What Flag are you Waving?

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There I was with an opportunity to speak to roomful of people who would come to hear me share music and stories. It was a really bad time to have a crisis over what I was going to say. I was in the bathroom with 15 minutes left of the “opening act” and I was truly troubled. These were adults, and I did not want to waste their time!! I didn’t want a message too narrow that some might leave and think, “well, Joni, she’s young. Her message was for the young people. Or she’s artistic, that was a message for artistic people. Or she’s a mom, I bet the other moms could relate to her.” I wanted them to leave with something valuable. (These were not strangers, but mostly friends.)

I knew I couldn’t twist God’s arm for last minute wisdom, but I had to ask and pray. What he told me has carried me through many a moment since then.

“Whatever you say, testify of my grace.”

Suddenly, I knew whether I was deeply serious, lighthearted, casual, or funny, none of that was going to matter. What would matter is that the people in the room would hear and see a demonstration of the truth that God is not dealing with them according to what they deserve. Never has, never will. Even though it may look like it, and even though many a sermon has taught them so.

This was the message the lifted me out of physical and mental ruin in my early 20s.

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Just when you thought the E-Mail List was DEAD!

Many of us got started  in the days before MySpace, before Facebook, before YouTube!!!!! WHAT??! Yes. It was the era of the e-mail list.

But I haven’t known what to do with my old email lists…for years!  I’m not the same as I used to be…. and … who wants an email from something they didn’t originally “sign up” for.

And nowadays, people don’t even email each other, really, right? They “facebook” (verb, transitive); they text; they avoid and bail–yes, that, too.

But I’ve been harshly awakened to the value of those lists, in the past few years, however. Stay with me if this seems too blunt at first.  (I’ll get tender.)

{My examples involve music…but this can be applied to whatever service or idea or ministry you have.}

Suddenly a TERRIBLE THING BEGAN TO HAPPEN to me ….as a “FAN.” A REAL FAN, a get-in-your-face-and-give-you-a-private-pep-rally-fan. I began finding out that some of my friends of whom I had been fans for years were releasing albums that I didn’t even know about. Like…. uh… I’m on your mailing list. I am your “friend” on facebook…. oh, are you  on instagram?   But… like HOW IN THE HE&& DID I NOT KNOW YOUR ALBUM CAME OUT!? Old friends and new friends alike.  Big and small potatoes.

I swear this happened to me like six times in a 2 year span.

Oh, because it scrolled past my facebook feed while I was loading the dishwasher one day? And you thought I'd be going to your fan page every week for 2 years to check to see if you "had anything going on?

It literally broke my heart. Over. And Over.

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Whatever it takes to stop you…will.

When Zach and I set out to play at the coffee house across from Texas Tech–we had no idea what we were doing.  We had no idea what the context was…nor what the future held. We only knew that we had to play at the little shin dig on the corner. We had to start with the $5 in our pocket.  Just about literally.

We had Friday nights from 8-10.

It was just a few times in, right when we were starting to feel our groove, that something very interesting began to happen.

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Whatever Gift You Have

I’m big on sharing our gifts with other people. I don’t think it’s an idea born of arrogance– it’s the way personalities and strengths were spread out by design.  If and since we need each other, we can’t get stuck thinking we’re all alone.  If “no one is helping me,” I can at least get out of my rut in knowing that someone else needs me.

But I find most people off on tangents all around this simple circle.  If everyone shares with others the gift they have, everyone is enriched and encouraged and spurred on. People get off the point when:

(1) They assume they have no talent–or they assume that since other people have overlooked them, they have no talent.  That’s the point, however! They won’t know until you begin to give! Each person must individually decide in himself to GIVE of himself to others. (“Here, let me help. Has anyone ever showed you? Hey, let me see if this will help. Hey, have you tried it this way.”) By waiting for others to affirm you or invite you, you will never learn. The day you are asked, you will not be ready.  In fact, you won’t be asked until you have proven through your volunteering that you are reliable.  It is life’s natural apprenticeship.  It is the practice before the game.

I remember playing songs for my friends for YEARS…and I would tell them not to look at me. I could barely get myself to do it. But I couldn’t deny the fact that I had just written a song. And what was I going to do with it…(except play it for my best friends?)

(2) They assume their talent is the only one. In using their gift, they are simply imposing their strengths on others, lording it over them, blindly trying to get others to become like them. Naturally, they are fulfilling the design of creation in wanting to “strengthen others” in that area of life, but they encircle them with manipulations which feed their ego, to create their own circle in which they are king.  Desperate for an identity that is secure and unchanging, they find their identity in their gift/strength.  They are really feeding their own identity by getting others to believe that this gift is the measure of worth in life. If others don’t “buy in,” their self-worth is at risk because they are banking on the wrong thing. Their manipulations become desperate then to maintain the circle.  They are trying to get everyone to become like them.  And people fall for that stuff!

(3) They know they have a talent, but they think it’s too much effort to offer it to others.  They have never caught a vision of just how fascinating it is that they have a talent that others need. Other people are WOWed by them, but they’re so tired from their 40 hour work week or their 40 years of work before retirement, that they just want a BREAK.  They are missing out on the huge blessing of seeing someone else’s lights come on in admiration and thankfulness.  It’s truly a blessing to bless someone. It affirms to the core that who you are is good (god-created), that your talents are God-given.

Giving to someone else is an act of grace–something they can’t earn.  And when you let your gift simply be what it is, a gift, then everyone wins.

The first time this verse* ever hit me, strangely, was in the context of a children’s book…. Veggie Tales of all things! (I don’t particularly love the series.)

Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. 1 Peter 4:10

It’s a free gift to others JUST TO BE AROUND YOU.

Because no one is like you.

I see that. I’ve lived that. I believe that.  And how much more if you freely offer the thoughts in your mind, the trick of your hands, the strength of your muscles, the math in your brain, the couch in your living room.

Use whatever gift you have to build your friends and family up. Then your neighbors. From there your confidence will grow. And who you are will fully bloom.

THEN, (and only then) you might actually find the resounding, “Yeah, they are really good at that.”

Why I finally embraced Facebook

I originally titled this, “Facebook woes and 3 metaphors which settled me”…and what a lame title… but that gives you the gist here.

In five years it’ll be something else. Right now, it’s Facebook. It’s where people are…

When Charles Dickens wrote Great Expectations, the only publishing option he had was a magazine-like publication that wanted to publish episode-like installments. Dickens didn’t want to do it, but he wanted his writing to reach the masses. What he wrote ended up being put together as the novel masterpiece he had always hoped for and became an American classic. It was where the people were reading.

Those lofty thoughts just aren’t on at the forefront when you’re making seemingly silly decisions of whether or not to blast personal things or deep thoughts on facebook. We get distracted by all the side-conversations regarding a social forum.

For me, I essentially did with Facebook what I did with clothes: while criticizing how others found/put their identity in Facebook, I was establishing my identity in the fact that I did not. External tools/actions with those tools mean nothing –they neither add nor remove my value. I can simply use or not use them.

My relationship with Facebook changed when I began to see it like a PTA meeting.

PTA meetings have always seemed dorky and pointless to me–like a bunch of self-important parents spouting off ideas that no one will ever implement. Yet, now that I have become a parent, I might want to voice my opinion, in the case that there be a shred of significance at work. It’s my kid we’re talking about. Suddenly, I care!

Now, in my first few meetings, I might sit back and watch and learn how this works. And if I speak, I will find my voice a little strange to me, because I’m hitting a new target (talking to a new audience.) But naturally, over time, I’d become more comfortable about HOW to talk to THESE people in THIS setting.

It is neither right nor wrong, good nor bad; I can take it or leave it. But in the end, if I’m willing to give myself a voice-finding learning curve, I will settle in to bring myself in this quirky forum.

So forget the notions of, “I don’t want to come off as…..” or “I just don’t want people to think I’m….”

Just join the conversation or don’t. In your very own voice with your very own ideas, for your very own reasons. And after a few awkward moments with yourself, you’ll finally hear your voice as is sounds in this quirky forum. And you’ll find someone is listening.

For myself, I saw over time that the natural way I was made comes out on Facebook. It is what it is. I don’t care what people think about it; I am being myself. The rooftop shouter in me gets on there and blasts my nut-bombs. It’s all I know how to do, and I’d be doing it whether it was on Facebook or not. It’s the thing I have to give. Call it exhortation….call it flag-waving….call it lame..whatever!

The people I think about and care about are scrolling facebook. And so I meet them there.

If you are off of it, you are free to be off–just don’t find your identity in being on or off. Be yourself wherever you are, and if it’s Facebook, “set [your[ face like flint and know that [you] will not be put to shame.” Isaiah 50:7

Reach out, respond, engage, by all means have boundaries, enjoy, be fruitful.

If nothing else, let your focus be: I only tell you what I have seen and heard! 1 John 1:3

Somebody will listen to you who won’t listen to anything else. What an honor to be speaking then.

READ MORE {Ministry out of Molehills} posts

Stop Talking About it and Do it

Many times in my life I’ve looked up and found my life a little empty, a little wordy-heavy, thought-heavy without much relationship growth or interaction to show for it.   It seems like I end up thinking, “Well, I know what doing nothing feels like. Now, I have nothing to lose in doing something.” It’s how I started doing music in coffeehouses, how I started helping other people publish, and, come to think of it,  how I fall into most conversations with people.  I know what it feels like to say nothing, do nothing and come up empty.

I helped my dad establish his cross making ministry on the web. He designed a logo; I just put the pieces together.  I have done the same thing for several of my friends’ parents.  Because I have a relationship with them, they are willing to let me help them fulfill their goals and dreams online–big and small.

Tonight I spent a few hours with a friend’s parents who are building two websites of pictures and stories of their rock band days, making old songs available online as free downloads, etc.  To me, it’s a few hours and a few logins, a few uploads. To them, it is part of their lifetime dream realized.

minton sr manila

He brought everything in two manila folders–all the pictures scanned, all the songs moved from tape to digital format, all the text written.  This bad boy is ready to put up in a one-stop-shop.  When I showed him the drafts I had made, he fell in love. A big weight off my shoulders (mostly because I don’t want to revise.) It fulfills me to no end to know that a few clicks on a computer for me can mean so much to someone else.  I know the thrill of putting my hand to the works in my heart.  I know the thrill of moving forward.

And I’ve learned find the thrill in saying,”I take care of three children all day long.  I hope your deadline is far far far away.”

And of making a little money. 😉

I think my point is this: nobody is the best at anything. All you have is what you have.  You can either hold it, hoard it, fake it, or flaunt it ….or you can just offer it, and DO it, just like it is, just as you are.  Or do nothing, give nothing….and then have nothing to show for it.

So many people have given time and energy to me.  I want to be the kind of person who can do things for others, too.

 

 

Just when you thought the E-Mail List was DEAD!

Many of us got started  in the days before MySpace, before Facebook, before YouTube!!!!! WHAT??! Yes. It was the era of the e-mail list.

But I haven’t known what to do with my old email lists…for years!  I’m not the same as I used to be…. and … who wants an email from something they didn’t originally “sign up” for.

And nowadays, people don’t even email each other, really, right? They “facebook” (verb, transitive); they text; they avoid and bail–yes, that, too.

But I’ve been harshly awakened to the value of those lists, in the past few years, however. Stay with me if this seems too blunt at first.  (I’ll get tender.)

{My examples involve music…but this can be applied to whatever service or idea or ministry you have.}

Suddenly a TERRIBLE THING BEGAN TO HAPPEN to me ….as a “FAN.” A REAL FAN, a get-in-your-face-and-give-you-a-private-pep-rally-fan. I began finding out that some of my friends of whom I had been fans for years were releasing albums that I didn’t even know about. Like…. uh… I’m on your mailing list. I am your “friend” on facebook…. oh, are you  on instagram?   But… like HOW IN THE HE&& DID I NOT KNOW YOUR ALBUM CAME OUT!? Old friends and new friends alike.  Big and small potatoes.

I swear this happened to me like six times in a 2 year span.

Oh, because it scrolled past my facebook feed while I was loading the dishwasher one day? And you thought I'd be going to your fan page every week for 2 years to check to see if you "had anything going on?"

It literally broke my heart. Over. And Over. It happened with individuals, with bands…with…. amazing artists whose music I had been waiting on for years…knowing it would soon trickle out somehow.

Then I began finding videos…. because they assumed I’d wake up thinking about them and google them and see if they had any videos up …. and you know, …maybe I did….ONCE… or maybe twice…but over the years after a few “no shows,” guess what–NEWS FLASH!–I GAVE UP! But that doesn’t mean I’m not a BIG FAN! It just means I don’t have time to chase down the things that I love.

I need them in my inbox. 🙂

An email saying, “It’s here,” would have been an easy fix.

(And yes! I realized that what was happening to them was also happening to me. I had been doing the same things to my “fans”!)

We had forgotten about the ever-trusty..EMAIL LIST. Now the problem with email lists is that people change emails… BUT GEEEEZZZZ THE LEAST WE CAN DO IS TRY, RIGHT?

I did a little research. Is the email list truly dead?

NO!

The point: if a real fan like me didn’t know the music was out…. then how did they expect to… (I’ll stop there, because I’ve already re-collapsed on the floor just thinking about it.)

Come on, friends. We need email lists back up and running again. Until there’s a better replacement. And if it is..please tell me…so I can … tell all my friends 😉

What, with the bazillion spam emails we get every day from SUCCESSFUL COMPANIES…you’d think I would have not had to be jolted into a blog like this…. MAKE YOUR MAILING LIST… dust off the old addresses.

Now to be tender.

As I realized all of this, it suddenly hit me. An email list is not a dorky little hairy tangled clipboard mess. They are little letters which are an address to precious souls that God has brought into your sphere of influence. They are people with lives and concerns and problems and heartaches and joys.

They are the people who you have to touch….

WE
NEED
TO
GIVE
THEM
EVERYTHING
WE’VE

GOT.

And stop thinking of them as ‘fans’….and remember they are souls who are thirsty for a kind of encouragement that you give which is unique to you, and, so, unique in their world.

Not everyone likes what I have to offer,…. but they might!? And if they’re still on that clipboard, there’s probably a reason they got there.

…so…ahem…um….yeah….you can probably expect an email from me soon. 😉

This is from the {MINISTRY OUT OF MOLEHILLS} Series. Click here to read the Series.

Other individual posts in this SERIES:

Why I Finally Embraced Facebook

Starting with the $5 in your Pocket

Whatever it Takes to Stop You … will