Service requires an attitude of ownership

I was honored.

Serve Weekend is a huge collaborative outreach effort in our community every year.  Five churches and hundreds of local volunteers tackle projects throughout our town as a means to reach the lost with the grace filled message of Christ.

David & I were asked to lead a picnic at a local high rise.  We said, “You bet”, thinking this would be no big deal.  I can coordinate our volunteer groups, he can grill and we both know our way around the grocery store.  Bring it on.

Then we were given the budget.


Let’s just say no shoestrings were harmed in the creation of the budget.  Just the aglets.  Now, instead of calling volunteers with information on when and where to show up, I was also going to have to ask for them to help provide a portion of the meal for over 100 people.

Is it hot in here?

Our life group immediately jumped on board in helping us to create a menu and activity plan as well as being the first to sign up to bring food items.

Aren’t you thankful for those people?

They always remind me that kingdom service isn’t meant to be a solitary effort.

I woke up the next morning still feeling a bit anxious about the whole thing. Deep down, I know God will provide us with exactly what we need but I am the type of girl that likes organization and order.  Not faith with the potential of fallout.

Before starting calls to the rest of the volunteer team, I went to Gods word and found an incredible group of ladies in Luke 8: 1-3.  Their story goes like this:

Soon afterward Jesus began a tour of the nearby towns and villages, preaching and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom of God. He took his twelve disciples with him, along with some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases. Among them were Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons;  Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s business manager; Susanna; and many others who were contributing from their own resources to support Jesus and his disciples.
 In one short minute, these ladies taught me more about the biblical concept of service than a month of sermons.
Their service was driven by what Jesus had done for them, not what they could do for him.  They brought their testimony on tour with Jesus and his disciples.  Living, breathing examples of the power of God at work in their lives.  Driven by demons in their past only to be released to walk in freedom with their savior.  Can you hear their testimony?  Can you see the crowds captivated by their stories?
These women contributed their own resources to help support Jesus and his disciples.  They were invested.  They had skin in the game. Investment equals ownership.  This was no longer just a following this guy called Jesus thing.  They held a piece of ownership in God’s kingdom. They gave what they had to further the cause of Christ to those who desperately needed his message hope.
And now, I’m not so anxious about these calls I need to make.  I’m excited to partner with God in an event that can reach many with his name.  As I talk with each person who has signed up, they each have a story about why they chose this project.
My mother lived there for years.
I live there now and just want to reach people for Jesus.
How can I help? Is there anything more that you need?
Service, with a little skin in the game, brings a sense of ownership to God’s kingdom plan.  It changes the way we think.  It changes the way we talk.  It generates excitement.  This is no longer a picnic sponsored by my church.  This picnic is now a collaboration between Christ’s church and his people saying, “Yes God.  Use me and all I have to further your name in my community.”
Can you pray for us in the week to come?  Serve will happen this Saturday, June 27th.  It’s God’s chance to shine through his people.  We pray for his provision and lots of opportunity to share his message of hope and grace to those who may need to hear it and claim it for their own lives.

The Jesus you see in me is the direct reflection of the Jesus I saw in you.

The Jesus you see in me is a direct reflection of the Jesus you allowed me to see in you.  The Jesus you introduced me to, even when I was not aware.  You couldn’t help it.  He is as much of you as the air you breathe.  His power and influence drive your decisions.  Your wisdom.  The love the flows from your heart for his people, both lost and found.  I was just blessed to have crossed your path.

It must have been a mistake that you came into my restaurant that day.  I was 18 and newly married.  An assistant manager at KFC.  I was going places.  I likely knew everything there was to know about life.  You didn’t let that stop you.  Day after day, you and your wife came in about 2pm.  It was the quietest time of the day.  You would have the buffet and give me a hard time, or try and sell me your joke of the day. You would ask about my life.  Day after day, you really got to know me.  You invested in me.  I’m not sure when I realized when you were the pastor of a little country church, but I remember the day you came in to tell me you were headed to Russia for a week.  You went every two years for missions. When you came back you brought me a wall hanging native to Kostroma.  You shared stories.  You invited me to your Sunday evening service so I could see pictures and hear about your trip.  I remember making it a point to take off early so I could make it.  You meant as much to me as I meant to you.  I just didn’t see it at the time. I remember the day you told me I had to take responsibility for my own salvation.  It was my choice.  That stuck with me.  You later moved on to another community.  I couldn’t begin to know where to find you now, but I want you to know that I found him.  I accepted Christ to be my Lord and Savior.  I never miss church if I don’t have too.  My kids know him too.  Because I meant something too you.  You never pressured me about missing church.  Instead, you brought Jesus to me each and every day and introduced me to him over chicken, coleslaw and conversation.  The Jesus you see in me is a direct result of the message of salvation that you allowed him to carry through you.  I just wanted to say Thank you.

You were the patriarch.  You sat proudly at the head of the pew, dressed in your Sunday suit jacket and skirt.  Vintage broach and an cocky grin.  You were gentle spoken with a back bone of steel.  Most families attend church on Christmas and Easter.  Not us. When we attended, it was for Mothers day or your birthday.  Afterward, we would go out to the country club for lunch and a few good laughs.  I respected you so deeply.  You were the first one I told, after David, that we were going to have a baby.  You were so proud of her.  The first Sunday we attended church with her, you carried her around to every Sunday school class in the building.  The Jesus you see in me is a direct result of the love I saw flow through you.  Unconditional and deep.  You taught me that to love deeply is not weakness, but strength.  You taught me to strive for gentleness and wisdom in my home.  Your example makes me want to live God’s best everyday.

She was a physics professor at EIU. She saw potential in me during a women’s bible study that she led.  I was intimidated as heck.  She cruised up in her Chrysler convertible and bounced in with a basket of handouts and goodies.  I loved her oversized jewelry and bright style.  I never understood why she chose me to take under her wing.  She spoke life into me.  She encouraged me in my discovery of God’s word.  She told me to tuck his word away in my heart. She taught me how to apply God’s word to my life. She taught me to teach others.  She encouraged me to further myself and chase after my dreams.  She kept regular appointments with me.  Lunches.  Sunday afternoon picnics with my family.  She sent my husband care packages while he was over seas.  She sent me surprise letters of encouragement and DQ money while my kids and I were waiting at home for his return.  The Jesus I saw in a beautiful bible teacher showed me that my life has worth and meaning.   A purpose in his kingdom.  The Jesus you see in me lives, truly lives because of the Jesus I saw in her.  No more stinkin’ thinkin’.  Just baby steps of obedience in whatever direction he calls me to go.

The Jesus you see in me would never be without the influence of those who have followed him before.  Those who have stories to tell, love to give and applications to teach.  Those who invested their time, their prayers and their obedience to follow God in order to reach a girl who had big dreams, minimal resources and no confidence.

The Jesus you see in me is an investment of God’s willing people mixed with Gods word. His Holy Spirit and His perfect time.  He still has a long way to go in my life.  But I hope  the Jesus you see in me will be as profound and intentional as the Jesus I saw in them.



Live as a foreigner

Our team was exhausted.  A bit nauseous from the twisty, turvy ride through the mountainside. One part excited.  Two parts  scared.  Wholly expectant to see the hand of God come to touch each one of us in the week to come.  We hesitantly observed our living quarters.  Wooded framed bunks with a three inch foam mattress.  Pane-less windows to accommodate a desert breeze.  Porta- potties and a shower house to tend to the necessities.  Its meager offerings were much more that I anticipated when I volunteered to go.

Since you call on a father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear.

1 Peter 1:17

To live as a foreigner is not a concept I have always been comfortable with. So, surprisingly, when our church announced a missions trip to Mexico, I knew I needed to go.  I have no other explanation.  I just knew.  I prepared my heart to expect God.  To be open to his movement in my life while in Mexico.  Living as a foreigner has taught me much about the walk Jesus expects his followers to walk each day we have on this earth.

Each morning, I woke before the sun to the sound of roosters crowing and the smell of diesel from the buses leaving to pick up children for the day.  I showered and read my devotion, ready and expectant to hear from God.  No laundry.  No dishes.  Just the sunrise and quiet.

After breakfast and team devotion, we would tackle our daily project.  This might mean picking up trash in a community, delivering water or hosting a children’s program. We prayed for the individual families we served.  We moved dirt piles for a man building his home.  We mixed concrete and dug trenches for water filtration for the orphanage. Some hard and laborious work for a girl who typically gets paid to talk. The biggest barrier being communication. Trusting the interpreter to interpret clearly.  Observation of body language.  Being Jesus instead of merely speaking Jesus.

As meaningful as this work was, each days purpose was to seek the treasure God placed in our treasure box.

What is this treasure box you speak of?

Simply this.  Each day, we would spend a quiet moment with God and we would ask him to lay a person, place, thing or image on our heart.  This would be our treasure.  Before each mission, we would share our treasure with our team. These things include (but not limited too): jagged hearts, blue hats, white rabbits. A beautiful little boy named Benjamin.  In every sign, God was faithful.  The meetings often happened in places we weren’t even scheduled to be. (See future blogs about broken down busses in Mexico.)

Our day would conclude with our team. We would take time to reflect on the ways God had shown up that day.  We would share our testimony. We would finish our time together in praise and worship.  We prayed over individuals in our own team that God would meet their specific needs. The day would conclude as we laid in bed with our journals and flashlights, recording our adventures of the day, anxious for what tomorrow holds.

When I reflect on living as a foreigner, I can’t  help but think of Christ’s example here on earth.

He woke  with the intention of serving God each day.

He  spent quiet time with God regularly-seeking wisdom & direction.

He sought God’s treasure, even in places he wasn’t supposed to be.

He gathered with other believers, regularly, to teach and encourage them.

Living as a foreigner in a foreign country is much easier in a foreign country.  The command is to live as a foreigner here. At work. At home. Carpooling and soccer practice.  With the people who know your backstory and aren’t afraid to use it against you.  We can, however, be confident in knowing that many broken believers have gone before us and their authentic belief added to the number of Christ followers.  Daily.

So, who is in your treasure box today?

Mission: Mexico

When you consider that a procrastinator, like myself, is packed and virtually ready to walk out the door for a week in Mexico- TWO WHOLE DAYS- before we are slated to leave, well, you could call that a miracle.  But not one that has been easily won.

This spring, our church offered a missions trip that was affordable and offered a great variety for those who were “beginners”.   An orphanage in Mexico that additionally provides childcare, school, and even bible college to the children in their community for a very affordable rate.  It ensures that children receive two meals per day, education and an opportunity to know their Lord & Savior.   I knew immediately that I would be a part of the team that would go. This was not a trip that I wanted to miss, even though missions have never even sparked an ounce of interest in my life before now.

Fast forward to today, two days before we take off.  On Saturday, we will drive into a community where third world conditions and poverty exist.  We will get a small water ration for a shower each day.  I’m not sure if  it is heated.  Stay tuned.  Our meals will consist primarily of rice, with some type of protein to accompany it.  There will be not air conditioning, no wireless internet or cell service.  No electricity between the hours of 10:30pm and 5:00am.  We will be working on construction type projects in the morning and outreach in the afternoon.  Sharing our stories in hopes of winning another life to Christ.  So far out of my comfort zone that I will admit to a small case of nerves.  But, I’m excited.  As excited as going on any other trip or vacation away from home.  I have learned so much about God, just in the preparation time, I can’t wait to see what he has in store for us while we are away.  Here are just a few of the things I have discovered as I prepare myself to leave.

1.  I am really looking forward to being unplugged.  Allowing myself to get to a place when I can hear from God in the quiet.  A place where I am not going to have a device competing for my attention.  A place where human interaction comes first.  A time to build relationship with God and the team that he is sending me with.  A chance to hear from him in an environment free of the electronic distraction that I have come to be addicted to here at home.

2.  My essentials aren’t so essential anymore.  When we started thinking about packing our number one goal became how we could get maximum impact with the least amount of stuff to take.  When you’re heading out with a missions team, you carry what you pack.  It’s a rule I have raised my kids with, but we still have a pretty incredible man that bails us out sometimes.  There was some issue between Chloe and I on not having enough pants to take.  I don’t know if you have experienced this, but my recreational clothing is extremely limited.  I can dress professionally for about two weeks without doing a load of laundry, but my evening and weekend wear is limited.  Then, add the rule that your shorts have to reach your knees and you just took out a huge portion of my wardrobe and all of hers.  After searching through our Goodwill giveaway bags, we found enough clothing to sustain us through the week.  It isn’t two changes of clothes for each and everyday- there will be some repeat action happening for both of us, but I have to wonder, will the kids we are serving have a brand new and fresh outfit to wear each and every day?  Or is this simply another matter we take for granted in the land of plenty?

  1. I am not alone on this journey.  It is said that there are two types of people involved in missions. The go’ers and the senders.  And the senders are pretty darn cool. I posted a mom stress moment on Facebook while I was attempting to help my daughter pack.  She was freaking out about her lack of supplies, including a suitcase.  Within ten minutes of posting, we had several suitcase offers and an opportunity for her to go and shop in Grandma Melissa’s closet for the remaining clothing items she needed.  The words of encouragement that we have received from our family, friends and church family have been overwhelming.  Their excitement for our journey just feeds the fire that is already hot in me to do something for God.  I can’t wait until it is my turn to be a sender.  Senders are proof of God’s limitless ability to supply our every need.  Even if the need includes a suitcase “large enough to carry a body.”  (Jon, you always make me laugh).

I’m heading off to my last day of work before taking off.  The anticipation is building.  I ask for your prayers in our journey.  I ask that you would appeal to God to meet each of us there, right where we are at.  That he would appeal to us in a very personal way.  That we would be open and willing to do the work that he has appointed for us.  That we would have the heart of a servant ready to work on his behalf.  That he would use us in a way that brings a supernatural harvest to these children in Mexico. That, in preparation, we would not be overcome by the details, but that we would lean on him to work all things together for good.