Monthly Archives: October 2010

As a young woman in ministry, I thought it might kill me. It was so trying and much of it was just downright miserable. I was relying more on my own ability to work “miracles” than trusting God to do what He is best at. I put a lot of pressure on myself to be people’s life-changer…and that was nearly unbearable.

I was reminded of those moments yesterday when I got an IM from a former student of ours. This girl was “out there” as a student. She was loud, headstrong, and had NO church history whatsoever when she started dating another one of our students in the youth ministry. She was all mouth, did whatever she felt like doing at the moment, and had no boundaries. I remember banging my head against the wall trying to get her to understand that her actions were hurting her and that God had a better plan for her life.

Now don’t get me wrong….I liked her a lot. I knew early on that this girl was special. I knew that God had a calling on her life and that leadership would be #1 on her gift list. I was just frustrated with the process of getting her from where she was to where she needed to be. The risk of failing her and watching that potential be lost was nerve-wracking. Good thing that God is the one who ultimately changes lives!

Over the years I would watch as she would give her life to Jesus, get baptized, redirect that energy into Godly endeavors, eventually go to Bible college, and now she is a youth pastor. Her IM yesterday afternoon said, “Do you know how much you changed my life?” I stared at the computer and chuckled a little. Dear girl, I didn’t change a thing. I have no power apart from His and have no wisdom that He didn’t give me… I just got to be the vessel for His life transformation in your story.

I pictured her leading her own group of students. She’s probably banging her head against a wall right now over a life that she desperately believes in. She probably sees the potential and only hopes she can do or say something that will translate into the love of Christ. But I also have the privilege of being able to see her future. She will have her own moment, a long time from now, when she’s at a computer and an IM will remind her that ministry is a little bit about what we do and a lot about a faithful, powerful, loving God who will finish the work that He starts in people.

Someone will ask her if she knows how much she changed her life and she will answer as I did, “Yes, I do. I am keenly aware of the impact my life has when I turn it over to Jesus.”

About 12 years ago I was in my early twenties, had strong opinions, and a mouth that got me in trouble repeatedly by voicing those opinions at inappropriate times and in the wrong way. I had just married Mark, began youth ministry as a pastor’s wife, and got the opportunity to work at our Network Office in the youth department.

It was truly a life-altering chance to work with hundreds of youth pastors and oversee conferences and camps that impacted thousands of teenagers. If I wanted leadership training, I was about to be immersed in an experience that would mold and shape every part of me. Honestly, I still don’t know why my boss, Troy, hired me. If I were him, I would have chosen someone else who didn’t always speak their mind in such a harsh manner. God must have whispered in his ear, knowing that I needed what was about to come my way.

Troy’s wife, Jana, also came with the package. Jana is kind, loving, and tactful…a far cry from who I was! She would be written into the story of my life in one of the most clarifying moments I would ever have. That turning point came at a retreat we were on in Leavenworth, Washington with a group of youth pastors. One of those pastors said something that irritated me and I quipped back with an awful and snide comment. That kind, loving, tactful woman shot me a look that I still remember. She lead me to a hallway and set her tactfulness aside. That morning her rebuke cut like a knife. She bluntly let me know that I was not allowed to speak to anybody like that – not just as a leader, but as a Christian. She did not mince her words or coddle me at all. The “love” of Jesus in her looked alot like the love of a mother bear protecting her cubs…and I was the hunter. I was literally crushed under the weight of disappointment both in her eyes and at myself.

Over the years of having to correct other people just like I was corrected that day, I have seen a common reaction…most people attack back when confronted with their own failures. They blame their rebuker for “how they said it” or simply disappear and leave church or ministry. I could have made that choice that day. Trust me, I wanted to. Everything in me wanted to push that disappointment away by making it someone elses fault. But I went a different direction that morning and it made ALL the difference in literally the rest of my life.

I cried. I cried like a little baby in Jana’s arms. Not just a little cry, but the kind that ruins your makeup and makes your skin blotchy. Then, I apologized to her, I took responsibility, and with tear stained cheeks, I went back to that youth pastor and asked for forgiveness. And then I opened up my life for Jana to dive in again and again to correct me EVERY time I failed. And she did. And it was ugly.

Now, over a decade later, I may still hurt people with my words…we all do, but it is definitely a rare exception instead of the norm. And last week Jana texted me to tell me I should write a book because of how well I use my words…oh, the irony. I thought back to that day in Leavenworth and laughed. Thanks, dear friend, for encouraging me to use my words for God’s glory, but more importantly…thanks for calling me on it when I didn’t.

I ended up with 5 little girls at my house after church…that’s a lot of peanut butter and jelly!

Jamie and Berly Bello, our missionaries to the Dominican Republic, were guests with us this weekend. They did a great job sharing stories about what they are doing to impact the lives of teenagers across the world! Jamie is also nine months pregnant with her second boy, so I was pretty impressed that she stayed strong through three services. God really does give us the strength when we need it!

She spoke about her own infertility issues and the miracles that she has experienced in that area. I know that there are various people trying right now for children and we are praying for you! We believe that God opens wombs and fulfills dreams!

Jamie also shared about healings, and as I looked over the room at each service, I was also reminded of the deep healing that needs to be done within the lives of people who attend North Creek. We, as a staff and team, really do lift you us regularily to God and are believing for victory. It’s not just words, it’s faith!

Fun stat of the week: We have grown an average of 42 people since we began our third service. That’s a lot of great families and singles that we are enjoying getting to know and add to our team!

When Rachael Yonko is out of town there is a breakdown in the smooth functionality of our church… 🙂 We hope you had a great time away, but thank you for always coming back!

Janelle Fletcher is one of the sharpest women I know. I love and appreciate her heart to serve with a smile and a passion! She’s probably turning red as she reads this…

We took a great offering for our missionaries! What a generous church! When you write a check for missions, it helps all four of our missionary families do their jobs in other countries. I know each family personally and they are all wonderful, just like Jamie and Berly!

Nate made this comment on Facebook that I thought was really deep, “Like the missionaries said this weekend, and like Paul says in Romans…BELIEVE God. Not believe in God, or believe that there is a God. Just Believe God and His promises for us.” Such a good word for our lives. Do you believe in God AND do you believe Him? So close, but so different.

Change the world this week…

Mark and I were talking about how our roots as a church were birthed out of an amazing unity via our core team that we started with. I fully believe that was the determining factor between North Creek’s success or failure. No amount of money could have bought the focus toward one common goal that we experienced. I still believe that unity is the most important part of our church and the “do or die” priniciple that we fight hardest for. I came across this blog from Steven Furtick that talked about unity in a creative way. Thank you for being a church that makes a beautiful song!

Playing from the Same Page

I recently took my youngest son Graham to a music store to let him bang on the instruments. I decided that even though I love music, I would hate to work in there because all you hear all day is noise. Not music.

Multiple people were playing multiple instruments around the store and it sounded horrible. No one was coordinated. It was just an annoying cacophony of sound.

But I also noticed that if you isolated it out, a lot of the individuals who were playing were actually pretty good. You had one guy playing great R&B on a keyboard. Another guy playing a strong version of Stairway to Heaven on guitar. Another playing great jazz on drums.

It’s not that any of these players were particularly bad. They just weren’t playing from the same page. It wasn’t their individual skill levels that were lacking. It was the unity of all their skills going after the same purpose.

That’s what a lot of churches are like: A room full of talented people playing their own music. What could be really beautiful like a symphony has gone wrong because there is no unity. And the result is purposeless noise.

Many of you have the people in your church right now to begin playing some amazing music. A better staff person or better volunteers isn’t going to fix your problem. It will just add to the noise you already have. What you really need to do is get everyone to start playing the same song.

If you’re a pastor, it’s your job to pick the song. Cast your God-given vision. You could have some of the greatest people in their respective positions you’re ever going to work with. But if you don’t give them a common song to unite around, you’re wasting their talent. And your church is just going to make a lot of noise that’s going to repel people.

If you’re on staff, volunteering, or simply attending, it’s your responsibility to be united under your visionary. If God wanted everyone playing your song, He would have elevated you to a place where you could make it happen. But He hasn’t. He may one day, but in the meantime you need to faithfully contribute to the song your pastor has chosen with your unique contribution. And do it with excellence.

We have too great of a message and too great a mission to let them get lost in a sea of meaningless noise. So whatever part you play in your church:

Unite under a common song. Play from the same page. And play your part flawlessly.

My kids are constantly covered in scrapes, bruises and “owies”. Right now Delaney has a big blister on one hand from her monkey bar madness that encompasses every recess. Kennedy has a scraped knee from running full speed across a parking lot in cowgirl boots. Don’t even get me started on the rug burns from wrestling matches with their friends at church….

I giggle a little bit when I look at them because each wound is a sign of a life lived to the fullest with little regard for avoiding pain. Although I’m all about consequences, I think we could all learn a lot from kids. If we are focused on Jesus and living within the guardrails of His Word, we should go at life with abandon! We shouldn’t be afraid of getting hurt by life and walking around with a few war wounds. My kids love playing too much to worry about what “might” happen to a knee that is going to heal anyway. The reality is that somewhere along the lines of adulthood, we make an unconscious decision to play it safe…just in case.

Paul, in the Bible, spent many days in prison and was beaten and tortured throughout his life in the name of Jesus…it makes my kid’s scrapes look pretty pathetic…but he went down in history as a world changer. He walked in the amazingness of God’s miracles and lived a life that few of us can even hope to live. But it came with plenty of scrapes, bruises, and owies…ones that I am sure Paul didn’t regret on his deathbed.

What is keeping you back from living to your greatest potential? Are you afraid of people laughing? Are you afraid of failure? Are you so scarred from your past that you are frozen from the idea of opening up your life to be scarred again? Whatever your fear is, shut it out. Go after the prize, go after your passion, and buy a box of bandaids…