by Jill St. John
At 5’2”, I frequently find myself on my toes--or “tippy toes”--stretching to reach a glass from the kitchen cabinet, turn on the lamp on top of the armoire, or kiss my husband. In this Coronavirus season, nothing is within easy reach. I feel like I am on my tippy toes for nearly every part of life and ministry right now. . .stretching to reach, accomplish, and connect. Figuring out how to connect with people and not get closer than 6-feet is stretching me! Leading meetings, strategizing responsibilities, and presenting content--only through a screen--is stretching me! Working, living, and being in the same space continually with my precious husband and kids is stretching me!
Something that keeps us on our toes demands that we focus all our attention and energy on what we are doing until we reach it. We must keep our eyes on it and stretch to attain it. This season is requiring us to stretch, reach, and strain what we previously had no trouble grasping.
Acts 20:28 talks about being on our toes: Be on your toes—both for yourselves and your congregation of sheep. The Holy Spirit has put you in charge of these people—God’s people they are—to guard and protect them. God Himself thought they were worth dying for. (The Message) A different version puts it like this: So guard yourselves and God’s people. Feed and shepherd God’s flock—His church, purchased with His own blood—over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as leaders. (NLT)
In this season of Coronavirus and stay-at-home orders, this Acts 20:28 exhortation resonates deeply with me. Am I on my toes—guarding--myself and God’s people? What does it mean to guard myself and God’s people in this time? For me, guarding myself is all about self-leadership. In spite of not having my usual schedule, I must be engaged in daily disciplines: setting my alarm to spend early morning moments with Jesus and His Word, prioritizing exercise, and making time for personal care. Even though I am meeting with people through a screen, only seen from the waist up--and I could wear a ballcap and no one would care--I do my hair and make-up and get fully dressed. (Well, I get ready and fully dressed most days--there’s a balance as we enjoy some of the perks of stay-at-home!) Keeping my mind refreshed in God’s Word, and taking care of my physical self, helps my mind stay sharp and focused. This makes me more productive and purposeful throughout the day.
Guarding God’s people means praying for them--engaging in spiritual warfare in this time of attack, illness, and hardship. As a we minister to God’s church while not being able to go to church, it means connecting with God’s people in all kinds of ways. Social media, texts, and old-fashioned phone calls allow us to encourage people to guard themselves through being in God’s Word and prayer, as well as praying with them. This helps guard them from hopelessness, despair, and negativity. Staying in God’s Word and encouraging one another will help us get through this together. . .stronger!
I have been praying Acts 20:28 over my husband, our family, our church staff and leaders, and I would like to pray it over you and me:
Lord, please anoint and empower us to guard ourselves and Your people. Help us to be faithful to feed Your flock by imparting Your Word to them, encouraging them, and teaching them to dive into Your Word for themselves. Anoint us to shepherd Your flock with compassion and tender care as some of them are hurting, wounded, and afraid. Prompt us to continually be yielded to the Holy Spirit so Your power may flow through us to those who need Your touch. Thank You, God, for the privilege of being appointed as leaders and pastors in this historic time. May we daily remember that You thought we were all worth dying for. How glorious and awesome is Your love and Your plan. Please use us for Your glorious purposes. In Jesus’ Name—Amen!
Jill St. John, once a high school English teacher, is an ordained minister in the Assemblies of God. She serves as Co-Pastor alongside her husband, Jason. For the last 23 years, they have served at Evangel Church in Kansas City: 6 years as youth pastors, 17 years as lead pastors. Jill has a passion for Jesus and a zeal for teaching God’s Word – helping others walk in God’s love and purpose. As a 4-time cancer survivor, she knows the goodness of God through the highs and lows of life and ministry. Jill is an authentic, enthusiastic messenger of God’s joy and hope. Teaching, cooking, laughing and hanging out with her husband and two children are the delights of her life!
by Vicki Miller
I found myself upset with a friend. It’s rather embarrassing to admit, but it happened. Simply because of her “emoji” response to my comment on her social media post. Sounds silly, huh? It was like any other typical skimming of current posts. However, I found myself looking at all the other comments and her response to them. . .LOVE. Her response to mine. . .LIKE. What?! She didn’t LOVE my response? Immediately, my heart sank, my thoughts began to race, and I found myself wondering what I had done to receive a lesser acknowledgement.
I was comparing my simple comment to all the others. “She doesn’t like me as much.” “My words aren’t as deep or meaningful as the others.” “I’ve done something to offend her.” Really? I’m a big girl! I’m a grandmother for crying out loud. I’ve raised four daughters and walked through bigger drama than this. My reaction was an overreaction. Not directly to her—she never knew how I felt. But to myself. It caught me by surprise! I found myself in major comparison mode, measuring my worth and my value by this one simple emoji—LIKE.
There are so many underlying reasons why this may have happened, but when it came down to where the rubber meets the road, I had to make a choice: Hang my head low because of one meaningless emoji and live in defeat for the rest of my life (sounds pretty grim) or I could search my heart, recognize the source, and surrender it to God. Obviously, I chose the latter. I chose to walk in victory.
Perhaps my experience is not unlike what you have experienced in our ever-increasing use of social media platforms. Maybe you have struggled with feelings of rejection or acceptance. Perhaps you have found yourself comparing your life to other’s “picture-perfect” lives. If so, may I say this? Stop it! Stop it, right now! You are too valuable to God and to the kingdom to go into self-destruct mode. Learn from my mistake and keep yourself free from the disillusions that can happen in the world of virtual conversations. As I have had to do, I invite you to submit any insecurities and feelings of inadequacy to the Lord. He will help you.
Five things I have learned from the LIKES and LOVES:
1) Social media emojis do not determine my value. “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” Psalm 139:14 ESV. He uniquely purposed me, and no one can change that.
2) Social media does not give me the full picture of someone’s life, thoughts, or motives. Jesus says this in Matthew, “Judge not that you be not judged.” How often do I take one moment in time to form an opinion about someone? I may not know her circumstances, or what could be going on with her hormones, or the fact that she’s total unaware of how she is presenting herself. Be understanding of that possibility. Give her the benefit of the doubt.
3) Be happy for the positive affirmation of others. It’s not all about me! “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor,” Romans 12:10 ESV. Everyone needs encouragement. Either be a giver of uplifting words or be content that someone else is receiving praise where “praise is due.”
4) Because of this experience, I can more-easily recognize the enemy’s schemes and surrender them to the Lord. “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me,” 2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV. Whether it’s my flesh or a divisive scheme of the enemy, I can quickly submit it to the Lord, or rebuke the devourer, and move on.
5) My Heavenly Father made me (and you) and His response is always. . .LOVE. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,” Ephesians 2:4-9 ESV. Praise the Lord! He may have to correct me, along the way, but it’s okay, because He loves me.
My husband, Don, and I have been in ministry, together, for more than 35 years. We have four daughters, four sons-in-law, and four grandsons who keep our lives full of joy and laughter. Having pastored the same congregation for more than 25 years, we now minister in a place where we enjoy serving our district ministers and their spouses. Traveling is a shared interest between us, especially as we connect with various churches and church leaders across our state and around the world. Encouraging ministry wives in their unique role and their walk with Jesus is one of my passions. After serving Jesus most of my life, I am still amazed at the grace and goodness of God and I pray that I never get over it. For fun, I love to read and sleuth décor ideas on Pinterest. I enjoy drinking iced tea (no coffee for me), especially with a friend, and taking car rides in the country.
by Delores Carr
During this Pandemic time, many of us have spent more time than usual alone. I have never minded being alone. It’s time for thinking, praying even as I do my work, and quieting myself. I enjoy it.
However, I have never had enforced long periods of aloneness. I don’t know if I would like that. Even now, my husband is here after work and weekends. He is an essential worker, so he is coming and going each day. I have someone to talk to, to bounce things off, and someone with whom to interact. I talk occasionally, at a “proper distance” to my neighbor. I email and talk by phone to family and friends.
I received a phone call a couple of days ago from a friend of twenty-seven years who lives in another state. She told me her husband had died suddenly that morning. I was stunned. She did not want to talk. She did not want me to pray with her. She just wanted to let me know.
She hung up, and I began to weep and pray. But HOW do I pray? After all these years of gently witnessing to this couple, I had no assurance he was ready to meet God. He was a good man. He ran his business with honesty and integrity. They were faithful to their old-line church. But they had difficulty seeing their spiritual need.
They knew nothing of God’s Word or about a personal relationship with Him except what we had told them as the Lord had opened opportunities. They were touchy and resistant to talking about spiritual things. One time when I mentioned the Bible, she told me, “We don’t use the Bible in our church. We have prayer books.” I thought at the time, how sad. Just as is described in 2 Kings 22, the Word of God had been lost in the house of God.
So, after hanging up the phone, I prayed in the Spirit according to Acts 8:26-27, as I didn’t know how to pray. Aren’t you thankful for the Holy Spirit at times like this?
It’s never a good time to lose someone you love. Often during this unusual pandemic time in our nation, I have thought how sad that people cannot have a proper funeral with the support of friends and family when death comes. Now my friend is there. We can’t attend his funeral. We can’t be there to say, “We love you” or to comfort her. I can’t offer to come there and help with all the stuff she must deal with.
She is alone.
And she is even more alone as she does not have the personal relationship with a Savior and God. I cannot give her the same healing words of encouragement from the Word that we give our Christian friends and family at these tough times. I don’t know that he is with the Lord. I don’t know that she will see him again someday. So, at this point, we DO grieve as others grieve. It’s awful.
But I can pray. I ask God to somehow make Himself real to her. I pray that she will not become bitter. I pray that God will give her guidance and clarity in working through all the “stuff“ that is associated with the aftermath of a death. Paperwork alone can be overwhelming. And I pray that somehow, she will come to a personal relationship with Him. I pray she will turn to Him for help.
For a moment, stop and thank God that you are never alone when He is your personal Savior. Reflect on what a tremendous blessing that is. Be grateful for His presence whatever your circumstances. Be still and know that He is God–even when you are all alone. Or, maybe especially then.
Delores and her husband, David, have a long and rich history of ministry. From youth pastor to senior pastor, from church planter to teaching in AG Bible colleges, they have covered this nation from coast to coast. Delores has been director and teacher in pre-school programs, filled the pulpit from time-to-time, and a speaker to women's groups. She loves music and writing, and hopes to one day write a book about her family history in the Ozarks.
by Julie Davenport
Keep Calm and Carry On was a slogan printed on posters by the British Government on the eve of World War I as a message of reassurance in the threat of the troubled times ahead. The troubled times did come as they do in all of our lives.
I have needed reassurance in recent months with the passing of my precious mother after her long battle with Alzheimer's disease. She was my best friend and loved me unconditionally. Rather than focusing on the difficult days at the end, I am focusing on the wonderful and godly influence she had as my mother and as the grandmother of my children. I am learning to keep calm and carry on.
We each have multiple roles that may include mother, grandmother, pastor's wife, credentialed minister, teacher, co-worker, etc. We influence many around us by the lives we live before them. We influence others daily by being consistent and faithful with the little things as well as the big things.
Carrying on can simply mean to continue what you are doing and not give up. Many times, we can grow weary when troubled times come. However, we can be encouraged to carry on with examples from the life of Timothy given to us in the words of Paul. When Timothy comes, see that you put him at ease among you, for he is doing [carrying on] the work of the Lord, as I am. I Corinthians 16:10 ESV
First, Timothy carried on by living a life of sincere faith. I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. 2 Timothy 1:5 ESV. He was a very young man. For him to be chosen to go with Paul and Silas on their missionary journey, he must have learned from his godly grandmother and mother. I am reminded of the lives of my own dear Grandmother Perkin, my Mammaw Wilkerson, and my dear mother, Faith. Without their influence, I would never have been able to have the strength for the things I have gone through in my life. I hope I am carrying on some of their traits and influence with my children and grandchildren.
Secondly, Timothy carried on by living a life where others spoke well of him. Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek. He was well spoken of by the brothers at Lystra and Iconium. Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. Acts 16:1-3 ESV. Again we see the influence of Timothy's mother. His mother was Jewish and a believer, BUT his father was Greek (possibly to insinuate that his father wasn't a believer). Paul had Timothy get circumcised—Timothy willingly obeyed and went through the pain of circumcision, because Paul asked him to do it "because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek."—so Paul knew others were watching them. Paul wanted people to speak well of Timothy.
Finally, Timothy carried on by "waging the good warfare" (fighting the battle) and holding on to faith. This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, 19 holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith. I Timothy 1:18-19 ESV. Paul had literal shipwrecks, but here he is talking about shipwrecks with regard to the faith. I am thankful through the shipwrecks of my life I had the example of my parents and grandparents that helped me to not have a shipwreck with regard to the faith. It is worth it to fight the battle well and hold on to faith for the sake of your children and grandchildren. The greatest joy is seeing your faith passed down through the generations. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. 3 John 1:4 ESV. When we see what we believe passed down to our children, grandchildren, and others in our circle of influence, we realize it is worth it to carry—keep the faith—to pass it on.
"Your greatest contribution to the kingdom of God may not be something you do, but someone you raise." Andy Stanley
If one word could depict a life, Julie Davenport’s would be “redemption.” As a child in the Perkin household, Julie’s character was forged within a legacy of faith, godliness, and ministry. So when she married a charismatic young pastor on the fast-track to prominence, life was everything she’d dreamed it would be . . . on the outside. But inside, alone and hidden from view, Julie endured abuse, betrayal, and infidelities that spiraled to include miscarriage, cancer, divorce, mental illness, and eventually suicide. With a BA in Art Education from Southwest MO State University, Julie served as a parent educator with the Independence MO School District for many years. She is now an ordained minister with the Assemblies of God. Today, through speaking engagements and two daughters continuing the legacy of ministry, God is using Julie’s life-story to validate His immeasurable grace and prove His power to redeem what Satan tried so hard to destroy.
by Terry Magness
An amazing tree-covered lane near my home is one of those take-a-deep-breath-and-let-it-all-go places. You know what I mean. Exiting the main road onto a rural farm road after a harrowing day in traffic, a half-mile canopy of sheltering branches opens its arms to welcome you. Streaming sunlight casts wonderful limbed shadows across your path while squirrels scamper for walnuts dropped on purpose. The white flash of a deer's tail appears suddenly, as he jumps the fence, hides in the woods, and watches just feet from your passing car. Startled by a stranger on his turf, a raccoon quickly rushes into the brush. In your heart you know all is well with the world.
As a visual person, serene beauty like this brings healing relief from the stresses of the day. Eagerly entering its sanctuary, I find myself wanting to slow down and soak awhile in its peace. What an earthly reminder, yet merely a taste of the glory awaiting us in the secret place of the Most High.
A few weeks ago a strewn beer carton and plastic bottle shouted to me from the side of our beloved lane. Their presence desecrated and marred its beauty.
“Someone needs to pick this stuff up,” I muttered to myself.
Running behind, I drove on home. The next day, a paper drinking cup carried by the breeze, bounced along the pavement.
Not wanting to be late for my appointment, I thought, “I can pick it up on my way back.”
By the time I returned, it was after dark, and I simply couldn’t be out on that rural road alone at night, right?
Discarded items continued accumulating alongside my peaceful tree-covered lane until one day wrapped bundles of blue shredded hay bale plastic appeared scattered along the entire center section of road. I shook my head in dismay, but it was too cold to stop and pick up all that stuff. Surely, the farmer who lost it will see it the next time through and retrieve it.
Each day I dodged those ugly clumps of blue plastic and tried my best to ignore the other litter invading my space. My displeasure and focus upon these unexpected distractions grew in intensity until they robbed me of my peace and tranquility. It hurt my heart to see them lying there. Angry and agitated, I could no longer see the beauty here or feel the breath of God on my face.
It was then I realized I must seek refuge in another beauty-beyond-description place nearby, a heavenly haven available to me anytime I choose to enter in. In this secret place, under the sheltering outstretched arms of Jesus, I can see the situation from His vast perspective. In this wonderful place He shields me from the earthly, the rude and insolent assaults of each day. I am reprieved from distractions and narrow escapes on the noisy and congested road of life. I am cleansed of the dingy road film and mud that clouds my understanding, brings shame, and hides the pure. I am freed from the distractions and trials of the day that seek to bury me in their lies. Here in this place I am refreshed, energized, and healed from the abuses of life. I am strengthened and delivered from all the cares and worries that strangle my God-given vision and stifle His creativity in me. It is in this beautiful atmosphere, I receive an attitude adjustment.
With my focus upon the Lord, attitudes that held me captive to any number of emotions and behaviors changed. No longer honing in on the way I want things to be, my yearning heart enters His presence and finds rest.
The following day I again turned the corner onto the beloved lane near my home. Sun glistened through the bare limbs of the trees pouring its warmth through my windows. In the beauty of that place and in the warmth of His nearness, my soul filled with surrendered love and gratitude. . .just as my eyes fell upon one of those clumps of plastic.
Pulling to the side of the road, I put my car in park, got out, picked up the bundle, and put it in the back floorboard. I got back behind the wheel, drove to the next pile, and picked it up. . .then the next, and the next, until every pile had been retrieved, as well as the beer carton, and a plastic bottle or two. What joy! A great sense of satisfaction and accomplishment swept over me as I threw the last of that unsightly pile into our trash dumpster. I felt free! With the right focus intact, beauty, order, and rest was restored to our beautiful lane. . .but most importantly, these priceless essentials were restored in me.
Terry Magness has been in Christian ministry for forty years, is a licensed minister, author, pastoral counselor to church leaders, missionary, and founder of Grace Harbour Ministries, a Bible based international teaching and discipleship ministry to women. She oversees and teaches needs-based Overcomers classes in her local church, dedicated to helping men and women apply Biblical principles to every life situations. Terry is a lover of people in general, and her family in particular. She enjoys good friends, stimulating conversation, writing, photography, and fishing with her husband, Don.
by Kelly Godzwa
My morning meditation was entitled, “Finding Courage in the Storm.” It was certainly appropriate and timely given the state of our world and the “storm” that is COVID-19 with its effects. You see, I decided to read the book Meeting God in Scripture by Jan Johnson, which contains forty guided meditations, during Lent this year. As I read Chapter 21 and the passage from Mark 4:35-41, I followed some of the author’s suggestions—thinking of a time when God calmed your fears, reading and rereading the passage, understanding certain words or phrases a bit more deeply, picturing the scene, placing yourself in the story, etc.
I thought back to a time last year when anxiety came over me as Dave and I sat in a bank in Mexico working through the steps to get the money from the sale of our vehicle that was in the Mexican bank transferred to a US account. Even though we went through correct protocol, one glitch after another seemed to arise. There we waited—not in control of the situation and powerless to do anything about it, but not really able to leave or distract our minds with something else. How hard can it be? They’re a bank! Don’t they do things like this every day? What if the money is stuck here? What if. . .? As fear rose in me, the Holy Spirit reminded me of an exercise to name the things I was feeling, thinking, and doing. I found paper in my purse and began writing. Frustration had turned into worry. But, what did I believe about God? What was true in my situation? Who, but God, could turn this situation around OR give me peace in the midst of it?
As I read this story Mark writes about Jesus’ disciples—with Him asleep in the boat when a storm suddenly springs up—I have to smirk a bit as I picture it. The first thing I realized is that the disciples must have been furiously working to scoop water out and man the sails when someone notices that Jesus isn’t helping! How could Jesus sleep at a time like this? We’re all going to drown! “Teacher, don’t you care that we are about to die?” It seems as if they just wanted His help, but He appeared to be oblivious to their peril. Then much to their surprise when He does gets up, He doesn’t grab a bucket. He speaks. However, he speaks not to them, but to the wind and the waves! “Be quiet! Be still!”
When I read this passage aloud, tears came to my eyes. Although a different type of anxiety from what I felt while sitting at the bank, there is fear in the hearts and minds of many of us as we face the unknown—the storm with its effects. Perhaps, like the disciples, we are scooping out water, lowering the sails, and trying to lessen the severity of the consequences. Our frustration turns to worry, and we wonder if God is asleep. Why won’t He help? But. . .what do we believe about God? What is true in our situation? Who, but God, can turn this situation around OR give us peace in the midst of it?
Let’s name our fears. What are we thinking, feeling, & doing? How does that align with the fact that Jesus has power over wind and waves? Might He have power over viruses, too? Our fears are not silly or small; it just helps to readjust our perspective in light of what we know to be true about our God. Do we have faith in Him? He doesn’t tend to work like we want Him to or when we think He should, but when He does act, we will be in awe, reminded again of Who loves us and sees us, even at our most vulnerable moments.
Kelly and her husband, Dave, have served as SOMO missionaries to Mexico since 2006. While they have recently moved into the role of Mexico Area Directors, she remains active online as publisher of the Refresh Newsletter and is a part of the District's Connect Refresh groups. They have 2 college-age children, a son in high school and a miniature schnauzer. disciplemexico.org
by Aaron Buer
Last week was one of the most unexpected weeks I’ve experienced as a pastor. In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, our governor banned gatherings over 250 people. That means none of our campuses can gather in person. If your church isn’t yet in the same situation, you likely will be soon.
This post isn’t about whether churches should be closed or what I think about the virus. This post is about how to build a church community if and when you have to shut down weekend services.
Here are three strategies that we are pursuing as a church.
Connect Through Social Media
In Michigan, we are shut down. Public schools are closed for four weeks and restaurants are closed except for takeout and drive-through. Basically, the only places open are essential manufacturing and grocery stores. We are being directed to stay home.
In the midst of this, people are hungry for connection. Someone I recently talked with told me he was out driving around just to see other people in cars and feel a bit of connection.
People are lonely!
In light of this, one of the strategies we are pursuing is connecting through social media. As a staff, we have committed to posting one video per day, sharing a short message of encouragement, praying, and highlighting a specific need in our community.
Here’s what we are trying to accomplish through our social media presence:
Live Stream Your Sermon.
If you don’t usually live stream your church service or record it, you may find this idea to be intimidating. It isn’t as hard as you think and in this season, you need to do it!
If you’ve already canceled weekend services, your people need to stay connected, be encouraged, and hear the Scriptures taught. If your weekend services aren’t already canceled, it’s likely they will be soon.
If you’ve never live streamed before, here’s a few things to help you get started:
To help you get started, here are step-by-step directions on how to live stream to Facebook Live from a smartphone. It’s truly not as hard as you think and if you feel intimidated by the process, ask someone from your church who is tech-savvy or another local church that is already live streaming to help you. Trust me, you’ll learn fast and it will help keep your people connected as a church.
Digital Small Groups
The last strategy that we are pursuing is encouraging our small groups to continue meeting. Our church community is built on small groups and it’s important for people to stay connected, encouraged, and accountable during this season. Meeting together digitally is not difficult.
An excellent tool for this is Zoom. All you need is a free Zoom account and the Zoom app on your mobile device or computer. With a free Zoom account, you can meet together in groups of up to 100 people for up to 40 minutes. The Breeze staff, which is scattered all over the country, uses Zoom every week. It’s incredibly easy to set up and works great!
Consider experimenting with Zoom as a staff and then sending out an email to your congregation with instructions on how to download, set up, and use Zoom. Also, if your church is smaller, Zoom could be a great way to broadcast your service or sermon. Helping people stay connected could be a tremendous gift in this season.
While we can’t meet in person, these three strategies are helping our church continue to build community and stay connected. It’s important for us to remember the Church isn’t a building. It’s people.
by Pamela J. Morton
I looked at my phone. 11:13 am. I had exactly two minutes to drive from my in-laws’ country home to a restaurant in a nearby town where my niece sat patiently waiting for me.
I turned the key to the ignition. No go. I swung my head around wondering what in the world was happening. I’m no mechanical genius, but I have never had trouble putting the key in the engine and turning it over. No juice. The battery was dead. I took a deep breath and went back inside to enlist my husband’s help. He very patiently put on his coat and shoes and began his search for jumper cables.
I could say that this was the start of a rough day, but that wouldn’t be true. This was the MIDDLE of a rough day that had already started earlier. Let me recap.
I washed my new flash drive with the other laundry.
I booked two lunches on the same day.
I changed a password on a joint account and couldn’t remember what it was (and hadn’t written it down).
I lost my keys.
I found my keys in the ignition of my car. (What?!)
I had left the key turned so that it drained the car battery. (More…what?!)
I couldn’t find jumper cables.
I was late to meet my niece.
By noon, my frustration levels spiked as adrenaline coursed through my veins.
“What is wrong with me?” I muttered to myself. “Get it together, Pam!” I shook my head in disbelief. I have been known to have “Lucy” moments, but back-to-back, over-and-over?
As we drove to town in my father-in-law’s truck (Thank you, Pa!), I told John, “Well, I have really hit the chaos phase, haven’t I?”
He smiled and said, “Yep.” (He doesn’t require many words for most situations.)
William Bridges categorized the three phases of transition in his book, Managing Transitions, as “Ending,” “Neutral Zone,” and “New Beginning.” I had also heard the “Neutral Zone” referred to as the “Chaos Phase,” which I think is a better description of my current state.
It’s in this phase of being between the ending of something and the beginning of something else that I find most difficult. I tend to lose all common sense. Before I know what is actually happening phase-wise, I chastise myself for these ridiculous mistakes. I just add stress to my already stressed condition!
But, now that I understand that this “chaotic phase” is just that––a phase, I can see it for what it is and take it in stride. It’s a physical response to a stressful situation.
“So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace,” 2 Corinthians 4:16 MSG.
When I pause and understand what’s happening, I take a moment to thank the Lord for His “unfolding grace.” He provides peace in chaotic times while giving strength to close out old endings and enter new beginnings. Can I get a “Hallelujah!”?
PS For those curious, I didn’t cancel either lunch appointment. I kept them both. I consider myself a Professional Luncher. ;)
Pam Morton, her husband, John, and two teenaged daughters packed up their fulfilling, understood Midwestern life and moved to Cairo, Egypt in 2009. Her dream of serving overseas became a shocking reality of daily cultural encounters that often left her wondering if she’d actually landed on Mars instead! From Cairo to Khartoum to Upper Egypt to deserts unknown, Pam continues to learn, live and thrive in a sandy, sweaty, hospitable land.
An author, global worker, teacher trainer and self-proclaimed “professional luncher,” Pam wants to share laughter, life and hope with her dear Arab neighbors while providing insight into Middle Eastern customs and everyday life with her friends in the West. www.pamelajmorton.com
by Amber Mills
The holiday air is electric! Family dinners are frequent. Seasonal desserts are everywhere. The fragrance of Thanksgiving and Christmas is in the air. Naturally, we want to consume as much as we can. The light displays, the music, and cuddles during movies, the aroma of turkey, and the taste of grandma’s fudge—we recall precious memories through all of our senses during this season.
By the time we have ventured through this wonderful time of year, we do not feel so wonderful. We have eaten too much and gained a few pounds; spent more than we should, and feeling the effects. However, one of the biggest side effects of the holidays is pure exhaustion as they come to an end. Having stayed up late too many nights making sure that every moment is used to its fullest with every corner picture perfect. I have accepted every invitation to join friends and family to celebrate. I have seen seventeen parades and twenty-two light displays, built six gingerbread houses and decorated a hundred dozen sugar cookies…or so it seems. As I sit on the couch, instead of seeing the remnants an incredible few months with my husband and boys, I just see an endless list of chores to return our lives to normal. Decorations that I couldn’t wait to display now cause anxious thoughts of how to pack it all away! I am ready for this time to be over! Somehow, I don’t think this is what God had in mind for this time of year. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have thoroughly enjoyed the time, but have I savored the moments?
While pondering all of this, God pricks my heart reminding me of times in my life I have experienced the same affects of a season. There have been seasons in our ministry when we felt alone. We felt as if no one saw us. We were invisibly spinning our wheels and no one knew the struggle. Then, there have been times of incredible favor. In those times, I received many opportunities to serve in new and exciting ways. Because I knew all too well the feeling of being invisible, I wanted to seize absolutely every opportunity given, walk through every open door, and give all I had just in case this season didn’t last. Instead of feeling fulfilled in these moments, I am overwhelmed with exhaustion once again. It is as if I have experienced yet another holiday meal, over-filled my plate, consumed too much, and now I am so full that I can’t breathe. All of the things consumed were good things but moderation would have allowed me to savor each item a little more.
If I can be completely honest, I am currently experiencing a season of an over-piled plate. God has given me opportunities to minister in areas that have truly captured my heart. I revel in these ministry moments. They are not just titles, but have become who I am, and I run to these experiences with great expectation. In addition, God opened some new doors and prompted my heart to walk through them. I am out of my element and unsure of my abilities in these new areas, but they are exciting as I anticipate all that God will do in them. Then, I look at my plate and I don’t know where to begin. I have added new things to try, but kept all of my old favorites. I know the outcome if I try to consume all of this. The problem is: I know I should take the new opportunities, but my heart isn’t ready to release the old ministry areas. They have my heart, my investment.
Psalm 104:19 NLT: You made the moon to mark the seasons, and the sun knows when to set.
I have a feeling I am not alone in this journey as I see many trying to balance an over-filled plate. We carry heavy loads sometimes because no one else is there to take some of it from us. God is teaching me something I want to share with those who are also deciding where to start: It’s okay to let go. I want to put an exclamation after that statement, but my heart needs a whispered: It’s okay to let go. If God asks you to move, He already has a plan for the hole you leave.
I want to savor each item more. I want to revel in the moments as I watch God do miracles in the lives of those I get to serve. In order to do that, I have to let go. God is moving, signifying we should as well. A new year is beginning; let’s take that step of faith together.
SOMO Kid’s Camp. My heart is working with women and girls, even though I have a house full of boys.
My husband, Greg Mills, and I grew up in the same church in Joplin, MO. We have been married for 20 years. We have served in full time ministry for 19 of those years. We are the lead pastor’s at Camdenton 1st A/G in Camdenton, MO.
We have 4 boys which I homeschool. Brandyn, 18 is a freshman in college. Zach, 16 is a sophomore. Camryn, 14 is in 8th grade. My little Kyle is 9 years old and in 3rd grade.
I serve as the Children’s pastor and women’s leader in our church as well as the sectional Women’s and Girl’s Ministries rep. I have worked as a children’s pastor for over 15 years. Kids are the key not only to our survival as a church but also in our endless pursuit to evangelize our world. They must be taught who we are, why we are, and what we are truly called to do and be. To be able to walk alongside these little ones as they discover these truths for themselves is both a blessing and personally inspiring beyond measure.
by Lisa Harris
Thank you, Lord, for my eyes! There's nothing like the possibility of losing your eyesight to make you start considering the precious gift God has given to us. I've had issues with dry eye for quite some time now. It's treatable, thank goodness, with a good washing, lubrication, and taking lutein on a daily basis for eye and vision health. My issues are nothing compared to my mom's. She had dry socket macular degeneration. The doctor explained this disease is like having a ball of yarn in your eye. The core of the ball is wound very tightly, letting no light through, but the edges of the ball are very loosely wound, letting in bits and pieces of light. Mom could see a distortion of things on the peripheral—to the left and right, up and down—but she could see nothing straight ahead. As time progressed, the ball became more compacted and the ability to see became less and less. I watched her struggle with diminishing sight on a daily basis. Of course, I'm concerned my dry eye condition may develop into something more and I, too, may suffer the devastation of the inability to see.
As I pondered my mom’s life with diminishing sight, I began considering how and what I see in my world on a daily basis—the view out my bedroom window, the printed word on a page, the faces of my grandchildren. It came to me that eyesight—the ability to see, vision—is more than just being able to see out of my eyes. What's inside my heart and mind determines the view from my eyes, whether it's distorted and clouded or clear and bright. In Ephesians 1:18 NASB, Paul prays for the people, "...that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling...." What is in my heart influences—colors, gives perspective, helps me to understand—what I see through my eyes. Matthew tells us, "...for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" Matthew 6:21 ESV. If that is true, then how do I keep the eyes of my heart in good health? Can I wash, lubricate, and take a pill? Of course, not! If only it were that easy. We are bombarded with all sorts of stuff every day that blurs our heart’s vision: TV, radio, Face Book, books, Internet, gossip, busyness, unhealthy relationships. Then there are prejudices, impatience, self-centeredness, skepticism, unforgiveness, and bitterness. Whew! What a mess!
When I think about all the junk coming at me that I can't control, I'm drawn back to one of my favorite scriptures:
Finally, believers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable and worthy of respect, whatever is right and confirmed by God’s word, whatever is pure and wholesome, whatever is lovely and brings peace, whatever is admirable and of good repute; if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think continually on these things [center your mind on them, and implant them in your heart] Philippians 4:8 AMP.
And there it is, the prescription for keeping the eyes of my heart in good health!
It's such an old thing. One of those tried and true, old-fashioned remedies that always works, like Grandma's poison ivy potion that nothing on the market today can beat. It took time and effort for her to hunt down the sumac root, cut it up, cook it down, and then mix up that salve. But in today's world I usually look first for a new thing, an easy fix, something that makes my life easier and I don't have to work so hard. The daily monitoring of what I see and hear is not an easy fix. It takes time and effort to bring my body and mind into subjection. Sometimes I'm just too lazy to turn the TV off or to switch the radio to another station. Sometimes I don't make time in my day to read God's Word. And I can't give you a good excuse for why I may not always acknowledge God in all my ways. Yes, I am human and not perfect, and He knows me better than I know myself.
I'm so grateful to God's Spirit for reminding me what is right and true, and always bringing me back around to what I must do so I can see clearly with the eyes of my heart. Knowing the right thing to do is only half the prescription. It is the doing—putting that knowledge into action—that makes the difference. And that's up to me!
What clouds your vision? What do you do to keep the eyes of your heart in good health?
Lisa Harris is the wife of one minister husband, mother to three married children and grandma to nine grandchildren. She and Jerry have been in the pastor and missionary business for over 30 years. They now oversee Reach Missouri Network for church planting and Lisa is enjoying her new vocation as a librarian.