See How Easily You Can Be a Blessing

Sometimes it seems like we wait all winter for summer to arrive, and then when it does our to-do lists are still there, and the extra time we were hoping for never shows up!  The sunny days are sometimes sporadic and life feels just as busy as it did the last nine months.

Maybe your family feels the same way. Maybe this summer you have every good intention of making sure your kids do something productive. Maybe this summer your desire was to have more family time. Perhaps you were hoping to spend some quality time with each of your children. Or maybe, you started off this spring intent on slowing down life this summer. Then the swimming lessons happened, vacations were booked, your load at work increased, the lawn needed to be mowed, and the deck still isn’t stained.

We can have every good intention, but until we are actually intentionAL, life can seem to pass us by. Without a plan and a goal in mind, it can get easy to wade through each day of life, and passing by opportunities to make a life-long impact. So, what is it that you want for your family? More family time? To serve your community? To build friendships that you have been neglecting? To re-ignite a passion for Jesus?

What could happen if your family intentionally decided to make every season a season of blessings? What if each week, you set aside time for your family to be a blessing to someone else? I’d encourage you to sit down with your family and dream about what that could look like. What excites you? Who in your life needs a helping hand or encouraging word? What might you have to give up to make this a possibility?

To get your creativity flowing, here are some ideas for 8 areas where your family could be a blessing ...


B – Block.

• Organize a block party or neighborhood cookout.

• Prayer Walk in your neighborhood.

• Offer to babysit for a mom in your neighborhood.

• Take cookies to someone on the block you haven’t seen in a while.

• Host a Backyard Bible School.


L – lifeGroup.

• Send a note of encouragement to someone in your lifeGroup.

• Not in a lifeGroup? Send a note of encouragement to a friend from the Church or consider trying out a lifeGroup for 4 weeks.

 

E - Excess. Our excess can be a blessing.

• Clean out the closets and donate the clothing or toys.

• Instead of eating out or seeing that movie, use the money to go shopping for food for a local food pantry.


S – Seniors.

• Invite an older adult from your neighborhood to dinner.

• Take flowers to a nursing home and visit with the residents.

• Call the local senior center and ask if they know of anyone who needs some odd jobs done around the house.

 

S – Surprises.

• Do something unexpected for a stranger. For example, pay for someone’s meal or coffee next time you are out or take cookies to a fire station.

• Mow a neighbor’s yard unexpectedly.

• Take a friend’s children out for ice cream.

• Drop off flowers on a friend’s doorstep.

 

I – Inside your home.

Sometimes it’s hardest to bless those that live under the same roof as us.

• Draw names and have secret “blessing partners.” Challenge your children to secretly do nice things for the person whose name they drew.

• Have nightly prayer partners. Take 10 min to pray for your partner each night, and rotate partners during the week.


N – New.

• Take cookies to a neighbor you have never met.

• Meet someone new next time you are at the library or park.

• Start a new routine (reading your Bible, walking, praying, etc.) and invite a friend to join you.

• Introduce yourself to someone new at church.

• Explore a place in town you’ve never been, and invite friends to join you.

 

G – Give your time.

• Volunteer at a local food pantry.

• Read for story time at your local library.

• Organize a food drive in your neighborhood.

• Pick up trash at a park.

How has your family been intentionally living a summer of blessing?  And let me know how you were blessed in the process!

 

I Am Not A Leader!

Why such resistance to the label?

As children we all wanted to take our turn at being the leader as we played follow the leader.

So, what changed for most of us?

What lies did we embrace along the way that left us with the impression that only a few could lead?

What self-defeating talk took root in our minds that led us to believe that WE WERE NOT LEADERS?

I love the way God is redefining leadership at the Church. Everyone gets to play! Everyone gets to lead!

Over the next couple of months we will be challenging our worldly views we have inherited concerning leadership. And, hopefully, we will continue to shift our thinking about leadership from something that is reserved for a select few who “qualify” to “everyone” who has been called by Jesus to follow Him.

You are a leader.

So, with a learner’s mind, let’s lay aside our various preconceptions and embrace the divine privilege of leadership. Our shared mission depends on it!

Take a moment to let this land on you. How do you respond to the notion that you are a leader? Do you embrace it? Do you resist it? If you do resist, what’s makes you hesitant?

Let’s talk about it.

 

Practice Compassion

I’m learning that kindness and compassion take practice. This seems to be especially true in my most difficult moments. When I choose kindness, instead of my habitual reaction, it’s powerful, disarming, and transformative. In any given moment, the kindness you offer to others affects what happens in the very next moment. 

Studies show that thinking about, observing or practicing a kind act stimulates our vagus nerve, a bundle of nerves that originates at the top of the spinal cord and surrounds the heart. The vegus nerve activates different organs throughout the body (such as the heart, lungs, liver and digestive organs). It literally warms up the heart and may be closely connected to the brain’s receptor networks for oxytocin, the soothing hormone involved in maternal bonding. Kindness also triggers the reward system in our brain’s emotion regulation center releasing dopamine, the hormone that’s associated with positive emotions.

God is amazing! We are intentionally created and designed to love one another. Showing kindness and compassion to others is actually good for our physical and our emotional well-being. Do good, feel good. Our sinfulness would have us lean the other way, to avert our eyes from the need around us and protect our time and possessions. I find that I need make an intentional choice to show compassion and the practice itself has cumulative effect. The more I choose compassion the easier it becomes. I am instantly rewarded with an overwhelming feeling of gratitude and humbleness at the realization that God has allowed me to partner with him in showing love to a hurting and sinful world.

What we practice and how is our choice. When we practice being busy, frustrated, and reactive we become better at it. When we practice peace, kindness and compassion we reset our brains to recognize the reward of living generously. It’s not easy, and it doesn’t come naturally. But it’s how we were created to live. Here are a few ideas on how to start practicing kindness and compassion:

  • Take care and be kind to yourself.
  • Allow yourself to be interrupted.
  • Initiate a conversations with neighbors and friends, ask questions and listen.
  • Give away money to a cause that you are passionate about.
  • Get creative if you’re on a limited budget.
  • Volunteer! With whatever time you have to give.
  • Study Jesus’ example. He was really good at living a compassionate life.

As Christ followers we are walking, talking reflections of Jesus. We must live it with intentionality and audacity. Be curious, open your eyes and heart to opportunities to love compassionately. The world will know us by our love.

Resources:

The Paradox of Generosity: Giving We Receive, Grasping We Lose
Christian Smith and Hilary Davidson

The Compassionate Instinct: The Science of Human Goodness
Dacher Keltner, Jason Marsh, and Jeremy Adam Smith

Born to Be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life
Dacher Keltner

7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess
Jen Hatmaker

 

Interruptions and Opportunities

At the Church, one of the ways God has uniquely placed us to Share in our community is through our Preschool, where so many children and their families get to know Jesus and His love.  Preschool teachers, parents, and anyone who’s spent time with little ones knows that kids = interruptions.  Just when you think you’re out the door and will make it to school right on time, someone spills her lunchbox contents all over the car, or tells you that he needs to go to the bathroom, NOW!   How we handle interruptions with kids is a great opportunity to think about how we handle interruptions in general.  Be Jesus In Your Neighborhood reminds us that “God loves to interrupt our lives” and that there is often excitement that comes along with interrupted plans.  


The preschool staff is getting excited about the start of another school year and looking forward to reconnecting with one another and with our returning preschool families, as well as meeting our new families.  So I’d like to reach out to discuss a few practical ways to head off some avoidable interruptions and make the most of the opportunities that a new school year presents.  We all want the transition into the new school year to go smoothly, so here are a few tips for making that happen:


  • Talk with your child about what to expect; talk about the classroom and the other children.

  • Self-help skills are important in school. Give your child opportunities at home to do things for themselves such as putting on jackets, putting toys away, and cleaning up after snack time.

  • If you and your child have fallen out of your bedtime routine this summer, get back into a solid routine! A week before the first day of school is a good time frame in which to begin.

  • Practice the morning routine that you will be following after preschool starts; doing this during the week or so before school starts will give your child the opportunity to know how the mornings will be going.


What routines have helped your family as you go about day-to-day life?

 

Or, can you share a time when you were able to embrace an interruption? 

 

South Carolina Mission Trip-Day 5

God is good. He is faithful and compassionate, delighting in His children and ever providing for each need. Today was a day to grow in our relationships with each other, reflect on the week, and celebrate God's goodness. 
 
We began this morning with a 6:45am prayer breakfast hosted by the church where we are staying for the week. The gentleman I sat with has been coming consistently to this Friday breakfast for 14 years. We definitely enjoyed the southern breakfast, complete with grits, biscuits and gravy, and sweet tea! 
 
We had a few hours of free time in the morning and early afternoon, and we were eager to take advantage of it! The staff took us to a river where we had the option to jump off of a rope swing into the water. It was a great adventure!! After that we headed to Lake Murray for lunch and some playtime. 
 
After worship and showers, we headed off to a community cookout in the neighborhood where we have been working all week. It was definitely the perfect way to end our week! It was such fun! We played with the kids, talked with new friends, and enjoyed some watermelon and hot dogs. The gathering had a really great feel to it - like being with family. It was evident that this community has really embraced and appreciated all of the students that have been working there all summer. It will be exciting to see how God transforms this community over the next few years. 
 
Finally, our trip to South Carolina is ending in the perfect way (well, at least for Higher Ground) - as I write this I am listening to an "Open Mic Night". These students love to praise God together and celebrate each other's gifts! They are excited to share those talents and passions with you at our  Brunch on August 24th from noon-2. Come join us as we share stories and pictures from both the middle school and high school mission trips.
 
As you read this we will be in the vans driving back to Madison - ready to hug our loved ones (and sleep on real mattresses!) We sincerely thank you for all of your love and support of our youth!