8/12/15

The Irresistable Community


The table, the towel and the truth.  These are the three themes that author Bill Donahue weaves throughout his new book The Irresistible Community: An Invitation to Life Together.  

Set against the backdrop of the last supper, the author begins each chapter with a look at the events leading up to this meal through the eyes of each disciple.  He breaks the book down into the three aforementioned themes and the result is one of the most well written and insipring books I have come across in a long, long time. 

It wasn't long into the first chapter of The Irresistible Community before I began dog-earing parts of the book and going back and looking at it again and again.  I made notes, I found sermon ideas and I was challenged in my walk with the Lord. 

The idea of coming to the table with Jesus, picking up the towel of serventhood and hearing and speaking truth resonated with me.  This is a book I will go back to again and I look forward to mining for more nuggets of wisdom in coming seasons.

I encourage you to pick up a copy for yourself.

"This book has been provided courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications and Baker Publishing in exchange for an honest review."

8/4/15

My Addiction.

I was once an addict. 

It started off innocently enough.  I was in the 3rd grade.  I came across some scented magic markers.  Like every other kid in class, I sniffed the various markers.  Unlike the rest of my class, I didn't stop.  I continued sniffing markers throughout the school year.  I huffed at school, I hufffed at home...and before long I became an addict. 

It may sound humorous...but it got worse. 

My parents caught me huffing markers...but they did not know I was also huffing gasoline.  My neighbor caught me inhaling exhaust fumes and my dad put a boot in my backside.  I was punished, lectured and addicted.  I can't recall how many times I got caught or when I eventually woke up to what I was doing but I was addicted for a couple years. 

Some addictions can be bad, even fatal. 

Today I am addicted again.  This addiction is life changing.  It is one that has impacted my whole family.  In fact we are all addicts and we don't want to quit.

Recently I asked myself some questions you would ask of an addict:

  1. Can you hardly wait until you are alone so you can experience the feeling that comes from taking part in the experience?
  2. Do you find yourself avoiding people because they interfere with your addiction?
  3. Do you find yourself daydreaming about your habit?
  4. Do you regularly turn to your habit when you are troubled?
  5. Do you feel better able to face life after engaging in your habit?
  6. Do you get upset if you cannot partake in your habit for a long period of time?
  7. Do you prefer to be with other people who do what you do?
I can and did answer yes to all these questions. 

This time I am addicted to Jesus Christ!

Psalm 84:10, "For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness."

This addiction isn't fatal but it is eternal!  It not only changes my life but my future as well.   I don't care if people support me or not...I just want more of Jesus.  I want to spend time in His presence, in His Word, worshiping day in and day out.

Jesus Christ has changed my life.  Believe in Him or not, I KNOW how He has changed my life.  I have seen to much to ever turn back. I serve a LIVING, LIFE GIVING, MIRACLE WORKING God!

7/25/15

Plowing Hope

"...That he who plows should plow in hope, and he who threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope."  (1 Corinthians 9:10b)

I recently read this passage of Scripture, found in the latter part of 1 Corinthians 9:10, and it has been rattling around in my head ever since. 

The thing that stand out to me is the word 'hope'.  Plowing in hope.  Threshing in hope.  Partaking in hope.  I love that word hope.  Day after day I am reminded that without hope, we have nothing. 

Romans 12:12 says, "Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer."

I have been a believer for over 30 years and I have seen the Lord move in mighty ways.  I have seen people rise off their sickbeds.  I have seen instantaneous healing.  I have seen unexplainable miracles.  I know God is real.  I know He is active, calling, wooing, seeking, saving and setting people free!

Even when life seems at it's worst, when I have moments of doubt, I go back to those milestones and my hope is renewed. 

That hope stirs me, fills me and I am challenged to share that hope with others.  Too often we dwell on our mistakes or have our mistakes continuously pointed out to us.  The truth of the matter is we all sin.  We all make mistakes.  The Bible is very clear on that.  It is also clear that we are called to love God and love our neighbor.  We are called to share what Jesus Christ did on the cross.  I will share hope, I will share truth in love, I will speak life.  This world is not the end.  I have a hope of eternity.  That eternal hope causes me to rejoice today.

Suffering will one day end, pain will be no more.  Life is more than it appears, God still moves today.

I can't worry about tomorrow.  What comes will come.  Today, today I will rejoice in hope!  Tomorrow is a new day, and again I will rejoice in hope.

Live hope, breathe hope, speak hope and let the peace of Jesus Christ reign in your life forever!

7/8/15

Closed Doors and Open Windows - Guest Blogger Teri Gerdes

I am away on vacation.  While away, a couple of Compassion Bloggers have agreed to make guest posts on my blog!  Enjopy and check out thier blogs for regular doses of awesomeness!

Closed Door and Open Windows
 
Our children had the blessing of attending a Christian school.  One of them from 5th-12th grade.  One of them from 2nd-12th grade.  One of them from Kindergarten-2nd grade.  This school was very small.  It was a school where our children were nurtured in the Word and ways of the Lord.  It was a family.  It wasn’t perfect by any means, but it was perfect for us during that stage of our lives.  Our daughter was a member of the last graduating class in 2008.  Closed doors.

My husband was a member of the Board of Directors for this school.  Making the decision to close the school was not easy, but it was wise.  The economy in our area just didn’t support a school such as ours. For a few years, a local preschool program rented the building from the Board which brought in some income as the Board was trying to decide what the future held for a Christian school such as our humble little one.  In 2013, the preschool organization decided they wanted to buy the building.  Open windows.

The bylaws which the Board of Directors needed to abide by stated that any money left in the account when they disbanded was to be given to Christian organizations that had something to do with education.  Each member of the Board was allocated a certain amount and given the freedom to choose the organization that they wanted their portion given to.  My husband chose Compassion International.

Compassion International’s Leadership Development Program (LDP) to be exact.  Compassion’s LDP is an amazing program!  I had personally met some LDP students while on sponsor tours and at the Advocate conferences I attended.  I desperately wanted to have the chance to pour into the lives of these dynamic young adults as they studied in University to become all that God intended them to be. But I needed a major act of God.

And God did it.

My husband was given a check with a sizeable amount written on it.  All we had to do was choose our students.  It was fun to read through so many biographies of so many deserving students.  To pray and ask God which students He wanted us to have in our lives.  We knew we were going to Colombia that year, so we chose Reyner from Cartagena.  Ecuador also held a deep place n my heart, so we chose Marco from Machala.  We were able to help these two fine men through their entire college career.  And we still had money left over!  So, we chose Elkana from Kenya, who only had a little over a year left. And we still had money left.  So each of them got money to use for a laptop computer or another necessity for their classes.

Recently, Reyner made the choice to leave the LDP.  It was his choice.  We were disappointed.  Closed door for him.  We hope he remains in school to finish out his dream, but that is a decision he will have to make.  We know that we poured ourselves into him through a visit with him and many letters.  We showed him Jesus every chance we could.  We love him still.  That will never change.  But we had some funds left over from his account that needed to be allocated somewhere else.  Open windows.

Again we looked through biographies and asked God who He wanted in our lives.  That is when we chose Rebecca and John, both students in Uganda.  They both only had a few months left.  Then another open window.

We learned that Marco, our student in Ecuador, would be finishing his studies MUCH earlier than anticipated.  Open window.

Back to the website to look at more students.  It was then that I saw Pablo from Nicaragua.  I could hardly believe my eyes!  Just a few months before seeing his picture on the website, I had met this young man.  I was on a sponsor tour in Nicaragua, and Pablo was one of the students who addressed our group.  To say he was a dynamic speaker would be an understatement.  I knew that we had to use the extra funds we had to sponsor Pablo.  So we did.

Never in my wildest Compassion dreams, did I ever expect to be able to have even ONE LDP student in our Compassion family!  But God, in His Ephesians 3:20 way, saw fit to add SIX of them to our hearts!

Sometimes closed doors can be really hard.  Even heart-wrenching.  I am so thankful that God opens windows to soothe the pain and heart-ache.
DSCF7234ReynerEC9800345-Fullshot-200w MarcoKE9800402-Fullshot-200wElkanaJohn-LDP Uganda 2015John Rebecca-LDP Uganda 2015RebeccaDSCF9312Pablo (in white shirt)

“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly and abundantly more than we could ever ask for or imagine…to Him be the glory, both now and forevermore.”  Ephesians 3:20

Teri Gerdes blogs at https://iamgivinghope.wordpress.com

7/1/15

Summertime, Sum Sum Summertime - Guest Blogger Michelle Kelly


I am away on vacation.  While away, a couple of Compassion Bloggers have agreed to make guest posts on my blog!  Enjopy and check out thier blogs for regular doses of awesomeness!

Summertime, Sum Sum Summertime! 

Summertime, a wonderful time of year with a gentler pace for many families.  Away from the schedules and demands of the school year there is time to explore and experience different things together as a family and individually.  The title of this post may bring a song to your mind, just know that I’ve been humming that song for days.  I guess that is one way to come up with a title!

Sharing purposeful times with our kids

Often in the summer, when my children were younger, we would have “summer fun” camp and ministry related experiences that just didn’t fit in the rigorous days of scheduled learning.  The activities and experiences we planned were based upon a couple of the goals we have as parents.  We desire to inspire our children to love God and men, to be lifelong learners, to be givers, to know this world is bigger than our backyard, community, state, country, and continent.  We also want to be intentional about experiencing life together and making memories that will bring joy and give direction in the future.

The summer camps often included local cousins and always included the library reading program.  Our local library system has a wonderful summer program.  Among other things, they give fantastic prizes that include tickets to various activities and places in our town.  With those tickets we discovered many interesting places and enjoyed being tourists in our own community.

Pursuing a lifestyle of lifelong learning and global awareness

As I said, often times our activities made us tourists in our own town and got us outside.  Other times we had intentional opportunities to explore the world outside our community.  We sponsor children through Compassion International and have a few international missionary friends.  One way I found to expose my children and build relationships with those other places and cultures, was to choose a particular geographical place and pick up a few books from the library.  If there were some interesting videos, I would also pick those up.  Then we could choose recipes from this list, and prepare a meal from that country or area.   These countries and areas would usually be related to our sponsor children.  Doing these things helped us to “know” these kids better and give us better understanding of their lives.

Family Ministry with Compassion International

Compassion International has various items on their website to help parents in developing a global mindset, activities at the Compassion Offices, aka the Global Ministry Center in Colorado Springs, as well as publications that you can receive in your home.

One such publication and activity is Step into My Shoes.  I only learned about Step into My Shoes last summer, and since then have discovered much more about this fantastic opportunity.  Last August, my youngest daughter and I had the opportunity to participate in Step into My Shoes at the Compassion Offices.  The highlight of this activity was definitely having a skype call with children at a Child Development Center in Bolivia.  My daughter got to take part in the conversation and was able to ask and answer questions.   While we were able to participate in Colorado Springs with the program, the website has a kit and other resources that you can order to do a Step into My Shoes series of activities in your home or small group.

Learning, growing, exploring and experiencing.

A great way to spend summertime!

Michelle Kelly blogs at byquietwaters.com.  She is a Jesus follower, wife to one, marme to many and nana to just one.

6/20/15

Proud Papa

We are blessed to have two wonderful kids.

Our daughter, our blessing, came to us at just the right time and has been just that. She has an aweesome voice, is a talented writer and has a such a heart of compassion that even her dear old dad looks up to her! She has been an encouragement and blessing to her parents and we are so thankful God gifted us with her presence seventeen years ago.

Our son, our miracle, was just that.  We did not think we could have kids anymore after my wife had complications during her first pregnancy.  Yet one day, many years after disposing of our baby items, this miraculous bundle of energy came along. He loves to play soccer, wrestle with dad and create worlds of adventure with his Lego.

A Blessing and a Miracle.

I am a proud to be a papa.  Not everyone is so lucky. 


In addition to my two awesome kids, we have had the privelage and honor of sponsoring three wonderful kids via Compassion.  Our first, Tsehay, was from Ethiopia and we decided to sponsor her after seeing her precious photo at a Rebecca St. James concert.  We decided to sponor another child after Tsehay grew up and graduated the program.  Our second child, Luiz from Brazil, left the program after a few months when he moved away.  We then found little Wycaro, also from Brazil.  His letters are so cute and he shares many interests with our own son.

All three of our Compassion Kids photos are on our fridge and we have written many a letter back and forth over the years.  These kids are part of our family.  We have all read the letters, looked at the photos and sent pictures, drawings and other things to our kids over the years.

This Father's Day, why not become a Proud Papa to a child in need?

Why not go to www.compassion.com/fatherless today to sponsor your own bundle of joy! 

6/12/15

The Faith of a 5 Year Old

Five is a fun age.

When I was that age I remember playing tons, reading some and watching a bit of TV.  I could tell you how to get to Sesame Street, visited Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, played with friends, colored, and did all those typical five year old things.

One thing I did not do was write songs.

CJ, my 5-year old, is that kid.  He plays lots, reads way more than I did at that age, watches TV...and write's worship songs.

He has written a few in the last year.

Typical was what happened this past week.

He goes into his bedroom and comes out a couple minutes later and says, "Dad I wrote a worship song."

I asked him to sing it to me but he said I had to come to his room.  He then got down on the floor to show me the actions needed to go with the song.  Crouching low he slowly rises up to his tippy toes with his arms lifted up high.

He then asked me to get a pen and write down these words:

You may start out small like a seed
But God makes you grow bigger
You can rise up
And He crushes the enemy
and you can rise up

It may not mean much to you but when my son starts randomly singing about God, growth and overcoming the enemy I get a bit excited.  There was no prelude, no conversations leading up to this moment...just a kid wanting to sing about God.  He asked my wife to put it to music and for us to sing it on Sunday.

Kids are awesome and the Lord has taught me a lot about His character and the faith of a child through the years.  This little song spoke to me because I was just coming out of a difficult season in my own faith walk and felt like I was entering a period of new beginnings. 

The Lord allowed my 5 year old to encourage me in my faith.

May He do the same for you!