To Be Present

Monterrey

Monterrey, MX

Here I go! The great adventure begins tomorrow morning at 3:27 AM when I wake up to sound of crickets coming from my cell phone alarm. I’m writing this quickly without editing so that I can close my heavy eyelids for needed sleep.

The best part of my everyday work life has been involved part-time to full-time in ministry to children and families. I get excited about helping parents help their children learn more about Jesus. It thrills me to be present in a community of people who are passionate about the same things that I am. I enjoy being present in the lives of young children every week but it’s especially grand to know them years later as teenagers still having fun learning about our awesome God…and if I’m really fortunate, I will meet them again as adults…

God is faithful to be present from generation to generation to generation. If you live long enough, you will experience seeing this too.

So, I’m going on an adventure to Monterrey, MX with some of those young adults that I knew in children’s ministry years ago. I love that! What gives me the most joy is that they will lead me on this mission trip. I love the full circle of this story about God’s faithfulness to be present as evidenced in the lives of these “kids.” And I love that we share the same passion to be present in the lives of more people–children!

We have teamed with Mission to the World, an organization that is very passionate about serving people all over the world such as: rescuing street children, working to stop human trafficking, church planting, mercy, clean water, education…the gospel. MTW’s vision is to be present. I am glad for the opportunity to partner with this organization, to serve children in a small community in Monterrey and also to connect with families in a rapidly growing new church. This church is making a big impact in their community.

I’ve written two other posts on the topic of this adventure. You can find them here.

Imagine the Adventure and A Simple Devotional about More

So, I’m going on an adventure in a few hours! More Grace to be present.

Números 6:24-26

Nueva Versión Internacional (NVI)

24 »“El Señor te bendiga
y te guarde;
25 el Señor te mire con agrado
y te extienda su amor;
26 el Señor te muestre su favor
y te conceda la *paz.”

Numbers 6:24-26

New International Version (NIV)

24 “‘“The Lord bless you
and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
26 the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.”’

Photo credit: Wikipedia/Monterrey

Linking up with everyone for Five Minute Friday, where a remarkably encouraging and loving community gathers to write for five minutes. This week’s prompt is: PRESENT.

A Stumble and a Bumble

Stumble and Bumble
She pulls open the bottom drawer of the dresser and searches for the “colorful bathing suit” to put on. The black and white swim suit will not do. It must be the colorful one. “Let’s go to the pool, Gigi!” Already at three years of age, she talks about being on a swim team one day.

Out the door she bounds…walking too fast, slightly unsteady on the top step. Down she goes! Thankfully there are only two wooden steps to stumble and bumble over, plus there was a thick carpet remnant on the concrete floor of the garage, a cushion for her forehead and nose. After a good cry, lots of hugs and comforting, I prayed with her and thanked God that she wasn’t hurt badly and especially for that cushion of carpet. While driving to the pool,  she said, “Gigi, I did a stumble and a bumble but I’m okay.”

Don’t we all stumble and bumble! And we all want to be okay.  We stumble with anger, anxiety, envy, resentment, self-pity, disgust, or frustration. We bumble through discouragement, lust, irritability, impatience, hard-heartedness, brusqueness, unkindness, or withdrawnness. [1] We hope for a cushion of carpet to break our fall.

And you know…we can be more than, “Okay.”

This is what we must do. We must read and know and think and believe that it is trusting in the blood of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit to cover the stumbling and conquer the bumbling. This is the only way we will be more than okay.

I read the book of Jude today. It’s not long…just 25 verses. Here is verse 24:

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy.

How awesome is that?  One day I will stop stumbling and bumbling…but not today. John Piper is wise when he wrote, “Whether you are in your twenties or sixties, you probably have some long-standing heart-responses you don’t like. These are like reflexes. You don’t choose them. They spring up unintentionally from your heart, usually in response to the people around you. When any one of these attitudes springs up unbidden, you hate it. You have fought it for years with gospel-faithfulness, trusting in the blood of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit to cover it and conquer it. Still it returns. You weep over it, and ask your closest friends to pray for you. There is a short season of reprieve. And there it is again stamping you. Telling you: This is who you are. You say no. In Christ, this is not who I am. His stamp is on my life. True. But O you would be done with this! O to be new, through and through!” [2]

So the key is not to give up. I’m sure God has reasons for why he allows us to fight so long, but he never intends us to give up on Scripture. [1]  Don’t give up when you stumble and bumble.

God’s designs are to bring a surprising verse into your heart in a surprising moment in a surprising situation and do a surprising work of transformation. [2]

Expect a “cushion of carpet!” God’s word is there to break your fall.

Footnotes

[1] See 2 Timothy 3:16-17 │ [2] Is There a Key to Godliness? by John Piper

Imagine the Adventure!

What if you were the only one to go?

What if you were the only one to go?

“I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone.’ I should think so — in these parts! We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner!”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

In less than six weeks, I will impart on an adventure to another part of the world. Not too far away…I’m not leaving our continent but far enough to need a passport. The airline ticket is purchased. Survival kit for the backpack is coming together–band-aids, hand sanitizer, sunscreen, bug spray, fiber bars and toilet paper. I know how that sounds, but it’s the nasty disturbing uncomfortable things about adventures that concerns me.

I imagine the time away from home will be a challenge at first. Such as the heat, the crowded spaces, the heat, the smells, the heat, the language barrier and the heat. I am planning on sweating a lot.

They were looking for someone to share in an adventure, but it seemed difficult to find anyone. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been reminded, “The harvest is huge. But there are only a few workers.” (Matthew 9:37) Those words are usually preached by the ones who have already experienced adventures, like the one I am about to have. They know the beauty of bright eyes, happy smiles, laughter and hugs from grateful people.

I think with any adventure as this one, we imagine and anticipate seeing evidence of changed hearts and lives in the people we serve. I hope that happens. But actually, I think the evidence of change will be seen more in my own heart and life. I will leave that place but that place will leave with me.

Linking up with everyone for Five Minute Friday, where a remarkably encouraging community gathers to write for five minutes. This week’s prompt is: IMAGINE.

Take TIME to FOCUS

After attending an Orange Conference, I usually say, “It can’t get much better than this.” But then I go to another one and say the same thing! While every part of the conference was significant, I think the opening session by Reggie Joiner was the most moving of all.

We all need to consider the TIME we have left with our children. This profound statement continues to speak to me…

“When you see how much time you have left, you get serious about the time you have now.

Focus

Here are my notes from the opening session and some photos I took of the exhibits. The marbles in glass canisters was a visual impact upon my heart! Each marble represents a week of life…birth through graduation from high school.

Orange Conference: Age 1

My Granddaughter: Layla

I had a lump in my throat throughout the conference just thinking about the time ticking away. We are on a mission to leave a legacy of faith to our next generation. For God’s Glory!  I was challenged more and more to consider the TIME I have left with my children and grandchildren…for the families and friends in our lives.

Our legacy is not for us, but for them. Our history includes the faithfulness of God through the grace of salvation in Jesus Christ. We have stories to tell of God’s faithfulness. We have stories to tell of answers to prayers. We have exciting and compelling faith stories woven into our history. We have TIME to FOCUS on this.

Orange Conference: Age 3

My granddaughter: Isla

Opening Session:

“Losing Your Marbles”

Gave families a jar of 962 marbles, with each marble representing one week. Remove one marble for every week that passes.

When you see how much time you have left, you get serious about the time you have now.

We have a limited amount of time with our kids…We are given TIME

Pray for a heart of wisdom to use this TIME wisely! “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)

There is value in numbers! Have I considered the number of days?

When you see the time you have left, you tend to FOCUS more.

Demonstrate to our children how God loves them. The main thing is a relationship to Jesus. That is what matters.

Engage our kids in a story bigger than themselves. They are woven into a history of God’s faithfulness through the generations. Show up and make history with kids.

When you see the time you have left, you make what matters…matter most.

When you see the time you have left, you value what happens over time.

For our children…we can:

LOVE our kids time over time

LOVE over TIME = a sense of WORTH

  • I Corinthians 13: Love is….
  • Accepted, no matter what
  • Significant!

WORDS over TIME gives them DIRECTION

  • Shape the character of our children.
  • Everybody needs somebody to show up…to give the right direction.
  • Someone that has invested TIME…a history together.

STORIES over TIME give PERSPECTIVE

  • We are wired for stories
  • We have imaginations.
  • Craft a story that appeals to emotions.

FUN over TIME gives CONNECTION

  • We are created to have fun
  • Measure temperature of church based on how much they laugh.
  • Joy = an atmosphere of fun
  • There is healing through laughter and fun. Example: play therapy

TRIBES over TIME give a sense of BELONGING 

  • We can be more present for a few…time over time. (Small Groups)
  • To leave a Legacy, we don’t have to be famous. We have to have time.
  • Can’t always see what is happening when you are doing it. Can’t predict significant moments.

Because of God’s grace, we have a place at the table. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice for us, we are significant. We have been invited to sit at the table. I am seated at the table!

We belong in the tribe of faith…Christ followers.

FOCUS on the TIME we are given! 

Focus on Time

Lose Your Marbles

Easter Favorites 2013

Easter Favorites 2013

Here are some of the favorite things that made me smile, laugh, worship, sing, during this Easter season. I hope you enjoy this recap of Easter Favorites 2013. By the way, you know we never stop celebrating Easter! We can’t pack up this day like a used Easter basket filled with torn candy wrappers and plastic colored grass. Easter should cause us to come to grips with the power of God’s love for us in Jesus Christ in a way that is not abstract, but rather touches us in our deepest selves…

Until we experience this love not only intellectually and cognitively, but also in a way that invades and permeates our minds, our affections, and our actions, we are going to lack the joy and power to live the Christian life God intends for us.
– Paul Kooistra

Favorite Quote:

“We don’t really NEED anything. I mean, people “need” water and food and stuff to live, but if we die it’s ok because we just go to see God. He says we never REALLY die.” –Colsen Frank, age 6 years

Favorite Video (Listen to Matt Papa tell The Story of God)

Favorite Blog Post: Thoughts About Easter

The day had been planned. She wakes up early before the sun has brightened the sky. Her heart is broken. She is weary from grief and each time she closes her eyes, she has the mental images of Jesus being tortured and brutally crucified. There is no rest from her sorrow. Mary is approaching the tomb in the dark hours of the early morning. She sees that the large rock, sealing the tomb where Jesus is buried has been moved! The tomb is opened!

I think she reacted like I would have…with panic! Confusion! Doubt! Unbelief!…continue reading

Favorite Cartoon

BC Easter

Favorite Holy Week Devotional: Love to the Uttermost

[PDF or Free eBook] There’s nothing intrinsically holy about particular days, but for most of church history Christians have set aside eight days between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday for solemn focus (Romans 14:5–6). This string of days provides an annual interval for us to focus intently on the greatest events in human history, the acts of our Savior Jesus Christ. “Fix your gaze steadily on him,” John Piper writes of Holy Week, “as he loves you to the uttermost.”

Favorite Easter Opener

Easter Opener 2012 from North Point Media on Vimeo.

Another Favorite Cartoon (I’ll be singing this rendition to my grandchildren!)

Mary Had a Little Lamb

Favorite Passion Week Infographic: Josh Byers (Click on image to enlarge)

The-Passion-Week-Letter-Light

Favorite Song: Beautiful Rescuer by David Walker

(A good friend emailed this link to me, because she knows I refer to Jesus as “my Rescuer.”)

The Saturday Assortment #8

The Saturday Assortment

The Saturday Assortment is a collection of unrelated and random things that I find interesting, challenging, motivating and sometimes quite out of the ordinary. It’s an assortment of things that caught my attention throughout the week. I bet you will find them equally engaging.  There are no affiliate links on this page. Read and Enjoy!

From a father to his daughters :: The most beautiful thing that I read on the internet this week

To My Daughters on Being Pretty via A Deeper Church.

Remember how Peter warns: don’t get bogged down with trends and keeping up with fashion. Rather, keep up your spiritual beauty—cultivate and prune so the garden will grow. For what glows your countenance is a clear conscience and a pure heart. Worry and stress darken and drown.

Imbibe in the beauty of your youth. But always hold it loose—it flees and withers. If you let it define you then you’ll wither with it, on the inside.

Though your body dims and moves toward the grave, your soul thrives and moves towards eternity. It is like a deep red wine, it’s savory nature deepening over time.

Forget the legalists! They will try to hide all that’s good and beautiful and pure. But do not lash out at them, they, your weaker brothers and sisters. No, you instruct them in your grace and charm and in the stewardship of your beauty.   ~by Timothy

For your family :: A Free eBook for Holy Week

Love to the Uttermost via Desiring God

The devotional begins Palm Sunday (March 24) through Easter Sunday (March 31.) A lovely and special way to focus on the self-giving love of our Savior.

To love to the uttermost is to love freely, without reserve or limit, and without flaw or failure. As we watch his arrest and trial and death unfold for eight days, we gaze on a God-man who begrudges no pain or reproach on his pathway to redeem lost sinners. This is the man who “humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8).

A good word for parents :: 1 Thing you need to give yourself immediately

Give Yourself Grace! via Jon Acuff

If you’re a parent and you have young kids, don’t for a second be ashamed that you’re not working on a dream. You are. It’s called “kids.” You are raising humans. Do you understand how crazy that is? You don’t need to go kill yourself looking for a big new dream, you have one. You’re raising humans! ~Jon Acuff

Start conversations that end bullying :: Bully in a Box

Bully in a Box ❘ Solving it together via live.bullyinabox.com

It’s a sad and harsh reality that we need to address the problem of bullying, but here is a very helpful collection of iBooks to assist parents and children identify feelings and resolutions surrounding the situation. My daughter alerted me to this great resource (“Thank you, Leslie!”) The  iBooks, written by a mother and daughter duo (Cheryl Tunno and Michelle Tunno Buelow) cover topics such as: respect, compassion, loyalty, confidence, honesty, fairness and more!

“As a retired Superintendent of Schools I am all too well aware of the issues posed by bullying and harassment among and between students. The Bully in a Box program provides young children with ways to recognize inappropriate behavior and the tools to manage the behavior.”

—Mother of 2, Grandmother of 2 with over 30 years in the NJ public school system ~via Bully in a Box

Invisible Kids: The Swan Story

The Swan Story

Say, “CHEESE!”   Click and the picture is taken.

This photo was taken in 1966 and I saw it for the first time a short while ago. A friend of our family mailed it to my father. Evidently, this friend was camping with us to have taken this picture, but my memory doesn’t go back that far. In the background is my mom and dad putting up our camper. Our family went camping all of the time. I have wonderful memories of sitting around the campfire, listening to my parents tell adventure stories until late in the evening. Daytime fun included swimming or hiking trails.

That’s me… pictured on the left with my best friend, Janet. I always said Janet was the prettiest of us two.  I laughed when I saw this photo of myself and also recalled fabulous memories of my good friend. When my  husband looked at the photo, he laughed too at the sight of my long skinny legs and goofy grin.

This photo also brings back a lot of memories of a quiet, painfully shy, and awkward young girl about to enter middle school. She lacked self-confidence, was always the last person chosen to play on a volley ball team during PE class, and rarely did anyone invite her to sit with them during lunch.

She was living “The Ugly Duckling” story.

She was bullied, not physically, but by words … simply because she was different. She often felt unnoticed.  She was invisible.

As a leader in children’s ministry, I often visit other churches to observe their children’s ministries or youth group programs. I particularly enjoy watching ministry in action. The first thing I quietly look for is how adults interact with the kids. I also observe how the youth relate to each other. I look for the invisible kids. I often remember and see myself in those children and youth that seem invisible to their peers and the adults around them.

I want to encourage the adult leaders to find the quite ones, the awkward ones, the kids that are different or don’t fit in the cliques formed around them. I want to encourage the youth…those students that are popular, to be a friend to someone who is different from them. To set the example. To be a real leader. To show them Jesus.

We need to work at developing relationships and create a welcoming environment in our churches for all kids and students. This will require a change of  heart. I really believe when our church is focused on being Jesus-centered…a gospel-centered church, the invisible kids will be seen.

They will be seen as a valuable person and needed.  They will feel appreciated. They will be in community, encouraged and mentored by Godly leaders.  And their voice will be heard and their unique gifts and talents will be applauded. Their self-confidence will become anchored in God’s love and acceptance of them, rather than placing too high a value on their perception of what other people think.

They are not ugly ducklings. They are swans.

I asked my husband what he really thought of the photo of me and he said, “You are proof of the swan story–when the ugly duckling grows up to be a swan.”

“Are you saying I was an ugly duckling?”

“No, I’m saying you are a swan.”

It’s nice to be a swan. I’ll take that.