Beautiful

It’s prom season and my daughter and I have been busy preparing her for the big night.  You can’t imagine the thrill of helping her find her dream dress, the perfect shoes, accessories, and bling to make her even more beautiful than she already is.  All of it has got me pondering beauty and the point of it.

Beauty.

There was a time in my life when I was considered beautiful…hush now, all who might say I still am, not the point…beauty became a paradox in my life.  Beauty became a blessing and a curse.   Beauty in the world’s definition is powerful, vain, sexual, and dangerous.  But true beauty, God’s beauty, is gentle, humble, spiritual, and nurturing.   I do believe that I have known both.  I’ve been beautiful and I am beautiful.  I’ve used my beauty and been used for my beauty.  There came a point in my life when I wanted nothing to do with it, wanted to hide it and push it aside so no one would know, that somewhere deep inside, I was created an image of beauty.  Because beauty was ugly.

Vanity and Conceit.

You may, or may not, be able to read into these words that I’ve struggled with vanity, to the point that I’d be ashamed to share how conceited I had become at points in my life.  Stupid sinful pride, wrapped up in self-centeredness and judgementalism.  I was conceited to the core and fell for the line that I was something special…something more beautiful than “her”…I still fall for it, but I fight it.   I rebuke it and repent.  “I’m sorry, forgive me.” I lay down my beauty crown and beg God to make me His…holy His…and wholey His.  And He says, “My beautiful one, I love you, rest in who I created you to be.”

And before my rebuke, or resistance, or rebellion is on my lips to correct Him, He hushes me and says, “You are beautiful and I delight in you.”  I want to show Him my dark circles, stretch marks, and scars, I want to show Him the dark recesses of my heart that still reflect my sin  of vanity…who am I to correct God…yes, I know, more vanity and pride…but He wants to show me beauty all  around me. 

As I rest and relax as His love and mercy washes over me, images of beauty flash before me…flowers, blooming through the spring time snow;  newborns, resting at their mother’s breast; eaglets, high above the hustle and bustle of this life we live.  There is beauty all around us.  May we take the time to catch glimpses of His glory in the beauty of His creation.

Beauty.  Beautiful. 

I’m taken to His Word, drawn to the word beautiful.  Beauty is important to God.  Important enough to mention a woman’s physical beauty with her name throughout the Old Testament.  Consider these examples:

When Abram came to Egypt, the Egyptians saw that Sarai was a very beautiful woman. Genesis 12:14

Rebekah came out with her jar on her shoulder. She was the daughter of Bethuel son of Milkah, who was the wife of Abraham’s brother Nahor.  The woman was very beautiful Genesis 24:15-16

Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel had a lovely figure and was beautiful.  Genesis 29:17

His name was Nabal and his wife’s name was Abigail. She was an intelligent and beautiful woman  1 Samuel 25:3

One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, 3 and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “She is Bathsheba  2 Samuel 11: 2-3

In the course of time, Amnon son of David fell in love with Tamar, the beautiful sister of Absalom  2 Samuel 13:1

Three sons and a daughter were born to Absalom. His daughter’s name was Tamar, and she became a beautiful woman.  2 Samuel 14:27

Then they searched throughout Israel for a beautiful young woman and found Abishag, a Shunammite, and brought her to the king.  1 Kings 1:3

This young woman, who was also known as Esther, had a lovely figure and was beautiful. Mordecai had taken her as his own daughter when her father and mother died.  Esther 2:7

Nowhere in all the land were there found women as beautiful as Job’s daughters, and their father granted them an inheritance along with their brothers.  Job 42:15

Ponder their stories.  But know this, Jesus never mentioned a woman for her physical beauty. 

He criticized men who were beautiful on the outside, yet unclean in their hearts  “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.”  Matthew 23:27

and praised the actions of a woman as a beautiful thing, but did not call her beautiful. 

When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. 9“This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.”  10 Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me.  Matthew 26:8-10

Scripture teaches us much more about beauty:

And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”  Romans 10:15

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.  Proverbs 31:30

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes.  Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.  1 Peter 3:3-4

and much more.  But consider this:

Let the king be enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord.  Psalm 45:11

What is my point?  What do I wish for you to learn from this blog?  What do I desire to teach my daughters about beauty?  Ah…that, my dear, is for another day’s blog because this one has gotten too long.  For now, ponder beauty.  Watch for it.  Rest in it.  Don’t relinquish it.  Let the King be enthralled in your beauty!  For He is the very one who created you beautiful.

Advertisements

Simplify the Season, Celebrate the Savior

The ladies of New Life Bible Church, Winnebago, IL, are hosting an upcoming Women’s Conference entitled “Simplify the Season, Celebrate the Savior” at New Life on November 20th.  At that conference, we will be joining with women from our church and the local communities to learn how to simplify our lives for a more joyous and peaceful Christmas season.

We want to share recipes, gift ideas, tips, and traditions that will benefit the women at the conference.  We can use your help.

If you have a favorite recipe, homemade gift idea, or crafty decorating idea, would you share it with our women?  It’s fun and easy!!  You can even do some online research in any of the categories (see below) and add neat things you find!

1.  Go online to www.recipething.com

2.  Hit the LOG IN button  then use “New Life Bible Church Women” for your login name.  The password is “Christmas

3.  The screen will show “Shelly’s Recipe Box” look for the “add a new recipe” link and click it.  Then, type your recipe or craft instructions into the form.

Under “Category” — please use one of these titles

Appetizers           Bread         Christmas Cookies       Christmas Candy   Holiday Pies       Main Dishes        Desserts     Fruits/Vegetables         Homemade Gifts          Crafts         Salads                     Christmas Brunch         Just for Kids      Handmade Decorations

Thank you so much!! Questions or to register for the conference: 

Call Shelly (815)335-1405 or email at shelly@winnewlife.com

Homecoming Sunday

Football season in going full force in our area!  My hubby, Tim, and I have spent many evenings and weekends watching football this fall.  Our youngest son plays Winn-Du-Pec jr tackle, our older son plays for the Winnebago Jr High team, our nephew is on Winnebago’s J/V, our younger daughter cheers varsity, and even our oldest daughter is playing on a flag football team at Taylor University.  Needless to say, we’ve seen a lot of football!   By Sunday afternoon, I often choose to nap instead of joining the family in front of the TV watching our beloved Packers.  Even though I love the sport, I’m “footballed” out!

I think people get that way with church sometimes, too.   So many times we see people who attend church as enthusiastically as a faithful football fan.   They’re here every time the door is open and often serve behind the scenes without much recognition.  Sadly, there are times when it’s the very people who are most committed to serving the church who reach that point of burn out.  They become like me with football, preferring to nap rather than joining the family one more time in a church related activity.

I believe there are many preventative measures that can be taken to prevent burn-out in my own life.  First and foremost, is to focus on Jesus.  Work as one working for God, not man, and commit to serving as Christ served.   The second step is love.  Lay down judgments, expectations, and conditions, and fully love the people we are serving.  This can only be done with the love of God flowing through us.  The third part of the equation is appreciation, gratitude, and praise.  Giving praise to God, we, as Christians, should show appreciation and thankfulness to those who work hard among us in the church, our communities, and our schools.

You may know that October is Pastor Appreciation Month across our nation.  Usually New Life Bible Church showers our pastors with gifts, pies (pecan is our favorite….LOL!), and cards expressing their love and gratitude.  You have no idea how much that builds us up and encourages us in our ministry.  We thank everyone who participates in Pastor Appreciation Month, but in 2010, we ask for something different.  This year, we ask for everyone who considers New Life as their home church, anyone who is looking for a church home, and those who have been blessed by the ministry of New Life to join us at our Homecoming Service, on October 31.   We will celebrate the thirteenth anniversary of New Life Bible Church showing appreciation to our Father, our pastors, and to everyone who serves our body of Christ.  

Brothers and sisters, we ask you to show your appreciation for those leaders who work among you and instruct you. 13 We ask you to love them and think very highly of them because of the work they are doing. Live in peace with each other.             1 Thess 5:12-13 (GW)

Wisdom

Today I have been studying WISDOM from the first couple of books of Proverbs.  Just from Chapters 2 & 3 I have created this list of the benefits of wisdom.  

Wisdom leads to:

      knowledge & understanding; deliverance; purity; life; goodness/righteousness;  dwelling place; favor & high esteem w/God and man; direction; health/strength; provision; happiness; pleasant peace; blessing; and eternal glory.

  What else can you find from the Proverbs that are a direct result of WISDOM??

Need wisdom?  Ask for it.  James 1:5   While you are at it, pray for WISDOM for your family, your pastors, your church family, your community leaders, and anyone else you can think of.    Seek wisdom!!  Great are the rewards.  Lord God, please give us wisdom!!

Miss Shelly’s Church

Monday, I answered the phone here in the office at church and was pleased to hear the voice of an old friend.  This gentleman and his wife and daughters attended our church serveral years ago.  We caught up details of each other’s family and he shared the reason for his call.  At the end of the conversation, I told him to hug his wife and kids for me, “if the girls even remember me.”  (They were 1 and 3 when they left here.)  He said, “They sure do!  Everytime we go past there they say, ‘There is Miss Shelly’s church!'”

It was such an encouragement to me to hear that I had made a difference in their lives–so much that they still talked of me four years later!

Today I am reading from Craig Jutila’s  book The Growing Leader:  Healthy Essentials for Children’s Ministry.    The intro to Chapter 2 made me stop in my tracks and blog.  (it’s been awhile!)

I was walking around our children’s building just before the 9:45AM service when I noticed several lines of people waiting to get into various classrooms.  What a slow check in, I thought.  I began talking to parents in the first line, apologizing for the wait and asking them to consider attending the 8:00AM service where the attendance is a bit smaller.  Without exception, I was told in no uncertain terms that “my child wants to see Mr. Chuck!”

I went to the next line, where eight kids patiently stood with their parents.  I offered the same option.  Again, without exception, the response from each parent went something like this: “I’d go to another service, but my child won’t let me do it.  She really wants to see Ms. Shelly” (the name is a coincidence–it was not me.)

What’s the appeal?  Why would kids wait in line to see their leaders?…Why?  Because kids don’t come back for what you teach; they come back, long term, for who you are.  And who you are is what teaches.

Please understand, it took us three years to encourage our leaders who serve on the weekends (and who served every other weekend, or once a month, or twice a year…) to serve every  weekend.  Now, we have children lined up to see their favorite teacher.

Craig goes on to talk about how teachers who are commited to every week engage with the kids on an emotional level that opens the doorway to learning Biblical lessons.  I agree!!

If I think back to my childhood, I remember faithful teachers who taught week after week.  I remember teachers that not only taught me until I was promoted out of their class, but stayed with that grade level through my younger siblings.  All four of us can  remember Ms. Rita and her love for us.  I remember nursery workers who let me help in the nursery when I was a teenager and cared for my babies years later and camp counselors who were there when I was a camper and were still there when my kids went to camp.  There’s something solid and stable about that!

We live in a world where a lot of kids are missing stability in their home lives.  So many of them have fathers or “mom’s boyfriends” who have walked out of their lives.  Even siblings are breaking ties and heading out on their own.  Even the strongest, most stable families can benefit from one more person who loves and supports them on a long term basis.

I want to encourage each of my children’s workers in any of our Kidzone classes to consider taking your commitment a step deeper.  What if kids were lining up to join your class?  What if moms on the playground told other moms about how great you are?  What if twenty years from now grown students still remember your name?  Wouldn’t that feel great?  It would, but it’s not the reason to commit to these kids.   We commit to these kids because God loves them and He desires that they feel that love through a church who loves them and teaches them about Him, His Son, and His Word.  Will you be that person?  Will you be the vessel of His love?  It’s such a high calling!!  The reward is out of this world!!  Are you willing?

Benevolence Fund

Several weeks before Christmas, God gave me the idea to start a special campaign for our benevolence fund.  I called it 100x$100 and sought out 100 people to give $100each to the benevolence fund to help people with their utility bills.  It was a tremendous success and God richly blessed the generousity of His people as they gave into this fund.

At Christmastime, we were faced with the decision of how to distribute the money.  This is not an easy job.  We want to be good stewards, we want to bless those that truly need it, and we want don’t want to miss anyone in our congregation who may be in need, but too shy or ashamed to admit it.  We prayed and prepared to distribute the money.

During this time, we received phone calls from individuals requesting money.  One of them was quite determined and called several times.  She wasn’t specific about her need, but just wanted help however we could.  We, as the Pastoral staff at New Life, prayed about how to help her and discussed it among ourselves.  With this one individual, we could not come to an agreement.  One pastor said “This”, another said “that”, and I was confused about what to do for her.  As the days before Christmas ticked away, we felt pressured to get her something, so we came to a conclusion we all agreed was best and left it in God’s hands. 

Today, she called again, spoke to our Sr. Pastor and wanted more help.   When I first heard her name, I wasn’t sure it was the same woman…same first name, different last name.  I searched our records and found that the phone number was the same.  On a whim, or divine inspiration, I ran this new name through our county’s database of court records.  This woman’s name came up with 2 1/2 pages of records, including a crime of forced entry/robbery against a very respected family in our community and several other similar crimes.  I was shocked!   I should have looked under the other name, but I’d seen enough. 

I called her back, wanting to confront her, nervously unsure about what to say.  I asked her about the two last names and she claimed her last name was the first name given, not the second.  I simply told her that we had helped her at Christmas and couldn’t help her further.  She was a bit disappointed, and we ended the brief phone call.

I’ve thought about it off and on today and wondered, “What would Jesus have done?”  I’ve also wondered if we handled this wrong.  I don’t know the anwer.  I am saddened to feel like we have to question the heart of the people we help and I know that even people with the worst of criminal records can be transformed by the love and touch of Jesus Christ.  I hope she appreciates the help we gave her in the name of Jesus and that He works in her heart and changes her life.  I pray she reaches out to us again, not for silver or gold, but for a treasure that is worth more than any other in this life, eternal life through the forgiveness of sins in the name of JESUS.

Pray for her…whatever her name is, He knows the truth!!