Living A Life Of Worship

We talk about worship all the time…it’s a part of our every Sunday morning routine.  But how big of a deal is “worship” in the Lord’s eyes?  In the Scripture He says it’s THE MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL THE COMMANDMENTS.  So, let’s take a look at some thoughts when it comes to what biblical worship is and what it isn’t.

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1.  Worship is LOVE EXPRESSED.

Let’s just look at the actual word for “WORSHIP.”  It’s a compressed form of an Old English word, “WORTH-SHIP.”  It literally means to “give something/someone WORTH.”

But God doesn’t need anyone to give Him “worth”!  True.  But because He has chosen to give us His heart, He LONGS FOR US to be close with Him…to love Him…to be near to Him…through worship.  When you love someone, it matters to you that they love you back.

2.  Worship is not just MUSIC.

There’s not a single word for “worship” in the whole Bible that refers directly to the word “music.”  Music is just one of many TOOLS to worship the Lord with.

But Scriptural worship isn’t just a musical style or genre.  If worship were primarily “music” or “style,” I could judge it as “good or bad.”   I mean, I could decide whether or not to take part in worship based on my own musical PREFERENCES.  If the song being played weren’t “my style,” then I wouldn’t have to worship.

There’s only one problem with that approach:  By doing that, in my heart, the worship would really be FOR ME.  So actually, I would be making MYSELF GOD, instead of Jesus.

3.  True worship is a LIFESTYLE that wants to glorify God from the moment we wake up in the morning until we crash in bed at night.  

Like every person who has ever LOVED someone else knows:  If you really LOVE someone, you will somehow SHOW IT.

 What are some ways we can show God our love?

  • Lifting Hands
  • Clapping
  • Shouts of Praise and Genuine Joy
  • Dancing
  • Playing Instruments
  • Praying
  • Singing
  • Every day, Normal Obedience
  • Faithfulness and “Hanging Tight” During the Hard Times

So may we all become a little better worshipers today.  Not in the same old Sunday morning service sort of way, but in heart.  May we walk today in a greater “expressed love” for the Lord.

 

 

s421If your youth group is struggling in this area, you may be interested in the Youth Leader’s Coach resource…Awkward Worship.  A complete teaching and along with everything we used that night including the message notes, fill-ins, drama script, token ideas, discussion outline, presentation slides and more…on this subject for your students!


The Lost Art Of Listening

People often ask me how to GROW their ministry or how to PREACH with more skill.  Rarely, if ever, do people ask me how to LISTEN more effectively.  But I think INTENTIONAL LISTENING is one of the greatest gifts you can ever give to another human being.  And today’s church world seems to be much more focused on TALKING than on LISTENING.

Let me ask you a really important question in youth ministry: How good of a listener are you…really?  We in church circles often seem to be lots better at talking than we are at listening.  That’s a pretty tragic statement, but an agonizingly true one.

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So, let me share some ideas that will help you up your “L.Q.” (Listening Quotient)

  1. Realize that genuine listening takes INTENTIONAL EFFORT on your part.  It is FAR from being passive.  It doesn’t “just happen.”  Listening is hard work.
  2. Learn to “say it back.”  Occasionally re-word what they’re saying and repeat it back to them.
  3. Fight to keep your eyes from wandering and your body language fully engaged.  I remind myself often, “Wherever you are, be all the way there.”
  4. Don’t FIX IT TILL YOU FEEL IT.
  5. Don’t interrupt and try to impose your decisions.  Interrupting sends a variety of messages. It says:”I’m more important than you are.” … “I don’t really care what you think.” … “This isn’t a conversation, it’s more of a contest…and I am determined to win.”
  6. At all costs, avoid T.R.T. (Typical Religious Talk) and other cheapening responses like, “I know just how you feel.”
  7. Keep an open mind and listen without judging or jumping to quick conclusions.  Don’t be a sentence-grabber.
  8. Prayerfully try to HEAR sometimes what their actual WORDS REALLY AREN’T SAYING.
  9. Ask them a few days later how the situation is coming that you LISTENED ABOUT earlier.
  10. If you don’t have time or circumstances prevent you from listening right away, OWN it.  Schedule a time in the near future when you can talk.

A 2016 survey put out by the Schaeffer Institute reported that 58% of the pastors surveyed said that they didn’t have any “good friends.”  That’s a lot of loneliness among those of us in the ministry.  And after lots of years in youth ministry trenches I’ve learned, if you truly want to connect with the people’s hearts, I promise you that intentional listening is a really, really big deal.

Youth Leaders CoachIf you need some help with your “L.Q.” you may want to listen to the Youth Leader’s Coach Resource called, “The Lost Art of Listening.”

 


Fashioning Your Own Eternal Footprint (Code language for “Crafting Your Own Legacy”)

If you have been around me for any length of time, then you know that I am a woman on a mission to leave a legacy that honors Christ.  So let me take a few minutes and share with you 6 thoughts on what it looks like to craft your own legacy:

1.)  A Footprint of INTENTIONALITY

  • What’s intentionality look like in Jeanne’s life?  Being a “100X person” … “Jesus with skin on.”
  • “The motivation and mentorship of Kamikaze Christianity into practicing and potential Kingdom champions.”
  • Youth Leader’s Coach Mission:  “To encourage, equip, inspire, and instruct the youth leaders of this generation.”
  • If you know where you’re going, you easily know the roads that won’t take you there.
  • Don’t wait for your purpose to “find you.”  GO FIND IT!  How?  Invest yourself in different things.  Endeavors that unlock both your passion and your heart are a serious key to your calling.
  • Until you decide who you ARE, you’ll probably keep trying to be a CHEAP IMITATION of someone else.

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2.)  A Footprint of PEOPLE OVER PROGRAMS

  • The ONLY two things that you can take to Heaven with you are your own intimacy with the Lord…and OTHER PEOPLE.
  • “When I die, don’t think I’m gone.  I’ll still be alive in that person…and that person…and that person…and that person.” − D. L. Moody and Jeanne
  • Authentic love will rarely be something you FEEL.  Love will forever and always be something you DO.
  • More NOISE in the ministry does not always mean more IMPACT.
  • On the other hand, guard against “the disease to please.”

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3.)  A Footprint of PASSION AND WHOLEHEARTEDNESS

  • How has Jeanne Mayo cultivated PASSION?  I found a few things I was willing to DIE FOR…and then I chose to LIVE FOR THEM.
  • “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as WHOLEHEARTEDLY as Michael Angelo painted or as Beethoven composed music.  He should sweep streets SO PASSIONATELY AND WELL that all of the hosts of Heaven will pause one day to say, ‘Here lived a GREAT STREET SWEEPER who did everything he could to be his very best.’” − Martin Luther King
  • If it’s not worth doing WHOLEHEARTEDLY, it’s probably not worth doing AT ALL.
  • “Few people think more than TWO or THREE TIMES A YEAR.  I have made an INTERNATIONAL REPUTATION by really thinking once or twice a week.” − George Bernard Shaw

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4.)  A Footprint of CONSISTENT PERSONAL SOUL-TENDING  (Code language for prioritizing my own personal time with the Lord.)

  • One of Sam Mayo’s greatest legacies:  “Have a ‘DAILY APPOINTMENT TIME’ with Jesus.”  (5 out of 7 days a week is a successful week in my heart.)
  • When I live with the stress of an OVERWHELMED schedule, I soon ache with the sadness of an UNDERWHELMED soul.
  • OWN responsibility for your own spiritual growth and health.  It is spiritual suicide to mentally assign that responsibility to your pastor or anyone else.  You will eventually become either a spiritual HERO or a spiritual HAS-BEEN.  But only YOU can decide.
  • Life, at its best, will have agonizing bumps and life-altering turns for every single one of us.  So keep your soul deeply alive by assigning MEANING to your PAIN.  Unless you intentionally make that choice, you will forfeit valuable portions of your soul to your enemies…and allow parts of your spirit-man to WITHER UP and DRY.
  • At moments when your flesh screams “WHY?”…have the strength of character to eventually start asking “WHAT?” (i.e. Not, “WHY did this happen?” but rather, “In WHAT way can I assign positive meaning to what the enemy has meant for evil in my life?”)
  • The DECISIONS I make determine the SCHEDULE I keep.  The SCHEDULE I keep determines the LIFE I live.  And how I live my LIFE determines ultimately how I ultimately spend my SOUL.
  • Never am I so FULFILLED as when I choose to UNDERWHELM my schedule so Christ can OVERWHELM my soul.

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5.)  A Footprint Of KNOWING AND FIGHTING YOUR “SHADOW SIDE”

  • Identify and label the “bull’s eye” on your spiritual chest.  You can’t DEFEAT an enemy that you’re unwilling to RECOGNIZE and call by name.
  • Remember that often your GREATEST STRENGTHS will usually give rise to your GREATEST WEAKNESSES.  So as Watchman Nee said, “Beware of the HORSES in your life.”
  • When we JUSTIFY a weakness, we only FORTIFY it.
  • We as Christian leaders have a frightening ability to rationalize and double-talk our own subtle compromise and sin.  Do so at your own peril.
  • “Work out your own salvation WITH FEAR AND TREMBLING” is not just a nice verse – It should be a haunting “caution light” for all of us in spiritual leadership.  Remember that what we ourselves do in MODERATION gives liberty for others to do in EXCESS.
  • Given enough time, the color BLACK slowly becomes GRAY…and the color GRAY eventually becomes embedded in the GRAY ASHES of your DE-RAILED DESTINY…or worse yet, sometimes embedded in the color of OUR OWN SMOLDERING ASHES IN HELL.
  • Make your failures and weaknesses PUSH YOU INTO THE LORD’S PRESENCE.  That’s why Peter ran to the tomb after the Resurrection.  Ultimately take courage in knowing that your CALL is always greater than your FALL.
  • “Integrity” comes from the root word “integer” or “whole.”  Are you a WHOLE PERSON…or do you suffer from “spiritual multiple personality disorder?”  INTEGRITY means that you routinely talk the same way in front of your close friends that you do in front of your entire ministry.  How are you doing with that litmus test?
  • The 21st Century Church World will often NOT REWARD integrity.  But rest assured that JESUS WILL.  Don’t be a fool and confuse the two.

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6.)  A Footprint of REFUSING TO QUIT

  • There are a lot of GREAT STARTERS in the Kingdom; but not a lot of GREAT FINISHERS.  Determine, by God’s grace, to be the latter.  Then, though I’ve said it countless times, remember that PERSEVERANCE is often the GREATEST REVENGE you can ever pay to Hell.
  • “Nothing in the world can take the place of PERSEVERANCE.  TALENT will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with great talent.  GENIUS will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.  EDUCATION will not; the world abounds with educated failures.  ENDURANCE and DETERMINATION alone are OMNIPOTENT.  Pursue them, costly as they may be, and the world will be yours.” – Calvin Coolidge

 

 


A Leader’s “Friendship Trinity” – COMRADES

The third group in the leader’s “Friendship Trinity” is your COMRADES. 

These people are not for YOU, nor are they for WHAT YOU ARE FOR.  Instead, they are simply AGAINST WHAT YOU ARE AGAINST.  Thus, they’re willing to get in the trenches and do battle with you AGAINST something.

These people will make STRANGE BED-FELLOWS.  But don’t get confused and depend on them too much.  They are only on your team to DEFEAT A GREATER ENEMY.  But when they perceive that VICTORY has come at least to the degree they are satisfied with they will often leave.

You see MOST relationships…at least all of the CONSTITUENTS AND THE COMRADES…are like scaffolding on a building.   The scaffolding is only put in place to help build the building.  But after the building is completed, the scaffolding GOES AWAY.

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In like manner, you will save yourself a lot of hurt, resentment, and bitterness if you realize that most people in your life are CONSTITUENTS or COMRADES.  Thus ultimately most of them will GO AWAY.

That’s why it’s important to be careful who you share your deepest DREAMS AND YOUR DEEPEST SOUL WITH.  If you share your dream with your constituents, they’ll often just try to STEAL THE DREAM and fulfill it themselves.   If you tell your COMRADES, they’ll just tell you why it can’t happen.  Because they were never for YOU in the first place.  They were only AGAINST WHAT YOU WERE AGAINST.

Relationships that are built on negatives are ALWAYS SHORT-LIVED.

If you have one or two people you can share your deepest DREAMS with, you are a BLESSED PERSON!  You have a CONFIDANT.

Again…don’t get frustrated that you don’t HAVE many of these folks in your life if you haven’t BEEN this kind of friend to others.

If I’m facing a mountain, I want somebody in the trenches with me who honestly LOVES ME.  You see, the Bible says that TRUE FAITH WORKS BY LOVE.  So if I’m in the hospital facing something big, I don’t care if you’re anointing me with oil and speaking in your prayer language, I want to know if you LOVE me…and then your FAITH will be activated in my situation.

And let me tell you something…

GOD WILL ALWAYS SEND A SOMEBODY to stand with you.  Be more thankful for people who have BEEN THERE in your life rather than putting your focus on all the people who have COME AND GONE.

You always GET MORE of whatever you focus on in your life.

That’s why some people have so many DISAPPOINTING relationships in their life, because they put their FAITH (their  heart and emotional focus) into attracting more PAIN in their relationships than into attracting POSITIVE ONES.

One closing thought to all of us in leadership:

You can make MORE FRIENDS in 2 months by BEING SINCERELY INTERESTED in other people…than you can make in 2 YEARS by trying to get other people interested IN YOU.


A Leader’s “Friendship Trinity” – CONSTITUENTS

Next in the “Friendship Trinity,” you have CONSTITUENTS.

They are FOR WHAT YOU ARE FOR.  And as long as you are “for what they are for,” they will walk with you.  They will stay in the ministry trenches with you.

Throughout life, if you are not careful…PARTICULARLY IF YOU ARE IN A BROKEN SEASON of your life…you will easily MISTAKE your CONSTITUENTS for your CONFIDANTS, and all too easily, they can BREAK YOUR HEART.  Because though they told you that they were “in it for the long haul” with you, that’s not reality.  Their commitment was not to YOU, but to the CAUSE.

You see, your life will NOT be filled with CONFIDANTS.  You have to be able to work with people who will COME AND GO.  You have to LOVE THEM when they come and love them when they GO.  Don’t let your heart get BITTER over people when they go.

Learn How to Release People

The Word of God says, “The Lord giveth…and the Lord taketh away…Blessed be the name of the Lord!”  A leader has to LEARN HOW TO LOSE PEOPLE…HOW TO RELEASE PEOPLE…WITHOUT GETTING CYNICAL AND BITTER ON THE INSIDE.  And that, my friend, is tougher than it sounds.  But you’ll never survive REAL LEADERSHIP unless you determine to be able to release people well, even when their actions make them undeserving of your kindness.

Again, I didn’t blow the kiss to be crass.  I desperately want you to understand that the ATTITUDE OF GREATNESS NECESSITATES that you be GREAT not only when they COME, but even greater when they GO.  For your own emotional SURVIVALS’ sake, you have to get good at letting people LEAVE.

Now before you get too judgmental about all the CONSTITUENTS in your life and ministry, I want to remind you that you, yourself, have been a CONSTITUENT to countless people in your own life.  In truth, most of us secretly desire to have several CONFIDANTS when we, ourselves, have NOT been that to many other individuals first.  The law of sowing and reaping is in effect here.  You GET the kind of friendships in your life and on your team that you GIVE AWAY to others.


A Leader’s “Friendship Trinity” – CONFIDANTS

Navigating Your Friendships In Ministry

Over the next few blogs I will be talking about navigating your friendships in ministry.  There are 3 basic categories of people that you’ll interact with if you are a leader.

First in your leadership “Friendship Trinity,” there are CONFIDANTS.

  • They are RARE.  If you have 2 or 3 of them in a lifetime, outside of your family, you are unusually blessed.
  • How do we define them?  They are FOR YOU…no matter what.
  • They know the best and the worst about you….but they are still right by your side.
  • You can’t BE a DAVID without having a JONATHAN…because he’ll be instrumental in unlocking the keys to the Kingdom for you.
  • A true confidant will be a mixture of soul-mate and of mentor.

The problem is that most of us spend all of our time with people who are UNDER US leadership-wise.  So you are forever FEEDING PEOPLE WHO CAN’T FEED YOU.  And after months or years of FEEDING THEM, they begin to DRAIN YOU.  You’ve got to have some friends who can FEED YOU, so you can FEED SOMEBODY ELSE.  And as a leader, that confidant is someone you can trust to TELL THE TRUTH to…somebody YOU CAN TRUST.

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The CONFIDANT is there FOR you…they are WITH YOU whatever happens.

 These are the people that being around them is SO COMFORTABLE you can behave like you are BY YOURSELF!  That’s why you don’t’ get TIRED of being around your confidants because you don’t have to CHANGE YOUR BEHAVIOR IN THEIR PRESENCE!

Don’t forget…in day to day life, JESUS remains that constant, unmatchable FRIEND.  He knows you better than you know YOURSELF.  So when you’re around HIM, you “never have to put anything on.”  He’s a Friend who sticks closer than a brother…through the good times…and through the bad ones.

But remember, even with CONFIDANTS…relational WITHDRAWALS without relational DEPOSITS lead to relational BANKRUPTCY.


Events Are For You Too!

I often remind myself that 95% of being a good youth leader is being a good Christian. As leaders, we all work hard to take our students to a youth convention, youth retreat, or camp. Then as our van or bus is pulling off the parking lot to head home, we start challenging them to fight to hang onto the spiritual growth they experienced the past days!

 

Middle School Retreat 3-12-16_2But what about us as leaders? How do we hold on to the renewed spark of passion, heart, and spiritual motivation we ourselves received? Let me process some of the things I’ve told myself through the years:

1)  Internally, don’t allow yourself to get deeply discouraged if the students seem to have “leaks” in their spiritual momentum containers! That’s just a normal part of being a teenager. The Holy Spirit will use those camp moments and memories in countless ways until your students skid into Heaven. So know that they are not in vain like the Enemy will try to mentally suggest to you.

Determine not to let the Enemy rob you of your joy just because three weeks after the convention, one of your students goes off the deep end. That just means you have great job security!

2)  After key services, consider journaling your own personal thoughts to the Lord. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked back on old journal notes and received a much-needed shot of spiritual encouragement in my own personal life. Do I hear some of you saying that you’re not a journaling type of person? Hey, make it easy. Just create a private folder on your tablet or computer (that you give a disguised name). Then enjoy pounding out your thoughts and feelings, without any need to edit yourself. It’s pretty remarkable.

3)  Remember that events will always get old, but ministering to people won’t. So make sure that you intentionally give yourself away to a few different students when you make a trip. How does that impact you personally? Easy. We all know the biblical principle of reaping what we sow. But after you’ve done a few conventions or camps, it’s easy for them to start to blur together. Refuse to let that happen by strategically investing deeply into a couple of your students during the trip. They’ll never forget the moments you had together…and you’ll be reminded why you started in youth ministry in the first place.

4)  Don’t join the ranks of the “professional leaders” at a youth convention who tell their students to worship, but don’t worship much themselves, and who tell their students to respond to closing altar calls, but don’t pray much at the conclusion of service themselves. I can’t tell you how many times after a key service I’ve tucked away in a corner to have some personal words with the Lord myself. You can’t keep giving anointed altar calls if you rarely answer any yourself.

So maybe your approach to a convention or camp could be a little different this year. As for me, I’m determined not to slide into Heaven one day with an enlarged youth ministry, but a shrunken heart. When I started in youth ministry lots of years ago, I naively didn’t realize that fanning my own heart after the Lord would be ground zero for the Enemy’s target practice. But now I no longer look at youth convention and camp moments as just for the kids. Truth be told, I need those turning point moments for myself. So before you board the bus, remind Jesus that you could use a fresh touch from Him—not just the “12 tribes” you’re bringing along with you.

 


God’s Waiting Room

I’m back there again! I’m hanging out, a bit begrudgingly, again in “God’s Waiting Room.” Ever been there before? It’s the place where answers to prayer seem suspended in the heavenlies. The place where things that I thought would take 10 days are still uncompleted at 10 years. The place where I’m beginning to wonder if hopes I earlier labeled as “God-Given Dreams” are actually more like spiritual fantasies born out of too much late-night pizza.

So what’s my mode of operation while shuffling around in God’s Waiting Room? I’m taking encouragement from a few biblical saints who spent time there as well. Let me share one with you. Maybe this guy will encourage you like he did me.

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Remember the man in John 5 who was waiting for healing at the pool of Bethesda? He had been in “God’s Waiting Room” for 38 long years, waiting for the miracle of functioning legs. Now don’t let your heart miss this:

  • 38 times he’s tried to get in that pool.
  • 38 times he’s had other people get in front of him.
  • 38 times he has waiting and only been disappointed at the end of the waiting period.
  • 38 years is a long, long time.

So what does Jesus do? He looks at the lame man right where he was and says, “RISE…take up your bed and walk.” Do you get the profound nature of those words? In other words, “What you are wanting is NOT in the pool. What you are wanting is RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE!”

So what’s Jesus trying to remind me of today as I impatiently thrash around, wanting an answer to my current prayer concern? Here it is, simple but profound: You can often get what you are looking for RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE…

Jesus has the same message for all of us today that He had for the lame man in John 5 at the Pool of Bethesda: Stop projecting your own self-centered images into your future.

Right where you are…is everything you really are trying to get! So stop impatiently complaining. Instead, internally “Pick up your bed…and start walking into your future!”

I’m reminded today of the short verse hidden in Lamentations: “The Lord is GOOD to those who WAIT on Him.” But waiting is no fun! It stretches me…reveals parts of my character I’d like to ignore…and forces me to re-define my internal definitions of “happiness” and “success.”

“Be not weary in well doing,” Paul wrote to the church in Galatia. “You shall REAP in due season if you faint not.” In other words, harvest eventually comes if (and only if) you don’t give up waiting.

The ultimate outcome may look a little different than you envisioned. But as Corrie Ten Boom, the holocaust survivor, once wisely said:

“When Jesus is all you have…Jesus will be all you need.”

 


When It Doesn’t Feel Like “Joy To The World”

I’m writing this blog as I’m finishing up the All-American tradition of Christmas decorating. I sure hope our neighbors appreciate the 3-foot light-up ornaments I bought to hang on the giant pine tree outside our front door. But let’s turn the Christmas music down for a minute and get painfully honest.

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Truth be told, many of us experience the holidays feeling more like The Grinch Who Stole Christmas than Elf or It’s A Wonderful Life. One North American survey reported that 45% of those polled said they actually “dreaded the holiday season.” Hospitals and medical professionals back this up by saying that Christmas is the season with the highest rate of significant depression in North America.

I can hear you thinking, “But we’re CHRISTIANS…so that’s not true for US!” But think again. Just because you’re a sincere Christ-follower doesn’t give you an immune-pill against a serious case of the blah’s and/or depression. I should know. I have fought the “invisible dark cloud” in my own life almost every day for the past ten years. Yes, my life is hugely fulfilling, my family is beyond description, and Jesus Christ is the epicenter of my entire existence. But the “thick cloud in my brain” is still often something I have to push through on a regular basis.

So how could the Grinch be in full play during the holidays, even for authentic Christians? There are several possible factors. One consideration is “Seasonal Affective Disorder” (SAD) which is triggered by greater levels of darkness during the winter months. It simply means that due to lack of higher and longer levels of sunlight, not as many “feel-good chemicals” are produced in your physical body.

Secondly, lots of us unconsciously deal with unrealistic expectations of “Joy To The World” and “I’m Dreaming Of A White Christmas.” Christmas songs, movies, and even commercials bombard us with messages that everything is supposed to be “picture perfect” around the holidays – all of our family getting along beautifully, all of our wildest fantasy gifts under the tree, and all of deepest longings totally met. And if we’re in the ministry, OBVIOUSLY we would also be receiving a huge Christmas bonus that would allow us to make an impromptu trip to Cancun! Sadly enough, we all eventually come out of our “Christmas coma” and realize that Christmas is not at all what the media has led us to internally expect. As a matter of fact, many of the “halls we’re decking” are not very “jolly.”

And lastly, many of us in the ministry can find ourselves emotionally exhausted from all the “holiday events” we helped to make happen. We then easily find ourselves giving our family and most important relationships our “emotional leftovers.” If that’s not sad enough, the holidays can also reverberate with loneliness and a secret “victim mentality” for some of us. Have I shared enough realism to make you sufficiently depressed…even if you were happy when you started to read?

So how do you turn “Silent Night” into “Joy To The World”?

  1. First, if depression is consistently hampering your life and lingering far longer than just the holidays, swallow your spiritual pride and get help. Candidly reach out to your doctor for some medical assistance. Taking medication to balance out your serotonin is no more of a sin than a diabetic taking insulin to help correct his hormonal imbalances. Also consider taking an invaluable vitamin called “SAM-e.” You can get a good brand at your local Walmart and the documentation on its effectiveness for positive mood enhancement is exciting.
  2. Be aware of media’s subtle shaping of your own expectations and internal dialogue. Lower your expectations and remind yourself that true joy comes only from your determination to biblically control your own thought life. Choose to be genuinely “present” and look for things you can authentically be grateful for.
  3. Set some clear boundaries for yourself in several arenas: Financially (so you don’t overspend and regret it December 26), ministry wise (so you don’t work so hard on the youth Christmas party that your own family gets nothing but Bah-Humbug), and boundaries on your personal calendar (so you don’t attend Sister Sandpaper’s Christmas cookie party this year).
  4. Do something especially loving for another individual – with no thought of repayment or furthering your own agenda. Remember that “a man wrapped up in himself makes a very small package.” If you want to make it especially meaningful, make your gift a secret between you and the Lord.
  5. And lastly, create a “sacred tradition” between you and Jesus. After all, it is HIS BIRTHDAY we are all supposedly celebrating. My tradition has been going for over 20 years and has been adopted by my immediate family. Before we begin opening gifts, we put on worship music and each write Jesus a personal letter reflecting on the high’s and low’s of that year. We conclude our confidential letters by telling the Lord what our birthday gift to HIM is going to be for the upcoming twelve months. (Our “family moral code” says that we can read our own historical letters to Jesus –but reading what other family members have written through the years is not allowed.) The letters all go into a treasured, old Christmas gift box that yearly takes a position of honor underneath our family Christmas tree.

Yes, “the blues” and more serious depression can be a challenge for even the most committed Christians. But hopefully, some of my simple suggestions might resonate with you in a helpful way. Most of all, remind yourself this Christmas season that you already have almost everything important that money cannot buy. And that, my dear friend, is enough to turn most any “Silent Night” into a rocking “Joy To The World.”


Are You Tired Enough Yet?

Not long ago, I found myself on a 12-hour international flight after doing ministry with some youth leaders who met together in Turkey. I’m a bit of a “tight wad” so I refuse to pay for “business class upgrades,” even on long flights. But thanks to lots of mileage points, I received the upgrade without cost. So I stretched out comfortably in my amazing assigned location, complete with 5 different settings to make sure my seat was as comfortable as possible. I pulled out my iPad and began work. After all, I’d been out of the country for several days. “I’m way behind,” I thought to myself.

Fast forward to “hour 11” of my 12-hour flight. The plane cabin had been dark for several hours. The guy across the aisle from me made me inwardly laugh with his strange snoring pattern. But I kept working – determined to use the hours on the plane to “catch up.”

Then a thought came pounding into my consciousness. Though I’m slow to call all fly thoughts “from Jesus,” the clear and “loud” nature of these particular five words pointed pretty clearly to the divine.

Jeanne_9“Are you tired enough yet?” the internal voice asked me. And almost immediately, I knew what Jesus was trying to say. “Jeanne, what are you trying to prove? Are you exhausted enough now to finally think you have ‘earned the right’ to turn off your iPad and get some sleep?”

Years ago when I was visiting Israel, I accidentally got into the wrong elevator at our hotel. Though I didn’t realize it, we had walked into the “Shabbat elevator.” (In the Jewish tradition, “Shabbat” is the term for the Sabbath.) So in the Shabbat elevator, I found myself stopping at every floor! The Orthodox Jews in Israel take the Sabbath so seriously that you are not even allowed to “work by pushing buttons!”

Granted, this approach still seems a bit extreme to me. But that day on the elevator, just like during my lengthy plane trip, I think the Lord was trying to say to me:

“Jeanne, stop living at such a break-neck pace! Stop trying to push all the buttons that control your life. Slow down…slow down…slow down.”

Matthew 11:28 lovingly whispers this truth to me another way: “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” How about you, my friend? Maybe reading this wasn’t a coincidence for you today. Maybe the Lord is lovingly saying to you, like He did me, “Slow down…slow down…slow down.”