Sore but blessed

I woke up this morning, sore all over.  What?!  Why?  the grands had gone home on Saturday, so why was I so achy, I asked myself?

As I pondered my sore back and legs, I remembered that yesterday we had volunteered for nursery duty at church.  Ah, ha! That explained it.

During our time in the nursery, we’d spent ninety minutes playing hide and seek, and singing songs, and doing yoga, ballet, and exercises of various types. We’d washed farm animals on the floor and sang more songs, and did a spa day, which included all kinds of things to beautify our little ladies.

petitefilleetlego

We’d read books, climbed on furniture, and built towers with Legos before smashing them down again. We sawed things and hammered other things, and organized and rocked, and looked out the windows, and sang some more, before cleaning up everything and getting ready to greet mommy and daddy once more.

All this we did with the help of a bevy of babes more precious than gold.

Last week I had a lot to say about the lack of help in church nurseries. You can read about that here. Today, I want to say how much fun I had with five little girls in the nursery over the weekend.  Much of the fun of that time is due to my sister-in-law, who is amazing with the wee ones. She doesn’t have any grandchildren yet, but I hope she gets some eventually. She would make a terrific granny.

As we played with the girls in the nursery yesterday, I was reminded that play is learning, and learning is growth; that mentoring is fun, and imaginations are incredible gifts from God, and that I was privileged to be a part of all God had planned for these tiny wonders on one Sunday afternoon. Each girl is a part of His creation and each one displays His majesty in her speech, her thoughts, her actions, and her love.  Most amazing of all, the girls did not fight or cry for one minute out of that whole ninety.  Isn’t God good?!

When was the last time you volunteered for nursery duty?  What was the most fun you had during your experience?

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VBS

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy. Psalm 16:11

Vacation Bible School (VBS), is happening at our church in a couple weeks, so I thought it might be fun to recall my experiences with VBS as a child, today, to remind me and share with you the importance of getting involved in this type or program at your local church.

Whether you call your summer children’s program VBS or refer to it by some other name, know this, it is important for the spiritual development of children to offer a program like this in your church or your neighborhood. It doesn’t have to happen at church, and it doesn’t have to be expensive to share the love of Jesus with a child. It just needs to happen. Below, is my story of how I came to know Jesus. I hope you know him, too.

MY VBS. MY CHALLENGE.

Although I attended church with my gramma as a young child, it wasn’t until my mom hosted a neighborhood VBS that I really heard the Lord speaking life into my heart. I think I was eleven or twelve at the time. I wish I had possessed the forethought to write it down when it happened, but at that age and with little experience in religion, how could I know how significant this event would be for the rest of my life? I remember vividly a Child Evangelism Fellowship worker, named Dorothy, telling us the gospel story and using the Wordless Book as her only resource. Well, that and a heart full of love for Jesus—which was more than enough to grab my attention and encourage me to pray a little prayer that Jesus would love me forever, as she prompted the group.

My first challenge to the pact I’d made with God that day on our front porch, had to do with lying. My mom had baked a chocolate cake and frosted it, then set it on the kitchen table to wait for dinner (or maybe it was for some special occasion I don’t remember), as the battle began.

“Don’t touch that cake.” She’d warned us.

Ahhhh, sounding that kind of warning is like setting off a beacon light in the mind of a kid. From that moment on, all I wanted to do was eat that cake. I mean ALL I wanted to do!

I was single-minded in my pursuit of a way to eat some of that cake and get away with it.

I could hear the enemy whispering, as I tried to resist. “Go ahead. She won’t find out. She won’t know it was you. Do it now! Do it quickly. Grab and run. Don’t tell. Sneak away. Eat it in isolation. You shall not surely die!”

That devil, he is a wild one, and so shrewd. He knew the longer he kept it up, the less I would be able to resist what my nature so clearly said was already mine.

Entitlement.

Pride.

Self-centeredness.

Ego.

Sin!

The devil won that skirmish, which meant Jesus lost, but I was a loser too. Mom found out. I finally confessed under the pressure of guilt. It all came rushing out accompanied by hot tears of fear and regret. She understood. She’d lied before, too. She had a problem with food, too.

She found sugar hard to resist, too.

I think my mom felt worse for me than I did. She knew the path I was now on. Never again would there not be a battle raging somewhere within me. Jesus wouldn’t let go, and satan wouldn’t stop. Still, I’m grateful.

Grateful to God for loving me.

Grateful to Jesus for saving me.

Grateful to my mom for forgiving me.

Grateful to the Holy Spirit for continuing to work on me.

Grateful to Dorothy for being willing to share what she had with others.

Grateful for VBS!!!

VBS made a difference in this woman’s life as a child. Certainly, it makes a difference today. I am, because He is, within me. Sooo blessed!

Thank you, all you wonderful, amazing, selfless, sacrificing VBS workers, you! I am saved because you gave of yourself. My husband is saved. My children are saved. My daughter-in-law is saved. My grandsons are saved. Many of my friends are saved. My church family is saved. My boss is saved. All because one woman gave, and Jesus gave all. How amazing is that?!

I’ll shout it from the rooftops.  Thank you, Jesus!

What is your experience with VBS? Did you go? Do you work it? Are you saved for eternity?

If you don’t know Jesus, but you’d like to, contact me. I’m available to talk at churchoose@gmail.com

 

 

3 Things-God’s Beautiful Work

What’s beautiful can easily be broken, but what’s broken can be made beautiful again.

wabi-sabi

This past weekend, we had an opportunity to get out of Dodge for a while, and travel to the north country to see the kiddos. It was a great time, but the quarters are cramped in their corner of the kingdom. We’re praying for a change of domicile for them. The boys are growing bigger every day, and they have plumb outgrown that tiny condo that was home to two toddlers and joys unspeakable through the years.

Papa God, please guide the kids to their new forever home. Make it easy, Lord, so that they don’t get frustrated in the search, and provide a buyer for this place they are presently in—full of wonderful memories, but needing to go by the wayside. We look to You, Lord, to lead the way in this venture. Thank You for always getting us where we need to go by virtue of your wisdom and strength. We have no doubt You will do it again, and wait in anticipation for your vision to take shape in their lives. Thank You!

While we were in the north country, we went to church with the mini me’s. The message for the morning was taken from 2 Corinthians 4:5-12, and was entitled “Jars of Clay.” Most everyone in my circle these days knows what it is to be a jar of clay. We’re all going through a surrender process of one kind or another. For me, it’s surrendering my youth and embracing (or trying to embrace), the years that seem full of health challenges, decreased energy reservoirs, and dreams of retirement. This, too, is life, I remind myself. I’m trying to make sure the days are full and memorable, but it’s not always easy.

Papa God, thank You for reminding me on the painful days that I shouldn’t make long-term plans or serious decisions. It’s so hard to focus during the rough days. Harder still to plan or pray. Thank You for reminding me that I can rest in You and trust that You’ll have everything I need ready for me, when I need it. I don’t have to decide today. I can simply trust in You for tomorrow. You’ve never failed me yet. I don’t expect you’ll start now.

The pastor at the church we visited on Sunday kept using the same phrase over and over in his message, for emphasis: What’s beautiful can easily be broken, but what’s broken can be made beautiful again. He was referring to broken pots, of course. 2nd Corinthians 4 pots. Us. Those creatures that through their own actions, or the actions of others, often find themselves fractured and lying on the floor in a million pieces. In this state, they think they’ve been destroyed beyond repair, but they are wrong. In similar fashion to how the Chinese repair clay pots with gold through a process they call Kintsukuroi, God repairs clay pots through redemption. He redeems our mistakes and selfish intentions, and he uses Christ’s blood to fill in the spaces between one pot shard and another. He glues us back together again with forgiveness and grace. How cool is that?

kintsukuroi

It’s true: What’s beautiful can easily be broken, but what’s broken can be made beautiful again. Maybe more beautiful than it once was, and stronger, too. I know I’m stronger for having been pieced back together by God.

Thank You, Papa God, for never giving up on us, for never leaving us in a million pieces on the floor, and for never, ever forgetting about us. Thank You for the healing that is available to us through Your Son, Jesus, and for leading us to the programs and people who can help facilitate Your healing in our lives. Bless this work, and the workers who cooperate with You to get ‘er done, I pray, in Jesus Name. Amen!

Do you have broken places in you, broken pieces in need of recovery or repair? If an option for repair was made available to you, would you take it?

Joyful Work & Comic Nerds

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10

My sons are comic book nerds! Each year they make their annual trek to NYC for the Comicon that is held at the Javits Center. The convention is a huge gathering of like-minded lovers of the graphic arts who appreciate what it takes to bring fictional heroes and villains to life.

Attending Comicon requires a lot of advance planning. The brothers search the website for the event, strategically deciding which panels they will sit in on and which artists booths they will visit.

They decide where to stay…

Where to park…

Whether or not to go into the city that first day…

Which night they will remain in the city until the wee hours, eating, laughing together, and catching up with their cousins who live in Jersey.

It takes a lot of work upfront to get them ready for this gig, but they love every minute.

Do you love every minute you’re planning and working for the Lord?

My sons love to attend the Comicon because it provides a time for them to work together on something they enjoy. Just the two of them.

The time goes by quickly when they’re in the city, and the memory of all those fun times come pouring out faster than they can speak them once they’ve returned home and are telling us all about it.

That excitement—

That contentment–

That joy they find in preparing for the event and then traveling together to attend it, it’s what we ought to feel whenever we’re working for the Lord.

Do you feel it?

If not, why not?

What needs to change for you to get ramped-up and ready to roll with Jesus?

Today, let’s ask God what he’s prepared in advance for us to do in his world, and then let’s put a plan in place.  God is calling you to a thrilling future of joyful work with Him. Make sure you’re ready; prepared in advance for His blessings to come.

What event do you look forward to each year?  Who is your favorite traveling companion?

 

Sister Jealousy

imagesThe Greatest Showman!
What a great movie.
Full of hope.
Full of inclusion.
FULL of incredible music and dancing.
It even has people flying through the air while singing, for crying out loud.
How can you go wrong with that kind of movement and talent?
Hugh Jackman, people! And not pretending he’s 23!!!

I loved it!

My sister hated it!

What?!?!?!?!?!?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

She seriously did.
It had something to do with “I don’t like musicals” and “that wasn’t true to PT Barnham’s life” and “he wasn’t a nice person, you know. He scammed people, every day!” At least that’s how I remember the conversation going.

But here’s the thing…

While I cannot, no way, never will understand how my sister should have had such a diverse reaction from mine to what I think is one of the greatest and most uplifting movies I’ve ever seen, I cannot understand, but I’m okay that she didn’t like it.

She’s my sister.
Not my clone.

sisters 3
My sister.
Not me.
She has strong opinions.
In that we are alike, but not much else.

When we were younger, people used to confuse her for me. It happened all the time. I rarely got confused for her, but for some reason she had folks coming up to her all the time and thinking she was me. Didn’t matter that my hair was red and hers was not. Didn’t matter that I was at least 4 inches taller than her most of my life. Didn’t matter that we didn’t live in the same town. We knew enough people individually, that they collectively thought she was me, that it happened a lot. She’s not. Me, I mean.

My sister is her own person.
A strong woman.

Sisters
And like I said, she has strong opinions.
I love that about her.

She is not nearly as indecisive as me.
She is wayyyyy more talented, artisitically.
She holds things close to the vest, while I write and blab and converse about everything and anything.

We are different in the best of ways.

I love my sister, and all that she brings to the world:
A concerned heart.
An ability to look past faults.
A desire to be in charge—she’s a first born, so it comes with the territory.
An enduring love for family.
A heart toward her grands that is as big as all outdoors.
A love for Jesus that is even bigger.

In fact, and she might not know this, so shhhhhhhh!
But when she began to get excited about Jesus and being in church, I was jealous.
Wayyy jealous.
She had something I did not.
That, I could not abide.

Sister rivalry, right? A beautiful thing for ER doctors who stitch them up and glue hair back on their heads after fierce fighting.

sisters hair

But seriously, I  credit my big sister for bringing me to the spiritual strength I enjoy today.

I know Jesus because I was jealous of her.
And isn’t that how it’s supposed to work?

The Apostle Paul wrote about this concept of jealousy in his letter to the Church at Rome, where he said, “I am speaking to you Gentiles…in the hope that I may provoke my own people to jealousy and save some of them.” Romans 11:13-14

Paul had a ministry of jealousy provocation. Think of that one for a while.

It was in the case of my introduction to intimacy with Christ, that my sister’s faith provoked this Gentile’s jealousy and that led to me being saved. Truly, it did!

My sister is not me.
She is God’s princess.
She is His bride.
She is His missionary to many.
She is His emissary.
Her faith made me jealous.
Because of her, I chased after Him.

My sister is not me, but I’m sure glad for her…that God gave her to me and me to her.
I still don’t understand how in the world my sister could not have liked The Greatest Showman.  I saw it THREE times and would have gone a fourth, if it had not been removed from showing at my local theater.  I came to that fourth showing too late, but I came to faith in Jesus Christ my Savior at just the right time, in good part because of jealousy I had toward my sister.

For those of you reading this today I have two pieces of advice:

1. Love your sister and let your jealousy over her take you to incredible places you would not have gone had you not seen her having so much fun and so full of joy, and wanted that for yourself.

2. Go see The Greatest Showman!!! If not on the BIG screen—oh, see it on the BIG SCREEN if you can—but if not there, then on DVD or Blue Ray. It really is the greatest movie I’ve seen since….

No, I won’t go there. Nothing shall tarnish my love for TGS! Nothing. Peace out!

When has jealousy over your sister ended you up in a good place? When was the last time you thanked God for a sister that is not like you?

 

Another Piece of My Healing Journey

One day this week I was reading from Scripture and when done reading I began to meditate.  In that place of solitary meditation I envisioned myself laying in the palm of God’s hands.  It was the only place I could think of that was safe enough.  They were huge!  His hands were positioned palms up in my meditation, and together, like you see when someone holds out their hands to have them filled with popcorn or grains, or maybe candy.  These hands, they were big like a swimming pool, and I was floating in the middle of them.  Way down, at the bottom of this God shaped bowl, was I, lying on my back and looking all around. The walls of this pocket were high; higher than any looter or rioter could climb–higher than any ladder could reach.  High enough that I could imagine nothing that could successfully make it over the top of them.  At the bottom of this big set of God/pool hands, I knew I was safe.

I looked around.  Everywhere I ran my hand was softness. There were ridges, too, but even they had a softness and a strength to them.  God had fingerprints!  I could see them in my meditation, and palm prints!  Amazed, I touched them.  The texture created by the ridges was unique.  I stroked and stroked the material they were made of and commented to myself how lovely it felt. There, in those hands, I finally realized the immensity of our God.  He was a fortress I could run to and be absolutely safe, just like the Bible says He is.  I had no fear lying there. None. And I didn’t feel rushed, either.  I remember thinking how big and powerful and unable to be harmed were those hands, and then a feeling of intense love and devotion overtook me.

I’ve been on a healing journey the last few months and its brought up a lot of junk; hurts and memories of the past.  I’ve had to think hard when processing these memories about what I truly believed about God, in the here and now.  When I was left alone with people that weren’t the most trustworthy of folk, where was God?  All those months I sat staring at the wall, depressed and despondent in my twenties, where was God?  When I fumbled the ball and sinned big, and hurt people in my wake, where was God? Why didn’t He stop me, them, us from hurting each other?  Didn’t He love me? Didn’t He care?  Could He not remember I was there, alone, abandoned, trying to figure it all out on my own and losing ground daily?

What has eventually come to me as a result of my journey is the truth that because God loves me so much, he’s given me free will.  And because He loves the world, too, He’s given them the same.  Some days we’ve misused it and that’s what we call sin.  It makes for a lot of sadness in this place, and more than a few scars.  But this is the good news in that bad tale.  A little bit of hurt can’t destroy me, and a little bit of disappointment can’t break me.  It takes darkness to discern the light, and as long as I’m resting in that Light and His power, I don’t ever need to be afraid.  Bad things will happen sometimes, because God loves us and allows us to use his FREE, no-strings-attached love gift however we want.  Regrettably, we often use it for our own pleasure (even pleasure born of evil).  Does it hurt when we misuse God’s gift?  Yes!  It always hurts, but it does not, cannot, permanently destroy me.

I truthfully don’t know why or how the hurt I do, or the hurt that is done to me, is prevented from permanently destroying us.  I only know that because I carry the mark of Jesus on my soul, it is.  Nothing can ruin me forever.  Not my stupidity. Not my selfishness. Not my confusion, and not my status as offender.  God’s love is as big as His pool hands. Bigger! It’s not in man’s power to overcome it.  Not by a long shot.

I don’t have meditations of this sort often, but this time I did.  I’m also gaining back my ability to dream at night. Haven’t done that in forever.  I’m glad for it.  I need the reassurance this time of mediation brought to my weary heart.

Recovery is hard work, and it’s messy, but I’m all in.  Sincerely, ALL IN!  How about you?

When has God calmed you after you were reminded of a hurtful event in your past?  Are you convinced, truly convinced, of God’s mercy and grace for you?

Piece by Piece

I don’t talk about it a lot in my writing, but abandonment, yeah, I know it well.  Maybe that’s why I can relate to Kelly’s song, Piece by Piece. 

Piece by piece my Papa put me back together after my parents split.

I was five.

Tender age.

Impressionable.

Scarred.

Changed!

What I want to say today is that there is life after divorce for the kids. 

Healing, after the broken.

Soft, after the hard.

Restoration, after disillusionment.

“Behold, I am making all things new.”

“Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”  –Jesus, Rev 21:5

Have you been broken?  What was the glue that put you back together again?

 

 

Movin’ South

000driving

Today a good friend and confidant is packing up and saying her good-byes to family and friends in the Northeast. She and her mister are headed south, to Georgia. I will miss them both.  They have pursued and accepted a ministry position that will keep them hopping for the Lord for the next twelve months. They aren’t sure what will happen after that.

Are any of us sure what will happen in a year’s time?!

I wanted to pop in here today to say that I will miss my buddy in ministry when she’s gone–a LOT!  I wish her well and know that God is about to use her in incredible ways, but there is still a lil place in my heart that is sad about her going.  She’s ready to explode on the scene in GA, and God is ready to have a willing servant there who will go where he tells her to go and do what he tells her to do, I know this, but still…

I think the Lord and this couple are going to cook up some delicious dishes for the spiritually hungry to eat in that hot and muggy place.

These guys are willing–so willing!

Please pray with me that as they head out, God will lay a smooth path before these two.

To Him be all glory, and honor, and praise in this world and the next! 

I have great confidence in this venture because I know our God is good–all the time!!!

When have you been called out from among them to serve as part of God’s mission?  Whta unexpected joys did you encounter along the way?

 

Desperate for Hope?

Do you ever wonder if God loves you? Have you thought that the troubles you face in life are a punishment and not coincidence? Are you now, or have you ever faced a period in time when you doubted if God could turn things around, could heal your hurt, could make you whole again?

I know. I’ve been there…

…but I will tell you something I know equally well: Pain cannot stop the work of the Living God when He is on a redemption tour!

Our Heavenly Father knows what he is doing, and every minute of every day, of every year of our lives He is working redemption; through the pain, through the doubt, through the sickness, through the laughter, through the disappointment, through the exhaustion, and through the endless nights of questions and confusion.

Love does for us what we could never do for ourselves.

I share the following link today in the hope that you will follow it to Jared Barden’s blog.

Jared is my nephew, the husband of Danielle, son to Brian and Brenda, and awesome dad to Fitzgerald and Enoch. He is part and parcel of my family, and one of the bright lights in my life. I love him. Not only do I love him, but I love what God is doing through him.

I think if you would ask Jared, “Are you fearless?” He would say, NO.

I disagree. I think he is fearless, and moreover, I think he and Danielle are surrendered. They are victors in this world, because they see what others don’t see and they obey when others would run.

Jared, Danielle, Fitzgerald, Enoch: I am praying for you today, and I’m so proud of you. Stay strong, dear ones, and keep looking up. Jesus has a plan he’s working out through you and it includes others. Keep leaning in toward Him. He will never let you down.

Take a minute.

Be refreshed.

Renew your hope.

Find assurance.

Be confident.

Trust the right One.

Don’t give up.

Read THIS BLOG today!

http://www.jaredbarden.com/2014/07/25/one-year/

And may the love and safety, and purpose God has for all his children, shine down on you and give you peace.

Shalom!

Realigning Priorities

Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vine; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the LORD!  I will be joyful in the God of my salvation.   Habakkuk 3: 17-18  

As a young woman I worked in a Christian supply store, with a girl named Dawn.  Dawn was gorgeous, with long, silky brown hair.  A real hippy type, Dawn was down to earth, loveable, a favorite with all the customers, and why not, she was a dream wrapped in a pretty bow.  I loved Dawn.   

Dawn’s favorite saying used to be, “We’ll just praise the Lord, anyway.”  No matter what happened, or how rough our day had been, there would be Dawn, standing in all her loveliness, and reminding us to “…praise the Lord, anyway.”   Perhaps Dawn had stumbled onto something Habakkuk already knew:  God is worthy of our praise, no matter what is happening in our lives.  Empty fruit trees, empty vines, empty olive branches.  It’s a pretty bleak scene.  Add to that, barns that stand silent, empty fields, full of dead and rotting sheep, goats and camels.  Emptiness all around, and yet God gives us the ability to rejoice in Him.  Wow!  What a wonderful Savior we serve.  Even in the roughest times, when all the logical sense we have says that we should despair, the prophet insists, we CAN rejoice in our Lord.   

Years ago, I heard that happiness is a choice.  Joy may be found, all it takes is a realignment of our priorities.  Are we more concerned with wallowing in pain and freakish misery, or can we hope to rise above our circumstances and embrace a God who is good, even in the bad times?  While it may be that some of us struggle with chronic pain and problems that don’t respond to easy answers, in our souls, where the real battle against despair is fought, we do well to reaffirm God’s truth and His will for us today. 

Sometimes, the emptiness lingers simply because we need to develop that ability to find joy in the Lord, despite our circumstances.  Every day is another chance to practice this art. What “thing” are you holding onto today, hoping it will bring you joy?  What “thing” have you lost, convinced you can never be happy again?  Let’s just praise the Lord, anyway.  He’s good, all the time!