Monday, April 23, 2007

Identify What Restores You, Then Do It!

DH and I recently spent nine days in the Great Smoky Mountains, a trip that reminded me once again of what truly restores my soul.
It's taken me many years, but I've finally learned that being outdoors in God's Creation is what refreshes me most: woods, streams, lakes, gardens, mountains, hollows, coves, seashores -- as long as it's outdoors and relatively untouched by human hands (and away from the crowds) it will refresh my soul like little else.

For the longest time I thought that because other people were rejuvenated by things like service projects, getting together with friends, extended worship times, inspiring music, journaling, going to conferences, taking workshops, etc., that I had to be, too. And I tried. I really tried.

But those things, though I was better for them, drained me even more.

Then I realized that I needed to listen to how God wired me. And God wired me with a deep appreciation for all things outdoors; He made me so that I need the outdoors.

Not everyone is wired that way, and that's okay.

But I am.

And I'm finally feeling free enough in grace to make time for my "nature fix." I'm listening to the restoration song God has implanted in my heart, and I'm finding my soul restored.

What refreshes you?

It could be, like it is for me, reconnecting with the Great Outdoors. But it could be other things, too:
  • creativity (doing art work or hand work or crafts, cooking, writing)
  • music (listening to music, playing an instrument, participating in corporate worship)

  • relationships (being with people)
  • learning (studying, attending workshops, listening to teaching)

  • helping (serving others)

  • physical activity (swimming, hiking, bowling, kayaking, biking, working out)

  • other people's stories (reading biographies, listening to others)

  • spiritual disciplines (extended time in prayer, meditation, Bible study, worship, etc.)

  • quiet (just turning off the noise of everyday life

  • changing your pace

  • changing your environment

These are just a few; I'm sure you could name others.

The point is this: learn what truly restores you (not what others think should restore you), and then plan time to nurture that part of you. Make time for that which rejuvenates your spirit and encourages your soul.

You (and others, especially those you serve) will be better for it.

'Til next time,

Monday, March 05, 2007

Great Apologetics & Info Site

Wow... another helpful site. Just think of the resources we have today compared to even ten years ago!

For years I've recommend the Christian Research Institute as the place to go for information on apologetics (defense of the faith) and cults.

But as of today, I've found a second site that seems every bit as helpful and as biblically sound (at least from what I've read there so far).

Check out Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (CARM, for short) at (just in case their name-link doesn't work).

It's user-friendly, well organized, and had information on just about every cult or false teaching out there, as well as sound answers for seekers about biblical Christianity. It also has thorough research sections on apologetics and religious movements.

It's worth a look. I hope you find it helpful.

[Disclaimer: I haven't read every page on every topic at this site, so I can't know everything said or cited there. But from what I see so far, CARM is biblically solid).


Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Just a Little Reminder...

Photo: a sparrow on my deck railing, February 26, 20 07

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. [Matthew 10:29-31, NIV]

Photo: a rose from hubby for Valentine's Day, February 14, 2007

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his spendor was dressed like one of these. If this is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will ne not much more clothe you, O you of lilttle faith? So do not worry... [Matthew 6:28-31, NIV]
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Monday, February 26, 2007

Proverbs NOT Found in the Bible

I found this list in A Theological Miscellany: 176 Pages of Odd, Merry, Essentially Inessential Facts, Figures, and Tidbits About Christianity by T. J. McTavish (W Publishing Group, 2005).

It's amazing to me how many of the following sound biblical or are biblically influenced, but are not actually found in Scripture as stated.

So...for your enjoyment and information, here's the fascinating list.

  • Waste not, want not.

  • If the shoe fits, wear it.

  • Practice makes perfect.

  • Time heals all wounds.

  • Once saved, always saved.

  • Money is the root of all evil.

  • Cleanliness is next to godliness.

  • Spare the rod, spoil the child.

  • You can't judge a book by its cover.

  • God said it. I believe it, that settles it.

  • God helps those who help themselves.

  • You can't teach an old dog new tricks.

  • An apple a day keeps the doctor away.

  • Children should be seen and not heard.

  • All good things come to those who wait.

  • If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.

A fun exercise using this list might be to poll your Bible study group members to see how many these proverbs they identify as being in the Bible. My guess is that the average lay person would say at least a third of these are (when, in fact, none are as stated, though some are fragments of or inspired by actual Bible passages).

Enjoy! And have a good week!

'Til next time,


Friday, February 23, 2007

Reasons Behind Disillusionment

I don't usually do this kind of thing, but after stumbling upon these sites, I felt they were too important not to pass on to you.

So...if you care about people who become disillusioned with Christianity, or want to know why some people leave the Church, check out these two web sites:

Letters from Leavers (actually run by two seminary students studying why people leave)


Fair warning: the second site ( is run by non-believers ministering to exChristians. What you read there is real, but not pretty. The first (Letters from Leavers) has posted guidelines, including things like no swearing and not slandering others, so you can find honest replies without too much objectionable content.

Both, however, provide great insight into why people leave church or the faith.

If you're working with or ministering to an embittered soul, these sites might give you a window into how the disillusioned think.

But do pray as you read these sites, lest you give the enemy an opportunity to plant seeds of doubt.

I offer these only as a means to broaden your understanding of the the lost.

'Til next time,

The Right Tools

Some of you may remember that I broke my hand while in Zambia last May. Though I've healed well, and after four months of rehab I regained nearly 100% of my function, I still have trouble with the ring and pinky fingers of that hand.

Holding mugs, in particular, still causes discomfort. That is, unless I'm using the right mug for that hand.

A good friend had the foresight last summer to get me a hand-warmer mug (mine is pictured left) for my birthday. Designed and patented by the folks at Clay in Motion, the mug features a pocket (instead of a handle) into which you can slid your fingers.

Mine (the one pictured) is a left-handed mug (for my injured left hand): I slip the four fingers of my left hand into the pocket on the left, then wrap my thumb around the smooth right side. It warms my hand and fingers enough to loosen the stiffness of my old injury and lessen the pain. It also allows my whole hand to carry the weight of the mug, not just my weakened fingers.

This hand-warmer mug compliments and supports my injury-induced weakness. It allows my hand to function to its fullest mug-holding potential, when other mugs do not.

The same could be said for teaching tools.

We all have areas of weakness (injury-induced or not). It doesn't matter how much (or how little) training we've had, we all possess blind spots and less-than-perfect areas of knowledge, leading skills, or teaching ability. God made us each with areas of strength, but no one person is gifted in every area of gifting. That's why we're in the Body; we need each other.

Sometimes the way we profit from the gifts of the greater Body is through using others' teaching aids and tools: books, illustrations, curricula, lesson plans, study guides, facilitators' guides, visuals--things developed from their strengths and areas of gifting.

What's important, however, is to examine these tools to see if they're the right fit for us. Some will be, but some may not.

Much frustration could be avoided if only we'd realize we had the grace and freedom to adapt other tools to fit our styles and areas of strength. Just because I use a certain tool doesn't mean you have to use it that way, or even that you have to use it all. Some other tool might be better suited to support your area of weakness.

Just as a right-handed hand-warmer mug would have done little for me (or not nearly as much as the left-handed one has for my injured left hand), so an ill-suited tool will do little for you.

The next time you're weighing a supplemental teaching or leading tool, though others may rave about it, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is this tool suited to me?
  • Does it dovetail with my weaknesses to strengthen them?
  • Is it consistent with my theological convictions (or, if not, is it flexible enough for me to still use; can I adapt it)?
  • Does it "fit" me (my style, my strengths, my ability or skill level)?
  • Does it "fit" the group to whom I'm ministering?
  • Would something else (or someone else) better cover this area of weakness?

Don't hesitate to try new things. And remember: it's okay to be uncomfortable.

But also remember not every tool is right for every leader.

Give yourself grace.

'Til next time,


Thursday, February 22, 2007

Helpful OnLine Articles by Yours Truly

I don't know how many of you know I used to write regularly for the Christian periodical market (before I started writing books). Much of what I wrote was targeted to ministry leaders and Bible study teachers.

It just occurred to me that perhaps some of those articles, now archived online, might be of benefit to you, my Teachers' Tips readers.

So here's where you can find some of the tips-for-minstry-leadership articles I've written in the past:

Discipleship Journal (17 articles)

Pray! magazine (4 articles)

Today's Christian Woman (1 article)

That should be enough to get you started. :o) I hope you find something helpful!

'Til next time,

Saturday, February 17, 2007

More Bible Study Resources OnLine

While working on updating my web site and blogs, I've stumbled upon some additional on-line resources I hadn't noticed before.

If you're a Bible study teacher or small group leader, you'll find all kinds of helps at the sites listed below: everything from free PowerPoint slides to lesson plans to Bible book outlines to memorization aids to 3D visual kits you can order for a cost.

Here are the best of the recent ones I've found:

That's enough for now. I'll post more another day, but in the meantime, I hope you find something useful here!

'Til next time,


Monday, February 05, 2007

Great Books for Teachers

Well, it's the start of a new Bible study semester for us, and with the start of each new program, I find myself thinking of ways I can foster growth in teaching skills (my own and those of the teachers with whom I serve).

To that end, here's a list of books I've recommended over the years; they're some of the best I've found targeted specifically to Bible study teachers and leaders.

Filled with practical suggestions and solid theology, these books can't help but be a positive influence whether you've been a teacher for decades or are just starting out.

Here's my top-ten list arranged in alphabetical order (I've included it as a permanent sidebar, too, for future reference):