Thursday, June 22, 2017

The keys to lasting change

Part 1 of an interview with
Jim Herrington
and Trisha Taylor,
Authors of Learning Change

Change is seldom easy for an individual, much less an entire group of people such as a church congregation. In Learning Change: Congregational Transformation Fueled by Personal Renewal (Kregel Ministry/May 27, 2017), authors Jim Herrington and Trisha Taylor share the stories of church leaders who were able to transform their congregations by first making changes in their own lives.

Q: Explain the learning process involved with making a change. How is the transformational learning model different from other methods or models of learning?

Traditional learning involved mastering information. If I’m trying to improve my marriage or learn to be a good deacon, I go to this class, read this book or listen to this podcast. I get information. The transformational learning model involves three movements: gathering information, putting it into practice and then reflecting on the results. This is an ongoing process that increases one’s mastery throughout time. For us, learning has not occurred when you master the information. It has only occurred when you master the practice. In other words, it’s not enough to know different until you can actually do different. Because we believe in the power of the learning community, we believe this happens most effectively when we are engaging these three movements together with other people and sharing our learning.

Q: What are the keys required for real change?

First, the pain of not changing must be greater than the pain of changing. There must be an intrinsic motivation for learning because almost all learning involves loss: giving up some things to gain other things. Unless there is intrinsic motivation, you will rarely stay the course. Second, you need hope about a possible future that inspires you. Third, you need a good coach who can encourage you and hold you accountable to do the hard work.

Q: Why is dreaming such an integral part of change?

There is both a push and a pull to change. The push is the lack of results, the breakdowns, the awareness that what you are doing is not getting you the results you want. The pull is a vision of what is possible for you as a fully alive human being and what is possible for us in our families and communities. Without the pull, the push can’t be sustained throughout time.

The dream is the “hope about a possible future” mentioned above. We need to have a picture of what God can do that is increasingly clear and compelling. It’s crucial that this dream opens up new possibilities to us; without a clear and compelling dream, we will settle for doing more of the same, just a little bit differently. This is much of what the Bible offers us — stories, poems and word-pictures about God’s dream for us and for our world, what it will look like when the shalom of God is realized in our lives.

Q: How does a church leader take what he/she learns about change and the changes he/she makes personally and move the congregation to changing as a whole?

First, we don’t believe a leader can do this. It takes a leadership team committed to the journey of deep change throughout time. In our book we talk about 10 practices (four values, five skills sets and one end game) congregations can master to journey into the future effectively. A team of leaders who are at the center of the life of a congregation can begin by taking their own journey of mastery. Leaders need to learn together to embody the skills that empower effective change. Second, they need to help their congregation engage a posture of ongoing learning. They need to create systems and structures, experiences and processes that help more and more people in the congregation: (1) know what the practices are, and (2) have safe, shame-free learning environments where an increasing number of people are gaining greater mastery of the practices.

Leaders are most effective when they are learning to live differently and then sharing their learning with others. This is different from telling people how they should change. As leaders are taking on this learning in their own lives — and joining with others who are doing the same — they will also learn important skills to lead change (for example, the chapter on Generating and Sustaining Creative Tension) and to see the system as a whole and intervene effectively. They will be able to manage their own anxiety in the natural pushback of the system.

Q: What kind of leadership is required to move a congregation of many views and opinions through a process of change as one body?

There are several parts to this answer: 
  • We see the power of loving, patient, persistent, long-term (10-15 years) leadership. There are no quick fixes to the deep challenges and changes that this new era demands.
  • We believe it’s a kind of leadership that grows increasingly comfortable with sustaining creative tension as missional experiments are conducted off the map.
  • It is leadership focused on managing ourselves in an anxious system, not on changing others.
  • It is able to tolerate the discomfort and even pain of leading change in a system that naturally resists change, as all systems do.
  • It is leadership that can let go of control and move toward dialogue, collaboration and partnership, especially across boundaries.
  • It’s leadership that is willing to let go of the posture of the expert and take on the posture of a learner.

Q: In what ways is the church losing its impact here in America? What does and doesn’t need to happen for the church to regain its ground?

There are a number of major studies documenting the deep and growing decline of the church, both in terms of constituencies and influence. The world is changing at the pace of a jet in flight, and the church is changing at the pace of a horse and buggy. What doesn’t need to happen is for congregations to double down and work harder at 20th-century strategies and ways of thinking. What does need to happen is nothing short of the transformation of congregations across the country. We hold this congregational transformation is not possible apart from a journey of personal transformation. Personal transformation is found in the lost art of spiritual formation. That lost art is recaptured in our work in the Faithwalking ministry.

Also, we are actually not interested in helping the church regain its ground or recover something it had in the past. We believe God is doing a new work in a new era, and we want to equip churches to join that work. History tells us the church might have to decrease in order to increase, that it may have to give up influence or power to engage the culture differently. The culture is changing more rapidly than we even fully understand. We can’t go back.

Q: Is there a destination churches should hope to arrive at after reading Learning Change?

There is not so much a destination as there is growing capacity to stay deeply and meaningfully engaged in an ongoing journey of joining God on God’s mission in a rapidly changing world. As that journey unfolds, congregations will have to reinvent themselves over and over. There is a lot of hope to be found when you have confidence you have the tools to change (reinvent yourself) as your context changes.

Learn more about Learning Change at https://ridder.westernsem.edu/learning-change/.


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Church membership is more important than you may think

Part 1 of an interview with Jeremy Kimble,
Author of 40 Questions about Church
Membership and Discipline


Does church membership mean more than simply joining a social group? Does the church have a responsibility to discipline its members — and if so, what does that look like? In 40 Questions about Church Membership and Church (Kregel Academic/May 27, 2017), Dr. Jeremy Kimble recognizes and addresses the many puzzling questions about the critical role of the church in the life of believers.

Q: What is the most important thing for readers to understand about church membership?

Church membership is not solely about what you can get out of a church. Instead, membership points us toward commitment and mutual accountability. When we join the membership of a local church, we are agreeing to be overseen in our discipleship and oversee others in their discipleship. As such, the idea of membership goes beyond mere attendance and even ministry involvement. At its heart, church membership is about a group of people committed to one another, who will continually oversee and exhort one another toward ever-increasing godliness.

Q: What are some of the biggest challenges the church as an institution faces today, both from the inside and the outside?

Internally, there could be any number of challenges, but I think one major issue the church must face is the inherent individualism that exists in our churches. We do not often have a culture of authenticity and openness in our local churches. Instead, we look the part, fulfill our church duties and attend what we need to, but we never get beyond the surface. A real need exists to get past all of that, and as members, commit to loving, teaching, rebuking and encouraging one another. This involves people who are open and transparent enough to share their lives with others. In this way, we can show love and pursue holiness as a community.

Externally, we see increasing pressure to conform to the standards of the world, especially in certain areas (e.g., sexuality, gender, materialism, etc.). It seems in the West that if we continue to pursue faithfulness to God’s Word, the disparity between the church and the world will become more evident. Churches will likely have some difficult choices to make in the years ahead, as ostracization seems inevitable. However, this challenge is also a great opportunity for the church to display the love and holiness of God in very manifest ways.

Q: Why is it important to be a member of a local church? Isn’t being a Christian enough?

Being a Christian is certainly the key starting point, but joining a church in membership is also crucial for a few reasons. First, church leaders are told to keep watch over their flock (1 Peter 5:1-4) and that they will have to give an account for the people they oversee (Hebrews 13:17). If this is the case, pastors must know who they are overseeing, and church membership makes clear whom they are to oversee. Second, we are told to exhort one another day after day so we are not hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews 3:12-13). Of course, I can do this for any Christian, but it makes the most sense to do this for a particular group of people to whom I am committed. Finally, modern-day church membership adheres to the overall pattern seen in Scripture. Israel, though not the church, was a distinct nation with its own “membership” that was distinct from other peoples. The New Testament church speaks typically of local churches made up of certain people who are committed to one another, exercising a certain kind of authority, fulfilling “one another” commands.

Q: What qualifications of church membership are universal across denominational or doctrinal lines?

While there will be differences of opinion regarding baptism and the timing of granting someone membership status in a church, denominations would generally agree full members of their church be people who are regenerate. If a church is its membership (i.e. the church is not a building, but a people), then this is especially important. There would also be widespread agreement that particular responsibilities are inherent to church membership. Pastors do want to see passive consumers in their churches. There is founded expectation members will be involved in the work of the church and the lives of other members.

Q: What responsibilities does each member have to one another and their local church?

There is great responsibility inherent in church membership. We are responsible to submit to elected leadership, all the while knowing God has granted the keys of the kingdom to the entire membership (Matthew 16:19), thus striking a balance in authority. We must be proactive as members in working for others in their progress and joy in the faith (Philippians 1:25). The entire body of believers must exercise their spiritual gifts for the good of others (Romans 12:3-8) and regu­larly attend the gatherings of the church (Hebrews 10:24-25) so as to edify others and be edified themselves. One could name off other responsibilities as well, noting members should be good listeners to sermons, biblical theologians and devoted to pray for one another. Finally, one must confront unrepentant sin in the lives of their fellow members, in the hopes they heed that rebuke and repent.

Watch for part 2 of this interview where Dr. Kimble will discuss church discipline.

Learn more about 40 Questions about Church Membership and Discipline and the other books in the 40 Questions series at www.kregel.com.


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Captain's Daughter book giveaway

Be transported to 1880s London and meet a talented musician and singer in the new Victorian romance novel from Jennifer Delamere,The Captain’s Daughter. When a series of circumstances beyond her control leave Rosalyn Bernay alone and penniless in London, she chances upon a job backstage at a theater that is presenting the most popular show in London. Meanwhile London holds bitter memories for Nate Moran that he is anxious to escape. But then he meets the beautiful woman who has found a new lease on life in the very place Nate can’t wait to leave behind.
Enter to win a copy of The Captain’s Daughter. Five winners will be chosen! Click the image below to enter to win. The winners will be announced July 10th on the Litfuse blog!

{MORE ABOUT THE CAPTAIN’S DAUGHTER}


(Bethany House, June 2017)
Warm-hearted Victorian romance brings 1880s London to life.
When a series of circumstances beyond her control leave Rosalyn Bernay alone and penniless in London, she chances upon a job backstage at a theater that is presenting the most popular show in London. A talented musician and singer, she feels immediately at home and soon becomes enthralled with the idea of pursuing a career on the stage.
A hand injury during a skirmish in India has forced Nate Moran out of the army until he recovers. Filling his time at a stable of horses for hire in London, he has also spent the past two months working nights as a stagehand, filling in for his injured brother. Although he’s glad he can help his family through a tough time, he is counting the days until he can rejoin his regiment. London holds bitter memories for him that he is anxious to escape. But then he meets the beautiful woman who has found a new lease on life in the very place Nate can’t wait to leave behind.

Jennifer Delamere{MORE ABOUT JENNIFER DELAMERE}


Jennifer Delamere’s debut Victorian romance, An Heiress at Heart, was a 2013 RITA award finalist in the inspirational category. Her follow-up novel, A Lady Most Lovely, received a starred review from Publishers Weekly and the Maggie Award for Excellence from Georgia Romance Writers. Jennifer earned a BA in English from McGill University in Montreal, where she became fluent in French and developed an abiding passion for winter sports. She’s been an editor of nonfiction and educational materials for nearly two decades, and lives in North Carolina with her husband.
Find out more about Jennifer at http://www.jenniferdelamere.com.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Someone is being a real jerk on #thebachelorette

Thank goodness for the recap at the beginning of the show because without it, I couldn't tell you how the last episode of The Bachelorette ended two weeks ago.

I'm not sure if that's a sign of A) having too much going on, B) seriously having memory issues or C) just not caring. I think the answer is a combination of A and B, and hopefully not D) all of the above. Good Morning America (or was it The Today Show?) said this morning that multi-tasking as bad for the brain and goodness knows I'm always multi-tasking. The fact that I can't remember from this morning may be a bad sign for option B.  I flipped between both. I think it was The Today Show.

Whatever.

Anyway, we ended last time with Lee and Eric talking smack about each other and Rachel considering taking Eric's rose back. There's a bunch of mouthing going on, and while I do think Eric is being a moron, Lee is an even bigger jerk. Lee obnoxiously interrupts Kenny and Rachel even though he had already had time with Rachel. This time Lee gives a sob story about his grandfather who had cancer and carried around this pocket knife for 50 years. He used the knife to carve something in a piece of wood as a gift for her.

Dean talks to the cameras about Lee and dances around directly calling him a racist because he only has trouble with certain men.

When Bryan found out that Lee went back for more time, he is annoyed as well. However, it's Kenny that decides he's going to steal Rachel back. When we get back from commercial though, it's Bryan we see talking to her. I don't see the same in him that Rachel evidently does. (I've read spoilers.)

Oh, maybe Kenny wasn't going to interrupt them. He decides to have a one-on-one conversation with Lee talking about snaking time with Rachel. Lee is rude and tells Kenny to get to the point. Rachel can hear Lee and Kenny getting into it while talking to a guy I have never noticed before. (Matt, maybe?) The guy defends Kenny, and Rachel says, it's probably because Lee interrupted Kenny.

Lee says the best way to make someone mad is to laugh at them, so he just sits around and laughs at people.

Rachel is over this drama already. She doesn't want to talk to the cameras anymore. Chris Harrison comes in and tells her he will facilitate whatever she wants to do. He goes out and tells the guys she has had enough time at the party and is ready for the rose ceremony.

When she does her little speech, she tells them the night didn't go like she thought it would go. It was heavy and frustrating, but there were some good conversations. She underestimated how hard it would be.

So, those with the roses: Alex, Anthony, and Eric.

  1. Will
  2. Dean
  3. Jonathan
  4. Peter
  5. Adam
  6. Josiah
  7. Bryan
  8. Matt
  9. Josiah
  10. Jack
  11. Iggy
  12. Kenny
  13. Lee (CRUD!!!)
Going home are Bryce, Diggy, and Brady. Of course, all the men thought there were some bad choices made. 

At the final toast of the night, Rachel proposes they leave all the drama behind them.

It's time to hit the road and give the family who lives in the mansion their house back. Next stop, Hilton Head, SC.

This is one of the very few places they travel to that I have ever been. (I do think they went to Albuquerque once and I shook my head trying to figure out exactly why.)

Bryan really wants a one-on-one this week. Kenny feels bad about last week, so hopes he gets it to clear the air.

The first date card arrives and neither gets it.

"Dean - Our love is about to take off."

Rachel and Dean take off in a Jeep, driving down the roads and through lots of trees with Spanish moss that is neither Spanish nor moss. It's a member of the pineapple family. Sorry. That stuck with me from the tour guides on my own trip to the area. 

They go to a nearby town and pull out into field. As they sit sipping their beverages, the Goodyear blimp lands to pick them up for a ride. She's always had a fascination with blimps. He's scared of heights. Oh, and he also gets motion sickness.

Once they are in the air, Rachel asks to sit in the driver's seat. She takes the controls. This makes Dean more nervous. He gets over it when they start kissing.

The guys see them fly by and know it is them from the message on the side.

The new date card arrives: "Alex, Anthony, Peter, Bryan, Jonathan, Adam, Matt, Kenny, Lee, Iggy, Eric, Will and Josiah. I want to see who is ready for commitment. "

That means Jack gets the one-on-one. Lee lays on the pressure and says things like, "There's no shame in going home on a one-on-one date." He's just obnoxious.

Back to Dean. She needs to see if something is there, and if he is ready for this since he is younger than she is (something the guys were talking about earlier). At dinner, they talk about family. Her parents are together and had a strict church upbringing. He talks about what his family did together. At 9 years old, his mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. She fought and beat it until he is 14 when the cancer reoccurred. She died and with his older siblings out of the house and dad gone a lot of the time, he was by himself quite a bit between 15-18. 

He looks forward to being a father and wants a close knit family. It's emotional. She tries not to cry so he won't cry more. He met her high expectations for the day, so she presents him with the date rose. Of course, the date isn't over. They have a concert in the streets to go to. Who is Russell Dickerson? I have no idea. Since I am multi-tasking and running behind, I fast forwarded through the dancing and kissing during the concert. It's always the same scene.

The next day, the group date is on a yacht. Don't worry, there's sure to be one-on-ones on a date later on.

This is her largest group date and she's a little concerned about last time's drama. They start off with a little dance contest. Some limbo... The most fit guys have taken their shirts off. The scrawnier (white guys) still have on theirs. The testosterone starts to ooze as they try to one-up each other with push-ups and rapping (Kenny), etc. Peter never should have tried to rap. This portion of the date comes to an end, then they head off to a spelling bee. 

Josiah thinks he has an awesome vocabulary. I think he has issues creating coherent sentences. Adam isn't sure if he is going to pass the intellectual test here. 

Kenny can't spell champagne, but then again, I spell it wrong most of the time when I type it on this blog. He is out on the first round and had a much harder word than the others.

Iggy loses out in the second round. Adam too. Physde is not the same as facade so Eric is out. Same for the others until only Will and Josiah are left. 

I'm not much of a speller myself. These words are a challenge. Josiah's final word is polyamorous which he correctly spells and wins.

That night, they all head to cocktail portion. Josiah is drinking out of his big ol' trophy. 

Rachel and Peter talk about being barefoot in Wisconsin and if they would move for the right person. She is licensed to practice in Wisconsin. 

When talking to Eric, we learn that cleaning is a stress reliever for her. He's back on the great side again after last week. 

With Iggy, they talk about the other men. Iggy picks Josiah as the guy he throws under the bus since he pulls himself away from the others. Iggy justifies it by saying he is protective of her. 

When he gets back with the guys, Iggy tells Josiah his name came up in relationship to tension in the house. Last week it was Eric, this week it's Josiah. More mouthing ensues. 

Then, Lee does some throwing under the bus in his time with Rachel. He doesn't like Kenny. He is just a trouble maker, pure and simple. 

The guys are sitting around later talking about the rose that is up for grabs. Kenny and Rachel talk away from the rest of the men. Kenny is speaking in verse again. He verbally lays it on thick. She brings up what is bothering her. She brings up hearing him yelling with Lee. She said not only did she hear it, she talked with Lee to fill in blanks. Kenny has to defend himself. Rachel isn't as laid back with Kenny as she was with Lee. Lee has her convinced he is correct. Kenny doesn't have a chance to not come off bad which is unfortunate. Kenny says that was not how he usually is. Bryan takes Rachel away and leaves Kenny on the bench thinking about how Rachel's body language said she was taking Lee's side.

Meanwhile, Lee is being a jerk with some guys in the bar. 

Kenny comes back in and asks to talk to Lee. He takes him outside. All the guys know something is about to go down. Iggy is going to stay out of it until punches are thrown. 

TO BE CONTINUED...

Monday and Tuesday night episodes, and the problem with that, I'm on a business trip. However, there's a good chance I will just blog from the hotel. Sigh.

As a final note, you know I never liked Corinne from last season, but I wouldn't wish anything bad on her. What they are saying happened on the set of Bachelor in Paradise was terrible. I hope they revamp the show if they bring it back so there is not such a flow of alcohol, and therefore, less chance of bad behavior. That show needs to be cleaned up. 

With that said, I am relieved I won't be able to convince myself to blog on it this summer. Thank goodness for that.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Sing and Be Happy

Today, I got the kids to sing, but there was refusal to sing if I got my phone out, so here is another repeat video from three years ago. We sang the same song and had similar chorus issues.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Some people are flakey

Since I had been purging my closets, etc., we had a garage sale this weekend. For whatever reason, it kind of flopped. Usually there are more people at garage sales in this town, so I don't know what happened. That's really not the point of the post though.

In order to get people there, I posted some pictures in the buy/sale/trade groups on Facebook. I do this with our craft items and sometimes get customers out of the deal. Other times people from a nearby town have me make stuff, then flake on me. 

The problem I have had today, and in the past, is people ask about items, say they want them, and then make no effort to come get them. I clearly posted we were having a garage sale, no one bothered to notice it said, "Saturday," and asked about Sunday. No one around here does Sunday garage sales. 

I had numerous people ask about a set of tables. I gave prices. One guy said he would message when he got off work. Nothing. Stop being flakey! 

Don't ask unless you are serious. It just wastes everyone's time and annoys the seller. 

One woman wanted a set of palm tree hat boxes I had. There were 5 sizes for $10. She wanted me to meet her in the next town up the road. It's a quick trip, but my time was worth more than that, not to mention the gas to get up there. I'm not meeting you somewhere for a $10 item. I don't need to sell it that bad. She would probably flake on me too once I got up there. Just like that woman who flaked on my parents after they spent an hour at Walmart waiting on someone. (She was from the same town as the people I refer to above.)

There's some things I put in the sale just to have more room. Well, guess what. I have to make room to bring them back home because I would rather keep them than just give the stuff away. So much for that!

Friday, June 16, 2017

When asking questions doesn’t work

Part 2 of an interview with Randy Newman,
Author of Questioning Evangelism


Sometimes the best answer is a question. It's the way Jesus often talked with people as He led them into discussions about the issues that mattered most. In Questioning Evangelism: Engaging People’s Hearts the Way Jesus Did (Second Edition) (Kregel Publications), author Randy Newman provides practical insights to help Christians engage others in meaningful spiritual conversations. Asking questions, Newman suggests, doesn't tell unbelievers what to think but instead challenges how we think about people, their questions, and our message.

Q: The title of your book by itself may have people wondering if you have doubts about the need of telling others about Jesus, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Tell us a little bit about Questioning Evangelism.

It could seem I’m doubting whether we need to evangelize, but I’m not. I am questioning the way we have been doing evangelism for the past 50 years or so. Our world has changed so dramatically that we need new methods to proclaim the timeless message of the gospel. Our message hasn’t changed, but our methods must change. Just thinking about how Jesus spoke to different people in different ways makes me want to find ways to adapt my approaches to different people. Asking questions can be a good starting point for interacting with a wide range of individuals.

Q: Sometimes discussions about Christianity start as conversations that don’t seem directly tied to faith. What are some of the other topics you explore in Questioning Evangelism?

I think we can get to discussions of faith from a wide range of starting points. If people want to talk about events in the world that point to something supernatural, we can explore those with them. In fact, the word “explore” is a good one for how we might move from any topic to God, the afterlife, moral issues or what people value most. I think being a good listener can move many conversations from idle or shallow chit-chat to discussions of everlasting value. Things can happen in the course of a conversation that can’t happen just by conveying information or handing someone a booklet to read.

Q: What are the most common excuses Christians use for not sharing their faith?

Fear is probably the biggest obstacle, and I don’t think it’s just an excuse. It’s a real problem that can’t simply be overcome by pushing aside excuses. We need gospel transformation inside us, the ones doing the evangelizing, so we care more about God’s glory than about what people think of us. This is not as simple or automatic as we sometimes say it is. Another obstacle is feeling unprepared. We’re concerned people might ask us a question we haven’t researched enough to prepare an answer. We do need to do some preparation, but we also need to rely on God as He works alongside us as we proclaim the good news.

Q: There has always been opposition to proclaiming the Gospel, but in what ways is it more challenging for Christians to share their faith in today’s world?

In the past, I think, most of the objections were intellectual. People posed content-driven questions such as, “What evidence is there for the existence of God?” or “Doesn’t the Bible contradict itself?” Today the questions are more emotionally-driven, and a fair amount of animosity is behind the objections. People attack more than ask. The questioning accusations may include, “How can Christians be so intolerant in our diverse world?” or “Why are you the only ones who are still homophobic?”

Q: What are the three skills required for any evangelistic approach? What are some ways to help build those skills?

The first and most basic skill involves declaring the gospel, including the ability to articulate the message of salvation clearly and concisely. A tool such as Bill Bright’s “The Four Spiritual Laws” is helpful in presenting the message clearly while avoiding unnecessary distractions or confusing rabbit trails. Declaring the gospel also includes the sharing of one’s own story or testimony. Each Christian needs fluency in articulating how the Lord changed his or her life and the difference that change makes daily.

The second evangelistic skill is defending the gospel. Anticipating common questions, acquainting oneself with helpful discoveries from the past and planning how to deliver this information in a logical sequence has to be part of “always being ready to make a defense” (1 Peter 3:15 NASB).

The third skill — and this is where Questioning Evangelism fits in — is built upon the foundations of declaring and defending the gospel. That skill is called dialoguing the gospel. Often neglected, difficult to master, but absolutely essential, this skill of giving and taking — asking questions and bouncing ideas back and forth — might be just what our postmodern audience needs. We need all three skills if we’re to be Christ’s ambassadors in the 21st century.

Building any of these skills simply involves practice, which in turns builds confidence. I don’t want people to respond to my examples by saying, “I’ve got to memorize this so the next time someone asks me that question, I’ll say these words, use these phrases, ask these questions,” and so forth. Instead I hope readers will develop a different way of thinking about people, their questions and our message. Because of that difference, our evangelistic conversations will sound less content/persuasion-driven and more relationship/understanding-driven.

Q: What encouragement do you offer to someone who doesn’t believe he or she has the skills and knowledge to carry on an evangelistic conversation?

A concise two-part answer is: 1) None of us are adequate, and 2) we’re not in the process alone. A more elaborate answer would be we can improve with practice and trust God is at work in and through us in ways we can’t even imagine. When we begin an evangelistic conversation we should ask God for wisdom about what to say and how to say it, but we should also ask Him to work so that, even if we say really foolish, wrong or inaccurate things, He can work in spite of our less-than-stellar efforts.


Learn more about Questioning Evangelism at www.connectionpoints.us. Randy Newman is also on Twitter (@RandyDNewman).  

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Israel—God’s Heart

Reflective narrative with scripture pairs with the beauty of Israel from above in Ron Gafni and Kathleen Barrett’s Israel—God’s Heart. Soar across the skies of beautiful Israel and visit contemporary and historic sites beckoning visitors to stay and explore. As you sweep over ancient ruins, fly high in hot air balloons, and view vignettes of Israel’s modern lifestyles, Holy scripture will also come alive.



{MORE ABOUT ISRAEL—GOD’S HEART}


(Skypics Israel, November 2016)
Soar across the skies of beautiful Israel and visit contemporary and historic sites beckoning visitors to stay and explore.
The beauty of Israel from above is captured by top aerial photographer Ron Gafni.  As you sweep over ancient ruins, fly high in hot air balloons, and view vignette’s of Israel’s modern lifestyles, Holy scripture will also come alive. Author Kathleen Barrett offers reflective narrative with scripture pointing to God’s redemption plan for the world.

Ron Gafni & Kathleen Barrett

{MORE ABOUT RON GAFNI & KATHLEEN BARRETT}


Ron Gafni works as a professional aerial photographer after spending more than a decade in Israel’s High-Tech Industry. He brings his vast experience and personal perspective through the lens of a proud Israeli citizen. His work has been featured in National Geographic, and his company, Skypics.co.il, provides books from its “Israel From Above” collection to the Israeli government, Army and Air Force, as well as to large corporations in Israel. 

Find out more about Ron Gafni at http://skypics.co.il.

Kathleen Barrett, a south Florida resident and former teacher is a student of the Word. She shares her thoughtful point of view in Israel-God’s Heart from a personal, 40 year walk of Christian faith and study. In 2002, she authored a children’s devotional. Before that and since then, she has published numerous articles from mission’s outreach to local political events. Her more personal and reflective work has been featured in a number of collections.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Mizrahi highlights how the bicycle paved the way for women’s rights

Part 1 of an interview with Mike H. Mizrahi,
Author of The Great Chattanooga Bicycle Race


We live in a world where a device on our wrist can detect our every step and vital sign while our phones pop up with notifications telling us where we are, in case we did not already know. Too easily we take for granted the great inventions of the past that drastically changed the world at the time they were introduced. Take the bicycle, for example. In his debut novel, The Great Chattanooga Bicycle Race (Redemption Press), author Mike H. Mizrahi tells the story of a woman who creates waves by not only riding a bicycle, but doing so in bloomers. A woman riding a bicycle in pants seems trivial to us now, but at the turn of the 20th century, it was a very big deal and played a part in the advancement of women’s rights.


Q: In a few sentences, tell us about The Great Chattanooga Bicycle Race.

It’s 1895, and the new “safety” bicycle is taking the nation by storm. Young Anna Gaines has fallen in love with the sport and is intrigued by what the women in the North are wearing to ride: bloomers. But Chattanooga, the gateway to the South, and Anna’s own mama are not about to sit idly by while she unleashes such scandalous behavior upon their city. Socialite Bertha Millwood, haunted by the tragic death of her own daughter, leads a community revolt. Anna rides in spite of her own self-doubt and lack of confidence, born of a tragic childhood injury, and she battles against the roadblocks that Bertha and others put up to derail her. In the end, Anna must race the president of the Cycle Club while the citizens watch to decide if women should share the same right as men to ride a bicycle in Chattanooga. However Peter Sawyer, the club president, is beside himself; he’s in love with Anna!

Q: Some of us may laugh about the standards of modesty during that time period and think a woman wearing bloomers isn’t very scandalous, but it was a big deal to Anna. Today some Christian women still struggle with defending their standards of modesty. How can all of us respect the personal standards and values of others better?

Dress standards shift, even within churches, and have throughout time. The lines of modesty and indecency are often blurred in the eyes of the beholder. For example, Anna opts eventually to wear bloomers when riding because of practicality and safety reasons, not to be provocative. Skirts often became entangled in the bicycle chain and caused women to tumble. Today even a modest American woman might look askance at a Muslim woman who wears a burka or a man who wears a turban. Clothing in ancient times was vastly different than modern-day fashions. I believe the biblical admonition calls us to dress modestly and in good taste, in accordance with the standards of the day and in the society in which we live. In the 21st century, withholding judgment of others should be the guiding principle for us all.

Q: Was the book based on a true story? Was there a reason why you set the book in the south, specifically Chattanooga, Tennessee?

As I researched the amazing impact the bicycle had on the American social fabric, I noticed one region was slow in accepting female cyclists: the South. Women wearing bloomers was a non-starter. In September 1895, the L.A. Herald proclaimed, “. . . in almost every southern newspaper the appearance of a pair of bloomers is treated almost as would be the coming ashore of the sea serpent.” After the War Between the States, Chattanooga was the “gateway to the South.” Shipping via the Tennessee River and several different rail lines through the city connected the industrialized North to the struggling South and created a magnificent business hub within the city. A shift in Southern social norms involving the bicycle might well have started there and spread to other cities. So I chose Chattanooga — a different kind of southern city after the war.

Q: How did the invention of the bicycle pave the way for women’s rights in this country?

Putting social mores aside, the construction of early bicycles made it difficult for ladies to ride. The first real bicycle, the Draisienne, hit America’s shores around 1818. Made almost entirely of wood, the rider propelled himself forward by alternately pushing his feet against the ground. Fast-forward to the “Bone Shaker,” or the Velocipede, with a pedal on an enlarged front wheel. In 1870, the “Penny Farthing” was introduced, the bike with the huge front wheel and pedal and a much smaller rear wheel. While women experimented with these contraptions, it was the invention of the “Safety Bicycle” in the ‘80s that launched a revolution. This forerunner to the bicycle of today was chain-driven, with same-sized wheels, pneumatic tires and brakes. Manufacturers produced bikes with drop-down frames to accommodate the women better, and soon off they rode by the millions. Women were no longer confined to the farm, city and church. They were unshackled.

Q: In what ways did the popularity of the bicycle change the social and economic fabric of society in 1890s America?

The bicycle created a new mobility for women, which led to increased independence. To accommodate women riders, clothing manufacturers created new streamlined dresses and skirts that fell to the ankles — a more stylish alternative to the traditional hooped dress. Female riders increasingly abandoned the tight corset and took to wearing more comfortable apparel, such as bloomers. The “Gibson Girl” emerged in newspaper and magazine advertisements — the artistic creation of a thousand women featured tall and slender lines, ample hips and buttocks, youthful features and ephemeral beauty. The “New Woman,” the feminist ideal, rode into the 20th century on a bicycle — all the way to the Nineteenth Amendment of the Constitution.

To keep up with Mike H. Mizrahi, visit www.mikehmizrahi.com. You can also follow him on Facebook (AuthorMikeMizrahi) and Twitter (@MikeHMiz).



Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Her name was Trixie


Tonight was my night to teach about dinosaurs. I was told I did well even though I felt like I was talking in circles. Teaching the same class three times, I really feel like I'm going round and round.

One of my favorite moments of the night was when I told the 3rd - 5th grade group that I would take their picture in front of the dinosaur if they did not touch it. (I was afraid of it falling apart.) Did they know what would happen to them if they touched it? All of the regulars, in unison, answered, "We'll get thumped!"

There were adults in the room at the time, and they probably were wondering where on earth that came from. But the kids knew! They know I love them.


Before we disassembled the dinosaur, Rachel decided it needed a name and so she was named Trixie.


I got two out of three group pictures. I love the duck face here.


One of our elders had to get in on the action too!