Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Last Day to Support Living Faith Community Church in Pittsburgh

Photo courtesy of Melissa Deming

It's simple really. I create beautiful things and use them to help plant churches. During April I've partnered with my friend Melissa Deming's church plant in Pittsburgh. You can read about Melissa and Living Faith Community Church here.

Photo courtesy of Melissa Deming

This year is flying by and April along with it. Tomorrow will be May 1! If you'd like to support what God is doing in Pittsburgh through Melissa and her church please order today (prior to midnight EST).

Photo courtesy of Melissa Deming

Fill your life with meaningful beauty and change the life of someone else as the Gospel is planted in Pittsburgh and around the world.

Shop here.

Monday, April 28, 2014

How to Talk About Jesus: For Introverts, Newbies, and Failures @MissionalWomen

I grew up believing that there was only one way to proclaim the Gospel. It was the way of extroverts and evangelists and I was failing miserably at it. At the time I didn’t know I was an introvert. I also didn’t know there was more than one way to share your faith. The way I was taught was you sit down next to someone on an airplane or walk up to them in the grocery store and the following “conversation” occurs:

Hey you, want to know about Jesus?” (Don’t wait for a response.) “Great! Because I’m a Christian and I’m here to tell you all about Him. You see, you’re a sinner. Here are all the verses that say so.” (Proceed to beat them over the head with the Bible.) “So, do you want to be saved?”

At which point they either joyfully (or fearfully) accept your invitation and you can add another notch to your Christian belt, or they walk away, mumbling obscenities, and you can count the experience as your expected “persecution.” You know, the way Christ, and the early church were persecuted.

Clearly I spent most of my life feeling intense amounts of guilt and shame over my failure to evangelize and convert thousands of people (of whom I just met at Starbucks).

Saturday, April 26, 2014

For Your Weekend Reading: The Cat Lady of Highland Park

I received this book as a gift from the author but all opinions are my own.

Although this memoir is a 100% true account of Blaine’s youth, The Cat Lady of Highland Park reads like fiction. With a large enough cup of tea you can finish it in one lazy Sunday afternoon.

The first time I read Blaine’s memoir it was in its draft stages as a blog. Even though I knew what was coming, I was on the edge of my seat the second time I read it in it’s finished form.

It’s an easy read but if you’ve ever had anybody in your life even remotely like the Cat Lady it may hit a little bit too close to home. Throughout the book it will be hard to remember that what you’re reading is not some outlandish narrative but the author’s own true story of growing up in the Chicago suburbs.

Blaine’s is a story, like many of our own, of looking “outside for solutions to turmoil that can only be resolved within,” and it is fantastic. 

Get your copy here.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Friend: #FiveMinuteFriday

(in)RL starts tonight. Join thousands of women from the comfort of your own home here.

He looks up at me as I write these words because I've stopped petting him. He is a friend like no other. These ten long years we've shared together have been so full of joy and sadness. I like him better than most people, but the truth is that he is not enough.

This desire to know and be known. It drives us. What we do and don't do. Our engagement in social media or lack thereof. Whether we go out into the big wide world and have relationships with others or hide behind our computer screens. It often feels safer there. It is not.

The internet can be cruel it is true but a life lived in solitary is much more cruel. Knowing people and being known by them is a risk. They will fail you. Oftentimes more than once. And you will do some failing yourself. But you, me, we all need each other.

When you have something to celebrate it's sweeter when shared with a friend. Something lonely is less lonely when you let someone come into the night with you. And tragedy? Suffering? Loss? Those things can make you throw in the towel completely if you have no one to walk beside you.

Sure, a guarded heart is safe. But a safe heart isn't fully alive. You and I, we need in-real-life friends.

On Fridays I join a community of writers that encourages each other. Interested? Join us here. 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Glue: #FiveMinuteFriday

We sit at the low table and make an Easter craft together. For me glue on the fingers is not much more than a slight annoyance. For him it is an unparalleled sensory roller coaster. Autism is is a blessing like that. The sweet boy may not be able to hold a full grasp of language but he can suck the marrow out of the places in life we ignore.

And then there is he whose face shows the distinct characteristics of Downs. He is the hugger, lover, always smiling boy. The one you go to if you need your day brightened. He can't fully articulate faith but he knows: we have so much to celebrate.

And the high functioning boy on the spectrum? He can move through most social situations with ease. But it is his emotions that allude him. And when I suggest we pray to God about his "brain being crowded." He speaks the truth we all often feel but are too afraid to voice. Usually when we need to pray the most we feel like praying the least.

And it's amazing that the God who loves the orphan and widow also loves the other outcasts of society. The homeless, the cheater, the mentally handicapped.

In the same way that we glue that paper Easter Lilly, to page His blood flows wet on the ground to our souls. His blood that pieces our lives together can also glue back the missing links in our minds.

On Fridays I join with a community of writers that encourage one another. You can join us here.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Recap of the Missional Women Conference: An Open Letter

 Dear Ladies of the Missional Women Conference,

You are my people. You and your big hearts, sweet smiles, and perfectly imperfect ministries. You are my people. The way you welcome this new kid on the block, serve one another without reserve, and share deeply around a table spread with food to strangers and friends. You are my people.

You are the let your hair down, breathe deep, it's ok to not always wear makeup or have it all together type. You refresh my soul. When I walk into a room where you are? I feel like I can breathe. Stop pretending. Stop striving and trying to earn your love. Just be me. And you do more than accept this broken introverted, Florida girl who gets giddy with a few inches of snow. You welcome me with open arms. You identify with me. You give me your stamp of approval.

I love the way you are bakers, and homemakers, mommas and campus ministers, musicians, lovers of inner-city children, and foreign workers. And all of you have chosen to live as missionaries exactly where you are. And you remind me that I'm not the only person on this journey.

It has been so long since I've walked into a women's conference and not had to sell myself. Not had to yet again hand out business cards awkwardly and hope for more followers, better networking, more opportunities yet again. When I walked into the room with you? You refreshed my soul. I felt it right away. More love and sacrifice. Less striving and hustle.

As I sat in that room with you Friday night, I wanted every women in the world to feel what I felt in that moment. And it only got better as the weekend went on. We learned from one another. You asked questions of me and I of you. You shared your stories so I would know I was not alone in mine. Your humbleness was amazing to me. And there was a part of me that was so thankful that we were small. Because by the time the weekend was over? You felt like family.

Attendees of The Missional Table breakout all received a copy of Bread and Wine thanks to Shauna Niequist and Zondervan.

So thank you. Thank you all. Who knows what the future holds for us? Will we be the quiet few that faithfully serve and live wherever God has planted us? Will we be a movement of world change? I don't know. But I'm certain of this, you are my people.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Discovering Your Art: Spotlight on Hope Cafe' Originals

It's been quiet around here as the count down for Missional Women Conference has begun and I'm trying to finish so many last minute details. (You can still register to attend here or join the webcast here.) Unless you're new around here you know I've been thinking and writing about art for a while now. This post is the first in a series of interviews with artists that I hope will inspire you to discover and pursue your own art.

Kris Wood is a hope distributor wherever she goes as a friend, retreat speaker, card designer or devotional writer. She and her husband Sam live in Oshkosh WI and they have two married sons that live in the area. Her greeting card business, Hope Cafe Originals, was founded when she was laid off last year and she needed a way to stay focused and productive. Find her daily encouragements on Facebook here or connect with her on Twitter here. (Kris is also a sponsor of the Missional women conference and we're so thankful for her!)


Tell us about your art. 

I've always enjoyed beautiful things, especially in nature. I started with poetry and photography and have now moved toward collage and mixed media and art journaling. It's a treasure hunt to see what God will show me of Himself through art!

What do you love about your art? 

Collage art is so diverse! I love that every card or art piece can be as varying as the seasons and as personal as a whispered love note. Joy and hope go hand in hand as I do my work in making handcrafted cards and frameable art. It is functional as decoration and it is hopeful in declaration. Every piece is prayed over while I work on it...both for the person who buys it and for the person who will receive it. (Kris even prayed over every piece going in the goodie bags for the Missional Women Conference. Amazing!)


How does your art help you connect with the Ultimate Creator? 

O the joyful inspiration of color, shadow and texture! God uses art creation to help me slow down and consider before creating and making. I take to heart all he impresses on me within a season, a scripture, a song so that I can see what he sees. While in a fruitful time with him, come poetic words or classic photos or creative collages. I love that God allows me to be an ally with him in at least three ways: in capturing and expressing beauty, communicating core truths and in encouraging people to hold on to Christ as they take steps to follow Him, moment by moment. I am a simple conduit of the grace and beauty of Jesus in how I serve and love others with art. It's not about creating perfection, but offering all as worship and letting him adapt it to the receivers. Since God often speaks to me in word pictures, I cling to His approval and pleasure as we work together to build up the body of Christ.

How do you implement creativity into your daily life?

I use art as a spiritual discipline and gifts of encouragement.Since I'm a morning person, I get up while the house is quiet and read scriptures while I sip my first cup of coffee. God usually highlights a phrase or a word in the passage and I create a quick piece in collage or photography to share on Facebook or my blog. Now that I've been doing it for a while, I tend to have other morning people watch for the thoughts and picture. It keeps me accountable and focused in seasons where I tend to be flighty. I recently started learning more about art journaling and have joined an online class where I can learn new techniques from others and try different types of supplies. It really takes me out of my comfort zone, but helpful to mix with others who are learners, too.


What advice can you give to other artists about dealing with fear and criticism?

There will always be people who are better at certain techniques than we are. If I focus on that, though, I'll never get started and only feel inferior and insecure. Instead of defining myself by what I can't do (i.e. sketch or paint), I have learned to appreciate the gifts God has given me (encouraging collage). Our culture applauds "knowing", but God affirms learning and growth. So, my advice? Allow yourself to be a learner. If you don't have the pressure to already "know stuff", you're free to explore, building on your strengths and defining your style as you go. The bravest people are often insecure, afraid AND are willing try again or try to do things another way. This is true whether in relationships, work...or art

What else should we know about you or your art?

I love custom orders, as I get to enter into real life milestones. One client knew her son would be proposing to his girlfriend soon. She wrote a poem and asked me to create a card based on this special day and welcome her future daughter-in-law into the family. What an honor! Another client in Alaska had an inside joke she wanted to use for a themed birthday card for her brother in law. Such a joy to be part of such happiness and thoughtful bonding! Even making "general" cards is special because so few people receive "real mail" these days! 


I'm so inspired by Kris an her ability to weave her art into spiritual practice. Be sure to stop by Hope Cafe' Originals on Facebook and join her in being a distributor of hope.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Church Plant of the Month: Living Faith Community Church in Pittsburgh

Melissa and Family

(On Monday, I talked about my Etsy store and my vision for art that invests in eternity. Each month I'll partner with a church plant and a portion of all shop sales will got to that church. I'll also share an interview with someone from the church.)

Living Faith Community Church in Pittsburgh, PA., is my new friend, a fellow Missional Women Contributor and Missional Women Conference Speaker, Melissa Deming's church. Here's an interview with Melissa about the church of the month for April:

Tell us about you, your ministry, and your writing.

I’m a journalist by trade and fell into blogging to keep loved ones updated about our twin boys (now age 5). In 2011, I launched Hive Resources – a site to sweeten women's walk with Christ through ministry and missions resources, Bible studies, and more.  My writing flows naturally out of what I’m reading, what I’m learning as I disciple women around me, and the service of my family in our church plant.

What’s your church planting story? 


When my family moved from Texas to Pennsylvania a few years ago, my husband and I both said we wanted to find the biggest church in our area and hide in the back pew. God has the best sense of humor, because he sent us to the smallest church where there were only a few rows of chairs. There was no place to hide! When we joined Living Faith Community Church of Pittsburgh, the church hadn’t even officially launched. But we were impressed with the spiritual authenticity of the few families that comprised its core membership and their desire to reach their city for Christ. We eagerly stepped in and got to work, helping on the worship team, in design and web development, and children’s and women’s ministry. Once we started seeing people come to Christ, we were hooked on church planting! 

Baptism in the hotel pool


Tell us about Living Faith Community Church. 


Living Faith Community Church is church plant in Pittsburgh, PA. We seek to be part of God’s transformational work in the Pittsburgh area and to all nations for this generation and future generations. Our Mission is to make authentic disciples and plant Gospel-centered churches by helping others experience living faith.

As a two-year-old church plant, we have much to celebrate. Although we are still small, we are growing! We met in an office building for a year, then moved to a hotel for year two. Next month we’re moving to a private school, which will give us the room we desperately need to grow.

Currently, we average 50 adults in worship and our kids classes are busting at the seams. The course of entire families have been changed for future generations because a mother or a father surrendered to Christ at Living Faith.  My favorite story is of a recently married couple who came to faith in Christ and was baptized together in the hotel pool (we don’t have a baptistery). Our pastor baptized the husband and then a few seconds later, the husband baptized his own wife!

Outreach and picnic in the park

Why another new church? 


Pittsburgh is an amazing, but hard city.  There is much “religion” but very little living faith.  When someone attends our worship services, we do not expect them to be familiar with basic Bible stories or even the gospel message of grace.

Pittsburgh’s not alone. In the major city centers of the Northeast (Baltimore, Pittsburgh, DC, Philadelphia, Boston) an estimated 82% of the population is considered “lost.” (Joy's Note: statistically planting new churches is the most effective way to see people come to know Christ.)

We need more churches in our city and region that are passionate about engaging the lost and active discipleship, because the gospel transforms lives. I’ve seen it happen before my eyes! 

Pastor Ken and Paula Cordray


In church planting, finances are usually a concern and often a struggle. What does it mean to a church plant for people to come around them and support them with something as simple as an Etsy store purchase?


Like most church plants, we started out with very little. There are no big budgets and no back-up plans, just a call from God to obey. But despite the financial limitations, it is incredibly exhilarating to see God provide for the mission he’s called us to. It not only makes ministry and missions feasible for us, it also encourages our hearts and renews our commitment to impacting our communities because we know that God is behind every little detail of our church plant. 

So, when someone makes a purchase that aids our church plant, we receive more than monetary gain. It’s like a huge spiritual karate chop! Plus, they get to play a role in reaching the nations for Christ…while shopping!

If you want to support the April church of the month simply make a purchase in my shop and a portion of the sale will go to this church plant with a mission to reach those in need of Christ in Pittsburgh.

If you plan to support the mission of Living Faith please let me know in the comments below.