Monday, July 20, 2009

Celebrating Our Daughter's New Birth

Our children are not only preacher’s kids, but church planter’s kids. (As anyone who has planted a church knows, it’s a completely different adventure.) Our oldest daughter was born three weeks after we launched our first church, followed 21 months later by our younger daughter (who, for the purposes of this blog, I’ll call J.J.). After a brief hiatus where Brett served on staff at another church plant, we followed God’s call to launch The Church at Sendera Ranch—expanded to a family of five, with our then one-year-old son in tow.

In other words, our kids have no idea what an established church looks like. They’ve never been part of a church that has its own building, much less activities such as children’s choir, AWANA, and the like. Instead, our kids have only known churches that meet in such unusual places as movie theaters, elementary schools, and now a preschool. And none of these church plants (so far) has offered traditional children’s church activities outside of Sunday morning classes.

On the other end of the church spectrum, I was brought up in a traditional Baptist church, where I attended Sunday school, GA’s, children’s choir, and Vacation Bible School. We put on well-practiced, extravagantly costumed musicals for the church, as well as eagerly competed in “sword drills” (finding Bible verses) and memorized large sections of Scripture for such prizes as a new KJV Bible with our name embossed on the cover. I learned how to read music--and follow the alto part--by singing out a pew hymnal, and I knew the first, second, and last stanza of almost every hymn.

To be very honest, during the past eight years, on occasion I have lamented that our children weren’t having the same kinds of church experiences I had. And (I’m embarrassed to even admit this) sometimes I worried that they would be somehow spiritually stunted from the lack of such organized, Bible-based activities as AWANA or sword drills. Still, God had called us to a life of church planting, and we’ve always understood that call to be for our entire family.

So every Sunday, our kids help set up chairs, greet visitors, and show other children where the classrooms are. And they not only participate in both services at TCASR, but they also stay to help us break down the tables, straighten the kids’ rooms, and pack everything away. They've helped us distribute door hangers, hand out brochures about our church, stuff Easter eggs, and serve popcorn and snow cones at community events.

And they have watched us host small groups, invite people to dinner, pray with and for people in our church, and share Christ as we have opportunity to do so. And since our church doesn’t have a building, Brett offices from home, where they have a front-row seat to watch him pray daily for our church, faithfully study his Bible to write each week's sermon, contact church members and visitors to pray for them, meet weekly with the men he disciples, and lead people to Christ.

Come to think of it, all the time I had spent fretting about our children not participating in traditional church activities, they were seeing God at work in ways I could never have imagined as a child.

And in answer to our earnest prayers, God has called not only our older daughter, but now our younger daughter to Himself at a young age. The details of J.J.’s conversion are precious and sweet, but for the purpose of this blog, suffice it to say that she came to know Christ with the same zeal that she has for all of life.
And on June 28, 2009, Brett had the honor and privilege of baptizing our own daughter, now our sister in Christ.

So I’m going on record: I take back all those worries about our kids not being part of traditional church programs.

The truth is, as a child, I experienced a lot of church—but our children are experiencing a lot of Christ.

What else could a mother possibly hope for?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Recession-Proof Faith

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”
—Jeremiah 29:11 NLT

As I was driving to Costco in Southlake the other day, I passed by the now-vacant monolith that used to be Circuit City. It seems surreal that the famous red logo is gone forever. But it’s not just Circuit City, of course. Everywhere you look these days, another business has closed its doors or filed for bankruptcy. Chances are, you know someone who has lost a job in the past few months. Or perhaps that someone is you.

In these challenging economic times, many people—hardworking, loyal, and highly skilled people—have landed on the cutting-room floor of downsized company budgets and suddenly find themselves living paycheck to . . . no paycheck. And others who still have their jobs feel anxious and stressed, going to work every day in fear that they, too, might get the dreaded pink slip.

Let’s face it: during a recession that has lasted longer and is more widespread than anyone expected, it’s hard not to worry about what will happen tomorrow, next week, next month, or even next year. Especially when the daily news details story after story of financial and political turmoil across the world and in our own neighborhoods. But, as Christians, we should not be anxious or worried about the future. That’s easier to say than to do, as we all know. There’s a good reason that the most often repeated command in the Bible is “Do not fear”!

God assures us that nothing that happens in this world is outside His perfect plan, including the current economic recession. Even when circumstances seem bleak, He promises that His plans are “for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).

When we are tempted to fear what tomorrow may hold, He urges us, “Remember the things I have done in the past. For I alone am God! I am God, and there is none like me. Only I can tell you the future before it even happens. Everything I plan will come to pass, for I do whatever I wish” (Isaiah 46:9–10).

In other words, we don’t have to worry about tomorrow, because all of our tomorrows are in God’s hands.

And whenever we start to fret about whether we will be able to pay the bills or buy groceries, we can take comfort in our heavenly Father’s promise to take care of us and to provide for our daily needs.

That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? … So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. (Matthew 6:25, 31–33)

How can you have recession-proof faith?
By remembering that God, who loves you, will give you everything you need.

When doubt arises, remember what God has already done for you. Think back to the situations He has already brought you through. Look at how many times He has restored your joy. Take courage in knowing that He will bring you through, no matter the situation.

And when you need an extra boost of faith, consider the apostle Paul’s prescription for finding peace in troubled times:

Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! … Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. (Philippians 4:4, 6–7)

So the next time you find yourself feeling anxious and worried about the future, take a moment to rejoice in the Lord, tell Him what you need, and thank Him for what He has done. Then He will send you what you need most of all—His peace.

This article appears in the July-August issue of Haslet Style.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

New Life, Restored Sight, and Final Healing

For those of you who are regular readers of my blog, thank you for your patience the past two weeks. In the past fourteen days, I have experienced a vast spectrum of human emotions—from amazing joy and celebration of my younger daughter’s new life in Christ, to the worry and fear of my older daughter’s eye surgery and the excruciating wait to know the results (which are very positive, praise the Lord!), to receiving news that made me drop everything to travel my dear grandmother’s bedside for a week, helping my mother care for her as Grannie waits to go to heaven and be finally, fully healed.

In due time, I will write about each of these experiences, so stay tuned. I have only two days at home to spend with my family and catch up on manuscripts (and have Internet access), and then I will go back to my grandmother’s bedside, should the Lord not yet call her home.

In the coming weeks, I will share with you the journey the Lord has taken our family on this summer. I appreciate your continued thoughts and prayers as we await my grandmother’s homegoing.

In the meantime, check out my husband's blog about a memorable wedding he officiated this week. It's an amazing story about how God changes lives, sometimes even in the middle of a wedding ceremony!