Monday, September 20, 2010
1. Safety in all our travels.
2. Separation from the kiddos.
3. Clarity in what God wants in our lives and how/if these places are involved.
4. Spiritual protection from discouragement, fear, etc.
5. That we can relax and enjoy the ride!
Thanks! I will update you all and post some pics when we return!
It is no secret that we have struggled as a church. This struggle goes back long before we (and even most of the church members currently involved) were here. This is a church that has been on it's "last leg" for 20+ years. When we came two years ago, it was the last chance for the church to make it. Funny how God works.
Having been in a redevelopment church in Ohio that went relatively well (and developed life-long friendships for us) I guess we felt that we had some experience in this area! The truth is, though both churches were on redevelopment, that is where the similarities end. Kinsman was a country church with a rich history of families being there for generations, and those generations worshiping together. It is a small town with traditional views and life that is a lot slower than here in NY. There were issues in the church, but truthfully, after a rocky start, God intervened and the church started healing and growing again pretty fast. And it was definitely God - we had no clue what we were doing! :)
Enter Troy, NY. Small city where most people commute to Albany to work or work at the colleges in town. Busy-ness is a constant way of life. There are few stay-at-home moms and even fewer home schoolers! And the problems at the church were not things that had blown up suddenly in the year prior to us coming (like in Kinsman) but rather from decades of bad leadership. I am not saying this is true of all the pastors previous - but how long do you fight when you are constantly running into a brick wall?
Still, in the last 6 months God has made it clear to Shawn and I and the leadership here that he is not completely done with this church. But instead of doing things our way, it was time to figure out where HE wanted us. Troy is a city with hundreds of churches and only in the thousands of church people. The problem is that MOST of the churches in the area are fighting for those people. It is not even a conscious thing, but it is the truth. We were doing the same thing - and losing the battle in amazing ways! We do not have the manpower, people, resources, money or anything to "outdo" the churches that can run amazing kid's programs, put on a concert each Sunday, and do other things. This sounds like I am making excuses, but actually I am confessing that we wallowed in self pity too long. Then God started to wake us up as we found ourselves in a desperate spot of sink or swim - NOW!
So here is what he has put on our hearts in the last few months: We are church planting.
Yep...you heard me! We have had plenty of opportunities to reach college students and international students. We have a plethora of apartments behind the church filled to the brim with young families. We have parents of young adults attending the church that want to see their de-churched kids back in church. But none of these people see the relevancy to what we are doing in Sunday mornings. We want to reach these people - the ones who do not know Jesus, the ones who are less than excited about church, but are still (inside) hungering for Jesus and to know their purpose!
We already have a building that is paid off. We have a pastor who has lived here two years and has relationships. And we have a core group of people who are praying and on board. God has also provided an amazing worship band in the form of students right now (and Shawn and I, which is just funny!)
So on Wednesday, October 20th at 7pm we are kicking off "Compelled!"
This is our last chance...can you pray for us?
1. that we are following HIS lead all the way through this
2. That we fall more and more in love with him and are able to lead others to that spot
3. That The Spirit moves and people in Troy see church not only as relevant, but the actual beautiful bride of Christ that we are
4. We need more musicians - people who are settled into the area and not leaving every year. I love the students, but we need a sold base that will last.
5. For a person to come that Shawn can work with to become the pastor of this church eventually, as we do still feel that we are called to overseas ministry. Obviously we are open to His leading in this.
6. For a worship leader (Shawn wants one with a British accent!)
7. For steadfastness and Spiritual protection of our church and all the people involved in this ministry.
2 Corinthians 5:14 "For Christ's love COMPELS us..."
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
I just want to thank all of you who are praying for us and who have supported us on this trip. We now have enough to pay for all of our expenses.
Here are a few things you can be praying for:
1. Safety for our family being apart. Satan has hit me hard with this one this time around. I know the kids will be with grandparents who love them, and it will be a quick two weeks for us, but my mind is going into overdrive thinking of every possible bad scenario.
2. Wisdom for us and our future - in Africa, in this church in Troy, or wherever God has for us!
3. For this church - we are starting a new service midweek specifically aimed at people ages 18-35. There will be a band, more contemporary worship, and preaching, and small group time. This is our last chance to keep things at the church going. We are trying to follow what God is asking us to do and do it with all our heart. The new service kicks off on October 20th with a Night of worship.
Sunday, September 5, 2010
First, finding someone that will tell you honestly is not the easiest thing. Think about it - how many people are in your life that will be that real with you? Since I am the pastor's wife, I knew that I would be putting my church family in a weird position, so I decided to ask a few of my close friends and my sisters.
Receiving the answers has not been all fun.
My sisters gave the same answer. It was something that I was not surprised about, but it still hit home. There was not even complete truth to it, but it was what they all perceived, so it still showed something on my part. I am glad that they were honest with me (as I knew they would be) even though I immediately got defensive and made excuses! :)
The answers I received from others were not easy either. I know the truth, and the truth hurts. And is frustrating. Because many of these things are things that I have been trying for YEARS to change.
But it is a good eye opener.
I want to be a loving, compassionate person. I want to be healthy in every way. I want to show Jesus in my living...not just to those outside of the church, but to those already in relationship with Him. I want to be a different person than I am. It's the old Romans 7 issue!
My immediate reaction was trying to figure out ways to make myself better! Be more disciplined, pray more, have an accountability partner, reach out more, etc etc. And all of those things may come into play. But the truth of the matter is this- I can do nothing of any real and lasting value apart from the Holy Spirit.
So Holy Spirit, I am yours. Once again, I realize that I need you every second of every day. And I will always need you until I am with the Father.
Thanks for the reminder.
And thanks for being honest (and gentle!)
Thursday, September 2, 2010
I haven't updated my blog, even though I promised to keep you all updated with class, church, and Africa...so I decided I better get on the ball and do it! :)
Class with WHM has been intense. If I am being honest, we have experienced some of the most intense spiritual warfare that we have ever faced over these last couple of months. God is stripping away so many things, and being so exposed and raw is scarey and frustrating. The last couple of weeks I have felt like I am walking around in a fog.
Once again I am going to quote our workbook, because it says it better than I ever could.
"When we think about sanctification, we need to keep a number of things in mind. First and foremost, it is God who sanctifies us. The holy Spirit alone has the amazing power to transform our heart, conquer our idols, and cause us to delight in Jesus. We are not however, passive in this process; we are called to live by repentant faith, humbling believing and receiving the good news. Daily we are to live out the gospel and love others. Every day we need to appropriate the righteousness and forgiveness that is ours through Christ. Each day we are to live out of God's delight in us. As we live by repentant faith, we will have a decreasing confidence in ourselves, and an increasing confidence in the Holy spirit to transform our lives. As we grow, we become more aware of sinful capabilities and expressions of our hearts, while also becoming more aware of the great capability of the Holy Spirit to help us." (Sonship, WHM)
I am still working through all this. I think in my mind before I always lived by the expression "God helps those who help themselves" or that "God expected me to do my part." And I suppose in a way that last one is true...god does have a part for me. It is just not what I have thought all these years. I have been living like the "foolish Galatians" - I believed in Christ for salvation, but have been trying to work out my sanctification through my own righteous acts. In some ways I do feel foolish even admitting this - I have been a Christian for several years, a pastor's wife for 13, and even on the missions field (isn't that where they send the "holy" people?) ;) However, I am just starting to grasp this! And I feel like in it I have lost the part of me that I am most familiar with. I feel lost and vulnerable.
I am so thankful that God will not leave me here. I know that even if I hate the way I am feeling now, it is an answer to my prayer to "show me the iniquities of my heart." (I will admit, I have been tempted to stop praying this prayer! But my desire to know God more eventually overtakes, even if all my motives are not pure.)
So that is where I am at with all that. Feeling like a little child just starting to grasp it all over again.
In the middle of this growth life continues to happen (isn't it funny how that happens?)
The church is still here...we are not sure what the future holds. We have some ideas that we are excited about praying through and looking at more closely. As they develop I will update you for prayer! For now I would ask that you pray that we find where God is moving and hop on board instead of trying to do our own thing,as we have so often done. We have enough left in this body for one more good fight - we want to make it worth the battle.
We started school with the younger two boys this week. Many of you know that reading (and teaching reading) has been a struggle for Andrew. I was honestly dreading teaching both him and RJ. But it has been such a wonderful surprise! Andrew picked up a book and read like an old pro! And RJ is anxious to learn to read, so we are off to a good start. I have been enjoying these two smart, tender-hearted and comical little men that God gave me!
And Africa...well, we leave in less than a month. We have shots done and plane tickets bought. I am excited to meet the amazing missionaries there and see if this is the equation that God has us involved in for the future. But I am admittedly nervous too! I am struggling with how much of this is lack of faith and how much is lack of knowing how to do this! :) We are still over $1,000 short of what we absolutely need for your trip. There is no way we can do this on our own...our savings is almost depleted. Please pray with us for this...both for funding, but also for whatever it is that God wants to grow in me through this!Thank you for taking time to read this and for your love and encouragement to us! Yesterday was the one year anniversary of my mom's death. I miss her terribly - but not anymore yesterday than I usually do. I miss her in the little things...baking bread and making a piece of peanut butter toast; playing foursquare; watching Little House on the Prarie and crying; catching myself "twiddling" my hair; when my Voice of the Martyrs magazine comes (she loved this ministry!) But God has been and continues to show his love to me in this healing, and I am most grateful for friends like you who bring comfort! God bless!!!
It has been a stressful couple of weeks for us emotionally and spiritually. I could go into all the details of attempting to buy tickets, kids being sick, doctor's appointments, and all that, but it is not any different than most of you face each day, so I won't bother! The thing I want to write about tonight is our class that we are taking through World Harvest and all the things God is teaching us!
Last week's lesson was on repentance. I am learning that repentance is so much more than saying I am sorry. Motivation is a key thing in repentance - and I realized that often my motives were not pure. I wanted to feel better, change a situation, see different results, get out of something - and in my mind I thought that I could manipulate God by saying I was sorry. Of course, it is not like I never understood all of this before - I have been a Christian long enough to know how to word things and seem more spiritual. But in reality, I was not sorrowing about what my sinning did to God in his great love for me.
I really can't write anything that sums it up as well as part of the lesson, so I am going to take a passage from it:
"...there are two great misunderstandings aout our heart. First, we think too highly of oursleves. We loath looking at our hearts and seeing what we are really like. So we are constantly surprised at how angry, lustful, and hateful we can quickly become. Our response to sin is something along the lines of, 'I can't believe I just did that!' Bottom line: we don't believe what God says about our heart condition. Second, we think that we have the power to change our hearts. So in response to our sin, we make resolutions, or try to impose various laws on ourselves, Since we have a light view of our sins, we think that the law has power to change us. After all, if we only have a minor problem, a few resloutions and laws ought to be able to sort everything out."
That's what happened to me this week. When I blew up at the kids and Shawn after several weeks of being a "good" mom and wife, I was so surprised! What happened? I thought I had gotten past this?! I was surprised by my sin. I have since realized that I though I thought I had become a better person, I had merely set up rules for myself that I eventually could not follow. God used this last week to give me the opportunity to peer into the deep, dark ugliness of my heart and sin. And I shuddered and wanted out. And I prayed, begged, and made all sorts of promises.
Then God reminded me of the prodigal son. When was his moment of repentance? When he ran into the Father's arms. When we stopped talking about what he had DONE and started seeing what he WAS. First - what he was without the father, and then what he was in him.
And I ran.
Hesitantly at first - after all, I was so unworthy. Would he really want me?
But the closer I got, the more I could hear his words and feel his amazing love. And then I sprinted and jumped.
I am beyond thankful for this class that is repeatedly stripping away things and making me become more aware of my ugliness and his intense love for me regardless. I am falling in love with him. I want to live my life as Augustine said, "Love God with all your heart and do as you please."
But I can't. So Holy Spirit, I am yours.