Wednesday, April 30, 2008

My Help

Today, my devotions took me to Psalm 121 --- very appropriate passage of Scripture for what I am facing this week. You see, this coming Sunday marks the launch of children's ministries at The Sanctuary Pickering. In the early weeks of this church plant, I sensed God tapping me on the shoulders telling me that I am to take on a lead role in children's ministries. I was, of course, reluctant at first. I told myself that this is a HUGE task! But, God was persistent with me and wouldn't let the nagging feeling in my heart go until I said "Yes, Lord!". So, I took on the role asking God to be my help --- fully placing my trust in Him; trusting that He will prepare the way and provide all that is needed for this ministry to move forward. I praise God for He has provided willing volunteers, free curriculum (provided by our parent church), a kid-friendly and nicely-decorated venue (a public school library) to run our program, and finally, He has multiplied my time these past few weeks enabling me to devote much needed attention to curriculum preparation! My God is indeed good!

Psalm 121 (NLT)
I look up to the mountains — does my help come from there?
My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth!
He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber.
Indeed, He who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps.
The Lord Himself watches over you!
The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade.
The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon at night.
The Lord keeps you from all harm and watches over your life.
The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.

Finally, in closing, I would like to post this poem by Roger Fields entitled 'The Calling' for I believe it sums up what God has called us, as a team of children's ministries volunteers, to do.

I am a minister. My mission field is the largest on earth. I minister to children.

My calling is sure, my challenge is big, my vision is clear, my desire is strong, my influence is eternal, my impact is critical, my values are solid, my faith is tough, my mission is urgent, my purpose is unmistakable, my direction is forward, my heart is genuine, my strength is supernatural, my reward is promised and my God is real.

In a world of cynicism I offer hope. In a world of confusion I offer truth. In a world of immorality I offer values. In a world of neglect I offer attention. In a world of abuse I offer safety. In a world of ridicule I offer affirmation. In a world of division I offer reconciliation. In a world of bitterness I offer forgiveness. In a world of sin I offer salvation. In a world of hate I offer God’s love.

I refuse to be dismayed, disengaged, disgruntled, discouraged, or distracted. Neither will I look back, stand back, fall back, go back, or sit back.

I do not need applause, flattery, adulation, prestige, stature, or veneration. I do not have time for business as usual, mediocre standards, small thinking, outdated methods, normal expectations, average results, ordinary ideas, petty disputes, or low vision.

I will not give up, give in, bail out, lie down, turn over, quit or surrender. I will pray when things look bad. I will pray when things look good. I will move forward when others stand still. I will trust God when obstacles arise. I will work when the task is overwhelming. I will get up when I fall down.

My calling is to reach boys and girls for God. It is too serious to be taken lightly, too urgent to be postponed, too vital to be ignored, too relevant to be overlooked, too significant to be trivialized, too eternal to be fleeting, and too passionate to be quenched.

I know my mission. I know my challenge. I also know my limitations, my weaknesses, my fears, and my problems. And I know my God.

Let others get the praise. Let the church get the blessing. Let God get the glory.

I am a minister. I minister to children. This is who I am. This is what I do.

"Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these."
---Mark 10:14 (NIV)

Friday, April 25, 2008

Simple Faith Of A Child

Two blog entries in one day! I think this is a first for me but I just have to document this story while it is still fresh on my mind...

"Out of the mouth of babes" --- that saying is so true. A child's outlook is so innocent and pure; it is not clouded at all by "life". I think that if we consistently and intently listen to what children say, we can learn a lot from their wonder of God and their view of life!

Yesterday, hubby took our son to get a haircut. They came home and the little guy was not impressed at all with his new 'do. We wanted him to sport a shorter hairstyle because the warmer weather is here, but I think Mr. Barber buzzed a little too much off! Ahhhh! Anyway, he was quite upset and crying so we had a little chat about the fact that God designed for hair to grow back and that a bad haircut is not the end of the world and that in fact, I think he's the most handsome little boy around and et cetera. We had dinner, did bedtime routines and off to bed he went.

He woke up this morning and was a whole lot chipper! Phew! So off to school he went. When he came home for lunch, I asked him if anyone commented on his hair and if the short hairstyle still bothered him. He told me that his teacher noticed and said: "nice haircut!", and that no one said anything not nice about it.

He then proceeded to tell me that it is because before bed last night, he prayed and asked God if HE would help his hair grow fast overnight so that it wouldn't be so short anymore when he woke up this morning. He said that when he woke up, his hair was indeed a tad bit longer! :-) Talk about the simple faith of a child! That explains why he was chipper this morning!!!

Phew, now I feel much better! Now, if only I had that kind of simple faith...

" 'Do you hear what these children are saying?' they asked Him. 'Yes,' replied Jesus, 'have you never read, "From the lips of children and infants You have ordained praise"?' " ---Matthew 21:16 (NIV)

The Joy of the Lord

My Bible study group has just finished week 4 of Beth Moore's 'Living Beyond Yourself'. This chapter is entitled 'The Joy of the Lord is Our Strength'. While I have done this study already once before, it feels like I'm doing it for the very first time as God is teaching me new lessons this time around. That is just what's so amazing about God's Word --- always fresh, always new, always relevant!

Here are some of the new lessons I learned from this chapter this time around:

~ Joy results from discovering His presence, His purpose, and His power in an entirely new way. Could it be that if our focus is on Christ, we'll see Him transfigured before us rather than our circumstances? Look for Him in the middle of your circumstances --- He's there just waiting to be discovered.

~ God's Word propels us to abide in Christ. When His words "abide" in us and we obey His commands with a tenacity similar to Ruth's, we abide in Him. His Word is our cling wrap, adhering us to His presence.

~ Joy cheaters: which one can you most relate to?

When our outpour exceeds our intake. Are you serving more than you are seeking?

When our talk exceeds our walk. Somewhere along the way, our mouth and our heart most likely parted company.

When we become "wonders junkies". We miss Him as the joy in the midst of the mundane. The most intimate times we ever will spend with God will be listening to His gentle whispers. It is there that we will find true joy. Rarely are you more at risk for losing your joy than when you have just experienced a spiritual "high". Pray to enjoy those marvelous times, but never more than you enjoy His sweet whisper when you are all alone.

When we are exhausted. Are you neglecting your rest? What about eating? In our culture, we rarely neglect to eat; however, we neglect to eat for the body's benefit.

When we feel all alone. As you're growing in Christ, beware of feelings that tempt you to believe you are all alone and that no one else wants to serve or love God as you do. Just because someone does not share our "cause" or our personal "passions" does not set us apart. When we view ourselves as the only spiritual persons we know, we're setting ourselves up for a fall.
~ We are catalysts of joy for one another! After we were born again, He did not leave us on earth to be loners. He wants us to bring joy to one another! Each and every believer should be a joy to us; challenging us to dig deeper and deeper into God's Word.

That's all for this week! A whole lot to digest, for sure. The joy of the Lord is my strength!

"You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of Your presence and the pleasures of living with You forever." --- Psalm 16:11 (NLT)

Monday, April 21, 2008

Random Musings

I can't believe that April has flown by so quickly. We are now into its last full week. It finally feels like Spring here in the great white north!!! The warm sunshine feels very nice! Yesterday, I was finally able to work in my garden --- it was pure bliss: crocuses sprouting up revealing beautiful purple flowers, tiny leaves budding and unfurling on the shrubs, new growth peeking up from the ground, forsythias on the verge of flowering!

The last couple of weeks have been busy but exciting. Here are some random musings...

~ We found out from a blood test that my son might have outgrown his tree nut allergy! Yipee!!! Praise God. Although his peanut allergy is still there, as strong a reaction as ever, we are most definitely grateful to God that the tree nut allergy is most likely gone! The next step is to go downtown to the children's hospital for an oral challenge. We are praying that he will pass it so that we don't have to worry about tree nuts any longer!

~ Sunday services have started at The Sanctuary Pickering. It was awesome to see God's hand evident in a number of details, including choosing the location of where we should meet allowing for the details to come through at the very last minute. It is awesome to see God's handprints in the little things (and in the BIG things, of course) because it reminds me that He cares. God reminded me of this verse once again through my devotional three mornings ago --- "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9 (NIV)

~ This past weekend, we participated in Earth Week activities in our city as a local church. On Friday night and Saturday afternoon, we congregated in two local parks and picked up litter for a couple of hours. It was a lot of fun! I think the kids enjoyed their "break time" the most as they got to play with each other on the parks' playground equipments.

~ This morning, my devotionals took me to John 15. Very appropriate passage as I delve into gardening this Spring season and as I start to tackle those overgrown bushes in my backyard. This passage is a great reminder to me that my God is the Master Gardener in my personal garden called life! He is constantly pruning away at those branches that are no longer bearing fruit. His doing so allows for new growth, thus new fruit being produced in me and through me. Great analogy, eh? The reality and practicality of the Bible never fails to amaze me each day! It is awesome! Here are some verses from John 15 (NLT) that spoke to me...

"5 Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in Me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from Me you can do nothing."

"7 But if you remain in Me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! 8 When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father."

"11 I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!"

"16 You didn’t choose Me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name."

"26 But I will send you the Advocate — the Spirit of truth. He will come to you from the Father and will testify all about Me. 27 And you must also testify about Me because you have been with Me from the beginning of my ministry."

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

In Him We Live and Move...

This past Sunday, we were commissioned by our home church and 'sent out' with their blessing into our new ministry work with The Sanctuary Pickering. We feel very blessed that we have the love and support of our home church in this new adventure that God has led us to journey on. It is truly an awesome thing when local churches are able to see and grasp the BIG picture --- and that is to acknowledge that we are all enlarging the same Kingdom, that we are all giving ourselves away for the same purpose, and that we are all serving the same Master!

Acts 17:28 (NIV) --- "For in Him we live and move and have our being..." --- was prayed over us as three of our pastors laid hands on our family. It was a significant moment for us as it marked the official end of fifteen fruitful years of ministry at Morningstar. It was meaningful as well in that the three pastors who laid hands on us have, in one way or another, significantly played a part in training, shaping and molding us into the people that we are today! It was a bittersweet moment indeed.

I love that whole section from Acts 17:24-28 so I will quote it here:
"The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And He is not served by human hands, as if He needed anything, because He Himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man He made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. 'For in Him we live and move and have our being.' As some of your own poets have said, 'We are His offspring.' " ---Acts 17:24-28 (NIV)
As Charles Colson says in his book Loving God --- "It is not what we do that matters, but what a sovereign God chooses to do through us. God doesn't want our success; He wants us. He doesn't demand our achievements; He demands our obedience." And so we journey on --- with great anticipation of the things that God wants to accomplish through us!

"Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you."
---Joshua 3:5 NIV

"There is one body and one Spirit — just as you were called to one hope when you were called — one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all."
---Ephesians 4:4-6 NIV

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Made To Worship

Last Sunday was my last time playing piano on the worship band at Morningstar. This coming Sunday, we will be commissioned and 'sent out' to begin our new ministry work with The Sanctuary Pickering. Bittersweet describes what I am feeling...but with a deep sense of peace and release knowing that we are walking in obedience and stepping out in faith doing what God has called our family to do for Him in this season of our life!

The opening song we did was Chris Tomlin's "Made To Worship" --- an awesome song, one of my favourites, a great way to mark the end of ministry work with the worship band. It truly has been a pleasure! As I told the guys on Sunday: I'm hanging up my earphones...(but my fingers will continue to make music for God wherever He leads me). The lyrics of "Made To Worship" touch me deeply and describe exactly why our God is worthy of all our worship, praise, devotion and adoration --- why we are compelled to follow Him when He calls us to go!

Here it is:



Made To Worship
By Chris Tomlin, from the album "See The Morning"

Before the day
Before the light
Before the world revolved around the sun
God on high
Stepped down into time
And wrote the story of His love for everyone

He has filled our hearts with wonder
So that we always remember

Chorus:
You and I are made to worship
You and I are called to love
You and I are forgiven and free
You and I embrace surrender
You and I choose to believe
You and I will see who we were meant to be

All we are
And all we have
Is all a gift from God that we receive
Brought to life
We open up our eyes
To see the majesty and glory of the King

He has filled our hearts with wonder
So that we always remember

Even the rocks cry out
Even the heavens shout
At the sound of His Holy Name
So let every voice sing out
Let every knee bow down
He’s worthy of all our praise
"Sing a new song to the Lord! Let the whole earth sing to the Lord! Let the heavens be glad, and the earth rejoice! Let the sea and everything in it shout His praise! Let the fields and their crops burst out with joy! Let the trees of the forest rustle with praise before the Lord..."
---Psalm 96:1,11-13 (NLT)

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Spring!

Welcome April and WELCOME SPRING! As the saying goes --- "April showers bring May flowers". I love Spring's arrival because it means that I can soon garden again! I am anticipating the melting away of the last bit of snow and ice so that I can get into my garden sooner than later.

The arrival of April also means that March is now behind me. March was busy but it was truly a lot of fun! Last Saturday was Destination Imagination Tournament Day. My daughter's team, Team AstroZ, came in 4th place overall, competing against 12 other teams from all over Ontario doing Challenge A: Obstacles, Of Course! I am soooo proud of them. All six team members put forth their best effort! They placed first in two categories (Side Trips and Story) and placed second in their Instant Challenge. Their overall score placed them in 4th place. As much as I would like to discuss their performance here, I can't. There are still teams waiting to compete with this same challenge all over North America and the solutions are not to be shared at this point (including photos), especially over the Internet. So, you'll just have to trust me when I say that Team AstroZ's solution was out-of-this-world! :-)

My son also took part in Destination Imagination. His team is a Rising Stars team called The Hurricanes and they did the Rising Stars Team Challenge: TwisDId History! This age group does not compete. They present their solution to a panel of appraisers who offer constructive comments to encourage these children to come back and compete once they hit Grade 3. My son did very well in his role of "scientist". I must say that their solution was out-of-this-world as well!

All in all, D.I. was an awesome experience for both children! They acquired life skills that they wouldn't have normally learned in a classroom setting. As for me, I am looking forward to managing another team next year. It has definitely been a learning experience for me as well. I truly enjoyed my role as Team Manager!

Since D.I. is now over, starting this week we have nothing planned during the after-school hours! It would be great if the snow and ice melt away right about now because the garden is starting to call my name!

"See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land. The fig tree forms its early fruit; the blossoming vines spread their fragrance."
---Song of Solomon 2:11-13 (NIV)