Tuesday, March 29, 2011

She Speaks Scholarship Contest!

Ooooo goody! I have a treat for you today, and I’m feeling even perkier than usual!!!!

We have the honor of giving away a full scholarship to our annual She Speaks Conference! The very generous Cecil Murphey is providing the scholarship to this life-changing conference. I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Murphey during the conference last year and it was a treat just to talk to him for a few minutes. His breakout session was my take-away from last year.  I’ll be sure to post about it one day, because it was transformational for me. Please take a moment to visit his website at www.themanbehindthewords.com.

Cecil Murphey is committed to helping a new generation of communicators. His commitment, combined with his incredible generosity, will allow one of you to attend She Speaks this year!

Here’s what the scholarship includes: 

  • Registration for one person for the 2011 She Speaks conference. The value is $595 and includes two nights in the conference hotel (based on double occupancy), all conference meals, all conference materials, and internet service. It does not include round trip travel to the conference.
  • The scholarship is non-transferable and cannot be traded for cash or exchanged for other conference options. 
  • You can add a private room, extra nights, or a pre-conference seminar to your registration but this will be at your own expense.

In order to win, all you have to do is help me prepare for my breakout session.   (Sorry to mix “selfish” with Cecil’s generosity!)  At She Speaks this year, I will be teaching a breakout session called “What Every Beginner Speaker Needs to Know”.  To enter the contest, leave a comment on this post answering one of the following questions:

1.  Leave a comment telling what you as a beginner speaker most need to know.  What is your most pressing question?

2.  Leave a comment telling what you, as a more seasoned speaker, wish you had known as a beginner.  What is the best piece of advice that you would give to a beginner?

Comments left through Sunday, April 3rd at midnight will be entered, and the winner will be chosen randomly.  The winner will be announced on Tuesday, April 5th.  Tell everybody you know!

I hope while you’re visiting that you’ll take a look around our Next Step Speaker Services website.  You’re always welcome here!  If you like what you see on past blog posts, you can subscribe to receive these free speaker tips weekly.

I can’t wait to read your comments, and thanks for participating!!

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

He Speaks

(To read part 1, click here.  To read part 2, click here.)

Finding Hunger

I couldn’t help but gasp at the end of my friend Caroline’s story.  When a new neighbor moved in next door, Caroline had rallied the troops in her neighborhood to prepare a warm greeting.  She and her friend had planned a feast to take over to welcome the newcomer to their community.  Caroline called the new neighbor and was surprised when her hospitality was met with suspicion.  “Why did you say that you wanted to bring me dinner?” the new neighbor questioned.  Caroline explained that it was a tradition in their area and that they’d like to deliver dinner to welcome her personally.  The neighbor responded, “I tell you what—I’ll give you a call when I’m hungry.”  Click.

Shocking!  Caroline then reflected on how many times we treat God the same way that her new neighbor treated her.  Each day God lays out a feast and invites every believer to come eat our fill.  I had to ask myself, “How many days do I rush by God’s table and throw an ‘I’ll come when I’m hungry!’ back over my shoulder?”  I think I’m full, but God knows that I’m simply ignoring my hunger.  I need to sit down daily to eat and be filled from God’s table.  Luke 1: 53 says, “He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.” (NIV)

I long to have a heart to approach Him daily as I am—poor and hungry.  He invites me to come to Him so that I can leave rich and full.  What a glorious exchange!  What a divine pleasure!

Vacationing with Jesus

Daily time enjoying God is essential, but I am envious of one of my pastors.  He takes a week each year for a spiritual retreat to a monastery.  He goes where it’s quiet and simple and spends a week with Jesus.  Maybe someday when my children are older and I’m caught up on laundry I’ll be able to do that, but recently God led me to do something equally wonderful on a smaller scale.  I took a spiritual retreat during the school day in a room at my church.

As I walked up the stairs to the empty room, I felt nervous.  I had spent hours in prayer with others, but I had never spent this long alone with God before.  Would I have enough to say to Him?  Would He speak to me in the silence?  Would the minutes drag by?  Would I walk out unchanged or disappointed?

At the end of the day, my questions were answered.  God met me there.  We filled our time together with prayer, Bible reading and worship.  God spoke words of direction to me in the silence.  I came in knowing that I was hungry, and He was faithful to fill me.  Having mini-vacations with Jesus is something that I plan to do now at least twice a year.  In the midst of ministry, it’s necessary to intentionally set extended time aside to seek His face and worship Him.  I’ll still look forward to a week in an abbey, but in the meantime I’ll bask in a school day retreat as I renew my relationship with God and feast on His goodness!

I encourage you to examine the time that you spend with God.  Are you like I was?  Has your time become regimented and joyless as you prepare for the next event?  Are you leaving your time with Him breathless from talking and yet still empty?  If that’s true, God is reissuing the invitation—“Come hungry, feast and enjoy!”

This is an excerpt from the book The Reason We Speak.  Marybeth Whalen collected chapters written by a variety of speakers on topics important to speakers and paired each chapter with a devotion that she wrote.  It’s a wonderful book, and I highly recommend it.  I learned a tremendous amount from reading the lessons learned from my speaker-sisters!


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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

He Speaks

(For part 1 of this series, a chapter from The Reason We Speak, click here)

Enjoying God

In the Westminster Shorter Catechism, this life defining question is asked, “What is the chief end of man?”  The answer is simple yet profound.  It says, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”  Those of us who are invited by God into a ministry of speaking bring Him great glory by using our gifts and fulfilling our calling.  We glorify Him when we spend time crafting words that help others experience and love God in all His awesomeness.  It’s too easy to fall short, though, by forgetting the second part of our chief duty.  We are called not only to work for Him but to enjoy Him.

John Piper takes this thought a step further in his philosophy of Christian hedonism.  He summarizes the idea this way, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.”  Christians aren’t to pursue pleasure as its own end, but we are to pursue with all our might the pleasure of knowing God.  It is the highest pleasure that we can know.   When our need for pleasure is satisfied by Him, only then we are able to bring God the glory He deserves.

I’m very task-driven, and I’m a compulsive list maker.  My ministry list can get really, really long.  It includes everything from preparation, to ordering resources, to painting my nails for a weekend retreat.  I’m realizing, though, unless spending intimate time with God tops and permeates my list, my ability to bring Him glory quickly dwindles.  Time with God strengthens my ability to engage my audience, communicate in a winsome way and love the women to whom I speak.  Neglecting intimate times with God exposes the absolute inability I have to do any of those things in my own strength. Jesus Himself said, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.  Now remain in my love…. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”  (John 15:9, 11  NIV)  If I want to communicate His all-surpassing joy and encompassing love to others (and I do!), then my greatest need is to enjoy God.


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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

He Speaks

She Speaks registration has begun!  I hope that I’m going to have the opportunity to meet lots of you in person come July.  Also, Lysa is sponsoring a scholarship contest on her blog, so don’t miss a chance to have your registration covered.

Last year, one of the breakout sessions that was the most impactful for me was Cecil Murphy’s session called “Who Would Have Thought”.  Cec spoke eloquently and with his gentle, loving style encouraging us that God is in complete control.  He gave example after example of books that had “made it” without following the traditional rules.  It was a reminder that although ministry is hard work and that there are things to be learned about the nuts and bolts of publishing and speaking, ultimately it is God who is sovereign. 

In that same spirit, I am going to share a chapter that I wrote for Marybeth Whalen’s book The Reason We Speak.  It’s a reminder that our relationship with God Himself must take precedence over any ministry activity.  He truly is our audience of One.

I remember driving down the road with my verbose 3-year-old son riding in the back seat.  He had been holding forth for quite some time, and my “listener” was running down.  I broke into his monologue with a suggestion.  “Anson, sweetheart, why don’t you take a breath and rest a while?”  With only a pause for my words, he blurted out, “But Mommy, I don’t like to breathe.  I like to talk…”, and he continued his stream of speech.  I sighed, chuckled and resumed listening.

Years later, that scene came back to my mind after a dinner with my friend Maggie.  I had been listening to Maggie talk excitedly about the work God was doing in her life.  She was a new believer, and she was experiencing the transformation of her life with wide-eyed wonder.  Everything about her new relationship with God was fascinating and fresh.  She emanated joy.

Although I was enjoying Maggie’s passion, I started to wonder, “Where did my joy go?”  I too could think of times when I had been consumed by watching and participating in the awesome work of God.  I remembered mountain top experiences when I felt full of passion, fire and overwhelming joy.  Yet here I was in the midst of one of the greatest times of kingdom building that I had ever experienced, and I felt empty, depleted and downright exhausted.  “How did I get to this place?”  I wondered to myself.  I was teaching Sunday school, speaking and writing with regularity.  God had opened doors wide for ministry, but my batteries were running low.

At the end of dinner, Maggie and I exchanged prayer requests.  She gave me a few, and then it was my turn.  I struggled internally with how real I could be.  Maggie was a new Christian.  Surely I would discourage her if I confessed to a lack of joy and passion.  God’s still voice urged me to be transparent, though, and I found myself pouring out my heart in frustration.  “I’m in God’s Word every day as I prepare to teach,” I explained to Maggie.  “I’m always praying for the events and women where I’m going, but I feel wrung out and joyless.  Please pray for me.”

My sweet, wise friend looked compassionately at me for a minute before she asked an essential question, “When was the last time that you spent time reading the Bible and praying when you weren’t preparing for something?  How long has it been since you just spent time with God to enjoy Him?”

Ouch!  She had seen through all the spiritual rhetoric right to the source of the problem.  Like my young son, I had been so busy talking to God—preparing, studying, delving, interceding, teaching, speaking—that I hadn’t taken time to breathe in a deep breath of His Spirit.  I hadn’t taken time to worship God for whom He is, to meditate on a juicy piece of His Word or to bask in His presence.  In my driveness to do all for “an audience of One”, I had forgotten to slow down and take time with the One I love.

Please come back next week for more of this story…


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