National Day of Prayer 2017

National Day of Prayer 2017
May 4, 2017 is the 66th annual National Day of Prayer. The theme this year is “For Your Great Name’s Sake! Hear Us… Forgive Us…Heal Us!” Taken from Daniel 9:19, which says, “O Lord, Listen! O Lord, Forgive! O Lord, Hear and Act! For Your Sake, O My God…”.
Let’s join together and pray. Here are a few ideas for prayer:
1. For children, that…
they will know Christ as Savior.
they will obey their parents.
2. For parents, that…
they will be imitators of God.
they will walk in wisdom.
3.For families, that…
they will be committed to loving the Lord and loving each other.
they will be protected physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
4.For schools, that…
students will grow academically and socially in safe learning environments.
students will learn Christian values and morals.
5.For churches, that…
pastors will clearly proclaim the Gospel.
all church activities will continue to glorify the Lord and draw people closer to Him.
6.For missionaries, that…
they will feel loved and encouraged.
they will be safe as they share the Gospel of Jesus with others.
7.For the government, that…
government leaders will seek the Lord as they lead others.
public officials will live lives of integrity.

And the Winner is…

Congratulations to Mary of Ohio! She is the winner of a free copy of A Heart of Praise! My next drawing will be Saturday, May 13th! I am giving away a copy of I’m Glad I’m a Mom! You can be entered by signing up for my newsletter at AND entered again by liking my Facebook page-Tena DeGraaf-Author & Speaker May 13th.
Blessings, Tena

Fruit of the Spirit

Today I am sharing some verses to read and reflect on to help develop the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. Some fruits are easier to grow in our lives, but some are more difficult. My prayer is that one of the verses will resonate with you and help you grow.

Do everything in love.
1 Corinthians 16:14
Yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
Habakkuk 3:18
You will keep in perfect peace
those whose minds are steadfast,
because they trust in you.
Isaiah 26:3
Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
Colossians 3:12
Seek good, not evil,
that you may live.
Amos 5:14
Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
bind them around your neck,
write them on the tablet of your heart.
Proverbs 3:3
Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.
Philippians 4:5
Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control.
Proverbs 25:28

Lord God, help us to develop the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. Amen.

Spring into Praise

I love spring! Living near Chicago, I am able to fully experience all the seasons, but my favorite time of the year has always been spring. Signs of springtime are all around me as the birds are chirping, the trees are budding, the warm wind is blowing, and the tulip leaves are breaking through the cold, compact dirt. Everywhere the earth is shouting: a fresh start, a new life, a new beginning, and an optimistic view. Thankfully, my winter blues dissipate with each added minute of sunshine and upward degree. As winter bids farewell and spring says hello, my energy increases, and I feel lighter. My entire outlook changes. It is similar to how my view changes when I praise the Lord.  Each time I am depressed, discouraged, or down in the dumps, I have a choice to worship God. When I select this route rather than the road of self-pity, my perspective improves. Faith increases as I begin to acknowledge that God is not surprised by my circumstances, and He is aware of what I am feeling and experiencing. As I trust in Him, I am able to move from a winter-like attitude to a spring-like attitude, full of hope and confidence in God. This is a trust that believes that flowers will bloom out of the overwhelming times and situations. The trials of our lives are the dirt for the beautiful flowers to fully bloom.

Father God, thank you for spring and fresh beginnings. Amen.

Acts of God

Delays could have caused frustrations, but they also brought this church community together.
Insurance companies define an “act of God” as damage done that is out of the control of humans. This may include damage done by wind, heavy rain, severe lightning, or hail. Within a five-month period last year, Cornerstone Church in Bourbonnais, Illinois, experienced this firsthand.
In July 1998, the church family excitedly gathered for the long-anticipated ground-breaking ceremony for a new church building. We had been meeting in a local middle school cafeteria for worship for three years, and we happily anticipated a May 1999 completion date of our beautiful, new building. However, God had other plans. This date was pushed back after a windstorm caused two twenty-foot brick walls to collapse on November 10, 1998. We were thankful that no one was injured. It took some time to get back to building again, and just when we were once again going full force in the construction process, a second windstorm blew the trusses into the middle of the worship center, causing the tops of the walls to fall down on March 17, 1999.
As I prayerfully pondered these two powerful, destructive events, I tried to understand what was God trying to communicate to this body of believers. Ultimately, I believe that God was showing us that this church building is his and will be finished when he wants it finished! Even though this congregation is dedicated and excited to serve God and the community, God is reminding us that, “unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain” (Psalm 127:1). God knows when it will be the best time for this church to open its doors for expanded ministry.
Pastor Bob Grysen says, “We are learning to run on God’s timing and according to his plan. I am convinced that his timing is perfect for us. That is the faith lesson we are learning.”
With these two acts of God, I see God “acting” in our lives. I am reminded of Ecclesiastes 3:3: “A time to break down and a time to build up.” Spiritually, the Lord has been teaching us to break down the sin in our lives as he has broken down the building. However, as we reconstructed our building of brick and mortar, he built in us a closer relationship with him. We are living the very Scripture for which our church is named. As Ephesians 2:19-21 states: “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.”
Every day our community of believers is moving toward a deeper relationship with God. The trials are preparing us to be the people we need to be in order to best serve others. I realize that some may see these acts of God as setbacks, but I see them as tools God used to make us a more faithful and united church community with a rock-solid and promising future.

“Acts of God” was published in the June 2000 issue of The Church Herald.

Be Like Shakespeare

One summer I took an online course entitled, “Introduction to Shakespeare” at my local junior college. While reading and working through seven different plays in eight weeks, I wrestled daily with what Shakespeare was trying to convey in each of these plays. There were, however, certain words and phrases he wrote that I had no problem understanding. As I read and reread his tragedies and comedies, I could not help but notice the numerous references to the Holy Scriptures. Woven throughout the dialogue of the characters were words of wisdom and truth from the Bible. The fact that this literary genius used Scripture references in most of his plays caused me to question whether my spoken and written words had a constant theme of truth running through them. Would I also be known and remembered for speaking and writing words of truth, of discernment, of lasting value? Inspired by Shakespeare’s example, I began a fresh new scene in my own life. When the class ended, I began to make sure that there was a theme of spiritual truth present in my words. I am trying to choose my words more carefully so that they will be of value to those who hear and read them.
Lord, help me to speak and write your words of truth whenever I can. Amen.

Leadership Interview #1 with Joan Onwiler

Welcome to the first leadership interview of 2017! This year I am so excited to be interviewing Christian women who are in different leadership roles. All of us have influence over others. May we learn and grow in our sphere of influence as we read the words of those who have been there and done that. My first interview was with my friend and mentor, Joan Onwiler. I first met Joan when I was a teacher at a private Christian school, and she was my principal. I am thankful for her influence on my life.
Joan is currently serving on her church board and has been in this position for seven years. She is also the head of the board’s Celebration Committee and the treasurer for her adult Sunday School class; she is in charge of using collected funds to meet needs. In the past, she was the preschool music teacher responsible for putting on six performances a year (Wow!! said Tena), Lectionary and Hymn coordinator for the church, and Hymn Coordinator and Choir Director for her church’s Sunday Evening Service. In addition, she was a principal for eight years and teacher of 5-8 grades for eight years.

Joan and I met for tea (her) and hot chocolate (me) at a Dunkin Donuts where we discussed her answers to these questions. I found most of these thought-provoking questions at
1. Can you name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader?
My dad, John Quirke, has had a tremendous impact on my life.
The youngest of eight, he emigrated to America when he was eighteen.
While in Ireland, he took the “Abstinence Pledge” where he vowed to abstain from alcohol, a vow which he honored all of his life.
My dad believed in education. He was an avid reader which enabled him to work his way to the top engineer at the Sears plant on Homan and Arthington in Chicago.
A man of faith and integrity, he modeled these character traits at home and at work. His example, demonstrated in actions rather than words, influenced my life.
I have endeavored to imitate the lessons I learned by attentively observing my dad.
I sincerely hope I am able to pass down a legacy such as he has left me.
2. What are the most important decisions you make as a leader of your organization?
Hiring the right people for key positions
3. As an organization gets larger there can be a tendency for the “institution” to dampen the “inspiration.” How do you keep this from happening?
Have mini retreats to brainstorm, take inventory, and bond (team building).
4. How do you encourage creative thinking within your organization?
Actively ask for ideas and study other-like companies and their techniques
5. Where do the great ideas come from in your organization?
People finding solutions to problems
6. Which is most important to your organization—mission, core values or vision?
Mission-without it the other two are meaningless
7. How do you or other leaders in your organization communicate the “core values”?
Lead by example. Reinforce the behavior of those who are demonstrating the core values. Preach about it often.
8. How do you encourage others in your organization to communicate the “core values”?
Orient them/train them/demonstrate them.
9. Do you set aside specific times to cast vision to your employees and other leaders?
Our church just had a meeting for all of the 400 volunteers to cast vision for the next 2 years.
Then there will be a four week series on the vision.
10. How do you ensure your organization and its activities are aligned with your “core values”?
Talk about it with leaders every Sunday or before events.
11. How do you help a new employee understand the culture of your organization?
The new hire should have values that align with the values of the organization.
12. What is one characteristic that you believe every leader should possess?
13. What is the biggest challenge facing leaders today?
Leading and managing change effectively
14. What is one mistake you witness leaders making more frequently than others?
Not communicating
15. What is the one behavior or trait that you have seen derail more leaders’ careers?
The inability to take/handle constructive criticism
16. Can you explain the impact, if any, that social networking has made on your organization or you personally?
We post events on Facebook. We stream our services online. We share our experiences on Facebook.
17. What are a few resources you would recommend to someone looking to gain insight into becoming a better leader?
Attend the Global Leadership Summit(GLS) by Willow Creek Church in Barrington; sign up for their catalyst updates; buy the books of the speakers who moved you in their presentation.
18. What advice would you give someone going into a leadership position for the first time?
Interview seasoned leaders and ask if they would be an accountability partner (just one).
19. What are you doing to ensure you continue to grow and develop as a leader?
See #17
20. What do you like to ask other leaders when you get the chance?
I ask other leaders if they see things the way I do and if not, Why?
21. How do handle doubt when it plagues your mind?
Give myself space and time-try to remember the good times-quote scripture-pray
22. When insecurities pop up, how do counter them?
Have faith in God’s plan for me. Jeremiah 29:11
23. What ways have worked for you do deal with worries?
I quote verses and play uplifting music 
24. How do deal with feeling overwhelmed when it occurs?
Take it a little at a time. Overwhelming is fretting about the future and not in the moment. I am learning to truly live in the moment.
25. Do you schedule time off to avoid exhaustion? If yes, what does your scheduled time off look like?
Play games, go to the movies, read a book, workout, hang out with friends and family.
26. Do you have a friend or group of friends to help you when you feel discouraged? How do they help?
I have a good friend who knows me very well. She listens, asks questions, and then helps me sort out the issues.
27. What would you say to your younger self if you could?
I would say: Relax, God is in control!!!
*My practice for 2017 is being present in the moment and not going into the future.
My verse for 2017 is Deuteronomy 7:9- “Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.”
My word for 2017 is HOPE.
Thank you, Joan, for taking the time to answer these questions! It was a pleasure to chat with you about leadership! Tena

10 Ways to Establish Reverence at Church

We have made great strides in helping non-churched people feel welcome to our church services. However, in this shift to be more seeker-sensitive in our worship services, we have lost a reverence for this sacred time. As we have sought to make all feel comfortable, we have allowed for distractions that interfere with others’ focus on God. What are some of these distractions that should be minimized in a church service? Talking, whispering, coughing, sniffling, cell phones ringing, texting, exiting for the bathroom, crying toddlers, sleeping patrons, wandering thoughts, people watching, bulletin reading, gum chewing, coffee drinking, doodling, dropping pens, and wiggling people. Then, there are the outside distractions such as sirens blaring and motorcycles roaring. These actions and noises cause people in the assembly to zone out rather than focusing on giving God the highest praise and honor He is due.
The architecture of the old cathedrals reflected a dedication to the worship of God. High ceilings, church bells, stained glass, and the symbol of the cross for centuries have pointed people to seek His honor and His glory each Sunday. My first memory of church was when I was around four years old, and I accidently created a very loud noise by falling during a moment of silence. My dad who generally was easy going gave me “the look” that spoke volumes immediately following my mistake. I learned at a very early age that there was a certain behavior expected during church which has remained with me to this day.
How do we ensure that our worship services are not field trips for our pleasure but rather services that assist the members to worship the one true God? How can we improve our church etiquette? The Bible states in Ecclesiastes 5:1, “Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifices of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil.” How do we ensure that it is “The Lord’s Day” and not “Our Day?” Here are just a few suggestions that can protect the House of God from being a house of distractions:
• Standing joyfully and reverently for the reading of the Holy Word. In Luke 4:16 Jesus stands up to read the Word.
• Dressing in our Sunday’s best clothing. It is true that God looks at the heart, but our hearts are reflected in the ways we speak and act including our dress. Looking like we just rolled out of bed or dressing immodestly speak loudly that God is not our first priority.
• Choosing worship songs that honor the true and living God rather than entertain us. Some of the modern praise choruses are self-centered, and we need to check our worship songs for subtle narcissism.
• Preparing the night before and waking up on time so we do not regularly walk in late and need to be ushered in while others have already begun to worship.
• Limiting our food and drink intake during the service. There are those who must have water or food due to health issues. However, most of us can sit in the one hour service without the need to get a drink of water, slurp our coffee, or eat a snack.
• Giving ourselves permission to stay home when we are truly sick. While many of us look forward to and are dedicated to the corporate worship of God, there are times when we are so ill that our sickness affects those around us.
• Reminding all of His people to silence cell phones before the start of the service.
• Sitting in the back if we choose not to use the nursery and have small children who may distract others.
• Instructing our ushers to save the last few rows for late comers.
• Praying for our pastors that they will set a tone of reverence.

Here are a few suggestions to help our children develop a holy reverence in the church setting:

• Having our young children use the restroom before the service begins.
• Teaching our adolescents that the church service is not the time to text or to be on social media.
• Instructing our sons and daughters to minimize their movements and develop self-control.
• Having our children, particularly our teenagers, to go to bed at a decent time on Saturday night so there is no tendency to fall asleep during the service.
• Encouraging our children to save their questions about the sermon for the ride home.
• Instructing our children to behave properly before and after the service not running or playing in the sanctuary or narthex.
It is a privilege to worship together. Let us do our best to ensure our house of worship is just that.
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25