Saturday, April 21, 2012

S is for Surprise Me

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

Surprise Me with the Verse of the Day from Bible Gateway

““Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:55-57 NIV1984

The A - Z challenge folks added some cool buttons that I have added on my page under the A - Z participant banner on the left side of the page. (E-mail folks - pop in some time for a visit - I do try to keep things fresh on my blog page.)  So I've recently added a follow me on Pinterest button. I have boards of pins of things I've found while surfing that I like plus boards featuring my own art. Anyway back to the new buttons - they load a bit slowyly but they are kind of cool because there are a couple thousand participant and the it would be nice to visit them all. I can tell you now, I won't get them all visited before I reach Z. I like the surprise me button because it randomly picks someone from the long list of participants and sends you off to visit their page.  I had tried to intall the buttons last week but had problems with the button code. Today it seems to be working. So it may not look like I've been visiting but I have been going to the A-Z participant page and just working my way through the list. The surprise me button is much more fun. Thank you to all of you who have visited me and left comments - you are awesome and I am trying to get time to visit each of your sites.

So "S" is for Saturday a day that I usually use to catch up or get a little ahead. I however have been running hard all week so I might just decide that "S" is for sit. Anyway today's post idea spun from the surprise me button. I realize that I kind of like surprises. I don't like it when my life gets too predictable  - you know that whole get up, go to work, go home routine that sometimes gets broken up by a go to Mc Donalds. I guess I like my life to be a bit more interesting and so I try to keep a sense of wonder and awe as I navigate my day. I am mindful as I deal with ordinarily reasonable people who have bad days, when it becomes evident that they are struggling - to not let their stuff push the old buttons in me. Sometimes people just have a bad day - I know I do from time to time.  There is always a temptation to get sucked into other peoples drama and I have found that it is better to step back and simply pray. To allow God to show me if I have in someway added to the stress load of another. If so I should endeavor to make things right. While there are always things we could do better it sometimes the surprises and figuring out how to overcome current problems and obstacles that pushes us to do a better job or to be victorious.

Yesterday we realized that for some the work at the church seems like a tedious and thankless job.
Staff jobs at churches start out with a manageable list of tasks and before you know it you have this mountain of stuff that others some how think is your problem. Time to put on that "Just say No" t-shirt.

I have found one really has to know where their  boundary lines lie. I have to be aware of my own limits and be able to step back from it all and make sure I am allowing the Holy Spirt to lead me and not doing stuff because it screams to be done. It may not be mine to do. I realize that there are ebbs and flows in church life.  We have come through the Easter season and that is always a busy time and I put in a lot of extra hours of my own choosing. I need to remember that it is ok to coast a bit between things. I have to realize that some things just won't get done until a volunteer rises up to take it on and that its ok to wait on God to raise up the right people. These are some things I have discovered through the years of being in and around ministry.

I had to step back about this time last year because I was sick and dealing with my own issues and had some compassion fatigue and burn out. Its ok to step back but don't run away or storm off leaving all your projects in boxes for other to try and carry on. People are more important than any project take some time to rest and re-evaluate but don't in your frustration nuke all your relationships. Sometimes we need to help people recognize the signs of stress and burnout and help them to take a step back in a right way from the whirl wind of things that seem to endlessly need done.

Sadly when people get tired and burnt out they often take on various offenses. What might not have been a big deal when they were not tired becomes a heavy weight, a drain, yet another thing that needs done that no one will notice unless it is not done. To often leave and go lick their wounds and feel bad because no one comes to beg them to come back. Its not that they are not missed but they left in such an awkward way that no one knows what to do.  Often they just need some rest but then things are awkward and it takes courage to make things right and work through issues. It seems easier to just move on and not look back. Its not always everyone else - sometimes its us. We took on too much, we allowed the tyranny of the urget to suck us into its ever demanding and thankless wake. There is a flip side we need to as kingdom people do a better job of encouraging one another. Sadly it is easier to throw stones.

You know the sound guy only gets noticed if there is a problem like feed back during a service and then all eyes turn around to register their disapproval. Staff and leaders work hard and all you hear are the complaints, the problems. So that started me on a little rabbit trail of my own. What can I do to help encourage and appreciate the people around me. How can I recognize their faithfulness, hard work and commitment not just to our church but to the cause of Christ and his kingdom purposes. How can I help them resolve the little stuff and not just sweep it under some spiritual rug until it becomes a big festering ugly mess.

My first thought was to do something nice for the ushers who will have to deal with the changes presented by the new bulletin I've just created. Rather than 3 folds they now have two pages folded in half and must use a long arm stapler. I know un expected change can sometimes set a day off in the wrong direction. So I wanted to do something so they know that their service is appreciated.  So as I left the office yesterday I asked my pastor can I get some Million Dollar Bars or something nice to do for our ushers.  I wanted to buy some candies that I could attach cute little cards to and some how communicate our appreciation. So the ushers are getting the Whopper of a great job treats in the photo above. I also wanted to do something special for our leaders and staff. It has been a rough and rocky road bringing this church back from nearly dead. Have to chuckle when I think of the line in The Princess Bride, where Miracle Max says that "Nearly dead is still slightly alive." He makes up a magic pill and as the company of un sung heros leaves they wave and say..  Have fun stormin' da castle. Valerie: Think it'll work? Miracle Max: It would take a miracle.
Our journey has been filled with plenty of miracles but we are still having to asses our assets as we go about trying to storm the castle to take back what the enemy has stolen or simply take new ground for the kingdom. 

Westley: Who are you? Are we enemies? Why am I on this wall? Where is Buttercup?
Inigo Montoya: Let me 'splain.
Inigo Montoya: No, there is too much. Let me sum up. Buttercup is marry' Humperdinck in a little less than half an hour. So all we have to do is get in, break up the wedding, steal the princess, make our escape... after I kill Count Rugen.
Westley: That doesn't leave much time for dilly-dallying.
Fezzik: You just wiggled your finger. That's wonderful.
Westley: I've always been a quick healer. What are our liabilities?
Inigo Montoya: There is but one working castle gate, and... and it is guarded by 60 men.
Westley: And our assets?
Inigo Montoya: Your brains, Fezzik's strength, my steel.

We are all at various stages of burn out and exhaustion but great stories are written about characters who overcome incredible odds.  Ah  ha - I found Rocky Road bars. A bunch of nuts held together buy gooey marshmallow. Not sure if they will pick up on that subtle humor. I think we are all a bit nuts and the Holy Spirit is the marshmallow that holds us together. Kingdom life is a bit sticky. Might we all be like Fezzik and notice the little signs of healing in each other. "You just wiggled your finger. That's wonderful" We all need encouraged and we could all do a better job encouraging and recognizing the healing, and the things others are doing that go un noticed. 

The other idea came to me as I stood in the check out line and saw the Mentos. It crossed my mind that I could make a card that said "We wanted to take a mo-mento to say a BIG Thanks for all your hard work." I'm still not sure what budget category this little adventure is going to come out of - we don't  run on a big budget. In fact I print our weekly statistics in the bulletin each week the ratio of weekly giving to weekly need is still way, way off. It is all part of our inner city dilemma of how do you do church for the poor in America. Let me tell you it is a different dynamic than I have ever had to deal with in my 30 years of ministry.  We have been given a window of grace by our denomination to figure that out. I get to share for 2 minutes at a conference next weekend about our journey - I would appreciate your prayers that I would communicate Gods heart.

So for some, my fledgeling efforts may be met with "sorry its too little to late" and they are right. We have not done a very good job of thanking people or recognizing their efforts. I pray that God will refresh those weary souls and help them to be able to realize that they are loved and appreciated.
Thank you First Covenant Church! It has been a blast, and we're only getting started!

For others like our new intern  - well let me just share the photo he posted on facebook.  He must have stopped back into the church in the evening because I made a point to drop off the goodies while no one was there. So most folks will find their treats on Sunday.

 Granted there are plenty of others that I still want to do little things to thank and encourage - I in no way got everyone on this pass. I gotta come up with something special to do for the folks that come early and make the coffee and bake the yummy things that are provided each Sunday following our service.  Then there is the older lady that saves paper clips and brings them in so we don't have to buy them. Gotta love her - she's a treasure.  What about the folks that stay late to vacuum.  Oh and that thankless job of keeping the toilets and the bathrooms presentable. Did it ever cross your mind that someone had to do that job even if its a paid job they still should be thanked somehow.

One of the other things I recently felt led to make available for folks is a table in the back with blank notes. My hope is that people in the congregation will take the time to encourage one another. My intent in all of this is not that these things be from me but from the church as a body. I'd like to see us create an Encouragement Club of sorts that might get together and do these kinds of little things on a regular basis.

 Revival and change,  I have found begins with me - am I willing to repent, am I willing to change, am I willing to hear the call of God and respond to it. So rather than gripe about what is not being done by others I am choosing to set an example in hopes that others will see and say  - "hey thats cool - I wanna help".  I have long agreed with the statement "Small things done with great love can change the world." So while these are all small things, it is my hope that God will some how multiply and somehow incorporate into the DNA of who we are the ability to express our gratitude and thanks as a people. This was what God put on my heart - what is your little part and how will you set forth to make a difference by doing something small with great love?

Most of you reading are not part of my local church family but I want to challenge you to realize that your Sunday service does not just happen. Someone has to plan it, and people have to step up to help in various ways. My challenge it that you look around and realize the behind the scenes things that people are doing and find some way to encourage and thank them.  Lot's of folks think being a pastor is an easy job  - after all they only work on Sunday ....right? ....wrong!. It is a job that quickly over flows in to every area of your life. If someone has a crisis - who gets called in the middle of the night?  In a big church a pastor or leader my wear one hat  - in a small church you just roll up your sleeves and change hats all day long.  Most people don't see the behind the scenes inner workings of church. I do and I am tremendously thankful for the people who give and give and give some more.

Rob, Tonia, Bill, Bill, Kadee, Frances, Lydell, Ryan, Maria, Marco, Neil, Donnie, Anika, Kelsie, Niah, Cai, Nicole, Mike, Diana, Gertrude, Gary, Rachel, Dusty, Trenton, Tyler, Lindsea, Lisa, Jan,  Kelly, ... the list goes on and on and most of them won't see this but perhaps my readers will pray for these folks that God will refresh them and help them to be able to actually feel his love. Sometimes I think we are so broken that love can be flowing all around us but we can't hold or realize it because we are broken vessel it all just leaks out quickly. and in some way and need to allow God to fix us. 

So anyway I realized yesterday that we have a problem  - people are tired, feel un appreciated and I have a choice to make. I have to go to God and say "what would you have me do" how can we be victorious and overcome. So be watching for my e-book 100 ways to Thank and Encourage the Folks who Make Church Happen. Well I have 3 of the 100 but one should not despise small beginnings. Not sure if I will do that project or not. Right now I am collecting and posting my own ideas on a Pinterest Board you are welcome to follow along.

Dear Lord
Help us to not just sit down and cry when we hit a bump in the road but to stop and sit on that bump and ask you what we might do together to overcome.  "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Lord open our eyes to the little things that others are doing for your kingdom and help us to celebrate and encourage their part in the collective whole.  


  1. I love the Princess Bride! So glad to meet you!

    New follower here. I’m enjoying reading my fellow “A to Z”ers. I look forward to visiting again.


  2. Hi Sylvia,
    Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I like your blog as well. Glad to have made another A-Z friend.


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