Posted in Character, Faith

Take a Stroll Through Memory Lane

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Eighteen years ago this month, my husband and I loaded our five young children into our van and made our first visit to Grandview, Washington. We had been invited to preach at the Assembly of God church and meet with the Board as part of the pastoral selection process. We had sensed for some time that the Lord was transitioning us from our current church to a new location. We had prayed together as a family for a place where we could raise our kids, lead people in a growing relationship with Jesus, and minister to the community. Would Grandview be that place?

Two months later my husband and I loaded up our five young children again, this time with all our earthly possessions. We had been invited to serve as pastors at Grandview Assembly of God. The Lord had indeed called us to Grandview and opened the doors of opportunity to be examples of Jesus Christ. The excitement and expectation were tangible, swelling with every mile like a giant ocean wave.

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Last weekend ended the 18 year chapter of our lives, as we again loaded up our belongings to move to Yakima, Washington, a city 45 miles away. This move feels quite different from the last. Our five kids are grown, and only our youngest daughter lives with us. Two sons and their wives, along with some friends, came to help us relocate. Last time our hearts were filled with anticipation for the new adventure ahead. We dreamed of a growing, thriving church and being actively engaged in people experiencing the love of Jesus throughout the community. Passion and vision surged through our veins. This time there is a wider array of emotions—excitement, expectation, gratitude, disappointment, and a sense of loss and grief.

On one hand, I am thankful to relocate to a place where the Lord has called me to serve as the Executive Director of the local pregnancy center. After two and a half years of commuting almost an hour each way, I am eager to be closer to work and to become more connected with the community. I believe God has plans to expand the influence of this non-profit ministry.

On the other hand, I am sad to say goodbye to the place that has been my world. I raised my family there and was involved in the lives of their friends. Two of my kids met and married their spouses there. My husband and I dedicated ourselves to serve the dear people of our congregation and community. Hundreds of people prayed to trust Christ as Savior and Lord. We were there for baptisms, weddings, and funerals. We worked hand in hand with some very dedicated believers to reach out with the love of Jesus. We enjoyed deep friendships and were together for birthdays, holidays, and just to hang out.

I also acknowledge the heartache of unfulfilled dreams. Like most people in church ministry, we trusted the Lord for a growing, healthy congregation. In our second year there, my husband took on another job (career, really) as a school teacher when it became apparent that church income was unstable. Our family needed a steady income. We were committed to do whatever it took to stay and minister in Grandview. Thus, bi-vocational ministry began. In our congregation, we faced the moral failure of leaders, misunderstanding, betrayal, and false accusations that required outside intervention. In our tenth year, we initiated a major restructuring effort to stave off some signs of decline. It was successful for a few good years. Sadly burnout began to take a toll, and we resigned hoping that new leadership would revitalize the ministry. Less than a year later, the doors were closed. We continued to live three blocks away with the constant, painful reminder of “the death of a dream.” Until last weekend.

Looking back at our move to Grandview, I see a younger, more idealistic version of me. It has been healing to take a stroll through Memory Lane, because I can clearly see the unyielding faithfulness of God. I see Him there in both the good times and the bad times. His love is steadfast. His presence goes before me, follows behind me, and surrounds me. He rejoices over me with singing; He is near when I am brokenhearted. Come what may, His strength carries me; His comfort and joy fill me. In this new season of life and ministry, I trust that God’s Spirit will empower me to thrive.

My prayer for you is that as you take a stroll through Memory Lane, you too can see the Lord actively and intimately involved in your life.

Lord, through all the generations
you have been our home!
Before the mountains were born,
before you gave birth to the earth and the world,
from beginning to end, you are God.
Psalm 90:1-2, NLT

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank You for Your faithfulness in my life. As I reflect on where I have been and where I am today, help me see Your loving hand. Guard me from discouragement. Help me to be confident that You equip me with everything I need to do Your will in every stage and season. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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Posted in Faith, Personal Development

Sometimes a Little Rant is Good for You

“God can handle you.” This is one of free lance writer Melissa Hawks’ favorite sayings. It expresses what I’ve known for a long time to be true. And it’s one of the reasons I treasure my relationship with the Lord so much.

Life can be disappointing. Our well laid plans take unexpected turns. Our dreams morph into something we do not recognize. During those times, it’s okay to say we don’t like the situation we’re in. We don’t have to pretend that we’re happy with an outcome when we’re not. It gives me great comfort to know that we can be real and honest with Jesus.

“God can handle you.” He already knows what you are thinking and feeling. Nothing you say is going to surprise or shock Him. Sometimes a little rant is good for you.

Right now I am in the middle of a life transition that has been difficult and confusing. This summer my husband and I resigned our pastorate at a church we have invested ourselves for 16 years. The Lord unmistakably led us here and we’ve done our best to be faithful, even though it has meant my husband has been bi-vocational most of our tenure. When things would get tough, we would pray and discuss with each other if it were time to leave. The answer had always been “no.” We were still called to serve there. However, during these conversations I would say something like, “When it’s time to go, I want to move away. It will be too hard to say goodbye to our church and then stay in the same town.” I had seen other close friends walk that road, and I didn’t want the pain. In my mind, resigning and relocating had to go together. Nothing else made sense.

Well, we resigned and guess where we live? In the same town, three blocks from the church! There are currently no other church ministry opportunities elsewhere, (Not that we are looking. We are in a season of rest.) and we continue working at our other jobs. Staying here is logical.

But it’s not what I wanted, and I was angry.

Thankfully I knew that I could rant to the Lord.

It’s not fair. It doesn’t make sense. It hurts too much. Why are You doing this to me?

Scripture, especially in the Psalms, sets a good precedence for ranting.

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me? (Psalm 13:1-2)

You are God my stronghold. Why have you rejected me? Why must I go about mourning,
oppressed by the enemy? (Psalm 43:2)

Once the rant is over, emotions calm and we can once again remind ourselves that God really does know best. We can reconnect with His faithful love toward us.

But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me (Psalm 13:5-6).

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God (Psalm 43:5).

After months of off-and-on wrestling with God, I am beginning to see the goodness of God in keeping us here in the same town.

  • He is providing for us financially through our good jobs. I have to commute, but it’s a lovely drive.
  • He protected us from the upheaval of changing everything at once. It takes a long time to adjust to starting over in a new location.
  • He has allowed us to continue to enjoy the friendships we developed with our former congregation, even though we no longer pastor their church.

Are you in the middle of a tough situation? You don’t have to pretend. Let Jesus know how you feel. He already knows anyway. A little rant will do you good.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, help me to be honest as I express my feelings to You. Thank You for walking with me through every difficult situation, and that You are never offended by what I share with You. Help me to trust You with every area of my life, including those that cause me anger and other intense emotions. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Posted in Uncategorized

A Reminder When Life Seems Useless

How do you measure success? Especially in the Western world, we measure success using statistics.

We like to look at…

  • Increased church attendance
  • High Grade Point Average
  • Financial growth
  • Profitable return on investment
  • Exceeding the goal of people served
  • The number of people saved (the higher number the better)

Even the weight on our scale speaks loudly about our “success.”

So what happens when…

  • The vision you have does not match current realities?
  • Your plans do not yield the intended results?
  • The numbers decline?
  • You do not meet your goals?
  • You end the quarter with a financial loss?
  • Your relationships remain stressful?

It’s human nature to get discouraged and think—All this hard work, prayer, sacrifice (you fill in the blank) is doing no good. It’s useless!

My friend, if this describes your current situation, take courage. God measures success much differently than we do.

So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless. (1 Corinthians 15:58 NLT)

Statistics are important in assessing progress and adjusting direction, but they do not paint the entire picture.

When all is said and done, the Lord looks beyond measurement tools and evaluates your heart.

  • Do you serve God and His people with enthusiasm?
  • Are you faithful and obedient to God’s call, regardless of the outcome?
  • Are you committed to love others no matter how difficult?
  • Do you desire to build God’s kingdom instead of your own?
  • Do you endeavor to represent Jesus every where you are?

If you answer “yes” to these questions, you can hold your head high. You can resist shame and be confident that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless. He will use your service to glorify Himself in His time and in His way.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, help me to see through your eyes. Remind me that, regardless what it may look like, nothing I have done for You is useless. Continue to use me to make a difference in the lives of others. May I work faithfully for You, confident that You indeed are accomplishing your plans and purposes.