Thursday, April 29, 2010

When Life Throws You a Curve

It was Sunday afternoon. The stress had been mounting. Then the pain started…and Jimmy’s back went out. This hasn’t happened in the past four years, but when it happens it is horrible! When his back goes out Jimmy can’t do anything without pain. Sitting causes pain. Standing causes pain. Laying down causes pain. Reclining in his chair causes pain. Going to the bathroom…well you get the picture.

As a result, I was put in charge of leading youth last night. Trust managing twenty-five teens virtually on your own is not at the top of my “Fun Things to Do” list. Truth be told, I got so stressed out about it that I felt physically ill by the time 7:00 rolled around, and I had a bad attitude about it all afternoon. I wished that two of our most experienced college helpers weren’t out of town for a funeral. I wished Jimmy was well enough to go with me. I wished that the adult who sometimes fills in for us didn’t have to be in prayer meeting last night. In short, I was really selfish and whiny about the whole situation.

Then God got my attention. He brought to my mind one of the verses I memorized a long, long time ago. “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life—in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing.” (Phil. 2:14-16) Okay, God. I get it. I feel convicted. I have been doing exactly what this verse tells me not to do. Plus, my attitude is keeping me from being a shining light, a representation of You, to the people around me. All they see is a grouch with a frown on her face. If they knew I was a Christian I am sure that they wouldn’t want to be one! What a shame.
But God didn’t stop there…

After convicting my sinful attitude and actions, God reminded me of another memory verse. “And me know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified he also glorified.” (Rom. 8:28-20) I couldn’t believe it! God took the time to encourage me and to remind me of His promises even though I had messed up! Even if we don’t get to go to the Cardinals’ sluggie game on Friday or go on our anniversary trip to see our friends in Arkansas, God has it all under control and He is working it together for good. Why? He predestined it! It is our destiny. God knows the beginning, middle, and end or our story. Nothing escapes Him. He has called us through it and justified us in it. In the end, He will get all the glory from the good outcome He will bring to us. Yes, we may not see the good that will come from these momentary troubles until many years later, but rest assured…God ALWAYS keeps His promises.

So when life throws you a curve, STOP complaining and START looking forward to the good that will come!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Staying Connected

If you're like me, then you are super busy and you find it really hard to budget all of your time wisely. You might also find that since you are constantly busy and you work very hard that you are also very lazy when you do have down time. When I don't have things planned I tend to veg. Sadly, my busy schedule and veg-itude have horrible side effects. The major side effect is that my relationships tend to fall through the cracks.

From a very early age, I neglected relationships in favor or having more time to do what I wanted or just out of pure laziness or because I didn't think that I was good enough or cool enough to hang out with anyone. I never learned how to maintain a lasting, viable friendship. I don't know how to really stay connected with people. I am on facebook so that I can "keep up" with my friends but I don't make an effort to check their status updates as often as I could. I have a phone so that people can get ahold of me at any time but I rarely pick it up and call people. How can I truly be connected?

Problems in maintaining my earthly relationships have also bled over into my relationship with God. Sadly, I have passed over God for a chance to play more Xbox 360. I have neglected to talk to God because I have too many things that I want to do. I don't take time to find out what God has to say. How can I truly be connected?

Let me just tell you that typing this all out has really put a few things into perspective. It has also helped me think through some of the issues here. I think that the solution is the same for the spiritual as it is for the physical.

#1 STOP being Selfish!
My laziness is selfish. Point blank. Boom! There I said it. I am also selfish in my relationships because I try for a little while and then quit when I feel like the other person isn't returning the friendship or giving me enough attention. Me. Me. ME! Selfish. Stop it!

#2 START listening.
Being involved with God and being involved with your friends and really taking time to stop and listen is the key to great two-way conversation. This is a skill that I need to practice more. I need to learn to listen wholeheartedly. When they are talking I shouldn't be thinking about what I am going to say next or my come back for the argument. I need to pay attention to what is being said. I need to start listening.

#3 COMMIT to being active.
Once I have listened, I need to be active in sharing. Sharing can be scary, especially if you have trust issues like I do. But without a response the conversation is one sided and nothing gets done. That doesn't mean I need to have the last word, but it does mean that I need to be open to letting someone else know me as I really am--flaws and all.

Take time today to STOP being selfish, START listening, and COMMIT to be active in the relationship. See if things don't start to improve. I'm going to try it and I hope you will too.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Planning Events They'll Love

This past weekend our youth group went on their Third Annual Mystery Trip. We had a blast! It constantly amazes me how much fun we have on an event that we weren’t even sure would work the first time we did it. The secret…get the students involved. I feel this is why we have so many successful events.

In the fall we have our Back to School Retreat. During this retreat we play games, have fun, do worship, fellowship, eat lots of junk food, and sit down and plan out the schedule for the entire school year. Yep! We do it all from August to May in one to two days. Then we crash the day after because our brains are so exhausted!
No matter what age, if you get your target audience involved in the planning then they will love it. I have found this to be true for two reasons:

#1 They know what to expect.
#2 It gives them a sense of ownership and pride in the events because they helped come up with them and they are more likely to invite their friends.

Take Mystery Trip for example…
After we all loaded up on junk food (Jimmy would say it is vital to creativity) we sat down as a group for a brainstorming session. We have one person who writes all of the ideas down on paper and only one rule—no idea is stupid or bad or out-of-bounds. So everyone started throwing out ideas and someone said a mystery trip. We wrote it down. Once we were finished brainstorming we all pulled out the calendars that we printed for them and flipped to the first month. Someone picks a number from 1 to whatever number of ideas we come up with (usually around 150). *FYI: We keep the brainstorming lists from year to year so if we are having trouble getting started or coming up with more ideas we can always draw upon events that we originally shelved for one reason or another.*

When they chose “a mystery trip” we talked about a few things…
What would this event be?
What would we do during this event?
Can we afford to do an event like this?
Would your friends come to an event like this?

Once all of these things are considered we decide whether or not the event makes the calendar cut. If it does then we decide where on the calendar to schedule it and an assistant event director (one of our student leaders) is assigned to help with the planning and organization of the event.

Kevin, one of our college students, has been the assistant director of Mystery Trip since it was born in 2008. Every year he helps Jimmy decide where we are going to go, what we are going to do, and he keeps it a secret from everyone else…it’s a mystery after all! Some events are so popular that they become a tradition and occur in the same month every year (such as Mystery Trip)! And that’s how you plan an event that you know they’ll love!

Share your ideas for events of all ages. What has worked for you? What didn’t work for you? Do you have ideas for how an event could be done better? Share them in the comments! Everyone is welcome to participate. No idea is a stupid idea!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Who Am I?

In the hectic moments of life when you have run from one activity to another and from one responsibility to the next, do you ever find yourself asking “Who am I?” It is easy to confuse our role with who we really are. Am I a mom? A youth minister? A wife? A coach? A teacher? Not only do we get confused about who we are, we also get confused in our purpose and self-worth.

I was recently talking to my aunt about a project we are working on together. She is writing a children’s book and I am supposed to be illustrating it. I have been having trouble getting the illustrations right because of some self-doubt issues that I deal with on a daily basis. When I expressed these feelings to her, this is what she wrote back to me:

“My precious favorite second niece,

I am not sure why you are not confident, but let me reassure you of things you may have forgotten.  Within you, there is a magnificent ability!!  Not only are you artistic, extremely intelligent, and hard working, but you are a beautiful daughter of the King.  Do not doubt for a minute that He is beside you, holding you close to him and will give you insight and wisdom beyond measure if you ask him.  The beauty that you carry is far above rubies, do not dismiss what I am saying. Sometimes we look at ourselves and for some reason, we beat ourselves up for not being a size 2 or not being perfect in some respect.  You count all of the qualities that you possess!!!  You are loving, compassionate, encouraging, supportive, and I think right now you are also overwhelmed with the everyday stressors of life.  You are carrying a great deal of responsibility for your job and your home life.  Look to our God and ask for peace during this time.  Remember the Holy Spirit is the comforter.  Also remember that those of us who love you are here for you.  The phone is by my bed, please call anytime----If you need to talk, I am here for you always.

Don't forget who loves you.”

With that encouragement under my belt, I was able to stop and ask myself “Who does God say I am?” If you stop about think about it, God pictures us all the same. One of us is not better than the other. He created us just the way He wanted us to be. Do we mess up? Yes. Do we go outside of God’s will? Yes. Does God’s perspective or opinion of us ever change? NO! Absolutely NOT!

Who Does God Say I Am?
His Cherished One
Created with a Purpose
His Beloved
Not Forgotten!
Precious to Him (Isaiah 43:4)
Bought with a Price (1 Corinthians 6:20)
The Bride of Christ
Redeemed (Exodus 15:13)
Worthy (2 Thessalonians 1:5)
Beautiful (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

I could go on and on. Spend time today seeking out who God says you are. You can do it! It’s amazing what you’ll find! Also, I didn't have time to find the references for the other characteristics, but if you know what they are--feel free to post them in the comments section! Thanks so much!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Dustin's Story

Wow! This week has been something else! I’m going to try and tell you a little about what has happened without going on and on and on…okay I am sure you get the picture.
Geez…I really don’t know where to begin.

A Little History
Many of the youth and college students at Villebrook come from broken homes. We even have several that have never met (or can’t remember) one of their biological parents. This blows my mind because I never had to go through that. I am very thankful that as weird as my family is, we have always been together. Anyway, back to this week…

About Dustin's Past
One of our college students, Dustin, has never met his biological father. Since June Jimmy and Dustin’s girlfriend Shaina have been praying that Dustin would try to find his biological father. Shaina’s grandmother even urged Dustin to find his father for medical history because of the strong migraines he has. Dustin just wasn’t ready yet.

Dustin has had an interesting family history. During the young years of his life, he thought that his mom’s first husband was his dad. It wasn’t until after they got a divorce that his mom told him that he wasn’t Dustin’s father. Then there was a while when he didn’t have any kind of father. Later his mother re-married and the man Dustin now considers his father came into his life. All the while he thought that his biological father wanted nothing to do with him and that he wasn’t around and that he didn’t even send child support to help him out.

About Dustin Now
Now Dustin is 20 years old. He has had some real upheaval in his life. He has been supporting himself for the past couple of years and just like everyone else he has suffered from the lull in the economy. After Dustin lost his job, stopped taking college classes because he couldn’t pay the tuition, and his car got repossessed Dustin’s mom kicked him out of the house and told him that she didn’t want anything to do with him until “you get your life back together.” So for the last couple of months they haven’t really seen or spoken to each other.

I have been proud of the Dustin and the attitude that he has had even through all of these things. Although he hasn’t had a job, he hasn’t let depression win. He has stayed committed to daily Christian disciplines, his relationships, and to church. I am proud of the man that God is shaping him into. Through this process, God brought Dustin to the point where he was finally open to meeting his real father.

As Dustin talked to Jimmy about this we all secretly rejoiced inside. They talked about how to find his father and all the possible reactions that could happen when Dustin found him. When Dustin called his Grandma to find out everything that she could about his biological father, he began to prepare himself for the worst.

Through his Grandma, Dustin learned his father’s name, last known city of residence, and employer. Knowing it was a long shot; he sat down one night last week and typed his dad’s name, employer, and city into Facebook. Only one name came up in the search. Through closer investigation, it became clear that his man was Dustin’s father! Now the question was what to say…

Through his father’s profile he learned that he had two half-sisters. Thankfully they also had Facebook profiles so he was able to send the oldest a friend request. All the time not knowing how to break the ice, Dustin prayed and pondered and tried to find the words to say “Are you my family?”

What Happened this Week
This week, Dustin received a message from his half-sister via Facebook. She was SO excited! It turns out that she had originally accepted his friend request because she thought he looked familiar and might have been someone from her high school, but when she and her mom were looking through her Facebook friends her mom recognized Dustin. She knew right away that he was her husband’s son who had been lost but not forgotten. The message was awesome! Best of all it broke the ice and Dustin didn’t have that burden anymore! God worked it all out perfectly!

Since the original message, Dustin has conversed constantly with them over Facebook. Plus he also talked to his father on the phone for several hours. Then last night at church, Dustin met his dad for the first time that he could remember! Just being there and witnessing it was a truly awesome experience! Now Dustin has the opportunity to know a part of him that has been hidden all these years.

As it turns out, Dustin’s dad (Mike) has made several attempts over his life to find Dustin. He was even successful a couple of times although he was never allowed to see him. The last time he had seen Dustin he was one and half and he brought him some presents for his birthday. Dustin’s half-sisters have grown up knowing about Dustin all their lives and have even had a picture of him in their house. Dustin found out that he has three sisters that he knew nothing about but who have loved him all the same.

Needless to say, it will be a long road as they all get to know each other for the first time. BUT what an amazing road it is! Aren’t you glad that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him?

“For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:11-13

Monday, April 12, 2010

Life Under the Microscope

Being in ministry is like living under a microscope. Everyone is constantly looking at you to see what you are doing, when you are doing it, and how you are doing it. I think it actually makes some people feel better about themselves if they can catch a minister doing something wrong. They want to be able to say "At least I didn't do what pastor so and so did the other night." It's kinda sick really.

However sick and twisted this is, I have also found it to be true. As minister's and minister's wives we are called to have a higher standard and to be set apart because of God's calling (1 Thess. 4:7). I simply find it frustrating that the willingness of others to tear each other down to make themselves look better adds so much stress to a life that is hard enough already.

Don't people know that it is hard enough to live a life worthy of the calling we have received (Eph. 4:1)! In order to glorify God and minimize stress, we should follow this scriptural advice: "Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life—in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing." Philippians 2:14-16.

This doesn't mean that we should let everyone walk all over us and push us around and treat us like garbage. BUT what it does mean is that we should do everything in our life to please Christ. If we aren't doing anything that Christ would disapprove of then we should be living a life worthy of being under the microscope. If people look at us and scrutinize us they should see Christ first and foremost. Then the imperfections don't seem so bad.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Why It's Hard to be Popular in Ministry

One of the struggles that is faced by many husbands and wives in ministry is the question, “Do people like me?” or it might be “Are people going to hate me if I tell them the truth?”. Why is it that it’s so hard to be popular when you are in ministry. It’s not that I miss being popular because I was never one of the popular crowd, but I don’t want to feel like people are constantly mad. I want to at least feel like people like me most of the time.

It’s hard to keep your hopes in this arena when it’s your job and your ministry to tell people what the Bible says about how we should live, the lifestyle and friendship choices we should be making, and how we should be looking to God’s will for our lives before all else. People just don’t want to hear it. They come to church to get their ears tickled and to come away from the experience with a warm fuzzy feeling about God. What were you thinking that you would actually tell them something that steps on their toes!

Jimmy and I specialize in students. So some of the areas that we often find we are not too popular in are…


“Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness.” 1 Timothy 2:9-10


“The righteous should choose his friends carefully, for the way of the wicked leads them astray.” Proverbs 12:26


“I will set before my eyes no vile thing. The deeds of faithless men I hate; they will not cling to me.” Psalm 101:3


“Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?” 2 Corinthians 6:14 ESV

“Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals.’” 1 Corinthians 15:33 ESV

Just like adults, teenagers don’t like to be told that they might have been wrong or made a bad decision. Instead of stopping for a minute to listen and see what God has to say about the matter (I don’t expect them to just take my word for it!) they just get angry and decide that they don’t want to talk to you, spend time with you, or listen to you anymore. That’s why I find it exceedingly hard to be popular in ministry.

“Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” Ecclesiastes 12:13 & 14

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

God Doesn't Give Up

"It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect." Psalm 18:32

I hope I am not alone in saying that each and every day can be a struggle. As a Christian, I struggle to live a life worthy of the calling I have received (Eph. 4:1), I strive to be holy as God is holy (1 Peter 1:16), and to let no unwholesome talk come from my mouth (Eph. 4:29). Let's just say that there are days, like yesterday, where I fail miserably.

When I have days like that I just want to give up. I find myself asking, "Wouldn't it just be easier if I weren't a Christian and didn't believe in God? Then I could live however I want!" Yet when I think about all the times that God has proven over and over and over again that He is there for me when no one else has been, I know that I could never have made it without Him. Quite frankly, if I was not a Christian I probably would have committed suicide a long time ago! This life just isn't worth it without God.

BUT today I want to take a moment to stand on the promises. In Psalm 18:32, God promises to arm us with the strength that we need to make it through this moment, this day, this week, this month...I hope you get the picture...and HE is the one who will make our ways perfect. Why do we fail so often? Why do we get so frustrated? It's because we are trying to do it all in OUR strength instead of relying on the strength that God will arm us with if we ask Him and let Him.

Let go and let God!

Standing on the Promises

Words & Music: R. Kel­so Car­ter, in Prom­is­es of Per­fect Love, by John Swe­ney and Kel­so Car­ter (Phil­a­del­phia, Penn­syl­van­ia: John J. Hood, 1886)

Standing on the promises of Christ my King,
Through eternal ages let His praises ring,
Glory in the highest, I will shout and sing,
Standing on the promises of God.

Standing, standing,
Standing on the promises of God my Savior;
Standing, standing,
I’m standing on the promises of God.

Standing on the promises that cannot fail,
When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,
By the living Word of God I shall prevail,
Standing on the promises of God.


Standing on the promises I now can see
Perfect, present cleansing in the blood for me;
Standing in the liberty where Christ makes free,
Standing on the promises of God.


Standing on the promises of Christ the Lord,
Bound to Him eternally by love’s strong cord,
Overcoming daily with the Spirit’s sword,
Standing on the promises of God.


Standing on the promises I cannot fall,
Listening every moment to the Spirit’s call
Resting in my Savior as my all in all,
Standing on the promises of God.


Monday, April 5, 2010

It was Good

Today I finished a class project that I have been working on for approximately 12 hours. I purposely picked a hard object to re-create because I loved the challenge of it but as a result I probably spent three times as much time on this project than anyone else in my class. It was fun to watch the object take shape on the computer screen as I tweaked and re-tweaked and polished each effect. I meticulously worked over the finer points to make it as true to the original as possible. Finally, today I was finished. No. It wasn't perfect and it wasn't the same down to every detail, but it was Good. I was proud of my creation, and for once I understood something...

This is how God felt when He created ME!

He looked at me and said "She is good!" In Genesis 1, God says the words "it was good" SIX times. When He created humans He said we were VERY good. We aren't copies. We are His original creation and He is proud of us!

When God looks at us, He doesn't see the flaws or imperfections. He doesn't see the extra 20 or 30 pounds. He doesn't see that we don't keep our houses clean or our nail perfectly manicured. He sees his perfect creation and He still says that we are VERY good!

What will it take for you to see yourself the way that God sees you?

"Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.' So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them...God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day." Genesis 1:26, 27, & 31

 This is my project. I was to copy a manufactured object as closely to the original as possible.

This is the original image of the Shelby GT500 "Elanor" from Gone in 60 Seconds.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

God My Shield

“As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him. For who is God besides the LORD? And who is the Rock except our God?” 2 Samuel 22:31 & 32 NASB

When life goes haywire who do you run to? I haven’t written much lately because our lives have been going crazy. When things are nuts, it takes an extra measure of determination to keep your focus. I fall short weekly – sometimes daily! Thankfully, I feel like God really got my attention and focus back during DNOW and it has greatly helped me the last two weeks. Despite the chaos that has surrounded me, I have doubled my efforts to run to God who is my shield. I want to take refuge in Him.

Thankfully God also gives us physical people and relationships that He uses to shelter us. I hope that you had an earthly father who loved and protected you and sheltered you, but I realize that not everyone did have such a father. However, this can’t stop you from being a shield or shelter for the people in your lives. Sometimes shielding is as simple as listening to someone who has had peanut butter smeared on their laptop for no apparent reason. Sometimes it means guiding and correcting someone who looks up to you when they are making decisions that could put them in danger (physical or emotional).

  1. a broad piece of armor, varying widely in form and size, carried apart from the body, usually on the left arm, as a defense against swords, lances, arrows, etc.
  2. a person or thing that protects.
  3. to protect (someone or something) with or as if with a shield.
  4. to serve as a protection for.
  5. to hide or conceal; protect by hiding.
Stop & Think

Who has been a shield for you in your times of trouble?


How did those experiences of being shielded affect your life?


How have you shielded someone?


How can God use to shield and bless someone else’s life?