How to Team Up to Lose an Entire Person

It’s true!

Five women teaming up for an entire semester CAN lose an entire person!

Let me refresh your memory, so you can recall how a loss like this could have come about…

Our campus issued a challenge at the beginning of the fall semester for our departments to form teams. These teams could have a maximum of 6 members, and each member could decide individually whether to accept the challenge for logging exercise minutes or weight loss or both.

Four of our members chose to log both exercise and weight loss, and a fifth member chose to log exercise only.

Within our 15 week semester, our 5-member team logged 31,753 minutes of exercise. That’s 529.22 hours, or an average of 35.28 hours per week. That means that each team member averaged 1 hour of exercise per day during our challenge period. Considering that our work days can get pretty long & hectic (with most of us often traveling), and we each have family and life responsibilities beyond our hallowed campus halls, I have to smile over the dedication shown.

Despite those great numbers, there were at least 2 teams who logged more hours. Isn’t that awesome?!

I haven’t heard all the weight loss numbers yet, but as for our four team members who participated in this segment…

Our official weigh-in revealed that we had collaboratively lost 60 pounds!!!!  Why, that means we lost an entire person among us!!!  (Okay, a very small person. Maybe one of Santa’s elves.)

In the world of work, how often do you get to team up with your colleagues in competition to celebrate a corporate loss?! And come out much closer as accountability partners?
This is surely one such loss that can be counted as great gain.

What a blessing this challenge has been. I can’t wait to hear the other teams’ numbers as the fat debit rates get reported in the red.

Mostly, I can’t wait to find out how many more people we lost across campus!

fitness

Hope Melts

Christmas was coming. Lisa was missing her husband, Brian, who was still serving his country abroad. More than that, her children were missing their daddy miserably during that Christmas season of 2011. A majority of our American soldiers had been removed from Iraq by then, but not Brian. He was still one of those remaining, stationed there until May 2012. Lisa brought her little family to church for the Christmas Eve candlelight service that year. She was home for the holidays, surrounded by as many extended family members as possible. Both her children clutched their Daddy-ARMY-dolls that evening, but even a picturesque representation of Dad wasn’t going to stop the melt-down later that night. Santa may be coming to town…but Daddy wasn’t.

Despite their sad little hearts, they sat among us at the Christmas morning service. When our pastor asked if anyone had a praise to share,  7-year-old Nat was the first to respond. Without hesitation, she stood and proclaimed, “I’m thankful to be with my family on Christmas.” The wet drops sliding down many cheeks across the pews attested that all hearts there had begun to melt.

Paul talks about the small child leading us. You see, Nat was surely heartbroken. Yet, she refused to stay focused on the negativity of her situation. Instead, she caught a glimpse of the hope – and somehow instinctively knew she needed to SPEAK IT to make it more real. If she could begin to openly express that May would bring her daddy back to the United States – back home to her family – then she could envision that she and her mother and brother would be with him once again.

Oh, what spring-like joy welled up when May rolled around! Can you imagine what that reunion must have been like? For me, it was an infinitesimal glimpse of what our reunion with loved ones in heaven might one day be!

Oh, and in case you’re interested – their earthly reunion looked something like this…

welcome

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I’ve been wanting to share this as a Christmas story for some time, so today seemed a perfect opportunity to integrate it with the Trifecta writing challenge (with a 333 word limit) and the 3rd definition of the challenge word. I stretched my options – and my luck – by metaphorically using the first definition to ultimately depict the 3rd definition. Even if I get called out on a foul, I wanted you to hear this beautiful, triumphant story that I was privileged to witness. It surely made my own heart melt. 🙂

Hope & Joy,

-jody

MELT (transitive verb)
1:  to reduce from a solid to a liquid state usually by heat

2:  to cause to disappear or disperse

– See more at: http://www.trifectawritingchallenge.com/#sthash.3xwaQzF7.dpuf

How to limit GOD – or at least create immense boredom & an unenthusiastic response

Excuse me.

I was wondering if you would at all be interested in reading my inconsequential blog if you thought you might somehow be able to spare just a tiny bit of your time to get around to it at some point in the undetermined future — but only if, of course, you don’t think you might possibly have better things to do…

Hmm. I’m wondering who actually made it this far and still thought there might be anything worthwhile here for you to consider.

By the time you got finished with all my hem-hawing around, chances are that you weren’t even certain what I had been troubling you for in the first place.

But here’s the thing. You see, you and I may not know each other very well. We may not know each other at all, as a matter of fact. We may be utterly complete strangers. And everyone knows that good etiquette requires a certain amount of beating around the bush when making an important request – from a stranger, no less. Just ask Miss Manners.

Of course, if I wanted my friends to read my blog, I’d politely tell them about it, invite them to read it, and likely provide a link occasionally to offer up as a strong hint (to guilt them into reading it). Okay, that’s pretty much what I do. Well, that’s at least one step better than the way I approached you with my ‘unfamiliar stranger’ request.

We’re timid and nearly apologetic to the stranger when communicating (by stumbling through) our request. Less so with a friend, though still somewhat reticent.

Are you starting to get how this relates to our prayer interactions with God?

The book that I’m currently reading as part of my online study to become certified (again) as a lay speaker makes an incredibly strong (of world class body-building magnitude, as a matter of) point:

Too often, we approach God in prayer as if we’re talking to a stranger.

Many times, we aren’t even sure of what we should be saying. But more often than not, we waste of lot of everyone’s time (both ours & God’s – and whoever else is unfortunate enough to be listening in) by failing to get to our point.

So we’ve just acknowledged that we’re less formal and a little more direct toward someone with whom we share some common tie or interest. But let’s take it one step closer…

How do we interact with our closest family members, the ones we know best and with whom we share intimacy?

Would you speak to your spouse or sibling in either of the above described methods? (If so, I’m going to suggest relational counseling to break down this barrier of unfamiliarity.)

Most of us probably wouldn’t waste that many words trying to get to the point with our “in circle.” Instead, I’m more prone to personally address my closest family members in ways such as:

“Hey, come over here and look at this post. Tell me what you think.”
“I need that computer for blogging when you’re done. Hey, wait, don’t run off. I need you to take a look at my post for today.”

Closer relationships have a tendency to equate to more direct communications, particularly in conveying our expectations or requesting a response. With that being said…

Which of the 3 communication styles described above are closest to your prayer talks with God?

Distant Stranger?

Acquaintance/Friend?

Intimate Family Member?

Chances are that it’s not Number 3. Mine either.

For some reason, number 3 seems over-demanding to us, even as God’s children. (I’m a southern “gurl,” so even the thought of sounding sacrilegious comes to my mind!)
Funny how we were born into the world learning to express our desires to our earthly parents – even before we could speak their language; yet, we can’t seem to bring ourselves to have that same close communication style – that intimacy (and trust in response) – with our heavenly parent.

Jesus did.

He didn’t hem-haw around. He got directly to the point, and the verbs he used were what Stookey (2001) refers to as vigorous.

In Matthew 6:9-13, Jesus gets right to the action-packed point when teaching His followers how to pray:

Give

Forgive

Lead

Deliver

Vigorous verbs require action. Action verbs are the ones we use for ourselves when we expect to get results. Apparently, God means for us to call Him into action (rather than limiting Him with pacifying redundancy) in our prayers – expecting results. And we can – when our petitions come from a scriptural basis not taken out of context (meaning we can be more assured they are aligned with God’s ways and His will). Then we’re not wasting God’s time in making them, nor are we being rude in our directness.

By addressing God in an unswerving manner with our needs and desires, whether personal or intercessory, communication is enhanced, thus improving our chances of receiving a more fruitful response.

God may know our hearts and our desires, but I’m pretty sure He wants us to be 100% honest and certain about them too. (Do try to remember that some responses may be “No, not in this particular circumstance, child,” or just “Not yet, but wait until you see what I have in store for your life.”)

Oh, sure, God could spare a little time to answer our drawn out excuses at some undetermined point in the future. But God isn’t our genie in a bottle, waiting to pop out to fulfill our every passing fancy. God truly does have better things to do than be like the character on I Dream of Jeannie – always cleaning up messes that were created by fulfilling every tiny whim.

That should serve as a good reminder that our prayers shouldn’t come from self-centered desires (like me wanting someone to read my blog for my own ego’s sake). They should be aligned with a purpose – God’s purpose for our lives (like me hoping someone will draw nearer to God and have a more active – and exciting – prayer life after meditating on this blog’s reflection).

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.

***

Here’s a fun exercise to do, to help you begin to make an Action-Packed Prayer List of Vigorous Verbs. Write A-Z down a column on a piece of paper. Then try to think of at least 1 vigorous verb for every letter on your list that you could use when petitioning God. (This was one of my assignments this week, so I sat down with 2 friends yesterday and we thought up quite a few. I’ve included a sample below, in case you get stuck and need to borrow some!)

Accentuate (our gifts for ministry)
Build (Your Kingdom here on earth)
Calm (our spirits in times of trouble)
Direct (us to do Your will)
Enlighten (us with Your Word)
Fill (us with Your Spirit)
Generate (a new desire in us aligned with Your will)
Heal (our congregation during this time of loss)
Instruct (us in Your ways)
Journey (before us & with us in this new endeavor)
Kindle (our spirits to action)
Lead (us on Your path of righteousness)
Multiply (our gifts for Your kingdom)
Nurture (the broken in this place)
Ordain (us to do Your work)
Pour (out Your love upon us, that we might pour it out on others)
Qualify (us to do Your good work through this educational experience)
Replenish (our minds, bodies & souls for this task)
Stand (in the gap for us)
Teach (us to meditate on Your Word and Your ways)
Unify (the body of Christ for Your service)
Validate (our efforts in this ministry)
Walk (with us)
Xerox (your love in our hearts for others)
Yoke (us to you)
Zing (us with a dose of Your Holy Spirit)

***

Reference:

Stookey, Laurence H. (2001). Let the whole church say Amen: A guide for those who pray in public. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.

Related Article:

Above All…Let All the People Say Amen

Above All…Let All the People Say Amen

I’ve just begun an online workshop on Public Prayer towards achieving revised certification requirements for the designation of Lay Speaker within the realm of Lay Servant Ministries within our Church Conference.

As such, I’m already enjoying the primary text for the course:

Stookey, Laurence H. (2001). Let the whole church say Amen: A guide for those who pray in public. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.

To be honest, I never gave much thought regarding how public prayer differed from personal prayer, except for the obvious component that it was no longer my own personal time with God – it was a corporate time and should be addressed in kind. Perhaps, when I stepped forth to lift up a prayer within a group, I even subconsciously knew much of the protocol that was required. However, it’s always a great refresher to have structure laid out where you can see it, dissect its parts, contemplate why we do things a certain way (or maybe why we should consider changing those ways) – capturing a new angle through the study of God’s Word and forming our relationships (both with God and others) through a varied lens and in a new light.

Here’s a very important reminder from the Introduction of the text that I believe serves the Public Intercessor well:

  • Because you are being asked to send up prayers on behalf of an entire gathering or some group (large or small), even though the prayers may contain personal elements, your statements must be more generalized than your own personal prayers. Because these prayers are representing all who are present, you must provide a setting where all can agree in order to be able to authentically say Amen at the end with their own personal measure of integrity.

corporate

Of course, all that being said, I believe it’s also important to acknowledge that when any individual is selected (or volunteers) to bring forth prayer on behalf of a larger group, it should be expected that the person is going to bring his or her own personal touch, so to speak. You should allow yourself permission to interject your personality, your own inflections, so the prayer is genuine and doesn’t seem overly constrained or as though it isn’t from your own heart.

As I begin this study, I’ve been asked to meditate and write a prayer of praise to God – one void of any requests. (Interesting that the author understands that human nature compels us to slide those in…) I was meditating on the Psalms prior to this, thinking on the themes of thanksgiving and adoration.

Here’s what passed through my mind (& my fingertips):

Lord GOD,
I* know You are ABOVE ALL –
Above All of life’s battles,
Above All of my* daily problems & concerns,
Above All of my petitions or moans, my groans, my complaints,
Above All of my seeming defeats.

I know You are ABOVE ALL –
Above All of the daily delights I either acknowledge or overlook,
Above All of the times I call out Your Name – either in glorious praise or unfortunate defamation,
Above All of the ways I interact with others – both positively & negatively,
Above All of the matters that You intricately know within my heart.

I know You are ABOVE ALL –
Above All of my outright confessions,
Above All of my hidden secrets,
Above All of my shortcomings, my comings, my goings,
Above All of these things that ought to be Yours.

I know You are OVER ALL –
Over All of creation,
Over All situations,
Over All that comes before me*,
Over All that makes up each of our personal beings.

I Praise You, Lord GOD
for taking me under Your wing,
for breathing into me Your breath of life,
for wanting me to abide in Your presence,
for All I understand You to be…
And much more so for All in You I can’t comprehend.

You are Awesome.
You are Amazing.
You are GOD.

***

*Note that our or we or us could have been substituted for my or I or me in the above stanzas; but whether personally or corporately received, I wanted to assure this was a very personalized prayer (much like we perceive when we read the Psalms – understanding an individual within the Psalter was speaking/singing to God in each one, but that we, too, might join in.)

As I close today, I’m reminded of something powerful that one of my older sisters once reminded me in my younger years about the power of prayer in a difficult relational circumstance:

“Jody,” she said, “God will not change people. But God will change circumstances.”

(What I didn’t yet understand was that those circumstances might have actually been mine to create a change in me! ha!)

For me, that’s always been a worthy reminder of how I should never try to use prayer to manipulate people. I think it’s an especially important reminder in the corporate setting, where a prayer leader should not try to interject his or her own will onto a situation to manipulate those in attendance (or…God!). God is simply far too great for that.

I pray that all is well with each of you.

-jody

It’s the Little Things

Don’t EVER under-estimate the TREMENDOUS importance of the little things in life.

Have you ever been point-blank asked, “Why do you love me?” and you felt foolish because, maybe – just maybe – you didn’t have an immediate response? (Because you weren’t even sure of why yourself.)

No need to panic! (I assure you.)

I’m going to posit that it’s because your mind (which is a little on the lazy side – sorry, but someone had to say it) immediately jumps across synapses to grasp whatever it most easily can. It reaches for the BIG stuff it can readily access. And maybe it was the BIG stuff that first caught your eye about someone – the things you could more easily measure because there they were, right out in the foreground for the whole, entire world to see!

But we don’t truly fall in love with someone because it’s easy to see that person is easy on the eyes. That’s called attraction. Infatuation. Stalking, if you keep watching them and they don’t want you around. As a matter of fact, I’m guessing that the majority of relationships never progress to their full potential because many people never get past what’s in front of them. They’re so focused on “the BIG,” they forget to nurture “the LITTLE,” so it can grow.

Little things don’t just happen “in the heart” – where the soul part of the brain digs deeply and finds GREATNESS in the tiniest little inflections; they must be carefully tended there. Strangely, these aren’t the same for all people. Any combination of traits and characteristics, which only come rarely in fleeting glimpses, can combine to compel us to love someone – or somehow care for others.

The way a dimple only flashes at the exact moment his eyes light up – and only when you’re around.

The manner in which she drops her head and blushes while brushing your hand with hers.

His guttural laugh over some silly bit of nothingness that drives you crazy.

Her cooing sighs when you whisper in her ear.

The way in which he traces the lines inside the palm of your hand to soothe you when you’re nervous.

The way she stands tall and proud when introducing you to others.

The stupid crook from where he broke his pinky toe – twice.

The scar left on her body where she stood strong and battled cancer.

Each of those little things adds up to equal a GREAT story – one that’s both personal, and shared.

It doesn’t happen exclusively in romance. It’s about any relationship. It’s about life, in general. It’s about personal growth where you finally come to like yourself. It’s about surprising others you may barely know with some random little something – and watching what a BIG deal it becomes in their day!

I came in this morning to a lovely surprise bouquet, left on the conference room table by our new secretary to brighten our work day. (Guess what? It worked!)

I came in this morning to a lovely surprise bouquet, left on the conference room table by our new secretary to brighten our work day. (Guess what? It worked!)

If you find you’ve been too focused on life’s BIG things, as of late, take some time to embrace the little things. (They won’t weigh you down nearly as much!)

And here’s a good place to get you started – with a little bit of music, which always greatly soothes and uplifts the soul!

Making the Difference…Some Day? This Day!

I stood proudly this week as another of my classes walked for graduation. It’s always amazing to me to look at how confidently this group of health care providers marches across the stage when thinking back to how uncertain they were on the first few days of their program orientation (where we inevitably lose at least one of them to uncertainty); to how inadequate they feel after the first few weeks of performing clinical duties (where we often lose at least another due to indecisiveness); to how exhausted they feel after just one semester (where we occasionally even lose at least another to lack of resilience).

I don’t apologize for the demands this intensive program places on our students – because I don’t want to ever feel apologetic to the patients with whom they’ll come in contact for the education and training they received while under my watch. Our students are dedicated, so they understand this. And that’s why they ultimately become such dedicated health CARE professionals.

Last year, I had a student who decided to use his iPad to journal his way through the program – and who often provided me with his raw, unedited thoughts that resonated with varying emotions. With his permission, I’d like to share a couple of those journal clips today. The first is from very early in his program experience; the second, from his final class days, where he was taking his final final exam (as he explains). Take time to note the difference in the hair growth too. By graduation day, his ears had been lowered again to their early program status!

Early Journal Entry (a student perspective after being accepted into & entering the program)

Final Journal Entry (a student perspective of coming out on the other side…)

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You Do Count (But Don’t Let it be Negatively)

Christian author, Max Lucado wrote a book entitled, It’s Not About Me, in which Lucado points out that we each have a tendency, from very early in life, to believe that we are the center of our own universe. Our social environment doesn’t necessarily break us from this tendency, but more likely builds upon it. Although we learn to get along with others, we still tend to make our decisions based on how the outcome will affect us as individuals. The adage of “looking out for number one” or “taking care of yourself because no one else will” is echoed on a daily basis, from career opportunities to skin care commercials. Even looking at this concept from a more noble perspective, we begin to adopt mantras that we should ”take responsibility for our own actions” or that we must “take pride in personal tasks.” Oh, and to complain when things become too tough will generally be perceived as a weakness.

The fact of the matter is that we are responsible for ourselves, but we’re also responsible for much more than only ourselves. We’re part of a much larger (and intimidating) system. Rather than always seeing ourselves at the center of our make-shift universe, we may, instead, often believe that we’re such a small part, our decisions and actions don’t really count. However, anything we do as individuals, multiplied by the efforts of all, will ultimately impact this universal system in a massive way.

Did you take a moment to consider that last statement? As an individual, you do count, both positively and negatively. When you make decisions based only upon individual needs, your decision counts, though sometimes (unfortunately) negatively. When you make decisions based on the needs of the whole, even individually, you can produce a huge return on your investment for many future generations. If we all band together to make a difference by choosing to take even one positive and specific action, can you imagine how our efforts might be multiplied?

Building a church from the ground up

Building a church from the ground up

Sudan kids

Illumination______________________________________________________________

Posted in response to this week’s Trifecta challenge (333 words using the word band by its 3rd definition) & in honor of so many who have stepped forward to be World-Changers, whether in their neighborhoods or across the globe.

Love & respect, -jody

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Reference:

Lucado M. It’s not about me. Nashville (TN): Integrity Publishers; 2004.