Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Jesus Take the Wheel

Jesus Take the Wheel: 7 Keys to a Transformed Life with God by Stuart Migdon.

I'm pleased to say that a great deal of 2008 I was invested in assisting with this book project. If you are interested in learning more, feel free to write me, or check out the Web site at the end of this book preview. I feel like the midwife for this "baby" and am excited to announce it's arrival! Take a look--and be sure to have your sound on!

Monday, December 22, 2008

2008 into 2009

One of my biggest frustrations for 2008 has been that I feel like the year lived me rather than me living the year. The second half of the year I feel like I merely existed rather than living intentionally. There were some shining moments, but so many tests and trials that I worked hard to tread water rather than getting to cruise above the waves. Those who don't care for me might say that God was punishing me for something (it's always easy to judge when it's not happening to us!), and those who know me say that I'm being tested and refined. But they also remind me that if I put it down on paper, a lot got done, in spite of the frustrations.

I explained to my friend Cynthia Ruchti last week that whenever I face a new frustration (okay, I'll just say it, a new disappointment), I pray the following:

#1-God, is there some wrongdoing in my life I need to change?
#2-God, is there some way I need to make amends to someone I have wronged?
#3-God, are you trying to teach me something?
#4-God, are you trying to teach someone else something?
#5-God, is there a way you can get glory from this?

My biggest desire for 2009 is to live more intentionally. How can I do that even when I'm faced with a trial outside of my control (like a Hurricane or illness)? That is going to be my biggest life experiment to date.

One discipline I've enjoyed doing for years is an end-of-year evaluation and launch of the New Year with setting the goals God places on my heart. I don't want to just come up with a list of goals and ask God to bless them, I want to seek what HE wants for my life, and put those desires on my goal sheet as He directs.

This year, with my personal and business goal setting, I've come up with the following list of questions to assist the evaluation:

#1-How can we use KCWC (Kathy Carlton Willis Communications) to glorify Him and get the word out about others who glorify Him in 2009?
#2-What are the strengths of the company? What are my own strengths? How can we do more with these attributes?
#3-What are the weaknesses of the company? What are my own weaknesses? How can I delegate more to let go of my weaknesses and let others do what they are good at to free me up to do what I’m good at?
#4-What are some out-of-the-box ideas for our firm?
#5-What new services can we offer our clients in 2009?
#6-How can we build more clientele and give the staff the hours they want and need?
#7-What have been our biggest successes in 2008? Our biggest mistakes? Our biggest disappointments?
#8-Should we change our fees at all for 2009?
#9-Should we give our clients something that is “value added” in the current rates to help them see we are doing our part to give them more for their money?
#10-Who should I hire to do local work that needs to be done here at the “office”?

One of my steps for more intentional living in 2009 is to show up more here on my blog. So come back soon!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Wild Card Blog Tour



It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!





Today's Wild Card authors are:


and the book:


Marketplace Memos

New Leaf Publishing Group (October 20, 2008)


ABOUT THE AUTHORs:


David Shibley is founder and president of Global Advance, a ministry that trains and resources thousands of church and business leaders every year in many of the world's most underserved nations. Having ministered in almost 60 nations, David has a passion to strengthen and encourage national leaders to advance God's kingdom worldwide. David and his wife, Naomi, have two married sons.

Jonathan Shibley serves as vice president of Global Advance. His primary focus is directing the Marketplace Missions program for equipping business leaders in developing nations. He also is engaged in international business. Before joining Global Advance, he earned a business degree from Baylor University and served with Promise Keepers and Teen Mania. Jonathan and his wife, Sarah, have three children.


Product Details:

List Price: $ 13.99
Hardcover: 173 pages
Publisher: New Leaf Publishing Group (October 20, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0892216786
ISBN-13: 978-0892216789

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Giving Living


Years ago, a disgruntled man stormed up to Bob Pierce, founder of World Vision and Samaritan’s Purse, after he heard Dr. Pierce preach. The angry man snarled, “I guess all there is to this Christianity is give, give, give.” Reflecting later on that encounter, Dr. Pierce chuckled, “It just goes to show that even with the wrong spirit a man can get some revelation and truth!”

The often-quoted maxim – “You make a living by what you get, but you make a life by what you give” – is true. Here are seven practical benefits of giving for God’s Kingdom purposes and the fulfilling of the Great Commission.

Your gift goes where you may never go. Your gift is an extension of yourself. You receive money in exchange for your investment of time and life. So when you give for Kingdom purposes, in a real sense you’re giving a part of yourself. Your gift says you want your life to count for what is eternal. Americans are generous, and Christians in America are especially so. There are many legitimate causes, but I don’t know anywhere givers can get more done for the dollar than in giving to world missions.

Giving living loosens the grip of materialism. I noticed a bumper sticker on the back of a sports car that read, “The man who dies with the most toys…wins.” But Jesus taught that the man who dies with the most “toys” is a short-sighted fool. It’s time for us to stop loving cars and clothes and start loving countries! If God so loved the world that He gave His Son, we need to so love the world that we invest in being sure everyone everywhere hears about His Son. I’ve driven through the poverty-drenched streets of Kolkata and the wealth-lined avenues of Beverly Hills. In both environments I saw desperate people. Jesus wasn’t kidding when He warned, “Beware of covetousness because one’s life does not consist in the abundance of things he possesses.” God calls us to embrace biblical prosperity while rejecting materialism. We can do both; we must do both.

You experience the eternal principle of sowing and reaping. Some churches in Africa practice a unique form of church discipline. If a professing Christian is living in sin, he is allowed to come to church, but he is not allowed to give! When the offering place comes to him, the usher places his hand over the plate and prevents him from giving. It is a powerful statement that the blessing of God is literally being prevented from coming to the unrepentant man’s life. It’s an eternal law woven into the very fabric of the universe. Farmers call it the law of sowing and reaping. Scientists refer to it as cause and effect. It’s reinforced throughout the Scriptures. The pattern is clear: you must sow in order to reap.

You lay up treasures in heaven. Jesus taught, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth…but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven…for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” A businessman once approached me and said, “I need more of a heart for missions. What should I do?” I replied, “Write out a $2,500 check for missions and sow it to the harvest, and I promise you, you’ll have more of a heart for missions.”

It just works that way. Where your treasure is (present tense), there your heart will be (future tense). Although “you can’t take it with you,” you can send it on ahead! This very day you can lay up treasures in heaven.

God will supply your every need. Are you ready for a jolt? Philippians 4:19 is not a promise for every Christian. It’s a great verse: “My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” But it is not a carte blanche to be claimed at will by anybody. No, this promise is given exclusively to those who invest in advancing the gospel.

Read the context. Paul told the Philippians they were the only church that had invested to send him on his first missionary journey. As a result of their gift to launch Paul to the nations, he promised that God would supply their every need. Yes, you can claim Philippians 4:19 if you give for the advance of the gospel.

You experience the joy of making a difference in the world. I make no apologies for challenging American Christians to tear loose from some of their money and give it to advance Kingdom causes worldwide. Jesus taught, “To whom much is given, from him much will be required.” With blessing comes accountability. There is a longing inside every true Christ-follower to make a difference for Him. We do not bear sole responsibility for world evangelization, but because of our affluence and influence, we do bear heightened responsibility.

You experience the significance of participating in God’s global purposes. A businessman thanked me for the opportunity to give to Global Advance. He tearfully said, “You give me purpose.” For this man, building his company is not the bottom line. He goes beyond the bottom line to build Christ’s Kingdom through building his company.

You move past mere success to true significance by aligning your life with God’s primary purpose. God’s primary purpose is to see His Son known, loved, and worshiped by redeemed people from every tribe and nation. And you are part of that plan. Live to give.


Remember: “Give and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” (Luke 6:38)


Reflect: “What do your offerings say about your heart levels of gratitude and love for God? What does your spending say about what’s truly important on this earth?” – Robert Morris


Pray: That God will make you a joyful giver to His Kingdom causes.


Act: Where is the Holy Spirit directing you to invest for Christ’s Kingdom today?



Saturday, December 06, 2008

Check Out My Interview




On Thursday, December 11th at 8:00 PM Eastern Time, I will be interviewed on WLGT Radio. We'll discuss being a business owner and working from home. I'd love for you to listen in! Click on this button to take you to the site online to hear the interview, and turn up your volume:

Listen to The Christian Women View with WLGT Live Talk Radio on internet talk radio

Be praying for this wonderful opportunity to share God's blessings with others.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Wild Card Blog Tour



It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!





Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


Rainforest Strategy

Excel Books (October 7, 2008)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Michael Pink is the founder of Selling Among Wolves, a Biblically based sales training and development firm specializing in adapting Biblical strategies and principles to the business development process. He has recently launched The Rainforest Institute in the Republic of Panama to distill and pass on amazing business lessons from the most productive, fruitful and diverse ecosystem in the world—the rainforest. Michael has consulted with or trained companies from small, family owned businesses to companies on the Fortune 100 list. He does seminars and/or serves clients in Europe, Central America, the Caribbean, Canada and the United States.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $ 21.99
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Excel Books (October 7, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1599793725
ISBN-13: 978-1599793726

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


The Epiphany

Better Than Gold

Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.1

John Milton

E verything you need to learn about business can be learned in the rainforest. Those words landed on my soul like distant thunder with an authority only a father can bring, yet I was alone. They were at once reassuring and at the same time seemingly preposterous. How could anyone learn anything about business from observing an ecosystem as yet untouched by man? My own question contained the seeds of the answer. It was a system, an “eco” system.

The night before that thunderous idea hit my soul, my wife and I were enjoying some fresh seviche, a local favorite consisting of tropical fish marinated in citrus and served with lightly salted chips that made our arduous journey to the mountain village of Boquete, Panama, well worth the effort. It’s a top retirement choice for many Americans due to its eternal springlike climate where temperatures seldom get above the mid-eighties by day or below the mid-fifties by night. The air was thick with the fragrance of orchids, and the sounds of exotic birds enchanted our every moment.

As we dined in an open-air cafĂ© under the slowly turning ceiling fan, watching the sun kiss the mountains good night, I overheard two women discussing their travel that day into the rainforest. Their voices were filled with wonder and utter amazement at what they had seen. They described another world, a world I had never seen. It was Jurassic Park but not as dangerous. I knew I had to see it as soon as possible. It wasn’t their description of beauty and exotic life-forms that grabbed my attention, but rather it was their observation of cooperation and relationship between species that piqued my interest.

They spoke in hushed, reverential tones about the symbiotic relationships between various insect species and how when you get about 100 feet inside the forest, you are enveloped by peace and quickly lose track of not only your sense of time, but also, as I later discovered, of every worry, concern, and stress that so easily plague us in our day-to-day lives. I was hooked! I had to get to the rainforest and experience this for myself. For that to occur, we would have to return, as our time there had come to an end.

Upon returning home, one of the first things I did was look on the Internet to see if anyone else had ever considered the notion of the rainforest as a business model. Immediately I found, What We Learned in the Rainforest: Business Lessons from Nature by Tachi Kiuchi, chairman and CEO Emeritus of Mitsubishi Electric America, and Bill Shireman, chairman and CEO of the Future 500. These guys had parachuted into Costa Rica and other rainforests, and what they observed changed the way they ran their businesses. They maintain that “by gleaning information from nature—the very system it once sought to conquer—business can learn how to adapt rapidly to changing market conditions and attain greater and more sustainable profits.”2 Wow! Maybe that thunderous thought I heard in Panama wasn’t so far-fetched after all! Maybe the answers to my business challenges could be found in the rainforest.

Like many of you, I wanted to know how to survive and even thrive in the junglelike environment we compete in every day. I wanted to know how to succeed using the most time-proven principles of all, the principles built into nature itself. And like many of you, I was constrained by lack of resources. My vision outstripped provision, and I needed to find a solution.

Eco-system...Eco-logic...Eco-nomics

Interestingly enough, the word ecosystem is derived from the words oikos (which is Greek and means the home or household) and system (which is a set of interacting or interdependent entities forming an integrated whole). In other words, an ecosystem is a model of a complex system with multiple components executing varied processes to achieve a unified purpose. That sounds like business to me! In one very real sense, the rainforest is a business. It manufactures pure, breathable air for everyone on the planet to enjoy. Acting like lungs, the rainforest converts vast quantities of carbon dioxide (a poisonous gas that mammals exhale) into cool, refreshing, life-sustaining air through the process of photosynthesis.

In the rainforest, energy flows through various levels, ensuring the transformation of materials from one state to another. It begins with nonliving matter like gas, water, or minerals and turns them into living tissue in the form of plants. These are consumed by animals producing more tissue and ultimately waste as it’s recycled through the system over and over again, teaching us among other things a great deal about efficiency. Just studying the processes that make this possible can revolutionize manufacturing alone, as Kiuchi and Shireman attest.

The word economics combines the Greek word oikos (household) with nomos (custom or law) to give us “the rules (or laws) of household management.” Ecology goes one step further by studying the science, the “logic,” the source code if you will, of what makes household management really work. When we look at economics, we explore the relationship between supply and demand, between producers and consumers, between spending and earning, between giving and receiving and what people can do to maximize their goals within that framework. The rainforest provides an excellent model for observation of these relationships.

What’s interesting about ecology is that it goes beyond observing laws and interactions to arrive at the discovery of ways or principles that transcend time and place and can be applied anywhere. It’s more than rules. It gives life and animates whatever is touched by it, be that business or family or government. When we study ecology, we peer into a higher form of learning, complex yet simple, dynamic and at the same time constant, and lush with principles, models, and even strategies waiting to be discovered. It gives us a glimpse into the mind of infinite wisdom, expressed in a myriad of ways through the things that are created.

Ecology and economies happen within a context—the context of community. Those communities or systems may well be a forest or mangrove, a coral reef or a family, a village, or even a city or business. When we approach the rainforest, we do so knowing it could represent any number of other communities from business to government to social circles. For the purpose of this book, we will look at the rainforest with entrepreneurial eyes to glean principles and strategies to help us succeed in business while at the same time getting in touch with the wisdom behind the systems. While I believe the rainforest is a picture of an economic system as a whole, I will focus on the specific truths that can turn companies into thriving enterprises while giving us all a greater sense of accomplishment in a context of more peace and greater meaning.

Hidden Wealth

For centuries explorers have hacked their way through the jungles in search of gold, unaware they were surrounded by something better than gold if they only had eyes to see. There is so much information, so much revelation waiting to be harvested by studying the created order and, in particular, the highly abundant, lush rainforests found in tropical regions around the world. In recent years scientists have begun exploring the rainforest in search of cures for all manner of diseases—and with much success too. They have begun to recognize some of the wealth hidden in the primitive rainforests the world over. Companies like MonaVie and XanGo have turned to the rainforest to find exotic blends of natural berries full of powerful antioxidants to increase vitality and enhance life.

But there’s more, much more. As we move beyond the industrial economy to a more knowledge-based economy, business is beginning to recognize that the real profit to be earned from nature comes from the principles by which it flourishes, more than the exploitation of its resources. The rainforest is the most fruitful, productive, and diverse ecosystem on the planet despite having limited capital. (It has limited, poor-quality topsoil.) So the question beckons: How does the rainforest deliver so much fruitfulness, so much productivity, and so much diversity from relative scarcity? The answer to this question is what every business owner, entrepreneur, and household manager needs to know, and I intend to show you!

By rightly discerning what makes the rainforest so fruitful and productive despite having to work with limited resources, and by wisely interpreting the systems of the rainforest, we can begin to assemble a model for business that has tremendous potential to revolutionize our businesses and our lives. Indeed, the way forward in business and life is to become more like a complex living system that adapts to change, conserves resources, and produces abundance—all without breaking a sweat!

Consider this: The Royal Library of Alexandria in Alexandria, Egypt, founded in 283 b.c. by Ptolemy II, was once the largest library in the world. It had over half a million documents from the ancient world, including Assyria, Greece, Persia, Egypt, India, and many other nations. Over one hundred scholars were said to have lived on-site working full-time to perform research, write, lecture, or translate and copy documents. This incredible treasure trove of ancient knowledge was burned to the ground in 48 b.c., with Julius Caesar being the most likely culprit. It has been considered the greatest loss of knowledge in history, but now, every day a greater source of knowledge is being destroyed in a misguided quest for gain.

Astonishing Facts

According to the organization Save the Rainforest, “A typical four-mile square mile patch of rainforest contains as many as 1,500 species of flowering plants, 750 species of trees, 125 mammal species, 400 species of birds, 100 species of reptiles, 60 species of amphibians, and 150 different species of butterflies.” They point out, “There are more fish species in the Amazon river system than in the entire Atlantic Ocean.” And, “A single rainforest reserve in Peru is home to more species of birds than the entire United States.”3

Here are some more facts from their site:

At least 1,650 rainforest plants can be utilized as alternatives to our present fruit and vegetable staples.

Thirty-seven percent of all medicines prescribed in the US have active ingredients derived from rainforest plants.

Seventy percent of the plant species identified by the US National Cancer Institute as holding anti-cancer properties come from rainforests.

Ninety percent of the rainforest plants used by Amazonian Indians as medicines have not been examined by modern science.

Of the few rainforest plant species that have been studied by modern medicine, treatments have been found for childhood leukemia, breast cancer, high blood pressure, asthma, and scores of other illnesses.4

I am not a tree hugger by nature, but I have come to understand the importance of the ecosystems that sustain us and the responsibility we have to sustain them. With stunning disregard to our own mutual welfare, we have destroyed nearly half of the world’s rainforests and, with them, most of the indigenous peoples dwelling therein. In Brazil alone, just five hundred years ago, there were up to ten million indigenous people living in the rainforest. Today, there are fewer than two hundred thousand left alive. We have increased nature’s normal extinction rate by an estimated 10,000 percent, mostly in the rainforest where thousands of species are becoming extinct every year. Our corporate disregard of the natural order is currently causing the largest mass extinction since the dinosaur age, but at a much faster rate. We need to wake up!

Tropical rainforests circle the equator, maintaining a surprisingly cool, but comfortably warm temperature of roughly 80 degrees, with rainfall ranging from 160 to 400 inches per year, depending on location and terrain. Untouched by previous ice ages and maintaining constant warmth and water intake, tropical rainforests are home to an estimated sixty to eighty million different life-forms. Talk about diversity! But here’s the dirty little secret that people like the Rainforest Action Network want us to know—more than an acre and a half of rainforest is lost every second. That’s like burning an area more than twice the size of Florida every year!5 I hope we figure it out before we cut it all down and lose not only a critical life-sustaining natural resource, but also all the wisdom that could have helped us going forward.

Wisdom Found

Speaking of wisdom, did you know that Solomon, the wisest man in history, had a passion to study and learn from the created order? According to Hebrew Scripture, Solomon “spoke of trees, from the cedar tree that is in Lebanon even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall. He spoke also of beasts, and of fowl, and of creeping things, and of fishes. And there came of all people to hear the wisdom of Solomon, from all kings of the earth, who had heard of his wisdom.”6 What is interesting is that Solomon let them determine the fee to be paid him for his wisdom. In one year alone, the weight of gold that came to him “was six hundred threescore and six talents.”7 (That’s over $1 billion in today’s money at current gold prices.) Besides that, he received revenue from the “merchants, and from the traffic of the spice merchants, and from all the kings of Arabia, and from the governors of the country.”8 In short, he was a very prosperous man.

Now, do you think the kings of the earth came to Solomon to learn how to prune an apple tree? Or is it possible that Solomon understood, like other towering figures of history, that the invisible traits of the unseen God are clearly seen by the things He has made?9 That the wisdom of God can be learned in part by studying and reverse engineering the creation around us? That the created order is a textbook without pages containing more wisdom than we can uncover in a million lifetimes?

Come with me on this journey and discover, as Bill Shireman, president and CEO of Future 500, said in a 2002 keynote address to World Futures Society, “Yet despite this scarcity—or because of it—the rainforest is the MOST EFFECTIVE value-creating system in the world.” He wasn’t the first to see it, nor the last. Thankfully, more and more business executives are waking to this truth. In the process, two things occur: First, we begin to value, then preserve, the rainforest as both a repository of wisdom and a storehouse of renewable, replenishable food and medicine with remarkable curative properties. Secondly, we begin to apply the lessons we learn from the rainforest and build enterprises that are self-generating, self-replicating centers of profit that provide immense value and harm none.

Since my first trip to the rainforest, I have been back to Panama a number of times. I have also explored the rainforests of Belize, Costa Rica, Tobago, and even Vancouver Island in British Columbia. The things I learned, we began to immediately apply. In fact, as noted on our Web site www.secretsoftherainforest.com, “Within 90 days of applying these principles, we tripled our staff, tripled our office size and I’m too embarrassed to tell you what happened to our revenues!” What I will tell you is that what used to be monthly revenues in our Internet business are now done (as of the writing of this chapter) a couple of times a day!

You will discover as you read this book what it means to be “rainforest compliant.” It’s a business term I have coined referring to businesses that purposefully employ business lessons from the rainforest. They are businesses that, where possible and feasible, mold and conform their practices, strategies, and operating principles to those observable in the rainforest and reap substantial, measurable, and lasting profit. As part of a larger study, I am currently working with a nonprofit entity to raise funds for a new breed of business school called the Spire School of Business. They have a global mission and require a substantial endowment to get started.

The foundation charged with raising the endowment for the school retained me to set up the structure and systems to achieve their endowment goals. My first order of business was to make them a working model of a “rainforest compliant” business and study the impact on revenues and profits. Prior to my involvement, in their first few years of existence, they had built an endowment of approximately $10 million. Since deliberately applying specific rainforest principles to their endowment growth, that amount has quintupled in only seven months to over $50 million.

If these principles and practical strategies adapted from the rainforest can actually help a former sales trainer (yours truly—www.SellingAmongWolves.com) and business consultant turn a struggling Internet business into a thriving economic engine and help add $40 million in value to a previously unheard of nonprofit endowment in a matter of months, then you might want to consider taking a really close look at what follows in the subsequent chapters. Even if you think you know some of the subject matter, take the time to process the information and see it again in a fresh light.

I expect when you are finished reading this book, you will have had a few “Aha!” moments. Make sure to write down any ingenious ideas you get right away. Don’t expect to remember them later. You won’t. When you read this book, have a notepad with you to jot down ways you can apply the lessons to your business enterprises. When I travel in the rainforest, I carry a pen and pocket-sized notebook so I will be sure to capture the inspirations that seem to hang off every tree like ripe fruit just waiting to be picked. If you would like to join one of our rainforest expeditions where we explore the rainforest in the morning, then return to an upscale hotel near the rainforest to process what we just saw and discuss how to apply those lessons to revolutionize your business, then contact us at 877. 254.3047 or through www.RainforestStrategy.com.

I invested $50,000 to learn growth and management strategies in the rainforest just so I could improve my business. Although I received many times that investment back in short order, I also received the bonus of less stress going forward. On future rainforest quests, we plan to have proven business leaders who have successfully applied rainforest principles to their business pass on their wisdom in a classroom setting back at the rainforest hotel, and help us all grow strong and thriving businesses. The education won’t be cheap, but ignorance is far more costly!

Step into the rainforest with me, and explore the unsearchable riches of wisdom safely embedded in all things living. Business fads come and go, but the wisdom in these pages has been around for a very long time and will not cease to be relevant in the future. Ignore at your own peril and proceed at your own risk, because it takes guts to act on what you are about to read. But if you act, even if you fail, you will learn invaluable life lessons that will serve you well in the future. The rainforest is a blueprint for success, but the execution is up to you, and poor execution, even with superb plans, can still result in failure.

Everyone wants to know the key to the incredible growth and productivity of the rainforest. Many assume it must be the rain. After all, it’s a rainforest. Others assume the topsoil must be rich and plentiful, but it’s not. Still others attribute it to the warmth of the tropical region or abundant sunlight. While it’s true that warmth and light and water play an important role, they are, in fact, supporting roles for something so powerful the rainforest would be sparse without it. It is so subtle it is easily missed or ignored. It is so amazing that when you understand the significance of what it is and how it works, your business will never be the same again. I call it the fungus factor. But to understand it, you must first break the rainforest code.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

BLOG TOUR: The One-Year Women's Friendship Devotional

The One-Year Women’s Friendship Devotional




(Tyndale) is the latest book from friends and coauthors Cheri Fuller and Sandra Aldrich. Not only does the text provide a deeper connection to and enjoyment of God and His Word, but it is a wonderful opportunity for today’s busy women to connect with each other as they discuss the short daily devotions and the “To Ponder” questions at the end of each week’s section. Perfect for small groups or two girlfriends meeting over coffee, the devotional also is appropriate for those who prefer individual study.

1. What can women gain from The One-Year Women’s Friendship Devotional?



Photo of Sandra Aldrich

Sandra: The One-Year Women’s Friendship Devotional is designed for today’s busy woman. Each of the 365 devotions are on one page and contain a daily Scripture, short devotional thought from either Cheri or me and end with an honest prayer and an insightful quote. At the end of each week are questions to ponder individually or talk over with a friend. But beyond the friendship connection is our heavenly Father’s invitation to know more about Him and His living Word.



Photo of Cheri Fuller

Cheri: One of the benefits of our One Year devotional is it provides a vehicle to discover your natural rhythm for drawing near to God in a personal and regular way. For right-brained people like me, the structure helps me stay in God’s Word day by day so my roots can grow deeper in Christ. Being a lover of people, I also enjoy exchanging ideas and discussing how a certain verse or story spoke to me, and the weekly questions are ideal for that purpose.

2. Why do you say “His living Word”?

Sandra: God’s Word isn’t just ancient wisdom. Its principles apply to modern challenges such as how to make good decisions, how to get along with those who irritate us, how to handle finances, how to know our heavenly Father on a deeper level. And that is just some of the treasures contained with the pages.

3. What’s the target audience for The One-Year Women’s Friendship Devotional?

Sandra and Cheri: This devotional is written for women of all ages. Some of the illustrations deal with situations young career women face, and some touch a woman’s experience during mid-life. But all age groups will find material that will relate to their life and situations.

4. I understand the need for younger women to develop solid friendships, but why is friendship so vital to women 40-65?

Sandra: Friendship is vital to all age groups. However, women 40-65 often have entered the Empty Nest and/or grandparenting stage of life and need the strength and advice from friends who already have experienced these challenges. In addition, women in this age group tend to be more comfortable with who they are. Not having to prove anything to relatives, friends or even themselves provides remarkable freedom that allows them to encourage others and share the wisdom of their years.

Cheri Fuller

Cheri: Nothing is more refreshing than time spent with a girlfriend, and who doesn’t need that? A friend can quiet our fears, pray for and with us. We all need friends to laugh with and even travel with (I took my first across the country road trip with my sister Marilyn last summer and it was a blast, and summer before last a great trip to Maine with my two “since teen years” friends). Three of my longtime girlfriends and I celebrate each of our birthdays together—so no matter how busy we are, we get to see each other four times a year. We’ve found enjoying a long lunch out at a fabulous place (and gifts from the other three) really takes the sting out of growing one year older.

5. What are some of the topics covered?

Sandra: The 52 weekly themes cover many issues of a woman’s life, including career challenges, the power of encouragement, joyful living, hearing God above life’s roar, when your childhood family is toxic, faith building, avoiding overload, attitude adjustments, finding your spiritual pathway, dealing with stress, wading through grief, telling and hearing truth, making a difference, dealing with Christmas frenzy, a fresh-brewed prayer life, freedom from fear, and reaching a hurting world.

6. What types of questions are at the end of each week?

Sandra: The four or five questions work well for either journaling or discussion with a friend. For example, the first week of April presents the theme “Loving the Lord and Others.” The questions at the end are:

1) What loving-kindness have you received at a low moment in your life? Who gave it? 2) What encouragement do you try to offer others?

3) When it is most difficult to show love?

4) Have you ever learned a lesson from someone who didn’t know you were watching?

Cheri: We also suggest to the reader she might pick a few of the questions for the week to discuss as she exercise-walks with her walking buddy. Or she can share her responses and thoughts via e-mail with an across-the-miles friend. Reading the same daily devotional with its Scripture, prayer, and devotional thought is bonding and connects our hearts no matter where you and your friend are. You could even share it via webcam or over lunch with a co-worker in the office. The format makes it very versatile and doable.

7. Does the reader need to start reading the devotional on January 1?

Sandra: No. This devotional isn’t about performance; it’s about connections. One of our weekly themes is about guilt, and we don’t want to add more to our readers’ stress-filled lives.

Cheri: One of the helpful facets of The One Year Women’s Friendship Devotional is that you can jump in and start any day, wherever you are—which is very much how God graciously interacts with us. We don’t have to get to a certain place to experience his grace. In this book, there is encouragement, hope, and inspiration for every day of the year—whatever age or stage you are currently in.

8. What’s the biggest challenge to women developing friendships today?

Sandra Aldirch

Sandra: Lack of time. And a lack of a sense of community. Today’s women have daily to-do lists as long as their arms. It’s difficult to concentrate on deepening friendships—or even developing them—when our idea of fun is crossing items off that list. Also, those endless lists make us feel alone even in a crowd. Women need each other, but often it takes special effort to form those connections.

Cheri: Recent research shows that 30% of Americans are lonely and often feel isolated. The more hectic life gets, the more we need friends and the encouragement that comes from relationship with God and our sisters in Christ. Our hope is that reading The One Year Women’s Friendship Devotional will energize your spiritual life and your friendships.

Another major challenge we face as women is taking care of so many people that we neglect ourselves and become irritated or burned out. Taking time to refuel spiritually and emotionally is important and the benefits ripple out to our children and family members, job, and all the people our lives touch.

9. You both are busy women. What has been your hardest friendship challenge?

Sandra: Even though most of us do not have our days consumed by cooking meals over a wood-burning stove or washing clothes in a copper kettle in the yard, our schedules still are not our own. Some days it seems as though each minute is controlled by demands from bosses and needs of family, leaving us little time for the soul nourishment friendship provides. The women of my long-ago farm community worked together—canning, quilting and cooking for ill or grieving families. In addition to accomplishing a needed task, they built a friendship fortress that provided an example of how community is supposed to work. I long for those relationships today.

Cheri: When I started speaking and writing, women I knew assumed I was working all the time and stopped calling to go to lunch or play tennis. They thought I was just too busy for fun. But I love people; I’m refreshed by being with people. My heart would dry up and have nothing to say without friendships with women and time with loved ones. So I’m very intentional and initiate getting together with friends.

10. How did you solve your own friendship challenge?

Cheri: Taking time to cultivate friendships is one way I solved my friendship challenge. For example, I call my friend Marcy, who owns a women’s clothing store (she’s beyond busy!) and we go to a chick flick every once and a while. I meet my thirty-two year old daughter Ali for coffee at Starbucks, because she’s one of my dearest adult friends and I want to stay in touch on a heart level. I have a writer-friend in the area, Melanie, and we occasionally get together and encourage each other about our latest book project. Older women friends have been incredible supports for me (since my mom died at 59) and I’ve learned so much from them because they’re farther down the road. Like Patty, who is 80. When I was about to turn 50 and a little down about it, she said, “Cheri, you’re about to enter your ‘Fabulous Fifties.’ The fifties were some of the best years of my life! Enjoy them.” And you know what—they are! How grateful I am for friendships with women!

Sandra: I don’t have that farm community today, but I still need the friendship. Thus, I asked the Lord to provide a friend or two who would understand my intense schedule, accept my down-home personality and provide the honest relationship for which most of us long. Through a series of events, five of us from church began to meet five times a year to celebrate our birthdays. Our little group represented separate ministries, so we scheduled the dinners in our daytimers as though they were important board meetings. Soon, what began as polite meals in which we talked about families and careers, turned into the cautious opening of our hearts and led to an incredible bond. Now, we meet several times a year and are there for each other during life’s challenges. My Birthday Group is a wonderful answer to my prayer asking for a “friend or two.”

11. What’s an example of a devotion in the book?

Sandra: My accounts usually feature one of my young friends facing a challenge or a memory from my Kentucky farm days, which leads to a spiritual point. The following devotion is from June 13:

Carried by Our Father

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he
cares about you.—1 Peter 5:7

I remember a long-ago night in our Kentucky farm
community. I was five years old, and my parents had
taken me with them to visit neighbors. By the time
we left for home, the stars were already out, and
our lane looked long and dark in the moonlight,
especially where the thorny blackberry bushes hug
over the ditches. Quickly my dad swooped me up and
carried me on his strong shoulders. The night was
still dark, and the bushes still had thorns, but I
felt so safe I fell asleep.

There have been many times in my adult life when
I’ve been carried by my heavenly Father. And I’ve
noticed that though I long to be carried away
from the darkness, I’m actually carried through
it, just as Daniel was saved in the
lion’s den rather than from it (see Daniel
6:16-23). I confess, I don’t like the challenges and
trials that often accompany daily human existence.
In fact, I’ve often thought I’d like God to say,
“Good morning, Sandra. This is what I plan to do
today for you and your family. Is that all right?”
But, of course, he doesn’t, and I’m left to choose
once again whether I will trust him during the scary
times.

A while back, I was intrigued by the word care
in 1 Peter 5:7, so I researched it. I discovered
that the word can have two meanings: our worry and
God’s comfort. The worrying type comes from a Greek
word meaning “to divide the mind.” How perfect. My
mind is divided when I allow worries, distractions,
and anxieties to interfere with my trust that my
heavenly Father will carry me past life’s dark
ditches and thorny bushes. So what’s my goal? To
concentrate less on the situation and more on him.

Lord, even though I’m an adult, many times I feel
like that little girl facing thorny bushes and deep,
scary ditches. Help me to feel your strong arms
carrying me to safety. Help me to rest in you.

God is in His heaven; God is on the throne; God
is fully in charge of His world.

–J. I. Packer, Theologian and Author

12. Both of you share intense personal accounts. Was it difficult to be so open?

Sandra: Of course it’s difficult to share personal challenges and failures—even triumphs. But those human elements provide encouragement for others who are going through the same situations. Every woman has a story. As we share those stories, we learn from each other. And we grow.

Cheri: When I speak or write, I purpose to be vulnerable and open about my life. There are times I’ve been through a particularly difficult time and said, “God, I don’t understand all this, but if you can use my pain to distill into something that would give hope to another woman—have at it!

13. Talk about that power of story.

Sandra: We have a perfect example of the power of story as we look to the parables of Jesus. He tucked spiritual points into stories of people and situations His audiences could identify with. And they remembered the lesson because they remembered the stories.

Cheri: Stories are what impacts a heart. Stories are what we remember. The concepts and truths are vital, but I’ve often learned the most from stories of living people I meet, people from the Bible and throughout history—especially missionaries who lived on the edge of adventure, often with no one to depend on but God. So I love to weave stories into the devotionals or other writing I do.

14. You’ve stated what you trust readers will gain from using The One-Year Women’s Friendship Devotional. What did you gain from writing it?

Sandra: I always say I have my master’s degree from Eastern Michigan and my Ph.D. from the School of Hard Knocks. Thus, if I can pass along some of my experiences or those of my wise friends and encourage readers or help them make good decisions, then I am grateful.

Cheri: I enjoyed tremendously the wide variety of themes we got to write about in this book—things that really matter to a woman, like not getting caught in the comparison trap, or how to live with joy and a sense of purpose in a stressed-out world. I loved doing the “Lessons From the Garden” to share some practical life lessons I’ve learned while planting and growing flowers. Hopefully, not only our reader will be blessed by the devotionals Sandra and I have written, but she’ll have fun sharing them with a daughter or daughter-in-law, a next door neighbor, co-worker or friend.

15. What parting words do you have for your readers?

Cheri: Remember that God loves to hear your voice, just as you love to hear the sound of your kids’ or loved ones’ voices—not just once a week on Sunday but throughout your days. And every time we open his Book, the Bible, there’s a gift, a promise, or a truth that will help us learn to live abundantly no matter what we’re facing.

Sandra: Because of the shed blood of Jesus, we have the incredible privilege of stepping directly into the Presence of our heavenly Father through prayer. Years ago, a woman asked the great preacher G. Campbell Morgan if she should pray about everything or just the big things. Morgan answered, “Dear lady, pray about everything. After all, what could possibly be big to God?” I love that. And I love knowing we do not pray to air.

The One-Year Women’s Friendship Devotional provides connection in this fragmented world—connection to other women and, most importantly, connection to our heavenly Father. The quickest way to order it is through amazon.com. For more information about Sandra Aldrich visit http://www.christianspeakerservices.com/css_aldrich_sandra.htm. And remember: the heavenly Father is just a whisper away.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas!

A SCRAPBOOK OF CHRISTMAS FIRSTS

(Leafwood Publishers, October 2008)

A wonderful new gift book, A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts, is available in October for Christmas giving. Today, I’ve invited the six coauthors to share their unique story of how they came together to publish this exciting book full of stories, recipes, tips for simplifying the holidays and so much more (click on bookcover to see the trailer!).

First, let me introduce Cathy Messecar, Leslie Wilson, Brenda Nixon, Trish Berg, Terra Hangen and Karen Robbins. Thank you for being here today, ladies.

Karen: Thank you for the invitation.

You are from three different areas of the country—Texas, California, and Ohio. How did you all meet?

Terra: We all six joined The Writers View, an online group for professional Christian writers. Trish and Brenda met in person in 2004 for lunch, I understand, and on 9/18/04, after reading a post Brenda sent to TWV, I sent an email to Brenda, asking if she would like to join with me and walk alongside each other, as a Barnabas group. Brenda said yes that same day, and suggested Trish too. Very quickly Cathy, Leslie and Karen joined in and our stalwart band of six was formed. Living in California, I was so happy to find 5 Barnabas writers in other states so we could bring together a wealth of different viewpoints and expertise

Brenda: Actually, We haven’t met. We’re all great colleagues and friends via the internet. Four years ago Terra and I formed a dyad to support each other as Christians who write in the secular markets. Along came Trish, Cathy, Karen, and Leslie (not necessarily in that order) and we formed a close knit bond of support, creative energy, and professional accountability.

Karen: I met Trish through an online forum called The Writers View and she invited me to join the group.

Trish: Although we belong to the same Yahoo writing group, we met one by one online. Eventually, the six of us decided that since we all write as Christians for a secular market through magazine articles and newspaper columns, we could support and encourage one another.

Leslie: Though we met virtually through The Writers View, I have been blessed to give and get hugs from Trish (at a MOPS conference), Cathy (in the area on business) and Karen (in town for a writers' conference). I can’t wait to meet Terra and Brenda face-to-face, though I feel as though I already know them!

How did you come up with the idea to do a book together?

Brenda: The book is Cathy’s brainchild. She mentioned the concept of telling stories of events that happened for the first time at Christmas and sharing holiday historical tidbits and recipes and each said, “If you need any help, let me know.” That offer morphed into each of us equally contributing and co-authoring A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts.

Trish: Yep, Cathy came up with the idea and the title, and asked us if we wanted to join her on this project. Of course, we said Yes!

Terra: Cathy mentioned the idea for a Christmas book to the group, and someone (I think it was Leslie) suggested that maybe our group could all write the book together. Cathy agreed to lead the way on the project. The earliest email I have on this is from 9/7/05, which shows that this has been a three year collaboration from idea to publication.

Karen: (Chuckling) Terra is a librarian and keeps our historical records by saving our e-mails.

Leslie: Actually, Terra, I wrote that comment (in a group e-mail) kind of tongue-in-cheek. Cathy, the ultra-sweet person she is, took my joking at face value and here we are. However, I believe God prompted the passion and ideas we all bring to the project and that He will do mighty things as a result of our collaboration!

Why did you decide on a Christmas theme?

Brenda: It was Cathy’s concept to write a book centering on Christmas.

Cathy: For several years, I’d been thinking about Christmas as a threshold to introduce Jesus to folks who aren’t familiar with him, and I love a simpler Christmas with the emphasis on family, friends and doing for others. I knew of some families who had experienced “firsts” at Christmas—reunions, losses, special surprises—and I wanted to collect those stories.

Terra: Cathy’s idea immediately resonated with me because Christmas books are “a way past watchful dragons,” as C. S. Lewis wrote. Many people won’t buy a book about being a Christian, but will buy a holiday and family fun book, thus the “past watchful dragons.” People who want to grow in their faith, and people who have no faith but celebrate Christmas will buy our book and hopefully be led to put the focus back on Christ for the holiday, and for their lives.

Leslie: Though Cathy birthed the idea, the rest of us quickly hopped on board. Not only is Christmas special to me—especially now that I have a family of my own—but also that particular holiday cries out to be simplified, to return to the meaningful aspects of celebration, and to lose some of the hype and commercialism.

Tell me a little about what is in A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts? What is your favorite part?

Cathy: I like that you can read one chapter in about 15 minutes and, with all the different suggestions, it feels like Christmas Eve. Makes you want to set up the nativity! Many of the suggestions for family activities can be adapted for any family get-together.

Karen: There are heartwarming stories about things that happened for the first time at Christmas. For instance, one of my stories is about the first Christmas with our adopted children. And the book is pretty. When I first saw the colorful pages and drawings, I fell in love with the illustrator’s work.

Brenda: I don’t have a favorite part – I love it all!

Terra: I like the way the parts are woven into a seamless whole, like a patchwork quilt, that is stronger and more beautiful than the parts.

Trish: It’s like everything you ever wanted to know about Christmas, all the best tips and recipes, and neat stories all wrapped up in this perfect little package.

Leslie: I love reading the special stories, hints, recipes—whatever—and imagining the precious family time that precipitated each moment. Plus, the book is gorgeous, beautifully printed, truly something to be proud of. And we are.

I’ve heard that the book is really a nice gift book; can you tell me a little about the format?

Cathy: Yes, it’s a hardbound book, full color interior. The layout makes it easy to read. It has a definite scrapbooky look on the interior. Different logos identify sections, such as an oilcloth-look Christmas stocking appears beside the “Stocking Stuffer Tradition” (help for connecting family members), and the “Cookie Canister” recipes are on a recipe card, and the back ground of “A Gift For You” is a gift box with bow. It’s a classy gift that they can be placed on a coffee table or in a guest bedroom during the holiday season.

Brenda: I like to describe it as a Starbuck’s sorta gift book. It’s high quality, crisp, and practical.

With six different personalities and areas of ministry, how did you manage to put this all together and still remain friends?

Karen: We pray a lot for each other and it helps that none of us have an over-inflated ego.

Cathy: There were no squabbles. Surely, we had differing opinions, but we knew that any of us could suggest an idea for this book and that each idea would get fair reviews from others. We actually voted on some aspects—everyone in favor say, “Aye.” If you’ve ever watched women at a Dutch treat luncheon when they divide up a meal ticket, it can be intense as they split the ticket down to the penny. As the project came together, I was in awe of my gracious coauthors, unselfish women who respect each other.
For some decisions, we did a round robin—things like book title and chapter titles and what categories to put into the book. Then, as compiler, I’d send out a list of needs to The Word Quilters, that’s what we call ourselves. For instance in a section we call “Peppermints for Little Ones” (hints for children’s activities), I’d put out a call, and the WQs sent in their hints, and then I put them into appropriate chapters.

Brenda: (Smiling) Are we still friends? Seriously, we each have our own platform, ministry, and family life, and those interests kept this project in perspective – it was important but not the only thing on our plates. No one was so enmeshed in this project that she campaigned for her own way. We never had a bitter disagreement or insistence to be “right.”

Terra: We are each other’s biggest cheerleaders.We offer support and ideas for our separate writing projects and for personal prayer requests. I love these ladies, and I have only met one of them in person. So far, Karen is the only one who has met each of us, and one day we hope to meet in person, in a circle of friendship and love.

Trish: I think we are all very flexible and forgiving. We do have a variety of personalities here, but God has worked amazing things through our little group.

Leslie: Though I have seven non-fiction projects in various stages of completion, I could not be more thankful that this is the one to reach publication first. I am truly blessed to have worked with these women, learned from them, watched as they’ve poured heart and soul into crafting a product that will impact lives for the Lord.

Where can my readers get a copy of SOCF?

Cathy: The coauthors will all have a supply, plus our publisher, Leafwood Publishers, will have plenty of copies and discounts for buying five or more. Or they can be ordered at most online stores or by your local bookstore.

Karen: And anyone who leaves a comment here can be entered in a drawing for a free book and a gift basket worth $200! For a list of its contents, check our blog, A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts. And while you're there, leave another comment and increase your chances of winning!

Tell me more about your blog.

Karen: We started our blog in July and it is accumulating a wealth of information about Christmas. Each of us posts one day a week following the theme for that week. Watch for new recipes, tips, ways to simplify, stories, etc., similar to what is in our book.

Leslie: Ooh, ooh, let me answer this one. I’m probably the newest to blogging among the group, but I LOVE it. I’ve enjoyed posting and receiving comments back from readers. What an amazing adventure having an online voice can be! This blog will focus on a different theme each week—anything from tips to avoid overeating during the holidays to how to give a guest room special touches—and expand on the material in the book. I think readers will get to know the authors’ individual personalities and connect on a more personal level. Plus, they get that many more ideas, information, inspiration (!) at no additional cost.

WQs: As an added bonus for inviting us to your blog, we’d like to pass along this Christmas tidbit to you and your readers:

Enjoy a blessed Christmas this year! And thanks for inviting us to share our book, A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts, with you.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Stash of Potential!

Today I watched Project Runway, which follows the lives of clothing designers as they compete through different challenges. I had a blast from the past, which then created some inspirational nostalgia.

The designers were at the fabric store and all of a sudden I was transported to my Mom's fabric collection growing up. Mom would buy bolts of fabric, or yards of it for future projects. Once a year we went to a big fabric sale at a garment factory--if I remember correctly they sold it by the pound for that special event.

Here's the inspirational point to this trip down memory lane. Whenever Mom and I pulled out the fabric it represented potential. Each piece of fabric meant an amazing possibility. We were allowed to dream big. Nothing ordinary. Each piece unique. Sometimes the fabric was never made into a garment because it was better than any pattern we could find and we didn't want to put scissors to it. As long as it was untouched it represented HOPE for the FUTURE.

I don't have a fabric stash. I have designer papers to make handcrafted cards. What is YOUR stash of potential?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Relationship Res-Q

My friend, Patricia Durgin has started a great blog called Relationship Res-Q that helps find new solutions to old problems in relationships, whether it's a misunderstanding, a quarrel, despair or abuse.

I'd really appreciate it if you'd go check out her blog and read the posts that she loads every Thursday. As you read them, you will think of someone who needs the article even more than you--so feel free to pass the word along. And if the article touches you, please leave a comment on her site. It will help her know if she is hitting the mark, and what you want/need from her future articles.

The address is:
http://resqkit.typepad.com/

Her real life illustrations and practical, biblical solutions are right on target!

Monday, September 01, 2008

No News Means No News

Several have written to ask the status of our church rebuild after the devastation of Hurricane Dolly. Unfortunately, there isn't much to report at this point. We are being stalled by our insurance adjuster and the protocols that are in place. Currently the congregation has rallied together to make the best of things, and we are worshiping in our new educational building fellowship hall. We are working out details to rent an additional building a couple of blocks away from the church property, to house the offices and some of the student ministries as well as an adult Sunday School class, so that when the work begins in the sanctuary, no one is exposed to the dangerous dusts and fumes of old plaster, mold, asbestos, etc. The insurance will pay for any transitional property we require as a result of being displaced, up to a certain dollar amount.

So that we communicate to the community that we will not be thwarted by this damage, we are moving forward with plans to remain active in our neighborhood in spite of this set-back. We are planning several block parties for the church neighborhood. The first is called "Slime Time" and is a back-to-school type carnival complete with bounce house, and many other fun booths. And later we will have another one called "Drive" that will be a cruise-in for collectible cars and motorcycles and for all of us who love looking at them. And we are starting a new children's ministry called "Big City Studio" on Sunday nights so that the neighborhood kids have a fun place to go each week.

Thanks for your continued prayers for us. Now our prayers go out to the ones who have been impacted by Hurricane Gustav.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Adjuster Says...

For those of you following the path Hurricane Dolly has taken through our church, you might be interested to know the insurance adjuster came by yesterday for his initial assessment. He has been in the Rio Grande Valley examining church damage for a few days now and he says our church has the worst damage of any he has seen from Dolly's destruction. But...not to leave it on a negative...we are also seeing God providing in amazing ways. It will take months of rebuilding but we are up for the challenge. Our heart's desire is to not just see the sanctuary rebuilt (the PLACE of our worship), but the church family rebuilt (the PEOPLE of worship). We certainly plan to take this two-prong approach to rebuilding. We all have something in our lives that needs a do-over. Not just redoing the junk we already have, but letting God do a NEW WORK in us! If you are here to see photos of the damage, feel free to scroll down to last week, when this journey began.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Scroll Down For Hurricane Photos

The most current post is at the top of this blog, so I encourage you to scroll down if you are just checking in, to see the photos of how Hurricane Dolly impacted our church sanctuary. Thank you so much for visiting my blog and for your interest in our church during this time. Your supportive encouragement means so much!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sunday Survivors!


Today we were blessed with the opportunity to share communion together and focus on what's really important: the gift Jesus gave us through His shed blood and broken body. What a beautiful symbolism.

Our facility still did not have electrical power, but that didn't stop about 45-50 people from meeting in the Fellowship Hall equipped with funeral fans (actually they were wedding fans). We met for an abbreviated service since the heat was almost unbearable. ALMOST. You can bear just about anything for a little bit of time!

Russ's message today at First Baptist Church/Raymondville was an awesome challenge to continue to live above the circumstances rather than under them (sorry for the cliché).

His sermon series from the past few weeks is called “FEARLESS” (how appropriate!) and today he focused on Benaiah. Russ quoted Mark Batterson who wrote In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day.

Characteristics of Overcomers:
They Defy the Odds
They Face their Fears
They Overcome Adversity
They Embrace Uncertainty
They Take Risks
They Seize Opportunities
They Look Foolish


Viktor Frankl, concentration camp survivor, said:
Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s way.


I’m determined to be grateful for that choice with which we have been gifted.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Sunday's Coming!

We’re already seeing God at work! He has given us all sorts of grace. Not just amazing grace, but sufficient grace, enduring grace, discerning grace, and more!

There are some great opportunities for God to be glorified—the testimony we have as a church family in the community can go a long way during these trying times-more than a new church program or a big church budget.

Tomorrow during church we are excited to get together, even without power and dealing with the high temperatures and rank smells, to show God He means more to us than the aftermath of Dolly. We are going to celebrate that our lives were spared and that most houses are still standing, and that things aren’t worse than they are. So much to be grateful for.

Every time you see rebuilding in the Bible-from what I can remember, revival breaks out. Oh Lord, may it happen in Raymondville!

Some have asked more details, and I've sent out notes, but just so you all know:
You have asked where you can send donations as we rebuild. That touches my heart more than you KNOW! All charitable donations can be sent to:

First Baptist Church
P.O. Box 367
Raymondville, TX 78580

You will receive a receipt for tax purposes, as well.

Another question I received was about our insurance benefits and what we will be left to pay to redo the church, and what offerings we have to work with. We do have insurance, but it is a 20/80 plan, plus our deductible, plus to get things to look historic (we are on the historic registry with a marker in front of our building) we will have more expense than just using modern church design. Our church is a very small church membership, with primarily senior citizens on fixed incomes, and those still working just making it paycheck to paycheck. An average week of offerings is only $1500 to run all the ministries of the church and pay the salaries and the utility bills. Our county is the 12th poorest county in the entire nation, so fundraising will be challenging.

BUT WE ARE UP FOR THE CHALLENGE!

More Photos From the Hurricane



Above: Our side street at home.



Above: The street sign by the church.




Above: The street by the church.




This is the side of our house, where the water got right up to the foundation.

Work Day Photos











Today, 18 members of First Baptist Church met to bring order back to the chaos caused by Hurricane Dolly. The first step was to remove the fallen ceiling tiles, soggy carpet, and soaked pew cushions. We discovered more damage today. The beautiful beams in the church now have wood popping loose--must be a type of veneer. Also it looks like the new carpet we just put down a couple of months ago in the Sunday School classrooms has mold starting to grow (it smells that way too). Not sure the wet vac will be the remedy. Maybe if we could have gotten to it the first or second day, but with power out, that wasn't possible. We plan for services tomorrow. A little hurricane isn't going to keep us from worshiping God!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Two Days After...

Just like two days after surgery is the most painful, two days after a hurricane the overwhelming impact of what you've just survived and what is left to deal with hits. I have no real mental focus for my business, although I want to work to have something different to focus on than what is around me here. Sort of a different version of Paul's statement of old, "the things I wish I could do, I can't, and the things I wish I wouldn't do, I find myself doing."

The media heard about our church building's destruction and came to the church to interview Russ and get footage for the evening news. It should be on video stream at:

http://www.kveo.com/

The parsonage is like Grand Central Station with phone calls, planning meetings, and emergency prayer requests. I'll be honest and say I've had to pray for God to give me grace because even though I'm a people person to the max, I also like a certain amount of alone time each day to decompress.

I'm grateful, though, that we have a place we can use for God and for our community, to reach out to them in their time of need. We will have at least one house guest spend the night, and others coming for a meal tonight, and perhaps a quick shower. And of course, those without power have been invited over to watch the news coverage of our church loss. I'm making a big pot of chile verde because it will feed a crowd and I don't need to fuss in the kitchen all day with it.

The insurance adjuster will be coming on Monday to do the appraisal, and she gave us permission to go ahead an start the clean up work since we have documented everything with photos. So, we will be able to remove the foul-smelling ceiling tile (it has been getting wet for years and years, so you can imagine...) and the soggy carpet. We'll also sort through the hymnals and pew Bibles and separate the damaged pews from the decent ones. Of course, we don't know many churches with mismatched pews, so they will probably count it a total loss since it would be near impossible to find pews to match today since these were quite old. Tomorrow we are calling for a work day for anyone who can come out, but we aren't expecting them to if they have health ailments or their own emergencies to tend to. But there are a few members who really want to have a part in the clean-up, so this will give them a chance to get the church ready for services on Sunday.

Russ and a couple of other guys (thanks Rich and Jesse) already set up the Fellowship Hall for church service on Sunday. We still don't have power, but we are prepared to have at least an abbreviated service no matter what because we don't want to allow the devastation to get the better of us!

So many of you have asked what you can do to help. I know we have cleaning supplies and hand sanitizer coming. We will know more what we need after the adjuster gets the appraisal complete. There will be deductibles to meet for sure. We will be meeting in the Fellowship Hall for several months while the repairs are going on. I'll keep you posted. We are just so blessed to report that as far as we know, no lives were lost in our area due to this horrific storm, and the rescue teams that came in to offer aid to our community were quick and efficient, ready to offer ice, water, and food rations (RTE Army-style).

My odd sense of humor kicks in at the strangest times. Like today when I read that Hurricane Humberto was the last Texas hurricane of 2007 and Dolly the first of 2008--and we experienced BOTH of them. We had Humberto on our way down here to try out for the position. And we warned the people here that extreme weather follows us wherever we go. And then now we have Dolly. "We told you so!"

We aren't discouraged. We have a great God. And we know things could be much worse. And we also know that the church is the people, not the building. But there's just something sacred about that sanctuary, so to see it destroyed really knocks the air out of you when you first walk in.

In fact, when we walk our church members through to tour the damage, it is very similar to being at the funeral home and meeting someone at the door who came to the viewing, and walking them up to the casket telling them all the good memories of the deceased and helping them gently walk the walk of grief to say their good-byes. Those first moments for anyone seeing the damage are very somber.

Thank you, THANK YOU, for your many notes of kindness, prayers, and support.

Thursday, July 24, 2008