What Ya Been Up To Lately?

Life is zooming by at the speed of light (or faster at times it seems!) Can you believe that it is already mid-March?  As we head into Spring Break, I just wanted to take a day and let you know what kind of (good) trouble we’ve been getting ourselves into here at Strings Attached.

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Many of you know that is often feast or famine….and this year is no different! I will have seasons with no engagements and then times when I am speaking somewhere new every week.  Now that I am teaching family caregivers of folks with Alzheimer’s and other dementias at Home Instead Senior Care, I find myself perpetually in the preparation cycle for the next presentation.  I am currently neck deep in one of those feast seasons and speaking nearly every weekend in March and April.  I still have dates available in summer and early fall! Go to the Contact us tab to request a date!

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Planning for our big conference, Captivating Heart is underway and running smoothly! You should come this year! Last year’s event was a phenomenal experience and we can’t wait to do it again! Registration is open and space is limited, so register today and don’t miss out!
Go to www.captivatingheart.com for more details.

In preparation for Captivating Heart we a couple of events coming up to raise both awareness and funds, and can’t wait to tell you about them!

Princess Warrior Games- Sunday, May 19, 2013  2 pm – 5 pm

Don’t let the name throw you, this one is open to warriors of all types, but we specifically want to celebrate the Princess Warrior in all of us daughters of the King.

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Strings Attached has partnered with Modern Mission Outdoor Laser Tag (think paintball without the pain!) for a Sunday afternoon full of embracing your inner warrior! Several missions will be run with an all-Princess game at 3pm.  This event is open to the entire family and I can’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon! You must purchase your tickets in advance for this event and space will fill up quickly! Get your tickets today!

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2nd Annual Ladies’ Garden Party- Saturday, June 8, 2013  10 am -12 pm

We had so much fun last year, we’re doing it again!
IMG_4116So maybe taking out opposing forces on the battlefield isn’t your thing….perhaps you are more dresses and tiaras kind of gal. Or maybe you are like me and like to hold your pinky up when you drink tea one week and shoot at folks another….this event is for you.

Join us for morning tea in the garden with the ladies. ..crumpets, delicate tea cups, ummm….cupcakes….a silent auction full of lovely items and an opportunity to dress in your prettiest sundress and hat and enjoy the company of other ladies.  Tickets must be purchased in advance, so get yours today!
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And much more…

We have a couple of other events in the planning stages…stay tuned for more information about those, but until then, get your tickets today for these great fundraising events!

Do you want to donate to the Captivating Heart Retreat, but can’t make one of our awesome fundraisers?  No worries…you can donate through paypal just by clicking here.  Every little bit helps to make Captivating Heart better!

I hoping to be back on schedule with consistent posts coming in the next couple of weeks….this month has been NUTS! (but no worries, I’ll keep ya updated along the way!)

Grace and Peace,

How Idea Gardens Changed the Way I Write

I have a confession to make.

I don’t write everyday and I am horribly unorganized.  

That’s two confessions isn’t it?

For a long time I thought that made me a bad writer…or at the least a bad blogger…because blogging is about consistency right?  What I found is that lots of writers and bloggers struggle with this.

So back in November, I spoke at a conference called the State of Now conference. While I was there I had the pleasure of meeting a fellow writer/blogger/speaker, Simon Salt.  Simon challenged these two confessions and wagered that if I would commit to writing everyday and organizing my posts into series that I would be able to increase the consistency of my posts.  I listened skeptically, but came home and put some of his suggestions in play.  I also began to do research into how to better plan out my posts and found a marvelous site called productiveflourishing.com that has changed the way I organize and structure my writing.

So how does a writer who works three days a week, has two pre-teen children, is a very active speaker and worship leader and has only a few hours a week to manage two blogs find time to post three times a week on one blog and once a week on another?

Well, first I must admit, I am no expert at this practice, but I want to share with you what has worked for me.

As a writer who does not prolifically churn out words, it is sometimes difficult to “be inspired” to write on the days that I have time.  I find most often that my inspiration to write comes in my daily life as I stumble across truths that break over me like a dawning sunrise or something profound and otherworldly stumbles out my friends’ or my own mouth by accident. These are the times that I want to sit and write, but unfortunately, my life didn’t come with a remote control with a pause button.  Did yours? I wonder if amazon.com carries those?

However, I am blessed to live in an age of technology where I have the ability to jot down simple ideas and take them wherever I go. I call this my “idea garden.”
planting seeds
I keep my idea garden on Google Drive because I can create documents and eventually turn those into blog posts that I then move to a folder called “Posts written”…it’s like my online back-up of my writing.

The backbone of my idea garden comes from this post from Productive Flourishing (I am a big fan of their blog planner sheets- I’ll write more about those later).

So the logistics look like this:

I have created a folder called “Idea Garden” in my google drive account.  Whenever I have a thought about a good blog post- even if it’s just a title- I will create a new document in that folder under that title.  If I have thoughts or quotes that sparked the idea, I will jot those down as notes.  Each week, I spend an hour “watering the seeds” of my idea garden.

Sometimes, a post just flows out of the initial idea immediately.  Sometimes the seed germinates in the garden for a while. Either way, this is a way for me to capture and save inspiration even when it comes at a time when I can’t immediately stop and write.  I just take a couple of seconds to jot it down in my idea garden and I don’t have to worry about losing the thought.

This practice alone has really transformed my blogging from inconsistent to mostly consistent. I think if you give it a try, it will help you too!

What about you? Do you use an idea garden?

My Top Five Picks: Get-to-Know-You Activities

Most often when I am asked for help in planning events for women’s ministries (did you know that I did that? See the “Contact Us: Pick My Brain” tab for more information), I am asked for ideas for icebreakers or games that help us get-to know each other.  I actually divide these into two categories because I think icebreakersare really games or activities that loosen us up and help get conversations started and what I call “get-to-know-yous” are activities that help me learn more about you and, in some cases, take the conversation deeper….it is in these activities that team-building begins to take place.

So I’ve shared with you my top five icebreakers and mixers, but I thought I might share with you some of these deeper activities. Some of these came from my own mind, others came from ideas from pinterest, and a couple of these came from a great resource by Group.com called Icebreakers Galore. I’d love for you guys to share your resources with me! Feel free to drop a comment!

Without further ado, my top five get-to-know-yous:

One Unique Thing:

 

Supplies:  Slips of paper and writing utensils

paper

Hand out a slip of paper and writing utensil to each guest.  Ask them to write one unique thing about themselves on the paper (something that most people don’t know.) Put the papers in a basket and draw three out periodically throughout the evening. Read the unique thing out loud and ask the group to try to guess whose paper it is.  Ask the person who wrote it to tell you more about the story in front of the group (if they are willing.)

Common Bonds:

Supplies:  None needed (except for a little patience and the ability to command the room: )

This game is a great way to get your group up and moving around and to move people into groups that they wouldn’t normally sort themselves in. It also gives an opportunity to share bits and pieces of our story with one another.

Just as a warning- this game requires a pretty big area of to work in and whoever is leading this exercise needs to be able to wrangle the group back to attention when it’s time to move on to the next group of questions.

Before starting this game, explain that you will be calling out a category and then division within each category.  Each person will go the category division that best fits her. Once everyone is in her division, you will read a question and everyone will take turns answering that question within her group. When they are finished, they should all raise their hands to let you know that they are ready to move.

You can choose your own categories, divisions and questions, but here are some examples:

Cat 1: Birth Order:  The divisions are oldest, middles, youngest and onlys (tell them where each group will meet)

Q: Describe the member of your family you are most like. Why?

Cat 2: How long have you lived here?  Divisions: whole life, half of my life, less than a quarter of my life, I’m new here

Q: What do you remember about the day you moved here?

Cat 3:  What do you like to do in your free time?  Division: read, time with friends, go shopping , watch tv

Q: What’s your favorite hobby?

Cat 4:  Vacation destination:  home, sunny beach, mountains, chocolate factory

Q: What’s your favorite vacation location?

This is a great activity for forming more of those simple connections that bond us together, and a great follow up activity to “Me, too.”  Ask a couple of the ladies to share things they have learned that they didn’t know before.

Pass the Beans:

Sharing our hidden talents...

Sharing our hidden talents…

Supplies: 15 dried beans for each participant

Everyone has a special talent  and unique experiences, but sometimes they are hidden, so no one else knows about them. The goal of this game is to reveal those gifts to the rest of the group.

Ask women to form groups of five, and then have each group sit in a circle. Give each person 15 beans. Explain that the girls are to try and collect beans by describing their unique experiences or abilities. For example, a woman might tell about running in a marathon, being able to recite all the books of the Bible, or her passion for painting with watercolors. Whatever activity they describe must be absolutely true.

After someone shares an activity, each lady who has never done that must give the person who shared one bean.  Have participants take turns listing their unique experiences and abilities until each person has shared 10 activities.
After everyone has shared at least 10 activities, ask women to report how many beans they’ve collected. Then ask for volunteers to share interesting activities they heard about and encourage those that have done that activity to share more about their stories.

The purpose of these next two games is to go deeper into our stories with one another.  These should definitely fall later in your program, after women have had some time to get to know each other a bit.

Deeper Questions:

Supplies:  Chairs and tables

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This exercise is best done in groups of less than ten(5-8 is the perfect range) sitting in circles or at circle tables. Be sure to have tissues handy as this can sometimes get emotional.

Have the ladies sit in a circle (or around a table) and go around the group answering these questions one at time.  Allow about 2-3 min for each woman or more as time allows.  Don’t rush these, there are beautiful stories here.

1.  What is your happiest memory from your childhood?
2.  What is the one thing you will never compromise or can’t live without?
3.  What is your biggest fear?

The Hot Seat:

Supplies: Chairs

This is another activity that really encourages depth in sharing. This activity is best done in smaller groups of 5-8.

Sit in a circle around an empty chair. Ask for a volunteer to sit in the “Hot Seat.”  Ask them to tell about a time in the last week that she experienced the presence of God.  Then ask others to sit in the hot seat and share.  Make up your own questions or use some of these:

1.  Tell us about a time last week you roared with laughter?
2.  What was the topic of the last serious discussion you had with someone close to you?
3.  In what way did you come to the aid of someone last week?

You don’t necessarily have to come up with your own questions. Let the group come up with questions to answer.  Start with a few that are guided and then move to group suggestions.

Covenant Relationships: The Power of Prayer

This is an excerpt from my 2010 book, Living Life with Strings Attached.  It’s a short little guidebook that walks through the Strings Attached Pledge and the development of covenant relationships.  Enjoy!

job and his friends

“After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before.” – Job 42:10

I love this quote from Job. Let me refresh your memory about the story.  This particular verse actually takes place within the Epilogue of the story of Job. Job has been through (literally) Hell on Earth; he has been faithful, but prideful; he has questioned God; and he has seen the error of his questions and repented before the Lord.  The Lord is angry with Job’s friends for speaking out against Him. He tells them to offer burnt sacrifices and Job will pray for them and that Job’s intercessory prayer will be heard. It is heard and Job’s friends are restored in the eyes of God. Job also, by praying for his friends, is restored.

How many times have you said to someone going through a tough time, or needing a little encouragement, “I’ll pray for you.”

I do it, often multiple times a day. It’s the standard Christian good bye.  “Hi, how are you today?”

“I’m fine, thanks!”

“Oh great…I’ll pray for you!”

That’s wonderful! But the real question is: how often do you REALLY do it? Do you REALLY pray for them?

I will be totally honest – I am preaching to the choir here! I have been really convicted of late to change this part of my Christian walk.

Here’s my challenge to you (and to me, too):

The next time you are confronted with an opportunity to pray for someone…STOP RIGHT THERE and do it! Right then! There are a couple of ways to do this:

First, you could simply say to the person you are talking to, “I would love to pray with you about that. May I pray with you right now?” If the answer is yes, well, then you know what to do.

Sometimes, however, the answer will be no. Prayer is a very intimate experience and some people are simply not ready to share that with you. They may covet your intercessory prayers on their behalf, but they are not ready to be privy to them.  This is ok, and it doesn’t mean that you can’t pray RIGHT THEN.  Just take a moment alone, and lift that person up in prayer. Your moment doesn’t have to be long, but it does need to be intentional. I find that not only does praying for others encourage a life of “praying without ceasing it also helps me to remember the prayer requests of the people who I run across in my daily life.

Thinking of the Book of Job, I often wonder at Job’s friends. They showed great loyalty by sitting with him.  They sat for 7 days and watched their friend suffer. They debated and thought and tried to coach Job through a solution to the problem.  Sometimes, perhaps they were not far from striking the theological truth. Sometimes, they were just plain ole wrong. But never once did they offer to do the one thing that all good friends should do. They never once offered to pray for Job.

I wonder what would have happened if they had?

Vision-Casting: Developing Your Methodology

12.26.12_Celebrate_Success_and_Plan_for_2013So, we’ve dug through scripture to determine our biblical foundation.  We’ve lined that up with the cultural and contextual teachings that drive our ministry.  We’ve laid a foundation and built walls to form our structure….now for the fun stuff! What do we do?  How does our ministry function in the world?

 

Jeremy Pace from Resurgence calls this our furniture.  He puts it like this:

Furniture should complement and enhance the function of a room. Likewise, yourmethods (the how to’s) should be based on your theology and philosophy and should fitwithin the boundaries set by them. Remember, furniture is only functional for so longbefore it wears out and either needs to be replaced or reupholstered. The reality is thathaving a solid foundation and a clearly defined framework allows you to be creative andnot limited to how you go about doing ministry

furniture

To begin “furnishing” your ministry, ask yourself these questions:

•Based on your theology and philosophy, what are the methods that you will use to
see the vision fulfilled?

•Does your current furniture fit in the new rooms? Do you have a toilet in the living
room or a bed in the bathroom?

•How does your philosophy of ministry look organizationally?

•Do you have the right positions in your organization?

•How does each ministry/program fit within the philosophy?

It’s important to remember that the methodology should not drive the ministry.  Your philosophy and your theological foundation drive the ministry.  Don’t become so attached to a “how-to” that you find yourself “remodeling the room because you like the couch.”

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Testimonies and Timelines

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Sunday night I had an opportunity I don’t get very often.

I was asked to share my testimony with a group of about 30 prayer warriors.

All the ugly parts.
All the painful parts.
All the scary parts….and…
All the beautifully redemptive parts.

It is a gift to be given such an opportunity.

But it is hard….

To share my testimony is to become vulnerable in front of a stranger.  To share the full force of what God has done in my life is to open up and expose some terrible missteps and pray that you still offer me grace after you know who I’ve been.

It is a fearsome opportunity to show that God can and does deliver, heal and redeem in fantastic and wonderful ways.

Storyline

I have been working through Donald Miller’s book, Storyline.  It is an incredible adventure into discovering God’s plan for your life and your purpose in His Kingdom.  It’s been fun and interesting and hard and scary all rolled into one, but as I look over my timeline and use the positive and negative turns of my life to discern a theme, I see what Jesus has been telling me all along.

I am a wounded healer.  I have been redeemed. And I am to use my story of healing and deliverance to draw others to the same well of healing and deliverance.  Jesus will use my brokenness to heal others’ brokenness.

theme of my life

Sunday night was a confirmation of that theme in my life.

Of that purpose in my life.

Thank you to those of you who were there listening. It was a fearsome gift indeed.

Vision-Casting: Your Philosophy is Your Filter

12.26.12_Celebrate_Success_and_Plan_for_2013Last week we talked about building the framework, or more aptly, the foundation for your ministry.  We began (or continued) working through the questions that every ministry leader should ask as they begin the process of deciding how their ministry should function in the world.

The theological foundation upon which you build is extremely important to defining your over all goals and mission on the field.  It has been a lengthy and prayerful process for me to work through taking the better part of a month and lots of wise counsel and prayer from my spiritual mentors.  Take time to nail this first part down, before moving on,

Once you’ve determined the scriptural basis for your ministry, it’s time to begin building the grid work which will become the filter through which all opportunities and ideas should pass when making decisions: the philosophy. Jeremy Pace of Resurgence likens these to the walls of a home.

You begin with the load-bearing walls.  These are immovable, unchangeable within the structure (else the structure falls down). They are the primary grid which make up the shape and form of a home.  Ask yourself the question:

•What are the non-negotiable, prescribed truths of Scripture that set the boundaries?

The next step is to begin constructing the interior walls.  These determine what you are and are not about.  Ask yourself these questions:

•What biblical imperatives and indicatives does your church/ministry/organization need to explicitly articulate because they are overlooked?

•What biblical imperatives and indicatives does your church/ministry/organization practice faithfully (almost without thinking)?

•What biblical imperatives and indicatives does the culture and context of your church ignore or fight against? These you will want to make more explicit.

•What biblical imperatives and indicatives are paralleled within your culture and context but need to be connected? (These too you will want to make more explicit.)

These questions will begin to define the type of culture your ministry will subscribe to and thus become the filter for everything that you do.

snail crossing finish lineSo I am on to building these walls.  I said this before, but I think it bears repeating, this has not been a speedy process for me- although I must admit I thought I had already done most of this work.  What I have found is that as I dig, God opens up questions in my heart.  He opens up visions of something more in places and less in others and is awakening me to a renewed sense of purpose through my ministry.  I hope and pray that as you work through these questions with me, he does the same for you as well.