I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

People Watching—Stored Memories

Male Toga Adult...
Delores E. Topliff
Traveling teaches me that nations, like people, have personalities. Italy and Spain are warm and hospitable. In both if you even attempt to speak (slaughter) the language, it’s enoughthey smile appreciatively. Other countries, like France and Austria, can seem less friendly and appear to feel put upon. Even our well-meaning but fast-paced goal-oriented nation can fail to convey care and friendliness. Seeing polite manners in much of Europe gives me more understanding of (and dislike for) the word “brash.”

Most of us avoid unexpected encounters or delays. But people watching for insights and character development is lost if things go smoothly and fast. Señor Fernandez, the older owner of a small family hotel off a major square in Madrid has a face so 
old-school fine and interesting, it should be sculpted. I took his photo, though he complained he was not dressed for the occasion. But it was his noble face I wanted. He also stored my large suitcase free five days while we visited Italy with the one small bag allowed on cheap airlines. (The nearby central train station asked five euros per day.) I picture Señor Fernandez in a toga ruling ancient Rome’s Spanish province wisely when integrity, gravitas, veritas, and dignitas, meant everything.

I also see the face of the middle-aged woman we met in Bologna, Italy, whose picture I didn’t get, but her soft speech revealed she was from America’s Southwest. She was a fellow tourist waiting for a Sunday bus that didn’t come, wearing a Sherlock Holmes type hat that hid too much of her face, telling us about Santa Lucia, lovely 14th century cathedral on Bologna’s highest hill. Since we didn’t have time to go there, she promised it would be visible from our airplane. And it was. She was amazed we knew and had visited her hometown, Lubbock, Texas. I doubt Lubbock produces many native daughter specialists on 14th-century Italian cathedrals. Hers was a story I would have liked to get. Why was she there, alone? Where did she go next? I imagine answers and wish her well.

In recent years, I increasingly love these lines from Alfred Lord Tennyson’s Ullyses:
“I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro'
Gleams that untravell'd world whose margin fades…
Forever and forever when I move.
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

What about you? What faces or scenes do you pass but still see? 
What do you glean? What do you still wonder?

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Be anxious for nothing

By Jennie Atkins

As Christians we've all heard this verse (Philippians 4:6-7), listened to preaching involving this verse, and honestly tried to apply it to our lives.

Some of us succeed . . . and . . . well . . . some of us don't.  Let's face it we're human and life happens--so we worry.

Over the past year things have happened in my life and the lives of my family members that have challenged me and my faith in multiple ways.

Have I been anxious?  Absolutely! 

But through it all I have learned more about this verse than I ever thought possible. Here are some of my insights:

First, when we try to anticipate the trials ahead of us, when we worry about tomorrow, we are forgetting that God is with us now and always. We are taking away what he wants to do in our lives. Each day brings on difficulties, but by leaning on God e-v-e-r-y day, trusting in him, we are acknowledging that He is in control of our lives.

Second, by worrying about tomorrow, we are experiencing our troubles many times over. God only intends for us to face our trials one time--not rehearse them over and over and over again.  This just increases our suffering.

Lastly, on days when everything goes awry, perhaps it is then that God wants to do something more important in our life or in the life of someone else.

God has plans for all of us.  Plans for a good life, if only we trust in Him and not be anxious.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Creativity and Failure

By Teri Smith

Doesn’t really sound like those two should go together, does it? But sometimes fear of failure hinders creativity more than any other single issue. Negative thoughts pound in our heads.
No one will ever like what I write. 
I might make mistakes...even the editor might miss them.
I'm not really good at...(whatever).
No one actually thinks I can.

What if Walt Disney had given up after a newspaper editor told him he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas”?

What if Albert Einstein had given up after one of his professors labeled him the laziest dog they had ever had in the university?

What if Colonel Sanders gave up after over 1,000 restaurants turned down his chicken recipe?

What if Beethoven had stopped after his music teacher told his parents he was too stupid to ever compose?

What if my student, Angela Bell, had given up after an adult told her it was too hard to get published? (She’s already had one book signing and another one is on the way.)

If we listen to all the negative voices, we’ll never try anything new or difficult. And we’ll miss the potential God has placed right in front of us.

So go ahead. Brainstorm. Draw. Write. Even allow yourself to go back to your younger days and color something beautiful! Silence the judgmental voices—especially the ones in your own head.  So what if your first idea, first painting, or first book isn’t perfect?

Allow yourself to fail. Because, yes, creativity and failure do go together. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Turn! Turn! Turn!

Photo courtesy of https://www.etsy.com/shop/kraftykash
Heidi here. I'm sitting at my computer contemplating all the things I could blog about today, and I'm a little overwhelmed. First of all, there is a lot going on in our country right now. Enough, in fact, to fill several blog posts! I could write about any number of these hot button issues, but I think I will pass. In addition, there is a lot going on in my life right now. Enough, in fact, to fill several blog posts...

It's been a pretty crazy month at my house. We are experiencing a serious season of change. It kind of reminds me of that Byrds' song from the 60's based on Ecclesiastes 3. Back at the end of May, my husband and I got the news that due to decreased giving and budgetary constraints, our lead pastor and the church board members made the difficult decision to cut the children's pastor position to part-time with no benefits beginning August 1st. Since my husband Craig is the children's pastor, this means it is his position being cut. Given our own budgetary constraints (including my steep monthly out-of-pocket medical expenses) he will not be able to stay on part-time with no benefits, so he has begun putting his resume out to other churches for other positions. One church is nearby, so we wouldn't have to move right away. Another is a thousand miles away from our friends and family. We have no idea where we are going! As you might imagine, this has been very difficult for us, and over the past six weeks, we've felt every possible emotion regarding this situation.

I think the hardest thing for us to think about is leaving the church we've been part of off and on for almost 25 years. It is the church where I gave my life to Christ at age 24. It is the church where I met Craig, and where I married him less than a year later. It is the church where both of our children were dedicated as infants, gave their hearts to Jesus as children, and were baptized as preteens. It is the church that gave Craig his first opportunity at full-time children's ministry as a licensed pastor. We've not only watched our own children grow up at this church, we've been blessed by families who trusted us to help raise their children spiritually on Sunday mornings, Wednesday nights, and a few weeks every summer. Leaving will be hard. So incredibly hard.

When Craig accepted this position in 2004, he told me he believed God was calling him to stay on for ten years. Ten years is an eternity for children's pastors; they almost never stay at one church for that long. I wasn't sure he'd heard God correctly, especially when some very tempting offers for bigger churches and more money came in. But I trusted my husband and we stayed. It's so crazy to think that this looming August 1st deadline will also mark our 11th anniversary at our church. So in that context, God gave us a bonus year with our precious church family before moving us on to whatever is next.

And that is the most important thing for me to remember: God is moving us, not man. Back in May, I was so angry. At first, I could only see that the whole situation made absolutely zero sense, and I tried to find someone to blame. But it has become increasingly clearer over the past few weeks that this is God's perfect sovereign plan--not just for our family, but for the families in our current church and the families at our future church. Ultimately, because it's His perfect plan, we need to praise Him for the opportunity to trust Him with our future and our needs, and we can't wait to see how He will bless everyone involved.

I'm not going to lie; despite my faith, I still worry what will happen come August 1st. My heart knows that God will provide for us because He always has. However, there are days when my brain struggles to trust that He will cover all of our expenses. Like somehow I think He will call us out only to leave us stranded and destitute. So I worry. Jesus was very clear in His Sermon on the Mount that we are to be anxious for nothing because He cares for us infinitely more than even the lilies of the valley or the birds of the air. Instead, I must choose to be optimistically expectant and I must praise Him for the plans He has for us...to prosper us and not to harm us...to give us a hope and a future.

Change is never easy, and I am not great at embracing it. I am also not great at rolling with the punches or going with the flow or even seizing the day. I don't want to have to trust God. Lucky for me (and any of you who are also being forced to embrace change and trust God) His Word is full of verses to encourage us that we should trust Him, but more importantly that we can trust Him. Over and over in scripture we see reminders that God is in control and that while our circumstances might change, He doesn't. (Check out a few of these verses for yourself: Proverbs 19:21, Isaiah 43:18-19, Habakkuk 3:19, Romans 8:28, I Peter 5:7, Hebrews 13:8, Philippians 1:6)

I will close with verses 11-12 of Ecclesiastes 3..."God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end. I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives."

P.S. Now you have that song stuck in your head, right? You're welcome!