Saturday, April 27, 2019

Adding Value

I want to offer you an idea that can make you the most important person in the life of another.  This idea is one that will also cost you little or no effort; absolutely NO money; will not deplete your resources in any way.


Decide to become a person who Adds Value to everyone you encounter.

Adding Value to the life of another demonstrates several things:

  • You have enough self confidence to build up another.  (Self-focused people seldom feel confident.  They are always reaching out for a hand of affirmation instead of being able to offer one.)
  • You have battled the foe of "comparison thinking" and have won.  (We are all better together than we are alone.  Comparing ourselves to another is a waste of time and energy.  Develop team thinking and watch amazing ideas blossom.)
  • You are able to look beyond rough edges to see the potential in another.  (This simple act of calling others forward will impact them for their lifetime.  Remind them their past does not dictate their future.  Speak Life!)
  • You are a true leader with a genuine heart for others.  (Self-leadership is tough.  But when we take charge of our own thoughts and life to the point of promoting others, that is the ultimate test of leadership.  Genuine concern for others can become your new driving force.)
Adding value is not a term I've coined.  It is a commonly used term in the writings and speaking of famed leadership guru, John Maxwell.  (There.  I've given him credit.  He is also famous for saying some of his best ideas have come from other people.)

Maxwell tells a story of his aging father who himself was a popular speaker, pastor and coach for many years.  Rev. Maxwell had an episode with his health recently that left him with pronounced physical limitations.  John, his son, was concerned about his father's emotional state knowing this was a drastic change to navigate.  He went to visit his father as quickly as possible.

When he stepped into his dad's room, John had to wait a moment because Rev. Maxwell was talking on his cell phone.  It was apparent he was concluding a prayer for the other person.  After bidding them a fond farewell, the senior Maxwell raised the phone to his son.  

With a strong voice he declared, "John, I'm experiencing my most fruitful season of ministry!  I'm able to call and pray for anyone, anywhere in the world when the Lord brings them to my mind.  Isn't that WONDERFUL?!"

Now here are the facts about Rev. Maxwell:
  • He was no longer able to move around freely.
  • He had become dependent on others for care.
  • He struggled with limited energy.
  • He had opportunity/cause to be frustrated, disappointed and even bitter.
  • He chose to look beyond his "limitations" and find another way to help others. 
Now to me, that's the consummate leader!  When you can lead yourself through such a tough transition and still expect yourself to Add Value to others, you are the real deal!

I'm often surprised by the verbal tirades people throw around.  They sound extremely passionate and can even whip crowds into a frenzy with their words.  But when you take time to dissect their message, it comes back to being a call to action that will benefit the one speaking, not those listening.

Perhaps we would all do well to accept the challenge put to us through the example of Rev. Melvin Maxwell.  Intentionally shift the focus from ourselves and what we want or need.  Look instead at those around us.  

Slow down and take a good long look at what they may be needing.  Do you have the cloak of encouragement packed away in the trunk of your own life experience that can shelter them from the storm they're navigating?  What good is it doing safely packed away in your trunk?  Break it out.  Lavishly share what they most need - a word of HOPE.  

"I was where you are now.  You are making much better choices than I did at that time.  You're going to make it; I can see you have the courage to keep making good choices and to move yourself forward."

Perhaps they'll ask about your experience and perhaps they won't.  Regardless, they will leave the conversation feeling more hopeful; less defeated by life.  Why wouldn't we want to offer that to a fellow sojourner?  

Well, that's my idea for today.  Hope it's an encouragement to you.  Be the one who Adds Value.  I can promise you this, choosing this level of generosity will not be forgotten and it Will come back to you in double doses of JOY!

Have you experienced this first-hand?  We'd love to read your story in the comment section below.  Blessings!

Friday, April 19, 2019

Brand New Old

I think we may have started a brand new OLD tradition today.

Confusing?  Trust me, it was a bit confusing for us too.

Meagan had an abbreviated photo shoot to do this morning.  She had called earlier in the week to ask if Papa and Noni would like some bonding time with the Smith children?  We said, "Certainly!"  That's when I went to work pondering what our entertainment would be.

Taking them out for breakfast where a playground is involved makes the littles happy but it's Easter week.  I wanted something a bit more meaningful.  After checking with Papa (I don't attempt these things alone, friends!) we put a plan in place.

I bought Easter egg dye, some Jell-o, cake mix, coconut and other necessary items.  We contacted the Schreck tribe and moved forward in creating a memory.

The Smiths arrived around 9:30.  Papa and Noni were sitting on "Ready."  (Seems my brain was eager to get the day started and woke my body at 4:30 AM.  Sigh! One can do a LOT of getting ready in five hours.)

We had eggs and dye ready to roll.  Please bear in mind, all this was completely new to our super blond babies.  They were entranced by each step of the process.

We put eight eggs on to boil then started the Jell-o.  Yes, I do have an Easter mold of bright pink plastic.  "Happy Easter" is the top banner.  I store the mold right next to my personal set of Resurrection Eggs which are dispersed among all the children at our Easter meal.

Have I mentioned Christmas (which I love) takes a back seat to EASTER celebrating, in my heart?

While the Smiths stood side-by-side stirring the Jell-o, we talked about how things can change.  The Jell-o was a powder when we started, now it's liquid.  When it sits in the refrigerator the right amount of time, it will change again.  It will get all jiggley.

"God can change anything in our lives that He needs to, can't He?" Noni was fishing.

Noah took the bait, "Just like the Jell-o!  Right, Noni?"

Have I also mentioned these kids are brilliant?!

They watched wide-eyed as we poured the Jell-o into the mold. Leftovers went into parfait glasses for taste-testing later.  There was a bit of arguing and jostling to see who would open the refrigerator door.  Thank heaven I have two doors on my refrigerator and I quickly declared they each could open one.  Whew!

(In case you're wondering what Grayson was doing during all this excitement, he was with Papa.  A bottle was given and a nap started.  Hallelujah!)

Papa had a table set up in the garage for the egg dyeing portion of the morning.  We used a crayon to carefully identify each egg.  I wish you could have heard the squeals and seen the delight when the first colored egg was pulled out of the water.

"How did you DO that, Papa?" The process elevated him to the level of magician in their bright blue eyes.

"It's not hard when you know what you're doing." Frank answered.We talked about how God knows just what He is doing in each of our lives.  He loves us so much!

Their parents have done a great job making the true story of Easter understandable and personal.  Noah explained the cross sticker he was putting on his colored egg.  "That's where Jesus died to take away our sins, Noni."

Madi wasn't to be left out.  She made clear that the birdie sticker she was using could sing for Jesus, too.  Not bad for 3 1/2.

We listened and laughed and loved watching them discover this brand new process.  The same old process Noni and Papa used over 50 years ago with our own Easter eggs.  Then again about 25 years ago with our own children's eggs.

Smiths headed home and the Schrecks arrived around 11:30.  After peanut butter sandwiches, the fun started all over again.  One of their eggs cracked while boiling but took the dye just the same.  We talked about how important it is to remember that even when we make mistakes and things look messed up, God can still make something beautiful if we let Him.

The Schreck babies aren't known for moving slowly.  We had to explain this egg dyeing takes a long time.  It's a process you can't rush.  Abby started pacing herself by singing "Have patience!  Have patience!  Don't be in such a hurry...." 

Spencer and Zach were also quick to catch the illustration of the Jell-o changing from one thing to another.  They watched closely as Papa took the first round out of the mold.  "Look, Noni!  It's been three different things.  You would think that wasn't possible."

I jumped on that one, "Just like people thought it would be impossible for Jesus to rise from the dead.  But He did, didn't He?"

Zach responded first with huge eyes, "Jez came out tomb!  BOOM!"  (Being interpreted, "Jesus came out of the tomb with a loud Boom.")

The Schreck parents have also talked with all their children about the wonder of Easter and the hope it brings for each of us.  Thankful is a word they all understand with this season.

(Some of you may be wondering about Ava, the youngest.  We decided to wait and have her join us next year.  She enjoyed one on one time with Mom and Dad. )

Abby stayed after the boys went home and helped Noni bake a carrot cake.  She was thrilled when we used green food coloring on the coconut to make a "grass" topping for our basket cake.  Malted milk eggs crowned the basket and pictures showed her delight.

I'm now exhausted.  There are more traditions to come.  Family sunrise service.  Spoken blessings.  Breakfast of egg casserole and Pillsbury orange rolls.  (Keep it simple is my motto.)  An egg hunt in two rounds, younger and older.  Then Easter Sunday with all our church family.

Hopefully, you will share this sacred time with someone you love and appreciate.  If family is far away, remember that the One who came out of the tomb with a loud BOOM is as close as your whispered prayer.

Blessings for Your Easter!

We'd love to hear about your favorite Easter/Passover traditions.   Your celebration may spark an idea for someone else.  Stop by the comment box, won't you? 

Monday, April 8, 2019

A Ministry Journey

Last week I was asked to record my personal story of becoming an ordained minister.  A friend is compiling stories to be included in a book which will be presented to other female ordination candidates this spring.  

It was good for me to look back at some of the steps that led me to becoming a woman in full-time ministry.  I realized today, some of you might find a word of encouragement in the story as well.  So here it is.  Hope you enjoy!

“Quick, Sheri!  We need someone to cover the junior girls’ class. Come with me.”  My dad was motioning to me from the doorway of my own Sunday school class.  I followed him down the hall and stepped into my destiny.

I was only fifteen when I later became the official teacher for the six, seven and eight-year-old girls’ group.  It was a position I filled until I left home for college. The joy I felt each week as they caught a concept or heard a Bible story for the first time was beyond description.  The girls especially loved hearing the stories and I truly loved telling them.

Years later, it was my husband who affirmed that story-telling was a gift in my life and I needed to use it in a larger way to express God’s Truth. Devotions, Sunday school lessons and women’s events were my major outlet.  Faithfulness then was a key building block for ministry in subsequent years.

A dear friend named Sandra Bass became state women’s director for North Carolina during our years of ministry there.  Sandra, an ordained minister, had served as a missionary to Latin America when there weren’t many single women in such a role. Her sermons were always full of Latin fire and a challenge that drew everyone to the altar.  I watched and learned.

 Sandra brought me onto her executive team and soon began cultivating the ministry gifts she saw in her younger protégé.  She absolutely loved pushing other people forward.

“Sheri, that was a powerful devotion. I want you to share it at our next leadership event.” 
“Here’s a great new book.  Develop a workshop for our team.” 
“I can’t make this retreat but I told them to call you, Sheri.  Say Yes!  You can do it.”

Many books on leadership urge us to always look forward; focusing on our vision and future.  While I understand that concept, I’m so thankful Sandra looked back and saw someone longing to learn from her example.  She took the time needed and became a true mentor in my life. 

I’m not sure what restaurant we were in when Sandra said, “Sheri, you are a great preacher!”  I remember being shocked she used the word preacher and I responded, “I’m a teacher; not a preacher.”  She and my husband both began laughing at me.  “Honey, accept it,” he said.  “You’re a preacher.”  That’s when the idea of being licensed for ministry first came up.

The only ordained women I knew (besides my friend) were a bit “other worldly” or their sermons sounded like they could easily be given by a man.  I didn’t want to be lumped into either category.  But slowly, gently God began opening my heart.

The Holy Spirit showed me how His call had been on my life from my teen years.  I had developed a deep love for His word and for sharing its truth.  Scripture became the stabilizing factor for me.  My life may not have made sense sometimes but His Words to me were always steady.  Growing up in a pastor’s home was, for me, just like living in a fishbowl.  My personal relationship with Christ gave me hope for better days ahead.

My husband continued urging me to pursue the licensing process.  He also created opportunities for me to preach.  The next leap came when we moved into evangelistic work.  It was determined that every time we spoke for a church with Sunday night services, he would preach the morning and I would preach the evening.   It was a big stretch but I jumped in with both feet.

When I finally became a licensed minister, our entire family celebrated! However, I continued resisting the idea of ordination until God allowed me to be in a spot that made it clear - I was missing His plan.

After preaching the Mother’s Day sermon for a church in another city, one of the members approached me.  He was a state senator and also served as director of chapel services for the NC Senate.  “I understand you and your husband are both ministers,” he said. “Would you be interested in bringing devotions for our chapel?  Chapel speakers also pray over the opening of the session.” 

Of Course!  We would be honored.  I expressed our appreciation for such an invitation and got to Frank with the exciting news as quickly as possible. 

Our assigned days finally arrived.  We had determined I would speak the first day so I stepped to the podium wearing my best blue suit, a lovely white blouse and navy heels.  My message was sincere and I made sure to stay within my allotted time.  Several of the senators stopped  to greet me; thanking me for the word of encouragement.  

The assistant of our host stepped up beside me and whispered, “What year were you ordained?  I need that for our records.”  I responded in my customary way.  “Oh, heavens!  I’m not ordained.  I just enjoy preaching and teaching the Word.”

“I’m so sorry,” she said.  “Only ordained ministers are allowed to open the Senate in prayer.  Would your husband be willing to do it both days?”  I remember mumbling that he would and watching as she stepped over to Frank.

That door slamming closed was a pivotal moment for me.  I bowed my head and promised God I would no longer make excuses.  I would work with my whole heart to prepare for whatever doors He might open in the future.  Becoming ordained was the first step in fulfilling the promise I made that day.

Ordination was not an easy process; there were even some obstacles to overcome.  But obedience and perseverance always bring great reward.  I am incredibly grateful to be part of an organization that recognizes and affirms God’s call on women. 

I celebrate this moment with you, Dear Candidate!  I pray God’s richest blessings. 

  •       May we all look back to see others who need our encouragement.   
  •        May we be that voice of affirmation.
  •        May we each preach the word in the way God has uniquely gifted us.
  •        May we step up to every challenge presented knowing He is able through us.
  •        May we look to the future with joy and excitement.

God Bless You! 

Monday, April 1, 2019

Spotless Record

Never before and hopefully, never again!

I've been driving a motor vehicle legally since the day I turned 15.  (Yes, that means I've been behind the wheel for over 45 years.)  Some of you noticed I said "legally" and sensed a red flag.  Truth is, I actually started driving on country roads when I was only 13.  I was tall and Mom saw no harm in it.  That's all I have to say about that.

In all those 45+ years of handling an automobile, I've managed to maintain a SPOTLESS driving record.  I've never been the driver in a single accident.  I've never been given a single speeding ticket.  (Although, I was "motioned" over once.  I had slowed to a crawl of 20 MPH going through a little mountain town.  The officer informed me the speed limit was 15 MPH!  Reckless driver that I was, she let me go with a warning.)

I've never been ticketed for running a red light or parking in the wrong spot.  I rarely have to use my horn because I'm a defensive driver; always watching out for the other guy.  My one son will claim I drive faster than I should and that is sometimes true.  But I'm always cautious.

Last Tuesday, however, my spotless record was ruined in a single moment.   There was this dump truck that ran into the side of my little red convertible and the outcome was NOT pleasant.  Wait for it . . .  I was charged with the accident.

My spotless driving record was obliterated and worse yet, had no bearing in the ruling against me.  Yes, I'm still more than just a little bit frustrated with all that happened.  Although, I think I'm safely past the potential for "Bitterness" stage.

Here's what happened -

I had gone to grab lunch for Kristin and myself as it was a spectacularly full day.  While coming out of the driveway of the chicken establishment, I caught the eye of the young man driving the dump truck.  I requested permission to move in front of him until the light should change.  He motioned for me to come out, which I did.

While waiting for the light to change, I contemplated giving my horn a little tap to request that the other truck in front of me move forward enough so I could squeeze in completely.  However, we've already established my reticence to use my horn as horns can be unpleasant.

We waited a rather long time for the light to change.  When it did, I was watching and started moving.  But it appears Bryan, the driver of the dump truck, was distracted by his phone and completely forgot I was in front of him.  The massive truck caught the front left side of my little car and began pushing me forward.

You better believe I laid on my horn then and GOOD!

The dump truck stopped almost immediately but it was too late for my sweet red Solara.   Some of you will already know, Solaras have been out of production for over 11 years.  It wasn't new by any means, but the car Bryan hit was one I very much enjoy driving.

It would now be my advice to you that in any match up between a sports car and a dump truck, you should put your money on the dump truck - Every Time!

Bryan jumped down from his truck asking if I was okay.  He talked rapidly.  Apologized profusely. Explained he had been on the phone with his wife.  They were working through a difficulty.  He just didn't see me.  Was I sure I was I okay?

I was okay and agreed with him that everyone's safety was the most important thing.  In my head, I could hear Frank warning our girls, "If you're ever in an accident, be quiet until the police arrive."  So, knowing I was innocent in this crash, I followed his directive and said little more.

"So, why did the officer give YOU the ticket?" you may be wondering.

Well, it seems Bryan's massive dump truck was equipped with a dash cam.  His camera showed me stopping in the driveway of the chicken establishment.  His camera showed no other traffic coming toward us.  His camera showed me cautiously moving in front of him.  His camera showed my little car being pushed sideways down the road.

Unfortunately, his camera DID NOT show him motioning earlier to the second driver (that would be me) that it was okay to move in front of him.

So, the officer said I was at fault and promptly wrote a ticket for $164.00 with my name and address at the top!  I assured the officer (as well as Frank who had arrived by then) that Bryan had clearly signaled for me to move in front of him.  Bryan did NOT mention to the officer that he had been on his phone.

The officer was courteous but explained (twice) that while I could take the matter, along with my previously spotless driving record to court, Bryan's dash camera would most likely cause the judge to rule against me.  Then I would be responsible for the ticket, my insurance deductible AND court fees.  Sigh.

So that is how I came to be in car line today with an unidentified rental car.  (The principal hesitated letting my grandchildren get in the car until she saw me waving madly.)

While reading back over the post I've written for you, I was struck by how many times I felt compelled to share about my spotless driving history as well as proclaim my innocence.  A phrase from Shakespeare's play Hamlet comes to mind, "The lady doth protest too much, methink."  

And perhaps it applies to my situation.

Perhaps I had allowed a bit of pride to wiggle its way into my heart over that spotless record.  Perhaps I thought my record could protect me.  Perhaps I thought, " would never happen to me!"

Before you ask, the answers are YES:

  • Yes,  I have already stopped to examine my heart and ask for forgiveness over this matter.  
  • Yes, each time I get frustrated about it, I pray for Bryan and his wife. (This is just something Frank and I try to do - I'm still Practicing.)   
  • Yes, some day this will be a hysterical story I use at a conference or in a sermon.  Probably many times. 
  • Yes, I'm rehearsing for myself there can only be one truly Spotless Record.  That's the record of our sins with the precious blood of Jesus applied.
With the Easter season now upon us, perhaps this is a good reminder for us all.  Is your record Spotless?  I certainly hope so.  Blessings!

So there you have it.  The story of my first and hopefully my ONLY car accident.  How about you?  Any other spotless driving records out there?  Formerly spotless?  Anyone else take on a dump truck and lose?  We'd love to read your story in the comment section below.