Sunday, November 25, 2012

Praying for Prosperity

The four of us sat around our kitchen table...myself and my husband, along with a Korean pastor and his wife. We bowed our heads as the pastor offered to pray for our family, and specifically for our four sons. I loved the way he prayed from the heart, his words flowing eloquently and sincerely as he prayed straight from scripture. He recited words from Jeremiah 29...a favorite verse of mine that I was familiar with and loved...
Thank you Lord, for the plans you have for these young men, plans to prosper them, plans to give them hope and a future.
I had always loved the thought that God had good plans for my children, and that he wanted to give them hope, and a future. But I felt a little uncomfortable with the word 'prosper'. How could we sit and pray that my children would prosper? It did not seem right to ask for such a thing. But the pastor continued:
Help them Lord, to prosper in their knowledge of you,
and to be rich in love, and joy, peace, and patience, kindness, goodness, faihfulness, gentleness, and self control.
I never forgot those beautiful words and five years later, I still recite them. My frequent prayer, not just for my family, but also for the children I minister to, is that they would prosper in their knowledge of God, and be rich in the fruit of the Spirit. Because I know that if they can prosper in these things, then they will be rich beyond measure.
Read this wonderful interpretation of Jeremiah 29:11

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

23 Years Ago...

Our beautiful home
It was 1989. I can still vividly picture the scene. I was standing in our cute little home, the first one we had bought together, surrounded by four noisy little boys playing at my feet. My husband had just come home from work and saw a letter lying on the doormat addressed to him. The letter was from the Methodist church. He opened it and I peered over his shoulder, curious to see what it said.
Dear David, it read, We, at the Local Preacher's meeting were praying about who God mght call to become a Local Preacher. Your name was discussed. Please give this your prayerful consideration.
I can distinctly remember my that I am not proud of. I almost laughed as I said to my husband, You're not going to do that are you?
I might...was his reply. I was dumbfounded, because I knew that this was just the beginning of a slippery slope. If he accepted the call to preach, that might lead to a call to the ministry and I was not ready for that. Listen David, I retorted, you can preach, but don't ever tell me you want to be a minister..because I don't want to live in a parsonage. I want to choose my own carpets!
I guess I must have known what the future held...or at least I thought I did. 23 years and several parsonages later, here in Grand Rapids, we now finally own our own home...and David is still a minister. All along, God could see what I could not. I just had to trust him. On this Thanksgiving eve, I am thankful for a God who is faithful; a God who can see ahead when I cannot; for a beautiful house; but most of all for that far more wonderful home that He is preparing for me in heaven.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Vital Church Initiative

We once had a tank of discus fish in our home.These beautiful tropical fish are highly sensitive, and hate any disturbance to their environment. But in order for those fish to remain healthy, in order to survive, they had to be subjected to regular water changes. They would cower in the corner of the tank at the sight of the suction tube. They would scurry around frantically as we moved their big rocks out of the way. Now they had nothing to hide behind, and would tremble in fear until we had finished the process. How I wished that we could communicate with them, to let them know that those changes were not just simply for their good...but that they would actually die without them. 
These are challenging days for the United Methodist Church. It is time for many churches to change. It is time to stop cowering in the corner at the sight of a projector screen. It is time to stop hiding behind our habits and traditions. It is time to allow some big rocks to be moved...because if we don't, we will die. I do not want to be part of a dying denomination. I want to be part of a growing, healthy, lively church that thrives on making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
Yesterday I attended a gathering of faithful, fruitful United Methodists who came together to listen to Gary Step, the West Michigan Conference Director of New Church Development and Congregational Transformation, as he made an impassioned plea for us to embrace the Vital Church Initiative...a process that will help us make the changes we need in order to survive. I pray that those congregations taking part will not cower. I pray that they will not hide. I pray that they will be ready to move those big rocks aside, so that God's transforming Holy Spirit can take hold of our denomination, and lead us forward. These are challenging days indeed...but with courageous leadership, and God's almighty power, we can surely rise to them.
For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self discipline.
2 Timothy 1:7

Friday, November 2, 2012

How Can I Grow my Sunday school?

My dad answered the call to preach when he was just 15 years old. Over 70 years later, my dad still preaches...not by speaking from the pulpit, but simply by the way he lives. A quiet, humble, and unassuming gentleman, the epitome of generosity, my dad never sought to indoctrinate anyone, but simply to witness to all those around him- by living a life of love. As a young girl, I remember being squashed in the back seat of our car every Sunday morning by several neighborhood children, none of whom would ever have attended Sunday school if my dad had not collected them. And so when I am asked that eternal question, How can I grow my Sunday school?, I think about my dad. I think about his passion for Jesus Christ. I think about how he understood that there was a gospel to proclaim, and children who needed to hear it. Time passes, many things change, my dad grows older. He can no longer drive, or fill his car full of children, but he still lives a life of love, and this truth remains...there is a gospel to proclaim, and children who need to hear it. I think about all those children whose lives he has impacted. I think about all those children who would never have heard of Jesus Christ if it had not been for my dad...and I think that I want to live a life like that.