Tuesday, June 26, 2012

West Virginia day 2

The work began this morning, and it was chilly, and I was not complaining! Our pcc students and adults overwhelmingly had great days. As always, some are a bit bored painting or sitting when there is not enough labor to go around. We are spoiled by our church services each week, and this reminds us of just how blessed we are. We are trying not to let these issues be distractions. You can pray for that with us.
I'm on a crew with Ryan king and savannah ford from our church. They both got to try out a drill today. Craig, Franco, maia, and Brittany are working on the same street. I walked by today and said hi to the guys as they were installing a window. Franco thought I was Mandy--seriously. Personally, I did some demolition, threw the trash in a dumpster a foot taller than me, sat on my butt, held four by four posts, and did the pythagorean theorem--a lot. I hope my husband is proud of my freshmen math.

Monday, June 25, 2012

West Virginia day 1

We're here! We had a thankfully uneventful trip. We have spent the evening preparing logistically and spiritually for our week. We think we are sleepy...just wait a few days:) Our speaker is good this year--still different from our usual--but entertaining and engaging. Oh, and there is a manned security booth to enter or leave the high school property. With a gate. And I cannot figure out how to add photos from my iPad to the blog:(

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

To the Puerto Rico Team

I am so proud of you for making this trip a priority in your life!  You’ve worked hard to raise the money.  You’ve stepped out on faith and signed up to fly in an airplane for the first time, to live in a different culture for a week, to work hard, to sweat lots, and to serve God with all of who you are.
And now it’s time to go.  DO NOT WASTE this opportunity.  Do not waste it by having a bad attitude, by being a slacker, by complaining about the heat or the food, by thinking about home instead of being present in Puerto Rico.
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.  And pray for us (the West Virginia team), too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains.  Pray that we may proclaim it clearly, as we should.  Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.  Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.  Colossians 4:2-6
You are a great team.  Be a unified team.  “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14)  I hope each of you sees God on this trip.  I hope you see God in the people of Puerto Rico, in the other World Changers, in your PCC teammates, and in yourself.  If you want to see God, then live in peace with one another and live holy lives. 
You are a great team, and you are part of a larger team.  You are part of PCC.  Your Pastor to Students, your small group leaders, your fellow PCC students in West Virginia this week, your church staff, your parents, and your church’s prayer team are praying for you.  You are surrounded by the prayers of people who love and believe in you, and who love and believe in your God:
Therefore, since you are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and run with perseverance the race marked out for you.  Fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of your faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Hebrews 12:1-3

Dream big about what God is doing and will do in Puerto Rico.
Dream big about what God is doing and will do in the PCC Puerto Rico team.
Dream big about what God is doing and will do in you.
Pray hard.
Pray the promises of God.  “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:8)
Pray to God, holding onto Him and wrestling with Him until He blesses you.  Fight for it—all night long if you must. 
Pray for God to change your identity, making you the man or woman He created you to be.
Pray for God to change how you see His world and His children.
I wish I could be with you this week.  I look forward to hearing lots of stories, seeing lots of photos, and greeting changed people upon your return.
I'm proud of you. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Presence of God

This past fall, I gathered with some other student pastors in my area.  Mark Yaconelli was with us.  He led us in an experiential prayer exercise when we were to pray for God to reveal to us, to remind us, of a time when He was present with us.
As I got still and quiet, my brain was still running.  I was thinking about how this prayer exercise would go (instead of actually being present for the praying).  I expected God to bring to my mind a worship moment from my first mission trip, or maybe my wedding, or maybe that moment at a huge youth rally in 2002 when I felt called to ministry for the first time, or maybe, or maybe…
Then God actually began pulling memories to my mind’s eye.  It was like a slideshow that went quickly at first, and then the images stayed longer.  There were no large, corporate worship experiences.  Instead, these images were faces of a teenager or two.  I saw myself sitting on a curb at Pocahontas Elementary School between Bronson and Craig, hearing heartbreaking stories of their life experiences.  I saw Andrew Basic sitting in my living room as the words spilled out for the first time.   I saw the first meal Sammy and I had in our first home as husband and wife…and the teenager, Marc Chewning, who was there, a part of our family.  I saw myself sitting on my kitchen floor, on the phone with Mary Ashleigh who was visiting family at the holidays and needed to talk.  I saw more faces—Rachel, Vania, Jarrett, Hayley, Robert, Joseph, Justin—and then the slideshow stopped.
One image came into focus, and stayed there.
I was sitting at Friendly’s ice cream across from two girls I’d just met.  They were in Powhatan, staying with their grandparents; their grandfather was in the hospital.  They were from Ohio, and their dad was a youth pastor.  The oldest one, especially, had been waiting her whole life to be in her daddy’s youth group.  And here she was, sitting with this youth pastor, a girl she’d just met, a girl who is not her daddy.
Sarah and Shannon's first night at our student ministry.
And I fell in love with them immediately.  They talked non-stop, mostly interrupting and talking over each other.  That reminded me of my sister and me.  They were living with mom and making the 7-hour drive to see dad in Ohio.  That reminded me of the countless 7-hour trips I’ve made between Virginia and Tennessee. 
This was the moment God chose to bring to my mind to remind me of when he’d been present with me.  Through a series of unlikely events, God worked to bring about good, and he decided these girls and I needed to be together.  Now, I have little doubt that it was God who opened my heart to them so fully at that first meeting.  It was also through my relationships with these two girls that God taught me how to be a pastor—a listening, caring, guiding, helping, (still talks too much) pastor. 
 These girls are no longer students in my ministry; they’re college girls now.  They’re my friends.  When the oldest one sings, I cry.  Every time.  Because when I watch her sing, I remember her story—from 8 years ago and from last week.  I rejoice with her at what God can do in a life.  I cry out to God with her, knowing her heartache.   The younger sister, who turned out to be the middle sister, and I realized we are a bit alike.  She has a beautiful red hair, and I have blonde (brown).  We don’t really look anything alike.  But we both have histories as flirts, and we both settled down with handsome, insanely intelligent, and very tall young men.  And our parents are divorced.  And we like the same clothes.   And we like to talk.  And we like Jesus.
God was present with me as I reached out to those girls.  I was terrified introducing myself to those strangers and offering to hang out some time, but I did it, because I knew God wanted me to.  And he provided the words and showed me the spiritual gifts he’d woven into my being.  And I am thankful, very thankful, for how He was present with me then.  Remembering God’s presence then excites me for the next time He’s going to show up somewhere as mundane, yet yummy, as Friendly’s ice cream.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Half or Double?

No, I’m not asking if you want that overpriced coffee beverage half-fat or double blended.
I’m talking about ministry…together.
When Sammy and I were ministry interns ten years ago, we heard that a partner, a spouse, a girlfriend will either half or double your ministry.   We vowed then and there to double ministries.
Truth be told, there have been times in the last ten years when I have halved my husband’s ministry instead of doubled it.  Oftentimes, my selfishness has gotten in the way.  Once I was injured (8 months pregnant with my dominant arm in a sling), and had to have help doing everything.  When I had newborn babies, I needed him at home more.  Sometimes, when I was emotionally unwell, I just needed him nearby.
This summer we enter new territory.  In addition to his usual role at our church, he’s kind of the man in charge, too.  I guess that kinda, sorta means he’s my boss this summer…at work.  There is more expected of him mentally, emotionally, and physically.  By default, that means there is more expected of me mentally, emotionally, and physically.  That’s okay.  I think this will be good for us, and I’m thankful we get to try this out with a three-month stint.
Sign a co-worker posted above Sammy's desk today
I hope I will double his ministry this summer.  He cannot be in two places at once.  Sometimes, I can go to one of those places.  We got our first shot at it less than 24 hours into this summer position.  Last night, he needed to be at a Bible class he teaches for his campus, and he needed to meet with a family to prepare a funeral.  I told him I could do either—teach Bible Basics or do the funeral.  I’ve never done either before, but there’s a first time for anything.  I want to offer a family the gift of a healing, caring, honest funeral at some point, but I was also relieved when he delegated Bible Basics to me instead.
So, I taught a dozen or so people about the epistles (letters) in the New Testament last night, particularly Paul’s letters of Galatians and Philippians.  I’m as confident teaching the Bible to teenagers as I am about anything.  But they were not teenagers.  And they did not know me.  They have been learning about the Bible from my husband for ten weeks, and they do church with him every Sunday.  While I can go toe-to-toe with my husband in several areas, Biblical knowledge is not one of them. 
But, I do have a Master’s of Divinity.  I can, and did, teach about the epistles in the New Testament.  I am not my husband, and I know he would have taught differently and in more detail.  However, the group was very gracious with me, and I presume, much easier on me than on him.  And I hope that I doubled his ministry last night.