Go Deeper, Reach Farther

We are called by Christ to walk this life with bold faith, share the gospel with all who will hear it and encourage them to embrace it, reaching without ceasing for greater wisdom and understanding of Him. This is certain to give the Holy Spirit fertile soil in our minds and hearts to develop us into the righteous and holy beings we will one day be when we are in the presence of God. We will not attain this in our earthly life time, but we can strive toward it, and we can humbly approach the throne of God one day in hopes of hearing Him say we’ve done it, we’ve accomplished what He called us to do.

Over the course of the past year and in looking back over what we have experienced in our time in Brazil, Indiana, the question that is foremost in my mind is, “Lord, did we do/Are we doing what You have called us to do? Did we make/Are we making a difference?” Although our time at FCC was brought to an end, our time in Brazil is still unfinished since God has kept us here a bit longer. As I consider these questions daily, I am reminded of opportunities that have presented themselves. I am so thankful for the countless opportunities I have had to partner with some very sweet friends in prayer and accountability as we have shared heart aches and disappointments with one another. I have been pleasantly surprised by God’s blessing in the form of chance conversations with new friends who are enduring difficult circumstances of their own. We cannot discount anyone or anything in our lives because God will present us with a moment to meet a need when we least expect it! We have been so blessed by the loving support of our precious families, friends, our church families who have rallied beside us and…. I just have to point you out:

University Heights Baptist Church, Springfield, MO
Forest Hills Baptist Church, Nashville, TN
North Metro Church, Thornton, CO
Ridgeview Community Church, Franklin, TN
First Christian Church, Brazil, IN

You have loved us and labored beside us with your prayers, encouragement, accountability, your support in so many amazing ways! God is so good and we are so thankful for you! I have said it before and I will say it again: Our hearts are filled with thanks that cannot be fully expressed in words! Please continue to keep us in your prayers for a full time worship arts position for Ryan. We are confident, and we know that in God’s perfect timing we will see the door open in the form of an amazing opportunity for us! We are on the edge of great expectation and so excited to see what is to come!

I have been uplifted, inspired and motivated daily by what God has given me in His Word. Here’s what I came upon today, it was just what I needed to once again-get focused.

Going through the motions doesn't please you,
a flawless performance is nothing to you.
I learned God-worship
when my pride was shattered.
Heart-shattered lives ready for love
don't for a moment escape God's notice. Psalm 51:16-17 (The Message)

Another birthday. Whatever! Don't look back--Look ahead!

I’m taking a good look at the year ahead, another year older for me. 40 to most people is such a big deal, but honestly it’s just another number for me. I stopped caring about my age somewhere back in my thirties. I just don’t look back, I don’t miss my younger days because I have come so far, learned so much and changed so much. I have great memories of years past, and there are moments I miss and time seems to move a whole lot faster as I get older, but if I had a choice to go back—I would not. It can be said that as we get older life is appreciated so much more, isn’t that true? Well, it is for me. How interesting it is to consider when we are younger we are in such a hurry to grow up, but when we get older we want so badly for everything to slow down. So, here I am, at the age that I am and how do I see myself?
I am a proud, independent, self-sufficient, passionate woman who has found joy in God’s blessings to me as a wife, mother, sister, and friend. God is so good, and I don’t deserve any of it. My heart is for worship ministry and women’s ministry and I find such joy in both! I am so thankful for the opportunities He has given me to lead and to follow in these ministries because it has changed me, made me a better person and I hope He is pleased with me because of it! I find more and more that I am so much like my Dad particularly as I get older. I have perfectionist tendencies in that I can’t stand disorder and all is right with the world when everything is in its place. I find my day can be shot to hell if I come home and things are out of place. Just ask my family. I am sure that their impression of me would not be very pretty because when I get on a tangent, well, I go all the way! I realize there are things I should save that energy for, greater causes, but it’s the simple things like an empty sink, an empty laundry basket, and no “man piles” around the house that give me joy and enable me to sleep at night. If I had my choice of what I’d like to do for my birthday, the ideal, dream day for me? Send me to the airport, put me on a plane to the Bahamas and give a lovely cottage by the ocean. All I need is a beach chair, a cold drink with a pretty umbrella in it, and a great book. An entire day just for me—time to myself to do nothing but soak up the sun, sigh repeatedly with contentment and enjoy having no responsibility but for myself. No watch, no schedule, nothing to do but relax.
I realize at this point in my life, what I’ve accomplished and what God has done is so good but I am also painfully aware of how much work there is yet to be done. The burden is great, when I consider what is happening in our community, our world, and how the things I considered to be unthinkable twenty years ago, are now common to this day and age. I am watching my children’s generations grow up with very little interest in church—yes, it is true! Too many of our kids are finding that what our churches offer them is convenient for a time but in the grand scheme of things they’d rather do something more worthwhile and extraordinary with their time. I see how desperately they want to make a difference, but what are we doing in our churches to really meet them where they are? We can only take so much credit for what we are doing inside our walls for the sake of Christ, but the point of what we are doing is to get outside those walls and do what is necessary to go where they are. It isn’t about programs, activities, what we can do to bring people in but what we are doing to pour the love of Christ into their hearts! If we are really doing what Jesus called us to do, we will be spending less time inside our church buildings and more time on the streets and in the homes, in the lives of the people who need Him so desperately! It is not such a radical concept! Oh that we would be more like Christ! I am proud to be the child of a pastor and grew up both resenting and appreciating being in such a position, but ultimately it has taught me to appreciate this: It isn’t about how many times we grace the steps of our churches, how many ministries or programs we are committed to, checking off a list of things we should be doing to be considered “good enough” by our church leadership. It is about our hearts and our time. What is your motivation for what you are doing? Who are you in Christ? What are you doing with the time He has given you on this earth? There is no scale that matters but God’s. We cannot allow any of man’s preconceived ideas of what we are doing or who we are as Christians be what defines us! So, here I am, at the age that I am and determined more than ever to make a difference in this world for no other reason but to please God! I know He loves me and I know He is proud of me, even when I stumble and fall. Thank goodness He understands me since He created me, He has given me far more than I deserve in terms of grace and mercy. What an amazing, awesome God we serve! I hope to live a very long, healthy life but I cannot wait to stand before my Lord one day and hopefully hear Him say to me, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” Be inspired today, my friend. Be bold, be selfless and do the unexpected today for the sake of Christ. He is counting on us to do what is right in a world where so much is going wrong.

Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them.
Don't look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don't fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. The way to life—to God!—is vigorous and requires total attention.
(Matthew 7:12-14 The Message)

When life gets us down, God picks us up!

2012 is here, and I am less than enthusiastic. I have struggled to find joy in this new year. It does not help that our circumstances have not changed. That weighs heavily on both Ryan and I day in and day out. We keep thinking something is going to come, something is just around the corner in the form of "relief". The questions that dominate our conversations with each other, with God, "When is the door going to open? How long must we wait? What more is there to learn?" Emotions run high, we are battling waves of doubt, frustration, fear, anxiety, hanging on by what feels like our finger tips. As tired as you may be hearing me say it, believe me--we are tired of going through it! How God must think of us as we wrestle with all of this? Along with all of that, I struggle with how inadequate I am to be exactly what God wants me to be. I wonder if He is disappointed with me when I behave this way? I would expect Him to be, but the truth is He is not and He loves me exactly the way I am! How twisted is that?! I can recount so many times in my life I have fallen short, not met someone's expectations and been called out because of it, or just fallen flat on my face because of my inability to release my pride...and God still loves me. God has not abandoned me and will not forsake me. God will take care of me especially in the moments when I can't stand on my own two feet. Regardless of how I feel and what I am experiencing day in and day out, my God has a word for me and He will comfort and strengthen me. I am certain I will have more questions than answers as I continue to live out this life, in the best of times and the absolute worst of times. I think our faith is strengthened all the more for the road ahead when we do not stop asking Him our questions, when we make time daily to talk with Him and dig deeply in His Word, and especially when we can lean on one another and truly be the body of Christ. Please continue to pray for Ryan and I:

1. Full time worship ministry position for Ryan. He is online daily and communicating frequently with a number of friends and pastors to assist him as he continues to search for what God has next. We know God has something extraordinary in mind for Ryan, and we know we need to continue to pray and wait on His perfect timing.

2. Health--Ryan and I are both fighting a respiratory cold/sinus thing and as you can imagine it doesn't help with the paycheck. Ryan has also been struggling with carpal tunnel in his hands and arms due to how physically demanding the work is. Not helpful to a guy who plays guitar! The company he works for only allows 4 days until he has been there 6 months. That means if he misses work for any reason or is tardy even 30 seconds, he will lose points and ultimately could be let go. As you can imagine, this job is proving to be more stressful than beneficial to him.

Despite how difficult these days can be, we find our way back to hope in Him. We love you dearly and we are so thankful for your prayers, your encouragement and your support.

2012...Here we come!

Here is to closing the door on 2011 and walking through the open door to a new year: 2012. I am determined and highly expectant that this year God has some remarkable things for us! At this point in my life, looking back on so many experiences I can say with great confidence that certainly life is not going to be any kinder to me than it already has. So, with that in mind, here is some good scripture I stumbled upon tonight:

Colossians 3:23-24 “Whatever may be your task, work at it heartily from the soul, something done for the Lord and not for men, knowing with all certainty that it is from the Lord [and not from men] that you will receive the inheritance which is your real reward" (Amplified Bible).

Do you know what has given Ryan and I the most confidence to walk through this whole experience? God sees and knows our hearts. It was by His design that we came here, and it is by His design that we are still here. Regardless of anyone's interpretation of the work that has been done and ministry that has taken place, we can say God did something because we followed the call He placed on our hearts. There is work to do, right in our own backyards and from here the circles in our communities, our country, our world, expand in terms of needs to be met, hearts to be touched by the love of God shining through us as living examples. So what is your motivation in your Christ walk? What drives you to be who He has chosen to be love and hope for so many people who walk around with a huge, gaping hole of emptiness? They are seeking something to fill that emptiness, something that will set them free! How many people do we cross paths with every single day that may be looking to us for something as simple as a smile, a hug, a word of encouragement, an offer to pray for them? Do you know that God is sitting on the edge of His seat waiting and watching to see how you will respond when you choose to be used in that moment? Don't miss it. You may think a brief conversation with the clerk at the grocery store checkout is insignificant, but it very well could be an opportunity for you to share God's saving love with her at the very moment she needs to hear it. Check this out and let it simmer in your heart and mind for a bit:

Some people work to be seen and loved by people.
We work excellently because we are seen and loved by God.
(Called Magazine, Called to Inspire devotional, "God Will See", Marsha DuCille)

We have work to do, and we should not do it for the sake of anyone who may be watching, but because God is watching. It has to be such a joy for the Father to see His children sharing the hope and love of Christ with a world that so desperately needs Him!

As we head into this new year, we will not grow weary but will press on, knowing God has extraordinary purpose for us and it will certainly come about in His perfect timing.

my Ebenezer...

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