14 Reasons Church Unity Breaks Down

Church Unity has been on my mind again. In fact, the topic came up again in a conversation I had with my mentor last week. We experienced a “split” at my church a few years back and I believe a lack of unity was a leading contributor to the problems at that time.

“I wish we could have a sermon preached once a year based on Jesus’s prayer in John 17,” I said to her. “We need to keep hearing how Jesus prayed for us and how important unity was to Him.”

The link I’ve provided below leads to blog post from Thom Rainer whose site is in my blogroll. I feel compelled to repeat the post from 2015 because unity in the Church universal and in our local congregations is never an out-of-date subject. I realize that I need to keep being reminded how Satan can tear at the fabric of our unity and rip a church family apart.

Unity in the church begins with love.

“By this they will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34

Here’s the intro to that 2015 blog on The Fruitful Life and the link to Thom’s blog.

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Thom Rainer blogs every day about leadership in the church. Many times his topic is meant for the whole body, not just leaders.

That’s the case with this post. I felt compelled to share it, because when we consider our membership in a local church, it should be apparent that in some way, we are all leaders. Jesus meant for us to be examples reflecting Him in the world.

Mr. Rainer has many years of experience in church leadership and assisting churches revitalize and deal with change, something the Church needs today. His posts are always thought-provoking for me. I hope you’ll find this is true for you and that his words will bring answers if needed and most certainly, hope.

Be a blessing to someone today.

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Foodie Cookie Winner

What a fun day we had recently in my rental community. They called it Tenant Appreciation Day. I was able to meet a few more of my neighbors, which is always fun. The company sponsored a chili cook-off and a couple bake-offs, one of which yours truly was a winner.

The winning entry, my pumpkin bars, were selected in the cookie category because our office manager decided they’re more of a cookie than a cake. That was okay with me—I won! The recipe is below. I failed to take a photo of these moist, not-too-sweet ‘cookies’ and it was too late by the time we thought of it. They disappeared quickly.

As you know, one of my favorite things to do is putter in the kitchen. I even enjoy clean-up time. Nothing like a tidy space to work. So when they said we’d be competing for the best stuff, how could I resist?

Robert won for his splendid homemade barbecue sauce and grilled chicken. Oh, you guys, it was mouth-watering tender. The sauce had just enough tart and sweet to please any palate. Duane took the prize for his pound cake and Amanda won in the chili category.

So there we were, mingling, eating and listening to some rocking music. The kids were making crafts and everyone got a goodie bag. The adults played that old favorite, “Guess How Many Are in the container.” A large Ball storage jar and a small one filled to the brim with hard candy and Red Hots. They gave extra incentive for the large container by taping a $2 bill to the side.

Hey, I’ll compete for money. Good thing I did. I came closest to the amount without going over with a guess of 639. The jar contained six hundred and something. Considering I have a rotten sense of spatial relationships, that’s pretty good. I never win anything so “Wow.” Best Cookie and Best Guesser. I shared the contents of the jar. I mean, what am I going to do with almost 700 pieces of candy? Or is that a dumb question?

 

Pumpkin Bars

  •  2 c. flour
  •  2 t. baking powder
  •  2 t. cinnamon
  •  1 t. baking soda
  •  4 eggs
  •  ¾ c. oil
  • 1 ½ c. sugar
  • 1 16 oz. can pumpkin

Blend eggs, oil, sugar, and pumpkin in a large mixing bowl. Blend dry ingredients in a small bowl and add to the large bowl ingredients. Bake in a 9 x 13 inch baking dish for 25 minutes at 350 degrees. Let bars cool before spreading them with the cream cheese frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 3 oz. cream cheese
  • ¼ c. butter
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 2 c. confectioner’s sugar

Blend all ingredients together and frost the cake.

A fairly simple recipe. As always, you can prepare this with a little less sugar as I do. I like to use a glass dish for these. It seems to bake nicely. And if you have problems with gluten, other flours usually work as well. I’ve mixed almond flour with wheat flour and I enjoy the flavor just as much.

Eat Hardy!

Helping Hands

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them.” ~ Jesus Christ

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of another.” ~ Charles Dickens

“Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” ~ Paul, the Apostle

“You have not lived today unless you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” ~ John Bunyan

“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow.” ~ King Solomon

“We are all here on earth to help others; what on earth the others are here for I don’t know.” ~ W. H. Auden

People struggle. You do, I do. Everyone experiences hard times. People are grieving. Others are weary. People face health issues to the point of death. Some struggle with a crisis concerning their child. That child may be one with “special needs.” Adults are caregivers to an elderly parent or guardian to an individual who can’t help themselves.

Since we’ll all struggle at some time, remember how difficult it can be. Some people, for whatever reason, find it hard to ask for help. Don’t go through it alone and don’t let someone else. Pray for that person, but put feet to your prayers. Platitudes will not help. A helping hand will.

Be a blessing to someone today.

I Can Only Imagine

This past Sunday, the Church behaved as a church should. Well, my church did anyway.

Lately, I’ve been experiencing the downward spiral that naturally and always follows mania. My diagnosis is complicated and it took years for me to understand it. True depression can be inexplicable. If someone asked me, “What’s wrong?” I could say, “Nothing” or I could say, “Everything” and both answers would be correct.

Having manic-depressive illness is something I’ve accepted, but being mentally ill sometimes always stinks.

Now about the Church being what they’re supposed to be…

I went to church under the influence of a medication I took for anxiety the night before. Sleep was eluding me, so I took the med the doctor prescribes “as needed.” It was surely needed. The anxiety was crippling and I only got about three hours of sleep because I was so agitated. I drove to church seeing double. It helped if I closed one eye, but driving one-eyed has its limitations. All through the sermon, Pastor kept splitting in two as he moved about the stage.

Between services I told our spiritual growth pastor I probably wouldn’t be able to write the sermon study because I hadn’t been able to concentrate and I had scanty notes. I gave her the lowdown. She must have moved into action right then. Brothers and Sisters began to approach me to let me know they would make sure I got home safely.

Imagine a church body that in a crisis acts like Jesus. I felt no judgements on me for being sick. The people involved treated me as if I had a “respectable” illness. They touched me just like Jesus was willing to touch the man with leprosy. They spoke to me without condescension. I was given time to just be comfortable until church was over and they could help me get home. I could almost hear them saying, “(Let’s) Go in peace.”

I wish every church body could understand––or at least try to accept––mental illness as a real sickness. Too many times we hear people tell us we could be healed if we had more faith. People suggest we pray more. I’ve been told I’m possessed.

Listen. I have faith in the healing power of Jesus. I pray. I trust God will get me through the tough times because he already has on numerous occasions. But Jesus didn’t heal every sick person he came into contact with while he lived here, walking around preaching the Good News. Maybe I’m one of the people God has decided to not heal. He hasn’t healed my good friend who’s been insulin dependent for over 30 years either and I know she prays and has faith in God.

It’s okay I’m still manic-depressive, even though, as I said, it stinks. Because I’ve experienced peace when I should have been crawling the walls. I’ve been able to read my Bible and know the words are meant for me right then, in the scattered state I’m in. Or in a funk so deep I’m reminded of King David’s “pit.” Those are the times when nothing can make me leave the house except maybe firefighters insisting upon it.

Helen Keller was an amazing woman. Read her autobiography some day. For the most part, she had a good attitude about life and didn’t let being disabled hold her back from what she wanted to accomplish. My disability isn’t the same as hers. But I find these words of hers something I relate to and am grateful for.

“I thank God for my handicaps for through them I have found myself, my work and my God.”

What will it take for God’s people to be more accepting of the poor, the uneducated, the ‘sinners,’ the foreigners, the criminals, and anyone who’s just plain different from them? I’m not sure, but I experienced on Sunday what I believe Jesus had in mind.

Love.

8 No-Cost Gifts That Are Priceless

The gift of listening
But you must really listen. No interrupting, no daydreaming, no planning your response. Just listening.

The gift of affection
Be generous with appropriate hugs, kisses, pats on the back and handholds. Let these small actions demonstrate the love you have for family and friends.

The gift of laughter
Clip cartoons. Share articles and funny stories. Your gift will say, “I love to laugh with you.”note-writing

The gift of a written note
It can be a simple “Thanks for the help” note or a full letter. A handwritten note may be remembered for a lifetime. It may even change a life.

The gift of a compliment
A simple and sincere, “You look great in red,” “You did a good job” or “That was a tasty meal” can make someone’s day.

The gift of a favor
Every day, go out of your way to do something kind. And keep it to yourself.

The gift of solitude
There are times when we want nothing better than to spend a little time alone. Be aware of how you can give some ‘alone time’ to someone else.

The gift of a cheerful disposition
One of the easiest ways to feel good is to extend cheerfulfulness. It’s not hard to say “Hello” or “Thank you.” And we all look better when we smile.

Comfort Foodie

An Education

No one educated me as I was growing up about the proper terms used for the various gatherings which occur when someone dies. The only word I was familiar with was “funeral.”

Later, I learned there was also quite often a “visitation.” People went to the facility that was handling the funeral and viewed the body. They spoke in low tones and offered condolences to the bereaved family members. I didn’t know for a long time that this is also called a “wake.”

I became confused the first time I arrived at a funeral and the man at the entrance asked if I was going to the cemetery for graveside services. But I was still learning.

Finally, with graveside services over, we’d gather for the “funeral dinner.”

A Bit of Reality

A little over a month ago, someone who was special to me passed away. And though I’ve been to many funerals during my life, I’m still learning. This wonderful man’s life celebration gave me pause as I sat and watched the people around me.

In the chapel of my church, a buffet luncheon and tables were set up. We filled our plates and sat with friends to share memories or to just have normal conversations. I realized that having a funeral dinner gives a different meaning to “comfort food.” When we lose someone we love, we need to feel, even if for a short time, something resembling normal. We meet over a meal and we’re somehow comforted.

If a funeral dinner happens at a church, the food was most likely prepared by church members in their homes. The food is often simple. Friends and family members help by offering a kind of stability in shaky circumstances. The simpler we keep things, the better. Even silences can be healing.

Last week a long-time friend notified me her husband had died. I didn’t look forward to attending another funeral. But I surely was ready to be there to comfort her. That meant being there in any way she needed.

It turned out that I sat with her and her children, whom I’d watch grow up, at the funeral dinner. We ate some “comfort food” and talked about normal stuff. If I was the betting type, I’d bet that it won’t be long before she and I are sharing more memories over a meal and talking about what’s making life normal again now that she’s grieving.

A Recipe For Caring

We don’t like to admit it, but we know that food seems to make things better.

We get up in the morning and our bodies are ready for sustenance. Food makes that bodily craving go away. “Ah, that’s better.”

Someone’s having a baby and we throw a shower. Food–especially chocolate–makes the occasion better. Weddings include a feast following the ceremony. Because food makes it even better. The Saturday football game at our alma mater begs a tailgater. Except for our team winning, what could possibly make it better?

We celebrate the milestones in life with food, join in conversations at the dinner table with our family, grab some of that famous Mackinac Island fudge while we’re on vacation, and roast marshmallows over a campfire. Because food makes getting together so much better.

An Example to Follow

Scour the Bible and you find many instances in which Jesus was eating with people. Indeed, a couple of his most famous miracles included feeding thousands of people. What we in the Church call communion is based on the Lord’s command during his last meal with the disciples to “remember him.”

I doubt very much they realized the bread and wine were “comfort food.”

But I’m still learning and I know. It’s why we say we celebrate communion. In community we celebrate, we remember, and we look to the future.

Loving Father, I pray we always know the way to celebrate life, even when we face life without someone we love. Help us to make each moment precious and to create communion–community–whenever we meet with people. Thank you for the gift of food and the many ways it sustains us. Thank you for the simplicity it can offer in a grave situation. Help us to find our ultimate joy and purpose in you and to realize Christ is the bread of life. Thank you, Jesus, for being the comfort food that will never leave us hungry.

Storefront Churches

Recently, while driving on a remote street in my fair city, I had the opportunity to see a sign outside a church declaring what I’d hoped to see on a church sign for a long time.

“Jesus Is Lord”

Convinced (by people better than me) that a church sign’s purpose is for outreach, I still believe a statement as simple and true as that one indicates where that church’s heart stands. In fact, an auto shop where I have work done on my van boasts this same statement on its sign out front.

Years ago, I saw the movie “Because of Winn-Dixie” at the theater. The film is adapted from the children’s story of the same name. A 10-year-old girl moves yet again to a new town with her father, a preacher. The story is funny, touching and full of wisdom.

The preacher and his small congregation meet in what used to be a convenience store, the Pick-it-Quick. Early on in the movie, Preacher is trying to make a joke about their location to keep things light (tough crowd) and says, “I don’t see anything wrong with making church convenient.”

winn-dixie-at-churchI’m familiar with churches meeting in places other than a traditional church building. And while it’s great to have a nice building in which to meet, I don’t think God cares as much what the building looks like as what our hearts look like.

Imagine some church signs or slogans for churches that meet in former businesses. No irreverence meant here. We can take God seriously and still have fun. But fair warning: I used to be in advertising and I enjoy good puns.

  • Laundromat: “You can be washed whiter than snow”
  • Library: “Lending a good word”
  • Insurance Sales Office: “The Gospel is our strongest claim”
  • Grocery Store: “Hungry for something more?”
  • Beauty Shop: “You can leave here a new creation”
  • Hardware Store: “New tools for living found here”
  • Music Shop: “We sing God’s praises”
  • Book Store: “Come curl up with the Good Book”
  • Video Rentals: “Rated F for Families”
  • Dollar Store: “More than you bargained for”
  • Cell Phone Service: “Get connected with God”
  • Used Car Lot: “Turning lemons into lemonade”
  • Secretary of State: “Get your license to thrive here”
  • Gym: “Helping you jump-start your spiritual fitness”
  • Medical Office: “Healing hearts is God’s specialty”
  • Dentist’s Office: “For a message with some teeth to it”
  • Optometrist’s Office: “Your eyes will see the glory”
  • Office Supply Store: “Loving people file in here every week”
  • Furniture Store: “We have a chair just for you”
  • Coffee Shop: “Enjoy our unique blend of truth and grace”
  • Computer Store: “The only software needed is an open heart”
  • Restaurant: “Taste and see that the Lord is good”

Outreach? Hmm.

We can meet with God anywhere. Our hearts are His favorite place to meet us. The sign we can put out front is a simple “Welcome.”

Nothing silly about that.

Family Foodies

When my daughter, Sarah, was growing up, she learned how to cook a few simple meals. Once she reached high school, our schedules didn’t always match, so she fended for herself sometimes.

It seemed to be something she enjoyed. She even experimented with cooking.

One time, when I invited a friend for dinner, she surprised us by making meatloaf. However, she thought if she split the meat mixture into two pans, it would make double the amount. Sarah couldn’t understand why she ended up with two pans of two-inch-high meatloaves. We explained to her why it didn’t work, and we all had a good chuckle. It was a fun learning experience for her.

Later, as a homemaker and mother to my grandson, she wanted to expand her Foodie experience and add more variety to her cooking. “I need some new recipes,” she said. “We’re rotating the same stuff.”

So I put my little pea brain to work and decided to gather a collection of family recipes. I contacted my siblings and my stepmother, requesting one or two of their favorite recipes. I asked them to send something she could prepare easily using fairly common ingredients.

No fancy stuff; just good home cooking in her own specialized cookbook.

pillsbury-doughboyI compiled the recipes in a binder I’d found in a mail-order catalog. Poppin’ Fresh (otherwise known as the Pillsbury Doughboy) graced the cover and insides of that 3-ring binder. Other Doughboy promotional items came with the binder and after slipping each typed recipe into a plastic sheet protector, I sent the package off to my little girl.

It was more of marriage gift than a wedding gift, but she was happy that she could provide new variety in the meals she cooked. More stuff to add to the rotation, you might say.

My beef stroganoff recipe was the first one I added to the collection. It was the recipe I used for the first meal I cooked for her father when we were dating. He loved it. Now, she makes it too.

My mom’s famous chocolate cake recipe went in as well. Mom called it “Mayonnaise Cake” and it was always chocolate. She made it when she wanted to bake a cake but was low on eggs. There was always Miracle Whip in the fridge so that was her way of substituting. I remember that cake being really moist. It was a winner.

Each family member who cooks has a specialty when it comes to cooking and baking. Mine are spaghetti sauce, chocolate chip oatmeal cookies with a ‘secret’ ingredient, and wet burritos with all the elements made from scratch. Maybe someone in your family creates killer appetizers or a stew that keeps everyone warm and filled up on a cold winter day.

Sharing family recipes leaves a legacy to Foodies, and kitchen heritage is important. We form memories around eating with family and friends. For a long time, the potluck meal has been a way people find fellowship and form community. Eating together gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “comfort foods.”

Maybe you’d like to give the gift of food memories to a family member or friend. Do the research. Get creative with presentation. Then believe that your gift will bring fond memories with their every trip to the kitchen.

Conduits of God’s Love

Come Empty

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28, 29

Get Filled

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” Matthew 5:6

Go, Pour Out to the Worldfrenchpitcherw-bread

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” Matthew 25:35, 36

No One Spoke

A fellow blogger, Stuart Perkins, tells his stories on Storyshucker. Stuart is an expert storyteller.

Not long ago, he told this inspiring story which includes a sunrise. We seem to be amazed and awed by sunrises and sunsets. Everywhere on social media, people post photos exhibiting the majesty of our sun rising out of or falling into the horizon.

“No One Spoke” is a beautifully told story of a group experiencing a sunrise from a beach.

Click  on the link above. I hope you enjoy it.