Mega Church Member – Who Me? Couldn’t Be!

We are members of what I believe is now the second largest church in our nation. It is indeed a mega church if there ever was one. We have tens of thousands of members and 14 campuses not including the 14 correctional facilities. 

Honestly, it still surprises me at times that we are not only attending such a church but enjoying it immensely and flourishing spiritually. The reason it surprises me is that before we began to attend Church of The Highlands, I had some strong opinions about how a mega church was. I had opinions but no personal experience. 

I blush to think of some of the assumptions and yes, even comments I made about how it must be to attend a church with tens of thousands of members. I was wrong and I don’t mind saying so. I was wrong and perhaps you are too if you, like I was, are struggling with skepticism. 

I assumed there would be no accountability. That’s simply not the case. First and foremost, the Word of God is taught and accountability is as real as I’ve ever experienced. The Holy Spirit is present and He convicts and comforts. We are held accountable. 

I assumed that with so many thousands, I’d be swallowed up like a salmon in a stream of other salmons, all looking the same, flouncing around and experiencing no individuality. That isn’t my experience at all. I’ve never felt that my unique abilities and talents have been more celebrated (and useful). 

I assumed it would be difficult to connect in a meaningful manner. That isn’t what has happened at all. As we attend small groups, serve on teams and attend events, we have developed real relationships with real people who know us, pray for us and call us by name. 

One of the best things about our church is the great diversity. It was one of the most important factors after solid Biblical doctrine that we were looking and hoping for. Our family is diverse and living in the Deep South limited possibilities of a good fit for us. Every single time we attend COTH, every single time, I am struck by the great diversity. There is every kind of people, every age, every economic status, every ethnicity. And guess what? I’ve met many other adoptive families. There are many foster families. There are many families just as large and unique and diverse as ours. It is marvelous. 

Many is a good word to describe our church. There are many, many people. And because of that you may come across a difficult person, an annoying person, a gossipy judgemental person, a bitter person, a mean-spirited person, a person that causes trouble and strife. They exist in a mega church just like they exist in a small church. Why? Because churches aren’t full of perfect people. By in large they are full of people who are trying to do better and be better but they are still human and make plenty of mistakes. 

You know what happens when there are many people? There are many hands to make light the work. There are many voices to be lifted in prayer and praise. There are many opportunities to serve in the community and make a difference. There are many hearts willing to be a small art of something that is much bigger than they are. There are many to give when there is a great need. 

I am proud and thankful to be one among the many. And yes, although I never thought I’d say it, I’m glad to be a member of a mega church that moves mountains, builds bridges, supports missions, encourages the masses, ministers to ministers, trains workers, parks cars, serves coffee and cries out to God in prayer for mercy and the salvation of others. Hey, try it, you might like it too. The mega church is not the right church for every family, it may not be the best choice for you. The truth is, God can move in the smallest and largest of congregations. It’s not a competition and it should be a joint effort. 

Wherever you attend and call your church home, get involved, do your part and be just like us, enjoying it immensely and flourishing spiritually. 

Friends Matter

We all know the importance of family in our lives and the tremendous impact that family has upon us, both good and bad. But there is another extremely important group of folks that we get to choose, unlike who we are related to. It is our friends. 

Our pastor has said many times ‘show me your friends and I’ll show you your future’. And every time he says that I say AMEN! It’s the truth, our friends can change the course of our lives. 

The Bible has a LOT to say about friends. Parents have SO much to say about friends. Teens are determined to defend their friends. Even to a pre-school child, friends matter. Relationships can be ruined by the wrong friends. You can have opportunities that you wouldn’t have otherwise with the right friends. 

What is a friend anyway? That word like many others has been diluted to the point of little value. Like the word love for instance. We say we love tacos and we love a song and we love all kinds of stuff and people. We have school-friends, FB friends, work-friends, internet-friends, church-friends and some of these friends we hardly even know. 

A true friend is someone you can share your dreams with and know they won’t laugh at you. A real friend is someone you can confess your failings to and know they won’t shun you. A genuine friend is someone who will hold you accountable while holding you up. A friend worth having is one whom you will call when you’re in trouble and need help. 

A friend can be a great treasure. They might loan you a twenty, watch your kids or listen to your troubles. They may help you with your project, tell you when you’re wrong and love you anyway. They can encourage your heart and challenge your soul. Friends matter. 

A friend can also bring you low and urge you to do things you know are wrong. They can flame the fire of your dissatisfaction and justify your bad choices. They might insist that you join them in the pigpen and wallow in the mud with them so you are as stinky as they are to prove you are their friend. 

Consider who you have surrounded yourself with today. Who do you exchange ideas with and have discussions with? Who are you allowing to influence and impact your future, your family and your choices? 

Perhaps we should all consider our friends carefully and the consequences that may result. Friends matter. 

My Magical World

This weekend I had the opportunity to participate in a local author’s event. There were 27 authors present to display, discuss, sell and sign their books. It was great fun and very encouraging. I met so many lovely people. I bought some books, I traded some books, I gave away some books. I didn’t sell a single book. 

So, what’s the point? Why attend these events when often, not many books are sold? Well, let me tell you why I think it is worth every box packed, table set up, and mile traveled. 

There is great advantage to coming together with like-minded folks that goes way beyond book sales. As the old saying goes ‘birds of a feather flock together’ and that’s true. 

When you step into a writer’s conference or an author event it is much like Harry Potter walking into Diagon Alley for the first time. At first you are in a bit of shock. Then you are filled with delight as you realize there are people just like you! 


You hear them discussing their magic wands, I mean blogs and Twitter. You see them exchanging spells, I mean contacts and business cards. You share your experiences and learn from those who have gone before you. 

I can’t guarantee you will become rich or famous at author events, conferences and book-signings but I can assure you, you’ll leave inspired and encouraged if you’ll just open your eyes and ears. There will be amazing people, common interests, practical help and opportunities to grow. 


I think many writers tend to be just like me, introverted. We’d rather stay at home where we can read and write and create our worlds, weave our words and do what we love. If that’s you, let me urge you to take yourself, your writing and your smile to the next writer’s event you hear about. You won’t regret it. 

This weekend I made new friends and left a better writer than when I arrived. I was also very pleased to take my middle son with me and expose him to this ‘magical world’ that I now claim as my own. He and my girls (15,16,16) will be writing their first books this year as their 11th grade homeschool project. I’m thrilled to take them by the hand and say, “Let me show you the way.”

Imprints 

A simple definition of the word imprint would be to make a mark using pressure. Every day we imprint others and they imprint us. Parents most certainly imprint their children and this can be a scary thought. 

I, as an adult, was imprinted by each child I fostered. My outlook, my attitude, my opinions were all marked by the pressure of the moment. When you open your home and your heart to a child who is a total stranger one moment and then your responsibility the next, it imprints you. 

I remember one small girl who was blonde-haired, blue-eyed and fair-skinned. She was so fair-skinned that when her abusive momma slapped her hard across the face, her handprint was evident in a red welp. This child, who was about four years old only stayed with us a short time as the system sorted out an appropriate family member placement and yet here, twenty years later, I can still see her face and that hand imprint. 

One of the greatest challenges I face as an adoptive mother of older-children is helping my children deal with the imprints they have received before they arrive in my life. One of the greatest challenges any parent faces is being very careful about the inevitable imprints we make upon our children. 


Let me tell you truthfully, there are plenty of imprints that I have made that I wish I could erase. Imprints aren’t easily erased however. Even if the ink is removed from an embossed piece of leather, the impression from the force (pressure) of the mark remains. It scars the material you might say. Lots of hearts bear many scars. 


The hearts of foster children are marked, scarred, imprinted. It is unavoidable under the circumstances. I wish with all of my heart that I could say the negative imprints my adopted children received who came at older ages simply vanished when I made them my own. I wish I could say my children have never been negatively imprinted by me, the momma who loves them deeply. But, yes, I’ve spoken carelessly, lost my temper, reacted wrongly and left my own negative imprints. I may have left imprints of disapproval or rejection when that isn’t what I intended at all. 

So, then what hope is there? How can we, as well-intended yet imperfect parents raise our children without ruining them?


We, as parents need to do our best. We need to improve our parenting skills. We need to break unhealthy cycles. We need to encourage our children to try rather than discourage them when they fail. We need to accept them, love them, nurture them and imprint upon them a sense of self-worth, compassion and integrity. We need to do everything we possibly can. But, we can’t put our hope in ourselves or in any other person to make perfect imprints every time. 

We have hope because healing is possible. As a Christian I have hope because I believe God heals, prayer matters and in the end love wins. 

The most important parenting tip I could ever give anyone is to not attempt it alone. If you don’t have a supportive family structure, purposely search out support from other sources. Our church promotes small groups as a way to connect with others. If you are a single parent, an adoptive parent, a special- needs parent, a parent of multiples, a parent who is struggling, find a group of people who will relate to those issue and understand those struggles. 


I believe as a #momofmany, that the negative imprints in our life can be turned around and used for good. We can be made stronger, kinder, more compassionate than we would have been otherwise. If you have been wounded or if you have wounded another, there is great power in forgiveness. There is great hope for healing. I know it because I have seen it, I have lived it, I have witnessed it. 


Today my prayer for myself and for you is that our words, our actions and reactions, our attitudes, our lives would leave imprints of hope, joy, peace and love on our children, our families and our friends. I pray that not one person will part from our presence feeling the sting of criticism, sharp retorts, impatient words or angry looks. I pray that today we ourselves will be shielded from those who would negatively impact us. I pray that we would be healed and our hearts will be made whole. I pray that we ourselves would be used by God in the healing process of others, especially our precious children. I pray that tonight when we consider today we will be able to say, “I’ve done my best, I’ll trust God with the rest.” Amen

James, a Friend During Difficult Days

“I tried to help her because I loved my son, her son, our son. I tried to help her because I loved Jesus.”

Thank you Jesus for bringing this to my attention at this precise moment. He never ceases to amaze me. He is always in the details.

Stephanie Rodda

After so many years of reading the book of James in the Bible, you’d think I’d have it memorized by now. I don’t have every word memorized but, I am familiar enough with the letter that James, the brother of Jesus, wrote that I often turn there for correction and guidance and comfort.
Do you know what often causes me to turn to James? Difficult people. Do you know a few of those? I sure do.I first became best of friends with Brother James about ten years ago. My son who is about to turn twelve was a toddler and still our foster child at that time. Difficult times were upon us. I had developed a difficult relationship with his birth mom. It was complicated and it was difficult.

I wanted to reach out to her and help her. I did. I sometimes kept her other children. I sometimes ran…

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Mommas Have Skills Too!

You know, I think it’s a shame that moms (like myself) who haven’t worked outside the home for a decade or two are considered to have no marketable value when they are ready to enter the workforce again. Mommas have skills too!
All morning long, I’ve made phone calls, scheduled appointments, provided pertinent information, rearranged schedules, consulted calendars and done it all in an orderly fashion. I’d make somebody a good secretary or whatever they call it today. Administrative assistant? 
Moms in general don’t get the credit they deserve I think. As a homeschooler for instance I plan field trips, referee student interactions, grade, review, answer questions, deal with disgruntled parents (ok, that’s me, but still) and plan lunch and snacks too. I’d make asomeone a good teachers aide or school counselor or something. 
What about managing this house and making sure no birthdays are forgotten? What about making sure everyone has clean socks and a pair of tennies that fit their ever-growing feet? What about menu planning, food-preparing and kitchen cleaning? I’d make someone a good short-order cook, restaurant manager, personal shopper or something. 
Don’t forget, administering meds, transportation to and from countless appointments and bandages on boo-boos (or finger splints). Do you know how many children I’ve nursed back to health from wisdom teeth extractions, appendectomies, broken bones, tonsillectomies and comforted through orthodontic braces? I’d make someone a good nursing assistant or chauffeur or medical aid or something. 

Oh, and I’m greatly experienced at promoting spiritual growth, encouraging scripture memory, listening to heartaches and heart breaks, comforting the grieving, inspiring folks to consider foster-care or adoption, leading small groups, marriage counseling and helping mommas like me through a challenging day. I’d make someone a good therapist, chaplain, preacher or something. 

I salute all you mommas who may feel unappreciated at times, whose efforts are often over looked, who may appear to be wasting themselves and their talents. You are valuable. You are making a difference. Hey, mommas have skills too!

Hard Pressed

I am pretty sure there’s not a momma out there who hasn’t at some point felt a bit used or better yet ‘used up’. I surely have.

Those are the times when we are desperate for some relief. Those are the times when we wonder if all our efforts are pointless. Those are the times when we are hurting and worried that we are failing.

#takecourage

Stephanie Rodda

There are going to be times when we feel hard pressed. I think it must be a matter of seasons. Seeds are planted, vines, trees, orchards are tended, fruit begins to appear and then ripen until it is time for harvest. That’s when things get mighty uncomfortable. That’s when it’s time to be used.

Whether we are ‘pressed’ to release the oil within or ‘crushed’ to produce a new wine, the process can leave us feeling perplexed and perhaps even persecuted. It is at that moment that we are tempted to squirm out of this place of enormous pressure and find relief. At times, it is not us ourselves in the hard place, but someone we love. It is at that moment that we are so tempted to rescue them and give them some relief.

But, the fact is, relief doesn’t produce in us a new anointing. Relief doesn’t release…

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