Love The One You’re With

Posted by: Julie on Sunday, September 7th, 2008

img_0123.jpgLast week I took a ‘working vacation’ to Oklahoma.  Judge if you must, but when you love your job as much as I do, it’s difficult to to take a whole week away from your work.  So I spent part of the week without my laptop and BlackBerry (yikes!), and then the rest of the week I spent working down by the beautiful Arkansas River in Tulsa.  I love being in our office in Naperville, but it’s amazing how much work you can get done sometimes when you’re in a peaceful place like Oklahoma!

It was a wonderful time with friends and family.  I spent time with my brother at his college, had a surprise party with six of my best friends and their kids, spent time at the lake with old friends and co-workers, had some good eats with the folks, went to church at my home church, catered a wedding with some of my old crew out at a beautiful venue in south Tulsa, and got some work done by the river while eating a cheeseburger and chatting with Ron from the River Diner…. it was a wonderful time.

Most of you are probably not aware of the extent of it, but each time I come to Oklahoma I always dream of what it would be like to move back.  I miss my old jobs, I miss my old friends, I want to help my friends raise their new kids, I want to take on exciting new business ventures that arise with my old bosses, I want to purchase homes that come on the market for under $100K…. It’s hard not to think about it.  And especially during this past year in making a job transition that came with some challenges, I came pretty close a couple of times in Oklahoma this spring to signing a lease, accepting a job, closing on a house… I was weak sauce.

But something kinda crazy happened this time.  There wasn’t an ounce of dreaming within me focused on moving back.  It’s not at all that Oklahoma has gotten any less wonderful – probably the opposite!  I still love it dearly, it has very much made me a part of who I am today, and I have loving friends there that cannot be replaced by any others.  But now, I’m dreaming about new things….

I’m dreaming about this upcoming ministry year at Community….

and dreaming about new things we’re doing at each of our nine locations to grow each campus and grow each person….


and dreaming about figuring out our new strategy for recruiting leadership residents to plant reproducing churches with our NewThing networks…

and dreaming about this family that is considering getting baptized as a family at our Naperville campus in a few weeks…

and dreaming why people are generous to Community and why they are not and how we can connect with them better…

and dreaming about being a part of something bigger than simply a comfortable life in a comfortable city with comfortable friends and a comfortable job that relies completely on my own ability with no dependence upon God.

I titled this post, “Love The One You’re With.”  A friend of mine is reading a book by this title.  I’ve never read the book before, but I’m going to assume the basic premise of it is encouraging people in marriages to continue loving and being committed to the one they made the glorious covenant to be married to.  At first glance, this seems to imply a sort of regret or doubt about the commitment they made since they need a book to help them stay committed.  But in light of my recent trip to Oklahoma, I have a different take on it.  And I hope I feel the same way about my marriage someday.

To ‘love the one you’re with’ is simply a consistant, growing reinforcement of the mission you’ve committed yourself to.  I am committed to the mission of helping people find their way back to God  – and subsequently to help catalyze a movement of generosity so we can plant more reproducing churches and help more people find their way back to God.  That’s the hill I’ll die on, that’s what my heart breaks for, and that’s what I’m committed to.  Yes, I will one day commit to be a loving mom and a wonderful wife and raise a strong family, but it will still all occur within the context of this other commitment I’ve made.

And unfortunately the world wouldn’t be the world if it weren’t distracting to this mission.

So it is things like hearing that Community had more baptisms last month than we’ve ever had in our entire history…. and seeing an entire family with three generations in it get baptized at our Plainfield campus this morning…. and experiencing radical generosity in our families and communities like I’ve never seen before… that keep me fueled and energized to ‘love the One I’m with’ and continue on this mission.

Who’s with me?!

What Does Your Heart Break For?

Posted by: Julie on Tuesday, August 26th, 2008

heart-break2.jpgWe’ve been continuing in this great series at Community called The Leader Within.  In this four-week series we’ve been talking about the Heart of a Leader, the Vision of a Leader, the Struggle of a Leader, and this weekend we’ll be talking about the Legacy of a Leader.  Click on any one of these titles to view the message online.

This series has really focused on the question, “What does your heart break for?”

When you think about an effective leader, one who has overcome obstacles and become an unstoppable force for accomplishing his/her vision, you think about someone whose heart breaks for something.  The most effective leader is one who takes that absolute heartbreak and channels that into a vision so big that he/she become relentless at pursuing it.  These people are the best communicators, the best fundraisers, the most compassionate, the most generous, filled with the most integrity and determination, and they literaly become unstoppable at achieving their vision.  They never experience lack of resources, lack of vision, lack of excitement, lack of momentum, or lack of help.  They are contagious and are incredibly effective at engaging others in their mission.

Alright let’s bring this to the generosity scope here for a minute if you aren’t seeing how ingrained it is in this already.  People ask all the time about the ‘secrets’ to raising money.  Especially in the economy these days, churches, businesses, everyone is trying to figure this out.  There’s no secret really, but the key lies in a perception shift we MUST make:

We act all day long like money FUNDS vision.  We stop doing things and we quit moving forward because we don’t have any money.  We make decisions and treat situations in certain ways because we don’t have any money.  We stop dreaming about the future and start blaming things in the past and present because we don’t have any money.  Money doesn’t fund vision, it FOLLOWS vision!  So if you don’t have any money, then you might not have any vision big enough to demand that money!

The people who aren’t succeeding at the income side of things can blame the economy all day long.  It’s a convenient thing to do in this climate.  But ask yourself these three questions to see if it’s really the economy’s fault or if there’s maybe something else going on…

1.  What does your heart break for?  [Now stop right here if the thing your heart breaks for is not the thing for which you are trying to catalyze generosity.  There’s your problem right there.  Go hire a consultant and try some fancy tricks, but the best advice is to let someone do this whose heart really breaks for it and you go do something that your heart breaks for.  Authenticity will get you further than any fancy tricks.  God – and others too! – know the heart.]

2. Have you communicated effectively with your people what your heart breaks for and how that translates into the vision for your church or organization?  Let me ask that again.  Have you communicated effectively?  Have you built relationships with your people first before you casted vision all over their laps?  Do they know what you’re about?  Do you know what they’re about?  Could they deliver your organization’s vision in a 1-minute stump speech?  And could you rattle off their interests from memory so you know directly how to speak to them where they are?

3. Have you clearly made an ask of your people to join you in this effort?  Is your vision big enough that they can see how imperative it is that they and everyone they know join you?  Have you created the space big enough for them to see the huge potential and drastically reallocate their own lives in order to join the mission?

Just the other day I was talking with two new church planters who are planting out in Chula Vista, CA.  Two incredibly sharp guys, Chris and Brad.  Boy, these guys get it.  Their hearts break for helping people find their way back to God in Chula Vista and surrounding areas.  You get that within 30 seconds of Chris sharing his vision for the new church plant, Momentum.  They want to become a reproducing church that goes multi-site in the Chula Vista area and reaches people in all types of neighborhoods and contexts in that area.  They realize how important it is to understand where their people are at and how they can join Chris and Brad and their families on this mission.

My guess is that the majority of us reading this blog have hearts that break for something…. But are we letting it stop there or are we relentlessly pursuing that which we have been called to pursue with those that can help us pursue it?….

Life After the Shopping Fast…

Posted by: Julie on Monday, August 11th, 2008

no-finish-line.jpgThis past Saturday (2 days ago) marked the six month point since I announced my shopping fast back on February 9 and thus the “finish line” of this amazing journey.  A friend of mine and I were at a small group barbeque Friday night, so we stayed out until the clock struck midnight and went to the Super Wal-Mart in Oswego to celebrate the breaking of the fast.  [For those of you who don’t know, the Super Wal-Mart is my favorite place to shop.]

Well, all I came out of there with was a $9 swimming skirt and a black summer dress that was so much on clearance it was practically free.  Seriously?!  That’s it?!  I literally still felt like I wasn’t ‘allowed’ to shop, so I couldn’t even look at anything.  My brain had trained itself not to need or want or view anything at a store.  It was the strangest feeling in the world that I was actually allowed (and being encouraged by my friend) to purchase whatever I wanted.  I just couldn’t comprehend it.

Now, before you think anything too grandiose about the effects of this experience, I’m quite certain I’ll get back to the swing of things and embrace shopping again – have no doubt.  Each time I wake up in the morning and realize I need to replace those 15-year-old pillows, I am motivated to shop.  Each time I get made fun of for wearing torn up shoes, I am motived to shop.  But you know what isn’t there anymore and I hope never comes back?  That feeling of being motivated to shop out of feeling like I don’t have enough.  I hope I never have that feeling again.

Sure, there are necessary purchases I will make over the next few weeks – the pillows, a pair of shoes, a new pair of jeans to replace my coffee-stained pair, maybe even a few picture frames to give some memorable pictures as gifts – but I hope I never feel like I don’t have enough.  Sure, I am bound – as all of us women are – to look in my closet and say, “I don’t have anything to wear.”  But this shopping fast has taught me to get creative and take a second, maybe a third, and definitely a fourth look and discover things from 5 and 10 years ago (sometimes more!) that are absolutely “enough.”

About three months ago, near the halfway point of the fast, I blogged about some of the things I was able to do because of this dramatic decrease in spending.  I encourage you to click here to read that list.  One of the things I mentioned was increased generosity to Community, one of my biggest motivations for doing the fast in the first place.  [Now, before I throw out these numbers, please remember that I have no mortgage and no children and no husband begging to purchase expensive tools and a big screen TV.  It’s just me.  So really, these numbers are nothing to write home about.]  The number at the halfway point was 47%.  Because of this fast, God had allowed me to be able to give 47% of my salary in 2008 back to Him through Community.  Well I must admit that after discovering that number, I became prideful and started thinking that I had “arrived” in terms of generosity.  I “got it.”  I thought, “Things couldn’t possibly get more radical than this.”

Well, I am embarrassed to say that I looked at my record this morning and I am now only at 36%.  What happened?  Did my pride and complacency cause me to lose my motivation to give generously?  I’m not sure.  But I do know that making it to the ‘finish line’ this past Saturday definitely doesn’t make me feel like I have “arrived” in my generosity.  It makes me want to search and pray for what the next challenge in my life will be.  There’s no other place I’d rather invest my time and money than in the local church.

At Community, lives are being changed every day.  It blows my mind.  Just last weekend, 25 people gave their lives to Christ through baptism.  It was incredible!  The stories behind these 25 baptisms will absolutely change you when you hear them.  I’ll try and post some of them up here in the next few days.  For me, there isn’t a bigger motivator than seeing someone’s life changed.  It causes me to reallocate my spending so that I can give generously when someone gets baptized.  I want to invest in the place that fostered this life change and will continue to encourage this life change.

So that begs the question, what now?  If you haven’t reached the actual finish line, then what is the next leg of the race going to look like?  I’m not sure yet.  I am praying about that right now, and I will definitely keep you posted.  Any ideas?

Thank you to everyone who encouraged me along the six months, gave me nice clothes to borrow for special events, made fun of me when I wore things from the 80s, and challenged me to take this to the next level.  And thank you to Community for being a place that helps people find their way back to God so effectively that it would motivate and inspire someone to stop their spending so that they could give to that cause.  I am humbled to be a part of the team, and I am looking forward to what God has in store next….

A Generous Surprise This Morning…

Posted by: Julie on Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

img00080.jpgThis past weekend when I was campus pastoring at the Yellow Box, my left shoe (in the pic at the right) fell apart just before it was time to start the services Saturday night.  These shoes are my favorite shoes – the only brown sandals I have!  I bought them at the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Tulsa a couple of years ago – normal price was $8 but they were on clearance for $2!  I love a good Wal-Mart deal.  They have been close to wearing out for a few weeks now, but I haven’t yet made it to the end of my shopping fast (August 9th!) so it isn’t yet time to purchase a replacement pair.  Well, just before service I was running around upstairs and the left shoe fell apart.  I fixed it with some clear packing tape (as you can see in the picture), and I was on my way!  But it may have been kinda noticeable from stage, as the packing tape was a little shiny and crackly-sounding.  Well, I’m not sure who noticed it this weekend, but this morning there was an anonymous REALLY sweet card and a $40 gift card to Shoe Carnival in my mailbox at the church!  I couldn’t believe it!  (For one thing, I can’t remember the last time I spent $40 on a pair of shoes, but I suppose if they’re non-Wal-Mart, then they’re probably about that price.)  But more importantly, I was completely blown away by this generosity!  Whoever you are, thank you so much.  I really appreciated your encouragement in the card, and I really appreciated your generosity with this gift.  I’m so thankful for our generous church family at Community!

Take the 10-for-10 Worship Challenge!

Posted by: Julie on Monday, July 28th, 2008

give-blog.jpgIf you joined us for our celebration services this weekend at Community, you likely heard about our 10-for-10 Worship Challenge.  Hundreds of people at Community have committed to give 10 percent for 10 weeks as their worship to God as part of this challenge!  And those who are already giving 10 percent are giving above and beyond so that they are truly worshipping God with a sacrifice!  Our message this weekend contained the passage…

“I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God that which cost me nothing.” (2 Samuel 24:24)

If you didn’t make it to service, you can watch the message here.  Won’t you join with us for these 10 weeks?  Check out our 10-for-10 Worship Challenge blog, and let’s journey together as we worship God through our generosity.

And you know what?  I bet our generosity will not only be a worship experience for us, but it will also fuel our mission of helping people find their way back to God…. !

OMG! Don’t miss this weekend!

Posted by: Julie on Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

omg-logo.bmpI can’t give away too much yet, but you are not going to want to miss this weekend’s service!  Make sure you are at one of our Community locations this weekend for the second week in our series, “omg!”  This week is none other than “Why Give?”  I can assure you, it will change the way you think about giving and generosity… Invite your friends and neighbors!

Kudos to our arts team for an awesome job with the worship and service planning for “Why Singing?” last weekend.  If you happened to miss it, make sure to check out Dave’s message here.

We’ll see you this weekend!  Hope you can join us!

Half the price…

Posted by: Julie on Monday, July 21st, 2008

juice_orange.jpgI’m always looking for a good deal… Good deals allow us to be wiser spenders and more generous givers.  I was having breakfast with a friend of mine, and I couldn’t believe what was before my eyes – one of the best good deals for orange juice and it’s so simple!

Alright, so maybe I’m the only one behind the 8-ball on this, but I had never thought of this before… Think of your favorite breakfast place and their delicious orange juice…. Maybe you’re a pulp person, maybe you’re not…. But think of that thick, delicious orange juice…. What’s it costing you?  Maybe $2.25?  Maybe $3.00?  Sometimes more at the fancier places here in Naperville, $3.50 or $4.00…. And you never get a refill on it, you typically always have to pay another $3.50 for the second glass!  It’s expensive, no doubt.  Much more expensive than that cup of coffee, and definitely more expensive than the sensible glass of ice water.  Well, hang onto that glass of ice water for a minute….

I had ordered water, and my friend ordered orange juice.  He asked for an empty glass so he could share his orange juice with me.  I thought that was sweet, but then we’d each only have half a glass…. Not true!  He took my glass of ice water and filled each one of our orange juices the rest of the way up with water!  And you know what?  You can’t tell the difference!  Orange juice is typically way too strong anyway!  And you know what?  We probably could’ve diluted it again!  I’m going to try it with three or four people at the table.  Look how cheap orange juice can get when you split it between four peeps!

Five loaves and two fish… and one glass of orange juice… :)

Happy Birthday Dad!

Posted by: Julie on Saturday, July 12th, 2008

ribs.jpgMy dad is my favorite person in the world – well, in addition to my mom of course.  :)  My dad not only taught me everything I know about finances, frugality, and generosity – but he also taught me a lot about where to find the best barbecued ribs.  This pic was taken last summer when he and my mom came to Naperville.  There isn’t any rib deal around here that is as good as what we used to get back in Oklahoma, but Naperville does the best it can with the Wood Pit, one of my personal favorites.  (Don’t let the countryside picture on their website fool you, it is in the middle of upperclass suburbia across the street from the Audi and Lexus dealerships. :) )  Back in Bartlesville, Dad and I used to go to Dink’s and get the three-rib special on Sundays after church.  Those were the days….  Since then, Dink’s has had to battle competition from the massive rib chain, Rib Crib, as well as competition from some type of ‘upscale revolution’ going on downtown that includes overpriced Italian food and itsy bitsy pastry shops that charge more for a slice of bread than Starbucks does.  But Dink’s still prevails!62.jpg

Dad, I respect you more than anyone in the world, and I love you so much.  Thank you for ‘allowing me to figure things out myself’ while actually teaching me all along the way.  Thank you for modeling wise spending and saving and a life of generosity that has now resulted in the principles I’m devoting my life to.  Thank you for the sacrifices you made so that I could grow up in a strong home, go to a strong college, and become a strong woman.  My faith in God is strong because of the things He’s shown me through you and Mom.  Thanks for all you do for our family and for so many others.  I love you, Dad.  Happy Birthday!

What’s your story?

Posted by: Julie on Tuesday, July 8th, 2008

dsc00157.JPGToday I sent out an email to all those who attended our Generosity Conference at Community this past February… Let me also post it here so others of you can chime in with stories of life change and become aware of opportunities available to you as you continue in your journey of generosity….

Hello Generous People of Community!

This goes out to everyone who was a part of the Generosity Conference this past February at Community.  How are you doing on your generosity journey?  We have already heard several stories of life change from many of you throughout the course of the past 4-5 months, but we would love to hear more from the rest of you if you have experienced life change as God is growing you in your generosity.  Please respond to this email and share with us your story of life change so we can celebrate with you and – if you’ll allow – share your story with others!

For many of you, maybe it’s time for a refresher, some accountability, or some further specific training in the areas of debt reduction and budgeting.  Or maybe you are in need of a 1-1 financial counselor.  Did you know Community is offering those very things right now?  The Naperville Yellow Box is offering a Good Sense course beginning THIS SUNDAY, July 13 9:30am-10:30am and running for four consecutive weeks.  Childcare is provided.  Seats are filling up fast, but we still have some more spots if you would like to attend.  Please email Tracy Butler at to reserve your spot for this course or to work 1-1 with one of our financial counselors here at Community.  If you aren’t a Yellow Box attender, stay tuned for upcoming courses at a campus near you.

Others of you may be asking what your next steps are in terms of generosity for this next year.  We’d like to talk with you specifically about how God might be calling you to become a generosity champion at Community…. There are some exciting days ahead at Community this upcoming ministry year, as we will celebrate our 20th anniversary!  Send me an email if you fall into this category, and we’d love to talk with you about this opportunity.

Blessings to all of you, and mark your calendars for Generosity Conference ’09 on February 7th!  You won’t want to miss this… many surprises ahead!

Yours on the journey,


Reallocate: Who gets paid first?

Posted by: Julie on Monday, June 23rd, 2008

paying-bills.jpgI’ve been thinking about this subject a lot lately – the subect of reallocation.  When a person really begins to ‘get’ generosity, then their whole life starts to look different.  Their checkbook of course looks different, but so does their Outlook calendar and so does their thoughts and their language.  Know what I mean?

So when someone really ‘gets’ generosity and they are moved to start giving in a more radical way, then obviously other things in their life need to get shifted around so that room can be made for generosity to take top priority.  For example, a selfish lifestyle in terms of TIME might include lots of time at the mall, on the computer, gossiping with friends, or checking out the latest People magazine…. Turning to a generous lifestyle of TIME might include shoveling snow for an entire subdivision, leaving sacks of non-perishable groceries on the doorsteps of each apartment in a nearby complex, spending time with a friend who is going through a divorce and in need of a heart to lean on, or making dinner for your small group.  Those are just a few examples.

And what about when it comes to MONEY?  (As you’ll note above, often acts of generosity with our time require money too, so this is important!)  A phenomenon that recently happened to me (and I have seen happen to a few other leaders on staff at our church recently) is that when we suddenly ‘get’ generosity, then our lives get shifted upside down and the question of WHO GETS PAID FIRST? gets answered in a different way.  Here’s what I mean:

Say your monthly expenses include a mortgage, car payment, car insurance, groceries, gas/transportation costs, gym membership, cell phone bill, entertainment expenditures, just to name a few.  When you think about your FIXED expenditures, what are they from that list?  Well, your mortgage is fixed – assuming no refinancing.  Your car payment is likely fixed.  Your car insurance is fixed – until your next accident or until you add your 22-year-old son to the policy.  Your groceries aren’t a fixed number, but they are fixed in that you have to have them.  Your gas and transportation costs aren’t likely a fixed number either, but again they are fixed in that you have to have them.  Gym membership?  Probably a fixed number each month.  Cell phone bill – fixed except for those roaming charges and 411 calls… Entertainment?  Don’t get me started.

So when we think about how much we can ‘give,’ we often have to first look at our fixed expenses and then see what is reasonable after that.  I’m not talking about tithing here, by the way.  If you are a tither, then you know that 10% gets shaved off the TOP as the ‘first fruits’ of our offering to God.  No, I am not talking about tithing.  I am talking about generous giving.  I am talking about the generosity campaign that comes up at church and you say, “I want to be that $50,000 pledge.  How can I reallocate my finances to make that happen?”  Or “Wow, what an amazing story of life change from that baptism.  I’m going to give $1,000 (instead of a usual tithe of $100, $250, or whatever) and I’ll reallocate my expenses to make up for it.  I want to see more life change like that happen, and it’s worth sacrificing my other expenses to make it happen.”

So when we have those moments described above, our head often tells us, ‘No, you can’t do it.  Your mortgage is ‘fixed.’  Your car payment is ‘fixed.’  Your gym membership is ‘fixed.’ ”  Is it really?  What if you downsized?  What if you traded in your car for a lesser expensive one?  (Or much wiser, bought a lesser expensive one in the first place that you could’ve paid cash for.)  What if you didn’t pay to go out to eat for a month and instead spent quality time with your family grilling out burgers in the backyard?  What if you invited your neighbors over to do that once a week so they too could save on expenditures?  And what if you all decided together that you were instead going to ‘FIX’ your giving to the church so that more people could find their way back to God?

Just some thoughts… I am still thinking through this myself.  I have a little more leeway than most because I don’t have children, and I don’t have a mortgage.  But I do have expenditures that I have cut out of my life recently or significantly cut back on because I want my giving to be ‘fixed.’  The amount itself isn’t fixed each month, it is always above a tithe and increases with missional asks, but I am fixing it as the first thing I’m going to spend and all other things will fall in line behind it.  Sometimes it means I eat Ramen noodles all month if I hear a good baptism story and an opportunity to help more people find their way back to God.  Sometimes it means I don’t buy any clothes for six months because we’re trying to start a new campus or bridge a financial economic gap.  Sometimes it means a generous family I know hasn’t fixed the cabinets in their kitchen because we had a building expansion campaign and they wanted to see more families find their way back to God in their community.

Like I said, I’m still thinking through this ‘Who gets paid first?’ question.  But it has really got me and has shifted my thinking upside down.  I realize the things I downsize on are not as large as the potential possibilities for those of you who are homeowners out there.  Downsizing a mortgage and downsizing vehicles are big decisions that take time and care.

But what if….?