Monday, May 27, 2013

We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Series...

After 8 days out of state and now on my 4th day of sickness, I haven't exactly prioritized writing. I do have some more thoughts on ministry burnout, but I thought I should rekindle the blog fire with a second addition to my What's In My ______? series.

Last time, I opened up my freezer to you. Today, I'm getting a little more personal by sharing What's In My Bathroom Cabinet.

{allow me to brag on my talented husband for a moment, who personally remodeled our entire bathroom, including hanging the sheet rock, painting, then choosing and installing this cabinet and sink - and the beautiful tile on the floor}

As I went through this usually private space, I realized that sharing the contents of my bathroom storage may provide a little extra insight into our family. Although, not many people keep two placentas in their freezer, so perhaps we've already crossed the line, eh?

Without further ado, then, let's spill the beans!

What's in my bathroom cabinet? as of 05/27/13
Make-up bag
Skincare bag
(empty) travel bag
Hair dryer
3 boxes of bandaids
Hydrogen peroxide
Half used bottle of hand soap
Bubble bath
Claire's ear care solution (which is basically alcohol)
Antacid tablets
Gold Bond body powder
Athlete's foot powder spray
2 toilet paper rolls
Hyland's cough'n'cold 4 kids
Malibu Heat body lotion
Nail file
Neosporin first aid antibiotic ointment (a miracle cream, in my opinion)
Burberry cologne
Round brush
Evening primrose oil
Extra faucet nozzel
Box of bobby pins
Empty pill case
Benadryl itch relief stick
Stain pen for the cabinet (to cover up scratches)
Hair clips
Extra sink handle
Extra razor blades
Whipped Shea Butter Sugar Scrub (made by my awesome midwife!)
2 empty plastic retail bags (to be used when I empty the trash can)
2 extra Speed Sticks
Electric razor (beard trimmer)

I have to be honest, I feel a little more prepared than I did before I reviewed my cabinet contents. And - bonus! - I organized the darn thing so I can actually get to all this useful stuff.

What am I missing? What necessary items should be in my bathroom?
What's the most unusual object in your bathroom cabinet?

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Whose Church Is It?

I believe the quickest way to burnout in ministry is by making it about yourself instead of about God.

It may seem counterintuitive that a church leader would somehow be serving her own interests, rather than following God’s, but the slippery slope to self-adoration begins in seemingly justified thoughts. People in the church face problems 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and they expect their leaders to be available to help in their times of need. After repeated seasons of not being home for dinner, missing Suzy’s piano recital, and canceling family plans at the last minute, ministers can easily (and understandably) begin to keep track of “What I’m Giving Up” in order to serve the church. The longer the list gets, the more the leader starts to believe that her sacrifices are necessary to keep the church going. Unknowingly, she piles burdens upon herself, concerned that the ministry will fail without her attention to every marital dispute, volunteer crisis, or choice of paint color for the new classroom.

The companion thought to “What I’m Giving Up” is “I Do More Than ________”. Ministry leaders often allow themselves to quantify how much or how often they serve in comparison to the efforts of others in the church, which invites the temptation to grow bitter at what appears to be a greater commitment on their part. This thought process can soon be followed by “When Do I Get A Break?” and “How Am I Being Served?”.

The foundation for these beliefs centers on the fact that Jesus served unto death and so now his followers, especially church leaders, must do likewise. Jesus gave his life for the church; we are called to do the same.

The difference, though, is that
the only person the church needs is Jesus. His sacrifice actually accomplished something for us (our salvation) and his service continues to work out our sanctification. Pastors, elders, and ministry leaders serve like Jesus but not in place of him. Not one good work of the church depends on the sacrifices of its leaders. The church’s success is not a result of our ability, faithfulness, or middle-of-the-night attentiveness. God doesn’t need us to build his church and the church doesn’t need us to save her.

I am not advocating, of course, that leaders be lazy, selfish, or neglectful of their responsibilities. But I am encouraging us to continually evaluate the very fine line between serving because I must rather than because I can.

Christians are in danger of making ministry about themselves, rather than God, when:
  • they are unable to say “no” to church activities
  • they serve out of a sense of guilt - “I don’t want to let the church down”; a sense of worry - “if I don’t do this, what will happen?”; or a sense of self-idolatry - “I’m the only one who can do this”
  • they no longer see or experience God at work but, instead, feel the weight of doing all the work
  • they have repeated thoughts of bitterness, criticism, or resentment towards others in the church

If you recognize any of these circumstances in your life - STOP! TURN AROUND! RUN TO JESUS! You may be in danger of burnout so stop, drop, and roll. Just say no!

And, pray for your leaders. 
Pray that those who serve you will always be motivated by Christ, rather than their own flesh. 
Pray that they will be able to distinguish between what is necessary and what drains their time. 
Pray that they will find rest in Jesus and that the church will not be a burden to them! 
Come alongside your leaders by serving in the church - if every part of the body fulfilled its role, how beautiful and sanctified she would be. 

How do you see the grace of Christ in your ministry? How are you tempted to make it about yourself rather than him?

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Feel the Burn...Or Not

Most of us want to be successful at our jobs, whether we’re stay-at-home moms or high-paid executives. And regardless of how you define “success”, if you’re looking for it, you’re usually willing to sacrifice for it.

Yet, true success eludes most of us, because we always have the sense that we could do more or be more or give more. The satisfaction we anticipated feeling once we reached the pinnacle of our career simply never came (or faded quickly). This leads to feelings of guilt or inadequacy, which pushes us to try harder and sacrifice more to “get there.”

Sadly, this is often most true in the church, where, instead of experiencing freedom from the burden to “perform well”, ministry leaders (and, as a result, church members) immerse themselves in church commitments and serve until they burnout. The subsequent aftermath of this overworked, under-appreciated service too often leads to affairs, bitterness, and a complete break from the church. If the Christian has not also lost her faith, she will spend a significant portion of time (perhaps years) healing from the weight that she had carried and holding back from her next community of believers.

I consider myself having been in ministry since the day I gave my life to Jesus, almost 14 years ago. In our 12.5 years of marriage, my husband and I have served in nearly every church program possible, taught classes and led small groups, been on staff at a church, have started a church, and are about to start another church. Outside of going on vacations 1-3 times a year, we have never had a Sunday “off”, and have regularly spent up to 7 hours in a church building on many a Sunday. In many of those years, this was in addition to non-ministry jobs and commitments.

I admit that, in the span of a life, this is really no time at all. Yet, I still think it worthy to note that we have never once felt even close to burnout.

I praise God for this! And I reflect on why this is our situation, so that we can prevent burnout from ever entering our ministry. I also want to encourage those of you who are leading or participating in the work of the church to invite the Holy Spirit to reveal if you are headed towards burnout.  

Later this week will begin a 4-part series on the matter of ministry burnout, including thoughts from a great mentor and longtime pastor/leader. My prayer is that we reflect on our work in the church and trust Jesus all the more to sustain us in it. 

What questions do you have as you think about guarding yourself from burnout?
What experiences have you had feeling stretched too far in ministry? What advice can you give others? 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Help Wanted

In case you missed it, I HATE shopping.
[see with what large letters I write the word 'hate'? this is so all shall know how much I despise shopping]

I used to think that this feeling of disgust was a result of not wanting to spend money but I'm starting to believe that it's actually the result of PARALYZING FEAR.

Hi, my name is Nicole and I'm afraid to shop. 

I am afraid of purchasing the 'wrong' thing.
I am afraid that my purchase will go to waste (i.e., neither be used nor useful).
I am afraid that I will hate my purchase an hour later.
I am afraid that I will find a better deal or have a better idea of what I want the next day.

These fears are real when I am grocery shopping, gift shopping, personal shopping, at overpriced stores and thrift stores - basically any time I set foot in any kind of store where I am expected to pay money in exchange for some item. Because of this, I shop as infrequently as absolutely possible, which means I usually only buy food (a necessity) and avoid all other purchases. Which is a problem because I have been wanting, for almost 2 years now, to rework my wardrobe.

Yes, I want a wardrobe makeover!

I'm supposed to be an artist. But I pay no attention to what I wear and I have no idea how to put on make-up so that my face actually looks good. I am uncomfortable in most of my clothes. I don't have enough color in my life!

I need help! 

Aside from therapy about my fear of shopping, I need someone to MAKE ME OVER. A real makeover that will help me learn how to shop better for myself and then look better as myself. I am looking for an experienced shopper with an artistic eye who can help me find my style without breaking my currently non-existent clothing budget. I am also interested in reducing the number of items in my closet - what is the absolute minimum amount of clothing I can own? How can I be comfortable, fun, attractive, and cheap? Can I actually learn how to do my own make-up? Can you help me?!?

Are you up for the challenge? Got any ideas? What's it going to cost me?