I can clearly remember searching high and low in various stores to find the perfect daily calendar to write all of my appointments, obligations, and important dates in. I remember opening up the crisp pages with bright white, untouched blocks waiting to be written upon—to be “planned” in. My year of 2013 was off to a relaxing, not over-committed start.
Here we are no more than five months into the year and this calendar has been worn in, the blocks are filling up, and I yearn for the days that are empty and untouched. I am a lady who enjoys being busy. I love to have a project to work on, a puzzle to finish, a craft to complete, but lately I have craved downtime—time to wash my clothes, dry them, fold and put them away in the same day. I would like to be able to try a new recipe and not feel the time constraints of where to be by a certain time. I desire time to enjoy the day and not rush around being concerned with what I am forgetting or not doing to my best ability because I am distracted by the next task, appointment, or scheduled activity.
I am trying to carve, and yes, I have to schedule my “downtime.” I want to have it written down or at least a mental note to not plan any things during this time. My mind wanders to Luke 10:38-42 when Jesus and the disciples visit Mary, Martha, and Lazaras’ home; Martha is consumed with the things to get done in order to serve and host the gentleman entering her home. Mary slips away to listen to Jesus.
“But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:40-42).
I encourage you in these next few weeks as you begin to fill in the blocks of your calendar for summer activities and gatherings to leave a time that is unplanned and ask God to bless it, be in tune to what, where, and how He would desire you to spend that time. It’s His anyway, so now may you choose to set that time apart from any other planning and listen. I pray that you will not be overwhelmed by your calendar, the boxes filled in, or lack thereof, that you will not feel obligated to always be “on the go” or “doing” something.
I pray that you will “choose what is better” and the words of Jesus, “and it will not be taken away from her” will permeate your heart as you approach your next day of what’s planned or not in your box.
I think of the seagulls from Finding Nemo who, upon seeing Nemo in the water, began in unison saying, “Mine, mine, mine…..mine, mine, mine.”
Toddlers can get stuck on one word, “why.” We have all heard the expression, “Life is not fair.” When you were a child or even as a teen I am certain you asked for something or permission to go somewhere and when you were told “no,” and you would resort to, “Why, but her Mom said it was ok.”
Then the proverbial answer, “I am not her mother, I am your mother.” Those conversations never turned out how I would desire them to; all the while my mother was making choices because of her foresight and wisdom of the situations and loved me enough to say “no”. There are other times within our lifetime that we will hear “no” and unfortunately each time the answer may not get any easier to hear.
Unlike a small child who can outwardly show his or her disgust with life when it is not “fair,” adults are taught to keep it in, calmly process, then discuss the issue and create a plan to solve. Well, let me say there have been times while serving in ministry that I wish I could lay on the floor and just cry, maybe even stomp my feet, when things do not turn out as I had hoped. I believe it is okay to get your emotions out, honor your feelings, but cry out to God for understanding and fulfillment to see your difficult time through.
There are many places in Scripture where God’s chosen have cried out to Him in uncertainty, questioning their circumstances or in desperation.
There is hope.
We can read from these same followers that they were answered and in His own timing, God provided them with the insight and understanding of how He used those events to fulfill His plan and further His Kingdom. Just remember that God sees the bigger picture and when He tells us “no” or “not now,” TRUST. It is okay to ask “why,” but do not allow your questions to become a stumbling block in your ministry.
May you rest in the words of David from the psalms:
I know, LORD, that your laws are righteous,
and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.
May your unfailing love be my comfort,
according to your promise to your servant.
The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them;
he delivers them from all their troubles.
“And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3, NIV).
Do you ever find yourself reminiscing to times in your childhood? Can you recall the first time you rode your bicycle without training wheels? Do you remember when Pound Puppies were kid’s meal toys at Hardees? How about getting up for Saturday morning cartoons? Did you ever feel that the school year went by so slowly, yet the weekends and breaks flew by?
So what changed when we became adults? Is it that we found ourselves too busy to enjoy the kid’s meals or did our appetites grow larger? Do we now take time to set goals that challenge our mind, body and spirit?
You may have riding your bicycle without training wheels conquered, but have you ever tried rock climbing? What about training to run a race? Have we become so attached to a clock that we cannot enjoy a detour by God? I’m sure you have felt that “nudge” to call a friend who’s been on your mind, to write a note of encouragement, or to provide for the need of a person who has been placed in your path that day.
How did you respond? A child looks at a need and responds. What do most adults do? I believe most of us have good intentions; our heart is in the right place; however we are not living in the moment. We are living in the next ten minutes, next twenty-four hours, and the next week. We are so overwhelmed that until we can filter out what can wait, we may miss out on opportunities to be a blessing, or receive a blessing from God through the folks around us.
We need to rekindle our childlike joy, excitement, drive, and faith. When God calls you or nudges you to do something for His kingdom, get your mind off of the dirty dishes in the sink or the bed that needs to be made and take the time to follow the detour.
I can speak for my children only, but when they love someone or something, they love it with everything in their being. They trust in me as their mother to not lead them or ask anything of them that would cause harm. They do question me at times; and in those moments I can differentiate between a lack of understanding and unwillingness. To deepen my relationship with my children, I explain, I discipline, I interact, I build memories.
The same is what Jesus wants to do with us. He desires an intimate relationship, complete trust in Him that will allow us to rest in His design for our lives—and not just today, but everyday—this includes the next five minutes. I pray that you will take time to revisit your inner child and that you will invite this “child” of long ago to rejoin you in your ministry.
This January I turned 30. I do not feel 30; however, since I have never been this age before, I do not have a point of reference to even speak from. I just remember being in middle school and watching Saved by the Bell. Those high school kids looked much older than the 10th graders I sat beside on the bus (yes, I now know they weren’t really the ages of the characters they played).
I believe I have always carried this distortion with me of what I should look or feel like at a certain age. In other areas of my life, I have allowed this method of thinking to carry over. It is much easier to try a recipe in your own kitchen when you have tasted and enjoyed the meal from someone else’s. It is easier to lead a group when you have been a part of a group that had an efficient and creative leader. The water does not seem as daunting when someone else puts his or her foot in first to test the temperature.
The same can be said for your myMISSION group. Each group brings its own unique talents and abilities to the table. Get to know the people in your group and discover the strengths and weaknesses so you can work together and compliment your opportunities in ministry. As you pray for the women who God would have be a part of your group, pray as well for how your group will “look.” Will you have a specific focus that brings you together? Will you be a Bible study utilizing the myGod series that incorporates biblical principles and community outreach? Do you have women who enjoy reading and discussion, how about starting a book club using books from New Hope Digital?
The sky truly is the limit of how you can bring young women together. Do not let the fear of the unknown or the “what if’s” hinder you and your heart for young women to see and be in the middle of God’s work-through ministry, missions, discipleship, encouragement, and service. May you lift up in prayer the other myMISSION groups across the nation who are forming, those who are burdened to create and lead a young women’s group but don’t know where to begin, and the groups who desire to be but there are not young women invested to take ownership. It all starts on our knees with our heart and prayers directed heavenward.
"We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thessalonians 1:3).
I imagine myself on the edge of a stream, meditating on the sounds of the water effortlessly flowing over the stones in the bed beneath. The small fish, unaware of life above, continue about their way in the stream until… KERPLUNK!
The young child beside of me throws a large rock into that serene water and chaos ensues. The water is now overwhelmed by ripples and the fish begin to scatter to safety probably wondering, “What in the heck is going on up there?”
Isn’t that what happens in our lives when we encounter conflict? Most of the time we believe that all is going well and then you answer a question the “wrong” way, you choose the “wrong” side to take, or you are just at the “wrong” place at the “wrong” time (like you just so happened to be the “straw that broke the camel’s back” for that individual in their life).
How are we to respond? There are two options I believe: the human response that is based out of reacting to the situation and then the God-provided response that is given with taking a step back and, in love and respect, addressing the issue and continuing to love the person. We deal with conflict in our homes, work, church, and social lives so why would we believe a ministry group to be immune? For starters, we want to believe that every woman who is a part of the ministry would handle any situation in a Godly manner, but just remember we are all human.
Feelings get hurt, pride gets in the way, and even grown-ups just want their own way at times. Open communication is best within your group. When we share our struggles, concerns, and fears with the women we are in ministry with, we are drawn closer together in prayer and encouragement and approach our fellow sisters in the grace, love, and forgiveness that was so freely given for each of us many years ago on the cross.
Lord, I pray for any group who may be experiencing conflict that Your presence and peace will fill their ministry and hearts. I pray these women will not become bitter, but broken and drawn closer to You and to one another and will again be the vessels of ministry that You have called them to be. Amen
“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love” (Ephesians 4:15-15).
In high school, I lived in southwestern Virginia. My mind first thinks of coalmines, the mountains, and the valley. There was one scenic drive that I vividly remember, driving to the top of High Knob. The drive to the top was not without an occasional switchback and, with a stick shift, you prayed that you would not have to stop on any of the inclines (my palms get a bit sweaty thinking of it now).
At the top there was an observation tower that offered a splendid view of the city below and the vast openness of the Jefferson National Forest. It was gorgeous, in any season, and so serene. I remember a peaceful feeling up there so far away from the hustle and bustle of the town below. I enjoyed being “away” from the busyness and hurriedness and found clarity up on the mountain. I also felt closer to God up on the mountain, physically and figuratively.
I have since moved many miles from that mountain, but God has provided opportunities and places for me to experience my “mountaintop.” Recently I have been super-charged and excited about all God has been doing in my life and opportunities to serve Him. What I am getting ready to share, many of you will be able to relate (you will have written the script). I should have dug my heels in deep and held on tight for the ride back to the valley.
In the last two weeks I know that Satan has been in full “tear down” mode. He has been creating doubt in my mind, my purpose in writing, my ideas, and being a piece of God’s ministry. He has created these thoughts of lacking within me that I am not fulfilling my roles as wife, mother, friend, and daughter. Spiritual warfare is rampant, not just in my life, but any other Christ-follower from the time Jesus walked the Earth until His second coming.
I read an article recently on this topic from the Web site Battle Focus, “As the kingdom of God advances in harmony, the devil provokes discord in order to hinder and disable the body of Christ. Satan's deceptions distract us from living by God's true Word, deflect us from walking in His revealed path, and dilute our effectiveness in His appointed work”.
Have you ever felt under attack the closer you become in your walk with Christ and any ministries you participate in? “As I cling, may you also hold tight to Proverbs 18:10, “The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe”.
When I hear the voice of doubt, I will call out in the name of the Lord, “BE GONE,” for I will call out to the voice of truth.
As a leader you are more apt to be the giver, not the taker. You would rather attend to all the “needs” of the group and/or meeting versus delegate. When you are asked to help with a “need,” your knee-jerk response is “yes” because “no” is harder to say.
Being a leader requires a balance that at times may be difficult to fulfill. Before I can share out of my “cup,” I first have to have something in it to be able to share from. Christians know that the only true source of ultimate filling is in God and immersing ourselves into the Bible. We KNOW this and will share it with others who may feel lacking, but how FAITHFUL are we in practicing this ourselves?
I have strategically placed my devotional book in the bathroom (as a Mom of two young boys, the bathroom has become my escape if only for 3 minutes before they find me). It is here that I attempt to refill my spirit with God’s Word. This is okay but has not provided the ultimate fulfillment that my spirit craves, it’s an appetizer when you are hungry for the main course.
O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water (Psalm 63:1).
As a leader, it can be difficult to find the opportunities to be the one “fed” if you are always the one “feeding” others. I found this to be true for me. I began yearning for more—more depth, more challenge, more time with Jesus-followers who had been on their Christian journey longer than me and more discussion and digging into God’s Word. God opened the door for me to join in two Bible studies with two very different groups of women. It’s amazing how God answers are longings. I am so grateful for both of these studies—the challenge, self-examination, and in-depth lessons offered in one and the insight, discussion, and reflective studies the other provides.
I encourage you to find a place to be filled. If where you are you are the only one there to lead, then I urge you to step out of your comfort zone and seek where God would have you be a partaker in a study. It is vital for you and to the ministry you lead for you to be spiritually fed. For me, the ability to give from my “cup” does not extend to only myMISSION opportunities, but into other areas of my life as well. For me to the best wife, mother, and friend, I first have to be a daughter and spend quality time with my Heavenly Father.
The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail (Isaiah 58:11).
February is the month when we celebrate…Groundhog’s Day. I am sure this was the first holiday you circled on your calendar. Okay so most of you were thinking of…President’s Day. That is a weekend when many folks get a day off from work or school so it is worth circling on the calendar.
Valentine’s Day is the day on the calendar that gets a “heart” shape doodle around the number. I remember being in High School and walking by the school office and not being able to see past the countertop because of all the flowers, balloons, and stuffed animals overwhelming the room waiting to be delivered to their “sweethearts.” I would love to share with you that my name was one of the ones called to the office to claim one of those special gifts, but that did not happen.
I recall a “sinking” feeling going home empty handed. I knew then and know now that I was and am loved, but that was not the reason for my emptiness—it was the lack of “show” that someone in my life at that time thought enough to send me something.
As a teen my response could be seen as shallow, as a grownup being retrospective it is a lesson. In our Christian journey we are called to "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself'" (Luke 10:27). When you love someone, you make sure that person knows and feels that.
If I only told my husband and boys that I loved them but never showed them, how would they know that my words had substance? The same can be said with our own Christian walks. When you say I love God or I love Jesus but you have no evidence to show for those words, then they lack the “heart.” When we love our God with all our heart, all our soul, and all our mind, and all our strength, we will have God-given opportunities to live this out. I pray that as God presents your “Valentine” on your path, you will choose to show love.
Pornography, slavery, human exploitation, bullying, human trafficking, media exploitation, child sex tourism—these are such heavy topics and disturbing issues. How, as followers of Christ, are we to respond? Many choose to not utter such words on their lips and believe in doing so these issues will go away or do not exist in their world.
We live in a world that by the click of a mouse or push of a button we can choose to “ignore” these issues. Many people fear “how” to respond, paralyzed by not knowing where to begin or feeling overwhelmed by the issues themselves. Then there are those individuals or groups who choose to acknowledge the issues and want to be a part of the response.
Our myMISSION: SHINE group chose to take action. Several women within our group would come together monthly to pray for these issues, acknowledging the call to reach out to our “Jerusalem, Judaea, Samaria, and to the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Prayer is a powerful weapon and a means of requesting and receiving guidance from God. As these women prayed, they acknowledged the intensity of these issues and addressed their own fears and concerns of “how to be used.”
These women desired to bring awareness of these issues to others in the area and created a plan to do so. They created packets with information provided by Office of Refugee and Resettlement to send to local law enforcement, fireman, health department, school counselors, social services dental, and healthcare providers; the places or people who would most likely encounter a victim or predator.
At a local community festival we passed out chapsticks with the Human Trafficking tip line on it. (For a victim, their personal belongings will be gone through so informative papers will be thrown out. Chaptstick is more discreet).
We also heard of a group of GA’s (Girls in Action) who, as they traveled on their mission trip, would carry business cards with the tip line number on it and tape several to the back of the stalls in female rest areas, gas stations, and/or truck stop bathrooms. There are wonderful and informative resources through WMU’s Project HELP to use with your myMISSION group. We know God called and used those who were “unqualified,” and blessed them to further His kingdom. How will you respond?
Have you ever heard the quote, “With great power comes great responsibility?” These are the words of the superhero comic books writer, Stan Lee.
Such profound words; however, he was not the first to impart wisdom for those in leadership. Luke 12:48 says, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” When you decide to accept a leadership role, you have to be prepared for all that will come with it.
There are definitely the challenges which I shared in the blogs back in August, but there are also the rewards of being a part of the Jesus story, meeting needs and living on mission daily and allowing God to use you and bless you along the way. As you work with others, you may not always see eye-to-eye and you may get “burned” by other believers along the way (keep in mind that our Christian walk is a journey, daily denying oneself, and picking up your cross, and choosing to follow Jesus).
As Christians, we can all be at different stages in our walk with Christ and that can lead us down similar paths, but at different times. When you accept Jesus Christ as your Savior there is not a set timeline of how or when you will respond to challenges, temptations or ministry opportunities.
This month, I think of Lottie Moon. She was a spirited young woman who we now know is the namesake for The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering® that supports international missionaries. Most people know Lottie Moon for being a missionary to China and her letters she wrote to the Foreign Missions Board in the United States pleading for more missionaries; however, the board could not provide because of their lack of funding. In 1887, Lottie made a proposition that the week before Christmas to be set as a time of collecting money for foreign missions. She shared this in the Foreign Mission Journal.
Lottie desired for more people, regardless of where they lived to hear the message of Jesus, but she did not always have this desire and fire to be a missionary. Lottie did not accept the Lord as her Savior until she was in college at the age of 18. "I wonder if there is anything in Christianity. I stopped believing because I saw Christians arguing with each other when I was a little girl, but maybe that was not logical," she reasoned. "People might argue over a game, but that doesn't mean they should stop playing it forever" (Christianity Today, 2012).
Lottie had been “burned” in her past with what Christianity was and who the representatives were, but God provided a means through a revival on her college campus to provide her the opportunity to respond and hear messages that would engage her and speak to her heart. It was then that she accepted the calling on her life to become a Christian and later to become a missionary.
I encourage you for the remainder of this month to take time to pray for the leaders in your church, community, and nation. Also pray for the missionaries who have been called to serve internationally. If you are able pick up a hard copy of Missions Mosaic magazine, look in the back and you will find a daily prayer calendar for the entire month with specific prayer focuses and also missionaries to pray for on their birthdays. Otherwise check out the online prayer calendar.
Jen is married to her camp sweetheart (8 years of marriage!). Her boys (5 and 2) keep her on her toes. She enjoys running (been bit by the half marathon bug), cooking, creating decadent cupcakes, crafts with her children, and gardening.