Winter Trees and the Church: Beautiful Support

This may sound odd to some people, but I see a unique beauty in the naked trees of winter. Many would describe them as stark, drab, or depressing. I, on the other hand, think they have a beauty all their own when winter strips them of their leafy glory.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the leafy glory of trees as much as the next person. Watching trees bud out and turn green in the spring holds a special excitement for all of us. Summer then brings lush, full trees to pleasantly fill our landscapes before autumn arrives and sets them ablaze with color. I delight in each of these seasons and the changes they bring to trees.

But I think trees are beautiful in winter as well. Some might think it’s like looking at skeletons, but I see what looks like arms and fingers reaching for and pointing to God. I love looking out and seeing the intricacies of the branches. Winter allows us a view of the support system of the leaf laden trees we enjoy the rest of the year. Without the drab looking branches, there could be no beautiful leaves.

Winter trees actually remind me of other support systems in our lives as well. Just think about our bodies and all that’s working together beneath the surface to keep us up and running. The same can be said for just about every company, group, or organization we might name.

Consider the church. Many programs and people are highly visible, but there are just as many or more serving behind the scenes. And it’s the behind-the-scenes-type activity that makes it possible for the more visible ministries to take place. Everyone needs to do their part to keep things running smoothly—and more than that, to enable growth.

What role are you filling in your church—or life in general? Are you a part of the highly visible, leafy-glory, or is your role a part of the vital support system that’s needed? Maybe a little of both? Just keep in mind that neither is better. Both are needed and valued.

So take another look at the winter trees. Beautiful, huh?

“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10 NIV

*What support systems in your church, workplace, or organizations are you most thankful for?

The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, comes out Feb. 1st. One lucky subscriber (new or current) will receive a $15 gift card to Starbucks and a signed copy of my book to use personally, give as a gift, or donate to a library. Sign-up is free and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride check out my Books/My Work page.

*Flickr photo by Oakley Originals, Creative Commons License

*I hope you enjoyed this revised encore post from January 2008!

Sweet Fellowship

Oh how sweet it is to find a group of people who get you, huh? People with whom you can enjoy meaningful fellowship. On a professional level, I’ve found this with Fellowship of Christian Writers, the writers group I meet monthly with in Tulsa, and also through writers conferences. On a personal and spiritual level, I’ve found this throughout my life with other believers in Christ, whether through the local church or a ministry or mission group.

Today let’s consider and rejoice in the fellowship we share as God’s children. As we read the following Fellowship acrostic, let’s thank God for each aspect of fellowship made possible because of our bond in him. And let’s fellowship!

Finding others with common passions and goals and joining them.

Enjoying time together and encouraging one another in every way.

Listening to the burdens as well as the delights of fellow members of the body of Christ.

Learning from others’ knowledge and experiences and sharing your own.

Owning possessions with open hands and giving liberally to those in need.

Worshiping the Lord together in song, in prayer, and in words of testimony.

Serving alongside one another to minister to others and share the love of Christ.

Helping each other in time of need or to achieve a common goal.

Inviting new folks to join in your activities and groups.

Praying together for needs, common concerns, and for people to come to faith in God.

“We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.” 1 John 1:3 

*What aspect of fellowship do you most enjoy? Which aspect do you struggle with the most?

The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, comes out in early November. One lucky subscriber (new or current) will receive $15 gift card to Barnes & Noble and a signed copy of my book to use personally, give as a gift, or donate to a library. Sign-up is free and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*Flickr photo by Pepe Pont, Creative Commons License

A Group Challenge — Not in It Alone

7951395672_6cb45551e3_z

Remember when I confessed to being a choir junkie? Well, after forty years of singing in one choir or another, this old choir junkie has a challenge ahead. Our director at church has given us new marching orders: “Memorize the Christmas musical.”

Yes, an entire musical—and most of the songs are new to us. Yikes, right?

So why is she putting us Wednesday night warblers through such tough new paces? This year the musical has drama as well. The actors will be lit with spotlights, but the choir will be in the dark. And darn it all, that makes it impossible to rely on our music for words and notes. We’ll need to rely on our memories instead. For some of us, that may be more of a problem than others :)

Memorizing the musical will definitely be a challenge for all of us. We’ll need extra practices, I’m sure, and we’ll each need to listen to the cd and practice at home as we have opportunity. This is when a daily commute to work could come in handy, right? However we manage it, it will mean extra effort for everyone.

The group aspect of the challenge makes it a little less daunting, though. There’s comfort and camaraderie in knowing that we’re not in this thing by ourselves. We can encourage one another and even have fun together moaning about our mess-ups. And I remind myself that at no point, believe it or not, will I be asked to sing this entire musical from memory by myself :)

When I forget my words or my notes (I’m an alto), I’ll need only to listen to those around me. Chances are, someone else will remember what I forget—and vice versa. I’ll be a help from time to time to someone else who has a memory glitch. We’ll work together, and our sense of teamwork will stretch and grow as never before as we face this musical challenge together.

Are any of you working on a group challenge right now? Whether now or during a future task, let’s remember that we’re not in it alone. Let’s lean on one another. Let’s be the strength to each other’s weakness.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. . .” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10a

*Flickr photo by Richard ‘Tenspeed’ Heaven, Creative Commons License

*The Life Notes Subscriber Appreciation Giveaway is coming soon. All current and new subscribers will be eligible to win! Sign-up is free and to the right.

Taking the Leap: A Goal Fulfilled

Fulfilling a goal many times requires taking small, gradual steps. Other times, however, it demands a giant leap. I took such a leap two weeks ago.

Since my former critique partner decided she could no longer critique for me, one of my writing goals (and ongoing prayers) for the past couple of years has been to find a new critique partner or group. Even though I’ve known having other writers read and make suggestions on my writing is essential to turning out my best work, I’ve been hesitant to take the plunge and get involved in a new critique situation. Why? Fear of the unknown.

For one thing, it would mean learning a new computer skill. I hate to admit it, but I hadn’t yet learned how to insert comments into attached documents emailed to me. I didn’t know if I would be able to figure out whatever method a new critique group might require.

Also, since I don’t live in a metropolitan area, I knew my chances of finding an in-person critique group were pretty slim. The other option would be an online group, but the thought of joining an online group that would include strangers didn’t really appeal to me.

Not only could it be uncomfortable communicating with strangers, it could get especially tricky when pointing out weaknesses or offering suggestions on their writing. I was also concerned about getting into a situation where I didn’t know the level of experience the other members might have.

Still, I knew I needed a critique group if I hoped to improve my writing and my chances for publication. It was time—no, past time—to set my fear of the unknown aside and join an online critique group. It was time to take the leap.

And so, after seeking the Lord’s guidance, I joined the FCW online critique group. I have to say it felt GREAT to finally fulfill this particular goal of mine. I’ve already had one piece critiqued and offered critique as well, and now I’m kicking myself for not having taken the leap earlier. I can already see that this group will be a huge help to me—and I know some of the members as well since I attend the group meetings in Tulsa.

How about you? Anyone need to take your own leap of faith in order to fulfill one of your goals? Don’t let fear of the unknown (or any other fear) hold you back the way I did. Seek God’s leading—and then leap away!

“‘. . . The righteous will live by faith.’” Romans 1:17b

*Flickr photo by The Daily Ornellas

**Don’t forget to enter the “Back At It” Giveaway 2! Leave a comment on that post by noon Sunday for a chance to win.

Us

5241046624_76bb6b5145_z“…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Hebrews 12:1b

“Us.” One tiny word, two little letters, with giant impact.

Who is to throw off everything that hinders? Us. Who is to run with perseverance? Us. Who is the race marked out for? Us. Not me. Not you. Us. We don’t have to run the race alone.

Just think of how that one little word changes everything. We can have support. We can have camaraderie. We can have the encouragement of others as we run our races, whether they’re races wrapped up in relationships, jobs, illnesses, goals, losses, or living lives of faith with victory.

In fact, we’re not meant to live the Christian life independent of other believers. Another passage in Hebrews (10:24-25) tells us, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Do you see it again? Us. Yes, we need to run together.

Let’s consider each of the races in our lives right now. Do we have running partners or groups running alongside for each one? Do we have those who are spurring us on, encouraging us, and giving us strength to persevere—or are we out there all on our own?

Let’s not forget the little word that changes everything. Let’s not forget “us”.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

*Flickr photo by Drongowski, Creative Commons License

*Next post will bring the return of Summer Photo Fun. Don’t miss it! :)