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!!

~Blessings~

Last night, when I finished up praying with the boys, first Justin and then Jared both said “And keep people safe as they drive on the roads.”  I thought it was strange that Jared echoed the same prayer, but it was obvious he was agreeing with Jusin in prayer.  I tucked them in, kissed them good night, and didn’t think of it again.

Until this morning–

I left the church about 11:20AM to meet a friend for lunch in Freeport. 

I had barely entered the highway when I saw an accident on the oncoming traffic side of the road.  A semi-truck had “t-boned” a car which was perpendicular across the lane.  Immediately, I thought the worst!!  As I approached the accident and was able to view it from my side of the highway, I could see that the driver’s side door was just barely buckled.  The truck got stopped just as it hit the car!!!  I saw two elderly individuals inside the car and the truck driver was jumping out of his truck to check on them.  From what I could see, they both were awake, alert, and talking to each other. 

I stopped to flag down traffic as it came over the hill immediately behind the accident and praised God that it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.

I don’t always see immediate, obvious answers to prayer, but I’m claiming this as one!!  That elderly couple was able to go home alive and well today!!  I believe the boys’ prayers played a role in their safety.  PRAISE GOD for protecting those people and for His protection of all of us as we drive the winter.

You may never know the power of your prayers!!  I encourage you to become an intercessor and pray for people this Christmas season!!

James 1:5

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

Lord, will you please give me wisdom?

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. 17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.

James 3:13-18 (NIV)

 

Statistics

Kay Warren says in her book “Dangerous Surrender”

As long as suffering people are a mere statistic to you, you will never become ruined for life as you know it.  When suffering becomes personal–with faces and names–and when you hear their stories, you won’t be able to remain disconnected.” 

She is speaking of a statistic she heard one day years ago.  She learned that there were 12 Million orphans in Africa from the AIDS epidemic.  She was disturbed by this statistic and surrendered to God’s plan to help however she could.  After one trip to Africa, she was ruined–gloriously ruined for the cause–and has devoted her life’s work to it.  She is encouraging me and inspiring me to be gloriously ruined for my cause. 

Do you know how people joke that they can’t full heartedly say, “I fully surrender to God” because He might send them to Africa?  Kay has considered that joke and HAS been sent to Africa.  But, for some of us here, fully surrendering means He might send us to prison, or to homeless shelters, hospitals, mental health facilities, or child abuse centers.  For all of us, surrendering is tough–it is unknown, and it is a promise to not just give up with a white flag of admiting defeat–but to obey. 

To fully surrender is a call to action–a call to work as we obey the one who gave us life.  Will we do it?  Will we surrender and obey in all areas of our lives?   Will we be gloriously ruined for our cause and God’s calling and dangerously surrender to Him?  I personally, hope I can give up myself, my dreams, and my purposes and obey His for my life!!

Peace

So, I took a drive last night.  I ended up sitting beside a lake at Four Lakes right at sunset.  It was the very, absolute essence of peace.  I sat there and just breathed God in.  Just let Him love on me and comfort me.  It was delightful.  The lake was like glass, gorgeously reflecting the trees around it.  God very clearly spoke peace into my soul.

Many memories came into my mind during this brief time at the lake.  There was another time when I took a drive and ended up at a lake.  That time was the opposite of peace.  I drove to Rock Cut in tears and confusion.  As I approached the lake, I stopped on the edge of the water.  The lake was down, so there was about three feet of dirt between the shore and the water.  I jumped down there and started to pick up rocks.  I threw rocks into a lake for about an hour.  I didn’t just throw the rocks, I whipped them (baseball sized rocks) with every ounce of my strength and I grunted out loud with every throw.  I’m sure I was quite a sight, wearing dress clothes and strappy sandals, and I noticed there were people watching.  I didn’t care.  I was throwing a fit!  Every throw was laced with questions to God.  Every throw was frustrations that I couldn’t speak to anyone but Him.  Every throw was a physical manifestation of a heart in turmoil.  It was the opposite of peace and I don’t think there is a word strong enough to explain my heart. 

My point to this blog  is…there’s hope.  In any situation, whether you’re in the throwing rocks point of life in frustration, anger, confusion, questions, and worry or you’re at the point of peace sitting beside a beautiful lake and drinking in His glory, know that God is good!  He is in control and, if we let Him, He will gently lead us.

Rise Above!!

From Lysa Terkeust’s webblog to her daugher:

Rise above the girlish chatter and gossip. When people talk about others in hushed whispers, they are saying nothing but how insecure they are about themselves. Be uncommon sweetheart.

Rise above the daily beauty contest. You can’t see it now, but you have the makings of a gorgeous woman inside and out. Be uncommon sweetheart.

Rise above the incessant need most teens have for someone else validate your worth. No boy will ever be capable of truly making you feel pretty, witty, and loved. Let Jesus fill up those spaces in your heart and eventually show you a boy worth your time. Be uncommon sweetheart.

Rise above the talk about first kisses and stolen moments. Realize how precious and priceless your purity is. What a beautiful thing it is that you still have the gift of a first kiss to give. Be uncommon sweetheart.

For it is uncommon for a girl your age to want to stay home and write on a blog about her Daddy.

It is uncommon for a girl your age to find joy in shoveling animal poop for hours so kids in Africa can have an athletic field on which to play.

It is uncommon to be almost 16 years old and have never kissed a boy.

It is uncommon to spend hours dreaming of how you might one day serve God in lands most people have never heard of.

It is uncommon. Rare. Incredible. Amazing. Precious. Priceless.

That’s who I prayed you would one day be and who you are becoming.

Rise above sweetheart. Be you. Continue to seek the uncommon. 

I wish I had time to write my own words to my daughters.  They’d be so similar, but so different.  They’d be of the same heart…a momma’s heart who wants the best for her girls.  Lord, give me wisdom as I mother my children.  Let me know the words to say to encourage them to rise above senseless things like gossip, lying, rebellion, pre-marital sex, alcohol, drugs, and other sins that teens find to get into.  Let them rise above as your ambassadors.  Let them purpose themselves to serve You and those You have called them to.  Lord, let other wise women speak into their lives giving them hope and direction through Your Holy Spirit.  May my girls rise above and live to glorify You!  I love you, Lord.  May I be filled with Your spirit and guided by Your truth.  You are precious to me and I know my girls are precious to You.  I entrust You with them and I praise You for entrusting them with me.  Help me to show them Your love, and Your Way, and Your grace.  Lead us.  Guide us.  We live for You.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Community

I watch a beautiful video segment of Carol Kent’s “When I Lay My Isaac Down” today.  The segment’s title was named “Community”.  She included this passage of scripture:

  1 If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Phil 2:1-2 (NIV)

She went on to say “when you are in a crisis, if you have one supportive person, you can make it through the journey.”

She calls them “stretcher-bearers”…people who carry your stretcher even to the point of lowering it through the roof to get you before the Lord.  I call them friends.  Thank you to all of our dear friends-to the one who dropped everything to sit with us through that night and then spoke that morning, to the ones who filled in for Kidzone when I couldn’t teach, to the ones who sent cards, brought meals and gifts, gave hugs, and believed and supported and helped, and to even the youth group segment that wanted to protect and to revenge; to the ones who grieved with us, who cried with us, who LISTENED to us, and who cared–You all carried the stretcher for us.  You supported us! 

I’m sure you don’t fully understand and I pray that you never experience the full hurt of my heart and the extent of the crisis in our family.  Your support brought us through.  Your prayers, your love, and your unity of spirit and purpose showed how the body of Christ works in crisis.  You were there for us when we needed you-you took us before the Lord.  I praise God for you!!!  I praise God that He ordained our connection and that He provided the healing. 

How blessed we are to have friends and family who model God’s love.  I pray that I can learn from you and walk in that love as a “stretcher-bearer” to people in crisis.  I’ve learned so much!! 

May God richly bless you to be a blessing to others!!  We’re counting our blessings and we’re counting our friends twice.  Thank you, Lord, for stretcher bearers. 

 

 

Three Little Words

A friend and I were talking about a situation going on in a mutual friend’s family.  It may have technically been gossip, but we were both devastated by what was going on and sharing our heart about how saddened we were.  My friend then said that she has a friend with a theory.  She then said three little words that if I believe them change everything about how I see that family.   My reactions change, my emotions change, and my sympathy changes.  Three little words.

I do not believe those words.  I truly don’t.  But, there is a bit of wonder now and I have a bit of question about the character of our mutual friend.  Beyond a bit of question, there is a lot of concern and even anger, if I think about it, but I don’t even believe it.  It’s amazing how three little words–which probably aren’t true–hold that much power.

I think about gossip and how easily we are tainted by it.  How often have we been in the middle of a perfectly healthy conversation only to hear three little words which sink in and change our opinion of someone?  What’s the answer?

Stop gossip.  If someone comes to you with some juicy news or even a problem in their life, you can listen and help them…but then point them to the person and offer to go with them.  I did that about a year ago with a person in our home.  She was going on and on about another person from our church.  I told her that she had to go to that person and she had to talk it out.   She refused.  I told her I would go with her, and she refused.  I told her I would talk to the person and set something up for them to meet, she still refused.  It came to the point where there was no way to help this person because she didn’t want help and didn’t want to follow Biblical guidelines, she just wanted to vent.  Venting is ok, but if it taints the “hearer” against the “spoken of”, we have a problem. 

As a sidenote:  I believe an abused person should not confront their abuser.  Not for a long time.  So, if someone is abused, I would never recommend that the person go to their abuser.  But, someone should.  The police, a pastor, or someone should confront, but not the survivor.

If you are mediating, or listening to someone gossip, vent, or tell their opinion–listen, care, express concern, but don’t let it taint you.  Don’t believe everything as truth, remember you’re only hearing one person’s perspective of what happened.  Seek out Biblical guidelines for peacemaking and reconciliation that make both individuals proactive.

Abscessed

  I posted this as my facebook status yesterday.  I’ve been doing some thinking about abscessed wounds:

“In abscesses that are large or deep, where an incision is required to be done, irrigate the wound twice a day or as directed, and keep the incision open to allow drainage and promote healing.” God heal abscesses in our hearts that need to be opened, cleaned, and drained–even though it hurts terribly, the healing will come!!
When Linny was a baby she sucked her thumb.  She sucked it until she was around 18 months.  At that time, she was cutting teeth and she literally cut a tooth on her thumb.  It created a sore, calloused area.  We were unable to treat the sore, because she sucked her thumb so much.  We would bandage it and she would take it off.  It wasn’t healing.  After a few days, it started to swell.  Her little knuckle on that thumb swelled up to twice the size of normal.  Thinking maybe it should be checked out, I had Tim take her to an immediate care clinic.  One look at it in the clinic, and the Dr there sent Tim to the ER.  He was very concerned.  Come to find out, Lindsey’s sore was abscessed.  It was infected way down deep in the knuckle.  The remedy, lancing!!
The sore had to be opened up, drained, cleaned, and kept open to be cleaned as it healed.  Lindsey had to be restrained by several nurses, held down by her daddy, and sliced open by a doctor so the infection could be treated.  I don’t know if it was painful, but it was traumatic for her–and she wanted to suck her thumb for comfort!!!  But, she couldn’t.  She went through great stress and cried uncontrollably!!  The poor baby was still sniffling when I finally got her back in my arms.  It took a few days to get her sore healed and in the mean time, she broke free from the need to suck her thumb.
What does that have to do with anything?  Well, as Christians, sometimes we have hurts and coping methods that are unhealthy.  Whether it is a deep down hurt, or secret, that we aren’t treating (maybe don’t even realize is still there) or it is something that we do to comfort ourselves as we go through life,  there are times when abscessed wounds need to be opened and healed.  Believe me, I’ve been through it and IT HURTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  It is about the most painful process to allow God into an area  of our heart/hurt that He hasn’t been allowed to deal with.  Sometimes people who love us have to hold us down and make us let the Great Physician do the work to bring the healing.  And then, afterwards, our way of comforting ourselves won’t work anymore.  It just doesn’t work and the only thing that will comfort us is the power of the Holy Spirit!!  It is a very tough process, but something we must go through to find true healing.  
If you are going through a lancing, I urge you to let God do the work He needs to do to bring the healing.  Even though it hurts, even though it feels like people who love you are against you, even though you can not find comfort in what once comforted you, submit to the process ordained by the Holy Spirit and you will be healed!!  Once you are healed, you will be used to bring healing to others!! 
God bless you!!!  Pray for saints who are experiencing a lancing today!!!!!!