Everything’s Just Ducky. . . Or Is It? (A Lesson Learned From a Day With a Decoy)

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My husband, the amazing Mr Tim and I both had the day off today! That’s pretty big stuff considering my job for a church involves working on Sundays, and he works the other six days of the week as an engineer.

To celebrate, we decided to grab our kayaks and head to the river near our house for a little cruise along the banks of the mighty Mississippi. In the back of Tim’s truck is an old duck decoy, and we decided it would be fun to tie it onto the back of my kayak, letting the little guy experience the water again.

Not long after we had taken off, some kids were near the river bank and they shouted to us, “Is that a real duck?” I didn’t tell them yes or no, but instead responded with, “He’s our little pet.” I mean, he is, kind of–kind of like a tamagotchi or a pet rock.

Next, a dog followed along the bank longingly looking at my newly acquired friend. . . .like it might be his lunch. He obviously didn’t realize his potential lunch was made of plastic.

Then later that evening, we went back out when a co-worker of Tim’s came by on his motorcycle and asked, “Is that duck real?” Tim laughed and told him, “Yeah, we’ve got him trained to follow us, now.” Of course, he told the guy the truth that he was a little decoy and we were just having some fun.

But it sure made me think.

How often are we fooled by a decoy instead believing in the real thing?

How often does the deceiver allow us to think what is untrue is true?  How quick are we to buy into lies?

If today’s society is any indication, pretty often.

So let our little duck remind you to look a little more closely at things. Don’t be so quick to buy into what looks real. Investigate, ask questions, and see for yourself. Don’t just trust the words of others.

I mean after all, the real purpose of the decoy is not fun. It’s to lure in the hunter’s prey, resulting in its death. So be careful little eyes what you see, or everything won’t be “just ducky” after all.

(I can’t wait to make this an object lesson for KidZChurch!! Feel free to use it with the kids you are influencing!)

19209679218_e114957d4b_o-2 He looks so real. . . .but he’s not.

19208527488_ba089f0393_m  Be careful, at times, deception can seem fun.

Don’t Let the Turkeys Get You Down (or What to Do When People Don’t Like the Decisions You Make)

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Anyone else remember the saying, “Don’t let the turkeys get you down,” from somewhere in their past. Truth is, I hadn’t thought of it since, well, since somewhere in my past, until Thursday morning when I came out of our laundry room in a rush to get off to work.

Needless to say I was a bit surprised when the two little guys pictured above startled the kajeebers out of me! That wonderful man of mine was getting ready for turkey season and left his “supplies” sitting out in the open without any warning to me, his unsuspecting wife.

After regaining my composure, into my mind popped the phrase, “Don’t let the turkeys get you down!”  I took that to be a  little good-natured Holy Spirit advice, and went on about my way–after taking a picture for a blog post, of course! After all,

“When life gives you turkeys, write a blog post.”

Why a blog post? Because those turkeys reminded me of several conversations I’ve had lately with people dealing with stressful situations in their jobs, relationships, and circles of influence. It also reminded me of some great advice that turkey hunting husband of mine gave me when I started out in children’s ministry.

You know, seriously, what do you do when you’ve made some decision or said something or done something that some people don’t like?

I mean, c’mon, you’re sincerely trying to do your best. You’re not purposefully trying to irritate people or make bad decisions. Yet, some people just can’t seem to be pleased, and they seem to want to roost in your territory! (I know, I know!)

So what are you gonna do?

Don’t let the turkeys get you down. Instead, you might gobble up these two plans of action: (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself!)

1) Consider that the person may be right. They are not a turkey at all; they are actually trying to help keep you from looking like a turkey. If this is the case, you will probably need to try one of these ideas:

  • Humble Yourself.
  • Admit you are wrong.
  • Make things right.
  • Be thankful someone helped you realize your mistake.
  • Press on.

2) Reconsider your position and why you made the decision/statement/policy you did. If after going to God, you still feel confident that your decision was the best choice for the time, then try one of these ideas:

  • Stay Humble–don’t gloat about being right
  • Stay the course, good leaders often have to make hard decisions.
  • Be thankful for the opportunity to be sure of your decision.
  • Keep focused on God.
  • Press On with confidence in your decision.

No one is ever going to please every one all of the time, and just because someone doesn’t agree with your decisions doesn’t make them a turkey. God can use even the most stressful people and situations as opportunities to show us where we are wrong, and remind us of where we are right.

Make it a policy to continually inquire of the Lord and wait on Him as you lead. Let Him guide your words, decisions, policies and practices as you humbly rely on Him so that even if people don’t agree with you, they will respect you.

They who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength and soar with wings like eagles — far above the turkeys!

Catfish in Your Staff Meetings and Other Joys of Small Town Ministry

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This morning we were in our staff meeting when a guy from the church came in with a cooler.

As Jim stepped into the office, he said something about how he’s always talking about fishing, so he thought he’d bring in a sample of his morning catch.

Haha! Out came the little guy above–well, he wasn’t really  all that little.

Awesome!

I mean how often are you interrupted in your staff meetings by a catfish!

Of course, I snapped a quick picture and tweeted it out.   Every time I thought about it throughout the day, I had to smile.

When you do ministry in a small town, you are blessed with all kind of bounty. For example,

1)  Eggs. We have several families who have chickens and so that means they have eggs–lots of eggs–and that means we get lots of eggs. I love it when we get eggs!

2) Treats. From time to time people drop in with treats. This Christmas a group of older women who refer to themselves as “Heaven’s Seven,” brought our staff one of the biggest baskets of treats I have ever seen–and it was awesome!

3)  Essential oils. One of my mom’s sells EO’s, and during the height of sickness this year brought me some oils to help keep me on the road to health.

4)  Popcorn machines. Recently a gal from our church brought me a mini popcorn machine. It looks like a movie theater machine only much smaller. It was new, it had never been used and it is soooo cool, and the kids think it’s sooo cool, too.

5) Deer Sausage. We live in the land of hunters, so it’s not uncommon for someone to bring in some homemade deer sausage or jerky. In fact, sometimes we are the ones to bring it in!

There are so many more things people bring in–but ultimately what makes these things so special is not the things, but the people who bring things in. Each person is bringing in parts of themselves. They are bringing in their hearts, their hobbies, their appreciation and their love.

It’s one of the great things about small town ministry.

It’s sharing. It’s community. It’s giving. It’s appreciation. It’s caring.

It characterized the early church, and it’s a privilege to serve where it still characterizes the church today. It inspires me to want to do the same–to share, to give, to show appreciation and to care about the people around me in the same way.

Ha! And a catfish came to staff today. . . .I’m still smilin’ about that one!

I Don’t Like to Eat Bananas In Public (One of Many Things You Learn When You Work With Kids)

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Each year at our church my husband, the incredible Mr Tim, and I disciple a group of 6th graders. Recently, we were planning an end of the year activity with our group. In order to get a better idea of what they might like to do, we used a little reverse logic and asked, “What don’t you like to do?”

Trust me when I say we were not at all prepared when one of them said with all sincerity, “I don’t like to eat bananas in public.”

Well, ok, now.

The rest of us sort of looked at each other with one of those, “Well, where in the world did that come from?” looks when she, obviously noting our confusion, went on to say, “Well, I don’t. I don’t know why, but I just don’t.”

Readily reassuring her that nowhere in our planning was a day of public banana eating, we all had a good chuckle about it and continued our planning concluding with a plan to camp out on the church property–bananas not included.

Silly as it was, through that conversation I was reminded of a few important things about working with kids:

1) Never assume you know what is going on in a child’s life or mind.

2)  Do your best to make time to listen to the children you serve.

3) Don’t forget to ask them what they like and what they think about things.

4) Laugh. Have fun. Make adventures and memories–they build trust and relationship.

5) Accept them where they are, while helping them move forward in their walk with Christ.

This week as you or your volunteers lead in your small group or Bible study times, I pray that you will learn something new about your kids, their hearts, lives, likes or dislikes and that your time together will be as sweet and refreshing as a banana (eaten at home, in private, of course!)

**On an added note, this student arrived this week to tell me that she has overcome her fear of public banana eating because of our talk in our small group time last week. Apparently, they had bananas at school and she had forgotten her lunch and was very hungry so she decided to take the chance!!  Gotta love it!

Shaking off Snakes and Other Helpful Hints for Those in Ministry

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God is with you everywhere!

That’s been our preschoolers’ theme this month. If you who know me, you know I love a good theme snack–especially when it comes to preschoolers. So before we dig a littler deeper, I hope you get a kick out of these snakes snacks we made our “littles” had this week. So simple, just a bread stick wrapped around a skewer. I sprinkled them with a little cinnamon sugar and used raisins for eyes!) They were super fun and, well, and they were super delicious! Thank you, Pinterest and Pillsbury Dough Boy for another preschool snack win!

plate of snakes

Anyway. . .

Today’s lesson was about Paul when he landed on the island of Malta–hence the snake snacks! The Bible says that,

“Welcomed by the unusual kindness of the islanders, Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand.” (Acts 28:1-4)

Yikes! There are vipers on the island!!

The superstitious islanders wrongly conclude that Paul must have been a murderer. They reason that even though he escaped alive from the shipwreck at sea, for cryin’ out loud, someone’s pretty upset with him because he’s about to die from viper bite.

But, no, it was not to be, because then Scripture tells us,

“But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects.” (Acts 28:5)

The islanders watched and waited.

The people expected him to swell up or suddenly fall dead, but after waiting a long time and seeing nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god.”

I can see that. In fact, I’d like to have seen that.

This leads those hospitable islanders to invite Paul and some others to the home of the chief official of the island. Here, Paul winds up healing the man’s father along with the rest of the sick on the island. When they were ready to sail again, the kind folks on Malta gave them everything they needed.

In other words, Paul after being bitten by a viper, just shook that snake off and kept doing ministry.

What??? That’s awesome!!! Completely and totally awesome!!

Now I’m just tellin’ ya, that’s not how I would have handled it. But isn’t his way so much better than mine?

Snakes alive, you bet it is!! So here’s the helpful hint for ministry:

Ministry can be tough. Using the term “ministry” for those who are in paid and non paid ministry, I have always believed we are all called to be ministers of the gospel. And when we follow Jesus, snakes bite. It would do us well to learn to use the viper response method of the infamous “Mr. Paul.” But paid or volunteer, I’m pretty sure that if a viper bit me, I would be running around screaming, and then sitting down waiting for the ill effects to take place hoping someone is praying and someone else is calling 911.

Oh, but not Paul. He just shakes it off, and goes on about his business. (I’m so sorry if a T-Swift song just started playing in your head.)

When spiritual snakes bite, I’m afraid that many of us, myself included, forget the simple, yet profound, message of our preschoolers’ lesson: “God is with us everywhere!” He is here. He knows the danger of the poison, but He’s got our back and we can go on walking in trust.

Because when people see us walking in faith and victory, although they may be a bit confused, they will be able to see firsthand the power of God at work.

So when the snakes bite, and they will, remember that God is with you everywhere, and He is more than enough to enable us to shake it off and continue serving in ways that bring Him honor in all we do.

“I will be with you always.” Matthew

Finding Freedom in Finding Your Focus

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My husband just told me I’m kind of “anal” about certain things. Hmmm. Insight.

In his defense, you should know that he didn’t just randomly share that information. I asked him if he thought I was a focused person. You see, I had just started this post out with a sentence that said, “I’m not really what you would call a focused person.” (Then backspace, backspace, backspace, backspace. . . )

Let me explain further:

Sitting in an airport, I asked him, “Would you say I’m a focused person?” He gave me one of those looks that said, “Is this a ‘Does this make my butt look big?’ kind of question.”

So when he cautiously replied, “Yes, yes you are,” I was kind of taken by surprise. And then he added, “You’re kind of anal about certain things.”

Nice.

After 30 years of marriage I have learned to listen to him, (Now, I want to say in my own defense, I learned that well before the 30th year). I realized that he was probably speaking truth (although I’m not sure “anal” is exactly the right word.) As we talked, it didn’t surprise me when he said one of my areas of “focus” was ministry.

In the past few years I have tried to spend more time seeking God as to the things He wants me to do, the places He wants me to go, the people He wants me to reach, and the ways He wants me to spend His money.

Then this January I set a focus. Like, I penned a “woman on a mission” statement. I made myself a little piece of art. Cruised to Wal-mart and invested $1.99 on a frame and hung it on a wall directly across from my desk where I can see it every day.  It says simply:

“Teach people about Jesus and teach people to teach people about Jesus.”

So each week, I determine to do just that. It may be through training or speaking, or my regular teaching as the children’s director at my church. It may be through writing or coaching or leading a small group of kids or women. It may happen over a beverage or breakfast or a power walk or during kids’ worship practice. Although it usually happens with words, I hope it also takes place every day through my actions.

Through the leading of the Holy Spirit, I have determined that I will not be deterred. I’ve found the freedom to be able to say “Yes,” and “No,” when necessary, and to walk in joy and awe of God.

Like Paul, I find myself compelled to share the gospel so that people will know the One who knows them, loves them, died and rose again to set them free to walk in hope, grace and victory, and to teach others to do the same.

If the Spirit is leading you to set a focus, let me encourage you to listen to His leading. Get some away time and let Him show you how He wants to use you and enjoy the freedom and adventures that lie ahead.

Oh, and if you’d like to share, I’d love to hear where God is focusing you!

The Ugliest Cookies I Ever Made and What God Taught Me Through Them

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I had visions of the most beautiful cookies. Tiny little hand prints to remind lil HiSKidZ that Jesus healed a man’s hand.

However, my husband couldn’t decide whether they were supposed to be bird prints or animal tracks. He also thought they looked like a good opportunity to try out his new camera lens.

Hey! What?????? Leave my animal tracks, I mean, hand print cookies, alone! OK, maybe he had a point. These may have been the ugliest cookies I had ever made.

And God taught me a great lesson because of them.

Like I was saying, our preschoolers were scheduled to have a lesson entitled, “Jesus Heals a Man’s Bent Hand,” as part of a series we are doing on Jesus Makes Us Well.

In choosing a theme snack, I thought to myself, “Hand print cookies! That would be awesome!!” So I borrowed a hand print cookie cutter and off to work I went. Never mind the fact that I don’t make cut out sugar cookies, or that I don’t own a rolling pin or have any all purpose flour. I was not to be deterred.

Betty Crocker and I got mixing things up and life was good. Since I didn’t have that rolling pin, I just scooped the dough out and patted it down in my whole wheat flour blend and then cut out my now slightly speckled little hands, laying them carefully down on the cookie sheets. Sure they looked a little lopsided, and perhaps they looked like they needed to be washed. Maybe the fingers were bent a little here and there. I mean, c’mon, it was a lesson about a man with a bent hand after all.

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As I scooped, and patted and cut and baked these cookies were, ummm, well, they were not exactly looking like little hands. Rather, they were crooked, bent, a bit disfigured animal tracks. They did taste good, though!

The more I baked, the more I laughed. I sent texts to some friends, and we laughed together as they tried to console me.

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But the coolest thing is, I didn’t need to be consoled. I was perfectly fine with my perfectly imperfect cookies. Something that may not have been true about me a few years ago. In fact, you would be correct to assume that I would have been out at the store late on Saturday night to buy more ingredients, starting all over until everything was just perfect.

But because a man’s hand wasn’t the only thing Jesus healed, I stayed at home, finished my baking and thanked God for doing miraculous things in the lives of imperfect people.

My imperfection may not have been physically obvious, but it was still there. Because Jesus had healed my striving, perfectionist heart, I was now free to laugh at mistakes and creative oversights, confident knowing that He cares more about my heart than my perfection.

Because of Jesus, I was able to be happy, joyful even, with the decision that the cookies would simply be hands before the healing, rather than after. Either way, the kids would love them and they would learn that Jesus had the power to heal a man with a bent hand, and I was reminded that He had the power to heal their imperfect leader, and that’s what really matters.

Oh! One more thing: Tonight during our 6th grade discipleship group, we shared some of the left over cookies. The kids thought they were jellyfish (just turned upside down), and my husband did this:

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He called it Wilson!

Taste and See the Lord is good!