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Posts Tagged ‘ministry’

Here’s imagesXTVDN01Vhow it went for me last night. It was only Wednesday evening and it had already been a long week with lots of stress and busyness. I finished a full day at work, came home and fixed dinner, started a load of laundry, visited a sick grandchild and spent almost two hours helping another grandchild with literature homework. I was ready for a break.

But before I sat down I slipped into the kitchen to clean and put some dishes in to soak. Squirting a little dish soap into the sink I turned on the hot water and while it filled, I poured a cup of coffee and carried it into the living room, setting it on the table by the puzzle I’d started a few days ago. And then I was distracted searching for an elusive piece. So I sat down and before I knew it I was involved in the puzzle, sipping my coffee and letting my overtaxed mind settle.

It was nice – the flickering light of the pellet stove, the quiet broken only by the gentle drip of rain on that mild autumn evening. I listened to the rain and shuffled puzzle pieces for at least a half hour. I don’t know what it was that kicked my brain into full gear and brought the sudden realization that it wasn’t rain I was hearing. It was the water I’d started in the kitchen sink overflowing on to the floor!

I jumped up, ran into the kitchen and nearly killed myself as I hit the wet floor. I am not exaggerating when I say there was a veritable flood! I could not believe it had taken me that long to realize what was happening. I could also not believe my husband had been sitting at his computer at the other end of the room and had not noticed the disaster.

Not only was the floor flooded but several cabinet drawers had filled and everything on the countertops was sitting in water. All the linens were wet, the rugs were sopping, the water was dripping down into the basement, and – well just know it was a complete catastrophe.

For the next two hours as we mopped up, soaked up, wrung out and emptied out – I kept berating myself for letting that water run as long as I did. Why hadn’t I taken care of it immediately? Why had I even walked out of the kitchen without turning it off? Why had I let myself be deluded by the subtle sound, thinking it was a gentle rain and wouldn’t harm anything? I was thankful I’d finally come to my senses and put a stop to things, but I berated myself over and over that I hadn’t done it sooner.

It was a good though messy lesson. Too often I let things go on when they need to be shut off. I lull myself into thinking they aren’t going to do damage, or delude myself into thinking it’s just a gentle rain not a torrential storm. I get so caught up in other things I don’t pay attention to the subtle reminders that something is amiss – until the ark starts to float in a sea of trouble.

Which is what started my stressful week in the first place – having to turn off a flood that was overflowing far too wide and deep. Just like in my kitchen, I may have finally turned off the water, but that didn’t decrease the big mess that had to be cleaned up.

God, cleanse me of complacency. Make me bold when it comes to defending You, Your holiness, Your direction. Even when I know it won’t be popular, don’t let me stifle my actions when they are clearly called for and Biblical.

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. 1 Cor 16:13

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We hear the word ‘glory’ so often it sometimes becomes a bit hard to define in the spiritual term. What is image[1]glory anyway? Can you truly see glory? And if you can – how would you describe it?

I love our motorcycle rides this time of year because the beauty in the landscape is just breathtaking. So all week I was looking forward to Saturday. Imagine my disappointment when I woke to fog and mist shrouding everything. However, this does not deter my husband in anyway so we leathered up. I always pray at the beginning of the ride for God to show me something amazing along the way. Yesterday I prayed especially for God to show me glory despite the fog and dark skies. (Honestly, I figured in order for Him to answer this prayer He would have no choice but to do away with the fog and give me sunshine and clear skies. How clever of me, right?)

We were just a few minutes on the road when the skies did open up to what promised to be a gorgeous day and I thought, now that’s glory – blue skies, sunshine and a wispy cloud now and then.

But down the road a few miles the fog set in again and pretty soon all we could see was well – fog with a few shadowy tree outlines buried within. We decided to keep going hoping things would change. (I can smile when I say that because my trusty electric jacket was keeping me toasty despite the chill in the air.) As we started over Blewitt Pass things did change. There were places where the sun would break through for a few minutes and shine on the rich autumn landscape and I thought to myself, now that’s glory.

Then the fog would close in again. We came around one corner and though we were still in fog, there was one spot where a break allowed sunlight to come through like a spotlight. You could see the rays radiating down and where they touched on a patch of meadow the colors were enhanced in such a way they shimmered – green grass touched with moisture, red and gold trees surrounding the patch. But it was better than that – standing right in the middle of the scene was a soft eyed doe, just frozen there enjoying the beauty. And – it was even better than that because at her feet was a small pool of rainwater and her reflection was clear as day. And I thought – now that’s glory.

We moved on, the mist closed in again. But a few miles down the road the fog was gone and brilliant sunlight highlighted the amazing fall landscape of red and gold and green and yellow and every shade in between. And I thought – now that is really glory.

But coming around a corner there was a stand of trees that hadn’t even begun to turn. They were still green and lush as if they had ignored the change in the weather. Right in the middle of that stand of green was one small maple – every leaf the brightest yellow. Kissed by brilliant sunlight it was almost blinding. And I thought – that truly is glory.

The realization suddenly came to me that glory is not in a beautiful landscape or the sun or the moon or the stars – the glory is that God chooses to reveal Himself through these things. Glory is in the fact that with our common human eyes – we can see God in the things around us He created. All things move and breathe and shine and shimmer because of Him. We won’t see glory in all its fullness until we meet Him face to face. But in His mercy He gives us glimpses and tastes and touches along the way.

We live life in a fog of busyness, stress, pressure, grief, bitterness, fear, anger, troubling news headlines, soaring highs and plunging lows. The only way we will see glory day to day is to choose to see it. We must believe God is always just a mind shift away waiting to show us He is bigger and better, more powerful, life giving, battle winning, promise keeping and hope shining in the dark. He is the beauty around every bend in the road.

Even more amazing about God and His glory – not only do we get to see it, but we get to be it. Matthew 5:16 says “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

We are to be the small maple among the forest of evergreen, standing out and shining that blinding light of Christ in us to a lost, broken, dark and suffering world. What a gift! What a privilege! What an amazing God to come up with a plan like that.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

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imagesQARDRAR3Having just finished our first and very successful Community Outreach Harvest Party at church I’ve been contemplating all the parts and pieces, comments and participation that made up this event.

It was a ton of work. Planning meetings and prep and set up just about did me in. And then just keeping things running on the day of the event challenged us all.

It took a ton of prayer and faith. You never know how these things will go. You can invest a lot of time and money and see no result or you can plan for a few and end up with a bunch.

It took a ton of courage. My least favorite thing in the whole world (with the exception of peas and squash) is going door to door to hand out flyers. But – I did it and found it not nearly as intimidating as I thought it would be.

It took a ton of risk. We risked doing away with our regular Sunday morning church service to move out of the building into the parking lot to try to catch the attention of the neighbors. But just like in the stock market, sometimes risk pays off. And it did with this event. We had fun and made contact with several families we otherwise would not have.

The biggest lesson for me and I hope for others was – church isn’t all about a nice comfortable seat in a nice sterile sanctuary where you sit back and get fed. Just consider the early church and the effort it took to get it going.

In order for the first churches to get off the ground 2000 years ago, a ton of work went into the preparation. The disciples had to plan long journeys on foot, by boat and maybe on horseback. They had to map out the most efficient route and plan for finding provision and shelter along the way. A mission trip back then wasn’t jump on a plane and be on the mission field in a few hours. It took months, years even, just to get where they were going.

The startup churches took a ton of prayer and faith. After all, they were trying to change hundreds of years of tradition and belief, ritual and law. They were leaving loved ones behind, possibly to never see them again. They didn’t have a Bible to carry along with them to pull out scripture when they needed it. They were speaking the words that would become the Bible and they were praying they got it right.

To preach the word and start up new church cells took a ton of courage for sure. As evidenced in scripture, the disciples suffered much for spreading the gospel. They were beaten, imprisoned, spit on, mocked and even martyred. No doubt their families suffered as well by association.

And without doubt, risk was involved. What if no one listened? What if their friends and family turned against them? What if, what if, what if? They experienced the misinterpretation of what they had preached and had to go back and re-teach. They ministered in violent times – where the innocent were tried and convicted and crucified. Many of them had seen that firsthand!

The early church services were held on hillsides, beside sick beds, under open skies and hidden away in secret sanctuaries. They happened on stormy seas, on sandy beaches, and on crowded streets. Wherever the Word of God was offered – be it verbally or through a smile or a healing touch, by laughter and fellowshipping with the Godly men who made it their mission to teach, through soft words of comfort in tough times or shouts of joy in a baptismal stream – wherever, church happened.

The only place it probably didn’t happen back then was in cushioned chairs surrounded by painted walls and controlled temperatures.

Even though we didn’t have “church” as we have come to know it last Sunday, as my pastor said, “We were church – to the friends and neighbors who came and saw God’s people reaching out.”

Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. Luke 14:23

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images84YL6NK0I have been feeling the heaviness of responsibility for two weeks and it is pretty much all tied to the new Bible study I’m leading. I struggled with the decision to do Beth Moore’s Children of the Day (a study of 1st and 2nd Thessalonians). Don’t get me wrong, I love her studies, but they are intense and demand a lot of time if you are going to get the most out of them. I have such a mix in my group, from brand new Christians to seasoned believers, it’s hard to always know that the material I’ve selected will meet everyone’s needs.

All that said, I felt impressed to move forward with Children of the Day. We are only in the first session, but I’ve already had some amazing testimonies from my ladies. One of my favorites was this – “I’ve never ever committed to actually following through on all the lessons of a Bible study until now. So far I’ve done every one and I’m hooked.”

I’ve had three ladies tell me in separate, one on one conversations “This is exactly what I needed right now.” And one who said, “I’ve been looking for something to motivate and get me moving and this is it, I can tell.” And today I heard from one who just made a decision to join us that ‘she doesn’t know anything about the Bible.’

I’m excited but I’m nervous at the same time. With so many women expecting great things I worry that I’m not smart enough, strong enough, educated enough to be their leader. I’ve been having mini panic attacks and major anxiety over this. So today I pick up my current personal bible study on the book of Esther (also by Beth Moore) and there God meets me with just what I need. Again!

This morning’s lesson focused on Esther 4:12-14. Mordecai has requested that Esther approach the king on behalf of the Jews and Esther has responded with the fact that she is most definitely not the person to approach the king. He hasn’t been interested in her for the past month. She has obviously lost favor with him. And death comes to those who approach the king without an invitation. There must be someone better for the job.

I’m sure you remember Mordecai’s response. “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”

God puts us in a time and place for a purpose. To back off when that purpose becomes apparent is to deny that God can and does use us, inadequate as we are, in mighty ways. With Esther, Mordecai assured her that God would still accomplish His purpose because to annihilate the Jews would go against all of His Old Testament promises. But Esther and her father’s family would not be moving forward in history if she didn’t accept this task.

With me, I recognized from this study that God didn’t have to use me to see that these ladies’ spiritual growth takes place. But for some mysterious reason, He has chosen to use me. And – if I refuse – I am the one who will suffer, not them. I am the one who will not experience the miracles and the wonder and the enlightenment that takes place when His plan collides with my ministry.

Am I still nervous? You bet. But I’m taking it on because He will be with me, and it’s His show. It may look like I’m center stage, but I’m not. And that’s a good thing. Because when His shadow covers my spot at the head of the table, I’m disabled and He’s enabled to do great things.

“For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose.” Phil 2:13
Or as the Message Bible puts it:
“Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God. That energy is God’s energy, an energy deep within you, God himself willing and working at what will give him the most pleasure.”
Wow!

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imagesCAYQ3DZ0Any idea how Black Friday got it’s name?  Actually, it was first called Black Friday in 1966 by police because of the chaos, traffic jams and acts of violence associated with the day. It has become a very profitable day for retailers and certainly, a profitable day for bargain shoppers if you are willing to get up early, stand in line, fight the crowds and push and shove your way to the best buys of the day.

Are you a Black Friday shopper?  Then I’d like to bring to your mind a little scripture in Mark’s gospel (8:36) that goes like this, “For what shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?”  The message Bible puts it this way, “What good would it do to get everything you want and lose the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for?”

In the me-version paraphrase, “Is that piece of electronic equipment or that great buy on name brand boots worth compromising your entire Christian list of principles?”

I heard on the news today that the Greater Sacramento Chapter of the Freedom From Religion Foundation is set to unveil 55 billboards touting atheism this Christmas season.  Frightening!

But even more frightening, the billboard Christian shoppers will be displaying on Black Friday if we fall into the trap of losing who we really are to the lure of being first, gaining a material advantage over displaying Christ, and worst of all – setting a poor, long lasting example for our children, friends and whoever else might be observing our actions.

Here are my Black Friday tips to assure that your billboard flashes a message of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness faithfulness, gentleness and self control. (Gal 5:22-23)

  1. Don’t leave the house on Black Friday if you think you won’t be able to display the Christ you want others to see.
  2. If you do go, at some point in the day, let someone go ahead of you in line and wish them a Merry Christmas (not a Happy Holiday or Seasons Greetings). This will shock some, bless some and make you feel great.
  3. Smile at everyone.  Smile at the young mother with few funds and a deep desire to make her children’s Christmas special. Smile at the elderly gentleman who can’t move as fast as everyone else. Smile at the husband who doesn’t have a clue and is just going where his wife points. Smile especially at the retail clerk who has answered the same question sixteen thousand times without gritting his teeth. Yes, even smile at the cranky woman who wants to argue and complain to everyone around her.
  4. Hold a door, give up a parking place, pick up a dropped package, do something nice at least once every half hour to remind yourself who you are and what you are trying to convey.
  5. Hum along with the Christmas music blaring throughout the mall.  You will be surprised how it will lift your spirit and take your mind off the inconvenience of the crowds.
  6. Look like Jesus to the weary, hungry crowd. People aren’t always looking for bargains. They are all too often looking for kindness, compassion, gentleness and hope. God’s gift is that with his empowerment you can be all of those things even on Black Friday!
  7. Arm yourself with the full armor. You will need it on this day more than you’ve ever needed it before.  Remember them?  Truth (when the harried clerk gives too much change back),  righteousness (the first shall be last kind of mentality in the midst of the shoving), the Gospel of peace (when everything around you is chaos),  faith (that God has a better plan when you miss out on the big deal of the day that you got up early and stood in line for), salvation (nothing is worth losing your salvation over) and the sword of the Spirit (the one you wield when you’ve been stabbed in the back, stomped into a corner, shoved out of the way and shoutedat).

And when you get home, pour yourself a hot cup of tea or chocolate. Sit down by the fire. Close our eyes and thank God that with His hand in yours you navigated Black Friday in a manner He would be proud of.

God bless you all this Thanksgiving week!

His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant!’  Matthew 25:21

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MP900390059[1]This past week I witnessed some beautiful examples of generosity and compassion, the kind that honestly bring tears to your eyes.

It started with my eight year old granddaughter who went to great lengths to surprise her mom with breakfast in bed, a first for my daughter. Brinkley’s teacher started it all with a list of seven suggestions for ways her class could honor their mothers. Brinkley chose the breakfast one and then plotted for several days to make it happen.  She shared her idea with me the day before and asked advice on what she should make. She questioned her mom the night before, prefacing her questions with “I really don’t know why I’m asking this but ….”  And then this precious little one who is a bear to get up in the morning set her alarm and jumped out of bed at 7:20, fixed peanut butter and jelly toast and juice and woke her mom with the surprise.

A generous act was exampled again by my sister who has taken to visiting an elderly woman in a nursing home – not a relative – and feeding her because she has gotten too shaky to feed herself.

It continued with my precious friend Bev who fights for the rights of her mother in law, who has dementia and can’t fight for herself. Bev visits often even though her mother in law usually doesn’t know her and the visit always leaves her sad and depressed. She works hard to encourage this woman’s sons to do the same. She makes sure her mother in law’s care is the best available and sorts through paperwork, deals with agencies and battles constantly taking care of every detail this kind of dedication requires.

And then I got a call from my daughter who took on two foster boys several years ago and has poured her heart and soul into providing an environment conducive to repairing the damage done to them in their early years. As in most foster situations, there is very little payback and not always much progress.  This past week she went through an especially difficult trial with the oldest boy – one that certainly would have justified a last straw reaction. Instead, my daughter’s compassion for this young man who has gone out of his way to make her life miserable broke my heart.

When I looked at the situation I saw an out of control teenager who has had every opportunity to turn his life around.

My daughter sees a broken child inside a teenage body, a child who is still redeemable, a child who makes really bad decisions and needs someone like my daughter and her husband to rescue him, guide him and keep pushing him in the right direction because he hasn’t figured out yet how to turn his life around. He can’t take advantage of the opportunities because the damage blinds him to them.

Today in my studies I came across this scripture in Revelation:   Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it. (Rev 2:17)

I love that Jesus has a new name picked out for each one of us and that it is specific, descriptive and private – just between him and me. I’ve wondered what name that might be but I have a feeling it will be based on the characteristic in my life that was most Godly and touched the heart of Jesus.

For people like the ones in my story above, I suspect their clear stone will have a name like Generosityor Kindness,  Unselfish or Compassionate Caretaker. Maybe one will have the name Mother spelled a new way to apply to one who has opened her heart to a child not her own. One might have the name Daughter in a hue that says not by birth but by love. There might even be one that says Child with a little drawing of  peanut butter and jelly toast.

What will my name be? Or yours? I think it bears pondering. I think my life calls for some examining to see what stands out. Is it something I want carved on my clear stone for all eternity? If not, I had better start doing something about that right now. How about you?

Psalms 19:14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.

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MB900316860[1]Sometimes it’s hard to figure out if your life is one of peace interrupted now and then by crisis or one of crisis interrupted now and then with peace.

Our family is certainly in the middle of crisis at the moment with a granddaughter facing surgery and our fear of test results. As any medical situation, this has been going on for what seems like forever but is actually about two months. Appointments, tests, test results, more appointments – it’s endless and frays the nerves to the breaking point.  

When someone you love is suffering, you suffer. But what about when it is not necessarily someone you love?

 In the midst of our overwhelming crisis comes the Boston Marathon bombing. People I’ve never heard of dead and horribly injured. Families shocked and grieving. Friends trying to make sense of a nightmare.

And then just a few days later an explosion in Texas causing widespread devastation with the same result – death, destruction, pain, anguish, grief.

When you are mired in your own personal heartache it’s hard to read the stories. My brain wants to say that in the large scheme of things my problems are small. My heart speaks louder crying out “But this is my grandchild, not a stranger.”

And yet, I don’t ever want to become calloused when it comes to feeling compassion and heartbreak for God’s people.

The prophet Jeremiah actually prayed for a greater capacity to grieve.  “Oh, that my head were waters, And my eyes a fountain of tears, That I might weep day and night For the slain of the daughter of my people!” Jer 9:1

It’s not like Jeremiah didn’t have enough to cause him grief. He was the ultimate misunderstood, mistreated and unappreciated prophet. Yet he longed for a much larger resource to provide the tears he wanted to shed for God’s people.

Psalm 35:13-14 says “But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth; I humbled my soul with fasting; And my prayer kept returning to my bosom. I went about as though it were my friend or brother; I bowed down mourning, as one who sorrows for a mother.”

I love that – I went about as though it were my friend or brother. My pastor’s wife shared with me yesterday how they just received news that their very good friends have lost a son.  She said their shock and grief goes so deep “We feel as if we have lost our own son.”

If only we all had the kind of love for mankind that caused us to grieve in a manner where an onlooker would think we’d lost a loved one or a close friend.

Because when we are that tender to the hurts and needs of those around us we are stifled in our ability to hurt those around us. Imagine a world where people could only act out in tenderness, a community of kind, generous souls unable to be anything but loving because the sight of a hurting human brings them to their knees.

I would love to close my own life by repeating Job’s statement to God as I enter His presence.  “Have I not wept for the one whose life is hard? Was not my soul grieved for the needy?” Job 30:25

Let’s inscribe that on the walls of our hearts and live the legacy.

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