Thursday, February 24, 2011

Remembering the Big Picture

When I was asked to write a blog post, I was completely caught off guard. I had no idea what I was going to write about. I didn't think that I had anything to offer. I'm not in a relationship, nor do I have any children. I'm a twenty-one year old who spends all of her time working a part-time job and going to school full-time. All I pretty much do is work, study, and sleep. After I sat down and started to try and come up with something to write about, I was surprised, and then not really surprised, with what I came up with.

All of my time is literally dedicated to work and school, and the few free hours I found I spent on myself because I felt like I deserved those hours. That part wasn't so surprising. What was surprising is I was completely forgetting about something that's so much more important than school and work. And that's my relationship with God. Yes, I do go to adult worship on Sunday mornings, and yes, I go to community group on Sunday where I am also doing a Bible study. But in reality, my mind right now is so obsessed with my own personal life that I'm not even taking time to ask God for help through all of this. That I'm reading my psychology book instead of the Bible. God wants me to come to Him about everything, and I'm the one taking that and saying I can handle all of it, and I can control what goes on in my life, without even realizing that I'm doing it!

It's so easy, at least for me, to get caught up, obsessed with, and overwhelmed with what and how I want my life to turn out. With whatever season of life I'm in, whether it's getting married, getting a degree, or starting a family; I know that the number one thing that I need to do is trust in God, that He knows what He's doing, and that He is never going to give me something that I can't handle. I can make all the plans in the world, like right now I'm going to school to be a paramedic, but maybe that's not what God has planned for me. I'm going to have to be ok with that if it doesn't work out. I'm never going to know what or how things are going to change, and I know that I need to trust Him with those changes!

After writing this blog post, it has really opened my eyes to the big picture. I guess you could say that I got "tunnel vision" on what I thought were the major things going on in my life, and forgot about everything else. I thought that I had nothing to offer to anyone else, that I had nothing of importance to write about. I am now glad that I was asked to write a blog. It really made me take a look at myself, to take a step outside of my own personal bubble, and see the things that need to change! In the end, I did have something to offer and something of importance, but it was mainly for me!

- Jessica Hopkins, Preschool Administrative Assistant

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

When I Don't Feel Like It

One of the blogs that I have really enjoyed reading over the past year is Girl Talk. It's written by a mom and three grown daughters who write about biblical womanhood while sharing their real-life experiences of being wives and moms.

A post this week (Feb 22) really resonated with me. It's entitled, "When I Don't Feel Like It." Rather than summarizing it (it's not very long), check it out by following this link.

The last four months have had many "When I Don't Feel Like It" moments. They have been felt through tears, sickness, anxiety, and guilt. They have come through the joy of finding out we were expecting our second child and the excitement of becoming more involved in Children's Ministry at Grace by joining the staff part-time. The joy and excitement quickly moved to being very sick and overwhelmed by trying to balance work, being a wife, and a mom. There were at best a couple of good hours in the day to fit it all in, and many times those good hours were overshadowed by the tears, fears, anxiety, and guilt of not feeling like doing any of it.

After reading, "When I Don't Feel Like It," I can see where a lack of repentance for the fear and anxiety I was feeling ultimately just led to more! I was not relying on God for the emotional and physical strength to get a task done or to leave it undone without guilt.

The season of life I am in is wife, mother to a 3-year old, pregnant, friend, sister, daughter, volunteer, and part-time staff with Children's Ministry. Your season of life is probably different, but no doubt includes "When I Don't Feel Like It" moments.

Sometimes we need to do the task in our tears, anxiety, and guilt. Sometimes the next thing we need to do is take a break and rest in God's mercy. But regardless of what the next step is, I need to remember to repent of the fear, anxiety, and guilt, and trust in God. That's much easier for me to write about and reflect on that live out in the moment, but I pray that it is something God continues to lead me through.

- Betsy Zimmerman, Preschool Coordinator

Monday, February 21, 2011

Project Kenya: Loving and Serving the People of Kenya

Check out this video about Project Kenya!

How can your family support Project Kenya? We will be collecting money during Big Group Time of our preschool and Camp Grace programs each weekend until March 27th. You can send money with you child(ren) or drop a check off in an offering box (with "Project Kenya" in the memo). Project Kenya is a great opportunity for you and your family to love and serve families in need in Kenya.

For more information, check out our website.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Going Through the Motions

Check this out! Click here  Does this sound familiar to you? "I don't wanna go through the motions. I don't wanna go one more day without your all consuming passion inside of me. I don't wanna spend my whole life asking, 'What if I had given everything, instead of going through the motions?'" That's right! It's Matthew West's song, "The Motions." You've heard it on the radio hundreds of times. Lately, I've really been paying attention to the words of songs instead of just singing them, and these words really got my attention. I feel like they are applicable to so many aspects of our lives, which is great because they can reach just about everyone. An aspect that immediately comes to mind is your job.

Do you ever find yourself "going through the motions" at work? It's so easy to get caught up in the actual process of doing our job that we sometimes forget our purpose and what our job means...I know that I do. I do a lot of things dealing with numbers for our Children's Ministry, and I can easily fall into thinking these are mundane tasks dealing with just numbers; that my job has no real significance in spreading the Gospel. In reality, I am using the gifts God gave me to do just that. I am not the actual person teaching our children, but I am doing behind-the-scenes things to equip those teachers and to create an inviting environment for them.

495 is the number of copies I make for each Camp Grace activity. But, each piece of paper will eventually get into the hands of an elementary child, each with their own story and background, and will hopefully open their hearts to the Gospel. 979 is the number of kids we had in a recent weekend across all 3 campuses. That's almost 1000 kids! I did not personally influence each and every one of them, but that's 1000 kids that I had a part in giving them the opportunity to know more about our Lord Jesus. That is a lot of children and a lot of families, and we are just one church in one part of the world. Think about it for a minute...this is the future generation. We are equipping the future generation!

It's these things that are easy to overlook, but are most important. God has given everything and everyone a purpose. We need to seek Him out, and look at His amazing work. Let His passion inside of you so that it flows out in everything that you do. Ask yourself, "What if I had given everything, instead of going through the motions?"

- Nicole Snyder, Children's Ministry Administrative Assistant

Friday, February 11, 2011

Project Kenya

In just over a week, our Children's Ministry at Grace Church will be launching a 5-week initiative called PROJECT KENYA to raise money for needy families in Africa. If you didn't know already, God has developed a partnership between our church and Koinonia Baptist Church in Central Kenya. In this part of the world, there is a significant opportunity for us to share the wealth that God has given us. Using the currency of chickens, gardens, and goats, PROJECT KENYA will raise funds to purchase these sustainable living items for Kenyan families in need. This will not only provide food for families in need, but the opportunity to sell the produce from these things to bless others as well. Our goal is to raise $4000 in the next 5 weeks! We are excited to have something so practical and reachable for our children to invest in.

But in addition to being a practical way for our children and their families to get involved in what God is doing through our church, I am really excited about the opportunity families will have to experience real heart change. Based on Proverbs 3:9 (which says "Honor the Lord with your wealth"), our primary purpose is to help our children to see how much we have been given, and to teach them that we are called by God to share His resources with others. Common among all children (adults too!) is the struggle to be focused on self and not on others. It is my hope that this 5-week adventure will help our preschool and elementary children see that tendency in themselves and choose to focus on other families that have great need. As parents and children's ministry leaders, I believe that we can never teach enough about being focused on others and not on ourselves.

It is my great hope that this will serve our families at Grace Church with an opportunity to teach children the Biblical principles of God's provision, stewardship, and generosity. More than just another chance to write a check, I hope that moms and dads will seize the opportunity to start discussions around the dinner table and find teachable moments throughout the day.

And when this 5-week adventure comes to an end (and we send a nice check across the sea to help feed needy families in Kenya), my prayer is that a lasting impact has been made on the hearts of our children (and their parents). What would our lives look like if we truly believed that everything is the Lord's and not our own? What would be different if we saw our wealth primarily as a resource to bless others? Imagine if our dinner table conversations were seasoned with questions like "Where did you see Jesus today?", "Who has needs that we can pray for tonight?", and "What are some ways that we can give as a family so that others can be as blessed as we have been?"

Blessing to all of you parents out there who are learning to lead your children to Jesus everyday. Fight the good fight, finish the race, keep the faith! (2 Timothy 4:7)

- Ed Sweeny

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Seventy Times Seven = 1 Million!

This weekend, the Camp Grace students learned about forgiveness. In Matthew 18, Peter asks Jesus how many times we should forgive our offenders, and Jesus' answer is, "Seventy times seven."

To be a seven year old that can't do that kind of multiplication easily, that number may as well be a million! As we sat around the dinner table Saturday evening after church, talking about our worship time, we knew our seven year old had written something about forgiveness on her class worksheet. She had drawn a picture of a person saying mean things, and another picture of someone crying. When we asked her about it, she opened up about something someone at school had said to her that hurt her feelings. This incident happened over a month ago, and she still remembered the hurtfulness of it. She was also dumbfounded that Jesus expected us to forgive without any strings attached.

It was a great opportunity for us as parents, for many reasons. First, we were able to immediately sit and talk about the truths her teachers had brought to her in class and help her apply them practically. We also had the opportunity to gain insight about how the Holy Spirit is moving in her life: did she want to forgive? Was she mad? Or sad? Has she truly forgiven? Does she need to talk to this student about the offense? And her dad and I were also very grateful for the chance she had to hear God's word, taught from loving teachers who are truly interested in what God is doing in her life. They helped lay the foundation for a fruitful discussion with our daughter. Most of all, we were able to point her to the abundant forgiveness we have in Christ, and that because He has forgiven us of our sins, as an act of love and obedience we are called to do the same for others who sin against us.

By the end of our chat, not only did our daughter have a better understanding of Christ and what His work on the cross did for her, but we were also laughing at the situation at school that had, moments ago, had her in tears. I know this is one talk in a million we will have full of tears and hurt as we continue this journey with her, but I am thankful for a ministry that brings the truth of the Gospel into our everyday language, the volunteers that faithfully deliver that truth in the classroom, and most of all for a Savior who understands the trials we face.

- Molly Burns, Saturday Night Coordinator

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Fine and Pleasant Misery

The whistle blows and I feel the jerk of the train as it lunges forward, beginning its rhythmic chug, taking everyone on board to a new destination. I close my eyes, feeling the blast of warm summer air on my cheeks while the pungent smell of clover seeps through the cracked window.

As I doze, I remembered the wonderful camping trip of the week before. Marshmallows oozing from graham crackers drizzled with chocolate. My favorite part was sleeping under the stars...we would all lay there listening to Dad make stories of the old West come alive. He was the world's best storyteller. He could make the Bible come alive, giving the men and women of old the personalities that we couldn't imagine by reading the stories ourselves. He would ask questions such as, "Whey they were crossing the Red Sea, how many kids to you think their hand in the wall of water? Do you think they splashed each other? Saw fish?" I could just sit and listen to him for hours, giving each story his down-to-earth perspective and character.

I jerked awake at the sound of my cell phone ringing. As I noticed my coffee sitting cold on my desk, and the end of my pencil chewed, I realized I had again daydreamed about the wonderful days of my childhood.'s that time of year when we are plagued with the worst of all fevers. Spring Fever - the time when we have tantalizing days of warmth followed by cold rain and many more days of biting cold.

I sighed and tried to focus on what to do next, and what in the world I was going to write about. Suddenly I realized...I'm not the only one with this disastrous disease. Many other share this plague! I should share about how my family coped with this time of year when I was growing up.

My daydream above was exactly how we coped. We would take train rides and camping trips to whittle away the hours until Spring decided to let us outside. Confused? Well let me share...the train ride was nothing more than the dining room chairs lined up in the living room. My parents had loaded it with luggage, and we all dawned ourselves with homemade costumes and child-like accents. The parents as storytellers and impromptu characters, and us as the main actors, provided hours of pleasure!

Camping in February? Oh yes, a blanket fort in the living room with glow-in-the-dark stars stuck to the top blankets was the best camp site ever. My parents would lay there with my brothers and I, telling us stories from the Old West, the Bible, and my personal favorite...from their childhood. This was how we coped with the plague of Spring/Cabin Fever.

Looking back, I realized that the simplistic stage they set, the little time they spent and sharing with their children the simple gifts that God gave them drew their family closer together and turned the misery of Cabin Fever into the best memories I have...indeed, a Fine and Pleasant 'Misery.'

Take this time my friends as we are all cooped up inside, and make it a Fine and Pleasant 'Misery' for you and your family. No kids? Who says a "Camping Trip" under a blanket fort has to be for kids only? Something about microwave s'mores and sharing stories under a make-shift living room fort has a way of bringing out the deepest theological conversations in all of us. If nothing else, endless giggles will ensue and you'll find yourself closer to the person you shared it with. So...get out there...enjoy this season and make it a Fine and Pleasant 'Misery.'

- Valerie Gutschow, Preschool Big Group and Quest Coordinator

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Living in Community

I was reminded again this week that there are many types of community. It seems that every time I am correcting my sons, I am being spoken to by God to correct things in my life. My boys are a part of my community. God uses them to speak truth to me, and point out sin in my life. They love me through it. My husband Brian is a major part of my community. He speaks truth into my life on a daily basis, and loves me through it all. My close friends see things in my life that they speak truth to me, and love me through it. My extended family does the same. The theme is overwhelming: speak the truth and love through it. We all have opportunity for community. Are we engaged in it?

Community does more than change us to be more like Christ. It also encourages others and changes others. When I am in a hard place of life, my life can either give God glory, or not. The people in my community see these reactions. It may inspire some in my community to step forward and lead me in an area of my life. Others may have been discouraged themselves, and received encouragement to continue on. Being a part of this process and seeing life change may bless some.

As a church, we believe in living in community. We have the opportunity to model community to our children. We build relationships within our small groups at church, and our children continue to grow in these relationships as they get older and move into student ministry.

Community is more than meeting once a week, sharing come struggles, and encouraging others on occasion. Community is living life-on-life. Life-long.

- Kathryn Sanders, Powdersville Campus Children's Director