Friday, November 23, 2012

My Post-Thanksgiving Post

How was everyone's Thanksgiving??

I appreciate the was hard for us, but not without some smiles!

Highlights of day -

  • unexpected visitors with their toddler girl.
  • FaceTime with daughter/SIL/MIL and grandson - and seeing him burst out laughing at grandpa's silliness!
  • going to Souls Harbor and bringing food donations, from us and an area business, and seeing them get incredibly blessed
  • and them not needing our help serving - so got to spend time at home alone with hubby
  • nice phone call from son and fiancĂ©, saying they will be staying with us through Christmas (and they are excited to get to do it!). 

I'm feeling my next "word for the year" developing into "CONTENTMENT" - leaning in hard on His arms and making the most of what He's put before me TODAY. Using His gifting to the fullest of opportunity. Letting go of the ordinary to hold on to the EXTRAORDINARY that He wants me to have (I'm not talking prosperity, but being available for His work instead of busying up my days for unimportant things just to have a full calendar).

God's so good. I feel His peace wash over me, even as I type this out. So blessed.... grateful for all you on this journey with me!

You give me courage!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

A Month of Thankfulness - Day 10 - A Loving Husband

I have tried to think beyond the box on the things I am thankful for, but today I have to say how thankful I am for my husband. 

I know that many women have married great men, and that we know that NONE of us is perfect in every way - we can't be until we are in His presence, but I'm so thankful for my Mark. 

He isn't perfect. Neither am I. But he IS:

A great forgiver.
A lot of fun.
Some one who loves me, no matter what.
Kind, not just to me, but to everyone.
Smart, as in intelligent.
A good sport.
Has a L O N G fuse, and never runs out of patience with me.
A really good man.
Loves God as #1 in his life.
Is faithful.

None of those are in any particular order, and I am too tired (after a great day spent with him) to write witty, long or romantic things about him....but I'm just so thankful for him!! 

Thanks God, for creating Mark for me!! 

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Friday, November 9, 2012

A Month Of Thankfulness - Day 9 - Technology

Even though I took computer classes in college, back in the late 70's (really!), we didn't jump on the computer band wagon when personal computers were coming out. I doubted (and was correct) that the FORTRAN, BASIC and Cobol I had learned was rapidly extinct.

Our first computer was actually a well used one that friends of ours (retired from IBM) gave to us. He (Bill) was very generous with his computer knowledge, and it inspired me in the 90's to take (again) a beginning computer course through the local community college extension. Both Bill and Charlotte were old enough to be our parents, and they were both avidly using personal computers for email, games, and so much more! Charlotte was constantly on hers (yes, they each had their own!) using quilt programs to design and build quilts online. I was smitten, and bitten by the computer bug.

The first computer they gave us wasn't online at all, but it gave us the ability to keyboard, refresh my skills, and give the kids a basic introduction to using one. It seemed each time they got a new computer, they passed their older model to us, and it was nearly in time for our first child to go to college when we bought our first "new" computer and had it hooked up to dial-up internet; the only thing available in our small town  the country.

I was loving the access to friendships through email, had gotten on a few social sites (what I'd considered Classmates back in the day), and had a Yahoo address so I could do a Yahoo Group, starting my first "Marina's Kitchen Table" page. I mostly wrote devotional messages then, and when women (or ??) would write back, it scared me to think of interacting with complete strangers, so I kept it in a "read only" mode so people couldn't comment.

It was when I'd gone to cook for a bunch of college kids at a missions training when I'd heard of Facebook for the first time. I actually got a denial letter from them when I tried to get signed up....I didn't have a .edu email address! Just months later I found out that they expanded their membership to include other people besides students, and I was in that first wave of members. My first friends on Facebook were college students that I prayed for and mentored from that missions training a few months earlier.

The rest is history!

I am SO thankful that God has allowed technology to be developed, and refined, in our lifetime. I remember those first computers from the 70's, one computer took up a whole 2 story building (and it's back up main frame was an identical building!) and everything was done on paper that had holes down the sides, and through cards that punched out little square holes. LOL I can't even recall the technical names for these things!! THAT's how long ago it was!!

I'm grateful for laptops (and smart phones!), and the reduction of costs so they are pretty much affordable for most people. I will always remember Skype-ing with our daughter in China, or chatting online with her at night when it was her morning. I recall being able to use Facebook to connect with friends that were in the Joplin tornado, and their family members in other countries. And of course, I treasure each time we get to FaceTime with our grandkids, seeing their eyes light up at seeing our faces.

A few years ago I learned of a great on line ministry, Global Media Outreach. They utilize the technology of today to present avenues for the Gospel to be presented online in countries around the world; often in places where information on God, Jesus, Christianity and becoming a Christian can not be presented in public. Christians around the world are online all the time to answer questions that come their way. They are, in fact, online missionaries!

I haven't taken the time to get signed up with GMO, but I have referred others to get involved with them (and know people that are!), and know that it's an amazing, effective, and beautiful tool that God's created, and a wonderful ministry to be a part of.

I know that there will always be risks involved in security, safety, and sinfulness, in technology. With God's help and using the gift of discernment, I pray that we'll get to use these tools to further the gospel of Jesus around the world, and keep them in perspective to our time with Him.

Thank You God, for technology!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

A Month of Thankfulness - Day 8 - He Gave Us The Ability to Listen

My ears stick out. They always have. Much like the sister "Amy" in "Little Women" who kept putting the clothes pin on her nose to make it turn up, I tried for years and years to get my ears to lay flat back. I thought it was because I constantly tucked my hair behind my ears, but it was genetics. I knew that when my first granddaughter was born, and HER ears stuck out. And she didn't have much hair! : / 

Lately, I've given my ears a break. I wear my hair short - NO - that's not it really; it's that I've spent a lot of time in quiet. 

Or TRIED to make it quiet, less the humming of the refrigerator, the sound of the dog, the ringing in my ears.

Life has been much noisier at times, and sometimes I equate noise to JOY - a house full of grands, chattering kids, toddling little ones, babies crying. Guys cheering on their teams while we ladies try to chit chat in the kitchen. A full house. 

It's one time that JOY doesn't equal REST. It's the hustle and bustle of getting things ready, and put out on the table, and make sure that things are "just so" so we can capture the memories of THAT day...because we never know what "that day" next year will look like (especially with kids in missions). 

SO, after a season of a FULL HOUSE daily, my heart longed for a silent retreat. But our house sold too quickly (that's an oxymoron), and my quiet retreat has turned into a daily ritual. Empty house. Minimal noise. No kids. 

Occasionally I get to hear the sound of the college kids that God's brought into our life, into our home. I hear their conversation, what God is teaching them this season, and giving thanks for the meal as they wave down the driveway. I'm grateful for them, and wonder why.... but I gladly accept it.

And as I sit now, in the southern exposure of my kitchen, sitting at the table that has become my favorite place, I think of my sad heart - missing the company of those college girls - missing those grands running around the house - missing my husband (away at work) - and the quiet is hollow and deafening. 

Until I listen. Intentionally. Over the tap tap tap of the keyboard and into the silence of my heart, being held in perfect balance. I hear His still, quiet voice remind me to not forget the brochures I've forgotten once this week already. 

I glance at the clock, and run out the door, realizing I'm going to barely be on time to make lunch with a new friend. I arrive (a few minutes early, but she's already here!), and we talk about our days. I'm grateful I wasn't late. Thankful that I have someone to meet with, to pray with and talk about life with. More than just a good excuse to get out of the house today, we are building a ministry, and investing in friendship together. She already knows my life is less than perfect, my past less than pristine. We can rejoice in all God has done in us, and is doing THROUGH us, in this season of life.

My ears, those same ones that stick out a little, like to listen in prayer. Try to tune into the Holy Spirit as He prompts me to "grab those brochures", or pray for this woman, or help this person out. I trust what He says. It's true. It's solid. It's never wrong. 

I'm thankful He gave us ears to hear, and when we take the time to hear His still, quiet voice, it does us a world of good, leading us, directing our paths. If I just take time to listen.

Proverbs 8:32 - 35 (NIV)
“Now then, my sons, listen to me; blessed are those who keep my ways. Listen to my instruction and be wise; do not ignore it. Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway. For whoever finds me finds life and receives favor from the Lord."

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A Month of Thankfulness - Day 7 - He is a Great Counselor

I wanted to title this "He is a Great Counselor, and He Uses Other Believers to Encourage Us" - but I didn't think it would fit well. :)

I DO love how God has sent the Holy Spirit, and placed Him in our lives to encourage and direct. I especially love how He uses US to encourage OTHER believers!

There have been so many times in my life where I've doubted myself. I am prone to see the half-empty glass in my life (but not in ministry - isn't that odd? - JUST realized that!) and get depressed, or play the blame game (me taking the blame) in personal areas of my life. Sometimes it's justified (I should do more laundry, lose weight, exercise more...) and other times it's putting things upon myself that realistically I can't control (family relationships,  weather interfering with plans, my husband's work schedule, etc). The reality is that very few families don't have issues, and it usually (not always) takes more than one person to create all the problems in those issues. (I'm learning.)

I really DO love how He will send others with a scripture for me, or even an encouraging word, just to help me get through a day. It's all I usually need to feel reassured that HE IS in control. That He has equipped us to be a counselor on His behalf, and He will put His word in our mouth to encourage others. 

I also love how when I take my eyes off of MY problems, and help someone else with their problems, it makes mine look much smaller. 

My problems are not really smaller, but my own perception of them is, and that's important. 

Despite what current societal trends are, ME is not nearly as important as everything else. That's where helping others comes into play. It's not to earn righteousness, or make me look good to anyone; it's just to serve, to grow in Christ, to exercise being His hands and feet. It's the right thing to do. He tells us in Matthew 25:34 - 40 

“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 creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’ 
“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’“And the King will say,

‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’"

If you have issues and problems that you are dealing with, you might consider getting involved with a servant ministry through your church or in your community. If you don't have a job, then volunteer! It's a great way to keep your resume going, and prospective employers will see that you were not satisfied to sit at home while waiting for the phone to ring (with cell phones these days, is that even a valid statement any more?). It puts the size of your problems into a realistic perspective too. 

I don't know who said it first, but I frequently remember the saying, 

"I used to complain about having no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet."

This helps me to be motivated when things don't look to be as rosy as I think they should. So, thank You Lord, for giving us the capacity to be great counselors, for keeping needy in our life and society, no matter how rich a nation we are. Thank You that You send Your Holy Spirit to comfort us, but also to motivate us, and to encourage us through other believers sharing Your Word. 

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight."  Proverbs 3:5-6

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A Month Of Thankfulness - Day 6 - God's Plan For Missions

I know that everyone has a story of how they came to know God; how they became aware of His existence, His love, what it took to follow after Him.

My story is a little more extreme than most others, but no better or important than each of yours. It took a little longer for me to become aware of His love. I was a little more stubborn to believe in Him, to be willing to allow Him to change my heart, my life. I was pretty selfish, and lied a lot, so I thought everyone else lied too; it took me a while to trust in His truth. 

Because of all my issues, it took God bringing me to the "depths of despair" before I called out to Him; yet He met me when I needed Him most. He was there for me. It still took a while for me to realize I needed to make lifestyle changes as a follower of His, but the closer I drew to Him, the more he freed me from my unhealthy dependencies. 

Praise God it was His plan from the beginning to draw us to Him. He is a missional God!

Often I long for heaven. I know it to be a place of peace, and no more pain or suffering - so who wouldn't want it to come!! I'm not so excited about the mansions and streets of gold - I'm more excited at the thought of worshipping Him day and night, day after day, for eternity! (and my knees, hips, arms, and back won't hurt!! YAY!!) 

Our dear pastor at Crossroads Christian Church, Ken Idleman, poignantly phrased the scenario in church one day: 
If we thought of all the fun things we enjoy on earth, and knew that they would be in heaven, but Jesus wasn't going to be there, would we want to still go? And consequently, if we knew that Jesus WAS there, but that there would be no "fun stuff", would we want to be there still?
I would only want, and need, Jesus! I can't wait to be in God's glory, bowing before Him, singing, 
 "Holy! Holy! Holy! Is the Lord God Almighty! Who was, and is, and is to come!"
When will that day come, I don't know. But I DO know that BEFORE He can come, the Good News of Jesus has to be shared throughout the whole world! God's plan for missions again! Jesus clearly stated in Matthew 24; 
"And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come." (Matthew 24:14, NLT)
His delay of time is also explained, in 2 Peter 3:15; 

“Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation.”
He is waiting for every tribe, tongue and nation to have the opportunity to know about Jesus. Which is why WE need to be missional. He is waiting for every church, every follower of Him, to become missional, so we can GO.

Thank You God, for sharing so clearly, Your plan to restore us to You. Thank You for being a missional God, who desires us to know You. Father, continue to draw people unto You, and equip Your body, the church, to go where it's never gone before, to carry Your Word unto them. 

Thank You God, for being missional!


Want to join us in being missional?? You can do something as simple as pray! Check out the options at Joshua Project and join us in praying for Unreached People Groups (still around 6,700 in the world today, that are unreached and unengaged).  

Are you interested in going?? Jesus directs us to GO "here, near, and far away" - contact me for information on missions sending organizations. 

Is God leading you to send?? I know a lot of missionaries that would love to have you on their team, praying and/or supporting them financially. I'd be happy to put you in touch with them!

God bless you!!

Monday, November 5, 2012

A Month of Thankfulness - Day 5 - He Made Us To Be Changed

Beauty from ashes.

Clay in the Potter's hands.

He Creates us, uses us, makes us change - inside - which often changes us on the outside too.

He COULD just create us the way He wants us to be. Perfect. Holy. Followers of Him. But He doesn't. He wants us to long for Him. To be changed by His influence in our life.

Boy, He changed MY life!! (that's another post all together!) He changed me inside - and is STILL working on me! (again, another post) I hope that the evidence of those changes are being seen...I know that there are a bunch of bad habits gone by the wayside....besides getting older, I think He has matured me, and He continues to mature me spiritually too.

I am so (SO) thankful for Him changing me, making me new, and not giving up on me!

I continue to submit to His will, and anticipate that it will keep changing me more. I know I won't be "perfect" (to HIS standards) until we are face to face....and until then, I'll just keep being changed!

I think of each life as a diamond in the rough, and He keeps chipping at us to bring about the most brilliance. Of course, a diamond isn't beautiful in the takes His Light to shine in us, through us, to bring about that most amazing dazzle. The more He has chipped away, the more we are changed, the more brilliant we will shine.

Thank You God, for changing me. For making each of us TO be changed!

Dear friends...sorry for the short post. Just a bit under the weather from hearing some sad family news. I wanted to keep my personal challenge up though, but I'm keeping it short and sweet.

Please keep my extended family in prayer, as they have lost a husband, father, grandpa, and friend...

Levon, I'm so jealous at the thought that you may be dancing in heaven even now! Thank you for the joy that you brought to our lives. We didn't see you often, but you were well respected, loved, and made so many good memories with us! What a treasure we have lost here on earth!

Grace and peace... marina

Sunday, November 4, 2012

A Month of Thankfulness - Day 4 - True, Genuine, Authentic, Friendships

True, genuine, authentic FRIENDSHIPS. Yes, God! Thank You for them!!

Whether it's my husband, my sister, cousin or aunt, my BFF, or someone I've just met; there are just some folks that God put into our lives for a reason, for a season. We might be the same age, or 20 years between us. I might be young enough to be your daughter - or old enough to be your mother. Maybe we hardly spoke in high school, but just a few years ago God's knit our hearts together with social media tools and lots of prayer. Our friendship might have been at it's height 30 years ago...but it was really real. We remember.

No matter what the story, what the reason, or who you are - I'm thankful for you - my true, genuine, authentic friend. You do life real with me, and it's not always pretty. We love each other anyways. 

So, not in any particular order, and not always corresponding with some of my really real friendly photos - welcome to what I love about you.

She comes to visit, even when it's not around the corner. 

We giggle together. A lot. Over nothing really funny.

She picks up your kids when you're too sick to get out of bed. She doesn't blink an eye when you answer the door in your sleep clothes. And she's got chicken soup in her hands. AND chocolate!

I know that she's praying for me, even when I don't remind her daily of the things that are going wrong in my life. 

She might remember the way you used to be, but she doesn't remind you of the ugly stuff. She gives God glory for what He's changed in me.

You listen.

You believe in me. Always. Even when I don't believe in myself. Even when it's a crazy pipe dream that I'm too A.D.D. to hang in there with and finish to the end. You tell me it's a great idea, and I should try.

She listens to you as you cry bawl like a baby over missing mom (or dad), even though they passed long before you ever knew her (or your family is so fractioned you can't have a relationship with them). She holds each memory so close to her own heart, they become hers. 

You share each other's burdens, cares of the world, even when your lives look very different (or exactly alike), and she never questions your motives.

She hears the best, and the worst, about your husband/parents/kids, and never mentions a word to another soul. 

You value authenticity as much as I do.

She will be that wailing wall, as you confess your sins to her; more than a nasty attitude, the real ugly. She doesn't stop you, knowing that it needs to get out, be done, so you can be a better friend, daughter, wife, follower of Jesus.

You practice living the Bible out loud with me. Daily.

She prays for me. Even when I don't want to be prayed for. Even when I REALLY need it.

She celebrates the pounds lost. With the GOOD chocolate. 

You let me be real. Genuine. Authentic. Even when it's wearing baggy hippie clothes that make me look fat fatter.

You inspire me to do great things. Even the laundry. Even to fold it and put it away. Even to pray for my husband while I iron his shirts.

She tells me how gifted, graceful, lovely I am - because she sees God developing that in me - not because of where I live, or what I own, or whether me (or my kids) are perfect or not.

You don't look at my quilt so close that you can see where the sewing isn't on the lines, where the stitching isn't teeny tiny. You see the beauty and labor of love that went into each stitch, love my fabric choices (even when they aren't your favorite colors), and the pattern I chose. You appreciate my effort, and love that I do this, even if you don't quilt - or even if you're a way better quilter than I am. 

She encourages me to serve, and comes alongside to  help    me  bail me out when I'm in too deep.

You encourage me to be ALL that God can make me be. All He wants me to be.

You value my opinion,trusting that God sometimes speaks through me.

 You make memories with me, and are patient with me as I cross into new territories with the Lord.

She totally gets when you're so mad at your kids for the crazy things they are doing, and how you miss them so much in the same sentence.

You challenge me to get deeper with God, and always point me to Him and His Word. 

She lets me know that I'm not perfect, but I'm perfected in Jesus. 

You remind me how valuable I am. How much you love me. How much I'm loved by God. 

You get it when I say we're "kindred spirits".  :)

You challenge me to grow as a Christian. As a daughter of Our King. As a sister in Christ.

Sometimes it feels like we've known each other forever....
Oh wait...we HAVE known each other forever! I can't remember a time I didn't know you...didn't love you.. and we still choose to love each other anyways.

She sees you without make up. Often.

You're brave enough to correct me if  when I'm wrong. 

We listen to each other's stories, over and over, until they become our own. 

You don't tell me my hair's too short (when it is), and you consoled me when I tried (again) to get a perm. (Please don't let me ever get a perm again!)

You love my parmesan pepper rolls, and always want me to bring them. 

You tell me I'm beautiful, even when I don't see it outside, don't feel it inside.

You let me apologize, and forgive me. Always. Even when it's the hard stuff. 

We always fall into step when we talk or see each other, no matter how long it's been. We love each other's kids, encourage each other in marriage, miss each other's grandkids. We see the best in our life circumstances, and understand the worst, and pray together - out loud and over the phone - or holding hands in quiet utterances - over the hard spots of life. 
Thank You Lord, for true, genuine, authentic, friendships!

Won't you join me on this month long journey of thankfulness? I'm looking at the extraordinary, not just the norm. The eccentric things that aren't always mentioned, not the easy, superficial or plain. Of course, I'm thankful for my husband, a home, family.... but I'm striving to go deeper than that, to a truly grateful heart. You can sign up above this post, just under the title...

Saturday, November 3, 2012

A Month of Thankfulness - Day 3 - He Is With Me ALWAYS

HE is with me always.
He IS with me always.
He is WITH me always.
He is with ME always.
He is with me ALWAYS.

It seems like an intermediate speech assignment - enunciating each word in a different spot. Yet as I repeat these words, each one with it's own emphasized spot, I come to grips with the reality of that sentiment. 


As an empty nester, I spend a good bit of my day alone. We recently moved to a new area (because of my husband's job), and left behind a few years' worth of good friends, ministry contacts, a neighborhood where we knew neighbors as friends and called them by first name, even texted them if something was amiss. When we moved there, it was an easy move, with God's finger-prints all over every aspect of it. 

Not that THIS move was hard, or that things went wrong (they didn't!), but it was a difficult move to make. Although we are getting settled in our home, love our new neighborhood, and I am getting very involved with church ministry, it's just....well... ...different. 

I find myself alone. A lot. Even with a small group, feeding college girls a few times a month, mentoring a few individually, helping out with a few ministries, and doing as God leads to advance the Kingdom with the gifts He's given me, I spend most of each day at home. Alone. With the dog. 

Night time is the worst. A recent turn of events had my hubby out of the house for a few nights more than usual. My skittish dog didn't help, as she barked at every little house sound she heard. I don't know these sounds all by heart yet, so with each ferocious bark, my heart skipped a beat. 

HE is with me always.

A few weeks ago I made the long drive from the "new area" to the "old area" - and although I had a friend to make the drive there with me, I was alone (again, with my trusty dog) for the 10 hour drive back home.  I loved the quiet, and decided to not listen to the radio stations, or my handy iTunes, for the drive. Time for me to spend some time listening to Him. Praying, but mostly listening.

He IS with me always.

I LOVE taking pictures, and while I exercise caution when I go out shooting, it's not really fun for someone else to accompany me. Often it's boring for them, and it cramps my style. I don't mind being alone then, and actually enjoy the opportunity to see His beautiful creation through the lens of my camera, with the freedom to stop and reflect on His handiwork. 

He is WITH me always.

A hurtful circumstance occurred, and it brought back years of painful memories of my childhood. The feeling of abandonment through my child's eyes left me shattered, however I know now who I didn't know then. My Redeemer. My Savior. My Heavenly Father. 

He is with ME always.

Friends my age are afraid of dying, or of being left a widow. I don't fear those things. I may be financially poor, but I'll be rich in spirit. I'll live my life with the same attitude as today. I belong to Him. He owns each moment of each day! 

He is with me ALWAYS.

How appropriate that I draw near to this verse, this reality of Scripture so often; it's a part of the Great Commission!

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  Matthew 28:16-20 (NIV)

I am learning through this season of alone time, that I'm never really alone. HE IS WITH ME ALWAYS. I am learning to use my time in wiser, more productive ways. I'm exercising again, not for my benefit, but for His glory. Although I miss my husband when he's at work, we celebrate the moments when we are together! I am challenging myself to get outside, connecting with old friends, looking for neighbors to meet, new friends to be found, new ministries to work with. I see the fingerprints of God all around me, equipping me to work with others, to fill my time up in ways that are beneficial to the kingdom...helping those that are making disciples in all nations...

I am so thankful that He is with me always!

(You don't have to be an empty nester to join me as I blog through A Month of Thankfulness! Just enter your email at the top of the screen!)

Friday, November 2, 2012

A Month of Thankfulness - Day 2 - Cooperative Ministry

As a new believer, it seemed really odd to me that different churches would compete for membership and battle over programming (oh wait - that was just a few years ago!! LOL).

Lately, it's been SUCH a different story! 

I'm preparing to meet this morning with a long-time acquaintance who represents 2 ministries based in my area...about an hour away. She's going to share what they do, and how we may be able to use some of their services to compliment our churches missions' program. 

...for the advancing His Name to every "tribe, tongue and nation"...

I was just emailed by another missions sending organization, sending me links and passwords to some of their information on how they do things on the "business" side of their ministry. 

I frequently see writers sharing tips and encouraging other writers! What?! Aren't we all trying to write to the same people?? 

And why is all of this happening?? Cooperation. 

In the name of Jesus, and for the advancing His Name to every "tribe, tongue and nation" we are all cooperating together. WHEW!! Such a relief!!

So today, I'm thankful for COOPERATIVE MINISTRY!!

I've been affiliated with Team Expansion, another missions sending organization, for about 10 years now - as a volunteer (I say as a "Parent Volunteer"!). I loved the fact, as I went through training in mobilization, that they don't believe they are the "master senders" in missions. In fact, they don't ever want us to pressure folks into signing up with us - we are to pray with them that God leads them to the BEST agency for THEIR field of service!! LOVE it!!

I loved going to church at Crossroads Christian Church, in Newburgh, IN, because they did not feel the need to "do all the area ministry" - several other churches and non-profits had good things going. Instead of "us" creating competing ministries, we added to theirs. It didn't seem to matter that they were a different denomination, or even just a non-profit without a religious affiliation - we could join in and bless the community in the name of Jesus. LOVE their cooperative heart!!

Even when we went to a little church in Springfield, MO called Christian Community, they were indeed just about that - loving each other and doing life as community - so we were often helping others through someone else's connection to another church, or area ministry. We felt like we could do so much together.

That's so much better than arguing, fighting over ministry opportunities, and which church will have what event when. 

I avoid conflict, like the plague - so to see such a spirit of community and growing the body of Christ within our city and outside our walls, really blesses my heart. I LOVE the cooperative spirits of these churches, and our current church New Heights (in Fayetteville, AR). Gone is the stinginess of the old time church, and YAY for churches that share in the attitude of advancing the gospel in our area, and around the world! I love that "here, near, and far away" mindset of evangelizing, church planting, reconciling others to Jesus. We are a team, the body of Christ, and WE have a job to do!! 


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Thursday, November 1, 2012

A Month of Thankfulness - Day 1

As in year's past, I am LOVING the arrival of November. There is no other month that captures my heart the way that it does. No other time of the year that focuses my heart more on THANKSGIVING;  which to me is GIVING THANKS to our God, Creator, Redeemer, and His Son, Jesus. It primes my heart for Christmas, and it's season of GIVING (I'm a firm believer of The Advent Conspiracy, so I manage to stay away from the commercialism of Christmas, but still decorate, celebrate, and acknowledge our culture's day of setting aside a day to celebrate Jesus' birth - no matter "when it really happened". It DID.)

So today, my thankful heart is centered around SEASONS. I'm so, SO grateful for God creating seasons!

"For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven." Ecclesiastes 3:1 NLT


Here in NW Arkansas, the hills have been FULL of the colors of fall. Even though it's peak is past, there is still color to be found; sometimes in the most unlikely moments. Just a few days ago Mark and I drove down the main road closest to our home, and the "dead" of the trees, mixed in with a dreary sky, somehow turned them into vibrant oranges, golden yellows, and rich browns against an evergreen pallet. It was beautiful! I asked out loud how God does that. How does He turn dull and dreary into spectacular? I know He can do that in the sparkling light of the sunshine on a cold, crisp day; but really, in the dreary-ness of a normal, blustery, fall day?

It didn't take long for me to equate that to my own heart. 

When I'm walking in the fulness of Him, I KNOW He is RADIANT and shining through me. My own empty vessel of a life can hold on to nothing - I am His - and He pours Himself through me. It's not "me" that others see: they see Him. 

I love walking in that place.

But more often, I'm withholding something. I'm not empty, but full of myself; full of my pride, selfishness, or even pity. Maybe I'm succumbing to fear, doubt, darkness. Even though I take time with Him, I'm not fully engaged in Him. There's something off. I put myself first. I trust in man over Him. I love something more. It can sometimes be something but it's there. Often it's something masquerading as something "good", like volunteering, but my motivation is "good works"- instead of being only His hands and feet. It throws my whole game off.
...the moment I recognize it, THE UGLY of it, He is so faithful to show me His hand, even there....

Enter the darkness. The gloom. Depression. Sadness. Hurt feelings. Loneliness. Whether it's seasonal, or momentary, it matters not. It's there, and it's trying to take a grip on my life. I can feel it. I walked in it just a few weeks ago. I allow it to happen over and over. Sometimes I think I know I bring it on myself. Ick.

But the moment I recognize it, THE UGLY of it, He is so faithful to show me His hand, even there. Even when I am in the wrong, He is teaching me. Even when I am not in the fulness of Him, He is sustaining me. He is showing me the beauty in ashes. 

"Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid..."  Psalm 23:4 NLT


So I am in favor of the seasons. Seasons of growth, fresh, new, and full of life. Seasons of peaceful lying in green, mature pastures. Seasons of death and pruning, drawing in near and pressing in hard to Him. Seasons of reflection, contemplating my past and gazing forward, seemingly finding the journey and the lessons it's held - where it might lead. 

Each one is precious. Necessary. The fertilizer and nourishment for me to behold, then use, applying no matter how painful it is; trusting Him to use it for a more fruitful season around the corner. New growth from those cut back cuttings. New fruit to bear in good season. New ways to respond, reflect and mature. He does it all the time, in nature, and in my life; spiritually and physically. 

His mercy is new every morning, His promises true. He walks with me, and I'm reminded of the 6 short verses of David's 23 Psalm:

The LORD is my shepherd; I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams.
He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.
Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.
You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings.
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the LORD forever.

Thank You God for SEASONS. 

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