Jesus, The Able & Willing

Mark 8:4
And his disciples answered him, from whence can a man satisfy these men with bread here in the wilderness?

To claim to be believers, we claim to know the truth of who God is, yet still, we walk in confusion and want. What's it going to take to remember who Jesus is? Jesus is not simply a man!

As I was reading this story of Jesus miraculously feeding the 4000, I was reminded of God's provision of manna. Millions were fed for years in the wilderness by God's hand. Is it so hard to think that Jesus could multiply seven loaves to feed 4000?

It seems as if the disciples were continuously amazed by Jesus' miracles. They recognized Jesus as God's son, but they still lacked understanding of his power. Jesus even asked them, "How is it that you do not understand?" Mark 8:21

Genesis 1:2: "And God said, Let there be light and there was light."

Ezekiel 37:1-10
Read the entire passage.
"…in the midst of the valley which was full of bones…they were very dry…I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, and exceeding great army."

God is the creator. He creates something from nothing! We cannot figure it out because it's impossible to us, but God can just speak the word and create.

Can you understand? Jesus is God!! He is not only able to speak into your current impossible situation, but He is willing. Call upon Jesus today.

Monkey see, monkey do

What a trip we had in Nicaragua! We took a group of 20 for our first overseas mission trip with a large group. Samuel has been to Ecuador and Peru. Together we ministered in India and Columbia. But being responsible for a group of 20 was a new experience.

Fortunately, we had our youth pastor, a Nicaraguan native, as our team leader. That, however, added a new level of stress for me: relinquishing control. I was not the coordinator; I did not know "the plan"; I felt helpless.

My friend, Karan, recently wrote a blog concerning personalities. She even included a link to take a personality test. I answered each question as quickly and honestly as possible. My result: the commander! Sometimes the truth hurts.

I really try hard to make "right" choices. I focus on the well-being of the entire group. I think I am just being helpful until I see the "eye roll" or someone stomps off mad or someone makes a comment about me being bossy. Then, I'm hurt. I reevaluate each action. I am often confounded not even aware that I've said or done anything offensive. I'm trying to let go of these emotions. It's definitely a conscious effort for "the commander" to allow another to lead.

That's where our youth pastor stepped in. He wrapped his arm around my shoulder. The gesture brought tears to my eyes, and he said, "You be you." Three little words could not have come at a better time. For in my mind, I'm reeling, "What did I say wrong?"; "How should I react differently?"; "I want to be a positive example."; etc. So, what better advice to put my mind at rest: "You be you." I'd love to tell you I never had another negative thought, but it's going to take time. But, in reality, all we can do is be ourselves. I'm grateful for the patience and understanding he showed me in that moment.

There are always improvements we can make. Life is a journey, and we learn from our mistakes along the way. This man who spoke into my life isn't perfect, either, but I need to readjust my focus. Instead of picking apart the problems, I want to point out the praises! This charismatic, fun-loving leader brought together a group of teens and adults and led us to meet the needs of others. He saw a specific need, and instead of following the norm, he planned a way to fulfill the need. He grew up as one of these Nicaraguan children, and he recognized the importance of spending time with them. Even though my heart leaps as he climbs the tree to grab a coconut, and then I watch teenagers do the same, I can relax in knowing he is leading them to Jesus, too.

The biggest lessons I learned in Nicaragua are: God is still working on me; it's OK to be myself even if myself isn't perfect; and, finally, sometimes the commander must relinquish control to another.

The Pity Party

One of the hardest things about a pity party must be the loneliness, but that's the criteria for a pity party. It's a party for one. No invitations are sent. There's no RSVP policy. As a matter of fact, there's usually no planning involved at all.
Example #1: The gym
How is it the place where you go to feel better about yourself can be the most discouraging of all?
5AM: the alarm sounds. Groggily you make your way out of bed and don your workout clothes, grab your water bottle, and walk out the door by 5:30. "Yes!", you think, "I'm doing this!" It's leg day, and as daunting as that sounds, you're up for it. As a matter of fact, your legs are pretty strong. Mentally, you've got this. Then, it happens: you stand facing the mirror to begin your squats. Did I mention the mirror? The room sized mirror lines the entire back wall as an evil reminder of why you come to the gym. Oh sure, there are "no judgement" placards hung probably around the gym. If only they could stamp that into your brain because it's far from a no judgment zone. You squat, bar heavy on your neck, your knee panging, you look into the mirror, and you see it. Your reflection staring back at you, and not just looking at you, but judging you for the bulge in the middle that pokes and squishes with each successive squat.
So it begins. The elation, satisfaction, and self-worth you felt as you pulled out of your driveway to exercise are quickly replaced by disgust, anxiety, and self-loathing. Everyone around you continues to lift, talk, and laugh. You hold back your tears, paste on a smile, and begin an inward debate much like the cartoons of old with an angel character on one shoulder and a devil on the other. The angel speaks reason, "You are here. You are doing good. It's something! Keep going. You can do it."

The devil counters, "You don't fit in here. Everyone else is already fit. They look at you and laugh. You'll never conquer this. It hurts. It's no fun. You're weak."
Each consecutive exercise seems heavier and more difficult than normal. You forget to count your reps because the conversation inside your head dominates your concentration. You stand back from the crowd, attempt to hide from others, and fight back the urge to cry because that would look even more ridiculous. You finish the day on the treadmill. People on either side of you are running in place as you breathe heavily and lower your pace to that of a turtle. You feel inept, sub par, and so alone. How can others understand? They are running, for goodness sake! All you can do is put one foot in front of the other and hold your head high as you walk out of the gym accomplished, yet defeated.
Example 2: The workplace
You've been hurt. A coworker, friend, or patron has left you and gone to another. Swirls of doubt and what if's plague your mind. But, you have a job to do, so you plaster on a fake smirk and push through.
The effort it takes to complete your ordinary, perhaps even mundane, tasks weighs heavily upon you. You feel inept at your job. You begin to doubt you're even in the right career.
At home your attitude worsens. You don't feel the need to hide your emotions from your family, so you mope around the house. Not willing to share too much, you prefer to sulk and withdraw. Your family sees you smile at work and faithfully complete work obligations, but at home your despondency sends a mixed message. Your family feels as if they are the cause for this mood change because you never want to talk about work. Sometimes days pass, sometimes longer, before you decide to let your guard down and let people love you again because the reality is: you feel unlovable.
Example 3: Family drama
The ones who you love the most hurt you the most. Unconditional love may be required within family circles, but what of unconditional respect, acceptance, and forgiveness? That's another story.
Maintaining close family relations requires work. Unfortunately equal distribution of labor is difficult. Seems as if everyone waits for someone else to plan. Feelings of loneliness creep in creating false scenarios in your head.
It's funny how you can be in a room filled with people and still feel alone. Families morph over time. Change is inevitable. Children grow and encounter different friends through the years. Some you learn to love, and others you may never meet. They are a chapter or line in the life of a family member but not grafted in. Time continues to pass until "the one" comes along, and spouses, in-laws, enter the mix.
With each new addition, you might encounter growing pains. You learn the personalities, likes, and dislikes of your new family. Sometimes compromises must be made, old traditions changed, and new traditions emerge.
Families experience loss, heart ache, and tribulation together. Each member processing differently. Many times we lash out at each other instead of seeking comfort, thus, causing sorrow upon sorrow.
As family units grow, so grows the extended family. Dynamics change drastically when children become adults and grandchildren enter the picture. As the outer circle enlarges encompassing the new addition, the concentric circle focuses on the bull's-eye, so to speak. You recognize you are a part of something big, but each individual family gets caught up in their own world. Each family unit might carry on the tradition of the past; however, independently from the group, therefore division, loneliness, and uncertainty creep in.
Preconceived ideas of what others must be doing or thinking lead to a lack of patience and quick temper. Words are exchanged, people are hurt, and again, you are left lonely.
Reckless thoughts in your head leaving a wake of casualties along your path.
2 Corinthians 10:5b (NLT)
We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.
Philippians 3:2 (NLT)
I don't mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.
Mind games: not for fun, but to be overcome. A battle rages daily inside of you. It is high time you rise up, kick the devil off of your shoulder, and stomp him underground. Hearken unto the voice of the Lord and recognize:
You are loved!
You are enough!
You are family!
This pity party is over!


A teen myself, I thought I was grown when I said, “Yes”, to marrying my groom. I walked the aisle at age 18 and woke up the next morning, on my birthday, a 19 year old woman. Married the end of May, just three short weeks later, we arrived at Camp Roman Nose in Oklahoma. 

My husband answered his call to the ministry at age 15 and began working as a youth leader among his peers in his home church. He first traveled to Oklahoma to preach this particular church sponsored camp when he was still a teen himself. So at the ripe old age of 21, he had experience in spades compared to me. 

We shared a private cabin in the woods at camp Roman Nose. Sounds romantic, huh? Not exactly. The A-frame cabin housed about ten bunk beds along the two side walls. A window on one end and a door on the other, there was no a/c and no bathroom. We took all of the mattresses off of the bunks and stacked them in the middle of the room to build our own queen-sized bed. There was a dirt path to the haydite block building that housed the showers and toilets. A large multi-purpose building housed the kitchen, dining, and chapel area. Instantly submerged into ministry, I watched others and acted from my own camp experiences from my childhood, just the summer before. 

We remained active in youth ministry for the next 15 years. Actually, Samuel has continued to minister at youth camps, even this current summer. Weekly youth services and multiple activities filled our lives. Amusement parks, water parks, camps, mission trips, days at the park, combing the neighborhood passing out flyers, productions, and more taught us life lessons and an appreciation for laborers. The stories are endless, and each experience offered an opportunity for learning. 

The carbonated soda lesson:

One summer we took the youth to a water park in Shreveport, LA. It was less expensive and less crowded than Hurricane Harbor, so we could enjoy the day with shorter lines. Also, our admission tickets included lunch: a burger, fries, and soda. We stayed from opening to closing ensuring our money’s worth. My husband, my sister-in-law, Debbie,  and I were the adult sponsors on the trip. We had one old, church van and one car-load of teens. 

One of the boys had complained he wasn’t feeling well, and we chalked it up to too much sun. My sister-in-law had already refereed in a disagreement between our niece and her best friend, and we knew it was past time to head home.

Samuel lead in the church van, and we followed in the car. Suddenly, the van pulled to the side of the road. The boy who felt ill was having chest pains, shaking violently, and having difficulty breathing. This boy had an over-protective father, and the knowledge of this worried us even more. We were in uncharted territory and unsure what to do. We grabbed a sprite for him to drink, but he just couldn’t keep it down, so we drove to the nearest city with a tiny hospital and admitted him to the ER.

All of us were tired, sun burned, and hungry. We filled the small lobby. It took a couple of extra hours, but the diagnosis was simple: he was dehydrated. (You’re probably thinking, “Well, duh,” but for us, 17 years ago, it was a first.) The boy had drunk no water the entire day, only soft drinks. The doctor informed us that carbonated drinks actually cause you to dehydrate faster. The carbonation basically sucks the fluid from you. These kids needed water and Gatorade! 

Ever since that scary experience, we stress water to our young people. We often buy bottled water and take coolers with us. It was a lesson I will never forget. 

Children’s Ministry 

Psalm 127:3(NLT)

Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from Him.

I love children. Children’s ministry? Well…..

Teaching is a gift (1 Corinthians 12:28). I love teaching. To see the spark of understanding in someone’s eyes when he/she comprehends a new concept or hears a story for the first time validates the effort spent preparing to teach. 

However, just because you can do a job well does not dictate that job should be your career. There is something to be said about enjoying what you are doing. Remember, today’s topic is children’s ministry. 

My mom and sister both teach elementary aged children. They are gifted with a special portion of grace and patience that much of the world lacks. I can remember a time when I did some substituting and did not specify grade level. What was I thinking? After two days in a 2nd grade classroom with 25 seven years olds, I was on edge. My certification is in 7th-12th grade mathematics. I quickly learned that one of my favorite things about 7th-12th grade math is the 50 minute class period. The bell rings and the students leave to wreak havok somewhere else. Lol. Elementary classrooms are generally self-contained. 

Do you know what self-contained means? It means you contain all the same 25 little darlings from 8:00am until 3:00pm (or longer) all by yourself! (With the exception of p.e. class, music, or something similar). Self-contained translates into self-drained in my case. Sure the young ones are cute and toothless and mainly sweet, but I’ll trade 45 minutes of teenage attitude any day. “Different strokes for different folks,” they say. 

However, church needs must be met, and when there is no one else fulfilling the need…You got it. I taught it! From Sunday school to Wednesday Bible study’s and even the nursery, I filled in the gap. Hopefully to the bystander looking on, I showed love and joy, but in my heart of hearts, I held dread. It just wasn’t fun for me. I decorated the classroom, purchased curriculum, planned snacks and crafts all with a smile, but on the inside I longed to be in the adult class. I knew that children’s ministry was not my calling because instead of feeling inspired, fulfilled, and content after class, I would feel discouraged and empty. 

I would pray about someone to take my place. I remember, a few years ago, I approached a church member and asked her if she would enjoy teaching the kid’s Bible study on Wednesday nights. When she responded yes, a levy broke inside of me, and I cried unexpectedly and uncontrollably. I’m surprised I didn’t scare her off! But, when you enjoy a task, you don’t mind the work. She is no longer attending church here, but the Lord has continued to provide teachers for the children. 

I am learning that it is ok to let go. The Lord will provide. I can only do what I feel the Lord has called me to do. If I am doing someone else’s job, then I am robbing his/her blessing. 

Tales from Christmas, in July 

Christmas Productions.

One of my favorites: The Good News Christmas Cruise 

My daughter, Haylee, is the small girl in white (above).

The boy in red is my son Jacob (below).
I love Christmas! I love musicals! So, what could be better than a Christmas musical??? How can an activity be equal parts exhilarating and exhausting!?! 

Every year I would look at my sister-in-law and say, “Please remind me to never do this again.” But, a year would pass, and I would do it again. I did finally pass the baton a few years ago, and honestly, I kinda miss it. (Don’t tell anyone. Shhhhh.) 

The practices were grueling. Only a handful of participants would show up at a time leaving me to fill in the extra lines. No one would memorize his/her lines until the final day before production! I literally forced people to sing whether they possessed a natural talent or not. And, I pretty much forced them to have a good time. 😊 Can’t you command people to have fun? 🤔 I sure tried. Lol. 

I suppose my last year to be involved was the year the poop 💩 hit the floor (isn’t that how the saying goes??). No, but seriously, I found poop on the floor of the Sunday school room.  Real people poop!! Across the hall from the bathroom, on the floor of the classroom, there it lay: 💩. I was livid. It was dress rehearsal, so kids and parents were all there to help. I took a grocery bag, picked up the poop, tied the bag in a knot, and marched (poop in hand) to the platform. I took the microphone, had everyone sit down, and my rant began:

“Do you know what I have in this bag?!? Poop! Real people poop! Someone thought it would be ok to poop on the floor. Well, it’s not ok. If you did this, you have a problem. Go see a counselor. Never poop anywhere but the toilet again. This is God’s house! We do not poop on God’s house!…..”

Umm, you get the gist of it. I made a point that day. Hopefully whoever the culprit was would think twice before pooping next time. Needless to say, I suppose I was a little stressed. I’m certain I should have handled the poop situation more tactfully. 

However, regardless of the stress of months of rehearsals, the actual performance never disappointed. The parents and grandparents so enjoy the joyful noise of their grand babies. The forgotten lines are swept away by the perfectly delivered, and the scenery and costumes delight the audience. The story lines reflect Jesus and lives are literally changed making it all worthwhile. 

Galatians 6:9

And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.

My Zeal: A Day in the Life of a Pator’s Wife, part 5 

My Zeal. That’s what I could offer. I contained a genuine love and excitement for all things “church”. As a young minister’s wife, I felt like every service was as exciting as youth camp was to me as a kid! King David said in Psalms that better is one day in the house of the Lord than thousands elsewhere (Psalm 84:10). 

I remember one time I was talking to a fellow preacher’s wife, and I made the comment, “Why wouldn’t everyone want to go to ladies’ retreat?” I honestly could not fathom why women wouldn’t want to get together. I thrived on fellowship, and I imagined everyone should be just like me, after all, I was making the right choice (remember how I said I could be opinionated-lol). 

I had youth on my side and independence. I had no children, yet, no job because I was still a student, and I never met a stranger. No wonder I enjoyed retreats so much! I can now look back and imagine the mother leaving behind children with a dad or sitter; or, the business woman taking off work for an extra day to relax at the retreat while worrying over the extra work compiling during her absence. 

I realize that life doesn’t stop during a retreat. As a matter of fact, life after retreat can be more difficult than before. The spirit of joy we feel during a weekend away can be quickly replaced with garments of weightiness as we step back into real life. 

Through the years, my youthful zeal digressed into “the struggle is real”. I am not looking for pity or sympathy, but honesty demands transparency. As much as I love color and strive to add life into every situation, sometimes I just don’t feel it for myself. Life can be pretty black and white some days. 

Back to the younger years, we will focus on the struggle later on this journey. I did bring Zeal to the family and the church. Immediately, I became the fun aunt. Not because I wanted to win anyone over, it’s really just who I was. I loved family! I loved my new in-laws family, too. Samuel’s three nieces and two nephews (at the time) were even in our wedding. What was his was also mine, and I made no differentiation. As newlyweds, we would host slumber parties, zoo trips, and of course McDonalds play dates! We played games, ate special food, watched movies, and made pallets on the floor at bedtime. So many fun times! 

At church I was no different. I jumped in feet first and organized activities. Through the years, we planned VBS, lock-ins, Christmas productions, youth group activities, kids classes, adult bowling, skating (regular and ice), hay rides, cook outs, retreats, camps, mission trips, Six Flags, etc. Basically, if you can think of it, we’ve done it. Each of these activities has a story of its own, too.

Wherever people are, drama is sure to follow. Luckily, during those early years, I was sheltered from a lot of the problems due to Samuel’s parents being the active senior pastors. There were times I didn’t understand a judgement or stance they would take. Oftentimes, I felt as if they did nothing but pray! Now, I realize that sometimes prayer is the only thing you can offer. People are hard headed. They must reach out to God on their own and willfully change their actions. I cannot force people to make a change and have a lasting result. My in-laws had already discovered this. 

A band aid only conceals a wound for a brief amount of time. A band aid does not heal, for the healing must come from the inside. 

From zeal to the struggle is real… over the next few weeks we will take a sort of break. My entries will still be personal stories, but each story will revolve around a particular event or activity. 

Next Monday:  Christmas Productions