Healed and Healing

I wrote this article for the eNews from Fellowship Church of Holland, MI

We sang a song this past Sunday called “All Ye Refugees.” The following words, in particular, keep circling in my mind:

Oh refugee, I did not cast you out
In death and broken ground, Salvation springs
My body and my blood, the healing that you need
Come and receive

Welcome home, gather round
all ye refugees, come in.

It is sung by Sandra McCracken. You can listen to the song here.

The word refugee has it roots in the word refuge. A refugee is one who is seeking refuge. In our current context we think of people throughout the world who might be oppressed and seeing refuge in America or other countries.

Spiritually, many in our world are seeking refuge from pain, hurt, and struggles. The good news, as we heard from Pastor Brian, is that the gospel provides refuge and healing. This message is that God came to this world as a human to carry all of our burdens, brokenness, anxieties, fears, and sickness in order to conquer them once and for all. Yes, we still face challenges, but we no longer face them alone or in hopelessness.

This time of year is always a reminder to me of what it is like to be in a place of brokenness. My brother passed away on January 28, 1996. This happened after his body rejected lungs from a transplant he received that was supposed to bring him new life from his Cystic Fibrosis. It was a time of darkness and mourning as I cried out to God with pain and wondering on why he didn’t heal my brother. In this pain, God changed me and transformed me. I would not wish this type of challenge on anyone. At the same time, God has somehow strengthened me, given me peace, and changed how I view others and the world.

I pray that you might experience His peace that passes all understanding and that you might be healed from whatever pain you are experiencing so you can proclaim, like David in Psalm 30:11-12

You did it: you changed wild lament
into whirling dance;
You ripped off my black mourning band
and decked me with wildflowers.
I’m about to burst with song;
I can’t keep quiet about you.
God, my God,
I can’t thank you enough. (The Message)

This is the good news of the gospel and it isn’t just for us. Let’s share it with our neighbors and the world. If you haven’t experienced this for yourself and want to learn more, please reach out to any of the staff at Fellowship or others in the congregation.

Welcome home, gather round
all ye refugees, come in.

Where do you need healing?
How have you received healing?
Where might God be asking you to provide healing to others?

## The Art of Working Together – Alan Mulally #GLS2016 Session 2

The Art of Working Together – Alan Mulally #GLS2016 Session 2

It is important to place people first and work together to see and share problems in order to solve them by working together. To do this, use data and information to see current reality. Healthy teams need to be able to hold 2 things in tension at the same time:

  • Deal with reality
  • Have a plan to deal with it

Consider using the colors red, yellow, and green when sharing goals and monitoring all aspects of a project.

The Lenses of Leadership – Bill Hybels #GLS2016 Session 1


The Lenses of Leadership – Bill Hybels #GLS2016 Session 1
There are four lens’ of leadership that require the attention and are the responsibility of the leader:

  • Passion (red framed glasses): Keep passion alive in your spirit because it is infectious. Read materials that ignite passion, be around people with passion, and go to places that inspire passion.
  • Culture (shattered lens glasses): Care about people because God cares about people. Feedback is very important so don’t shy away from doing it and building it into the culture.
  • Goals (adjustable lens glasses): Watch out for too many or too few goals in an organization. Pay attention and keep adjusting.
  • Legacy (glasses with rear-view lens attached): Look at your past to see where most of your energy has been spent. Align your energy with how you want to be remembered. Start now!

Enough?

This is an article I wrote for the February 17, 2016 newsletter for Fellowship Reformed Church

For the past few months I’ve been on a quest to remove clutter from my life. I believe the reason for my desire to see things clean, orderly, and simple is because I will have to move out of my office at Fellowship by the end of April. This is something we, as a staff, will all be doing so the construction crews can start the office expansion and renovation. In this process, I’m seeing all of the piles of papers that need to be filed or shredded and the books that need to be sorted and donated. Sometimes this feels overwhelming and other times it makes me sad. The sadness comes from realizing all of the hopes and dreams that are tied up in objects. Some of the books look really great, yet I haven’t read them. Some of the papers might hold secret treasures that would have helped me make a better decision. As I write these words, I realize even more clearly how much energy all of these possessions and clutter take from me. Peter Walsh, author of many books about organization, has this to say about clutter:

“It means anything that stands between you and the vision you have for your best life. It could be a pile of inherited furniture or a jumble of kids’ toys all over the living room. But it could also be the constant self-doubt that creeps into your decision-making, anger about how you’re treated at work, shame about your weight or looks, or a tendency to respond defensively and critically when your spouse challenges you. Whatever the case, you have to ask yourself, “Does this item or thought or response move me closer to my vision for my best life?” If it does, great. If it doesn’t, what is it doing in your life?”

This past Sunday, Marlin Vis shared the story from Mark 10:17-31 about how a really good guy, who happened to have a lot of stuff, came to Jesus and asked what it would take to receive eternal life. Jesus tells him to remove the clutter because it is standing between him and what is best for his life. OK, I’m paraphrasing, but doesn’t this sound a bit like what Peter Walsh said in the previous paragraph? I hate to put Peter Walsh and Jesus in the same paragraph, but also recognize that both are speaking truth about the hold clutter and possessions can have on us.

So what might we receive when giving up those things that have a hold on our lives? Marlin shared two guarantees about what we receive when we choose Jesus over stuff:

  1. We will have enough (When we have more than enough, we share it with those in our community who don’t have enough).
  2. We will be made well.

I don’t know how this sounds to you, but it makes me feel energized to stop holding onto the security of clutter and start holding onto the promises of God. Enough! I need to go recycle some papers.

Trained vs. Untrained

I recently attended a safety and security presentation. One particular element that I found particularly interesting was how trained vs. untrained people respond during a crisis. It looks like the original source for the information is from the Center for Personal Protection and Safety

trained-vs-untrained

As you can see, the path for trained and untrained start in the same way but then take very different paths. It made me wonder about how these play out in all of our non-life threatening situations.

When I’m stuck, do I commit to action or descend into helplessness? Conversely, is it possible that when I’m feeling helpless I might need to respond with action?

Trust in His Story

My family and I have been catching up on Star Wars over this Christmas break. Yes, we even have Star Wars pajamas and a BB-8 (a small robot in the new Star Wars movie) stuffed toy for our dog. Seeing the movie on opening night a few weeks back left us feeling a wide variety of emotions. J.J. Abrams, the co-writer and director of the film, has said that the key for the film was to return to the roots of the first Star Wars film and for the story to be based more on emotion than explanation (here). We thoroughly enjoyed the adventure the movie took us on, but at the same time there were many moments that made us long for a resolution and feel sad. At the end, even with this mixture of feelings, we celebrated that there would be additional movies coming in the future where we could have confidence that the story would resolve and where good would conquer evil.
This past Sunday Pastor Janelle Koolhaas shared how we can have confidence in God’s everlasting story (listen here). She shared how Simeon and Anna, both in old age, were at the temple waiting to meet the Messiah (Luke 2:25-38). They were able to meet him as a baby but did not get to live to see Him live, die, and rise again. They only saw part of the story but knew that God would be faithful to deliver His people as he promised.

We, too, often do not see the whole story but have a unique story that fits perfectly into God’s plans. We find in His word, the Bible, that His timing is not slow or mistaken. Many times we may feel confused or broken but we can rest assured that our story belongs, is valid, and fits right in. In those times we can also take comfort by trusting in God’s story and what He has done, is doing, and will do.

Often, in my work at Fellowship and my personal life, I find it helpful to step back from challenging situations and attempt to look at things with God eyes and in light of His bigger story. I wonder things like:

  • What makes the timing right for this to have happened?
  • What happened in the past that equips us perfectly for this situation?
  • Who has God called into the story at this time and why?
  • What is the best possible outcome that would show God’s faithfulness?
  • How has God equipped me to have a positive impact?

You can probably think of other questions that allow you to see things from God’s perspective. Ultimately, this is a way we can show our faith in Him. This makes me think of a gift my daughter painted for me this Christmas. It has words about faith from Hebrews 11:1-3 (NLT):

“(1) Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. (2) Through their faith, the people in days of old earned a good reputation. (3) By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen.”

I find great assurance in these words and have great hope for what God has done, is doing, and will do. You might also find comfort and assurance in reading and praying the following words from Psalm 146 over the coming days as an act of faith, hope, and love in being a part of God’s story:

1 Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, O my soul!
2 I will praise the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God all my life long.
3 Do not put your trust in princes, in mortals, in whom there is no help.
4 When their breath departs, they return to the earth; on that very day their plans perish.
5 Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God,
6 who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; who keeps faith forever;
7 who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free;
8 the Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous.
9 The Lord watches over the strangers; he upholds the orphan and the widow, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
10 The Lord will reign forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations. Praise the Lord!

Screaming Goats vs. Fainting Goats

This is an article I wrote for the Sunday’s Comin’ eNewsletter from Fellowship Reformed Church

Last week I discovered fainting goats on YouTube. Have you ever seen them? They are rather small and they have a strange reaction to being startled or scared–their muscles stiffen up and the fall over onto their side. Watching one video led me to more strongly entertaining goat videos which led me to screaming goats. What are screaming goats? They are goats that periodically make a scream that sounds strangely like a human. Now put screaming and fainting into the same video and you really have something special. Check it out here. I have to warn you, this video may induce serious laughter. In fact, it might even be contagious to others.

This past Sunday we laughed during worship when Pastor Brian helped us understand the ridiculous nature of Abraham and Sarah being told that they would have a child at such an old age (Abraham was 100). He talked about how strange it might be for someone to give birth in the geriatric ward. Can you imagine? In fact, Sarah knew we would laugh whenever we heard this story when she said, “‘God has brought laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.’ And she said, ‘Who would ever have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.’” Genesis 21:5–7 (NRSV)

This story was acted out beautifully by some members of our congregation. At the moment of Sarah’s laugh Jayne went into a pose that elicited laughter from us all. In case you weren’t able to be with us in worship, here is a photo that was captured by Jordan Clegg:

2015-09-20-laughter

Isn’t that a great moment? All this laughter made me want to learn more by asking my friend, Google. Check out these amazing health benefits:

  • Laughter relaxes the whole body. A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after.
  • Laughter boosts the immune system. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease.
  • Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.
  • Laughter protects the heart. Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.

http://www.helpguide.org/articles/emotional-health/laughter-is-the-best-medicine.htm

I think I’m going to have to find more ways to incorporate laughter into my life. As we learned on Sunday, God’s grace should cause us to break into laughter with how unexpected and amazing it is. You can experience this by saying the following statements we heard on Sunday:

  • God loves me
  • God wants to be in relationship with me
  • God has saved me
  • God forgives me
  • God heals me
  • God is with me
  • God takes me as I am
  • God wants to use me for His will

Were you able to do that without breaking into a smile or maybe even a laugh? Can you believe it? The God who spoke our world into being loves you, forgives you, is in you, and gives you eternal life! This is the good news of the gospel.

“Jesus looked at them and said, ’For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.’” Mark 10:27 (NRSV)

Fill It Up

This post was written for a Fellowship Reformed Church eNewsletter called “Sunday’s Comin'”

In July, we took a family trip with the goal of spending three days in New York City. We chose to stay in New Jersey at a hotel recommended by my Aunt and Uncle who live there. We could then commute into the city by water ferry or driving. On our first night in New Jersey we went to visit my aunt and uncle. We were running a bit early so we stopped to fill up with gas. In New Jersey, you are not allowed to fill up your own vehicle with gas. You need to wait for an attendant who takes care of it for you. Remember those days of full-service gas stations?

Fast forward a few days and we, after some wonderful days in New York City, started driving home. We found that we needed to fill up with gas again in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania, like Michigan, allows you to fill your own car with gas. So, I got out of the vehicle and started filling up. As I was standing there a lady on the other side of the pump came over and said, “Excuse me. I’m from New Jersey and don’t know how to use this pump or remove the gas cap. Would you be able to help me?” I was happy to do so and showed her how to remove the gas cap from her car, insert the credit card, remove the nozzle from the pump, select the grade of gas, and start filling the tank. She was very appreciative.

As I headed back to my own vehicle, I thought about how helpless it must feel to own a car and not know how to put gas in it. Thankfully, she was willing to admit that she did not know how to do it and then ask for help. It would have been a very different exchange if she would have demanded me to fill up the car with gas by saying, “Excuse me. Fill up my car with gas.” I might have responded by ignoring her or questioning her motives. It was the act of admitting first and asking second that opened my heart to her story and made me more than willing to help.

I remembered this story when I heard Pastor Brian preach about confession this past Sunday. He defined confession as getting honest with self, others, and God about our brokenness. In a way, this woman at the gas pump had to confess that she did not know how to pump gas in order to receive help. I wonder what it might be like if we put ourselves in a similar posture of confession with an area of life where we might feel stuck and helpless. Would we then be able to have the courage to admit or confess in order to receive help or forgiveness and ultimately freedom?

What might you confess this week in order to more fully experience life?

1 Peter 2:4-5 “Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (NRSV)

GLS15 Personal Reflection

The Global Leadership Summit this year energized, convicted, and inspired me. The following ideas have been key take-aways for me:

  1. A recurring theme through both days was that the disciplines that I continue to see as important in my life, yet are so hard to stay consistent with, are critical to my health and development and must continue to be an intentional pursuit (spending time with God in solitude, music, and physical fitness). In particular, I’ve been making sure to listen to more music!
  2. Horst Schulze ( http://stephen.braunius.org/session-5a-horst-schulze/ ) was probably the speaker that shifted my thinking the most. He opened my mind to the service industry and how serving should come out of truly caring about and for others. I loved learning aboutthe movement of interactions with people which includes:
    • Welcome within 12 feet you need to say welcome or greet someone by showing care in the eyes
    • Comply to what a guest wants from you by caring for their needs
    • say farewell
  3. I loved listening to Brene Brown ( http://stephen.braunius.org/gls15-session-3b-dr-brene-brown/ ). Her movements of “the reckoning, the rumble, and the revolution” were a wonderful reminder on sharing the story we tell ourselves to others. She said under “the revolution” that “When we deny the story it defines us. When we own the story we can write the ending.” It was really good stuff and I’m “trying this on” in many of my relationships.
  4. Albert Tate’s message ( http://stephen.braunius.org/session-4b-albert-tate/ ) was a wonderful reminder, “The work is not about your name, it is about His name. It is not about your power, it is about His power.” I’ve found great peace in His message of relying on God and being blown away with what God can do when we simply bring Him what we have and rely on Him do the rest.
What impacted you?

GLS15: Session 7b Liz Wiseman

Global Leadership Summit 2015
Session 7b
Liz Wiseman
Rookie Smarts: Why Learning Beats Knowing  

  • rookie moments when doing something challenging and meaningful
  • “I don’t want a job I’m qualified learn or there would be nothing to learn.”
  • Questions to ask yourself about rookie moments:
  • how di dyou feel
  • how did you operate
  • what did you do when you didn’t know what to do
  • what was your aspiration?
  • We operate in simple small gritty and powerful way
  • Experience
    • “Once we have knowledge we tend to make assumptions and they can often be bad assumptions.”
    • With experience, sometimes we see what we expect to see and sometimes we can miss things entirely.
  • Inexperience
    • bound to make some rookie mistakes
    • has an upside that must be explored
  • The upside of inexperience
    • operate in hunter gatherer mode to seek expertise from others
    • LEARNING CURVE: delight > discovery > desperation (fire-walker mode–quick and careful) we tend to learn the most when we are feeling a bit desperate > deliver > delight > comfort OR hubris
      • signs you are on a plateau
        • things are running smoothly
        • you already have the answers
        • you get positive feedback
          • when we are at the top of our game we are in danger
        • you’ve become the mentor
        • you’re busy but bored – soul-sucking and contagious
      • can we be dulled to danger simply because we feel comfort?
    • when you have nothing it forces you to turn outward
    • when challenge level goes up, satisfaction level goes up
    • the secret of the rookie zone is it is powerful because we don’t like it–we want to reduce the tension (rubber band stretch between people)
    • as leaders we sometimes stretch too hard or we reduce the tension to rescue people
  • How do we rekindle rookie smarts?
  • master the art of the pivot of Leader & Learner by trying the following:
    • things are running smoothly SO INSTEAD throw away your notes in order to have fresh thinking
    • you already have the answers SO INSTEAD ask the questions
    • you get positive feedback SO INSTEAD admit what you don’t know
    • you’ve become the mentor SO INSTEAD let someone else lead
      • leaders need to be able to stop and to be able to go in reverse
      • try following someone on the team
      • go and spend time with the newcomers and allow them to renew you
    • you’re busy but board SO INSTEAD disqualify yourself and put yourself back at the beginning of the learning curve
      • when we put ourselves back in the rookie zone we do our best thinking and find our greatest joy “It’s awkward but it’s exhilarating”
  • “If you want your team to stay relevant, lead them into the unknown”
  • stay a learner and know when to put your rookie on
  • Our greatest joy comes from daring to begin again.