Faith Adventures

Now you know...

So much has happened these last few months in my writing world.  I wanted to make sure my blog readers haven't missed any of the happenings.

1.  My eBook is out on Amazon!

If you haven't purchased a copy yet, I'd love support from my blog readers.  Go get your copy today.  I've been told that it is worth the $2.99 price.  Thank you so much for encouraging me in this way.  Purchasing a copy of my book will help it be presented to new readers on Amazon through lists and recommendations based on purchases.  You can also purchase a copy and gift it to a friend!

 

2.  I have an author FaceBook page.

Go like it!

3.  I've begun contributing to the website The Gift of Second.

The Gift of Second is a website for people who have lost a loved one to suicide. It is a place for anyone suffering from this tremendous loss to find hope, encouragement, understanding, and community.

Contributing to their blog once a month is really an answer to prayer.  It is a way to minister to people all over the country, even all of the world, who have suffered a loss similar the loss of my little brother, Jeffrey.

If you know anyone who has lost someone to suicide, please let them know about The Gift of Second.  Brandy Lidbeck founded The Gift of Second.  She is a licensed therapist and survivor of suicide.  There are helpful videos and words on the site.

4.  I have a Good Reads Author page.

Me and my new book are on Good Reads.  Good reads is a really great site to keep track of your reading and find books to read.

If you use it to keep track of your reading, you can add it to your "want to read."

You can also go and give my book a rating or review.  If you've read my book, please go rate it.

And 5.  #sentprints is famous

My friend Kaylie was featured on the front page of our newspaper today.  Since I'm in the article, I'm famous too now.  Right?

Seriously, it's a beautifully written article about her business and its support of missions.

Now you're all caught up.  Have a wonderful weekend, and Merry Christmas!

Day 31: Looking Back

31 STORIES OF FAITH ADVENTURES

DAY 31:  LOOKING BACK

When we get to the end of something, it is just human nature to stop and look back.  We look at the ground we covered, the steps we took, or the end product we crafted.  And because we all have the inner judge that makes shows like American Idol a hit, we want to critique our journey.  Could we have walked faster here or fixed a bottleneck there?  Does our end product look wonky, heavy on this end and light on the other?

What did we learn?  Where did we succeed?  Where could we have done better?

Stopping and evaluating.  It’s a motherly thing to do.

Whenever I read the story of Lot, and hear about his wife turning back to look upon the city, it frightens me to no end.  She is instantly turned to a pile of salt for her action of disobedience.

I’ve heard sermons and explanations about how she looked back because she loved the debauchery of the burning city, but that isn’t clearly spelled out in the scriptures.  It is only clear that she was instructed to not look back by an angel of the Lord, and she explicitly disobeyed the command.

I imagine myself in this scenario, and I can easily see myself stopping to look back for many reasons, curiosity, thoughts of my physical goods and sentimental items burning up in flames, concern for humans dying in the fires (even if they are wicked), or just to take a moment and process the traumatic moment that my family was living through.

Would I have to courage to follow the command to run away from the familiarity of home into uncertainty?  Would I have the strength to keep my eyes forward and the self-control to not turn my gaze toward the fire storm?

The fact that I have to put my iPhone in a different room from me if I want to spend time away from social media tells me that it might have been difficult to obey that angel’s command.

Since no one commanded me not to, I’m to stand here on this page with my hands on my hips and look back at my month of writing.  I’m going to beg my inner judge to put on lenses of grace and mercy as I self-evaluate.  And I’m going to tell you what I learned this month.

First, I’ll tell you that I learned my husband supports me, more than I could ever dream.  He’s my biggest fan, and I don’t know how I could type out one word without his support.

On day 16, I had this false sense of pride wash over me.  I had gotten my t-shirt commemorating the Write 31 Days movement in the mail.  I was wearing it while calmly going about my day, so thrilled that I had made it half way through the month.  I had the untrue illusion that I had climbed the mountain, and now all I had to do was hike back down.

The truth is that every day was a uphill climb, even today.

So when my writing didn’t come easy that day, I wanted to quit.  I was tired of myself, and I was sure everyone reading had to be tired of me too.  Our house was not just unclean, it was gross.  And I couldn’t seem to muster the ability to put a load of laundry in the wash because the thought of folding it exhausted me completely.

I decided I should quit.  My husband convinced me to keep writing, and he helped me get that days post done before the day was over, even if it was 11pm.

Not only that, the next week, he sent me out for a dinner with friends while he did 7 loads of laundry.

I don’t know how I ended up with such an amazing husband.  He is selfless and kind.

Maybe if Lot had been that kind of husband, it would have been easier for his wife to follow him without looking back.  (Because we all know Lot was the greedy after he picked the best land when given the option by his uncle Abraham.)

Second, I learned that being self-conscious doesn’t get easier.  I’m just as hesitant to share this post as I was day 1 or day 2’s post.  Putting my thoughts in the form of sentences to be picked apart by the crows of the world doesn’t get easier.  I just have to keep letting my precious kernels out into the world, whether they are left to bury into soil or carried away by the Grackle birds that my friend Kirsten exterminates with her shotgun on a regular basis.  I don’t get to control people’s reactions to my writing.

All I can do is do my best to be honest and listen to my husband who keeps telling me that it is good.

And third, it is hard to be completely honest.  Nice girls aren’t always bare-bones honest.  Nice girls like to protect feelings and look like the good girl that they want the world to see them as.  Being honest isn’t always pretty and sweet.  It is a difficult thing to use discernment.  Sometimes it is good to show the ugly side of who we are or what we’ve been through.  But we also don’t want to end up like Lot’s wife, loving the ugly side of humanity so much that you would choose it over your own family’s well being.

Right now I am 38 years, 8 months, and 25 days old.  I don’t know my expiration date, but I could quite possibly live more years than I have lived so far.

Looking at the topic of faith adventures from that perspective, I don’t know anything do I? 

Or I could go on to settle into a simple life of depending on my income, credit, past victories, and amazing husband.

I could easily never live out faith in God another day in my life.

The hard thing to believe is that God would continue to love me the exact enormous amount anyway, every boring day of that life.

He loved me that same overflowing amount before I existed, on my very worst day, and on my very best day.

Faith adventures are not about earning God’s love.  They are about learning more about it.  And I can’t think of anything I rather do.

 

 

Music embodies everything that is good about life.  It makes me happy.  I love the Dr. Dog album Fate, and this is one of the highlights off that album.  Toby from Dr. Dog has one of the most dramatic voices, and the lyrics he writes are weighty.  But life needs this theatrical touch sometimes.

Did you miss any of the 31 days?  Here is the link to the table of contents.

Did you enjoy reading these stories, please subscribe to my blog!

Day 30: Conference

31 STORIES OF FAITH ADVENTURES

DAY 30:  CONFERENCE

I knew God was pushing me to tell my story, and I was pretty sure that meant writing.

As I became sure that it was something God wanted me to do, I began to look for ways that I could immediately obey him.

And Samuel said, ‘Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.’
— 1 Samuel 15:22 ESV

I began to write blog posts because the only way you can get better at writing is to practice writing.

My new friend Kaylie Hodges and I had met planning the IF:Local gathering in our city.  One day at a planning meeting she mentioned that she was going to a conference for writers in April.

“Maybe I should go to that,” I told my husband.  “It might help me figure out what I am suppose to be doing.”

I didn’t know Kaylie well at all.  I had never sent her a text before, but I sent one anyway.

My message said, “So what is the writing conference called?  I want to read more about it.”

She texted back, “It’s the Faith and Culture Writer’s Conference in Portland.”

And then later that night I got brave and texted, “Do you think it would be weird if I prayed about going?”

I felt very unsure of inviting myself along for an out of state trip with basically a stranger.  I get so nervous around people, especially people I don’t know.

She texted back, “No! I absolutely think you should!  I would love to have the company!”

As someone who battles social anxiety, I am so thankful that she was overly positive in her response.  I couldn’t read between the lines and think, “She really doesn’t want me to go.”

The best thing about having Kaylie as a friend is this, she’s got 5 kids.  All 5 of her kids are under the age of 6.  I know if she doesn’t text me back right away, it’s because she’s busy with her kids, not because she’s got some problem with me, which is where my head usually goes with it’s wacky thoughts.

As the conference got closer, I went into overachiever mode.  I read books by the speakers.  I tried to figure out what a book proposal was, and then I wrote not one but two of them.

I booked a meeting with a literary agent.

I knew it was a sacrifice for my family to send me to this conference, and I put a ton of pressure on myself to make the most of the experience.

The night before I was suppose to present my book proposals, I was a wreck.  All of the pressure I had put on myself turned me into a ball of nerves.  I didn’t sleep at all.

Before my meeting, there was a breakout session called, “How an insecure perfectionist became a writer.”  That topic was just what I needed to hear.  The speaker, Marc Schelske, shared his tips for overcoming perfectionism and insecurities.  As he spoke, he asked if anyone was presenting a book proposal that day.  I raised my hand.  He shared his experience doing the same thing the year before, and he encouraged me that I would survive the experience.

My meeting went much better than I could have imagined.  The agent I met with was soft-spoken, calming, mostly positive, and very informative.

I didn’t walk away with a book deal, but that meeting gave me some courage not to give up on writing or sharing my story.

That conference pushed my farther out of my comfort zone than I have ever been before, and I grew personally and spiritually.

It was also a lot of fun.  I had a blast getting to know Kaylie.  She has become a great friend, and we have had the joy of cheering each other on.

This past year has been full of small and large goals revolving around my writing and trying to get to the point where I can effectively share what God has placed on my heart.

This Write 31 Days Challenge has been a part of that journey, a journey to become a better storyteller and a journey to encourage people into a deeper faith.

I’m in the middle of this faith adventure, and it’s hard for me to sum up what it has been like or what I learned.  The thing I notice that is similar to all of the other faith adventures is that there is no road map.

God gives me an opportunity or direction and a beginning step.  I have had to step out and begin the journey with no idea where the journey may take me.  One step, no matter how small, is a an act of obedience.  That step usually leads me to the next step, and I have to step out again, all the while exercising my faith.

This is the way God works.  It is the way God worked in the old testament and the new.  It is the way God has led his followers, how He has led me, and it is how God will lead you, one step at a time.

 

 

I love music and share a song with each blog post.  I found this song to be crazily true about Portland.  Portland is now in my top 5 of favorite cities.  I can't wait to go back.

Day 29: Speaking

31 STORIES OF FAITH ADVENTURES

DAY 29:  SPEAKING

Public speaking is not my jam.  I have never done well with it; I’ve gotten better at it, but I still struggle.

In 2013, three years after losing my brother, sharing publicly about the loss of my little brother seemed like a crazy idea, but I volunteered to do it anyway.

July 21, 2010, I lost my little brother Jeffrey to suicide.

It was two days before the 2010 God Has Not Forgotten You, Jesus Loves You Celebration, a yearly outreach by our church.  We invite people from every walk of life, from all over our city.

Three years later, I knew God wanted me to share.

I knew how hard it would be for me to keep my thoughts straight and share about such a horrendous event.  I knew I would be nervous and possibly distraught.  I decided to to write out exactly what I wanted to say, and I stood at the microphone and read it.

Here is what I read:

I’m Jennifer Lane. My husband James and I have been at Citychurch from the beginning. I was a naive girl in college when James’s Dad, Don Lane started piecing together this ministry to the inner-city of Amarillo. I was so blessed to be a part of the learning stages of this ministry, and not many people can say that their father-in-laws were one of the most influential people in their life, but I had one heck of a father-in-law. Every year I like to wear this t-shirt from the very first Jesus Loves You celebration, because it reminds me of how proud I was of Don’s idea for the event. I was so excited to minister to Amarillo at an event called the God Has Not Forgotten You, Jesus Loves You Celebration. That name is gold. We miss Don, but I know we are doing exactly what he would want us to do tonight. Three years ago, I had to miss the Jesus Loves You Celebration. Two days before the 2010 JLY Celebration, I got a phone call from my dad at 4 in the morning. My little brother Jeffrey had shot himself. He was only 24 years old, just a kid, and he ended his life. My dad was getting ready to drive into Houston for work and had found him in the bathroom dead. My body went through motions of packing a suitcase, finding the first flight to Houston online, taking care of Baby Gabe, who was two months old at the time, and going to the airport, while my head tried to catch up to what had just happened. If you ever wonder if James and I are committed to the mission of Citychurch, I want you to know I left my husband James here to make sure that the first Jesus Loves You Celebration without Don Lane went off without a hitch, while me and my two month old flew to Houston to sit with my parents while my dad’s family tried to clean blood out of my parent’s carpet. If ever I had a reason to think, ‘Hey, has God forgotten me? Does Jesus love me?’ It was at that moment. Watching my father cry and morn my brother was excruciating. It was completely unbearable. But I had faith. I knew God had not forgotten me. I had no reason to be mad at God. I knew that this wasn’t the plan God had for my brother’s life. I knew God wanted better things for my brother, and my brother had turned his back on those plans to pursue his own plans. God was there to comfort me. And God had not forgotten my brother. Jeffrey was meeting Jesus. Jeffrey was finding the comfort of his Savior and his creator. I want you to know that Jeffrey had accepted Jesus as a young boy. He was sold out for the Lord at a young age. His kindergarden teacher was convinced that Jeffrey would be a church pastor. Jeffrey was a fun person to be around. He loved to laugh and joke. He could make a dozen friends a minute. Everyone loved to be around him. As he became a pre-teen, he attended Child Evangelism camps and helped run Bible clubs for kids in parks of the Houston suburbs. But something happened as Jeffrey grew older. His friends, which he made so easily, became focused on parties and cars and video games and alcohol. My family went trough many years of trying to figure out how we could get Jeffrey to grow up and do things like go to school or get a job. He just didn’t take anything seriously. So it made no sense to me that someone so fun and light-hearted would make that decision to end his life. I will never understand why. The police took 6 months to give us any information. It wasn’t until Christmas that we finally had a better picture of what happened. It turns out that Jeffrey had four different drugs in his system. He had been at a party the night before (on a Monday mind you.) Who goes to a party until 2 in the morning on a Monday? Kid’s living off their parents, I guess. His friends who at first said, ‘he only had one or two beers.’ Began to change their story to a more truthful, ‘Jeffrey would take any drug that anyone would offer him.’ I can’t tell you how much guilt I have waded through. How did I not even know that my brother had a drug problem when he was at the level of anything goes? So why am I sharing this with you? Why would I get up here and tell you this tragic story? I want you to know that if your sitting here with drugs in your system, even four drugs in your system. It’s not too late to change. My brother doesn’t have that option, but you are here, you’re alive. God sent me and Citychurch to intersect your path, and tell you “God has not forgotten you. Jesus loves you.” You can do something we call, repent. Which means stop, turn the other direction, and follow Jesus. 1 John 1:9 says, ‘If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’ And I want to tell you that Jesus is worth following. I have been following Jesus, wholeheartedly since I was 13 years old. I gave my life to Jesus, and I have never regretted it. Does that mean my life is perfect. No. Obviously you can see that I still have good days and bad. I still have life hurts and loss. But I have the joy of the Lord through all those days. Nehemiah 8:10 says, ‘The joy of the Lord is your strength.’ If you want to talk to someone about receiving drug counseling or receiving the Lord as your savior, please come talk to me or Pastor Donnie, or find someone in a staff shirt. If the Holy Spirit is calling you to repent, don’t ignore it. If Jesus is knocking on the door of your heart, answer. Revelation 3:20 says, ‘Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hears my voice, and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will eat with him, and he with me.’

God used this testimony.  At the end of the night, I prayed with a girl named Misty.  She was about the same age as my brother had been when he ended his life.  Misty was struggling with drug addiction, and wanted to ask God to help her.  Praying with Misty was a blessing because I knew, if it was only this one thing, something good was coming from this tragedy.  The last thing I want is nothing good to come from the loss of my brother.  It has been my prayer from the day I learned of his death.

God put a new calling in my heart in this last year, and that calling is to share my stories, mainly the story of losing my brother.  I believe God can use stories to heal hearts and change hearts.  Jesus spoke with stories, parables, because He knows the power of a story.

Sharing a story takes faith.  Putting out something tender and vulnerable into a rough and tumble world is scary.  Will it be trampled or will it grow?

I’m following God’s calling to share my stories.  I’m taking that faith adventure right now.

 

 

I love music, and I like to share a song with each blog post.  Chris Bell died young in a car crash.  I watched a documentary about him, and his sister had taken the job of preserving his memory and music.  Watching her share about her little brother, I knew some of her pain.  I admired her strength in sharing her story.

DaySpring.com is celebrating all of the amazing Write 31 Days readers who are supporting nearly 2,000 writers this October! To enter to win a $500 DaySpring shopping spree, just click on this link & follow the giveaway widget instructions. Good luck, and thanks for reading!

Day 28: Leading

31 STORIES OF FAITH ADVENTURES

DAY 28:  LEADING

At 36 years old, I had never lead a Bible study.  I had barely attended one.  I was cynical about women’s ministry.

In the spring of 2013, we had just begun our adoption adventure.  A friend asked if I would consider leading a study of the book 7: an experimental mutiny against excess by Jen Hatmaker.

I had read the book the summer before, and I had loved the idea of fasting from things that pull us away from God and farther into the culture of this world.

I made emails and fliers and let my friends know about the study at my house.  I had a great turnout all throughout the study.  We had amazing conversations, and I loosened my hold on earthly things just a little.  It was a success.

As our 9 week gathering came to an end, a few ladies began to ask if I was going to do another book because they didn’t want to stop meeting.

I thought about where my cynicism was rooted in my criticism of other women’s Bible studies.  My biggest point of criticism was that I didn’t understand why women wanted to just meet and study the Bible endlessly and never do anything that they had learned.

I had liked the study of 7 because we were doing something, fasting each week.  We were figuring out that God could sustain us through a week without coffee, tv, or shopping.

In school, our teachers tried to incorporate learning styles for different types of learners.  We were told that there were visual, audio, and tactile learners.  I don’t think that this is exactly true.  I think we are all visual, audio, and tactile learners.  We just lean heavier into one category than others, or maybe there are people out there who are evenly distributed among the three in their learning.  It isn’t a yes or a no, but it is a sliding scale.

Tactile learning is when you learn by doing something.  Most of our daily life is full of stuff that we learned by doing, like cooking, washing dishes, vacuuming, clicking screens, reading, writing, and parenting.

I began to look back at times of growth in my Christian life, and I realized that the times I had grown the most were not times of heavy study in the Word of God.  Growth came when I was going through something or when I was ministering to others.  God and I grew closer by tactile learning how to live the Christian life.

That is what a faith adventure is anyway, isn’t it?

Doing something with God, together.

When I was 5, my dad build an entertainment center.  Now days you can get away with a little table or you can even hang your tv on the wall and not even have an entertainment center.  But in the 80s it was different.

He made it big enough to fit our console tv inside the bottom middle.  There were shelves for our encyclopedias. (Kids, those are volumes of reference books we used before Al Gore invented the internet.)

As we acquired a VHS player, my dad modified it to hold the player that was the size of a stovetop, and he added drawers to hold VHS movies.

That entertainment center was ginormous.  It was about 4 1/2 ft. tall, 10 ft. long, and 2 1/2 feet wide.  And I had “helped” my dad build it.  I took so much ownership of that thing.  When my parents decided to get rid of it a few years ago, I was so sad.  I morned it like a lost pet.

I had built that thing with my little girl hands.  I had rubbed sand paper across that wood and panted on lacquer.  We had moved it to three different states.  In all the moving, it had cracked across the back, and it had a license plate holding it together.

That center was a fixture of my childhood.  I sat in front of that thing and watched Cookie Monster, Erkle, Hee-Haw and Andy Griffith.

But had I really built it?  No.  My dad did all the heavy lifting, planning, sawing, and sanding.

God calls us to come build something with Him.  He wants to hand us sandpaper and brushes as we build the Kingdom together.  We don’t do the real work, but we do enough to become invested in what we are building.  We begin to treasure people, the church, the unreached, the hungry, the thirsty, the broken, the orphan, the widow, the sick, and the imprisoned.  We treasure them because we have invested our heart into them.

I wanted a Bible study that was tactile.

I made a plan.  We would study and meet to talk about our lessons for three weeks out of the month, but once a month we would do something.  We would plan outreaches using the encouragement found for women in Titus 2.

One week we taught a healthy cooking class to low-income moms, one week we delivered summer fun kits to single moms, one week we had a used clothing swap at the church, one week we had a class about reading to your kids, one week we taught low-income families how to save money by making household supplies like laundry soap, and one week we had a pizza crust making class.

The group only lasted six months.

Attendance got smaller and smaller as we continued, and it fizzled out.

Sometimes you try something, and it just doesn’t fly.

I don’t regret trying it.  As I write this, I still think that it’s a good idea.  I had fun doing those outreaches.

The principle of a faith adventure is to step out.  Usually God moves in ways that you don’t expect.  That doesn’t mean that He isn’t working.

At the tail end of this group, I had the opportunity to step out and try something else with God.  I heard about the IF:Gathering conference.

In, February 2014, I hosted an IF:Gathering at my church.  I really wanted to go to Austin for the first IF:Gathering, but I couldn’t logistically do that (i.e. no money for that in our budget) and on top of that, the tickets sold out in a matter of minutes.

So when Jen Hatmaker posted her blog about IF:local, I was on it.  I wanted there to be an IF:local in my city.  So I decided I would host one.  I put all the details together and kept it simple.  I had 12 ladies attend, and it was wonderful.  But, here’s the thing.  It was small.  

In December of 2015, I went to a brunch with 5 other ladies and we decided to have a city-wide, multi-denominational IF:local in Amarillo.  From the beginning, our goal was 500 women, free of charge to attendees.  We knew God could provide the money.  Over the next few months, we added other women to our team of planners.  We worked hard getting the word out, asking for donations, and working out details of the event.

I will never forget our meeting the first week of January.  We sat around looking at each other asking if we were crazy.  We had $200 in the bank, around 2% of the money we would need.  We had less than 40 people signed up, and the event was only one month away.

We could have walked away at that point, called it off.  Instead we prayed for God to move.

God was going to have to do the work we couldn’t do.

I am so thankful for that experience, because we saw a miracle.

On February 6, 2015, we had 500 women show up to the event, and God paid for every bit of it.  That month prior to the gathering, donations had trickled in and sign ups slowly were added all month long.

Sometimes you try something, and it flies.

God wants us to hold the kite string, but only He can send the wind.

 

 

 

I love music so I include a song with each blog post.  Folk music is an easy target for ridicule, but if you don't think this song is beautiful, check your pulse.

DaySpring.com is celebrating all of the amazing Write 31 Days readers who are supporting nearly 2,000 writers this October! To enter to win a $500 DaySpring shopping spree, just click on this link & follow the giveaway widget instructions. Good luck, and thanks for reading!

Day 27: Dad

31 STORIES OF FAITH ADVENTURES

DAY 27:  DAD

The first prayer, that required faith, that I prayed fervently as a Christian was for my dad’s salvation.

I say it required faith because I was completely unsure of whether God could answer it or not, whether my dad could turn his heart towards God and accept Jesus.

I remember my youth minister encouraging me to have hope and pray for my dad.  I know my mom was praying too.

A couple things happened that got my dad’s attention.  One thing was that he began carpooling to work with a guy from our church.  Those 45 minute drives back and forth opened a lot of opportunities for seeds to be planted.

The guy from our church was Jerry Normand.  He was an important figure in my life.  He witnessed to my dad.  He introduced me to my husband.  He encouraged me when my faith was low.  He stood in our wedding.  Jerry went to be with the Lord in 2009, and I’ll always be thankful for how God used him to help me turn corners that now define my life.

The other thing that got my dad’s attention was a health issue.  My dad was experiencing vertigo at work, to the point of ambulances being called.  He had ringing in his ears and severe periods of dizzy spells with exhaustion and nausea.

The doctors diagnosed him with Meniere’s disease.  His recommended course of treatment was surgery.  They would remove one of his equilibriums from behind his ear, and the other equilibrium would take over for both sides.

The doctor let him know that this surgery was as serious as brian surgery, since they would be drilling a small hole into the part of the skull behind his ear.

This kind of statement caused thoughts of God to no longer be far off and uncritical.  My dad was reminded of how close we all skate to the edge of death every day of our lives.  We foolishly believe that we don’t need to address eternal questions until some day when we are old and grey.

My dad was only 39 or 40, only a few years older than I am now.

Our church did something that turned my dad’s beliefs about church and pastors upside down.  They took up a love offering for him.  They knew my dad would be missing work and would have extra medical bills.

One Sunday night, as we were at our kitchen table eating dinner, the doorbell rang.  A few men from the church brought in the money and gave it to my dad.

There are so many reasons our church could have justified not reaching out in this monetary way.  One, my dad wasn’t a member of the church or even a Christian.  Two, they knew my parents spent money on ungodly things like beer and tobacco.  His carpool buddy could have testified to that.  And three, we were in the insignificant middle of our community.  We were no one important.  We had nothing to offer.  But we weren’t necessarily “the poor” either.

I know that that gift from those believers made a difference in my dad’s story.

My dad had his surgery and recovered well.  He now can make his famous joke, “I need that (fill in the blank) like I need ANOTHER hole in my head.”

A few weeks after his stitches were removed and life was settling back to normal, I had slept in on a Sunday morning.  My mom and little brothers had left for Sunday school without me.  I might have been being rebellious or I might have stayed up too late the night before watching tv.

My dad came in and told me to get up because we were going to church.  I jumped out of bed.  I couldn’t believe it.

Here I was ignoring God, staying home on a Sunday morning, and God was busy answering my seemingly unanswerable prayer.

My mom couldn’t believe it when my dad and I walked in a joined her pew.  It was honestly a miracle that he was there.

Our praying continued.  My dad attended church for about 6 months before one Sunday night in December of 1992, I was singing Christmas songs in the choir, and my dad went forward to pray to receive Jesus as his Savior.

My clearest memory of that night was how blurry my eyes got when I was fighting back tears watching him walk to the front of the church and pray with our pastor.

God had asked me to ask him for something, my dad’s salvation.

As I was thinking about writing this story this morning.  I begin to question myself, when was the last time I had prayed prayers that I was completely unsure could be answered?  Immediately three different instances popped into my mind of prayers I prayed this week.

I am thankful that as I have grown older that I have not let go of my childlike wonder of what God can accomplish.

But honestly it is something I’ve had to fight for.  I have caught myself wording prayers in way that is “safer” or already answered without God even getting involved.  When I catch myself doing this, I feel like I’m talking to myself, and God wants me to talk to Him.

That might be a good barometer of your faith life to ask yourself that same question, when was the last time you prayed a prayer that you were completely unsure could be answered?  Let me just give a disclaimer that this not something I got from scripture.  It’s only a thought meant to lead you to deeper faith in a God that is trustworthy and capable of miracles.  

If God doesn’t answer your prayers the way you want and ask Him to, this isn’t a slight on your relationship with God.  Just the fact that you are willing to ask God, trust God, and depend on God says way more about your relationship.  We can never understand, on earth, the reasons behind God’s workings.  It is foolish to try.

The asking is the key.

Be willing to ask God for anything.

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
— Matthew 7: 7-11 ESV

 

 

This song reminds me of my dad, not for any spiritual reason, but because he would walk in from work singing this song and he drove a t-bird.

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Day 26: Testimony

31 STORIES OF FAITH ADVENTURES

DAY 26:  TESTIMONY

I didn’t grow up in church.  When I was in 7th grade, my family moved to the town of Burleson, TX.  We had lived there before, from 2 years old to 1st grade before moving around a lot.  In many ways it felt like finally moving back home.  My parents bought a house around the corner from an elementary school.  There were so many children on our street, and we made friends with all of them.  

Maybe my mom felt like she had settled back into home too.  Finding a church was heavy on her heart.  Maybe she saw how her oldest was growing up.  My son is in 7th grade this year, and I am starting to see him begin the process of bridging that gap between child and adult.

My mom had became a Christian as a little girl, and she had gone to church with her mom growing up.  As a teen, she had lost her mom and moved in with extended family.  Church was not a part of her life anymore.  She met my dad.  My dad was a good guy, but he did not know the Lord at all.  In fact, his family had been involved with the Jehovah’s Witness at different points in his life.  That interaction had left him both confused and disillusioned with church and pastors.

My mother prayed.  She asked God to help her find a church.  A letter came in the mail the next week inviting our family as newcomers to the neighborhood to attend a church just four blocks from our house.

One Saturday night my mom came in my room and told me we were going to go to church in the morning so I needed to pick out something to wear.

It was such a odd thing to happen.  I had never had this experience.  I didn’t know what to think or what to expect.  Part of me was very excited.  I had gone to lots of Vacation Bible Schools and even a church camp with friends.  I knew the basics of the gospel.  I had prayed several times to accept the gift of Jesus, but I had went home to a secular home.  

We were the typical non-Christian, American home.  My parents had their vices and our influences were not censored.  My dad drank beer almost every day and dipped chewing tobacco.  My mom smoked cigarettes.  We watched whatever the television piped in including scary movies and Richard Pryor comedy specials.  My parents said bad words when they got mad or stubbed their toe.  We lived for payday and shopping trips to beg for stickers or Chiclets gum.  We had fun at weekend lake trips to water ski, riding my bike with neighborhood friends, and gathering quarters to take to the corner store.  We dined on sandwiches and Manwich and spaghetti noodles with Ragu and popsicles and pop tarts.  We listened to the radio and records and cassette tapes and music videos.  My dad worked, coming home from his job everyday with a whistle or a 60s song and a beer can in a paper bag.  My mom stayed home, cleaned, did laundry, cleaned, and smoked.  She was the last of housewives.

The thought of church was also a bit scary.  What would it be like?

I had an experience at my friend’s church once, and it had made me a little afraid of church.  In 6th grade our neighbor’s granddaughter had invited me to her church.  It was a Wednesday night service with pews, hymnals, and a sermon.  I was trying to find the pattern of the sitting and standing, and I thought I had it figured out.  As we started the next song, I was concentrating hard on that hymnal, drawing from all my knowledge from elementary music class and my new band assignment of flute.  About ten words in I figured out that I was the only one standing.  The kids on my row began to giggle.  I plopped down into the seat as my face turned beet red.  

Church had culture and customs that had to be learned.  It was like the many times I had been the new girl in class, except that instead of just a teacher watching, I had the God of the universe now taking note of my behavior.  I remember that Wednesday night sermon.  The pastor told us how we were like grasshoppers, only a drop in the bucket.

The last thing a sixth grader needs to be told is that they are insignificant.  Believe me, they know.

What was church on a Sunday morning going to be like?  What if there were kids from my school?  Would I be able to know when to stand and when to sit?

Church slowly became a regular part of my life.  After a few months, my mom went forward and joined the church.  I became a part of the youth group.  It was a very small church, so that only meant one in about 8 kids.  We had this amazingly sweet youth minister named Steve Murray.  He was soft spoken, tenderhearted, and funny.  He came by our house several time to visit with me about my salvation.  

I remember many times when someone from the church would come by to visit and my dad would be out in the drive way working on something (working has always been his favorite hobby).  He would have a beer in his hand, and I would be very embarrassed.

I actually respect my dad more that he wouldn’t hide his beer or act any differently toward the pastor or youth minister or church friends than he would his family or our neighbors.  I admire his honesty in his integrity to who he was as a human being.

Steve and I would discuss whether or not I knew the Lord, and that simple question was confusing to me.  I had prayed at about 5 different summer vacation Bible schools and a church camp.  I was bogged down in the “am I, aren’t I.”

There was a young man in my town named Garrett Roper.  He had begun to go to the flag pole of his high school to pray for his friends.  He knew many of his friends were not Christians.

My future father-in-law (who I didn’t know at the time) had set down to talk to Garrett and heard how he was praying.  Later that week he was in a denominational meeting and mentioned the young man’s commitment to praying for his friends.  See You At The Pole was born.

Our church joined in on the new movement and a bunch of kids met by our flag pole to pray one morning in September.  That evening a group of churches had a “See you at the pole” youth rally in an old building.  About three kids from our church attended, including me.  There was music, videos, and skits.

When the alter call began, I knew I wanted to pray.  I just didn’t care about what those childhood prayers had meant.  All I knew was that I wanted to follow Jesus from that point on.  When the alter call began, I couldn’t stand up fast enough.  I didn’t even care that the room was full of kids from my jr. high and the local high school.  I prayed that night, and my life was not the same.  I was a new creation.

It is funny to me now because I know my future husband was setting in that crowd of kids.  We wouldn’t meet for another 4 years.

I remember getting back to my church to have my mom pick me up.  When I told my mom that I had prayed to ask Jesus to be my savior, she cried on the sidewalk in front of the church and hugged me.

That week I met with the pastor about being baptized.

My dad was mad.  Even though I was almost 13, he didn’t think I was old enough to make the decision to be saved and baptized.  He was convinced that the pastor only wanted our money and that the church was just there to scam us, tickle our ears and pass offering plates.

He refused to come to church that Sunday.

After I was baptized, the church paired me up with a woman who went through a study called The Survival Kit.  It taught the basics of Christianity.  The woman I was paired with had just lost her son a few years earlier.  Her son was killed while riding bikes.

I was so impressed by her faith that had been tested.  She had grown to love the Lord through her suffering, and she was volunteering her time to teach me, a new believer, about Christ because of it.

Looking back at my testimony, and I’m thankful.

I’m thankful for answered prayers, for my mom pursuing Jesus, for adults who took time to talk to me and disciple me, for the leading of His spirit, and most of all, I’m thankful to Christ for loving me enough to die for my sins.

For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
— Romans 10:13 ESV

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Day 25: Heroes

31 STORIES OF FAITH ADVENTURES

DAY 25:  HEROES

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
— Hebrews 11:6 ESV

Chapter 11 of Hebrews is referred to as the the “Heroes of the Faith” chapter of the Bible.  In it, it lists Bible patriarchs, kings, leaders, and prophets, most (but not all) of whom are actually in Mary and Josephs’s genealogy.

Abel, Noah, Enoch, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, and Samuel are all listed.  When I hear their names, I immediately remember their great action or actions that they are remembered for.  The boat they built, temple they knocked down, or river they parted.  But when we look at Hebrews and see what they are being applauded for, each and every one of them is commended for these two words, “by faith.”

“By faith.”  That is the action that lands them in this list of heros, and it is the only action that ends in pleasing our God.

Thankfully, as we read through this list, we also remember that these are real people, humans like you and me, who made big time mistakes.  There are only a couple names on here that the Bible doesn’t tell us an explicit wrongdoing or huge fault.  The only thing we know about Enoch’s possible faults are that he didn’t begin walking with God until he was 65.  We can safely assume mistakes were made in those 65 years and the other 300 years of walking with God as well.  Joseph is unique.  We know a lot about his life, but yet his faults aren’t as glaring as our other heros.  But I do know he had faults.  He was kind of a brazen, bratty, tattle-tale kid..  In between childhood and becoming a ruling class Egyptian, I have to imagine that there were times of bitterness, anger, and resentment towards his brothers.  It would be impossible not to have those feelings.  He was able to forgive his brothers in the end, but I assume it wasn’t an neat, clean process.

The fact that these heroes were used by God gives me hope that I too can be used by God.

The fact that the only action that pleased God was their faith also gives me hope that I can please God and do mighty things for His kingdom

The truth is that God can do anything He pleases through an ordinary person who is fully dedicated to Him.
— Henry Blackaby, Experiencing God

In fact, Hebrews 12 goes on to invite us to join this great race.  A race that began with a promise to Adam and Eve after the fall and will not end until the last believer is called home to our Father’s house that is being prepared for us.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
— Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV

Now that we know we are able to be used by God and that faith is the only spiritual qualification we need, and that we have actually all been invited to join God’s plan.  The only question now is what should we actually do?

Henry Blackaby says that, “We don't choose what we will do for God; He invites us to join Him where He wants to involve us.”  He also goes on to say that God is already at work in your heart, that God knows you intimately, and God will actively work in you.

Bob Goff says that your everyday life is an adventure with God.

Every day God invites us on the same kind of adventure. It’s not a trip where He sends us a rigid itinerary, He simply invites us. God asks what it is He’s made us to love, what it is that captures our attention, what feeds that deep indescribable need of our souls to experience the richness of the world He made. And then, leaning over us, He whispers, ‘Let’s go do that together.’
— Bob Goff

This reminds us that have the power answer the invitation to involve God in our everyday life.  God wants to be involved in what we are involved in.  We don’t box off our lives or heart into sections “spiritual” and “non-spiritual.”  God wants us to live a wholehearted life, wearing our whole armor of God, and clinging to the faith, that was perfected by Jesus, which will make it possible to please Him.

Invite God into your whole life and be watching for God at work so you can join Him in the race.  Don’t be intimidated by our great cloud of witness; be cheered on and encouraged to run.

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Day 24: Childlike

31 STORIES OF FAITH ADVENTURES

DAY 24:  CHILDLIKE

And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
— Matthew 18:2-4

Sometimes we think that Jesus meant for us to have a “kids say the darndest things” faith.  Like the clouds are cotton candy and peeing in the pool will turn it blue.

Ministering at Citychurch, we do not shy away from the most disadvantaged or dangerous areas of our city.  In fact we go there first, knowing there are children in those situations who are often out of reach from hearing the gospel.

In doing this, we’ve found children in some ugly situations.  Children living in hotels where the establishment boast “free adult programing” on their signs.  Children in homes with drug addicted parents.  Children who are taught to steal any chance they get.  Children with caregivers suffering with mental illness.  Children living with a parent’s boyfriend or girlfriend in the home, who are often dysfunctional or destructive.  Children that are taught fighting is a correct response to every conflict.

These children did not choose these situations.  Often they don’t know that their situation isn’t normal yet.

Children who ask for prayer requests like, “Can you pray for my parents to quit fighting?”  And, “My dad is getting out of jail.  Can you pray for me because I’ve never met him before?”

Children don’t have a false illusion that they can fix any problem.  When their needs are not being met, like food or clothing, they don’t have the option of running to the store.

Childlike does not mean shallow.

A child can respond to the gospel.  I have seen it happen.  I’ve talked kids through salvation, and seen them clearly understand God’s gift of forgiveness.

How can we become more like a child?

We can humbly admit that we need God.  Anything we have to offer is temporary, selfish, and short-sighted compared to the solutions God offers.

God is eternal.

Why was God even using a child as an example?  Verse 1 of Matthew 18 tells us what was going on.

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’
— Matthew 18:1 ESV

The disciples thought they had impressed Jesus.  They were asking who was the most impressive, spiritually, among them.

How many times have I thought that I could impress Jesus with a thought or an action?  If I am honest, it happens often.

Jesus let the disciples know that they were striving in the wrong direction.  They were trying to climb up a ladder that they instead should be climbing down.

There is another time when Jesus tells the disciples that entering the kingdom of God requires childlike faith.

Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him, saying, ‘Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.’
— Luke 18:15-17 ESV

Again the disciples were looking at the world from earthly perspective, bigger means more important.

I know that I have a tendency to forget that the kingdom of God doesn’t have rules like survival of the fittest or networking.  There is no cool lunch table or seniority in the kingdom.

This flip flop of how humans live life is both refreshing and convicting.

I don’t think childlike faith is possible without God completely changing the way we look at things.

But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.  Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
— 2 Corinthians 3:16-18 ESV

 

 

Here's a song for you today.

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Day 23: Mission Stories

31 STORIES OF FAITH ADVENTURES

DAY 23:  MISSION STORIES

When my middle son Andrew was in third grade, I found a home school curriculum that I had never used before and wanted to try.  The year of learning was planned around the theme of “countries and cultures.”  Since it was a curriculum that had a Christian worldview, there were missionary stories and biographies to read as we studied the different continents.  We read Cameron Townsend while learning about missions to Mexico.  We read about Nate Saint and Elisabeth Elliot while studying South America.  We read about David Livingstone, Charles Ludwig, and Betty Greene while studying about Africa.  We read about George Muller and Mary Jones while we studied about Europe.  And we read about Gladys Aylward and William Carey while we studied about Asia.

Andrew loved making the paper model of Nate Saint's plane.  It didn’t take long into our first story, the exciting story of Nate Saint, for Andrew to begin saying he wanted to become a missionary when he grew up.

If you don’t know anything about Nate’s story, this is what happens.  He along with fellow missionaries to Ecuador, Roger Youderian, Ed McCully, Pete Fleming, and Jim Elliot, are murdered by the tribe the attempt to make contact with.

The families of Nate Saint and Jim Elliot continue living their calling out in Ecuador.  They eventually are able to make contact with the tribe, offer their forgiveness for the deaths of their family members, and share the story of Jesus.  As members of the tribe accepted Christ as their savior, Steve Saint, the son of Nate Saint became friends and brothers in Christ with the men who killed his father.

It takes a certain amount of bravery as a mother to present the foreign mission field as a viable choice for your child’s future.

Andrew is now in 7th grade, and being a missionary is something he has not changed his mind about.  I realize that God may or may not eventually call Andrew into the mission field.

But I know that God has a plan for Andrew.  I can see him growing up into a great man of God.

If we let God write the story, he doesn’t always promise that all the chapters will be easy, but He does promise that in the last chapter, He will make sense of all the things that have happened in our life, even though some of them are terribly painful.
— Steve Saint, son of missionary Nate Saint

Am I willing to let God write Andrew’s story, even when there might be chapters of loss or hurt?

What choice do I have?  I could try to write my own story for Andrew, controlling his choices and options well into his twenties.  I can believe the illusion that the story that I could write for my son could be safe and good.

The truth is, the belief that we have any type of control over our life or our children’s life is a deception.  It is a fantasy.

We don’t have control over even our next breath.

...yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.
— James 4:14 ESV

Today Hurricane Patricia, the strongest storm ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere will make landfall on the western coast of Mexico.  The eye of the hurricane is hitting landfall at the town of Manzanillo, Mexico.

I have never been to Manzanillo, but James and I visited Puerto Vallarta just up the coast, 170 miles north.

One of my favorite things about that trip was taking the public transportation.  Riding with the locals from our hotel to downtown, we saw how the locals lived.  We saw some neighborhoods up in the mountains of the coast line.  Another day, we hiked down the coast, visiting four different beaches, see homes all along the way.

Millions of people live in the area that will be hit by this hurricane.

Right now my heart is breaking for mothers who live on that coast of Mexico.  I prayed all night that God would provide ways for those mothers to evacuate with their children and move inland.

The news is predicting devastation, flooding and mudslides, as the hurricane is making landfall as a category 5, much stronger than both Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Families that are able to evacuate will most likely not have anything to return to afterward.  The coastal towns will be uninhabitable for months.

Who does have control?  Our loving and merciful God does.

“Peace! Be still!”  These three words were uttered by our Lord, Jesus.

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side.’ And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling.  But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, ‘Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?’ And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’
— Mark 4:35-41 ESV

God could calm Hurricane Patricia with those three words.  Why He chooses not to, we don’t know.  We don’t get to see the last chapter until He is ready to reveil it to us.

How can I not put my trust in in someone who the wind and sea obeys?  Someone who laid down His life for me and for my son, Andrew?

All I know is that I want God to write Andrew’s story, not me.  And in writing Andrew’s story, God may use Andrew to rewrite many other stories.  And those stories are precious to me too.

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Day 22: Route

31 STORIES OF FAITH ADVENTURES

DAY 22:  Route

At the beginning of the summer 2012, I had the opportunity to start my own Citychurch bike route.  I had supporting my husband’s route for 4 years, but committing to lead a route was something new.

 

A few things scared me about taking on this role.

  1. I would have to pull a trailer.
  2. I would have to be there three days a week for a couple hours a day all summer long. (There are no lunches delivered on Fridays, and on Mondays, the children on my route are picked up and brought to Citychurch Park for a day camp Bible Club.)
  3. I had a toddler boy at the time.  What would I do with him?
  4. I would be the only girl leading a route.  How would I get past my insecurities?

 

Despite my fears, I agreed to take on this role as the Mary Hazelrigg neighborhood bike route minister.

 

As hard as it is for me to believe that I stepped out and took on that role.  It is even harder for me to believe that I have completed 4 years as the lady who pulls a trailer with lunches in the Mary Hazelrigg neighborhood.

For the past four years, I’ve delivered about 70 lunches a day to kids in this neighborhood.  I’ve built relationships with the families in the downtown neighborhood around Mary Hazelrigg park.

I’ve stepped out in many ways during those afternoon rides.  Many aspects of leadership do not come naturally for me.  Taking groups of strangers with me almost everyday is not easy.  Me leading that group of volunteers is unnatural.  I have to get them through the route safe.  I have to give them clear instructions of where to go, and what to do.  It has gotten easier for me over the years, but the actual leading is always a struggle.

The other way I have had to step out of my comfort zone is the spiritual encounters that happen.  I have been lead by the spirit to stop and pray for people.  I have been confronted by homeless men and women asking for handouts.  My response to them sometimes includes food (I have to use discernment), but it always includes prayer.  I’ve arrived at houses where grief of a lost loved one is fresh; I’ve shared words of hope and prayer in those situations.  I’ve encountered times when I sense that there are things I should share spiritually with either a home or a volunteer, I’ve done my best to take those opportunities.

Just the physical act of riding a bike with a trailer pushes me out of my comfort zone.  I don’t consider myself physically fit.  I’ve never been the athletic type.  I will chose books over physical activity almost every time.

I feel uncomfortable in that bike seat knowing that I am a home school mom with an above average body mass.  I can’t even think about what I look like in that position.  If I do, I want to crawl under a rock.

Luckily, it is not about me.  The route is about the children.  God gives me that privilege of doing his work, feeding children, all summer long.  I am also building up the church in these moments.  I’m a representative of my church and the global body of Christ telling these children that the church cares about them.  We care enough to be out on a bike in the hot sun.  We care enough to come to them, right at their door.  We care enough to look them in the eye, ask how they are, and listen to their answer.  We care enough to offer to bring them to our church or to keep feeding them even if their parents refuse to allow them to attend.

God has rarely asked me to do something that I’m good at.  He almost always gives me opportunities to serve Him from a place of weakness.  Taking on the bike ministry and leading a route is the best example of ministry from the point of weakness in my life.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
— 2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV

God has used my efforts.  All throughout the summer I hear volunteers say different versions of this statement, “I didn’t think I could ride on a bike route, but I heard your route is easy.  I’m glad I tried it.  This is fun.”

The namesake of my neighborhood, Mary Hazelrigg, knew something about serving from a place of weakness.  At the age of 60 she retired from her city of Amarillo janitorial job.  She knew that God wasn’t finished with her yet.  At 65, she began a Christmas ministry to underprivileged children in North Heights area of Amarillo, the area just north of the neighborhood I minister in.  The first party benefitted about twelve children, but God began to multiply her efforts.  Even when 700 children would attend, the parties were still held in Mrs. Hazelrigg’s home.  God used Mary to organize community events, establish community centers and the park that now holds her name.  In 1982, Mary received the honor of being named Amarillo Woman of the Year.  She was honored by many organizations for her work with children, her church, and the Amarillo community.  

The year I moved to Amarillo, the park in the center of the neighborhood I now serve in, was named Mary Hazelrigg Park in her honor.

Although Mrs. Hazelrigg died six years before I moved to Amarillo, I would like to think we would have been great friends.

My heart echos her heart for children.  My passion for serving the Lord was so similar to her own.  And weakness never stopped Mary from stepping out to serve.

I love this quote from a 1972 Amarillo Globe News interview from Mrs. Hazelrigg, “I’m just crazy about children, and I saw so much need in our neighborhood and thought I could do something to help the children out.”

It’s almost like she took the words out of my mouth.  

Mary never had a pile of money in her bank account that she could draw from to provide Christmas for 700 children.  I will never impress anyone with my cycling skills.

Sometimes we want to serve God with something we already have together, something that looks good and pleasing, with a bow on it.

This is exactly what Cain did when he prepared his sacrifice to God from the best of his horticulture work grown from the ground.  God had no regard for this sacrifice.

When God invites us into His work, we might not think what we have to offer is significant.  But that is the point.  We can serve Him best by allowing God to fill our empty vessel, instead of offering a full one.

 

 

I love music, and I like to share a song with each blog post.  Sometimes on YouTube, you take a chance and click on a bedroom studio recording.  Instead of something mediocre, you find amazing talent.  This is absolutely beautiful and brought me to tears.

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Day 21: Bikes

31 STORIES OF FAITH ADVENTURES

DAY 21:  BIKES

I can’t think of a better example of someone using their abilities and passions for Kingdom work than my husband and bicycles.

James became very interested in riding when we finally got settled into our first house.  A family at our church also liked riding, and they encouraged James to enter an organized ride called Hotter than Hell.  It was a 100 mile ride in Wichita Falls, Texas in the heat of the summer.  James actually found something compared to Hell fun.  I knew he was hooked.

He started talking about riding his bicycle 330 miles from Amarillo to Ft. Worth, Texas.  I wasn’t sure it was a great idea, but James’s dad was completely supportive.  I thought I probably should follow his lead.  The day he left, in the spring of 2007, was a Thursday.  The kids and I stayed in Amarillo to attend our end of the year home school co-op party.  James’s dad followed him along the road as his support crew.

That night at the party, everyone would ask, “Where’s James?”  And I would respond, “Oh.  He’s riding his bicycle to Ft. Worth this weekend.”  And everyone’s response was immediately, “Why?”  I would tell them that he just wanted to do it, and I could tell on their faces that my words were really not satisfying their question.

Right after the party got started, I got a phone call from James.  He was at a hotel in a small town.  He had made it a 110 miles that day, and he was excited to be almost 1/3 of the way there.  He said that his dad had bought him a hamburger, and they were having a good time.  We talked about what time the kids and I would leave the next day to meet him down the road, and I continued with our party.  My motto has always been, “There ain’t no party like a home school party.”

The next day we drove to meet James and his dad.  He had rode another sixty miles before we caught up to him.  We handed out some hugs and drinks.  We let him get back to it and drove about fifteen miles ahead of him.  The kids and I got out and wrote him chalk messages on the shoulder of 287 to encourage him every ten miles.  We bought snacks and drinks, and checked into a hotel in Wichita Falls.  By the afternoon he had rode about 110 more miles that day.  He called me from right outside of town.  His bike had a flat, and he was calling it a day.  I picked him up.  He got cleaned up, we ate some Mexican food, and we tried to get some rest.  I told him that he didn’t have to keep going.  220 miles in 2 days was impressive enough.  He was determined, despite the pain he was clearly in.

The next morning he got up before I did and headed down the road.  Lucy, Andrew, and I got everything loaded in the car, and headed toward Ft. Worth.  Driving over that part of the highway, I could not imagine riding my bike there.  James was doing it.  He was on day 3, and we were getting close.  By the end of the day, he had made it about 75 miles to Decatur, Texas.

That night he was really in pain.  At that point, I really tried to talk him out of continuing the last 35 miles.  He wouldn’t consider quitting.  The next morning, I winced as I watched him leave.  I knew his feet and legs were throbbing.  We loaded up the car, bought James a coffee, and went to meet him down the road.  When we pulled over to meet him, he only had 15 miles left.  The morning was a little drizzly, but he was enjoying the cool weather.

The kids and I drove to the Fort Worth city limits sign, got out some party streamer, and made him a finish line to ride through.

He made it.  We celebrated by going to a Mavericks playoff game in Dallas.  The Mavericks even won that night, 118 to 112 against the Golden State Warriors.  Our celebratory mood was riding high.

The thing James says that he learned riding that road is that there are hills and valleys that you don’t even notice in your car.  We had driven I-287 back and forth between Amarillo and Ft. Worth nearly 1,000 times, and he had always considered that trek of highway to be flat.

Once he was slowed down and powering his ride with his own leg muscles, he noticed every little bit of incline and decline.  He noticed every smell and every bump of that 330 miles.  I begin to think of how animals or insects experience that same road that we drive down with cruise control and our radio.  They would notice even more of the details of that road than James had on his bicycle.

In our ministry at Citychurch, we develop relationships with children, teenagers, and adults who live in our very same town.  They are living lives on the very same road we are on, but their mode of transportation is quite different.  There are obstacles that we don’t even notice, especially in a comfortable SUV with top-notch shocks.

Part of coming alongside someone battling poverty, is slowing down and seeing life from their perspective.  We can’t understand the inclines when we are driving through life in a car that is doing all the work, going at a speed that makes the road seem flat and therefore fair and easy to navigate.

If you have never flexed any muscles climbing out of poverty, it might be hard to sympathize with the obstacles, the inclines, the bumps in the road, the heat, the rain, and the dangerous traffic speeding by just to your left.

Action with and for those who suffer is the concrete expression of the compassionate life and the final criterion of being a Christian. Such acts do not stand beside the moments of prayer and worship but are themselves such moments.
— Donald P. McNeill, Douglas A. Morrison, and Henri M. Nouwen, Compassion

James began to look for ways he could use his bicycle in the ministry in downtown Amarillo.  He had this crazy idea that he could deliver the lunches to kids using his bike.  He went to the hardware store to buy some plastic tubs and lawn mower wheels, andhe made a trailer to hook to the back of his bike.

That summer was just beginning, and fuel prices were at an all-time high.  Maybe it wasn’t a crazy idea.  He loaded up his bike with over 100 lunches, and headed out by himself.

When he got back, he was convinced that he had discovered the best way to minister to kids in our neighborhoods.  As he pulled up to their houses, it was so much easier to relate and interact than riding in a big van.  You are already standing on the same ground they are.

Isn’t that what the church is lacking, relating to the culture, common ground?

A street level ministry allows you to be in the same posture and prospective as the child you are ministering to.

This level of ministry is totally different than trying to minister from a van or a church building.

James finished out that first summer delivering about 150 lunches 4 times a week to his neighborhood.  I tried to ride along with him as much as I could.  Honestly, I couldn’t believe how fun it was.  But there were many times that first summer that he went by himself.

James’s main job at Citychurch is media.  He has been producing videos about the ministry of Citychurch since 1998.  In 2006, he began producing a weekly television show that would highlight what Citychurch was doing, to take people along with us and show them the work of the ministry.

The show is aired on local television, but at one time we had it airing on a Christian station.  The station had figured out that they could show their programing in parts of asia on satellite for a very nominal cost.

One Saturday that winter, a couple visiting Texas from the Philippines showed up at Citychurch’s door.  I was there helping with a sleepover with the youth girls.  As we were getting breakfast together for the girls, Don walked through showing the couple around.

They had seen the Citychurch tv show, and they had been inspired by the bike ministry we were using to feed kids.  Bicycles are a major part of the transportation in their city of Davao.  They had been inspired to begin feeding ministries in the neighborhoods near the shores of the ocean where trash lines the streets and families would squat on the invaluable land by building a home out of corrugated metal and anything else they can find.

The couple had came to visit several American cities with a mission organization.  The organization had set them up to stay with families in each city.  The family that they had been sent to stay with happened to be members at our church.  When they asked if they had heard of Citychurch, they couldn’t believe it.

It was so unbelievable to me that this church setting on the Pacific Ocean had been spurred forward to reach the poorest in their city by seeing the ministry of Citychurch.

Citychurch planned a mission trip to visit this church that had been connected by such strange coincidences.  James and the other guys in our family went to visit Davao and encourage that church in September of 2008.

Often new ideas take a long time to catch on.

James and his brother Donnie delivered lunches with their bicycles in the summer of 2008, but the summer of 2009, they went back to using vans.

As the summer of 2010 was approaching, James and Donnie wanted to get the bike ministry going again.  James found a company in Portland that made bike trailers that would be perfect for carrying lunch sacks and ice chests.  They delivered lunches that summer, and people began to volunteer to ride along.

The past 5 years, the bike ministry has been a favorite of volunteers.  People love helping with this ministry.

 

 

 

I love music, so I share songs.  Here's one about riding bikes.

If James hadn’t been looking for ways to incorporate his passions and interests into the ministry, we might have missed out on the whole idea of street level ministry.

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Day 20: Talents

31 STORIES OF FAITH ADVENTURES

DAY 20:  TALENTS

It’s really not fair for me to tell you that the parable of the talents was misinterpreted often and then not explain how I came to that conclusion or what I think Jesus meant to teach us through this story.

Here’s it the parable again.

For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’  He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
— Matthew 25:14-30 ESV

The best rule in interpreting scripture is to look at it in context.  What comes just before this and what comes just after it in that particular book of the Bible.  So let’s do that.

In the book of Matthew, right before the parable of the talents is the parable of the ten virgins.  Matthew 25:1-13 tells the story of ten brides on their wedding night.  It begins the story with these exact words, “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom.”  The idea of taking a lamp on a wedding night is not a custom that I am personally familiar with for two reasons, I’m American and I’m not Jewish.  But it is something we can read about easily on the internet.

It is clear from the very first sentence of this parable and from the very first imagery presented, this parable is painting a picture of something very eternal, the day that Jesus comes for his Bride, us.

This story tells us that not all of the brides were ready for their bridegroom, “those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut.”  And then it ends with the warning, “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

Those are the ending words of the parable of the ten virgins.

Scripture immediately begins the parable of the talents with these words, “For it will be like a man going on a journey...”

It is clear to me that Jesus is running these two stories together because they are illustrating the same thing.  The return of our bridegroom is also the return of our master.

Let’s look at the scripture immediately after the parable of the talents.

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.
— Matthew 25:31-46 ESV

This is a scripture you are probably more familiar with.  It is painting a picture of the final judgement.  We as His bride, His servant are challenged to treat the hungry, thirsty, stranger, naked, sick, and imprisoned among us as Jesus Himself.  And we are promised that by caring for lowly, least among us here on earth, that we will in fact be caring for the King Himself.

We have now looked at the whole 25th chapter of Matthew, and from start to finish, it is speaking of eternal matters.

Once we put the parable of the talents in context, it is impossible for me to believe that Jesus would be wanting to teach us anything about something earthly like money.  He has to be showing us something much greater.  He is drawing us out a diagram of the workings of the kingdom of heaven.

So when we look at this parable with eternity in mind, we can begin to gain some ideas that are much deeper than just good stewardship.

First, let’s clarify the term of talents.  I think most people read this and think dollar.  That isn’t a fair comparison at all.  A talent is actually a weight.  But saying pound instead of talent doesn’t really compare either.  To be more specific, a talent is a weight of drachmas, and a drachma is a Greek unit of weight.  So a talent is a weight of a weight.  This isn’t getting any clearer.

People who are smarter than me have concluded that the best way to explain a talent was that it was equivalent to 20 years of work.

This makes much more sense to me, and with that definition I can begin to understand what Jesus was trying to tell us.

The master prepares for his journey by entrusting his three servants to his property.  He gives the first servant 100 years of work.  He gives the second servant 40 years of work, and he gives the third servant 20 years of work.

Something about this brings out my inner second grader.  I instantly have the gut feeling of “that’s not fair.”  And it isn’t fair.  This is realistic.  We are not all entrusted with the same amount of resources.  We all have been given a starting spot in life that isn’t the same as everyone else's.  Some of us are born a child of Bill Gates.  Some of us are born while our mothers are serving prison sentences.  Some of us are born in huts in the jungle.  Some of us are born in the sterile hospital of a communist country.

The unfairness continues.  Some of us won’t live to the age of 5, and some of us will see well past 100.  Some of us have high IQs, and some of us will never utter a complete sentence.  Some of us can run marathons or even from one ocean to the other, and some of us will never hold a cup and bring it to our own lips.

Let me just clarify that not all of these worst case scenario are because of God.  We live in a fallen world, and we live in a world where there is a great lion that seeks someone to devour.  God allows these unfair situations to exist.  But just because He allows it, that doesn’t mean He likes it.

For the word of the LORD is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness. He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the LORD.
— Psalm 33:4-5 ESV

Honestly, truth is refreshing to me.  We all know that life is unfair, and that we all don’t have the same amount of crackers on our preschool plate of life.  Often I think that the world doesn’t get the picture of Christianity as a religion that can wrestle with tough questions.  We can sometimes give the message that we are living a shallow faith because the worst thing that we could image happening is a curse word might come off our radio and hit our ears.

Our God isn’t shallow.  Our God doesn’t call us to shallow, and He knows that sometimes with a phone call or a ran stoplight or a routine blood test or a sonogram, we can be thrown into the deep end.  He is there in the deep end with us.  Psalm 139 and Romans 8:38-39 tell us that we cannot escape His presence.

So how does the master decide which servant should get 5 talents and which servant should get one?

This is the phrase that explains that conundrum, “to each according to his ability.”

The Lord knows what we are going to do with our life, and he gives us anywhere from 20 years to 100 years of work, based on our ability, not to impress, but to serve.  Remember, we are servants in this analogy and in any calling to follow Him.

In Luke 12, Jesus was telling a similar parable to these that we have just read.  Peter was listening to the story, and he asks Jesus a questions that I might not have the audacity to ask, but that is why we love Peter.

In verse 41 Peter says, “are you telling this parable for us or for all?”

Jesus doesn’t directly answer his question.  He doesn’t say “for you, Peter” or “for everyone.”

What Jesus does tell Peter is “blessed is the servant,” that He will put the faithful servant in charge of all of his possessions, and “everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required.”

Now is a good time to point out that those talents never belonged to the servant, and they never will.  God created everything; everything belongs to Him.  We are incapable of taking ownership of anything.

In life, we are to hold possessions, abilities, advantages, jobs, traits, and skills loosely.  Know that they belong to our Master, our King.  They are not yours, and they don’t define you.

As we hold them loosely, we also have to hold them delicately, knowing they are precious.  Why?  Because we are going to have to answer for how we have used them.

Somedays I have felt like the servant with 5 talents.  I’ve looked at what God has trusted me with, and I’ve prepared myself for the great race of endurance of Hebrews 12.  Somedays I can see one hundred years of work that God has set in front of me, and I’m ready.  I put on my shoes and sprint.  I love the unloveable and welcome the stranger.

Then there have been days were I feel like the servant that received one talent.  When I am struggle with social anxiety, I want to just bury every bit of everything underground, and do nothing.

But I’m not the servant that receives one talent, that servant said these things about the master.

“Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid...”

I don’t believe those things about my good and faithful God who gives every man free will.

It is clear that the servant does not know God, because the type of master he is describing bares no resemblance to our Lord.

I also want to point out that the servant that only received one talent had not received a raw deal.  He received an amount worth 20 years of work.  If he was an adult when he received it, then 20 years was a lifetime of work.  If had not buried it underground, he could have clearly doubled it to two talents, which is worth 40 years of work.

The biggest call to action of this parable is for the man or woman who does not know our Lord.  If that is you, you must come to a point of decision.  Know that our God is loving.  He loved you so much that He sent His Son to die on the cross for your sins.  All you have to do is believe you need that forgiveness and accept it.

If you already know our Savior, then your biggest call to action is to join His Kingdom work.  He calls every believer to come and follow Him and become a fisher of men.

You may feel like you have little to contribute or offer in Kingdom work.

First, I know God has entrusted you with something.  And second, there are things that He offers to share with us, if we just ask.

God offers wisdom (James 1:5), love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23), nearness to Himself (James 4:8), forgiveness (Matthew 6:14), and directed paths (Proverbs 3:6).

When my days are done, I long to hear these words from the master, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”  What about you?

 

 

I love music.  I like to share a song with each blog post.  Here's one for you for today.


DaySpring.com is celebrating all of the amazing Write 31 Days readers who are supporting nearly 2,000 writers this October! To enter to win a $500 DaySpring shopping spree, just click on this link & follow the giveaway widget instructions. Good luck, and thanks for reading!

Day 19: Money

31 STORIES OF FAITH ADVENTURES

DAY 19:  MONEY

God does’t look at money the way we humans look at money at all.

We see it as this special resource that is really the most important of all resources.  We look around at our world and see how money divides people into classes, into importance.  We see the privileges that come with money.  We see the destruction that can come with poor management of money.

We attach values to people based on money.  How much do they have?  How much do they make?  Even how much do they cost?

We attach value to objects based on money.  Cars, homes, a cup of coffee, Bibles, watches.  Nothing is immune to receiving a perceived value.

God doesn’t see our world this way.  To Him, money is just a resource, no more important or worrisome than other resources, like water or trees.

God isn’t defined by our constraints like money or even time.  He doesn’t have limited time.  He doesn’t have limited anything.

A few years after I finished my bachelor of business degree in accounting, an opportunity arose for me to begin a job as the bookkeeper at Citychurch.  I had experience with some of the duties I took on like payroll, payroll reporting, reconciling bank statements, and paying bills.  But there were some duties that were new, but not difficult to figure out.  I made deposits when we received donations, kept records of the donors, sent donors end of the year thank you letters for their tax records.

By far, being the money person at the ministry of Citychurch taught me more about the faithfulness of God than anything else I’ve ever done.

When I took over the bookkeeping, it was still a new ministry.  We had been downtown ministering to children for about four years.

When I began my job, we had $70,000 of bills overdue.  Within a month, God had prompted donors to send enough to cover all of the overdue bills and put a little into our savings account.

One month in, I had already been amazed by God.

That wasn’t the only time in which God provided exactly what we needed to cover our expenses.

During my time as bookkeeper, God never gave us a big pile of money or endowment to work from.  We would operate doing what we knew God had called us to do, and we would pray that God would send the donations to cover the expenses.

One day stands out to me as a great learning experience.  We had our insurance premium due for the insurance policy that included our building, auto, and liability.

It was the middle of the summer.  We had about a hundred volunteers downstairs packing lunches that would be taken out to deliver to kids.

I was searching the building to find Don.  I wanted to let him know that we were in a dire emergency.  I had panic in my voice and in my wording as I told him about how we were going to have our insurance canceled if we didn’t deliver $6,000 to the insurance company today.  I didn’t know how we were going to do it, since our bank accounts were empty, and summer is one our slowest times of donation income.  We were sanding in a building full of people that we were libel for.  What were we going to do?

Don was in the back garage, moving donations around.  He calmly said, “God will take care of it.”

I know my heart was not right.  I really didn’t think God was going to come through.  I really had a panic in my spirit.  I was treating it like I had failed at my job of managing donations and outflow of money, like it was up to me.

I walked into the front office with Don.  Wondering if our insurance company would even rewrite our policy when we finally did have the money together.  Would they fine us of letting it lapse?  What kind of mess were we in?

When we got to the front office, a pile of mail was setting on the desk.  Don begin to open the letters with his big, rough hands.  The first check he opened was $7,000.  The money was there.  God had made sure the ministry had what it needed, just when it needed it.  There were other checks as well.  In all, I had about $10,000 to deposit that day.

I was so ashamed that I had not trusted God.  I vowed to never again panic over God’s business again.  It is his ministry.  He can provide for it.  All I was there to do was the grunt work.

There is a trend in Christian culture to obsess over money and spirtualize it.  We make superstars of people who can tell us how to be good stewards.

Good stewardship is good, important, and the right thing to strive for.

But when you obsess about money under the guise of “stewardship,” I would remind you to be careful where your heart is placing value.

Loving money and treasuring earthly things is wrong with a worldly attitude as well as a “stewardship” attitude.

Where do you receive your value, from your Savior or your net worth?  Where do you find your accomplishment, in your ability to manage money well and eradicate debt or your ability to participate in where God is working in hearts in your community.

Where do you find your security, in your financial assets and good credit or in a God who promises to provide?

Are you more concerned with coins or people?  Because I will tell you what Jesus was concerned about.  And the answer 100% is people.

He loved well.  He made the greatest sacrifice that a man can make.  He gave his life for His people.

Money was absolutely not a worry to Jesus.

He did not even worry about paying his taxes.  He sent his disciples to go fishing, found a coin in it’s mouth, and paid to Caesar, Caesar’s coin (Matthew 17:27.)  That is about the most laissez faire you could be on money management.  Jesus wasn’t a property owner.  The son of Man didn’t have a place to lay his head at night (Luke 9:58.)

Many will point out that Jesus spoke about money often.  I’ve read books that love to point out how many times money is mentioned in the Bible.

I believe the reason for this is all about our “hang up,” not God’s.  He has to keep reminding us to give, to the church and to the needy, like widows and orphans.  He has to keep reminding us to not treasure earthly things.

A good example of our preoccupation with money is the misinterpretation of the parable of the talents. 

For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’  He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
— Matthew 25:14-30 ESV

This is a story about the Kingdom of God.  This is a story about kingdom work, which involves people not money.

Jesus is using the illustration of money, interest, banks to make a point, not about money, interest, and banks, but a point about saving souls.

God in no way is going to evaluate our financial stewardship when this earth has passed away.  God will only evaluate one thing, our belief and acceptance of His son’s gift of dying for our sins and forgivingness.

Do I believe God would lead you to a place of disregard for money?  Yes.  Do I believe that God might lead you to place of having no control over your money?  Yes.  If you are lucky, God will do this for you.  Because you will realize that only God is in control.  And money has absolutely no eternal value.

I don’t mean to say that you should artificially create this lack of control over money.  Don’t empty your bank account and apply for every loan and credit card you can get your hands on.  That is not what I mean at all.  I know where that will lead you, and it is called bankruptcy.

What I do mean is that people who know that they depend only on God to provide for them are in a unique advantage to realize how faithful God is.

That is what Jesus is talking about when He says this about the rich man.

Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.
— Matthew 19:24 ESV

It is not impossible, but it is harder.  We have some good examples of rich men who are disciples and followers of Christ.  The disciple Joseph of Arimathea was the rich man that allows Christ to borrow his tomb (the only time in history a tomb can be just loaned out for a few days.)  Zacchaeus was a rich tax collector (i.e. embezzler) who Jesus said this about, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham.  For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

So I have some bad news for you after all of this good news.  We live in a fallen world that revolves around money.  There is no way to escape it.

After being a bookkeeper for Citychurch for many years, my goal became this, to look at money the way God looks at money, as much as humanly possible.

This means basically four things:

  1. Don’t overvalue it.  It’s a resource just like paper or coffee.  
  2. Don’t use money to place value on others or myself.
  3. Recognize that God is our provider and he can choose to provide for me and my family in any crazy way he wants to, from coins in fish mouths to amazing, multiplying oil.
  4. Don’t worry about it.  Jesus expressly tells us not to do this.  And it is such a struggle to not worry.
Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?‘ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
— Matthew 6:25-34 ESV

If Jesus expressly promised to provide for his followers, how much more will He provide for His ministry to children?

Worrying about a dime at Citychurch got us exactly no where.  Prayer and faith were the only tools I needed as an accountant for God’s ministry.

 

 

I love music.  It just makes me happy.  Something I share a song with each blog post.  This is from one of my favorite bands, Jr. Jr.

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Day 18: Set The Table

31 STORIES OF FAITH ADVENTURES

DAY 18:  SET THE TABLE FOR LOVE

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
— Hebrews 11:1 ESV

This definition in Hebrews is the clearest definition of the idea of faith.

Being sure of things we have hoped for doesn’t come easily to everyone.  It came easy to a man named George Muller.  George Muller was a Christian evangelist who established the Ashley Down orphanage in Bristol, England in the mid 1800s.  He cared for and educated over 10,000 orphans during his faith filled life.

Muller had a deep conviction that he would pray to God to meet every need of the orphanage, and then he had the faith that God would completely answer those prayers.

One morning in 1862, the matron of the orphanage came into George’s office and told him that the children were ready for breakfast, but there wasn’t a thing in the house to eat.  He went to the dining room to find 300 children standing at their chairs.  The tables were set with plates, mugs, knives, forks, and spoons.

“There’s not much time.  I don’t want any of you to be late for school, so let us pray,” Muller told them.  He prayed a simple prayer, saying, “Dear God, we thank you for what you are going to give us to eat.  Amen.”

Without panic, fear, or worry, Muller told the children to be seated.

In the time it took for the 300 bottoms to find their seats, there was a knock at the door.  Muller opened the door to find the town baker standing with his hat in his hands.

The baker, with uncertainly in his voice, began to explain why he was at their door that morning, “I couldn’t sleep last night. I kept thinking that somehow you would need bread this morning and that I was suppose to get up and bake it for you.  So I got up at two o’clock and made three batches for you.  I hope you can use it.”

Muller’s kind eyes shown as he assured the baker of his contribution, telling him, “God has blessed us through you this morning.”

Maybe because God has a sense of humor, and He told us many times that man cannot live on bread alone, God also sent a milk man with a broken wheel that morning to donate enough milk for all 300 mugs, plus a little for afternoon tea.

The kind of faith it takes to set a table, pray asking for food, and wait for God to supply is unique in this world.  That is why we are still telling this story 150 years later.

There are preachers that will paint God as a magic jeanie, who if we “sew our seeds of faith” in the correct way, will give us that new thing we desire.  This manipulation of the teachings of faith has no comparison to a genuine story like feeding 300 orphans breakfast one day in England 150 years ago.

I think our spirit feels the difference between artificial faith and genuine faith.

Muller’s faith was as genuine as it gets.

Honestly, I would like to think I have the kind of faith that sets the table, prays and waits, but deep down I know that I’m not there yet.  I know that questions of how, where, and when would bang so loudly between my temples, and my heart would begin to pound in those waiting moments.  What if God doesn’t show up?  How long do we let these children set at a table with only glass and metal set before them?

How do I get to that kind of faith that sets a table and waits for God to show up?  How can I have assurance of the things I hope for and a conviction of things that are not right in front of my eyes?  Because I want to be there.

The first chapter of second Peter reminds us that God has given us everything we need for life and Godliness, and that we have been given promises that allow us to become less like ourselves and more like God.  And how is this accomplished?

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness,  and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.
— 1 Peter 1: 5-9 ESV

Peter tells us that our starting building block is faith.  It’s the basic stuff of salvation, and we’ve been told that that beginning block is given by God.  On this block of faith we begin to build, adding virtue, then knowledge, then self-control, and then endurance, and then godliness.  I would think godliness would be the end goal, but it isn’t.  We then add brotherly affection.  Apparently the basic skill of getting along with people is harder than enduring or being godly.  And finally we see our goal, and it is love.

Then Peter shames us a little bit.  Verse nine is kind of a roast.  He says if we are lacking these qualities, that we are so nearsighted that we are blind and that we have forgot what Jesus did for us.

If I was at Citychurch where yo' mamma jokes rein, I might say, “Your mom is nearsighted.”  But that’s probably disrespectful.

But if my goal is to have hope and be convinced of things that are not right in front of my eyes, to set the table without seeing the bread or the milk, then Peter has just told me how to do that.  And it isn’t an answer that I would expect.

He says remember God’s promises, remember that being more like Jesus isn’t just a cute saying.  And to do that you are going to have to strive for virtue, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godliness.  And don’t stop there.  Strive for brotherly affection and then love.

If you are reading this, you probably have a longing for more faith in your life, like I do in mine.  Let us remember that faith isn’t the end goal, it is the building block to something better.  Love.

And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
— 1 Corinthians 13:2 ESV

 

 

Worship with me.

Day 17: Home School

31 STORIES OF FAITH ADVENTURES

DAY 17:  HOME SCHOOL - MY RELUCTANT ADVENTURE

Before James and I were married, we talked about having kids.  We talked about how James thought it would be a good idea to home school.  James had been home schooled most of his life, and he thought it was the best option.  I vigorously disagreed.  At the time, I had just had an ideal public school experience.  Almost every teacher I had was a Christian.  My biology teacher showed us Fantasia the week she was suppose to teach us about evolution.  My school was medium sized, not so small that we had subpar teachers, but not so big that I had gotten lost in the crowd.  Some of my teachers were even neighbors.  I had Christian friends.  There was a lunch time Bible study that I could attend.

     James and his sister Anna home schooling in the 80s, before it was cool.

     James and his sister Anna home schooling in the 80s, before it was cool.

Fast-forward to actually having a child.  When our daughter was 3, there is about a billion places I wanted to put my baby girl before I stuck her in a classroom.  I had a little cub.  I was a momma bear, and my protective side had been heightened.  My daughter was advanced verbally, and I knew she was ready to start learning how to read.  I decided that I would just teach her some pre-school.  A year later, I realized I had done too good of a job with our pre-school.  I knew that she wouldn’t fit well into a mold of organized learning.  She would be either board in a kindergarten class, or if I convinced a school to put her in 1st grade, she might be behind.  Because she was a little sponge who learned quickly, she could possibly be board in a 1st grade classroom as well.

I decided to home school her for 1st grade and see how that went.  By that time, we had found a home school group.  We had a weekly outlet for making friends, playing, and fun learning activities.

Every school year ended the same.  I would look at our options, and it was clear that home schooling another year was our best option.

     My favorite home school picture ever.  Our middle child doing Kindergarten in a Snuggie.

     My favorite home school picture ever.  Our middle child doing Kindergarten in a Snuggie.

No one ever told me how much home schooling would change me.  I had to have faith in the fact that God was going to give me the ability to teach my children.  Every year has been an exercise in faith.

Every year has been an education for me as well.  I’ve learned Bible history, phonics, literature, and spelling right alongside my kids, as I filled in gaps in my public school education.

About five years into home schooling, I decided that I would go back to school and finish my master’s degree.  I had to go take a standardized test similar to a SAT to apply for the masters program.

To my shock, I realized I scored better on the language portion of the exam than the mathematics section.  That had never happened to me before.  Part of the discrepancy was the fact that I had forgotten some of that upper level math I use to know.  But that wasn’t the whole reason because I had scored above average in both areas.  The fact was that my reading to my kids, teaching them to read, teaching them how to diagram a sentences, explaining unknown vocabulary had actually improved my language arts proficiency to a higher level than it had ever been at while I was enrolled in any formal education program.

I ended up only taking 4 classes out of the dozen I needed to earn my masters degree.  I realized I didn’t want to be a CPA.  I wanted to be at home with my kids reading books, at least for that phase of my life.

Home schooling also did something else for me personally.  I became part of a community.  I made home school mom friends that encouraged me.  I was asked to be a treasurer on the home school association’s board.  That meant that I got to know the other members of the board pretty well.  They were good friends to me.  They were prayer partners when I went through some rough stuff.  They threw me a shower when I had my yurt baby.  They shared their struggles with me so I could see that everyone has struggles, even those of us that look good on paper.

     Our home school table in the yurt.

     Our home school table in the yurt.

Other home school moms opened their homes for Bible study, curriculum discussion, and seasonal parties.  Those ladies ministered to more women than most churches.

After nearly 5 years of group meetings with mom groups and our home school association’s mentor meetings, I realized I had been actively engaging in women’s ministry, something I thought I didn’t need or didn’t really want to be apart of.  Those times of ministry built up my confidence in my abilities to parent and educate the kids God entrusted me with.  Sure I learned about curriculum and education in those meetings, but more often than that I learned about God’s love, loving others, and how to grab hold of the fruits of the spirit when we want to grab hold of our hair and just pull it on out.

Now, if you’ve been reading this and you either don’t have kids or have no interest in home schooling.  Let me assure you that my philosophy is this.  First, we can learn from the struggles and joys of others, even if they are on a completely different path than you.  And second, how any parent chooses to educate their children is a complex, vulnerable decision.  The golden rule dictates that I should never question that decision.  I have full confidence in someone else’s ability to make that tough decision for themselves.  God equips me to parent my children.  And dear reader, God equips you to parent your children.

My husband and I like to laugh.  There is this famous morning radio bit that we often joke about, especially around autumn.  The radio DJ does his best over-enunciated pastor’s voice and tells the listeners about the haunted house that his church will be hosting.  One of the scary features of the tour will include “children who are public schooled.”

I know a joke is good when it hits on a nerve of truth.  The home school community is notorious for making public school out to be the devil (or at least the bad guy.)

This doesn’t accomplish much, other that make our side feel spiritually superior.  And feeling spiritually superior is the opposite of humility, a trait that we are called to as Christians nearly a hundred times in scripture.

I don’t think this egotistic attitude is out of cruelty.  It usually stems from our insecurity as home school moms.  As a home school mom, my greatest struggle has been convincing myself that I’m enough, that I’m doing a good job.  Tearing down the other side is the short cut in propping ourselves up.

I’ve been as guilty of this tearing down as the next gal.  It’s a physical struggle I face.  When the opportunity comes, I have to take all my energy to keep my mouth closed and redirect my thoughts.

But the better work comes in looking to my loving Father and my gracious Savior to remind me of my value, my competency, and my worth.

If that message doesn’t resonate with the non-homeschooler, I don’t know what does.

What about you?  Where are you struggling to see your worth?  Where do you need to have faith in yourself, as He works in you, or in your Creator, Savior, Sustainer, Equipper, and Sanctifier?

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
— Hebrews 13:20-21 ESV

 

 

 

If I don't include a Tim Hawkins song, I might loose my home school club card.

 

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Day 16: Married

31 STORIES OF FAITH ADVENTURES

DAY 16:  MARRIED - MY BEST FAITH ADVENTURE

In December of 1996, James took me for a walk down Polk street and asked me to marry him.  I said, “Yes!”

At the time, I didn’t know about sweet story of that engagement ring.  It’s a story that James’s sister Anna shared at Don’s funeral, years later.

It had only been 9 months since Don’s transplant, and the Lane family was still struggling financially.  James had been working at Discount Tire for several months, and he and Donnie would construct walls, repair plumbing, and repair the facade on the dilapidated building when they weren’t busy with school or work.

James had picked out the engagement ring at a small jewelry store on 6th street.  He had been making small payments on it with the bits of his Discount Tire paycheck that he didn’t give his parents to help keep his family afloat.  It was nearing the end of the school semester at WTAMU, and James was anxious to propose before I went home for Christmas break.  He was adding up the paychecks he had left, and was discouraged that it wasn’t going to happen.

Don saw how heartbroken James was that his efforts were not enough to have the ring paid for before Christmas break.  He decided it was not good and to do something about it.  He rounded up cash all afternoon from various sources, including the pawn shop, and he went down to 6th street and made the last payment.

Then he headed to Discount Tire.  I wish I could have seen the scene in the tire bay, with James covered in grease and soot hugging his dad with tears in both their eyes.

We had a simple wedding.  I knew my parents couldn’t afford something super fussy, and I was shy.  The thought of having something that big that was all about me was terrifying.  So even though I wanted it to be acceptable, I didn’t mind if it was as simple as I could get away with.  We honestly may have spent more on my daughter’s sixteenth birthday last year than we spent on our wedding.

James had planned a little honeymoon to San Antonio.  And when we got home from those few days away.  We moved into an apartment I had found a few months earlier.  I was so thankful to not be living in the dorms anymore.

We were only 20 years old.  We were just babies.  We had dated three years, so we knew each other well and got along really well.  We still do.

It is still quite a big deal to merge a married couple instead of just two kids.

And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’ Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
— Genesis 2:22-24 ESV

In the King James version, it uses this word “cleave” instead of hold fast.  That word seems to add some drama to this business of marriage.  And if new marriages can be defined by anything, it might be drama.  

Some days it didn’t feel like James was leaving his father and mother to “cleave” into me.  We were still in those beginning years of ministry at Citychurch.  Our lives were very involved with James’s family’s life.  After a few months at the apartment, we had to move in with James’s parents.  I was still in college and working part time as a secretary for an accountant, and James was working full time at Discount Tire.  We both were helping build Citychurch in our free time.

If I’m honest I wasn’t fully “cleaving” into James yet either.  I had grown up in a financially stable home because of the fact that my dad is a hard worker.

As James and I struggled financially and emotionally as a young newlywed couple, I know I had it in the back of my mind that I could always just leave and go home to my parents nice, safe nest.

One day, soon after moving in with James’s parents.  Something happened, and I decided that I had hit my limit.  I started packing a suitcase, and I said I was leaving.  I looked over at James expecting him to be mad that I had finally played this card.  He was getting his clothes out of the drawer.  I yell, “What are you doing?”  I was mad he wasn’t fighting right.  He said, “If you are leaving, I’m going with you.  I don’t care about anything but you.”

That was a turning point in our married life.  We both knew that we had to put our faith fully in each other for it to work.

After about six months of married life, James was given a full time job at Citychurch with a very small salary and a parsonage to live in.  That was a huge blessing to have privacy again and for James to be able to concentrate full time on the ministry.

I continued to work part-time until after Lucy was born, and then I just went to school and took care of her.

James was able to find a way to make extra money by doing video work several Christian camps during the summer, a few video projects, and some filming gigs with friends in town.

When Lucy was 3, we were finally had enough money together to buy our first house.  James continued to do extra video work.  He would make a little extra money in the spring filming ballet recitals and selling DVDs.

The year that the church was able to give him enough of a raise so that he could just concentrate on Citychurch’s summer ministry instead of being gone to camps and having his attention divided was really good.

God has been faithful to take care of our family throughout the years.

This story of putting my faith in my husband and in God to provide for our family or my story yesterday about moving to Amarillo might seem small.  Compared to what my friend David is about to do, it is.

Our family get the New York Times.  I don’t have a lot of time to sit and read it, but my son Andrew is using it for school reports this year in his home schooling.  I flipped through the Sunday paper and saw a report about assassinations of villagers by the Boko Haram in one of the countries in Africa that James has visited.

Later this week I saw a news report that President Obama is sending troops to that African country to help protect communities from the Muslim extremist group that has moved in.

Our friend David has a trip planned to that country.  He is going right into the bees’ nest of Boko Haram to carry the hope of the gospel.

That type of trip takes extreme faith, but God has proven himself faithful to my friend David over and over again.  God’s sent angels to protect him.  He’s changed men’s hearts right in front of David.  God’s kept him from being put in prison for evangelizing muslim communities.  God’s delivered babies in huts during breech births.  He’s led David’s steps over deserts, and He has led his boats over dangerous rivers and lakes.

Maybe you are at a place of simple steps of faith, putting your faith in God to provide for you or putting trust in your husband.  Or maybe God is calling you to something bigger.  The good news is that God will be there to lead you right where you are at, and God will provide the faith and the wisdom just as you need it.

 

 

I like to share a song with each blog post.  There are a dozen different songs that I could have chosen to go with this blog post, but I'm going to go obscure on you.  This song isn't on YouTube or even iTunes.

Just click the skip forward button and listen to TRACK 8 - FOUND SOMEONE.  It is a sweetly written song.  Andy and I made friends as fellow Ben Kweller fans.  I really like track 1 'Round the Bend and track 7 Evening Sun off this album.  If you want to purchase a track, click here and you can name your own price.

DaySpring.com is celebrating all of the amazing Write 31 Days readers who are supporting nearly 2,000 writers this October! To enter to win a $500 DaySpring shopping spree, just click on this link & follow the giveaway widget instructions. Good luck, and thanks for reading!

Day 15: Moving

31 STORIES OF FAITH ADVENTURES

DAY 15:  MOVING - MY IGNORING WORLD ADVICE ADVENTURE

DAY15BUTTON.jpg

In the summer of 1995, I had my summer dream job.  I got to be a counselor at the Steven’s Ranch Girl Scout Camp set on the beautiful Brazos River.  It paid almost nothing.  We only got one hour a day of free time, but I loved it.  At the beginning of the summer, we chose a new, pretend name.  Our real names were off limits.  Mine was Jude.  There were these sweet girls that I got to traipse around in the woods with, and most of the other camp counselor had been recruited from overseas.  So I made friends from all over the world.  The closest friend I made was a girl from The Czech Republic.

Every other weekend, I would go home and see my family and my boyfriend James.  James and I had been dating for one year at that point.  We had already broken up twice, and our relationship was pretty juvenile.  One day towards the end of the summer I got a package from James.  He mailed me lots of letters, but this one was different.  This one had a postcard that had a picture of a man flicking a scorpion off his cowboy boot.  The postcard let me know that his family had just moved to Amarillo, Texas.

This was a little of a bummer, but I understood why he had moved.  James’s dad was waiting on a life saving liver transplant, and he wanted his family to be close to his other family that lived in Amarillo just in case he didn’t receive a liver or died during surgery.

At the time I had no way of knowing that Amarillo would become my home.  I couldn’t even tell you where Amarillo was on a Texas map.  I had never been there.  Everywhere I had lived in Texas was around the Fort Worth area.

His news of moving didn’t really affect much because I was spending the summer away at camp, and as soon as I got home, I was leaving for college.  I had already been accepted to attend Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas.  I guess the biggest impact would be that instead of being four hours away from visiting, I would be more like 8 hours away.

As school started, I moved into the dorm and began my classes.  James was able to enroll at West Texas A&M University located only a few miles from Amarillo.

That semester was a pretty intense long distance relationship.  We called whenever we could afford to buy long distance phone cards, we wrote letters almost daily, and we would make online chat room dates.  We would pick a time, I would go to the college computer lab located in the library, meet on a chat room, and type messages to each other.  Usually we could find a chat room that didn’t have anyone in it.

All of these rudimentary forms of communication are now obsolete.  Thanks technology for making me feel old.

Can I tell you that I loved the SFA University campus?  It was set in the piney woods, and the trees were gorgeous.  I loved every pine scented walk to class, even when it was in the rain.  But the longer James and I spent apart, the more I realized how much I cared about him.  I was extremely worried that he was going to lose his dad soon.  His family had such a genuine bond and strong love for each other.  I had never seen anyone love their parents so much.  James was 6’ 5” tall and his dad would frequently ask him to sit in his lap.  It was a funny sight.

As my first semester came to a close, I began to think about transferring to West Texas A&M so that I could be near to James, especially with his dad so sick.

I decided to do it.  I remember being very unsure that I was doing the right thing.  I had so many people advise against it, including my parents and even the SFA student body president.  I had gotten elected as a freshman class representative, and since I would be leaving during the middle of my term, I had to meet with the president.  He was a senior, and he told me that I was making a mistake that he had seen lots of friends make.  I tried to assure him that my circumstances were different and that the girl I was appointing to take my student government seat was going to do an excellent job.

Despite the naysayers against moving, I did it anyway.  January of 1996, I moved into the dorms at WTAMU.

  Here's my welcome note on my dorm room door.  Impressive, huh?  My RA must've been an education major.

  Here's my welcome note on my dorm room door.  Impressive, huh?  My RA must've been an education major.

Although WTAMU is now my alma mater, I am just going to tell you that their campus was not pretty.  I missed the trees.  I missed the moisture in the air.  I missed my friends, especially my best friend Cheryl.

I was very ill prepared for Amarillo.  I never needed an umbrella to walk to class.  I hadn’t lived in a place that got actual piles of snow.  My first week of class, I jumped in the shower and walked across campus with wet hair.  When I arrived at my building, I went in the bathroom and realized I had literally ice cycles incasing my hair.

It was a shock.

After fall turned to spring, the first dust storm hit.  James picked me up at the athletic building after class.  I jumped in his suburban wiping dust particles out of my eyes and trying to brush my hair back down with my fingers.  “This is ridiculous!” I said.  James replied that he thought it was kind of cool, like another planet.  I did not agree.  He went out and bought me a potted tree to try and cheer me up.

As my life has continued to include this town of Amarillo.  One day in 2007, I realized that I had lived in the city of Amarillo longer than I had ever lived in any other city.  My longest record had been Burleson, Texas which I had lived in for 10 years total.  From that point on, I knew I had to claim Amarillo as my home.

I took a leap of faith moving to Amarillo that cold January, one month shy of my 19th birthday.  If I hadn’t, I might not have found home.

 

Just like it took me a while to appreciate Amarillo, this song to a while to be written.  Bob Dylan wrote part of it in 1973, and Ketch Secor of the band Old Crow Medicine Show finished it 40 years later.

DaySpring.com is celebrating all of the amazing Write 31 Days readers who are supporting nearly 2,000 writers this October! To enter to win a $500 DaySpring shopping spree, just click on this link & follow the giveaway widget instructions. Good luck, and thanks for reading!

Day 14: Ethiopia

31 STORIES OF FAITH ADVENTURES

DAY 14:  ETHIOPIA - MY GOING TRIP

Christmas of 2013, our dossier for our adoption had been mailed to our agency, and we were waiting for it to be translated and mailed to Ethiopia.  A few of our new adoption friends, including my Target Friend Shelly, were talking about joining one of the mission trips our agency was sending to Ethiopia in the summer.

The money was my biggest worry in signing up for the trip, but God confirmed that I should not worry.  The way this was confirmed for me was kind of funny.  We were sitting in church on Christmas Eve, and I leaned over to James before the service started and said, “Is it crazy to spend money on a mission trip when we are trying to save money for our adoption?”  That service, the preacher specifically said these words, in sermon that had really nothing to do with missions, "It is never wasted money to send someone overseas."  I knew I was suppose to go.  The next night I submitted my online application to join the mission team.

Raising money was actually pretty easy for that trip.  We did some fundraisers, and some extremely generous people donated money to help cover my cost.  I have some very sweet friends and family members.

It was my very first trip overseas, and my very first organized mission trip.  The church I attended after I became a Christian as a teenager was extremely small, there weren’t any opportunities for missions.  And the church I’ve been at my whole adult life is Citychurch.  Our motto at Citychurch is living the mission.  We treat our city as a mission, and we reach out to the neighborhoods downtown in many different ways.

It turns out missional living is good training for mission trips.  I felt right at home meeting the kids and adults we encountered that week in Ethiopia.

Before going on that trip to Ethiopia, I had always looked at the verses in the Bible about caring for the fatherless as something I was already doing.  The neighborhoods that Citychurch ministers in are full of fatherless children.  But as I met parentless children in Ethiopia, I knew I had not been fulfilling that call that every Christian is commanded to carry out of caring for the fatherless.

He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing.
— Deuteronomy 10:18 ESV
Learn to do good! Seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.
— Isaiah 1:17 ESV

Everything about that trip required faith: the fundraising, worries about flying on a plane that far, overcoming worries about the food and sanitation, overcoming worries about getting to know a whole group of ladies from North Carolina, worries about homesickness, worries about how my daughter was doing getting ready for public school without me there, and worries about how useful I would even be on the trip.

Maybe I should finally start listening to Jesus’s words about not worrying, because God was faithful on that trip.

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?
— Matthew 6:25 ESV
Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
— Matthew 6:34 ESV

I wrote about my first week in Ethiopia extensively.  Here is the post that covers that week.

As the next summer was approaching, James and I were considering the idea that both he and I would go on the summer mission trip to Ethiopia with our adoption agency.  At this point, James had been to Africa 5 times (but never to Ethiopia), and I had been the one time.  We had never gone at the same time.

There were two things that immediately concerned me:  1.  Would our children be ok without us for almost two weeks?  2.  Would we be able to pay for the trip when it would cost double the amount of one of us going?

Going on the first trip had built my faith.  I had saw how God had provided everything physically and emotionally that I had needed to accomplish His work.

We took the leap and signed both of us up for the trip.  I’m so glad we did.  It was a little bit of a sacrifice financially for both of us to go, and being away from our kids wasn’t easy.  But it was worth it.  That trip was such an amazing time of learning about orphan care and learning about where our son would come from.

I wrote a long blog post about this week as well.  If you would like to read it, here is the link.

I would just encourage you to be open to new missions and ministries that God may want to involve you in.  I was sure that I was checking off all the boxes of commands to ministry in the Great Commission and in commands to care for the fatherless by being active in ministry at Citychurch.  God allowed me to see those commands in a new light when I was able to GO and offer love, compassion, and care for orphans on the other side of the globe from me.

Always be willing to allow God to show you His work and His commission in a fresh way.

Day 13: Target Friend

31 STORIES OF FAITH ADVENTURES

DAY 13:  TARGET FRIEND

You’re probably wondering what a Target friend is.  No, it’s not a friend that goes shopping at Target with you.  Although, if you’re interested in going to Target with me, I’d love to do that.  I’m a recovering Target addict.  I have to delete Target emails immediately from my inbox, or I’ll be triggered to go browse those red and white isles.

Let me tell you what Target friend is, it’s a term that I heard on a Periscope broadcast.  Here’s the definition of it from Urban Dictionary.

Can we just pause and agree how cool I am?  Periscope, sharing new slang with you, and defining terms from Urban Dictionary, can you just even?  (Reality check.  I’m sitting in my home school room typing this.  I have a hot glue gun on my desk and a kitchen piled high with dirty laundry that I’m going to push aside so that I can warm up a frozen chicken breast in my toaster oven for lunch today.  Steve Urkel lives a cooler life then I do.  Side note on this side note:  Did you see Jaleel White on the new car commercial for Scion?  I totally geeked out when I saw that.  Did I do that?  Ok.  Case proven on my uncoolness.)

Now I know that you are wondering what a target friend has to do with faith adventures.  Well, let me tell you.

Back when James and I had just begun our adoption journey, I made a friend target of my now actual friend Shelly Wilson.

Our adoption agency has a FaceBook group for families in the Ethiopia program.  I saw Shelly post something about speaking to her women’s group about her adoption story.  I was so excited when I saw someone from my hometown waiting to adopt from Ethiopia, I knew we had to be friends.

I recruited my mother-in-law to come to listen to Shelly talk at her church, a church I had never even set foot in.

This may not seem like a big deal, but it was a huge deal for me.  I was stepping out to make a new friend, and meeting new people is one of my least favorite things to do.

I have social anxiety, and interacting with people can cause my head to go crazy with insecurity, fears of rejection, and wacky thoughts about myself.

Putting all that aside and being aggressive about making friends with someone was a step of faith for me.

I realize now what I might have missed out on if I hadn’t made friends with Shelly.  Shelly was the one who passed along the invitation to join the adoption advocacy group In His Hands.  I’ve made lots of sweet friends in that group, and I’ve been able to help make a difference for orphans in Uganda with the fundraisers we’ve organized.  I also went on two mission trips to Ethiopia with Shelly through our adoption agency.  Those trips were so educational for me, grew my faith, and gave me a better awareness Ethiopian culture.  I’ve also had the joy of cheering on Shelly’s adoption, praying for her, and watching God move.  That alone has been a tremendous blessing to me.

     Van selfie with Shelly on our first trip to Ethiopia.

     Van selfie with Shelly on our first trip to Ethiopia.

     Shelly and I watching the children play on our second trip to Ethiopia.

     Shelly and I watching the children play on our second trip to Ethiopia.

    Our team getting ready to leave on our last day in Ethiopia, our second trip.

    Our team getting ready to leave on our last day in Ethiopia, our second trip.

That little step of faith, making a new friend, led to other faith adventures that I wouldn’t trade for the world.

What about you?  What simple step is God calling you to make today?  It may be connecting with someone new or even connecting to family member.  Jesus called us to servanthood and to friendship with Himself.  He was speaking to his disciples right after He was led into Jerusalem on a donkey, and He told them this.

If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.
— John 12:26 ESV

Almost week later, the night before He was crucified, Jesus told His disciples this.

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.
— John 15:12-15 ESV

Jesus asks us to serve Him and love Him as a friend.  He also commands us to love one another.  And He also promises that God the Father will honor our service.

Stepping out to connect with others may not seem like important Kingdom work, but it is!  Loving one another is the greatest thing we can do here on earth.  Sometimes servanthood and friendship takes a lot of faith.  But luckily God supplies that faith measures.