Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Real Stuff

I've been thinking about what it means to be in ministry. I've been thinking that ministry is a way of life, but not the way of life I thought it was. It's certainly consumed pretty much my entire existence for the last 13 years. You know, the glass house, the never ending meetings, the whole "dont-because-you-might-be-a-stumbling-block-to-someone-else" thing. The weight of a few hundred people's hurts, the weddings, the funerals, the hospitals. And then there's the leadership part, the whole "those who teach will be judged more harshly" thing. And the exhaustion. And the casseroles, the Christmas parties, the pretty clothes, and the not wanting to do anything that might embarrass Jesus.

Yesterday, I was reading a column of satire featuring commentary on Christian televangelists and "star personalities." The column was dripping with sarcasm, but was commenting on true actions of the Christian leaders. It occurred to me that somewhere along the way, these leaders had lost the focus on what it really means to be a servant of God. Somehow it became all televisions and lights and money and emotion and status. At this point, out came the stupid behavior. The kind that J. Lee Grady said "gives the church a black eye."

Then last night, I sat in LIVEChat and was surrounded by single moms and people with incredible stories and incredible needs. I got a chance to love people who are different from me, to put my arms around people who hadn't been hugged in days, and the thought came to me that THIS is a part of ministry I never want to get away from. Yes, part of my work for God is writing and talking to groups of people, and that part is really fun for me. Jesus talked to big crowds too. But He also spent His life in very personal interaction with people. He went to houses where no one else would go, and touched people no one else would touch. Sometimes we get so busy doing church stuff that we don't imitate that part of Jesus' life. Sometimes I think He has to be most embarrassed by our nice clothes, comfortable lives, and pharisaeical behavior.

I just don't want ministry to become a monster in and of itself, one that takes the place of true Christ-following. It's so easy for this to happen. Sadly, years of my own life were spent doing church work and possibly never really imitating Jesus. Just like the pharisee and the priest that crossed to the other side of the road because they didn't have time for an injured man. The words "good" and "Samaritan" would have been an oxymoron in Jesus' day. The Samaritan man was the least likely minister and yet he was the most effective. It's just becoming very clear to me that there is a BIG difference these days between what is classically approved "Christian lifestyle" and what is deep, passionate Christ-following.

As I'm stepping forward in "ministry" myself, I'm realizing that I've got to stay focused on the real stuff of living for Jesus. And I'm realizing that that real stuff has little to do with the clothes I wear, the money I have, or the size of group that I'm in front of. It has everything to do with forgetting about staying comfy and clean and crossing back to the side of the road where the ones who have been robbed lay bloody and waiting to die. It has to do with binding wounds, carrying the injured, and spending myself on their recovery. That's the real stuff.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


And there you have it. The yummiest part of my day. Today I spent some time having coffee with a friend. When she and I are together, there's plenty of trouble and lots of throw-back-your-head laughing. This cup of coffee looked so pretty I just had to take a picture.

Hope you had a vanilla-almond espresso with half-and-half and plenty of sugar and whipped cream and cinnamon on top kind of day!

Monday, September 24, 2007

It's Really Here!

My book came in over the weekend!! It won't be in stores until around November, but my first copy arrived in my mailbox Saturday! YAY!

Can you believe it?? My picture's on the back and everything!!

Sometimes I forget to celebrate this. I don't know why. Maybe because the process has been so long and arduous. But, I'm an author! A real one! A real live publisher liked my book enough to publish it! This is SO COOL! Have yourself a party on my behalf tonight, Ok?

Sunday, September 16, 2007


I love my job. This weekend I got to speak to over 400 women. We laughed and learned and I loved it!

My friend Julie, whose encouraging words were invaluable this weekend, told me something that I'm still thinking over. She said I was in what Max Lucado calls "the sweet spot." The place where your gifts and what you love to do intersect with God's will for you. She said, "When you're in that place, when what you love to do and what you are called to do intersect, there's a zing!"

You know, I was having so much fun, I almost felt guilty! Friday night, Kathy and I were walking around the pond at Camp Living Waters praying and talking with God about Saturday's events. As we were praying, the Lord reminded me of all the times He had changed my life or spoken to me in amazing ways at a retreat or event like we were about to have. I vividly remember the first time I went on a retreat, I was around 13 or 14. It was a life changing thing for me. Since that time, God has spoken to me, connected with me, and changed me through a camp or retreat when I was able to leave regular life for a while and really listen to Him.

He started helping me understand that while I'm having such a great time, HE could actually be speaking to people and working in THEM like He has with me so many times. Can I just tell you how much JOY there is in doing what you love and knowing that God is using what you are doing to make a difference in someone's life?? Sweet spot, indeed.


Saturday, September 15, 2007


Too tired to say much, except...

Ya know that Bible verse about God opening the windows of heaven and pouring out such a blessing that there would not be room enough to recieve it?


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Happy news!

I'm so excited!! Camp Living Waters' Spa Day has registered 325 women! YAY!! So this Saturday, I get to speak to 325 women about Rest, Rejuvenation, and Recovery!

I can't wait! Can you BELIEVE this is my JOB????

AND on top of that... Just a pic of the superhero that lives in my house:

Don't you feel safer now?

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Lottery and Leadership

I spent today doing what I love, then had a yummy dinner with the people I love, and now I'm settled in at home with a happy exhaustion. Today I got to teach a women's ministry workshop at Ridgecrest on the River, a conference for church leaders. Before I fade completely out, I have to share some thoughts about the day.

At the end of the day, there was a conference-wide worship service. The speaker, Dr. Bill Taylor, said and showed some things that have really got me pondering. He talked about some of the Southern Baptist leaders from 1950-1980 and their innovative ministry methods. What was groundbreaking innovation in their day has become "the way we do it" in this denomination. Dr. Taylor cited the example of the Sunday evening service, which was created during a time when many homes had no electricity, but often the church in town did have electricity. Some innovative leader saw that people wanted to come where there was electricity, so they began an evening service that resulted in many new believers. What was, in its day, a creative method for ministry has now become a sacred cow for many.

As he presented these thoughts, Dr. Taylor showed us a graph. The graph displayed Southern Baptist growth during the 1950's to 1980's, showing an explosive growth for that period. Of course, it also displayed the slight but steady decline that has occurred over the last couple of decades.

I couldn't help asking myself some sobering questions. I was reminded of a time when I was "coasting" on the wealth of knowledge my parents placed in me. Mom and Dad implanted in my brain a veritable textbook of Southern Baptist doctrine and scripture memory. I felt satisfied with this knowledge for a long time. After all, I could quote circles around most Christians I knew. I could go long periods of time without experiencing anything new from God and no one was the wiser because I talked the talk so well. I had a treasure of knowledge, and that was great, but it sure didn't take the place of real, life changing connection with God. Eventually, I couldn't coast any longer.

Is this where we are as a denomination? Have we been coasting on the surge of growth brought about through the inspiration God gave to the leaders of past decades?

Think about it. If I won the lottery, I'd quit working. The millions would give me a sense of safety, a feeling that I could finally afford to take a little time off. Has the explosive growth of last century given our denomination a "lotto" mentality? After all, we've become the largest and richest protestant denomination in America, so we can afford to coast a while on the hard won victories of our past leaders. But, can we really?

As Dr. Taylor referenced the ideas of leaders gone before, I don't believe he was recommending that we return to their specific programs. He was urging us to grasp for ourselves the passion and courage behind their ideas. They took the risk of trying new things like Sunday night services in their attempt to share the good news about the kingdom of heaven. Where did we get the idea that we could just steal their ideas and not do the work of innovation and creativity for ourselves? At what point did we become so comfortable with the windfall of growth that we no longer felt the need to keep up with the changing needs of people in our society?

I don't think they expected the next generation to ride their ministry coat tails. I think they expected us to find newer, more effective ways to minister to a new generation. And it's becoming evident that our "free ride" has a cost after all.

I don't like this idea of coasting. I want the adventure, the suspense, and the intense work that it will take to drop the security blanket of what I've always known and forge ahead into the uncharted territory of sharing Jesus with people in the here and now. I'll look to the example of those before me and their passionate risks. But I'll not miss the ride Jesus has planned for ME by being too lazy or chicken to get in the vehicle with Him.

Frankly, the idea that God Himself wants to give me personal direction and unique ideas for what He has called me to do is WAY TOO wonderful to pass up, even for the safety and comfort of never having to take a risk.

I'll treasure the opportunity I had today to live out my passion for women's ministry. But I'll also be pondering the serious questions of today for a while. I just can't think of passing up my own explosion and settling for the aftercloud of someone elses.

Daily bliss: Today was full of happiness, but there's nothing like coming home to the ones I love. So for today, my happiness is my sweet love and my two babies. I'm a blessed woman.

Delicious Debate

I've had the interesting privilege over the last couple of days to be in two separate meetings where there was.... how shall I put this?... Tense discussion. I've remembered something interesting about me. I love a good fight! Debate is one of the most pleasurable things in the world to me.

The exchange of words and ideas, the attempt to communicate clearly, the persuasive passion of some, and the shy nerves of others. It's all WONDERFUL to me. Defending an idea forces me to think that idea through carefully. Sometimes we don't always stop and examine our hearts until something such as a moment of tension brings feelings to light. Sometimes nothing solidifies a belief like hearing the opposing belief.

Know what else I've found interesting? It's REALLY hard for Christians to be OK with disagreeing. I've observed two Christian meetings where people really, really struggled to express opposing views appropriately, almost as if it's wrong to have differences of opinion. Why do we get our feathers ruffled so?

I don't know about that, but I'm SURE I enjoyed it all WAY too much. And since it's after midnight and I have a workshop to teach tomorrow, maybe I'll wait till later to ponder what this says about my mental health. It's cracking me up right now because I faced some excruciatingly tense moments this evening with pleasure, and then came home only to melt into a puddle of queasy panic. Why, you ask? Mackenzie was losing a tooth!! So much for a woman not fazed by heated debate when she's standing with her fingers in her ears trying REALLY hard to find the happy place in her mind to escape from the pulling of a loose tooth.

My happiness today: A man who can handle tooth issues that render me completely useless. AND Levi's pronunciation of "tapioca," a pudding to which he was introduced today: "Tacky-oh-coh" I'll eat tackyohcoh pudding with that kid any day.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Homework at the Hughes'

Just thought I'd share one of my rare "Leave it to Beaver" moments with you. This afternoon, my kids worked on homework peacefully at the table while I supervised and assisted like a normal mommy would. They were too cute, so I have to share!

The picture of concentration! Cutting is serious business in K-4!

The picture of brilliance!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Dizzy Days

Spent a lovely evening in the emergency room yesterday. I had some symptoms that were pretty scary, especially to someone who has suffered from blood clots. Turned out to be.... wait for it.... vertigo. Yup. Lots of drama for a little diagnosis, but I am SO thankful that it's something so simple, and not those nasty clots again.

Today I've been playing catch-up. After an action packed weekend that culminated in a visit to the hospital, I had extra laundry and dishes and general maintenance work to do around here. I also have a good bit of writing to do, which is the fun part. I spent the morning writing in my rocking chair. (Am I blessed or what?) There's still much more to do. I have a busy fall ahead of me, several speaking engagements to prepare for, plus the book's release. Tomorrow I think I'll be forced to lock the door and turn off all telephones in order to get some creative work done.

OH! You are also officially reading the blog of a corporate chaplain! I'll be doing a little chaplaincy work here and there for Marketplace Chaplains USA. After a surprisingly thorough investigation of me, they have declared me fit to be a chaplain. I'm looking forward to this opportunity to stay in touch with reality... to kind of get outside the church doors if ya know what I mean.

All in all, I missed my Monday. (It's my favorite day of the week.) Labor Day has officially become my least favorite holiday for cheating me out of a Monday.

For now, I'm a bit dizzy and a lot tired. I'm headed to my bed. Right after I tell you the happiest part of my day: Pumpkin Spice Latte' at Starbucks! OH! and my Love made the kids' lunches for tomorrow... and I didn't even ask him to. I love that guy!