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Category Archives: church life

Carefully Crafting…

father holidng childThis summer was one of significant change.  I left a job I loved, but realized it was not where God was truly calling me to be.  It was one of those seasonal change things…I had stepped away from Children and Family Ministries, but apparently no forever.

God began to unfold all of this late last winter.  A Facebook group I’m part of had advertised a diploma program for Kidmin and through a “contest”, we had an opportunity to be given a scholarship towards the tuition.  So, I completed the steps, but was sure that this Canadian wouldn’t hear anymore.  I put it out of my mind, until April Fool’s day (really!!).  Someone hadn’t claimed the scholarship offered to them, and when a name was drawn to be offered that space – it was mine!  We Prayed about it, and said “Yes”.

Fast forward to a lovely trip with friends into our local wine country, and a conversation about the dream of change that their church was having for an impactful Family Ministry.  He asked lots of questions, and I gave just as many answers.  We said our goodbyes and I carried on – but the conversation just wouldn’t let my spirit rest.  Later that week, I asked, “What if it was me who came and worked with you?”  to which is response was “Wouldn’t that be fun?”

So here we are – 3 months into a 6 month contract and we’ve begun to lay the foundations for what could change an entire community.  A ministry focused on empowering families as they influence their children for Jesus.

The leadership believes that Psalm 78 and Deuteronomy 6 are the foundations we must build our ministry upon.  We know that our time with kids is so limited through Sundays only, but it we pour into the time that families have together, we can exponentially  increase that leverage.

By flipping the order in which children encounter the Word of God, we give the opportunity to parents to watch the first steps of their children into God encounters and faith.  Just as a parent loves to be the ones who watch the first tentative steps, so to with first tentative steps of being a Jesus follower.  Our times of ministry will be a reinforcement of the times at home.

Through the intentional building of the child’s “hearing from God” muscles, the family will, together, make God the centre of their decisions and interactions.  We then, will support that with resourcing, serving opportunities and times of learning – together and separately.

Our community gatherings on Sundays will be ones of support and learning – all with each one discussing the same Scripture focus in an age appropriate way.  This will give the entire family a common experience and intentional conversation starting points.

We will further put building blocks for community into place, and beginning on Thanksgiving Sunday – we will host a breakfast that will lead directly into Worship.  A safe, welcoming setting to bring guests and those who are put-off by the formality of traditional worship settings.  This will encourage those who have been around forever to interact, through the fellowship that food creates, with those who are new to the gathering.

By modelling that our relationship with Jesus is an integral part to all aspects of life we can begin to effect real transformation in the lives of our church community, and the community around us – all for the building of the Kingdom

I can’t believe that I get to be a part of this journey! It’s one I never expected to find myself on again, and to be in a community who is excited at what God can and has already started to do is humbling beyond words.worship-child-arms-out

 

 

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When the wait is over…

Some months back, I posted that I had entered a season of waiting,(http://wp.me/phEAM-89 ).  Let me tell you – it was one of the most challenging seasons I have walked through.  Not the hardest, certainly – that’s a story for another time – but challenging all the same.  For one who likes to be at the helm of things and events around me, to have no control over who would grant an interview, who would see the merit in my working for them, and trying to discern where I was to be…was to say the least – hard!

I have always known that God would make it abundantly clear where my next adventure would lie, and that is would be in His time…and it is only now that I have started on that new path, can I look back and see all that has been happening to bring me to this point.

Easter was a particularly hard time for me – I had been hoping to have a new place of employ in time to spend the most Holy season in church with my love.  But God had other plans.  I, however, took the lack of interviews and even responses to my applications as a sign that I was doing something wrong, that God was using this time to show me the consequences of some past action…

However, the several sources of readings that I use for devotions kept highlighting the promise that God is constantly working behind the scenes.  Two of the writers, on separate days referred to this.  Then one of scripture readings did the same…coincidence, I think not!  So, again armed with a peace about the process, yet still on the job hunt, I waiting and faithfully submitted my resume.  Still nothing, or so I thought.  About this time, in a very casual conversation – I learned that on of the mom’s from the ministry I was involved in was in the process of opening her own studio for her design business.  She casually (I thought) said, “want a job?”  I must admit – I hardly gave it a second thought.  Thrilled for her, but being back in the service industry was not for me!

But, as the days approached for her targeted opening – she asked again, and promising I would pray about it, I did.  And things changed.  I got excited about the possibility of working outside of the Christian bubble.  I thought about how fun to work with someone so completely creative and talented in her field.  I realized that the learning would be intense, but a wonderful challenge…so I said if she would have me, “I think I need to say yes”.  So, true to His promise (and repeated pattern in my life), God led the way to the job that would replace the one I was leaving.  I find I have new energy, because I’m feeling a time of refreshing.  Each day as a new challenge, and I learn more than I thought possible.  I love the interactions with all kinds of fascinating people.  I am so enjoying my new boss, she’s a joy to work with and for.

This past Sunday was my farewell at the church I have been serving, and the thoughtfulness and care that was crafted into the service – well, I came away with a grateful and humbled, very filled heart.  Next Sunday, is the first “not just visiting” in my new church home, and I couldn’t be happier.  I get to worship with my husband again, and after 4 years of having that only occassionally – I know know to treasure it as a gift.  I am so looking forward to what the future holds – and I know that I can wait for Him so unfold it!

 
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Posted by on June 18, 2012 in church life, News and Updates

 

Intertwined – Gotta love it!

Today was a milestone in our house – we hosted our 15th annual New Year’s Open House.  Yep, our New Year’s tradition came a week late in our house, due to sickness.  But as I sat at the end of the day, what a glorious delay it was.

Because of the change of dates, we had some folks who were not able to join us that could have been here on the 1st, and some folks were able to be here, who had other commitments on the 1st.  But God knew who and when each one was going to be here and as I took a brief break from keeping the table fully laden with goodies – I was able to ponder the goodness of God in our lives.

I think our Open House is my favourite day of the year.  I have been baking for weeks, and all the planning has finally come together.  Jeff has been working diligently in the trains, and all the new elements are ready for viewing pleasure.  And it’s on this day that we watch as our church family, friends and colleagues join us for fellowship and food.  It makes warms this girl’s heart to have our home filled with conversation and laughter.

At one point this afternoon though, I realized that in our living room at least 6 facets of our life had come together, and in some way had multiple connections.  Some of these relationships go back more than 20 years – to even before we were married, and some are very new friendships, but the connection was there none the less.  One of the professors who was most influential in Jeff’s life from Seminary was here.  He has now become a treasured friend and colleague.  Also in the room were members of his congregation, one of whom came to faith in the church we served in Toronto – she and her husband are also dear friends.  Then we had a couple of Presbytery members here.

One goes to the church of the other.  The elder was a student of Jeff’s last year, and he is good friends with my former Sr Pastor (who also played hockey with the professor).  My former pastor and family now live out of the country, and I miss them dearly – yet here they were being mentioned fondly in multiple conversations.  The final folks in the room were friends from the church I serve.  She is the admin assistant there and she and her husband went to Nassau with us to visit friends last year, and the friendship bond has just deepened since then.

I sat – and as I reflect – realize just how overwhelmed I was.  The day ended with 2 couples who we hold very dear.  The wife of one, and the husband of the other grew up at the church I serve together.  A fitting end to an awesome day!

I think what strikes me the most is the promise that God will place us into families found in Psalm 68.  Jeff and I have come from very different background and made a home.  During our almost 2 decades, we have found family everywhere we have lived, and today – significant parts of that accumulated family were together in our home. 

I love how God shows up in unexpected places, and sometimes – if we are just quiet enough to listen and still enough to see – He says “see, I have been faithful”.  Jeff and I have always felt that we celebrate Christmas with our families and New Year’s with our Church family.  Today, the circle was bigger, but just that much more sweet.

Blessings my friends, may your 2012 be filled with reminders of God’s faithfulness to you – and may you be quiet and still enough to see and hear it.

 
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Posted by on January 7, 2012 in church life, News and Updates

 

Reflecting on evidence of God’s providence

I love to put puzzle pieces together – sometimes the jigsaw kind, but most often – real life puzzles.  I sometimes think I should have done training to be a private detective.  The hardest type of puzzle to put together though, is my own life.  It’s not easy for me to step back and see how all the parts of my life are fitting together.  Just this past week though, the pieces came together in the most amazing way, and it’s hard not to see what’s happening.

I had the joy on the last weekend of October to spend time with dear friends, and some whom I sure will become dear friends in Fort Lauderdale.  We (8 of us from Ontario), had flown down to attend Women of Faith.  There were 14 from The Bahamas who came over to join us.  It was wonderful to worship, laugh and cry together.  Each year that I organize a group (this was my 11th), I put together a small bag of essentials – kleenex, pen, lip balm…and a memento of the weekend.  I include a letter that helps first time attendees know what to expect.

In that letter – I always put in a paragraph that encourages the ladies to listen for the moment when God speaks directly too them.  From my own experience, it’s as if God puts a loud-speaker up to your ear, and the message intended for your heart is abundantly clear.  This year though, it’s as if the loud-speaker was on pause for me.  When I got home, Jeff asked what my “moment” was – and for the first time in more than a decade of attending, I didn’t have an answer…or so I thought.  Don’t get me wrong,  I was ministered to completely at the conference, and my soul was filled in a way it hasn’t been in quite some time.  I love this event, and the women who occupy the stage.

Still pondering my lack of “moment”, I went to the Bible study I’m leading at Jeff’s church. We are working through Angela Thomas’ “Brave”, and our focus last week was “I have a thorn”…Angela’s teaching was that God allows us to have thorns in our life so that we might, in our weakness, be drawn closer to him.  We know it’s there, but it’s only God who can remove it – and when He does, it will be so that others might see His glory.  I had shared with the ladies that I have been dealing with a thorn for more than a year now, and despite prayer – God has not been taking it away – or so I thought…

This past Thursday – I was told by the leadership at the church I work at that after this coming June, my position will no longer be available.  (Not just mine, but some other key positions in the church too).  Hard financial times have fallen on the church, and they just can’t afford to be fully staffed at this time.  I have been expecting this news for a couple of years now, and knew that my position was on borrowed time.   It’s funny – I’ve been praying about this situation for more than a year now, and have known how it would end – but was totally caught off guard by the information.  However, as I drove home from the church – God turned the loud-speaker on…I kept hearing Angie Smith talk about Peter, and walking across the water towards Jesus.  As the waves rise, he begins to sink.  Instead of looking back to his companions – he chose to look forward and call to Jesus to rescue him.  That part of her talk just played over and over in my mind.  And it was with complete peace that I was able to call on Jesus to keep me focused in my walk forward.  I also know that my thorn has been removed.  I awoke on Friday morning to the most beautiful sunshine, and a complete sense of relief.

Relief that I don’t have to wait for the inevitable anymore – it’s in the open, and so is my search and discerning of what God has planned next.  I know it’s better than anything I could imagine – and I know, with all the confidence of my being – that He has it planned.  This thorn removal will be used for His glory – and because my job search can be in the open, I can help people see what God is doing when I have a new position to replace the one I am losing.  The best part of all of this – I know that my time to worship on a regular basis with my beloved is coming, and sooner than I had dared hope!  It will be good be in God’s presence together.  It’s the next step on my journey…and I can’t wait to see where it’s headed.

 
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Posted by on November 7, 2011 in church life, News and Updates

 

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Learning through different eyes

My husband and I recently returned from a wonderful, but all too short trip.  We had the joy of visiting with our friends who now reside in Nassau, Bahamas.  We were able to enjoy the company of a mutual set of friends, and soak up some sun (our peeling arms are proof of that), take in some of the local sites and flavours – just generally being tourists.  We saw things that were breath-taking;  both in their beauty, and in their alarming contrast to that beauty.

On the surface – we saw all that one sees in the tour books…but the experiences our friends introduced us to were so much richer and will hold a longer impact.  We were taken to a community outreach center that the church our friend pastors supports.  We saw the Nassau that will never show up in the list of places to be – door and plumbing-less houses, just in behind the opulence of the downtown area.    We had the joy of watching a ball hockey league play – and for the first time, watch our host show off his skills…he’s really pretty good!  This is a league of about 50 guys, most of whom are former Canadians, with a few NHL players thrown in.  It was a great evening, but you’d never see that in the tour books either.

We were taken to a couple of stores that highlight the creative talents of folks that live on the Island, but are nowhere near the beaten path – and were able to bring home some Island beauty with us.

We were also privileged to attend a lecture sponsored by the Bahamas National Trust.  In an amazing setting that was once private lands, we saw the most diverse collection of Palm trees, while hearing (and watching) the cartoonist who creates “Sherman’s Lagoon”.  You see, the BNT is petitioning the government of The Bahamas to outlaw the harvesting of sharks.  We learned that one of the reasons that the waters of the Bahamas are so pristine and clear – and of a shade of blue that can only be appreciated in person – are that way because the delicate eco-system is in almost perfect balance.  Shark harvesting threatens to throw that out of whack, and then the water cease to be the wonder-filled place that it is.

Without our hosts letting us experience life on the Island the way they do…we would have only seen the “surface” of the island.  The view that the tourist trade wants you to see.  But there is so much more, and it’s full of life and wonder and celebration and learning.

If you are one who attends Worship at a local church, but never opens your Bible through the week, nor spends time with those you see on Sunday outside of that gathering – you really are seeing just the surface of what the Church is called to look like.  If you want your children, spouse or loved ones to know Jesus, you need to take them deeper in the journey with you.  You need to see beyond the hymns, lights and happy gathered people, and well adorned sanctuaries.  Or, are you one who is curious about the man, Jesus, and what makes his followers different.  Spend time with someone who’s life you admire – not because of who they are or their occupation, but because of how they approach life.  Learn from them and ask questions – seek to see the world through their eyes  – cause you can all most be sure they are looking through their Jesus’ eyes.

Faith is a journey that should get our hands dirty with living among His people.  Reading and studying what God says to us in His Word fuels that.  Helping those who are in need – be it money, food, prayer or just a hug.  Being Jesus to others, is not easy, nor is it glamorous.  But it is when we are truly in that space that we experience the richness, the wonder and learning of truly being a Jesus follower.

The Body of Christ is called to do life – together.  And that’s with those who call us out of our comfort zone – who challenge us to be there with them.  Read Act 2-4…does that look like a church you know?  I haven’t found one yet…but here is the account of the early church, sharing, caring and prayer together.  How awesome that must have been.  Certainly not “touristy”, but real. 

I loved our trip, and true to instruction, we “got sand in my shoes”, so we’ll be back.  I saw colours that were more vibrant than anything I’ve ever experience, but I was enchanted by the Island because I saw it through the eyes of my friends who love it so much.  May it be that way as others look to see this Christian life through us – may they be drawn in to Him, because of our love for Him.

 

Sun, heat and Jesus

My husband and I are through our Vacation Bible School part of our Summer.  Our churches scheduled things so that I could be at both schools.  It was a great 2 weeks – I’m really tired, but it really was fantastic to spend so much time with the littles we serve.

I start planning my VBS for the following year about 2 weeks after the current year’s program is over.  It’s 11 1/2 months of planning, and it’s over in the blink of an eye.  But really, it’s my favourite time of my year.  It is such a pleasure to work with teams of people who have come together just to be Jesus to a gathered bunch of kids.

The curriculum may differ, and the dynamics of the week are never the same, but the goal of both of our week-long events are identical – to teach children (and hopefully their parents) how much Jesus loves them.  More than half of the children at either Camp are not regular church attenders, with some having never been in a Christ-focused setting.

It was important at both schools that we presented the Bible truths in a way that didn’t assume that our guests knew anything about God’s Word – as one young man illustrated when he asked me “What makes Jesus so special?”  I could have responded with a pat answer, but instead we had a great conversation about who Jesus was and why He was so special…

It was a beautiful thing at the Adventure Camp at SGK to watch the kids worship with the leadership of Nikki Fletcher.  She has such a great way with the kids, and became our own in-house rock star.  Children are natural worshippers  – raised voices and hands, and love to learn new songs that are engaging.  At one point, they brough tears to my eyes as they praised God singing “Mighty to save”…that song will never be the same for me again – and I will cherish that.

At St. Paul’s, I had the joy to spend the week being one of the leaders with the grade 3-4 group of kids.  I love this age group…they have questions, and are hungry for the answer – and they just want to “Get it”.  We had a ton of fun, and it warmed my heart to see them hiding God’s Word in their hearts as they proudly recited all 5 memory verses (complete with addresses).

My concern and passion for these kids is finding a way to have the learning that took place during our week(s) together not be lost after the following Monday.  To that end, I make a commitment to my families that I will have follow-up activities for them to engage in with their kids.  It’s not just me.  Recently my blog was mentioned in the May/June issue of Group Publishing’s Children’s Ministry Magazine: http://www.childrensministry.com/article.asp?ID=2418.  The article has great suggestions for being intentional with family follow-up from a Vacation Bible School program.

They and their children were engaged for a week at your church, don’t let that engagement go stale.  Encourage them, help the children remember what they talked about during the week.  Pray for them, and let them know that you are.  That is a summer church program with an Orange focus…equipping families to “water the seeds” that were planted during your week with their children.

Jeff and I are getting our follow ups ready to go, and we will continue to pray – for the children we had the honour of spending our time with.  For the parents who want to know that their children’s eternities are in order, and for the families that seek to make their walk with Jesus more significant for all their members.

 

The Other Side of Good-Bye

It’s been quite a ride the last few weeks at the church I work at.  We have been preparing to say “farewell” to a very dearly loved Pastor and his family.  On Mother’s Day, we welcomed a new member into the Family of God.  It was one of the loveliest baptism I have ever witnessed.  The congregation was reminded of our responsibility to be part of this wee one’s spiritual growth.  The teeny-tiny was so focused on our Pastor’s voice…she wouldn’t take her eyes off of him.  I have a theory – she has heard his voice most Sundays during her entire life (including  in utero) and so it was just natural that she knows his voice.   That’s the response every child brought for baptism should have – because the parents are active in the church, not just there to get the kid “done” (Sorry small rant there…)

  Last week was the culmination of the anticipation of departure, and we had a great celebration.  Both services were full, and there was such an alive Spirit in the air.  Our Pastor complete his final series – where he has challenged us to stay the course, and to remember the call that Christ has laid on the church – we had more children in attendance than I have seen in a very long time.  It was a marvelous thing to behold.  After the service, the congregation honoured our Pastor and his family with gifts and heartfelt tributes.   After our second service we just hung out to visit and enjoy Pizza together.

 It was so awesome to see Bryn’s ministry among us, finish well and finish strong.  And so awesome to see folks send the whole family off with our prayers, and blessing.  To see them go feeling folks excitement for them, as the venture of  new things lies before them.

We then come to this past Sunday.   In our tradition, our interm-moderator “preaches the pulpit vacant”.  It signifies the end of the ministry, and the beginning of the process to find the person God has intended to be the next Pastor.  Our first Sunday of transition happened to fall on Pentecost – the day that The Holy Spirit came to the apostles and the first believers, to begin the work of The Church.

What could have been a low point in our congregation’s life – became a Spirit-filled, hope infused morning.  The message reminded us that even though our leader has left, our job now is to be in prayer, and wait for the Holy Spirit to lead us.  To equip us for the work that lies ahead – not to make ourselves comfortable, or to return to the way things have been before Bryn came.  But, to continue the work of reaching out to the community around us that doesn’t yet know the joy of relationship with Jesus.  Such an awesome challenge, and a fitting reminder to carry us on in the path that Bryn had challenged us to set out upon.

People were excited, and ready to carry on, not sit and have a pity party at our minister’s call away from us.  Which, in God’s wisdom is just how it should be.  I have said it before, but if God has called a Pastor away – God is calling someone to us.  He already knows who the next Sr. Pastor will be.  We just have to be prayerfully faithful in discerning who that will be.

I’ve never been a part of the waiting, always have been a part of the leaving and moving.  It will be a fascinating process to watch – and if it continues the way we have begun, it will be an exciting time…  We are excited to know that a dear friend is doing God’s work in another part of the Kingdom, and that we are called to be faithful in the challenges before us.

 
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Posted by on May 25, 2010 in church life, News and Updates