Saturday, June 30, 2012

Discouragement and Grace

My dear sisters, I’m sure that many of you have had days when life seems to really get you down…perhaps today is one of those days. No matter how hard you try, you just can’t seem to triumph over the trials that are causing despair in your life.  At times stressful situations such as volatile relationships, struggles with finances, raising kids, job changes, ministry commitments, and various other issues seem to overwhelm all of us with despair and discouragement. 
In my quiet time this morning, the Lord opened my eyes (again!) to a familiar passage of Scripture that immediately brought comfort and peace to my soul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9    Wow!  I once again realized that His grace truly is amazing as the songwriter penned those many years ago.  Also, I once read in a devotional these words, “Grace is all that Christ is, made available to me”.  Isn’t that awesome! Our Lord can handle anything that we are going through, but we really do have to admit that we are weak and without power; any strength that we have comes totally from Him. Of course, grace is not something that we earn; it is what God chooses to give to us in spite of us! 
When I begin to recognize my inadequacy to handle life’s circumstances on my own, there is great joy that floods my soul knowing and believing that I have a Savior who conquered death, and He has the power to guide me through the tribulations that are inevitable.  Sometimes the Lord will give me what I call “surprises of His grace”, where I sense a special manifestation of His grace and presence in my life during the day. For example, I have had days when I have needed encouragement, and the Lord will have someone pray for me or He will show me a Scripture that immediately speaks to me heart.  He is so attentive to our needs!!
When God makes a promise, He is Faithful to keep it!  So when discouragement comes, HIS GRACE IS SUFFICIENT to see us through all life’s challenges!
Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”  2 Corinthians 12:9

Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Celebration To Come

This time of year two types of celebrations come to my mind: weddings and graduations.  Weddings celebrate the joining of two individuals who have committed to love one another and spend their lives together.  Graduations celebrate the completion of a stage of one’s academic journey.  Both of these events evoke joy and  tears…… yet happy tears.   Also, these events are definitely worth every bit of the fanfare they bring, since they represent milestones in an individual’s life.
Yet as wonderful and exciting as they are, there is a celebration on the horizon for God’s forever family that is beyond comparison.  The Word of God speaks of the Wedding Supper of the Lamb.  When I think about this grand and glorious future event, at times it brings joyful tears to my eyes.  One day my Lord will celebrate with me, and all the saints,  His glorious return to receive His bride, the church, who has “made herself ready”, with “fine linen, bright and clean” (Revelation 19:7-8).  It is very difficult to imagine how grand this occasion will be, when we celebrate the Second Coming of our Savior,  and we will be joined with Him forever!
So, in the midst of life’s disappointments and discouragements, remember we have a glorious celebration to look forward to, and no one can keep us from it.   When our names were written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, we secured our invitation!  No need to RVSP for fear of being turned away; our salvation means we are accepted in the Beloved for all eternity.  
Reflect on this celebration to come, and may it bring you hope and peace!  
Then the angel said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the Wedding Supper of the Lamb!’ ” Revelation 19:9        

Monday, June 25, 2012

It’s That Time Again!

Well, guess what?   It’s that time again.  What time you may ask?
I am speaking of  Vacation Bible School (VBS) time!   This is an exciting time because during the summer months many churches go outside their four walls to reach the lost in their communities and neighborhoods to introduce them to the Lord Jesus Christ!   Last week we hosted our VBS events, and we truly had a wonderful team at our church that put together a great week of activities, and the curriculum theme this year reminded us all of how great, awesome, and powerful our glorious God is!!
For me personally, I really get excited about VBS!  As a young child growing up in the church, I never experienced VBS; it was not until I became an adult that I attended my first class.  I had always thought that VBS was just for kids… was I wrong!   The adult classes I have experienced were actually very fun and exciting; we played games, did crafts, learned songs…….it really made me feel like a kid all over again!   In recent years, I have been a teacher instead of a student, and it is a tremendous blessing to teach kids Biblical truths and introduce them  to the Gospel of Christ!  It’s also very rewarding to see kids come to faith in Christ as a result of this type of outreach.  
Of course evangelism and reaching out to those who don’t know Christ is not just a once a year event;  we can purpose in our hearts to be about spreading the Gospel all year round.  However, traditionally it is great to host VBS events in the summer in order to generate better attendance, since kids are out of school, and for many families life slows down the pace a little.
Yes, it is that time again, so why not get involved (in some capacity)  in your church’s VBS program and do your part in sharing the life and love of Christ with those who don’t normally set foot in a church or those who have not even heard of our Savior. The Lord could you use to plant and water seeds of faith in another person’s life.   Wouldn’t that be awesome?
“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.  Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”     1 Peter 3:15

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Baby Update


We have been at our current church, going on 16 years, so we have watched folks come and go.  We've witnessed babies being born and the death of our folks.  However, even though we are barely half way through 2012...we have experienced some very dramatic things already this year, especially considering we are a small church.
  • one of our members committed suscide, leaving a husband and son.
  • a leader was arrested for domestic violence.
  • a lady discovered her husband had been having an affair for two years and claims he loves them both.
  • a deacon is going through a nasty divorce.
  • two Sunday School teachers just up and quit.
It is easy to minister to a church when things are going good.  It is harder to minister during trying times, but that is when "they" need us the most.

I think our church is just an example of where the world is going....there is a major bread-down in the family.  If you look at my list above, ALL of the situations stem from SIN and most of them are centered around a break-down in the family.  We need to pray for each other like we have never prayed before.

The CHURCH will never be any stronger than the FAMILY.  The NATION will never be any strong than the CHURCH.  When satan can break the family, he has won the victory.

Are you also witnessing similar situations?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

V.B.S. 2012 - Amazing Wonders Aviation!!!

We have been at our church for 15 years so this is the 16th V.B.S. that I have directed. Directing V.B.S. was never one of the jobs that I even wanted….but it was the job I was handed because “I was the preacher’s wife.” Apparently the preacher’s wives in the past had all been the V.B.S. Directors. One of the disadvantages of being in the Bi-Vocational Ministry is that your church is probably so small that you and your husband have to do a lot of the work.

Like I previously said, we just completed our 16th V.B.S. last week and I am happy to say it was once again very successful and rewarding. When I first began as director, I was told that I would have to go to the association and see if there were volunteers to help with V.B.S. because all of the women at the church had already “served their time” and was not available. At first I was scared and even a little angry that the job was just handed to me, but I prayed about it. THEN, I went back to the church and told them I would direct, BUT….I had prayed about it and as long as God saw fit to leave them on this earth, there was a place for them in V.B.S.; whether female or male. And, I also told them that when God could no longer use them, he would take them home. Guess I scared them into helping with V.B.S. because after that the men and women were volunteering.

Over the years, I have never turned anyone down to help in V.B.S. I have even created positions for some of the elderly that are not capable of doing as much. I am proud to say that we always have lots of men and women working in V.B.S.  I think my oldest V.B.S. volunteer was 80+ years old.  What a blessing!!!  He sat in the soft pulpit chair and passed out candy to the kids as they stopped and told him their memory verse.  He called himself the "Candy Man".

Vacation Bible School is one of our biggest outreach tools for the community.  We provide classes for 18 months old to just completed 12th grade. You would be amazed at the “driving teens” that come to our Bible School. The youth class is usually the largest class, so that tells me they are "hungry" for God's Word.

Over the years, Vacation Bible School has been a service that we provide for the community and our children also, however, I think our workers wind up and get as much out of it as the children do.  It is a time where we all pull together and work together regardless of age or gender.

We are just a small country church.  During V.B.S. every year, we collect Mission Money for the local Children's Home on the mountain.  We have a contest....Females against the Males.  This year, the Males won.....but in the end, the girls at the Children's home won.  Our V.B.S. kids brought in over $500 to be sent to them.

Although the week of V.B.S. is very tiring and stressful......the rewards greatly out-weigh it all.  I would LOVE to hear your V.B.S. success stories and ideas.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Happy Father's Day to My Dad

This is the 16th Father's Day that you have been gone.  Many times I would love to just talk to you.  I wish you could see the adults that your grandchildren have become.  You would have been so proud of them.  Our son has your personality and walks just like you.  I guess those genes were strong. 

I love you and will see you again one day.  Shortly after you died, my friend gave me the poem and it meant a lot to me.

Last night while I was trying to sleep,
My Dad's voice I did hear,

I opened my eyes and looked around,
But he did not appear.

He said, "Daughter, you've got to listen,
You've got to understand,

God didn't take me from you,
He only took my hand.

When I called out in pain that day,
The moment that I died,

He reached down and took my hand,
And pulled me to His side.

He pulled me up and saved me
From the misery and pain.

My body was hurt so badly,
I could never be the same.

My search is really over now,
I've found happiness within,

All the answers to my empty dreams
And all that might have been.

I love you all and miss you so,
And I'll always be nearby.

My body's gone forever,
But my spirit will never die.

And so, you must all go on now,
And live, and understand...

God did not take me from you,
He only took my hand."
- Author Anonymous

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Seeking PRAYER for Our Children.

I have two Prayer Requests that needs immediate attention please.

1.  Our daughter-in-law, Melanie has a job interview TOMORROW, Monday, June 18th.  She just graduated from college in May and has been job searching.  She has an interview tomorrow.  PRAY that if this is the job God would have her to have, she will get the job.

2.  Our son-in-law, Chase has a job interview this FRIDAY, June 22nd.  He is currently working in North West Tennessee.  Our daughter is Pregnant and living in the southern part of East Tennessee.  This job would move him back home.

Thank you in advance for praying for our children.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Jesus Calling

These last few weeks I felt like Jesus was calling me.

Not a calling to "do" anything, but He was calling me. Not some big, drastic project to be passionate about, but He has been gently, intently calling me.

My Bible reading each morning had been from the book of John. It had been awhile since I was focused on studying the life of Christ and God had been faithful to show me new insights and applications for my everyday life. Each day in my prayer journal I wrote a new one. Yet, Jesus had been still calling me, calling me for something more.

As a gift to the graduating high school seniors, our church had given each one a special leather bound copy of Sarah Young's Jesus Calling, a devotional written as if Jesus had writen the words Himself.

When we were, as a committee were deciding the gift for this year, honestly, I was skeptical. I mean isn't it kinda presumptuous to put words in the mouth of Christ? But everyone else on the committee was for it and I trust these people because I know their faithful walks with Jesus. So, I went a long but made sure to pick up my own copy to start reading once I had finished with John.

The devotions are short, very short. They are based on scripture, both from the Old and New Testaments. There might be places where Young takes some liberties in her writing, but I have literally devoured the scripture references that close each day's reading. Those passages are full of meaning and have not failed to speak to my heart as I read each day.

In the meantime, my husband, Wally, and I are praying through some tough decisions. "Things" continue to happen at church. Piper, my three year-old, is still not potty trained. I have become my nine year-old, Riley's, taxi cab driver. Life has continued.

All the while, Jesus was and is calling me.

Not to look around me. Not to worry. Not to come up with answers.

Jesus just wants me.

As He has called me He has reminded me of His promises. He has reminded me that I have made Him Savior AND Lord of this life.

He's got the details.

I am my Beloved and He is mine!

What is Jesus calling you to right now?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

It's Okay to Ask

Last week I spent a little time on the phone with another minister's wife from another state. My husband performed the wedding for this young mom of two boys. We've known her since she was apart of the youth ministry that we served when we were first married nearly 14 years ago.

Her husband is "talking" with another church and she is being forced to face a cross country move to follow her husband and God to another ministry position. Moving is nothing new to this friend. She has a strong faith of her own and can speak articulately on how God has provided for her over the years.

Yet, as she shared her heart with me over the phone, I quickly realized that she was having her own crisis of faith. No, she wasn't doubting her salvation. She was just very aware that God was removing all the security she had placed in what she knew. She had become very comfortable in their church, their house and especially in their relationships, in particular a very special friendship.

Perhaps for the first time ever, she had developed a relationship with a true, best, girlfriend. The thought of losing or altering that relationship at all truly scared her. She was blinded to how this fear was negatively affecting her faith.

Gently, I pointed this out to her and spoke of God's faithfulness to me. In every ministry position my husband has served, God has been faithful to provide me with a really good girlfriend. Even when we spent the longest 9 months of our married life at one church, God gave me Ashlee. I reminded my friend that God knew our needs and would provide for them. I also told her that it was okay to ask God to take care of those needs.

Somehow when we focus on God's holiness and providence it is easy to forget that He wants us to come to Him with our problems and our needs. Often I fear God's rejection. What if He doesn't answer a prayer the way I want Him to? Where is my faith?

That is what I ask God for most often, faith. But I tell you, I know that is kinda like asking God for patience. He WILL give you opportunities to use it if you ask Him for it.

It's okay to ask. Prepare yourself, because He will answer.

What are you asking God for today?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Ask For It

Ladies, I was done.

Literally EVERY conversation I had with someone from church was either unveiling a new level of dysfunction within the church or rehashing the last three levels of our dysfunction. Even many of the conversations with my husband seemed to be taking their toll.

Without realizing it, I had taken on all this burden and it was really weighing me down. I was weary. I was emotional, crying real tears and leaving real worship services to pull it together in the cheerfully decorated bathroom.

I was ready to quit - if I could have figured out how!

I knew I needed to pray, to lay it all down at the cross, to trust Jesus with it, to give it to God. I know all the ways to say it, but we all know that it is far easier to say it then to do it.

I was so over everything that is going on that I truly did not know even the "pretty" way to pray - you know what I mean, saying the right words even when you don't mean them. (Notice my verb tense here! These issues are still going on.)

Yet, there were still committee meetings to attend, a VBS to prepare for, and a high school lake trip to chaperon. I had made commitments. People were counting on me and it didn't matter if I didn't "feel" it. I went through the motions, even in my quiet times.

God is so good.

He met me where I was. He challenged me to ask Him to show me where He is working. He gently persuaded me to ask Him to open my eyes so I could see what He is doing. He graciously found me as I went through the motions and patiently asked me to seek Him.

I was desperate and I did. I prayed asking Him to show me what He was doing and where He was working.  I prayed asking Him to help me focus on Him and to give me His perspective. I asked Him to provide what He knew I needed, because I couldn't ask for it myself.

There near Cadiz, Kentucky by Lake Barkley God let me hear in the voices of 15 teens that He is indeed at work.

On a night where the moon cast our shadows in the field as we played tag (yes, I played too!), I was reassured that He is and will carry "my" load.

The feeling of "have to" transformed into a "get to" feeling.

That was last week.

All I had to do was ask for it.

What prayers have you asked for and had answered this week? What is God doing in your life?

Sunday, June 10, 2012

I Would Never Do "That"!

Coffee—never been a fan of it!  My parents drank coffee every morning and they drank it black!  No sugar.  No cream or milk.  Nothing.  Not me….I never wanted or desired to drink coffee.

As I got older I still never desired or wanted to “learn” to drink coffee.  As a result, I was almost considered an outsider.  “What?  You don’t drink coffee?” I would hear over and over again.  After a while, I began to really want to drink coffee… know, to “belong” and be able to go to Starbucks with the girls and drink coffee.  But I just could not.  Not only did I not like the taste, but being at Starbucks was so intimidating!!  Later, I decided I for sure did not want to “learn” to drink it because I really did not need another “addiction”!!

The morning routine for our “girl trip” included us getting up one by one, getting a cup of coffee and sitting on the back porch in our jammies and visiting and drinking coffee for hours and hours.  All except for me—I would drink my Dr. Pepper!!  Until this year, that is!!  You would not believe the shock on each of my girl friends’ faces when I appeared with my coffee cup instead of my Dr. Pepper glass!!!

How in the world did I get there?  How did I get from absolutely drinking NO coffee to drinking coffee in the morning?  It was a process.  A progression.  Something that took years and years.  It all started several years ago with Baskin & Robbins jamoca almond fudge ice cream!!  Just a taste of “java”!  I loved it!!  From there I progressed to the Baskin & Robbins' mocha cappuccino blast!!  Yummy!! 

A few years later a Union college student I was discipling introduced me to Starbucks’ mocha frappuccino!  Amazing!!  Then…..after drinking that for a few years, I wondered if there was a hot version to the mocha frappuccino—and sure enough—the cafĂ© mocha!!!  Delicious!

So, I found myself drinking “coffee”, but honestly, I did not consider myself a real coffee drinker!!  I would NEVER make coffee at home and drink it or EVER drink it at a restaurant or someone’s home.  R-I-G-H-T!!  Now, after many, many years later…..I guess I have to admit it…..I drink coffee!!  Yikes!  Shock!!  People who know me are in disbelief!!

Here’s the thing…..I never would have jumped from not drinking coffee to drinking coffee.  It was a process….a progression…..a little introduced a bit at a time when before I knew it….I was doing it.

Is there something you say you would “never” do?  Maybe something fearful?  Perhaps something sinful.  Or even something amazing.  It could be anything… aware of the little steps of progression that you take and before you know it… are doing it…..the very thing you said you would never do!

It is a word of encouragement to those of you who don’t think you can do something God wants you to do or a word of exhortation/warning to those of you who are stepping into something God does not want you to do!!

I gotta go.....I think I need a cup of coffee!!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

I Don't Wanna Go Back!

Sorry about no "hard returns" in this post...I am stranded in the Kansas City Airport due to stormy weather in my destination city, Dallas. Who knows how long I will be I people watch! Where are they going? Why does she just stare? Lord, do You want to use me here in Kansas City? No one seems to want to talk!! Everyone is connected to some device with wires!! Wires in ears, wires plugged into sockets, invisible wires...and ALL faces (except that one gir who is staring) are fixed, immovable, eyes directed and immovable on their devices. Ha! I guess mine are too now since I am writing this!! Who here is connected to God? He requires no wires no batteries that must be recharged, no hardware or software or screen to be seen or heard. We do need a connection to God though.....Jesus!! Glory! So.....since no one wants to talk.....I'll pray for them!! Anyway...back to my "girl trip" I mentioned in last post....I adored those years in high school! I was accepted, loved, busy. It was fun, crazy and daring. It was during those years I first heard who Jesus was and that a Christian was not simply someone who was born in America! Even though there were also many trials and challenges and personal struggles I loved that season of my life. All of that said, I'd NEVER want to go back!! Oh, sometimes I delude myself into thinking how great it would be and maybe I'd make different/better choices which might take me to a completely different "place" than I am now. I am so very thankful for my life....for my children and their children. a few hours (Lord willing and the plane can fly!!) I will be with my high school friends but I won't "go back!!" Egypt always looks better in the wilderness!! Don't be tempted to "go back"!! God is sovereign!! His plans are accomplished!!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Girl Trip!!

I graduated from High School in Dallas, Texas (which seems like just yesterday, by the way!!) and I have a group of girlfriends that I LOVE to get together with!!

Whenever I would come to Dallas, (most of them still live in the Dallas area and I am the only one who moved far away) we would all get together in one of their homes and we would have all of our babies and preschool children in tow. During that “season” of life, it was difficult to carry on conversations since someone was always being pulled away to stop a fight, take someone potty, clean up spills or change a diaper. After all….between the seven of us there are 21 children….so that is a lot of chaos and not much visiting, encouraging, praying, etc.
It was the year we all turned 30 that we decided that it simply was just not feasible/possible to have meaningful conversations with 21 children around and determined that we would take a much needed “girl trip” once a year (sometimes it has even been twice a year!!) without children or husbands!!

These trips have been so refreshing, encouraging, enlightening, entertaining, and fun! I am the only one who is a minister’s wife. None of them go to our church since I live a zillion miles away. All of them knew me before I was a Christian, much less a pastor’s wife. None of them care that I am a pastor’s wife. They all know me and love me as Dana. The one who dated Alan Walne, was on the drill team, and who was always falling down!!
I leave tomorrow for our yearly trip and I am so super excited. I desperately need these girls right now. We will share, cry, laugh, pray, eat and shop. We will reminisce about who dated who and who kissed who. We will tell the same stories that we have told for years. We will stay up late at night and drink coffee in our jammies in the morning. It will seem like we are in high school again!!

Do you have a friend or group of friends who are not associated with your church? Do you have a group of girls who you can “let your hair down” with? Who know you and love you regardless of what you do or do not do?
Do you need a "girl trip"? Why don't you find some girls and make it happen??!!