dsc_0472Many churches announce the birth of a new baby by putting a flower in a bud vase and placing it somewhere at the front of the church so everyone can see it.

One church takes this a step further. They have purchased several real-looking, artificial roses. When someone trusts Christ as Savior, one of the roses is put in a vase in front of the church. This might be someone within the church or someone a church member led to the Lord at work or in the neighborhood. (The person the rose represents doesn’t have to attend the church.)

I think this is an especially cool idea when boys and girls accept the Lord in one of the church ministries such as Awana. Often people don’t realize that a lot of evangelism is happening at the behind-the-scenes activities. This is a great way to let the congregation know that people are being reached for Christ and that a lot is happening in the various church ministries.

(I think the reason they used artificial roses was so they could keep them on hand and use several at one time.)


Any pastor who’s been through the candidating process knows how stressful it is.

Not only are a few interviewers watching you – but an entire church is watching  you, your wife and your two-year-old who has enough energy for 26 adults and your 13 year-old who is in the slumpy phase of life.

And they’re not only looking for your leadership skills and your computer skills, but the way you talk, the way your kids behave and whether or not you have a dog. (Oh, and does your wife play the piano and drink coffee?)

Let’s just say – it can be crazy.

I remember the Sunday morning that three people from Central (THE search committee) visited our church in Racine to listen to Ken in person. Afterwards we went out to eat to get to know each other better – a scene set up for a nerve convention.

But the nerves weren’t there. We chatted and laughed and left the restaurant knowing we had made new friends.

And they remained friends – especially Ken and Sonja Zilly. Ken (my Ken) went out to breakfast with them almost every Thursday and I often felt jealous because I was at work and couldn’t go with him.  (And of course, they were Cub fans, so that made it all the better.) I wrote so many thank-you notes to the Zilly’s over the years for things they did for us, that I had the Zilly-thank-you note memorized and I always ended with “and most of all thanks for being our friends.”

Even though most of the participants in my Ken’s memorial service were family, it seemed fitting for Ken Zilly to welcome everyone and lead off the service in prayer.  (All these Kens are getting confusing in this post.)

When Kelli and I heard that Ken had fallen a few weeks before Christmas, we went over to see the Zillys  and had a great visit.

A few days after Christmas I saw them again and I could tell that Ken wasn’t gaining strength.

Tomorrow I’ll be going to his memorial service.

Because now Ken is home with the Lord – maybe talking to  my Ken – and sharing a heavenly breakfast together.

And I am glad I had the privilege of knowing him.

Ken Zilly was one of those people that make being a pastor (and pastor’s wife) a joy.


Probably the biggest difference I’ve ever encountered happened in Indiana. (Is this true all over the state, Kristy?)

Ken was in seminary and when you’re husband is in seminary, you know a lot of families who are expecting babies.

Anyhow, I was invited to a baby shower. That sounded like fun, so I went.

We played one of those typical baby shower games and I won. So the hostess handed me a prize all wrapped up in pretty paper – I think it was a photo cube.

Being very shy and not yet knowing a lot of the ladies, I enthusiastically appraised the gift, saying how much I needed a place to put some new pictures we had received.

I put the cube under my chair by my purse. I noticed everyone looking at me funny and that made me feel awkward, but I had no idea why. 

We played another game. Someone else won. She got a prize all wrapped up. She opened it and then went over to the guest of honor and handed it to her. That puzzled me. I watched the next prize-winner. Same thing. By the end of the evening, I realized that prizes were purchased with the guest-of-honor in mind, not the prize-winner herself.

That’s just what they did at baby showers there.  I felt super stupid. I thought back to my “thanks” and how I had gone on and on about having just the right pictures for the cube. No wonder everyone had stared at me – it wasn’t my gift. I didn’t know what to do, so I did nothing. Now I probably would’ve laughed and said, “Oh, I was supposed to give this to you. I’m sorry. I haven’t heard of giving your prizes to the guest of honor before. We didn’t do that where I used to live.”

Then – at least I knew what to do at the other showers I attended.

Again, it’s hard to know what to tell people because you don’t which of the things you do are different from what everyone else is doing.

But don’t hesitate to over explain to the new pastor and his wife (or any family who has moved from out of town). Better to tell them something they might already know rather than take the chance they’ll be embarrassed.


dill-dip-allisonSometimes people talk differently in different places.

And sometimes people do things differently in different places.

But there’s a catch. If YOU’VE always lived in the same place, how do you know if what you do is different from what everyone else does? You really don’t. And sometimes that doesn’t matter.

Two times I remember being caught totally unaware.

One time was at Central.

The church had a carry-in dinner and Ken and I didn’t bring our own plates or silverware. I never even thought about it.  All the churches I had attended before always provided paper plates, plastic wear or for fancier occasions – real dishes and silverware.

But being that Ken was the new pastor, people were paying attention to us and I remember about five different families immediately offered us a plate and utensils. So we ended up with about 12 plates, 6 spoons, 4 forks and 32 knives.  it wasn’t a big deal, but I do remember a few awkward moments when I realized we hadn’t done the carry-in dinner “right.” When you fail at dinner, you’ve kind of got a problem.

Probably if Ken hadn’t been the new pastor, I would’ve felt more embarrassed because people probably wouldn’t have been so quick to notice our dishless state. 

This is why it’s sometimes good to over-explain to someone what’s expected of them.

I will share the other situation tomorrow and in my opinion, the second one is ten times worse than the first one.


dsc_0052So, I’ve been thinking about the no oxen, clean crib thought this week.

Where no oxen are, the crib is clean: but much increase is by the strength of the ox. (Proverbs 14:4)  

A couple of you had good comments last week, so I decided to dig into it further.

One commentary said the verse means that sometimes in order to have growth, you need to have mess. That made me think of a church auditorium all spotlessly clean the people file in on Sunday morning.  But then after church, there are leftover remains of bulletins/worship programs, candy wrappers, wadded-up tissue.  Bibles and visitor cards are askew in the hymnal racks. Sure, someone has to clean it up and cleaning isn’t that much fun – especially the wadded-up tissue part. (Though reading the notes people – especially teenager-type people –  wrote and left behind can be fun. Did I ever tell you about the time I collected a bunch of them and printed them in the church news letter? Now THAT was REALLY fun.)

Another commentary talked in detail about the verse and said that the proverb is about corn. If you don’t plow, plant, cultivate and harvest, you won’t have results.
A third commentary said the verse is talking about investing in the right tools for the job. You can farm without the oxen, but can do it so much better with the oxen.
Three different takes on the same verse, but at the same time – the same take. Willingness to put effort into something, even if that something is incredibly difficult and messy (and sometimes takes money), is what produces results.
Whenever I think of this verse, I think of a mother-daughter banquet where I was invited to be the speaker.
Speaking at churches where you don’t know anyone is an unknown factor. Sometimes people do everything they can to make you feel comfortable and welcomed, but other times they treat you like you’re part of the furniture. Literally.  As in we have our food, the podium, the decorations and the speaker and our work is done.

I knew little about this church. I drove down to it by myself. I let myself in, walked by several women who were engaged in conversation and finally found a room with several tables set up for dinner. Everything was perfectly spotless. I picked out someone who looked like she was in charge and told her who I was.
“Oh,” she led me to a seat. “You sit right here.”
I sat. The lady walked away. I sat by myself for several minutes watching other ladies wander in and sit down, busily chatting with each other. Since I was at the speaker’s table, I was in front of everyone and it was all rather awkward, sitting there by myself staring at the ladies facing me.  I did notice as more and more seats were taken that most of these banquet guests seemed more of the mother variety, than the daughter variety. (Although I realize every mother is a daughter.)  But there were NO young girls. I mean younger than 25.
I took the time to study my surroundings. Pink table clothes, pink plates, pink flowers and two very obviously-placed posters on the wall – that I could tell were permanent fixtures.
The posters were identical to each other. They said:
That was just the first of 10 rules, the last five I can’t remember but they seemed like reiterations of the first 5.
The in-charge lady came back and sat down next to me and started going through her official-looking mother/daughter banquet notes.
I decided to play a mental game. If someone told me to list those rules for the kids, how would I change them around so they could be positive?
Wait a minute!  They DID have an Awana Circle. I was literally sitting on it. A conversation starter!  “Oh,” I said to in-charge lady, “you have Awana?”  (I didn’t work at Awana at that point and had no personal investment, but knew enough …)
“No,” she said. “We used to, but not anymore. For some reason we can’t get any kids to come.”
Duh! (They also didn’t have any daughters under the age of 25.)
And that church is what I think of when I think of this verse.  “Children, we have programs for you at our church, BUT IF YOU HAPPEN TO SHOW UP, we don’t want you ACTUALLY behaving like a kid. We don’t want to put forth the effort to prepare for you or clean up after you. But if you come and sit perfectly still in our perfectly-clean chairs, you can come.”
I’m sure there were good people in that church. The banquet went fine. They had great food and entertainment.
But it all made me sad. 
What are our priorities?  
Do we care about the scuff marks from someone’s shoes or the condition of  someone’s heart?



dsc_09472 Did you check out the comments from my post on different words in different places? Some interesting language findings from a couple readers.

Now, on to Fun Friday.

Saturday is Valentine’s Day.  Here are some fun ideas. Some for home. Some for church.

1. A pastor’s wife in Wisconsin got together with one of the ladies in the church and they made Valentine cookies for everyone. They put the cookies in bags and their kids had fun decorating the bags with stickers and ribbons. Last Sunday they gave a cookie to each person in attendance.

2. Mix mini-kisses (chocolate chips) in your kids’ cereal on Valentine’s morning.

3. Or make heart-shaped pancakes.

4. Cook a red meal – spaghetti, radishes, cherries, grapes, cranberries. (Ewwww … maybe not together.)

5. Who in your church hasn’t had a Valentine for years and years and years? Why not have the teens show up at their houses with a plate of cookies and a coupon good for four hours of service: yardwork, cleaning the garage, scrubbing the basement floor, whatever.

6. In your Sunday kids’ program (whether SS or Children’s Church) have kids decorate red paper placemats with hearts, glitter, etc. Somewhere on the placemat, have them to write a big thank you for the teachers who work with them each week. Cover the placemats with clear contact paper and give to the teachers.

7. Plan a brunch for the single people in your church.

8. Make a list of 25 (I just picked that number) reasons why you love each of your kids. Present the lists with a drumroll!

9. Some pizza places make heart-shaped pizzas on Valentine’s Day – fun for your family or your youth group.

10. And remember the greatest love of all — (Ok the alignment of the Valentine in John 3:16 will get totally goofed up when I post this – so it probably won’t look like anything. 😦

          For God so loVed the world


      He gave His onLy




      whosoever  belIeveth

   in Him should  Not perish but 

                       have Everlasting life



Do as the Romans do or wherever

A clean oxen story

And more …