tender-loving care and attention. Strawberries are time-intensive fruit. In ministry, we tend to label time-intensive people as “too” needy, yet in reality, each of us needs time, tender-loving care, and attention. God knows the perfect growing conditions for each of us, and we can trust Him through the process. Being needy isn’t necessarily bad. When we trust God for our needs – and for others’ needs – we grow in His timing and care.

The What-Do-I-Do-With-This? Some fruit is lesser known and used: goumi, loquat, rowan, medlar, guarana, and so on. Fruit doesn’t have to be “common” to be delicious. In ministry, we often limit ourselves by the best-known programs, people, and approaches, but God’s creation is rich in variety. He gives purpose, beauty, and taste to everything He creates. Explore the variety among and within the people around you, including yourself.

A tree is identified by its fruit. Figs are never gathered from thornbushes, and grapes are not picked from bramble bushes. (Luke 6:44)

Introducing Our Great Team, including…..

teammemberI arrived at the church to set up for an event for the next day and was invited to a team dinner for the leadership team and volunteers at one of the team member’s house. What a great way to take a breath before the big event. The home was warm and welcoming, and the hostesses had attended to every detail to be sure everyone had a chance to relax and connect with one another. Instead of focusing on the last minute “to do” list, everyone shared what was going on in their lives and seemed to enjoy the “catch up” time amidst the chaotic prep-for-a-large-event time.

We took our time grazing on appetizers and feasting on a scrumptious meal. We had little room for dessert, but we manage to at least taste a couple bites. A few people left, but the core team remained behind and began to discuss the final details for the following day.

I was impressed. This team was organized. It wasn’t the first time I noticed. I had met with them early in the process, and they anticipated all my questions. They were efficient as they communicated details throughout the process, but their efficiency wasn’t at a cost of warmth and relationship. As I got to know these women, I felt as if I was part of their team and was confident we would be able to touch base at any point in the future and quickly pick up where we left off. When I walked into the church earlier that evening, the color-coded welcome packets were lined up on the front table, beautiful centerpieces were placed on each table, welcoming women to sit with a cup of coffee and enjoy their friendships, a free book table was set up, the hospitality room was prepared, and the prayer room was given special attention with even the smallest details noted. We spent intentional time in prayer before leaving the building. These women weren’t just checking off tasks to be done for an event; they were serious about preparing rich soil in which women would be challenged to grow throughout the event and beyond.

This was the super team. And I told them so. I let them know how special they were. I praised them for building and maintaining a healthy team, taking the time to spend time together, focusing on each others’ lives not just the task list of ministry. I wanted to encourage them on the eve of their large event.

As will often happen the night before an event, especially after a long day and week of preparation, the team stood in the hostess’ kitchen and began to giggle over silly things. None would seem funny if I tried to share, except…

As they began to discuss one particular detail of the day, a team member’s name was mentioned. A moment of complete silence followed. Then looks of shock and confusion. Then everyone seemed to speak at once…

Where IS she? Did you call her? I didn’t call her, did you call her? I texted her! Oh, she doesn’t text! Well, why didn’t it come back? Did you Facebook her? No, I thought I emailed her. Oh, wait, let me check my phone. Oh, no! She sent me a message wanting to know how to get to the dinner tonight, but I got so busy, I forgot to respond!!!

Yes, I found a flaw to the super team. They had actually forgotten one of their team members! Worse yet, they had just realized it…after being at the appreciation dinner for several hours!

Of course, I took the opportunity to point out the irony of having just praised them for having a healthy team. One of them looked at me and said, “We have no hope of keeping this quiet, do we?”

Umm…no.

Deception Destroys

decptionWithout trust, you are alone. Deception doesn’t build team. It erodes trust. And deception doesn’t have to be bold-faced lies.

As I work with ministry teams, I often find people talking about growing their teams by bringing more people on board without realizing the potential they have in growing the existing team them have. Without facing issues of team unity, bringing additional people on board will only spread to more people. In the excitement of growth, the issues might be temporarily masked, but when trust isn’t intentionally built, relationships deteriorate.

If you make promises you can’t keep, you erode trust. That’s not to say you are always going to be able to fulfill every commitment you make, but when you can’t do something you said you’d do, you need to reach out and ask for help. That means, if someone on your team respectfully reaches out for help, you need to refrain from (often behind-the-back) chastisements of “Why can’t she just do what she said she’d do? What if we all dropped the ball?” Reaching out for help is not dropping the ball. When you say you can get something done, get it done…and involving additional people can actually be beneficial, because more people get to share ownership. Cultivate a team that trusts each other enough to be able to fully rely on each other to get it all done…together.

If you don’t give recognition and commendation, you erode trust. It’s easy to keep pushing forward to continue working on the next thing. Take a breath and savor what someone’s done. Show appreciation. A word of encouragement goes a long way. Chronic lack of appreciation goes a long way, too, but it’s not the direction healthy teams grow. A smile, a nod, and a simple “thank you” invites people to take a breath of affirmation, encouraging them to take the next steps with renewed purpose. Recognition also comes in the form of acknowledging others’ ideas. It doesn’t mean accepting every single idea, but building trust certainly involves respecting the person who shares ideas. When the idea is tossed aside with a smirk, the person who shared is less likely to share in the future. People also don’t feel valued when all ideas are included without discernment of what fits and what doesn’t. After all, if all ideas are valued the same, there really is no value to them.

If you aren’t trustworthy, you erode trust. It’s not just what you say but also what you do. Passive-aggressiveness erodes relationships. If something is wrong but you’re unwilling to face it, the anger, frustration, and irritation is felt under the table. Team members know something is going on but may feel pressure not to bring up the elephant in the room. Many people believe they are being honest with everyone when they say nothing is wrong, because they’re not being honest with themselves. They believe they’re being transparent, because they won’t admit what’s wrong even to themselves. In the process, they can make it seem as if the very thing that they believe is wrong with others is actually what is stirring up within themselves. Even though the anger and frustration they seem to feel for others may not actually be related to the people they seem to target, it feels as if it is, and it can quickly damage the health of a team.

Building trust takes time and effort.

Many want to assume it’s a default setting, but it’s not. Be sacrificial and build–or rebuild–trust. We’re called to do life with others, and that requires self-sacrifice, difficult conversations, and uncomfortable confrontation at times. Focus on God. You can trust him. His way never involves deception of any kind. Let’s strive to fully reflect him as we serve and work alongside others.

Fit Faith: Health: Open Air Therapy

Several years ago, my husband and I started walking together. We had tried many times before that, but I wasn’t a very good walking partner. I liked to power walk, and I didn’t have much patience for anyone who wanted to stroll. I was on a mission, and my focus was on a good workout, which I defined as pushing myself physically. Walking didn’t have anything to do with anyone else but myself.

Then I made a concession. I would go for my walk and push my limits. When I was done, I’d go for another, shorter walk with Tim. It was a compromise we could both live with. The focus began to shift from the walk to the time we got to spend together. We talked about our days. We talked about our daughters. We talked about anything that was on our minds.

As we grew accustomed to walking together, we adjusted again. Instead of waiting until I got home from a walk, Tim would text me when I’d been gone for a while to find out if I was ready for a walking buddy. I rarely said no, even if I hadn’t been walking long, because I looked forward to walking with him. It wasn’t so much about me as it was about the time I got to spend with my husband.

Being able to walk and talk occasionally invited topics that spurred disagreements. That’s going to happen between two married people! Disagreements when walking, however, had a different tone. We were walking side-by-side, and as we’d work through the conflict toward a resolution, we avoided much antagonism, because we were headed in the same direction. We walked and talked it out.

The occasional disagreement and more frequent sharing took on a therapeutic effect. We were spending time together. It didn’t matter if we were talking about our relationship or things that impacted each of us as individuals, we were growing together. We still are.

We’re not in a regular routine of walking together, but we miss it when we go very long without it. We know we can spend time together in many other ways, but there’s something special about our walks – so much so that many times I don’t insist on a walk before our walk. He walks a bit faster, I walk a bit slower, and that’s okay with me. I’m just glad to be by his side, listening to his heart.

Health isn’t just about the physical. That’s often the focus, and it was certainly my main focus when determined to walk fast and far. However, there’s an emotional and relational health benefit I was missing and have been able to infuse into my walks as Tim has joined me. The physical benefits become secondary.

How do you compartmentalize your health?

How and when do you sacrifice one aspect of your health for another?

My child, pay attention to my words; listen closely to what I say. Don’t ever forget my words; keep them always in mind. They are the key to life for those who find them; they bring health to the whole body. (Proverbs 4:20-22)

Surround yourself with healthy relationships. Let them infuse health into many other areas of your life. Let God’s perspective invade your perspective. Let his words nourish you so that you know where he wants you to be when and with whom. He will help correct your focus if it’s misguided, and he’ll impact everything in your life when you develop a healthy relationship with him.

This Week’s 7 – Reasons to Celebrate

Each Monday on the Pure Purpose blog, I feature This Week’s 7, a simple list about an everyday topic, giving you ideas and encouragement. Today is Columbus Day in the U.S. Later this month is the popular holiday: Halloween. What about other opportunities to celebrate this month? It doesn’t take a national holiday to celebrate. Here are a few lesser-known holidays in October. Choose one of these, or something going on in your life, to celebrate today and throughout the coming days!

  1. Apple Month. Yum! Apple crisp, apple pie, apple dumplings, apple cake. Enjoy warm baking smells on a chilly evening.
  2. Class Reunion Month. I know not everyone wants to attend class reunions. You’ve moved beyond that time of your life, but I encourage you to revisit some memories and reconnect with someone to tell her thanks for her support, friendship or impact on your life.
  3. Emotional Wellness Month. You might take care of yourself physically and even spiritually, but what about emotionally? Do you stuff your emotions, or do you let them control your decisions? If you need somewhere to start, check out the free download of Pure Emotions Chapter One.
  4. National Book Month. Celebrate books in fresh ways. Read something outside your typical genres. Share quotes from favorite books on your social networking sites. Donate books to a local library, community center or women’s shelter.
  5. Popcorn Poppin’ Month. Another YUM! Try popcorn with a twist. A couple of my favorites? Warm popcorn tossed with bag of Gardetto’s Original Snack Mix or popcorn sprinkled with Sno-Caps.
  6. World Smile Day (October 7th). That’s right: share a smile and let the ripple effect begin!
  7. Mammography Day (October 21st). Yes, October is Breast Awareness Month. Encourage women in your life to schedule (and make!) an appointment. Be aware of your health. Celebrate the opportunities you have.

Celebrate life.

This Week’s 7 – Challenge for Today

Each Monday on the Pure Purpose blog, I feature This Week’s 7, a simple list about an everyday topic, giving you ideas and encouragement. This week’s list includes a challenge for your day. Will you accept? I’m making assumptions about some of the things you’ll do today, so I’m not challenging you to add something to your day. Choose one or accept all the challenges. Let me know how it goes!

  1. Walk. As you take physical steps today, think of the impact your steps have on your spiritual journey. Are you blazing a trail on your own? Are you asking God to bless your steps – after you’ve already taken them? Are you second-guessing yourself to such an extent you’re frozen and don’t move? Be intentional as you walk today. I will walk with the Lord  in the land of the living. (Psalm 116:9)
  2. Talk. Be mindful of the words you say today. Encourage others. Build others up. Are you making excuses for what you say? Are you taking others into consideration? Are you being bold in what God wants you to say but remaining silent when he guides you to silence? Be intentional in your talk today. When you talk, do not say harmful things, but say what people need—words that will help others become stronger. Then what you say will do good to those who listen to you. (Ephesians 4:29)
  3. Rest. Life is busy. How well do you rest? Quiet yourself – even in the middle of a busy time or place. Look around. Take a deep breath. Soak in all God provides. Sink into his blessings. Trust him to refresh you throughout the day. Be intentional in your rest today. Anyone who enters God’s rest will rest from his work as God did. (Hebrews 4:10)
  4. Pay. How are you spending your time, money, and energy? Do you hoard time, money, or energy? Do you overspend time, money, or energy, resulting in emotional, financial, or spiritual debt? God provides. Respond with good stewardship. Be intentional in how you spend your life today. When people work, their pay is not given as a gift, but as something earned. (Romans 4:4)
  5. Read. How are you filling your mind? What sources do you trust? Be discerning in what is worthwhile to read, hear and see. Step beyond the basic choice between what’s good and bad. You’ll more often need to choose between good and good. Choose the best. Consistently soak in God’s Word. Be intentional in what you read today. Until I come, continue to read the Scriptures to the people, strengthen them, and teach them. (1 Timothy 4:13)
  6. Eat. Does your day revolve around food? Do you ignore what your body is telling you? Does the ease of eating override the health of eating, or does the short-term pleasure override the long-term effects when you’re making a decision? What do your habits reflect about your priorities? Make healthy choices – one at a time. Be intentional in how and what you eat today. The answer is, if you eat or drink, or if you do anything, do it all for the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)
  7. Tech. You will likely use a variety of technology tools today. How are you using them? Are they helping you connect in healthy ways, or are they pulling you away from relationships? Reflect on your priorities. Choose each click well. Honor and glorify God in all you do. Be intentional in how you use technology today. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as it loves its own. But I have chosen you out of the world, so you don’t belong to it. (John 15:19)