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Category Archives: Ministry Moments

Pulling Vines: Landscaper of Our Hearts

Pulling Vines_Pulling with everything in me, I grabbed hold of some stubborn vines declaring war on my pachysandra and yanked away. The morning sun beat down with increasing intensity and my muscles pulsed in ways they hadn’t all winter, yet my focus remained steady and determined.

I’ve had enough of weeds choking me over the years. They crept in silently. I would ignore and eventually get used to them, not really seeing how big they were becoming—until one day I couldn’t see past them. I was horrified how they seemed to tower over all healthy growth in my life.

The same was true when I went to the mailbox one day. I saw an overgrown, out-of-control forsythia bush and almost didn’t recognize my own yard. My stomach turned. I was disgusted that I had let my lawn get that trashy, that I lost my vision for intruders, and that I’d let my guard down, given up, lost my fight.

Know the feeling?

I look back to a year ago when the repercussions of years of long drives to therapy, IEP battles, and the never-ending search for new answers, avenues to explore, and home coping strategies for one Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Are You Collecting Spoons?

Collecting SpoonsIn the middle of my van, right behind the driver’s seat, I keep a small crate in which I store items I need throughout the week: two Bible study workbooks, the latest coupon book for BJs, a catalog for The Paper Store, karate belts, and the Junior High Sunday School attendance clipboard. If I am stranded in the cold weather in the next few months, I may not have a blanket to keep warm or a flashlight to light my path, but I can study the Bible, clip coupons, window shop, and impersonate a brown belt!

For about two weeks, whenever I opened the van door, I saw a metal serving spoon poking out of my “car office” crate. It almost seemed to taunt me. For various reasons and meetings, I had been at my church about four times since taking the spoon home to clean after using it for Sunday School, but I kept forgetting about it.

My crate is supposed to be a placeholder for me, a reminder, a way to stay organized. And yet, despite my best efforts to keep everything in its proper place for the right time, that spoon got the best of me. For the life of me, I could not remember to return it to the church kitchen drawer. I held onto it, transported it all over the local area, and

carried something I did not have to.

Know the feeling?

Psalm 55:22, ESV, David singing

Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.

I don’t know about you, but it usually doesn’t take me long to grab a burden, sling it over my shoulder Read the rest of this entry »

 

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When You Can’t Force Conflict Resolution

When You Can't Force Conflict ResolutionWhen there is relational conflict, is waiting a copout?

I would say that sometimes it can be, but there comes a point where we have to realize that even if we’re ready to move forward and heal with someone, we can’t force healing and readiness in others.

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I sat across from her pleading with my heart and eyes to offer me a different answer. She could not. She confirmed what I had been hearing from God in my prayer time:

Wait.”

Me: “I want to, but I can’t offer peace in this situation.”

Person offering me counsel: “Why do you think that is?”

Me: “Because I didn’t take it away in the first place. My actions did not cause any of it. They need to seek peace through and with Christ. Until they surrender that, I cannot offer what they seek, and I don’t want to go ahead of what God wants to do in each person’s heart. Besides, I would only screw it up since I do not have His peace to act on this right now.”

Person offering me counsel: “Then that’s your answer. You’ve prayed. You’ve sought godly counsel. You’ve daily surrendered this. You are so right to not go ahead of the LORD. He cannot be rushed.”

And that settled it in my heart—what, in many ways, I already knew:

While the reassurance came from another Christian, I needed to check myself with God. God would not Read the rest of this entry »

 

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The Blue Armchair and the Presence of God

The Blue Airmchair and the Presence of GodI could feel his presence as I entered each room. He had only been gone one year; past conversations and memories bopped around in my mind—random flashes of the past with no clear timeline. Dad making himself known in my heart and thoughts. His love was tangible. The house was pregnant with his solid faith and unconditional love. We missed him terribly, but we walked the legacy he set in place before us. With each step of remembrance, I felt his nod of approval, his pleasure.

It was the first time in his home since he had passed. I was so relieved his blue recliner chair was there, the leather worn in places where his hands used to push forward to fold out for a nap. The seat of it revealed the wear of a consistent presence like the dent in a blanket left by a warm dog after it gets up and stretches.

During some of our last visits, an external bladder pouch sat next to him on the floor, taking the role his cancer-ridden organ used to play. Sweet as he was, he used to ask if it would upset my children to see it. I was honestly glad they did. They remember the battle he fought so courageously and the toll it took. His robe would hang slightly open where the tube delivered its contents to the pouch on the floor. None of us minded. At the time, we were so grateful he was still with us.

I can’t look at that chair without seeing the red-white tufts of hair poking out over its high back or the freckled, hairy, lanky arms sitting on the armrests.  Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Is That You, God? Can I See Some Identification, Please?

is-that-you-godIn the previous post, we looked at the beginning of Gideon’s story in Judges 6, when God spoke the seemingly impossible into Gideon’s circumstances, but we stopped short of another twist in the account. Gideon’s need for reassurance went even further than the back-and-forth with the angel of the LORD. Gideon was called a “mighty man of valor” at a time when he was hiding in a winepress threshing grain, trying to stay under the radar so Israel’s enemy didn’t find him. Considering how weakened Israel was at the time, avoiding the enemy and living in constant fear, it is understandable how much he needed to be sure he was hearing from God.

Judges 6:17-18, ESV

And he said to him, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, then show me a sign that it is you who speak with me. Please do not depart from here until I come to you and bring out my present and set it before you.” And he said, “I will stay till you return.”

Speaking to the angel of the LORD, Gideon didn’t mince his words. He clearly asked for a sign.

Was this wisdom, or a lack of faith?

One thing is clear: Gideon Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Wheat and Winepresses: God Speaking Into Circumstances

wheat-and-winepressesHe was sitting in the middle of a winepress, hiding from his enemy, threshing wheat. Defeated and discouraged, Gideon was hardly a man you would describe as part of God’s inheritance of the Promised Land. If he didn’t thresh his wheat in secret, the Midianites, his enemy, would come and plunder the food, leaving him more hopeless and desperate than ever. And yet in the middle of this sad state, an angel of the LORD visits him:

Judges 6:12, ESV

And the angel of the LORD appeared to him and said to him, “The LORD is with you, O mighty man of valor.”

Um, what now?

There may be circumstances in your own life where you feel completely done under, barely coming up for air, sitting in the dark threshing your own wheat just to get by, trying to manage making it through one more day. You simply want to go unnoticed and un-harassed. Oh, I know several folks sitting in that place right now. It was me last year this time. And I know that in these moments, we certainly don’t feel like “mighty men of valor,” but when God Himself calls us that, He has a clear vision of what’s ahead and how He is about to use us for good.

For good? In these circumstances of certain defeat? How can He possibly use it for good?

Well, Gideon sure didn’t jump in with both feet initially. He needed a bit of reassurance, some confirmation. Do you know why?

At first he did not Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Part 2: How to Make Holidays More Joyful

when-youre-in-pain_-how-to-make-holidays-more-joyful-2Last week, I listed five very basic, non-festive ways to find more peace and joy during the upcoming holidays if you’re dealing with loss or a difficult season of life. This time I want to focus on how to get through the celebrations, parties, gifting, and busy schedule on the low energy you may be feeling.

1. Simplify your calendar.

Another way of saying this is: Choose your events wisely.

Do not overload your schedule. While this may be great advice during any holiday season, it is especially important when you are feeling depleted, sad, or stressed. You do not have to see The Nutcracker, attend your neighbor’s open house, or participate in five Secret Santas or white elephant gift exchanges just because you have in past years.

You also do not need to focus on anyone else’s expectations or worry about letting people down. If they are true relationships, they will have grace for your “free pass” year. Introvert or extrovert, you only have so much energy to go around when your strength is spent right now getting through the day to day.

While some people may not understand because their expectation levels do not match your reality at the moment, this is a good way for them to learn to respond with grace to those who are hurting. Or maybe you need space from people with inflexible demands right now. Either way, do not carry the extra weight around of pleasing other people.

Because I’m introverted, I limited my holidays outings to two occasions last year between Thanksgiving and Christmas: an open house at a friend’s house and a women’s Christmas tea. I also cancelled my involvement in Small Business Saturday at my church and a meal at someone else’s home. It was the best thing I could have done for myself. I had the enthusiasm for a few events, even though they were difficult because my father’s passing was still fresh.

I remember wanting to return home after the first five minutes at the open house because I met some very outgoing people who wanted to engage at a high intellectual level when I really just wanted to sit in the comforting presence of a few people I knew and sip something warm. I am very glad I made myself go, but I am also thankful I graciously stopped the conversation to be with low-engaging folks in the other room. I just needed to be with people, so I didn’t isolate, but I had no ability to fake holiday cheer.

Hebrews 10:24-25, ESV

And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some [is]; but exhorting [one another]: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. 

2. Be a minimalist in décor.

I have teens and a tween at home. Skipping all holiday décor was not a Read the rest of this entry »

 

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