Monday, June 25, 2012

A Call in Texas

I have so many things I want to write this morning!  It is Monday and I missed writing last week while I was out of town!  I will spare you all the craziness and just share with you what God reminded me of as I sat in the auditorium of Jones Performing Arts Center (JPAC) on the campus of Ouachita Baptist University this past week.  It was a sweet remembrance of just what God has done in our family.  I think it's important to reflect where the stones are laid in our lives and the promises God has kept.  A time to remember how he has rescued us.   Loved us.  Taught us.  Provided for us. 

Super Summer Arkansas (SSAR) was GREAT this year!  (SSAR is a camp held in Arkadelphia, AR for students)  God did some amazing things in many students lives this past week.  Everytime we go to SSAR, it feels like we are at a BIG family reunion. Current students, college students, families of student minister's, all traveling to the same place, with the same purpose.   Kind of makes me think of what the Festivals in the Bible probably felt like.  An opportunity to meet with the people who you have crossed paths with at some point in your life, meeting together to worship.

"For these things I remember, and I pour out my soul within me.
For I used to go along with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God,
With the voice of joy and thanksgiving,
a multitude keeping festival." Psalm 42:4

This year was extra special because it was Warren's turn at being the Super Summer Chair.  He had the privilege of choosing the theme, scripture, and having the responsibility to lead the camp this year.  When he first told me his theme idea, I wasn't too sold on it.  But as the year progressed and I learned what and how important the feasts/festivals were, I was passionately sold on the theme.  It was at the festival of Booths that Jesus stood and said,

"If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink." John 7:37

(This verse has much meaning when you are at rec at SSAR!)

Seeing Warren on stage leading at different times caused me to think back to where all God has taken us as a couple and as a family.  As I sat in the front row seat on Tuesday night, all around me sat former students that are now in college serving the Lord.  We have known most of them before they could even tie their shoes.  Several rows behind me sat current students, yelling with excitement .  In that section sat our Tyler.  Loving the Lord.  I just can't tell you what it does to a person when you are sitting in an invitation and you see students you once led to Christ or discipled, now leading others to Christ/discipling.  Very humbling.  A sweet taste of God's grace and love.

When Tyler was 6 months old, Warren and I were living in Huntington, Arkansas on his parents homeplace.  Warren was working for KHBS Channel 40 in Fort Smith in the promotions department.  He had been working at this job ever since he graduated the University of Arkansas with a degree in English.  During the Summer of 1997, KTEN in Denison/Sherman, Texas called Warren and offered him the director position for promotions/production at the station.  After much prayer, we took the job.

Warren liked his job pretty well.  But God used this job to make us uncomfortable.  Warren lost his passion for television.  It began to really bother him.  He would come home unfulfilled every day.  No passion.  The only thing keeping him going at work was the ministry opportunties he saw and was trying to take advantage of.
The building in Denison, Texas where KTEN was housed

Warren and I would search the scriptures over the next year we were in Texas.  We studied a Precept study together, I Timothy.  God used this book of the Bible as well as  the youth minister and yourthworkers at Parkside Baptist Church to work in our lives.  He also used a 12th grade Sunday School class that we taught to help us discern God's will for our lives.  We knew God was doing something.  We just had to seek Him for the answers.  We lived in Denison for 18 short months.  God brought us to this place to do a new work in our lives.
Parkside Baptist Church (Denison, Texas)

"And you will seek Me and find Me,
when you search for Me with all your heart." Jeremiah 29:11

After sensing a calling in our lives to the ministry, Tyler, Warren, and I knelt down on the rose-colored carpet in our apartment.  I will never forget the spot and those tiny knees of Tyler kneeling on that floor.  We confessed, committed, and gave our lives to full-time minstry, 
Whatever that would mean.  We were ready to go.

Tyler and Warren at our apartment in Denison
That was 14 years ago. God would lead us to youth ministry where Warren has served in 2 churches as youth and associate pastor/youth and family minister. 

Blessings.  Growth.  Joy.  Struggles.  Passion.  Fulfillment.  Humbled.  Purpose.  Ministry has been this and so much more for our family since we surrendered to the calling He put on our lives.

Calling.  God calls each of us to different tasks to complete His will on this earth.  He doesn't call everyone to full-time ministry like our family, but he calls all of us to minister to people.

What does the ministry in your life look like? 
How about your family's life?

I know for me, one of the greatest blessings on this whole entire earth is serving with Warren, Tyler, Ethan, and Elise. I love mission trips with them.  Camps.  I love having dinner with them and the friends we are trying to reach.  I love ministry at ballgames with my family. There is nothing better than having a vision together as a family about a person or another family that you would like to reach for Christ. 

So I encourage you, find a family that needs Jesus.  Sit at the dinner table and pray for them.  As you drive down the road, talk about ways to build a relationship with them.  Intentionally cross paths with them as a family.  It's our calling to always be doing this.  Always to be sharing Christ.  It's important enough that Christ's last words to us was just this.

" shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem,
and in all Judea and Samaria,
and even to the remotest part of the earth." Acts 1:8

You won't regret it for a minute.  Ministry. 

"...walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called,
with all humility and gentleness, with patience,
showing forbearance to one another in love,
 be dilligent to preserve the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace." Ephesians 4:1-3

Saturday, June 9, 2012

walking down the mountain

There is one excited girl at my house!  She has her suitcase out and is ready to load it.  At 9 am, she and a group of children from our church will jump on the church bus and head to the "mountain" at Camp Solgohachia for 5 days of fun, friends, and God's Word. 

"How lovely on the mountains
Are the feet of him who brings good news
Who announces peace
And brings good news of happiness,
Who announces salvation,
and says, "Your God reigns!" Isaiah 52:7

Camp Solgohachia evening worship time

This is her first "real" year to be a camper.  She is getting to room with some great friends.  They have already planned out most details of their week.  They have made sure they have signed up for the same activities, in the same order.  Blesses my heart greatly to know that she loves these times.

Being youth minister kids, camp is no stranger to them.  All 3 of our kids have attended and LOVED camp since they entered this world.  They really don't know summers any other way.  Many summers for Ethan and Tyler, in their early years, were a week of youth camp at Siloam Springs, a week at Super Summer, a week or more on a Mission trip, and then a week at children's camp.  Lots of camp.  Lots of packing, baths in rubbermaid tubs for those 2 little ones (Hilltop at Siloam only had showers.  That does not work well with an infant!), and lots of strawberry juleps.
Tyler and Ethan in front of Hatfield Hall at Siloam Springs Camp

"For a day in Thy courts is better than a thousand outside.
I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God,
Than dwell in the tents of wickedness." Psalms 84:10

Tyler, Ethan and Elise spent every summer on the "mountain" at Siloam and loved it.  Crawdads, dirt roads, and sweat.  Popcorn on the bridge, afternoon swimming, and Mike Seabaugh's skits.
Elise(19 mos), Ethan, and Tyler at Siloam

Siloam became an even more special place four summers ago when Ethan trusted Jesus as his Savior and Lord there.  He had been thinking and wrestling with his need for Jesus.  He knew he was a sinner and believed Jesus died on the cross for him, but he just wasn't ready to make that commitment.  It was during the summer of 2008 that Ethan got up during invitation, walked down to his daddy and said he was ready to make that commitment.  I followed behind them and the three of us knelt down together as he prayed and received Christ.
Ethan and Warren right after he was saved at Siloam

"Great is the Lord, and highly to be praised;
And His greatness is unsearchable.
One generation shall praise Thy works to another,
And shall declare Thy mighty acts." Psalm 145:3-4

Yes, camp at our house is important and we totally believe in these special times.  It's a time for our students and children to go to the "mountain" and hear from God.  A time to set aside the busyness, distractions, and pleads for a clean room.  It's a time for them to be able to get back to the basics of God's Word, prayer, love, kindness, and a deep passion for the lost friends around them.  The important stuff. 
" walk in Him,
having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him
and established in your faith...." Colossians 2:6b-7a

A couple of years ago, our oldest son Tyler came home from Super Summer. This was his first year as a "real" camper at Super Summer.  He and I worked hard packing him.  We packed each outfit in gallon size ziploc bags and labeled them so he would know when to wear the clothes.  Many of you moms will be able to relate to the need for this system!  (but know, I no longer do that.  This kid has to learn-  he's on his own in 3 summers!!!)
So off he goes for 4 days of fun on the campus of Ouachita.  Across the "mountain" he would travel to Arkadelphia on the church bus.  I was so excited for his return.  I couldn't wait to hear about his time there.  What did he learn?  Did he behave?  How did God work?  Did I mention, Did he behave?  I was so excited for him!
When return day came, I went to the church to pick him up with all the other mom and dads there to get their kids.  We all got our kids and their luggage.  Tyler and I loaded up all his stuff in our minivan.  On to the house we went.  When we got home we unloaded his sleeping bag, luggage and pillow.  We had no longer passed the threshold of the door when I started in with the million questions. I was as giddy as a kid to hear all about his time at camp!  What was God doing in the life of my kid?  I was thrilled!
Then I opened the suitcase.

Yep, there you have it.  Empty.  Completely empty.  Nothing.  Not even a dirty toothbrush.  No dirty underwear.  The godly conversation stopped right there.  I looked up at Tyler and asked, "Where are your clothes?"  He replies, "I don't know."  I won't go into all the conversation, but I was not happy.  I couldn't imagine how he could lose every stitch of clothing.  Many dollars worth of clothing.  The youth minster's kid!  I must say, regretfully, I started the lectures.  The ones about responsibility.  The threats of no more camp if he can't keep up with clothes.  And I was laying them on big time.  Not good.  But God quickly grabbed a hold of me and reminded me about where he just returned from.  The "mountain."  Time with Him.  Who was I to ruin his joy?  I stopped and told Tyler that I needed to go and figure out what we needed to do.  (a.k.a. as a quick walk around Wal-Mart if you live in Waldron.) 

"Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them;
for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these." Matthew 10:14

 It was there in Wal-Mart that I ran into one mom, who knew another mom, whose kid picked up the wrong clothes.  They were Tyler's.  God appointment in Wal-Mart!

"casting all your anxiety upon Him, for He cares for you." I Peter 5:7

Camp.  Camp with children and teenagers.  A wonderful sight to behold.  A horrible smell to breathe in.  Other kids socks.  Underwear.  Deodorant.  And maybe a new crawdad friend or two.  Important stuff happens at camp.  Lots of  milestone commitments.

The students and children have made commitments during that week of camp to do things they have tried to commit to all year.  They are not having to compete with the nags to finish homework or be at ball practice.  They found a week where they could gain enough strength to start Bible study again.  They don't have the battle of the temptation of ipods, ipads, and phones.  They fell in love with prayer.  They aren't having to worry about the drama going on that weekend.  They have a fresh desire to reach their friends and the people that sit beside them everyday in English.  The teammates on their soccer team need Jesus and our student's eyes see that on the "mountain." 

"Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. 
Let all you do be done in love." I Corinthians 16:13-14

Let us be wise and careful not to quinch the fire in their hearts when they walk in our doors. (even with an empty suitcase!)  Let us be patient about a clean room and foster the most important thing in life going on in their hearts right now.  (now that does not mean for the rats to move in and mold to grow!)

"Do not quench the spirit" I Thessalonians 5:19

Use this time of revival in the life of your student for your family to get on the same page concerning God things.  Maybe family devotionals can begin or restart.  Prayer for friends and family that need Jesus could be rekindled in the home.  Scriptures be memorized.  Intentional "God" talks could happen.  Priorities to be revisited.
While they are at camp this summer, maybe use this time to rekindle that fire of faith in your own life.  For many of us, it seems like we were just at camp the other day. 

Me (far left) at Siloam the summer before my senior year. 
"Repent therefore and return, that your sins may be wiped away,
in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord."
Acts 3:19

Do you remember?  The passion?  The commitments?  Return.  Don't waste this opportunity for things to be renewed.  Things to be good.  Things to be God focused again.  Don't miss the most important things.  Your family needs that commitment.

Looking forward to the stories God leaves written on each of our children's and student's hearts this summer.  Also looking forward to the renewed hearts for God in the life of our families.
They will never be forgotten.

Walk Down This Mountain It's a better place
Standing high upon this mountain
I've seen Your face
Full of the light that holiest height can show
Blessed hand is why you you've given
But you've been given all you'll ever need
To know

So walk down this mountain
With your heart held high
Follow in the footsteps of your Maker
With this love that's gone before you
And these people at your side
If you offer up your broken cup
You will taste the meaning of this life
(Bebo Norman)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Rain, anyone?

It's VBS week in El Dorado, AR at Immanuel Baptist Church!  We are having a great week out at the Promiseland sweating for Jesus each evening.  VBS week is one of my favorite weeks of the year.  Just knowing that kids that normally would not hear about Jesus and kids that have heard about Jesus since the cradle, are finding out that the God that created them loves them so very, very much.  Not only does He love them tons, but desires a relationship with them.  I pray many kids would choose Jesus this week.  Good stuff.  It's what life IS all about.

"Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these." Mark 10:14b 

At our previous church, First Baptist Waldron, AR, I served as the VBS director for many years.  I (and later older youth like Natalie and Andrew) would sit by the computer on "release" night from Lifeway for the following year's VBS theme.  I (we )would start planning, training, painting, shopping, painting some more, and some more, and sewing puppet clothes as soon as the Christmas decorations were put up after Christmas!  Later in our ministry there, Warren and I felt a huge burden to have an evangelism rotation.  Gospel presentation using object lessons.  Loved it!   I loved standing in the back of the room and watching the lessons each night.

"that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved;" Romans 10:9

As I was thinking about memories of VBS, I couldn't help but think of my own children at VBS.  All 3 of our kids have been to VBS since they were born.  They have spent many VBS prep hours at church.  I am sure at some point, deep down, I wondered if they would be willing to serve when they were older because of the hundreds of hours they spent on and at VBS when they were younger.

Tyler (18 mos.) and me at VBS at Parkside Baptist Church in Denison, Texas

I remember when Lifeway put out their "10 year" theme song CD a couple of years back.  My kids, well to be honest, Warren and me too, loved thinking about the "movements" and memories with VBS from each these song's year.  There was the London theme, sports, Arctic, Rambling Roadtrip, SpaceQuest, and the Japan theme to name a few.
Tyler, Elise, and Ethan at VBS

Tyler, Ethan, and Elise.  This was Elise's first VBS.  She was 7 months.

This year's theme at IBC is "Sky."  Elise is having a great time.  Tyler is too.  And much praise goes to the Lord, I do believe he is having more fun than the kids attending as he serves the Lord at VBS this year. 

He's the silly camel at the entrance welcoming each vehicle that turns in to come.  Each night I just smile as I watch him welcome the cars.  I love that heart of his.  Thankful.  I am so thankful.

"and you shall teach them  (God's Word) diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up."
Deuteronomy 6:7

Seasons of life.  That's what God continues to teach and show me. 

As Tyler, and now Ethan pass me in height, the seasons become even more evident.

No longer do I carry a diaper bag, car seat, wipes, sippy cups, and Tylenol for teething with me everywhere.

No longer does our vehicles look like the Thomas the Train store exploded in the floor.

No longer do we choose our eating destination based on happy meal toys or do we break down and make the promise of a toy for good behavior in Wal-Mart.

We are now taxi driver's.  Pretty sure we should have gotten a yellow suburban.

We are now carrying baseball/softball equipment, track shoes, basketballs, football equipment, campfire girls, friends, backpacks and lots of dirt and sand on shoes.

We make boundaries on ipods and phones.

We eat at restaurants we like and constantly train our kids to be on their own, soon.

We now disciple our 3 children who Jesus has saved (Thanks be to God!).  Knowing that nothing else matters but their walk with the Lord and love for others.


As I was thinking about these seasons of life this morning while watering my plants, God showed me something really great.  The ground is so dry.  My plants just absorb every drop of water before I even get to the next one.  The clouds looked a little dark and I thought to myself, "I hope it doesn't rain on VBS tonight!"  Then, I remembered thinking that last night with ball games, "Oh, I hope it doesn't rain the games out.  The season is almost over!"  Or even better, I will want the rain, but on my terms.  "Rain this morning, so the dust will settle for VBS tonight" or" rain during the night when we are sleeping."  I find myself saying that a lot in our busyness.  We NEED the rain, but this season of life is too busy for it.  So, I find myself being content with "artificial" rain.  Also known as a water hose.

 "...there was no rain in the land." 1 Kings 17:7b

I thought back to past years, when my flowers looked so great.  It rained lots then.  Lots and lots.  It was during years when the spring rains were plentiful.  The  red geraniums were beautiful.  The dogwood's white blooms were magnificent.  The miniature pink roses were so pretty.  They loved the rain.  And they received it.  It was also a different season of life.  Maybe somewhat less busy.

This year it hasn't rained much.  Things are so dusty.  My flowers are blooming, but you could not say they are beautiful! 

God reminded me that as we enter or continue in seasons of life,  that we are careful not to get so busy or content with life that we don't long for spiritual rain.  True rain.  His showers of blessings, and showers of strength, and love, and leading.  Floods of mercy, grace, and kindness.  We need the downpour of His Spirit on our lives.  We need it so.  We can't keep putting it off until "tomorrow."  We don't need just a little during the night or early morning.  We need floods. God,  Pour out the spiritual rains today!
"For I will pour out water on a thirsty land
And streams on the dry ground;
I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring,
And blessings on your descendants..."
Isaiah 44:3

It's those rains that will help us to continue to put deep roots in our families. 
 Rain to help the family grow and flourish. 
Rain for generational change to follow Jesus completely.
Rain for others to take notice and say, I want their God. 

There is a time for everything.  Time for a burp cloth.  Time for a potty chair. 
Time for Little League.  Time for algebra.  Time for college plans. 
Time to lead our families closer to Him. Everyday.
 Through it all, we need Him. 
We need a daily downpour of what only He can give us.  Jesus. 

 "And he will be like a tree firmly planted by the streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season,
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers."
Psalm 1:3

Praying a flood of spiritual rain on VBS this summer.  Praying for a downpour on our families.
Rain, Rain, come today.  Come today, we need YOU so!