Thursday, June 29, 2017

Freed to Lead

The last few months I have been able to join 11 other church leaders as Josh led us through the Freed to Lead course.  I found the course to be full of truth, encouraging, challenging and brought so much insight into what we have experienced over the years.

I love that all of Freedom in Christ's materials are solidly based on God's Word.  The main idea of the course is that healthy leaders lead out of their being not doing.  Our being, who we are in Christ, is foundation to all we do.  It is out of our being that we do.  We need to focus on who we are first.  In Christ we have all our significance, acceptance, and security.  We do not need to find these things in our leadership.  Our character is what makes us a good leader.  We will lead like Jesus as we become like Him.  If we have the character of Christ we will lead whether we are appointed as leaders or not.

I learned that the people we lead, our people systems, have a body, spirit, and soul.  So often we focus only on what is seen - the body - the structures, programs, policies...but it is really what is unseen that needs our attention.  The spirit of the people system affects everything.  The soul is the emotions, mind and will of the group.  These things are all under the surface and make and lead your people.  Changing what is seen will never bring change without changing what is unseen.

I was challenged and encouraged by the Biblical truth on anxiety.  People are worried, fearful, stressed...anxious and it makes unhealthy leaders and people systems.  Chronic anxiety will distort. Anxiety is a lot about the future (what might happen) and it will weigh a person down (Prov. 12:25).  We cannot lead effectively if we have anxiety.  The answer to anxiety?
 "Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may restore you, cast ALL your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you."  1 Peter 5:6-7
(You can read all of 1 Peter 5:6-10 and see how it all goes together.)
God commands us so we should do it and it is possible! (Matt. 6:34, Phil. 4:6)  We need to let go and humble ourselves.  He is in control and is able.  It all depends on Him not us!  Throw all our worries and stress to God - and don't take it back.  I am not responsible for everything and everyone.  God is responsible, others have responsibilities, and I have mine.  I am called to forgive, repent, and make amends.  The rest is God's.  This allows us to be free, rest, and have peace.

"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.  Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near; DO NOT be anxious about anything, BUT in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus."  Phil. 4:4-7

I know we want to quickly argue this or say, "yeah, but..."  This is God's Word, His way for us.  We can rejoice in all things because we are rejoicing IN HIM.  Our circumstances don't have to dictate us.  Why should we worry?!  We can give it all to GOD - the Creator of all, all powerful, all knowing, over all, in all, the Beginning and the End...  It is a choice for us to give thanks.  Keep giving it to God and choosing to be thankful until peace comes.  Peace that humans can't understand.  It protects us - guarding our thinking and feelings.  

I was affirmed how much trust plays into leading.  Without trust you will not lead and when there is trust a lot can be done.  Trust in a people system brings openness and grace.  Our being plus our doing will equal trust (or distrust).  Trust takes time but can be ruined in an instant.  

I learned about the pitfall for leaders and for people systems.  I was surprised and encouraged to learn that good leaders do not make things easy or make things work well.  Group pitfalls will happen to even the best leaders.  A good leader will always be resisted.  Our reaction to pitfalls is what is crucial.  Our response can stir everything up or calm everything down.  I was really challenged that in Christ we never have to defend ourselves.  Don't be reactive, take responsibility, don't argue, respond in grace, love and forgiveness.

I think for me it was all summed up well in this way; because we are IN Christ we may become authentic as leaders which gives us real hope because our leadership will bring God glory, change lives, and will show Jesus to the world.  All because Christ is in us we know who we are and we can stop trying to be someone else.  We are secure.  We are empower by the Holy Spirit in us.  Our vulnerability shows strength.  Only strong people will have the courage to be open and connect with others.  We can do more because of Christ in us.  Transformation can happen through our leadership because of love (giving of ourselves) and faith (choosing to trust God).  Trust is based on true knowledge of God and His ways.  Interestingly, safety and certainty are enemies of faith.  Think about that.  We need to embrace the cross as leaders not power.  Jesus gave up reputation, He allowed people to falsely talk against Him, was excluded and rejected, laid down His weapons, accepted pain.  Don't give up because of hardships.  Persevere and endure.  Our perspective, our point of view, from which we see our circumstances is a choice.  Seek God's perspective through His Word and prayer.

Now to live it out...

Monday, June 19, 2017

Choirs Recorded

We were very excited when our friend Dan Dwire heard the worship in the prison and asked if we thought they would be willing to be recorded.  We love the worship at the prison!  It is beautiful, enthusiastic and full of talent.  They have a band of my favorite local instrument - the thumb piano.  The prison choir was also excited about the opportunity to be recorded.  After the recording was approved by the officers, Dan came for the recording.  We are all very excited to share this beautiful music from a ministry we love.

Dan was also able to record our church choir!  One day after women's Bible study Rose was teaching the ladies a new song she wrote.  I love listening to them sing so I asked if they would be interested in making a CD.  Rose said, "That is my dream!"  So for about two months Rose and the church choir worked hard practicing for the recording.  Rose wrote many of the songs from scripture verses.  I enjoy taking Lydia and Grace to practice and listening to the beautiful harmony.  I was impressed with my girls learning so many Ateso songs.  Everyone was excited the day of recording.  It felt so professional to have mics and to hear them after the taping.  It was so much fun to be apart of.  The choir grow close over the weeks too.  I am thankful they are still meeting, practicing and singing in church each week.  They bring me to worship the Lord.  I can't wait to hand them the CD and to hear them on the radio!  I am so proud of all the work they did and the way they are using their gifts in worship.

Our choir director, Rose.

UCFM church choir -- plus a few :)   I love these people!

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Our Church Family

 I thank God for our church we are a part of.  It is a blessing to belong to the family of God. 

I love our churches worship.  There praise is joyous and expressive.  They sing, clap, cheer, dance, jump and sweat for Jesus!  And sometimes they don’t.  There is freedom in the worship.  And it isn’t crazy, it’s real.  They also have slower, very meaningful worship songs.  There are lifted hands, sometimes people bow down, cry…  I experience the presence of the Holy Spirit.  I also love how they pray.  There is no shame.  Often we all pray together out loud.  It isn’t distracting because I am talking to God.  I don’t hear others because I am focused on my prayer to the Lord.  I wonder why in our traditions we think we all need to pray together silently.  Maybe we are too private, too orderly, or too afraid.  I love the openness and togetherness I have found in our church. 

I am thankful for the leaders of our church who lead in humility, joy, in God’s truth and in His strength.  They are not paid and it is a hard job with long hours – no off hours actually.  They are trusted and so everyone wants them to help or lead their committee or project.  We are privileged to partner with them in doing the Lord’s work.  Serving with them has been a joy for us. 

 I am excited about the youth in our church.  Our church also had one Saturday a month for prayer and fasting and one of the prayers was for one of the young boys to come to know Jesus because he was slipping away from the church.  Then in August when our church had a youth conference and many youth committed their lives to Christ at the conference and I know God began to work in all of them.    One of our pastors and neighbor, Charles and his wife Margaret, started a Bible study for youth on their school holiday.  I called it their youth group.  It began each night around 10pm!  (At the end of the day after all the work was done and people had eaten.)  Every night we would hear them worship, so we started going (if we hadn’t fallen asleep by then).  It was fun joining the 20 or so youth in their enthusiastic worship under the stars.  Charles taught them using the Freedom in Christ Discipleship Manual.  We continued to see evidence that they were growing through of their youth group. 

The youth group also did service projects.  Two different Saturdays they went out in four groups to visit and serve the elderly in our village.  Each youth took either fire wood or water to the home of the elderly they visited.  At the compound they swept, cooked or just sat with the elderly person and their family.  I love seeing our kids be part of this and proud of them for participating in such cultural things.  They are laughed at sometimes but they don’t seem to mind.  I am not sure they see themselves as different at all.

It seems the friendships our kids have aren’t crossing cultures so much, because our kids were raised here and are completely comfortable here.    They have true friendship and enjoying being with their friends.  They giggle, laugh, tease, play games, walk together, talk, help each other with their work…true teenagers who just like hanging out.  I am thankful our girls are a real part of the youth here – and love it!

The youth are now more involved at church.  Actually they are usually the ones who are always there whether it is the service, choir, cleaning, Bible study…they are there showing they want to grow in the Lord.  The youth are also taking leadership.  They are now teaching Sunday School most weeks, have led worship at church and taken leadership at our evening Bible study.  I am excited to see what God is doing in the youth in our church and how He is going to use them!

I am particularly excited to see boys in the youth group stepping up and now challenging other boys to join.  God has gotten a hold of Tom and Samson and is growing in them and working through them to bring other young men to the group.  I enjoy getting to know them and see them learning, singing, take leadership in Sunday school, Bible study and the worship at church, and being together with the believers.  There are so many young men lost, in trouble and following the ways of the world here. . I pray for Tom and Samson and the other boys that they will remain in the Lord and continue growing in Him.
I love our evening Bible study at church.  Three months ago our pastor announced that we would be starting evening fellowship.  He told everyone that we need to come together and know Truth so we won’t be deceived.  Jesus is coming and if we don’t know the Truth we will be led astray by what is false.  So every Sunday we have Bible study.  We went through Ephesians, Philippians and now are in Colossians.  The pastor assigns a different person to teach a chapter each week.  I have enjoyed teaching.  I love studying God’s Word together.  I learn and grow.  After one of my teachings I received a note from one of our church members saying I taught God’s Word boldly and she was growing from learning.  Yeah!  Our kids really like Bible study and don’t want to miss a Sunday.  Luka likes to read the verses and answers questions.  Our Bible study is casual and interactive.  Luka still talks about the armor of God that we dressed up with.  I feel our Bible study group is the core group of believers.  We are all there to seek and grow in the Lord. 

I am thankful for the church choir which has consistently been growing.  Rose is the leader of our church choir and she writes most of the songs from scripture verses.  Through her commitment and using her gifts the choir keeps growing.  Every Saturday the group gathers to practice for Sunday’s choir.  The youth are very involved in the choir as well and I love hearing the young men sing.  Our girls love being in the choir and sing most songs in Ateso.  Sometimes there are motions with the songs too.  I am so proud of our girls!  Recently the choir even recorded to make an album and be on the radio!  But that is for another blog to comeJ.  I love listening to the choir sing!  It is beautiful praise, enthusiastic and causes me to worship.

Hebrews 10:25 tells us not to stop meeting together but to continue to encourage one another and all the more as the day of the Lord’s return is near.  May we find blessings meeting together with our church families.  And may we all prepare for Jesus is coming!