Thursday, June 28, 2012


Many of us will be celebrating Independence Day in July with picnics, parades, running down Peachtree Street, or my personal favorite: fireworks! Fireworks have been around since the 7th century when they were invented in China and used for festivals. Since then fireworks have been used worldwide to celebrate very special events. For me, fireworks are one of the things that make celebrations on July 4th great. 

There are two types of fireworks, ground and aerial. Ground fireworks are the type you get at Wal-mart or just over the boarder of Georgia at the big, red warehouse with the yellow sign in either the of the great states of South Carolina or Alabama. Aerial fireworks have their own propulsion or can be shot from the ground in a mortar. These fireworks are usually displayed at fireworks shows by professionals (although there are some mild forms of aerial fireworks at the big, yellow warehouse). No matter which type of firework you choose, if done so safely, you can have a really great celebration.

A wise friend once told me, "We are not called to Greatness we are called to be Faithful. And if we are Faithful we will always be Great in God's eyes." As easy as that may sound, the world makes this difficult for us. Success, in our culture, means having money. It means having money not only for food, shelter, and clothing but also for education, healthcare, transportation, communication devices, and most importantly - chocolate! But success in God's eyes has nothing to do with chocolate or iPhones. 

Faith in God is the standard for greatness within the church. It is not a measured greatness per se, rather a profession of Jesus as Lord and Savior and then an ongoing relationship with God. Simply that will make you great in God's eyes.

Working with the youth has shown me it is the next step that sometimes gives us trouble. We know what we must do, but we have trouble sustaining it. We spend several lessons going through confirmation classes and praying for our students to make the right choice. And we celebrate when they do. But often we see them backslide because we fail to teach them what's next.

The Bible has two "Great" lessons from Jesus. The first is that Jesus taught us that The Greatest Commandment is to love. Love God and love your neighbor. The next is Jesus' parting words in The Great Commission - go and make disciples. In order for us to sustain the Greatness of Faith that we are called to, we must do these two things. God gives us the "what's next." 

The first two Sundays in July I'll be preaching on the two "Great" things.I'll be sharing God's example of what loving your neighbor means and examples of how the early church made disciples. With these two "Great" things, we can have an amazing celebration. One worthy of a spectacular display of fireworks!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Fifty Shades of Red

The other day I met someone live and in person (not on Twitter or Facebook). When I told him that I knew his grandmother, he chuckled.  And I immediately turned fifty shades of red.because the person I was thinking of was his mom and not his grandmother.  I'm just glad she wasn't there to hear me say it.

There have been many other embarrassing stories that are much worse and I've paid a therapist to forget. Embarrassment is one of those things that I could probably avoid 50% of the time if I just slowed down to think.

In Proverbs 17:27 it says: A truly wise person uses few words;
    a person with understanding is even-tempered.

Perhaps if I just shut-up a bit more and made my words more about God and less about romance novels, we'd get a little bit closer to the point where "everyone hears."

Until Everyone Hears,

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Let's Go Home


The other day our family went to the Stone Mountain Laser Show. We brought the mandatory KFC and loaded up the car for a picnic and headed out. When we got there we ate, threw the Frisbee and did the Macarena (they were playing it there). We had a great time.

Our four year old seemed to have the best time. The idea of a picnic to her is fascinating. Being able to eat on the grass on a blanket is second only to sleeping in a blanket and chair fort in the living room. But as we got closer to showtime, she started asking about the fireworks. The year before she became a turtle anytime there were fireworks. I can't blame her. They are still too loud for me.

Just as the show started, she covered her ears and said, "I want to go home. I want to go home!"

She does this when something upsets her. If she falls and skins her knee at the grocery store, she wants to go home. If she had a bad dream while on vacation, she wants to go home. If she gets wigged out by fireworks, she wants to go home.

I can't blame her. When things start to trouble me, I want a safe place to go so I can get away from all the bad things around me.

But for me, home isn't about a place anymore. Home is about my relationship with God. Psalm 21:3 says 

"For You are my rock and my fortress;
Therefore, for Your name’s sake,
Lead me and guide me."

When things start to get scary for me, I remember the One who guides me and I rest assured that I am home.

Our four year old ended up, liking the fireworks. She was still shaking but enjoyed them all the same. And what does she do when she's home and get's scared? She says, "I want my mommy!"
But that's a message for a different day.

Until Everyone Hears,

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Daughter, Wife, Pastor, Mother, Blogger and now AUTHOR!

The Synergy Shift - Available July 2012
Pre - order your copy now at:

After several years of writing, its finally here! My book is being published by Room 272 Press and will be available in late July. I'm so excited about this project for so many reasons. I hope that you join me on this journey about a special time in my life. Pre-order your copy and be the first to know about the book-signing party!

Here's a sneak peek at what The Synergy Shift is all about:

I’m a relatively creative person. I love to sing, dance, and act. But for years I stayed away from the visual arts. That is not my forte. Although I enjoy paintings and sculptures, I thought I wasn’t good at this form of creativity. Then one day a friend invited me to a painting party. We went to someone’s home. Each of us had a canvas and there were several brushes and paints to share. Someone had brought some examples of easy to re-create paintings. All I had to do was copy it. I was still hesitant. My drawings had yet to evolve past stick figures so I wasn’t sure how to pull this off. But when I was surrounded by other friends, who were all giving insight into the creative process, I discovered I could do it. What I couldn’t do alone, synergy let me accomplish with the help of others. Synergy is that moment when different elements come together to create something that couldn’t be done alone.
In 2006, I began working with Allan Todd to start a new church. A different church named Lighthouse United Methodist Church. A church that we believed was what God really wanted us to offer to the people of Fayette County, Georgia. Our focus was on innovative, contemporary worship and frequent service projects in our local community. As we met each day to dream about what we wanted this church to look like, we discovered that we created synergy. Our launch team was excited for our grand opening on August 13, 2006 that would offer an exciting new concept to our community.
On August 3, 2006, Allan passed away suddenly. The moment Allan died, my life changed completely. There was a hole in my heart that ached to be filled and my life seemed so foreign to me.  My life with Allan, before and after his death, was segmented into two moments of time and it all happened in a matter of minutes.
Grieving and healing had to be put on hold. We still had a church to start. Even if we didn’t have our Senior Pastor, we were going through with it. I held everything together as best I could until a new Pastor could be appointed.
Eight weeks later, Mark Jordan was appointed to Lighthouse. I was relieved and excited but also ready to grieve and heal. Healing took much longer than expected, but the journey with Mark made things much smoother. He taught me things I didn’t know I needed to learn and brought healing to a congregation whose faith was on the edge.
Mark was a completely different person than Allan. He was younger, shorter, more organized, and more technological. Best of all, he had a gift of pastoral care that nurtured us without compromising the vision of a church with innovative worship, a focus on service, and radical hospitality. Mark always remembered a name and a face and he never met a stranger.
Although the initial meeting with him brought up mixed feelings, it wasn’t long before we got into a groove of working together and created synergy with the other leaders at Lighthouse. What I thought I’d lost with Allan, I recovered through Mark by being able to know how he worked, share work frustrations, and move forward as a team. .The synergy hadn’t gone away. It just shifted.
This true story is about dealing with the loss of someone who taught me so much and overcoming grief to learn to create synergy again. Along the way I learned a lot about myself and human nature and have been very blessed to feel God’s presence through it all.

Until Everyone Hears,

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Questions About Heaven

I can't say this for parent's of other children, but mine seem to hit a milestone around age 4.  Its called the "What is Heaven like?" milestone.  Just as soon as they stop asking "why?" for everything in the world, they move onto things out of this world and begin to ask questions about the afterlife and more specifically Heaven.

This week I started getting questions from the littlest K about Heaven.  It started out by her asking, "When will I see Aunt Dot?" and just kept going from there. Here are a few:

  • Will we all go to heaven together?
  • Where will our new home be when we get there?
  • Will we take our clothes with us?
  • When does Roxy (our dog) come up?
  • Is there ice cream in heaven?
  • When will Granny go to heaven?
  • Can I dance in heaven?
  • After we get there, when do we come back home?
I have a love/hate relationship with these questions.  I'm glad that she's asking questions that are part of the faith development process.  I'm also glad she realizes the importance of heaven.  But I hate talking about death and I dread her discovery of the probability that I'll leave her someday while she waits.

Right now her world is built around her and her home (and the people that love her in it).  But I want to prepare a future for her where she knows that there is an eternity and it can be her home; and once she's there it will be her home. No need to turn back.

Until Everyone Hears,

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Bridging the Gap

The age categories in American churches are an odd thing.  We try to stick kids into the same age slots that they are used to at school but then we realize that there is a lot to be learned from mixing age groups so that the older children can develop leadership and teaching skills while the younger kids benefit from the socialization with older kids. But then an older kid repeats something inappropriate for a 1st grader to hear and we separate them back out again.

The gap begins to get even worse as kids get older.  Tweeners get lost in the shuffle. High schoolers feel torn once they are automobile-mobile and the world opens up new doors. College students don't always find their niche and young adults don't always find their place.

Lately I've been meeting with some "seasoned" youth pastors in my area and I've gotten some great ideas on helping mind the gap.  Here are a few:

  • Tweeners: the kids who are too cool for children's ministry and too young for youth ministry. There are some churches doing great tweener ministry.  This is a great age to start a "junior youth group." Something just for them.  I know of some churches that do the Dinner and a Movie curriculum, others that use a tradition children's ministry curriculum but meet at a different time from the younger kids, and some that just meet once a month for something social so that they can feel special. 
  • There is a church near me that takes the summer before the first year middle school to do leadership training. They generally do this during VBS but it could be done at any point during the summer.  These kids are better prepared for youth group, middle school, and confirmation class.
  • Driving Years: one church does a "drivers license" ceremony. They present them with a key chain with the church name on it and pray for their safety and help them to realize the possibilities they have to witness to others now that they are mobile.
  • Graduation: Video montages from birth to graduation, a "roast" of the graduates complete with surprise guests, letting a graduating senior preach, creating a "last will and testament" where students leave wisdom and items from youth trips to younger members.
  • College students: hosting students during the summer for special events, sending care packages to those who are away, mission trips during college break.
There are many more creative ideas.  These are just a few.  I'd love for people to place their cool ideas in the comments.  Its important to mind the gap as we bridge the gap to Jesus.

Until Everyone Hears,

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Losing the Swimmies

This summer we hit a milestone in the Karafanda home.  The baby is no longer in need of swimmies. She's now able to explore the pool as the fish that God created her to be.

Of course this is a little unnerving for me as a mom. Each time she jumps I hold my breath. She's still so fragile. I worry. But I know that she's got make this step if she's going to become a Gold Medalist (or at least have some safe fun in the pool).

In the church, we've become a bit over-protective with our youth and their faith.  We tend to keep swimmies on them for too long before we let them go out and swim free.  And unfortunately we are losing a larger number of our young adults in the process.

The transition from youth to adult in our culture is marked by milestones and rites of passage.  The transition from youth to adult in the church is not existent. There are some church that do a great job with Graduation Sunday, Confirmation, and College Ministries. But it isn't consistent between churches.

Here are some examples of the "swimmies" we keep on our youth:

  • Giving 3rd graders Children's Bibles and never replacing them with youth and/or adult Bibles
  • Having Children's Church during the entire worship service with no transition for them to get accustomed to "big" church.
  • Having youth worship services with contemporary music and then never incorporating contemporary worship into any adult worship services (especially once those youth are adults)
  • Confirming youth as members of the church and never giving them leadership positions.
  • Keeping generations separate in churches (youth can learn a lot from older and younger people) 
So lets take the swimmies off!!!

I'll write more next week on some of the great ideas I've heard in helping to remove the swimmies. I'm excited to try some of them at my church. 

And until then - just keep swimming, just keep swimming...

Until Everyone Hears,

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Church Hoarding

Last week my Parents-In-Law moved out of the house they had lived in for over 40 years.  They had lots of memories.  And they had lots of STUFF. 

Some of the stuff was important.  Documents. Clothes. Furniture.

Some of the stuff was nostalgic. Photos. Children's toys. Jewelry. 

And mixed in with all of the important and nostalgic stuff was a bunch of junk.  Clothes that don't fit anymore.  Toys with no owner. Decorative objects that were past their prime.  

These things were treasured at one point and will probably be treasured by the individuals that purchased them at the moving sale, but when it comes to moving and packing, these extra things just weighed us down.

Churches are no different when I comes to collecting STUFF.  We keep things from VBS for years. We collect old t-shirts from youth mission trips.  We take Bibles and Christian book donations and suddenly have a "library."

Part of the problem is that we can't say no to free stuff.  People are always cleaning out their closets and don't want to throw something away so they feel certain that the church could use it.  For some reason things that aren't good enough for a child to play with in a home are perfectly fine for a child to play with at church. Perhaps they think that the church sanctifies all objects, giving them new life and making them safe and clean to play with once more.

The other part of the problem is that we can't get rid of things.  Things tend to hold value; not just due to their price but because of who gave them or what they remind us of.  Memories hold value.  Losing an object that holds a memory can be quite costly.

But the biggest problem with collecting church stuff, is when it weighs us down and takes us away from our mission.  Is the KJV Bible donated by Suzie's great-great-great grandmother (that is missing pages and was colored on back in 1950 by Suzie's cousin thrice removed) more important than someone learning about God in a new and powerful way?

I do think that there are some items in churches now that are meaningful and can be useful in furthering the mission. But, if we spent time de-cluttering our churches in order to make room for new memories and new people, who knows where we could go?

Until Everyone Hears,

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Why I don't debate my atheist friends

I have a few atheist friends.  Some are openly atheist.  Some are still in the closet.

I consider myself an evangelical Christian.  And I hate calling myself that because it turns off my atheist, agnostic, and un-churched friends.  They hear the term and immediately think of judgmental, close-minded, un-loving people.  But the truth is I believe the good news that Jesus preached about is so good that I want to tell other people about it.

Yet when it comes to my atheist friends, I remain silent.

I do this for three reasons:

1) I'm jealous. Even though my faith is very strong, I'm human.  And at times I have doubt.  The thought of just walking away and saying there's nothing, would relieve my doubt.  I would stop asking why bad things happen to good people and wondering why circumcision was the sign of the Old Testament covenant. I would begin to question my encounters with God as psychological quirks or hormonal imbalances.  Its refreshing to think that there is just the known and the unknown; because the Unknown is too boundless for me to fully comprehend.

Yet as tempting as the thought is, I don't think atheism would remove my doubt.  It would just flip my doubt on its head.  I would start to wonder why good things happen to bad people and asking why do so many people buy into the idea of God. I would go beyond making excuses for my spiritual encounters and start to ask if there was something more.

2) Fear of losing their friendship.  When I was in Kindergarten, my teacher forced me to eat broccoli.  Overcooked, mushy broccoli.  The only way I could choke it down was to wash it down quickly with milk (another food item I wasn't fond of). I gagged.  I did it, but that was the last time I ate broccoli for 12 years.  It wasn't until I was 18 and realized that my taste in certain foods had changed.  Not to mention that overcooked broccoli tastes dramatically different from raw broccoli dipped in dressing. I tried the once disgusting vegetable again and realized my mistake.  I wasn't open to trying new things as a 6 year old.

Unfortunately my poor Kindergarten teacher never got a second chance.  She was never able to make warm fuzzy memories with me due to the broccoli incident.  She didn't ask me to try.  She didn't convince me that broccoli could be good or good for me.  She forced me.  And I never forgot.

Although I would never force my beliefs on anyone, I don't want to be like this teacher.  I don't want to push too hard with my beliefs and end up losing a friend.  Perhaps my faith is not strong enough.  Perhaps I should be willing to make the sacrifice in order to share God's love.  Perhaps it should be a risk I'm willing to take.

But I can't. I can let someone know how much I like broccoli.  I can serve it at a party. I can ask if they wan't some broccoli.  But I can't be a broccoli pusher. I'm not sure that a friendship can recover from pushing broccoli.

3) I don't think my words will convince them.  There are some people that want to hear me ramble theologically.  My atheist friends aren't in this category.  In fact, they are sick of hearing Americans ramble theologically to people that don't want to listen.

There are times though, when my atheist or agnostic friends do have deep spiritual questions and because of the relationships that I have built with each of them, they know that I will answer them honestly. This is quite different from theological rambling.  This is saying something that God wants me to say.  To answer a question with conviction.  To know that because I have shown God's love, then I must know God's love, and can talk about God's love.

So although I want the world to hear about God's love Until Everyone Hears, there is a method to the hearing.  As much as he-who-shall-not-be-named-in-sermons says that I ramble, I don't.  Trust me,  if I were to ramble about God, I'd have a lot more to say.

Now you know why I don't debate my atheist friends.  I still love them.  I'm still confused by them. I'm still jealous of them.  But when its time for them to listen, I want them to hear what I say.

Until Everyone Hears,

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