Seedling: A Time for Everything

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By Paula Marolewski, February 27, 2010 11:48 am

“There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven.” – Ecclesiastes 3:1

“There is an appointed time for everything.” These words are followed by the familiar litany of opposites: “A time to give birth, and a time to die … to plant and to uproot … to kill and to heal … to tear down and to build up … to weep and to laugh …” and the list goes on (cf. Ecclesiastes 3:2-8).

We can take one of two approaches as we consider all the events that make up life. On the one hand, we can look at life and say, “Life is always going to have ups and downs. Therefore, since I know that something bad will always follow something good, I’d better not get too comfortable or really throw myself into enjoying the moment, because at some point things are going to get ugly again. I just need to resign myself to that.”

This edges toward a Buddhist attitude: desire nothing, remove emotional attachments, accept life as it comes.

Alternatively, we can look at life and say, “Life is always going to have ups and downs. Therefore, I will enjoy all the good moments that God brings my way thoroughly and completely, with praise and thanksgiving. And when the bad times come, I will accept them, too, as part of life. But I will do so with the knowledge and confidence that God will see me through them with his grace and strength and presence. And at some point, I know things will get better again, so I will praise God even in the dark times.”

That is the Christian attitude: experience the fullness of life, the fullness of humanity, and the fullness of God.

  • Which approach and attitude do you have toward life? Why?
  • Do you secretly hold to the belief that as a Christian, life should always be good and only get better? Why?
  • How have you tended to react when bad things happen in life?
  • Are you able to fully enjoy the good times in life? Why or why not?


Copyright © 2010, Paula J. Marolewski. All rights reserved.

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The Negative Screams and the Good Whispers

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By Paula Marolewski, February 24, 2010 11:36 am

I have found it interesting …

  • People are always willing to kvetch about their spouse, but sometimes have to be actually prodded to praise him or her.
  • People will tell you about the difficulties their children are causing – like wreaking havoc with their schedules or their budget – much more readily than they will talk about the cute, beautiful, or loving stories of what their kids have done.
  • People will complain about the problems in their churches way more often than they will broadcast the church’s ministries and the work God is accomplishing in people’s lives.

Surprised at that last one? Christians … complaining? Being negative? Unfortunately – yes. The fact is, I have observed every one of the above examples all too often in the Christian environment. And, unfortunately, I have been guilty of such negativity all too often myself, as well.

In this fallen world, the negative screams and the good whispers. It’s very, very easy to fall into that complaining, gossiping, pessimistic mode. My friends, we need to turn that around. We need to start promoting the good wherever we see it – in our spouses, in our kids, in our jobs, in our families, in our churches. We need to shout it out when we see God at work.

After all, if we gripe and complain all the time, why would anyone believe us when we say we’ve got “Good News” for them?


© 2009 Paula Marolewski,

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Seedling: God of the 21st Century

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By Paula Marolewski, February 22, 2010 11:40 am

“By him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible … all things have been created by him and for him.” – Colossians 1:16

On occasion, I think we peg God in the Middle Ages. He seems to fit well in Gothic cathedrals, surrounded by candlelight and worshiped with antiphonal choirs.

Or perhaps we place him back even farther: on the shores of Galilee, preaching from the boat and breaking bread in the upper room.

If we think that way too often, however, he can seem removed and distant from our 21st century life. He doesn’t seem to “fit” in a world of Blackberries, iPods, video conferencing, and satellite TV. I mean, where would Jesus have hooked his cell phone? On his sash? 

It’s important to take the time to realize that God is just as much the God of the 21st century as he was of the 1st century. And one way to help bridge that gap is to spend some time worshiping God by acknowledging how his creation – the physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics, etc. – that he set up impacts us in our every day lives. The technology of the 21st century comes as no surprise to him, my friends – God is the one who made it all possible!

So as you go through your daily life, consider: 

  • God made instant telecommunication possible. Praise him when you make your next phone call or send your next email.
  • God made the information age possible. Praise him the next time you hit “Search” on Google.
  • God made cutting-edge medicine possible. Praise him the next time you open your medicine cabinet or visit your doctor.
  • God made high-speed travel possible. Praise him the next time you get in your car or board a plane.
  • God made modern conveniences possible. Praise him the next time you go to your fridge or use your microwave.


Copyright © 2010, Paula J. Marolewski. All rights reserved.

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Heroes are Real People, Too

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By Paula Marolewski, February 17, 2010 11:46 am

It is easy – and understandable – to feel overwhelmed when confronted with evil on a huge scale. We tend to think, “What difference can I make? I can’t change the tide of what’s happening. This is too big for me. Maybe if I was ((name your favorite Christian leader, past or present)), then I could do something about this. But I’m not. I’m just me.”

Now consider Elijah, the prophet of God. He faced down King Ahab, stopped the rain for three and a half years, took on 950 prophets of Baal and Asherah, raised a boy from the dead, and called Israel back to Yahweh, the one true God. And yet James 5:17-18 states clearly and simply:

“Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.”

Did you hear that? “Elijah was a man just like us.” He may have been a hero, but he was – at the core – just a regular man, with all that that entailed:

  • He struggled with sin.
  • He fought against depression.
  • He battled with fear.

He wasn’t perfect, he wasn’t omniscient, he wasn’t always fearless. He was a man – just like us.


© 2009 Paula Marolewski,

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Seedling: Can You Hear Him?

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By Paula Marolewski, February 14, 2010 5:23 pm

“And your ears will hear a word behind you, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ whenever you turn to the right or to the left.” – Isaiah 30:21

“Your ears will hear a word behind you …” I get the feeling that Isaiah wasn’t talking about God standing a few feet away, cupping his hands around his mouth like a megaphone, and hollering at the top of his lungs to get our attention. Instead, I picture him close beside us, just over our shoulder, giving a helpful whisper in our ear.

If that is the case, can you hear him?

Can you hear him through your cell phone or iPod, or would he have to physically disconnect you just to get a word in edgewise?

Can you hear him over the noise of the TV, radio, sports, or movies?

Can you hear him through the chatter of family, friends, Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter?

Can you hear him in the midst of your own turbulent thoughts, to-do lists, and busyness?

This is not about casting a judgment on any of the above. Cell phones are great, iPods are fun, TV can help us relax, Facebook provides valuable interconnectedness, etc. It’s simply a question of balance. All those things are “loud.” They grab and engage our attention. We need to instill a balancing amount of “quiet” in our lives as well, so that we can “hear a word behind you, ‘This is the way, walk in it.’”

  • How would you describe the balance of your life: do you have a healthy amount of quiet time in which you can focus on God and hear his voice?
  • Where do you most often get out of balance in life? Watching TV or surfing the Internet? Too much chatting on the phone? Trying to accomplish too many things in too little time?
  • If you feel like your life has too much “noise,” what steps will you take to carve out areas of quiet?


Copyright © 2010, Paula J. Marolewski. All rights reserved.

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SWOT Analysis in the Church

By Paula Marolewski, February 10, 2010 6:00 pm

SWOT: it stands for Strengths, Opportunities, Weaknesses, Threats. It’s a great way to engage in strategic planning to ensure that you’ve examined the big picture before deciding whether or how to move forward on a project.

But in the church, I’m afraid I’m afraid we don’t always follow this sound strategy. You see, people who bring out the Ss and Os – the Strengths and Opportunities – are looked at as faith-filled, visionary leaders.

And those of us who bring out the Ws and Ts – those annoying Weaknesses and Threats? Well, all too often, we’re looked at as faith-lacking nay-sayers standing in the way of the progress of the Kingdom of God.

Now, do we serve a God who is sovereign over all creation? Does Jesus still work miracles? Is not God also named Jehovah Jireh, the God who provides?

Yes, absolutely to all three. But we also live in a fallen world, we are in a serious battle against the enemy, and God gave us the gift of reason … and he expects us to use it.

Therefore, I think it is not just important but essential to perform SWOT analyses whenever we are exploring new ventures within the church. We need to be aware not only of the potential we have to do good, but the possibilities that may bring our efforts tumbling down around our ears.

Don’t look down on us WTs. We don’t lack faith, and we’re not trying to be negative. God has simply given us a very practical view of life that allows us to pinpoint trouble before it arises. We help the church take a hard look at things like:

  • Where will the money come from for this project?
  • Do we have the personnel to make it happen, or will we be putting one more job on already over-burdened people? Or, worse, get half-hearted involvement?
  • Will we get the prayer support we need on a consistent and long-term basis?
  • Do we have parties in the church that will stand in the way? Do they have valid concerns?
  • Is there any area of sin that we are not addressing that could hinder our progress?

Then comes the decision itself: actually weighing whether or not to move forward, and, if the decision is made to move forward – how to do so effectively.

Because here’s the truth, folk: not every idea should become a reality, even if the end goal is good. Why? Because the goal will never be reached if the idea on how to get there isn’t sound. Some ideas aren’t well thought out. Some ideas don’t have the support they need at the present time. Some ideas need a little or a lot of modification before they can be actualized. A prayer-filled SWOT analysis can help determine which path God is calling you on.

Remember, we’re supposed to act as a body within the church. Typically, SO-type people provide the “go juice” – the momentum. WT-type people put the brakes on so that the “go” is controlled.

Working together, we can really make things work!


© 2009 Paula Marolewski,

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Seedling: Right in the Eyes

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By Paula Marolewski, February 8, 2010 12:10 pm

“If the devil tells you something is too fearful to look at, look at it. If he says something is too terrible to hear, hear it. If you think some truth unbearable, bear it.” – G.K. Chesterton

The devil has many schemes to hold us back. One of his key methods is fear. Consider:

  • We are afraid of failing. So we never try.
  • We are afraid of what might be lurking deep inside us. So we never root out the sin in our lives.
  • We are afraid of facing the consequences of our actions. So we run away.

The list goes on. Fearful to speak, lest we upset the person spoken to. Fearful to confront, lest we destroy a relationship. Fearful to admit, lest people scorn us. Fearful to commit, lest we not be able to live up to expectations.

And on, and on.

When we are afraid, we do what a child does during the scary part of a movie: we hunch up, screw up our eyes tightly, and clap our hands over our ears.

If I can’t see it, if I can’t hear it, if I deny it exists … it can’t get me.

But the truth is, shutting our eyes and ears will never succeed in protecting us from the scary things in life. Think what would happen if a soldier was afraid and closed his eyes and started singing nonsense songs loudly so he couldn’t hear the noise of battle around him? He would be dead in a moment.

No, the only way to conquer both fear and the enemies you are frightened of is to open your eyes. Open your ears. Acknowledge the truth. Look reality right in the eyes.

When you do, you will see the situation is vivid color. And it may be even scarier than you thought. But by opening your eyes, you’ll be able to see something else as well: the God who is right beside you, leading you, guiding you, directing you.

And suddenly, you’ll find there’s nothing to fear.

  •  How have you historically dealt with issues that frightened you? Why?
  • Are you frightened of anything right now? Why?
  • If you are fearful of something today, take a deep breath, and bring the whole matter before the Lord in prayer. Be detailed and specific – about the situation, about why you are frightened, and about what you have done about it to date. Then ask the Lord to give you the courage, wisdom, and grace to face the situation.


Copyright © 2010, Paula J. Marolewski. All rights reserved.

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The Big Uglies

By Paula Marolewski, February 3, 2010 9:47 am

Have you ever prayed – with despair wrenching your gut, doubt tearing at your mind, discouragement dragging you down, desperation clutching at your chest?

I have, too.

Then, after some indeterminate time on your knees, you drag yourself to your feet … with the same despair, the same doubt, the same discouragement, the same desperation?

I have, too.

You may wonder if you have lost your faith. If you ever knew God at all. If you can go on another step. If this whole Christianity thing is worth it.

I have, too.

You’ve read through the promises in Scripture – promises of hope, of purpose, of comfort, of God’s presence, his love, his Spirit. And it all seems empty.

I have, too.

The hard truth is, being a Christian doesn’t exempt us from the big uglies of despair, doubt, discouragement, desperation … or any of the other nasties out there. You can believe in God with all your heart, love him with all your soul, and follow him with all your strength – and still get jumped, and jumped badly, by the big uglies.

Are the promises of God true? Is his presence always with us?

Yes, and yes.

Perhaps part of our quandary is that we forget that we have to “wait on the Lord” before he will indeed renew our strength.

Sometimes, it can be a very, very long wait.

I know.

I’ve been there, too.


© 2009 Paula Marolewski,

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