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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Sometimes All He Wants is Yes

I'd prayed about it. It was not something I really desired to do but I felt Him leading me in the direction of the opportunity in front of me. I struggled with the decision but knew it was what He wanted so I said yes. I began to pray about this new responsibility and prepare myself for the changes it would bring into my life. I'd have to travel and do things I really wasn't interested in, but I had peace about it because I knew it was what He had been asking of me. 

The next week I was at a dinner and, unbeknownst to me, the guest speaker got up to introduce the new person in the ministry position I'd just accepted. As Elizabeth was introduced I sat bewildered and a little embarrassed. 

I later shared what happened with my husband who called one of the two people in charge of this position. Frank was beside himself and angry that this had taken place without his knowledge. Frank contacted Melinda (the other person in charge) and she assured him that Elizabeth was indeed given the position. 

Two branches of this ministry team looking in different directions without consulting each other caused a lot of confusion over the next several days. Emails were sent to all involved, apologies were made, conversations held, all the while with me wondering if I'd gotten it wrong. 

I was relieved that I didn't have to take this position and was thrilled that my friend Elizabeth got it, she would be much better at it than I would. She's proven this to be true in the years since. 

I still struggled with the decision since I'd known God had wanted me to say yes, but then I realized that maybe the yes was all He wanted. I think sometimes He just wants to know we are willing to do what He asks, even if it is something we don't want to do. 

By taking this position, Elizabeth has gotten to shine and grow her personality in a way what would have had me shrinking back. By me not having it I've been able to focus on things that have taken more of my time and energy than I'd thought would. 

Through this I've been reminded once again that God will never do anything to hurt or harm us and that His tests cause us to grow. I could have reacted to this in several ways that wouldn't have pleased Him.

Rejection: I could have taken this personally and looked at it as if I'd been rejected. Once I'd done this I would have surely had a list as long as a six-year old's Christmas list, filled with reasons for the rejection which would have only left me in a puddle of self-pity.

Elizabeth is younger than I and offers different skills than I do, but different does not mean better. I could have spent hours awake at night going over all of the reasons why she was a better choice than me. This would have ruined our friendship.

Anger: I could easily talk myself into being justified with anger over this situation. I mean, it was unfair. I should not be treated like this. Who did they think they were? I could let it downward spiral until I ruined a friendship with Elizabeth and ruined my reputation with the ministry leaders.

The list goes on. No matter which I'd chose it would never be better than choosing to let it go. By letting it fly away I was able to maintain the friendship with Elizabeth and encourage her to shine in her special way. I maintained my reputation with the ministry leaders, and kept my testimony of what the Lord is doing in and through me in tact.

Through all of this I was reminded that sometimes He just wants our willingness. Sometimes all He wants is yes.

About the Author:

Suzanne Schaffer has been in full-time ministry with her husband Wayne since 1992, pastoring in Pennsylvania and Illinois. She has two grown children and spends most of her days either writing or reading with a cup of tea close by. She enjoys attending auctions and sometimes brings home more stuff than she knows what to do with. She believes life is too short for mediocre food and insists on having good chocolate in the house at all times. You can connect with Suzanne at her blog, www.notenoughchocolate.blogspot.com

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Rest and Trust

Racing thoughts spilled over the rim of Nicole’s mind. The annual ladies retreat was only a week away and the musician was suddenly unavailable. Her two teenagers were getting out of hand. Prayer meeting was in an hour and dinner wasn’t near ready. She dropped the vegetables on the counter and pulled out the cutting board.

Grateful the church was only ten minutes away, she considered other ingredients on hand to throw into a summer salad she could call dinner. The leftover chicken would add protein. Fresh pecans would delight her husband. And she was pretty sure there was a bottle of everybody’s favorite dressing in the fridge. It just might work.

Her hands flew as she started chopping. Clack, clack, clack. The knife’s rhythm somehow calmed her breathing. By the time she broke open the bell pepper and rinsed it, she was absorbed in the task. Her palm pressed into the handle as she sliced through the red vegetable’s skin. Bite-size pieces materialized.

She didn’t notice the blood until she rested the onion on the board. Dropping the knife, she reached across and grabbed at her injured thumb. Exerting pressure to close the wound, she stepped to the sink and pushed at the faucet with her elbow. The scarlet stream sent balls of light floating before her eyes. Her forearms caught her body weight against the counter’s edge. What now?

Once her head cleared Nicole inspected the injury and decided to treat it herself. While she alternated between applying pressure and wrapping gauze around the gash she turned to the Lord for solutions to her dilemma. Surely He created her for more than the incessant pressure that drove her.

She called her daughter to come finish the salad. When her son appeared to announce his hunger, she had him set the table. What would happen if I took on less?

They joined hands as her husband prayed. “Eat up, kids. We don’t want to be late.” The ping of forks on porcelain kept a bustling pace.

“Jeff, my hand is sore. I think I’ll stay home.” Nicole paused to check his reaction.

“That sounds like a good idea. Are you sure you’ll be all right by yourself? Caroline can stay with you.” Anxiety laced his words. “Can I pick up anything for you at the store?”

She closed her eyes as she took a cleansing breath. “No, dear. I’ll be fine.” Concern left his face and teased out a smile on hers. “Would you mind asking Joan Bennet to find a replacement musician for the retreat? I can’t think of anyone.”

“Sure. I’ll be happy to take care of that. Joan’s got connections. I’m sure she’ll find someone. Don’t worry.” He wiped his mouth with the checkered napkin. “Okay, kids. Let’s go.”

Peace I [Jesus] leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid (John 14:27).

Brief Bio
Sandra Allen Lovelace is a continuing missionary, a pastor’s wife emeritus, and a homeschool pioneer. She’s a well-respected speaker and author known for her candor and warmth. Sandra’s current manuscript invites wallflower women to enjoy the life God created them to live. She enjoys hiking with a camera in her hand, best done on an international adventure. Sandra and her husband Curt are transitioning to South Carolina.

Get to know Sandra at her website, http://sandraallenlovelace.com/
You can also connect with Sandra on Facebook. If you contact her at Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Google+ she’ll be delighted by a reason to practice.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

FOMO for PKs in Small Churches

I want the best for my kids. We all do. It’s part of being a mother.

When God called us overseas, we had to forsake a loving nursery where every worker had a background check, followed by a well-structured, modern children’s program, and culminating in a large, energetic youth group. Without these, I was anxious about the spiritual education of my children.

·         Who would teach them the Bible stories?
·         Would they be “normal kids” without pizza parties and emphasis weekends?
·         How would they learn how to battle PEER PRESSURE?!?
·         What if they never learned “Jesus Loves Me”?!?!? (I was happy to avoid “Father Abraham,” because that song just drives me crazy.)

Maybe you’re in the same position. Maybe you live in a place with no churches or you serve in a small church with no “quality” programs for families. Maybe your FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) has kicked in, too, and you think God might be short-changing your children for the sake of the unreached people around you.

I did.

One day, I was almost crying as I walked through the narrow streets of our city, torn by my conflicting responsibilities, when the Holy Spirit stopped me in my tracks. Literally; I stopped walking and may have stopped breathing for a second there. In prayer, I realized something I should have known all along: God loved my children just as much as He loved the lost person I was going to visit. He was equally interested in the spiritual development of my children and my lost friend. Sure, I knew it intellectually, but this fact hit me at a heart level. I knew His purposes in bringing us to this far-away place included my children. I knew their souls were not sacrificed on the altar of service.

Over the next few months, I began to notice the depth of their spiritual understanding. I taught them “Jesus Loves Me,” but they loved and trusted the Bible at a deeper level than that. They prayed incredible prayers, and they spoke of faith issues with confidence.

Another mom in church planting felt the same way. She watched her children learn how to pray for lost people. She saw their faith deepen from sitting in small groups with adults because there were no children’s programs. She, too, is glad for the lack.

There are many great things happening in larger churches with children’s programs and youth groups, but don’t bemoan your church’s lack of such things. Don’t think your children are missing out because your church plant, small church, or house church lacks programs for kids. God will place people and events in your children’s lives that strengthen and expand their faith in unique ways. He loves them just as much as He loves the people you’re trying to reach with the gospel.

And as far as I know, my kids still haven’t learned “Father Abraham.” Whew!

Question for Reflection: Are you anxious about some aspect of parenting because of ministry? Relax into God’s faithfulness and watch Him mold your children for good in that exact area.

About the Author:

Carole Sparks is passionate about God’s Word—about how it can change our everyday lives! After years of globetrotting, she now lives, learns, and loves (plus a good bit of writing) in the hills of East Tennessee. Connect with Carole through her blog, http://notaboutme1151.wordpress.comor on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.

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