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

The Perfect Gift

Special thanks to my friend, Cheri Smolich, for sharing this beautiful poem.

By Cheri Smolich

To find the Perfect Gift
I walked for many a mile.
It had to be affordable, and
Of course, must be in style.
I hoped it would be multi-color,
For people red, yellow, black, or white—
Useable, here and now
To bring each owner daily delight.
Then Someone showed me something;
The greatest gift of all.
I couldn’t get it through the mail
Nor buy it at the mall.
“The Perfect Gift,” said Jesus, “is
Offered to you for free. The
Price of it you can’t afford
So it’s been paid by Me.”
The gift of God is Eternal Life
Through Jesus Christ His Son.**
This gift is not for me, alone,
It’s offered to everyone.
Reach out and accept it,
Take this gift today.
Thank Jesus for providing it,
Just bow your head and pray…

** Romans 6:23



The following blog was a Facebook post written last year by my friend, Harmony Welsh. May you be inspired to #MakeLifeCount!

Hey friends! As I’ve been reflecting on this last year, I honestly cannot believe another year has come and gone. Did your 2015 resolutions make it all through the year? Or did they dwindle and fade after the first couple months? Life is so short. Different seasons of life can seem like they will last an eternity; however, in the blink of eye, priorities, obstacles, highs & lows can all change. We have to accomplish the day-to-day necessities in order to survive, but do we honestly think about our actions? Or do we mindlessly go about running almost on automatic pilot. Majority of the time, I am guilty of the latter. At the end of the day, what truly matters? Think about the people in our lives—do we take them for granted? Or do we truly prioritize our relationships? Taking time to create memories and treasure moments with others brings fulfillment. Think about God for a moment. Maybe you believe in his existence, maybe you don’t. Maybe you have a strong relationship with him, maybe you don’t. Do we honestly take time to treasure God the way we treasure our human relationships and experiences? Francis Chan (You and Me Forever) phrases it this way: “The God who loans you life sees your every move, hears each word you speak, and knows your every thought. And this is a good thing. You are seen by God. Noticed. Known.” Wow!!! If I truly lived with this perspective at the forefront of my mind, my daily actions would be radically different. God longs to have relationships with us! Regardless of beliefs, at some point, every single one of us will die and stand before God. “‘As surely as I live,’ says the LORD, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.’ So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God” (Romans 14:10). This is a profound thing, friends, and not something to trifle with. As we prepare to close out 2015 and reflect on the year to come, may we ponder the brevity of life and the God who brought life into existence. We must live each day to the fullest potential and #makelifecount.