Has God Been Call You To Step Out?

Have you been feeling God call you to step out? Do you want to start something organic and let God direct the movement and conversation?

You don’t have to wait for permission to grab some girlfriends or the lady at the bank who’s been on your heart and go for coffee.

We want to help you facilitate connection, encouragement and inspiration…

We are very excited to announce that our first in the series of Praise and Coffee to Go’s is available on Kindle for $2.99

Praise and Coffe to Go Volume 1

Available on Amazon

Six Praise and Coffee Conversations to help you facilitate a Praise and Coffee group (or any small group) as you gather in coffee shops or around kitchen tables.
No preparation required.

All you have to do is grab your Kindle or iPad and invite two to twelve friends to a coffee shop/restaurant or around your kitchen table.

Consider these six conversations a springboard. Do not hold rigidly to them, instead let the conversations serve your group fluid and flexible. We pray they lead you into conversations that promote connection, encouragement and inspiration. No one in the group is required to participate, but do encourage anyone to share.

Praise and Coffee to Go is not intended to resemble a classroom with students and a teacher but, instead, a group of friends sharing life, laughter, tears and the desire to connect, encourage and inspire one another!

Praise and Coffee to Go is set up for gatherings of two or more, but of course you could use the lessons as a personal study or devotional.

Conversations include:
Get Things Brewing: These include three ice-breaker questions to warm up the group. These are intended to launch comfortable, casual conversation. You can go around the table and ask the ladies each question or read each one and let the participants choose a question they would like to answer.

Steep: Scripture and thoughts to contemplate and consider how they apply to each of our lives.

Press It Out: This is the heart of your gathering, questions to spur conversation. Do as many or few of these as you like. Use them as conversation starters, not classroom questions. Note: if your conversation takes you in a different direction, GO THERE and have an authentic discussion. Connect, encourage and inspire one another!

Extra Shot: Some days we just need another shot; that’s what these are for. Take the discussion farther with scripture. Discuss how each of the verses apply to your life and help you become the woman God created you to be.

This is the first of many that we hope to publish for you and we also plan to have them printed, I’ll keep you posted about that!

The book is available on Amazon here: Praise and Coffee to Go

Special thanks to Ronel Sidney for ideas and encouragement and traveling this Praise and Coffee journey with me, you are the greatest friend and strength to me, and Anna Fontaine for helping me with edits early on in this process.
You are welcome to use these in groups not labeled “Praise and Coffee,” but if you are interested in starting a Praise and Coffee group in your community join our Facebook page to connect with other women who meet around the world: Praise and Coffee Leaders

Loneliness Is Not About Being Alone

Loneliness is not about being alone, it’s about not feeling connected.

depression robin williams

Rest In Peace Robin…you will be missed

Robin Williams death has set our thoughts again on the desperate truth of depression and our human need for connection.

Connections are what make life worth living. God is all about connections. The Bible is overflowing with stories of connection.

Connecting us to Him and then to each other.

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Matt 22:37-39

Connecting with God and connecting with others. Connection requires taking the risk to care about someone outside your own skin. It’s the willingness to lower the gate on our heart and allow someone in. You do have something to offer, even when it’s just an ear to listen. There are women just like you, overwhelmed with marriage, motherhood or maybe just getting themselves out of bed in the morning.

We are not lonely, we are disconnected.

Get connected.

Praise and Coffee ~ Connecting women to encourage each other and inspiring them to draw closer to God.

More: Why Big Conferences and Mega Churches Are Not Enough

Defining Who You Are

From my study: Becoming Me Through Him…

button Becoming Me copy

Labels.

Maybe the key to becoming me, becoming you, is to face the labels instead of fighting them.

Face our weaknesses, faults, sins and past.

As I studied the story of Rahab, I was bothered to see that Rahab is still called a prostitute in Hebrews. How is that fair if she had changed her ways? Why does it seem that she cannot shake this title? Shouldn’t God want her story to be about how her life is new? I don’t want to keep calling her a prostitute. She moved on from that life, can’t we focus on her good choices instead of her bad ones?

Then I realized that the power in Rahab’s story is not about how she had changed her life, but in the fact that God redeemed her story.

Ladies, your past is still part of your story, labels and all.

God doesn’t want us to deny our labels, He wants to redeem them.

Let God redeem your past, let God redeem your labels.

Whether it’s abuse or sin that defines our past, it does not have to define our future.

When God redeems our past and our labels…we put the shame behind us.

You are a new creation in Christ. Through Him…you become the woman He wants you to be. We no longer have to live under the shame of the mistakes we’ve made, the sins we’ve committed or the abuse we’ve endured. Shame causes us to fear that we are unworthy of love and belonging. But when we let God redeem our past, we can own our story and live free of shame.

Yes, I hear you and I understand, owning our story can be difficult, but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Shame is debilitating. It keeps us isolated and alone, completely missing out on the life God has for us.

Rahab shows us that though some of the labels may remain, God redeems our stories. She tenaciously reached out in faith, trusted this God whom she had heard about and He valiantly saves her and her family. Spoiler alert…she is later named in the genealogy of Jesus Christ!

Yes, you have sinned, but that sin does not have to define you as a person.
You may have been abused, but that abuse does not have to define you or haunt your thoughts, God is our Healer and Redeemer.

Shame grows in secrecy and judgment. It’s like mold. It likes the stale darkness. We pretty the outside but when the layers are peeled back we find a wounded little girl that’s been huddled in a corner, afraid that we’ll find out her secrets and believing that the fresh paint job could fool us.

The word inspire means to breathe, to take in air and life. Shame doesn’t want us to take fresh air, it wants us closed up and stagnant. Shame wants us to become a breeding ground of un-forgiveness, a petri dish of bitterness.

It’s time to let God ‘inspire’ us. It’s time to bring fresh air in, it’s time to own our story and let the Father redeem it. The power of shame is broken over our lives when we let God redeem our story instead of letting the past and the labels define us. Stop hiding.

Owning our stories and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing we can ever do.

Matthew 22:36-40 (NIV)

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

You cannot fully love others until you love yourself, until you love the woman that God loves, labels and all. Redemption says that we are worthy of love and belonging, first Him loving you, then you loving you. Choosing right now to love yourself, not in a few weeks when you lose the weight or stay sober or when you get yourself cleaned up, but right now-today.

My prayer for all of us…
Lord, help us to see ourselves in the light of your love and forgiveness. Father let us glimpse the beauty that you want for our lives, teach us to love ourselves. Show us how to belong to the family of God and take our place as your precious, valued and worthy daughter.

I’m Still a Recovering Pharisee

I’ve noticed something lately. I suppose it’s not a recent “thing” but it seems to be ramping up, or at least I’m just seeing it more.

NickMom calls it “Other Mothering.” Jon Acuff calls it Jesus Juke. I refer to myself as a recovering Pharisee. It takes on many forms and has been around since the dawn of man but I think that social media has propelled it to a whole new level.

It’s that attitude of needing to right all the wrongs (or in the Christian community-spiritualizing everything). It’s the desire to interject your opinion and make sure that others know how misled, misinformed or mistaken they are.

It’s as if Facebook has given us carte blanche to blurt, spew and puke our opinions out when we disagree with what someone says. It feels like we’ve become a world full of Lucy’s from the Peanuts cartoon. We’re the crabby, complaining know-it-alls putting up ‘The Doctor Is In’ sign and blurting our opinions out on flat screens around the world. It wouldn’t be so bad if we did it with the motive of actually helping or encouraging someone, but it appears to be more about attacking a different view than ours.

lucy-the-doctor-is-inDon’t get me wrong, I have no problem with dialogue of opposing ideas. I love it really. Let’s hash it out! I enjoy talking about the different ways we process life and what we believe. I am open to the discussion, but I want it to be a discussion, not an immature shouting match while hiding behind a computer screen. I think we’re a lot more gutsy behind the keyboard than across the table from one another, which doesn’t lead to connection, only division.

It feels fruitless and empty to me.

I shared a picture recently on Facebook of a deer that my Father-in-law shot. He was told just a few months ago that he may not ever walk again, but he is walking and he was able to go hunting with his son and shoot a trophy buck. I was so proud knowing that this was a big deal to him and what it represented in his life.

I posted a picture from my phone because I knew that so many of our family friends would be thrilled for him.

But.

Those who disagree with hunting felt it more important to share their opinions than allow me to celebrate this great moment. I was going to just ignore it until it got to the point that I knew when my hunting friends saw the comments they would rally back and a full-on argument would break out on a post that was supposed to be about my Father-in-law… so I pulled it down. I didn’t regret that I posted the picture or feel that I was wrong but I took it down because I was so irritated with those who high jacked my FB to tell the world their opinions.

I heard a conservative Christian leader say that we have to be extremely careful who we quote and make sure that we know that the person we are quoting is reputable and that we agree with everything they say or it will come back to bite us. I understand the philosophy behind his statement, but I disagree with him. Although I admit I have been bitten, especially when quoting someone like Oprah in the Christian community.

Why are we so afraid of different opinions?
I can remember when I was researching my challenged beliefs…I felt guilty for even questioning what I had been taught.

Rachel Held Evans, Elizabeth Esther, Rob Bell and Wayne Jacobsen are just a few who are stoking the fire and waking us up to conversations that we need to have. This doesn’t mean that I agree with everything they say, but I love the dialogue they are inspiring.

I can’t think of one person whom I agree with 100%. Does that mean I can’t listen to what they have to say? Does that mean I have to argue every point they make that I don’t like?  No. The Lord spoke though a rooster when he crowed 3 times but I don’t agree with everything roosters say. Same goes for donkeys.

I enjoy Beth Moore and Anne Lamott’s books. Quote either of them and you’re sure to tick someone off. Mother Teresa tends to be quite safe, and usually the Bible is too, but be careful with the Message translation because the King James Version only people are sure to let you know that you’re skating on thin ice.

Our world gets really small when we limit the voices around us. You don’t have to agree with everyone, and you don’t have to tell them when you don’t. But if you can further the conversation and be ok with not always coming to an agreed conclusion, than please do. I’ve found that the things I was once so belligerent about were usually based in my hope that the loudest voice wins. I was so wrong. But don’t be surprised if I blow it again…I’m still recovering.

Can we care about each other enough to listen?

 

You might like this one too…Is It Our Job to Point Out Sin.

Why Big Conferences and Mega Churches Are Not Enough

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world;
indeed its’ the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead

If there is one thing we are figuring out in the past ten years, it’s that systems and bullet point aren’t enough. We’ve been doctrined to death. We have access to more Bible studies, commentaries and guides than Justin Bieber has Twitter followers.

But we’re still hungry and unfulfilled.

So we go to conferences. We travel meeting to meeting, getting there early to snatch a good seat. We stand outside the door smiling at the other ladies in line all the while implementing: “Operation Get Down Front” that was hatched in the minivan on the way to the coliseum. We spread out, putting two women at each door because Jesus always sends us out in twos. We make sweet small talk with the ladies around us asking where they traveled from and how many kids they have, all the while pretending that we’re not in a cutthroat race against these capri wearing, Bible toting, scripture quoting, sleep deprived women. The doors open and it is game time. We keep our plastic smiles painted on as we swiftly walk, careful not to actually break into a jog, to the seats we want, swerving around the pokey women who obviously have no idea how this works. Finally, we settle on a spot, one woman on one side and another on the other and we throw coats purses and Bible onto all the seats in the middle.
Whew, we made it, time to fall in love with Jesus!

Is that still working for you? Me neither.
Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy some conferences, and I will probably still attend a few, but I want more, I believe you do too. Crowds of Christians are stepping away from traditional churches/venues to find something more. Sadly I don’t think that stepping away really solves the heart of what we’re missing. I think we just need to get across the table and start connecting instead of lining up in rows next to each other listening to a speaker only to feel shame six months later when the life changing conference didn’t really change us. I’m not blaming the conference, I blame us. We want the easy fix. We want ten steps to freedom.

If we forget everything we know about church and church life, pretend we have never experienced any of it, then pick up a Bible and start reading the Gospels and book of Acts, and were asked to describe what the Christianity should look like, would you describe your life right now?

I think most of us would have to admit that we’re missing something.

Connections are what make life worth living. God is all about connections. Sometimes we get messed up in our thinking and we look at the Bible and see a set of rules, but it is a book about connection.

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Matt 22:37-39

Connecting with God and connecting with others.

Connection requires taking the risk to care about someone outside your own skin.
It’s the willingness to lower the gate on our heart and experience new possibilities. New places for us to unfold and come alive with a realization that we’re not the only one weary of these roads we travel. There are women just like you, overwhelmed with marriage, motherhood or maybe just getting themselves out of bed in the morning.

John Cacioppo considered by many as one of the fathers of social neuroscience says:

“Our survival depends on collective abilities not our individual might. Our very health and well being depend on our ability to form and maintain satisfying social connections with one another.”

Studies show that those who are connected with family and friends are happier and healthier people. The emotional brain feels safer when we belong and have a connection with others; our brain has a basic need for security and protection. We are social beings. We feel better when we have friends and do things that we enjoy together. The way people respond to us is often a cue for telling ourselves “How lovable and acceptable I am.”

God created us for connection; our bodies and brains are hardwired for it. The brain is a social brain. We have neurons constantly firing; processing new experiences, creating pathways in our brain that information and emotion can travel.

Rascal Flatts were (was?) right , life IS a highway!

But if the neurons are not being used, if they’re not firing, they die off, by the millions. When they die off, connections in our brain are seemingly left at the edge of a cliff without a bridge. Eventually these neurons prune, shrivel and die just like we do if we are isolated and disconnected. Our experiences and relationship are powerful interventions that keep us alive and thriving.

When we feel safe in relationship, we engage, we interact and we bond or attach. This process releases oxytocin in us and that calms the fear center in our brain. It causes us to relax and rest in the comfort of relationships.

When we are wounded in relationships, we can quickly become apathetic towards the idea of connecting with people. When we become apathetic, our brains essentially go “offline,” it’s similar to the act of playing dead so the lion won’t eat us feeling.
It’s paralyzing to our relationships and ultimately our lives.

Social isolation, has been linked to an increased risk of infectious, cardiovascular, and many diseases.

When we can’t or won’t socially engage through friendships involving eye contact, meaningful conversation or emotionally connecting, our brain goes off line and the fear part of our brain takes over. It leads to stress and anxiety and produces an increased amount of cortisol in our body.

Cortisol is secreted by the adrenal glands and has been termed “the stress hormone” because it’s secreted in higher levels during the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response to stress, and is responsible for several stress-related changes in the body. Small amounts of cortisol are good for us. It’ gives us a quick burst of energy for survival, it helps us run from lions and lift cars off our children, it heightens memory functions and lowers sensitivity to pain. Cortisol is an important and helpful part of the body’s response to stress, it’s important for the body’s relaxation response to be activated so the body’s functions can return to normal following a stressful event.

Did you know that higher and more prolonged levels of cortisol in the bloodstream (like those associated with chronic stress and isolation) have been shown to have negative effects, such as: impaired cognitive performance, suppressed thyroid function, blood sugar imbalances, decreased bone density and muscle tissue, higher blood pressure and lowered immunity and inflammatory responses in the body, slowed wound healing, and other health consequences.  Over time, this seriously accelerates an age-related decline in health and well-being.

Most important, it also leads to increased abdominal fat.

Hello?! Healthy connections, are the key to losing our muffin tops!

God created us to live healthy and part of that is through meaningful connections. To keep cortisol low and oxytocin high we need to be connected to others. Family is one of the most important earthly connections we need but it’s not the only one. We also need friends. We need to connect with other women, especially those on similar journeys.

This, THIS is why I am so passionate about women connecting, encouraging and inspiring one another.

We’ve had a lot of interest in women starting Praise and Coffee groups in their community. It seems that once they realize that they just need to invite a couple friends out to a coffee shop or over to their kitchen table, they relax and jump in.
No centerpieces, door prizes or tackling women for a good seat, just real women, sharing life and stories around a table.

We believe wholeheartedly what the Bible says in Matt 18:20, that when 2 or 3 gather in His name, He comes.
No, you don’t need to call it Praise and Coffee, who cares what you call it, just do it!

But if you are interested in learning more about Praise and Coffee groups, we are holding a live chat in our online group for Praise and Coffee leaders. There is no cost, or sign up.
Click here to join us Tuesday, November 12, 2013 at 9:00 PM EST for one hour or so. Ronel Sidney and I will be giving you ideas and answering questions. By joining us that night you are not committing to anything, we DO NOT want you to feel pressured to do one more thing unless God is leading you that way.

You are loved.

More: Loneliness is Not About Being Alone

The Summer 2013 Praise and Coffee Magazine, Our Last Issue

The Summer Praise and Coffee Magazine is here!

Click here to read: Summer 2013

It’s filled with great articles by amazing women. The topic is freedom, and we tackle it from all angles.

Freedom from our past, freedom to forgive, freedom from debt and more.cover summer 2013

Our last issue…

It was a little harder to press “publish” on this magazine. As you will read, it is the last magazine for an undecided amount of time. I tell you about the decision on the last pages of the magazine.

We’ve had three great years publishing this magazine! I’m incredibly grateful to everyone who submitted articles and poured their hearts out on the pages over the years. I’ve met some wonderful ladies along this journey and connected with women that have become friends in real life.

My focus is shifting and I have some other projects that have been calling for my attention for a long while and I’m hoping I can make some forward motion in those areas now.

The topic of “Freedom” was decided before I decided that this would be the last issue, but it is quite fitting. I don’t mean to say that I’m ‘free of the magazine’ because I’ve loved doing it. Loved it! But it is freeing to know that it’s ok to lay down something you love doing when you do it while trusting that God is leading you and has other things on the horizon.

It’s easy to go with the flow and once a system is started, just keep moving but the past few years I’ve learned to enjoy the fluidity of a relationship with Jesus. The message stays the same, but the vehicle changes. Freedom brings peace, but it often has to be fought for. We have to fight the voices and disappointments of others. Don’t expect everyone to love or understand the changes that God calls you to do.

But bravely step out, or step back, whichever you’re feeling the tug to do. Peace is the signature of a walk with God. I did not say quiet or calm or even easy, but I said peace, that inner sense that you’re on the right track and the contented rest that comes with trusting the Father’s love and leading.

I hope that even this move to stop publishing the magazine will encourage and inspire you to follow close to what God lays in your heart because His ways are always better than ours.

 

Here are some of the article pics if you would like to Pin them for us! And we would love it if you did!

diema freedom

espresso

farewell

forgive

freedome julie

grace

israel

mel capture melanie

tracee article

tricia capture

Connecting Beyond the Four Walls of Church

I’m having a great week. My girlfriend Ronel, who is also the National Director for Praise and Coffee, flew in from California on Wednesday.

Since that moment it has been non-stop coffee drinking, sharing stories and Praise and Coffee talk. Denise, my partner with the magazine, came over yesterday too to spend the day with us.

Here we are gathered around my kitchen table with notebooks and iPad’s galore. (Notice Melissa Mashburn is not here, we are missing her!)

I want you to know these girls a little better so I am sharing their recent blog posts.
I agree strongly with what both of them are saying and much of our conversation has been about “being the church” beyond the four walls of the building. The girls took to the computer and wrote out some of what we’ve been talking about.

I AMEN both these posts:

Denise’s post: Frustrated With Religion

Ronel’s post: Connecting Beyond Barriers

I realize some of this may not be popular, but the status quo is not working…women especially are searching for real life connection and purpose as Christians.

 

If any of this resonates with you, you will love the magazine that’s coming out this month. New ideas, new motivation and tools to reach out to the women God has in your life (hopefully the ones outside your church!).

Have a great weekend!

Please let us know your thoughts in the comments,
Sue

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