What God can do in 10 years

We recently wrapped up a huge celebration of 10 years of God’s grace in Karis Church, and I realized that I spent so much time celebrating other people’s stories that I never shared my own.

It all began on a Monday morning, April 17, 2006, the day after Easter, as I read a news article about a new church in town that had its first public Gathering on Easter Sunday. At the time, my husband and I were pursuing membership at a church we loved, but the article intrigued me so much that I even poked around on this new church’s website. I remember being struck by the church’s values: truth, beauty, worship, community, mission, gospel, and mercy. I especially loved that beauty was included.

Fast forward two years to a Saturday night, January 2008. Tom and I found ourselves running Google searches – he on his laptop, me on the desktop computer – to decide on a church to attend the next day. We had, through much prayer and not lightly, separated from the church that had originally welcomed us to Columbia and were now ready to find a church to call home. God had been at work in our hearts, helping us question and sift through what we believed the Bible taught. We had grown, but we had been hurt, and we had walls up between the world and between each other.

At some point in our internet searching, Tom asked me to check out a website he found at the top of page two in his Google search. The church name was unfamiliar, but as soon as the page loaded I remember getting excited – I know this church! I read about their first Sunday!

It feels weird to say we never looked back, but it’s true. Instead of that Sunday being the start of yet another long search for a church family, we never went anywhere else. Kevin, the lead pastor, encourages other men to preach at times, both to give him a break and to raise up new leaders. January being one of those times, it took three Sundays before we could hear Kevin preach. I also remember, very uncomfortably, leaving church on each of those three Sundays under conviction about sins I had allowed to control me and recognizing how distant my relationship with God had become.

Karis in Tiger Hotel

Karis Church Sunday Gathering in Tiger Hotel. c. 2010

It’s a little fuzzy to think back on those early days and what it was about Karis that made it home, but here are a few things I remember:

  • being warmly welcomed by Brian and Christina Weaver
  • the senior pastor wanting to have lunch with us
  • Rob’s contagious enthusiasm for the mission of Karis
  • that we were two of the oldest people in the room on Sundays!
  • that a group of mostly 20-somethings were so excited about the gospel and about sharing it with the culture around them
Decade of Grace Block Party

Westside Block Party

Fast forward again, to a Friday afternoon, April 2016. I can barely recognize that hard-hearted, secretly wayward girl who walked into the Tiger Hotel in January 2008, though there are still some of the same insecurities and fears, still the bent toward the same sins. God has done so much through the community of Karis to soften my heart. He has used people in the church to call me out on stuff and ask the tough questions to help me see where I need to change and grow. Through the preaching and teaching, I have been stretched in my faith, widened my view of God and his holiness along with deepening my perception of my own sin. My relationship with Tom has been strengthened, as people in the church have lovingly shown me where I have been selfish and unloving toward my husband. By being given some leadership opportunities, I have been humbled again and again.

There is nothing perfect about this church over any other church. We try, by God’s grace, to live lives that give him glory. It’s not easy. Community is messy, as they say. As my friend, Anne, said about Karis: “Not many churches have people…who will love you where you’re at, but also encourage you to not stay there and to deepen your relationship with the Lord.” I’m excited to think about spending the next 10 years in this lovingly invasive community.

Decade of Grace

Celebrating a Decade of Grace at the anniversary party

 

You missed one last gift to open

What follows is something I wrote in the early days of my blog, revised for 2016. Each of us has this unopened gift in our hands. What will you do with it?
IMG_1093There’s a scene I love from one of the cheesy, tissue required, made-for-TV Christmas movies: a girl receives a beautifully wrapped gift. Instead of immediately tearing into it, she says something to this effect:

Don’t you just love a wrapped present? Before you open it, it could be anything, even a million dollars.

Sneaking downstairs with my sister on Christmas mornings, I loved the sight of the twinkling Christmas tree lights and the overflowing pile of wrapped presents underneath. I remember excitedly wondering what the gifts might contain for me and anticipating the surprises ahead with the gifts I was giving to the rest of my family.

My sister and I always wrote out wish lists for Christmas, but we also knew there was no guarantee we’d get what was on our lists. One particular Christmas, my wish list included a perfume I’d fallen in love with. Mom pulled me aside a few weeks before Christmas to tell me that she had looked at it, hoping to give it to me, but that this brand cost a bit more than she & Dad planned to spend. Imagine my surprise when the last, smallest present I opened on Christmas Day was a tiny bottle of that very perfume! That was a gift that contained something bigger than I could imagine.

IMG_1097So why am I discussing Christmas presents a week late? One reason is that this new year is like one last present for each of us to unwrap. On New Year’s Day, you’re holding a beautifully wrapped gift. It could hold anything. The coming year could be the unexpected present you’ve longed for. There is more promise and hope right now than at any other time of year.

Does this year seem to hold difficulty and trial? This may be a year of holding tight to God and his promises in scripture. Does 2016 have big excitement on the horizon? Trust God to use you even amid distractions – good or otherwise.

So now is the time to dream big. As this year unfolds, what could happen? I hope you can take time this weekend to stop and reflect on your hopes and dreams for 2016. What can you put on your wish list for the new year?

The telling of a story

Rio de Janeiro, seen from the top of Sugar Loaf Mountain. Photo by Tony Hodgson

Rio de Janeiro, seen from the top of Sugar Loaf Mountain. Photo by Tony Hodgson

It’s late, and I have plans to get up early tomorrow morning to pray with a friend, but I need to share this tonight.

I volunteered to blog for World Help because I wanted to use my blogging for more than promoting my own voice. I knew the founder as a professor in my college days. If I wanted to be a part of an organization that was really out there doing humanitarian work and not losing donor’s money in the shuffle of administration, and where I felt confident they were who they said they were, this was it.

As a freshman in college, I heard Vernon Brewer share amazing stories. He had a way of telling stories that mesmerized even the most sleepy collegiate, from his life-threatening health issues to mission trips to less-than-friendly countries. One such story was a little boy, Nildo, from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

And 25 years later, I remember Nildo. His name was lost, but burned on my heart was the story of a street child who Brewer’s daughters took under their wing, fed and clothed, and gave the gift of very bright white tennis shoes. I remember their chagrin on discovering him the next morning with dirty bare feet again as the bright shoes served as a target and were stolen from him overnight.

Listen as Noel Yeatts, one of those daughters, retells this story:

 

Tonight, I read of Nildo’s death. As Noel wrestles with this ending and what it means for her and others, she writes,

My story gave people the ending they craved. It kept them coming back for more. It gave them hope. And, it neatly wrapped up an important truth. If we reach out and do our part, lives can be changed. Nildo was that shining example of a life transformed. He was inspiration to look past the masses and zero in on the one child, the one person God has put in your path. He helped us “see the one”…

I am realizing now more than ever before that Nildo’s story was never my story to begin with. I was just a small part of his story. A big beautiful story but one that I cannot write all the chapters in. There is no alternate ending to choose from, just one tragic end to a life beautifully lived.

And here’s the question I have started asking myself: How much are we willing to risk to let God write our stories? Am I really brave enough to let God write my story … my whole story – with no alternate endings to choose from?

And there is the heart of it all. I don’t write my own story or the story of others. I share the story that God is writing. It’s scary, because that means I don’t control the ending, the Author does. It is my privilege and joy to share it with you.

To give a gift in Nildo’s memory, which will help support his family, click here.

World

My church currently has a team of people on the ground in Rio, continuing the work of spreading the gospel to the people there. Would you pray for them?

The Real Problem of the World Water Crisis

Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink!

My Dad used to quote this when I was a kid. I later learned it’s taken from “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. It refers to a story of sailors at sea with no drinking water on board, unable to drink the salt water all around them.

But, what if you weren’t at sea? What if you looked out and saw water, but it still wasn’t drinkable?

WWD_2_Full Sized Photo Pack

As much as I might complain about having to drink water, it’s required for life and health, and there are millions (estimated 750 million people) who don’t have safe water readily available to them. This is a real problem – and a serious one.

March 22 is World Water Day, a day set aside to bring awareness to the World Water Crisis. Every year, water-related illnesses, poor sanitation, and lack of hygiene claim the lives of 840,000 people . . . and tragically, 90 percent of them are children. (Want to talk about things getting real? That’s around 756,000 children!)

WWD_5_Full Sized Photo Pack

It’s not just about drinking contaminated water, there are also the real dangers of women and children walking for miles to wait in line for water, possibly becoming prey for sexual predators, and then walking the same miles back carrying jerry cans with up to 40 lbs of water for their family.

The World Help staff did their best to carry these jerry cans in this humorous video:

Lifting Kirinda’s Burden | World Help from World Help on Vimeo.

As a World Help blogger, I want to help shine the light on this real problem. For World Water Day, World Help is focusing our efforts on the Ugandan community of Kirinda. Its children have been victims of the effects of contaminated drinking water for generations. World Help hopes to provide clean water to all 2,000 people in the region through a variety of clean-water projects.

Would you be able to help, even in a small way, to help provide water for Kirinda? Learn more or give here.

While this post did take longer than 5 minutes to write, I was inspired to go through with it because of the #fmfparty prompt of “Real” this week, so I’m linking up with Kate Motaung and the Five Minute Friday bloggers.

Do you have a plan for the year?

Every week a group of writers get together online, centered on a word prompt by Kate Motaung, to help us write free-style for five minutes. There’s more to it than that, but you get the gist of it. So, welcome (or welcome back) to Five Minute Friday.

Prompt:  Plan.

Griffin_planner

I love the smell of a new year. A blank year planner is one of the most exciting things. The year could contain anything. When January 1 hit, many of us made resolutions, and some, wishing to avoid resolution failure, chose words for the year instead. Others, attempting to completely side-step that trend, just considered a rough outline of what it would be great to accomplish in 2015.

I’ve been a fan of the one word concept for a couple years now. God’s been working on my heart in certain ways and I came up with a word rather easily. But I never blogged about it. I never took the time to put it to words and cement it in the stone of the interwebs. I had a plan, but not a very concrete one.

This my fifth year of blogging. It’s high time I revise my About page and one thing I’ve been wanting to do is let my readers know how often I plan to blog. This helps you know what to expect of me and gives me a target to shoot for. Once a month or less isn’t exactly what I had in mind when I began blogging four years ago. It’s time to update my plan.

I help my church with communications and it’s been a learn-by-the-seat-of-your-pants experience, which I mostly love. Thanks to the aforementioned internet, there are more experienced communicators who I get to learn from. The buzzword in communications, church or otherwise, is to have a communications strategy. To know what, when and why you want to accomplish when sharing about your organization. A fancy word for a plan.

So, we’re nearly to the “ides of March” and if you haven’t begun to implement your plan, it’s high time to get going. I speak mostly to myself. It’s time to declare that one word for the year and get moving with a plan for 2015 before it’s half over.

So, here’s my plan. I want to blog at least once a week, so you can expect to see me more regularly. If you like my blog and don’t want to miss a post, you can subscribe to get emailed each time I post. If I did it right, the form is here, but if not, look to your right, under my picture to see where you can sign up.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Is there a plan that you have for 2015 that you need to get started on? Would you share that in the comments below?

Since it’s now my plan, see you in less than a week!

Do you like this Five Minute Friday idea? Read all the posts for this prompt here.

 

Random sharing

This week’s Five Minute Friday prompt is “share.” The idea is that you’re supposed to take the prompt and write about it for 5 minutes. Raw, unedited thoughts put to pixels.

But I have nothing on “share,” so instead, I’m going to share five minutes of thoughts with you.

water from sky

My writing is sometimes paralyzed by looking at other writers. I see certain bloggers gaining followers, publishing a book, going to conferences. It’s hard sometimes. I dream of making it big or going viral. But realistically, I know that I’m not ready for that. I’m grateful that God is sovereign and I am not, because I would screw up so many things. I’m not ready for that the way that God has shown I’m not ready to be a mom. It’s not that it may never happen – it could – but that it’s not his plan for today.

With writing, which is the point of this exercise, I’m still hesitating. I’m still holding back. Not ready to share the full story within me. Still afraid of what others will think of me. Not willing to bare my soul and share the good, bad, and ugly. Especially the bad and ugly. Until I’m ready to be transparent, whether on this blog or with friends, until I’m ready to be vulnerable, my reach is limited. My impact is blunted.

I’m not sure where this is going or what you can get out of it by reading. Perhaps you can be equally challenged to see where you’re holding back and what you should let go of. Perhaps this is just one of those FMF posts that don’t really make a lot of sense to anyone but the writer.

At least we keep writing.

I’m linking up with Five Minute Friday.

Go where I send thee

It’s time for #fmfparty again. Five minutes to write on a word prompt. Last week it was welcome. This week, the word is send.train

And the first thing to hit my mind is the old children’s song:

Children, go where I send thee
Well, how shall I send thee?
I’m gonna send thee one by one
One for the little bitty Baby
Born of the Virgin Mary
Born, born, born in Bethlehem.

I’ll have to search youtube for the whole thing. It’s a little silly, especially when it gets stuck in your head. (Hey! I found a Hall & Oates version, who knew?)

Child, go where I send thee. And how shall I send thee?

train_graffitiWe have to be ready to go when/where God calls. And for some, like my friend, Eric Papp, or my sister’s friend, Sue Takamoto, it’s across the world. But for others, it may only be across the street.
Across the office.
Across the counter.
Where you are is where God is calling you in this moment.

Stop reading and look around you. This is where you have been sent. Is it a coffee shop? a bus? your living room? your cubicled office? a doctor’s waiting room?

Child, God is whispering for you to go where He sends you. It’s time. You are there. You have been sent. If you don’t know what comes next, pray to Him to show you who to reach out to, where to speak words of comfort, peace, healing, truth, and what to do next.

Go where I send thee.
I’m linking up with Five Minute Friday.

To the new year

Fireworks_tallWelcome new year.

Welcome blank slate. Welcome fresh start.

Welcome new challenges. Welcome the old faithful ones.

Welcome temptations. Welcome trials. Welcome hardships. Welcome stretching experiences.

Welcome new friends. Welcome unexplored places. Welcome firsts.

Welcome health; welcome sickness. Welcome riches; welcome empty pockets.

Welcome laughter; welcome sadness. Welcome births; welcome deaths.

If I truly believe God is in control and sovereign over this new year with its good and bad, joys and sorrows, easy and hard times, then I welcome them all. If…

…we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

…then – welcome. I can’t wait to see what God has in store for His glory in 2015.

Fireworks_long

I’m linking up with Five Minute Friday.

Bombs and Relationships

I just realized that today is my four-year blogiversary! Happy, happy! So, I didn’t want to let this special day go by without a post.

This Buzzfeed video vastly amused me this week – couples trying to defuse a bomb together. I admit it. I laughed a lot at the crazy and sometimes harsh things that were said in the tense moments of trying to defuse the bombs. I also know from past experiences that my husband and I approach problems from very different angles. It can create frustration at times, but it also can create happy surprises (sometimes).

My conclusion is that we would (probably) have a decent chance at success (maybe). No, really, I totally think we could do it.

What about you? Do you think you could work through it to turn off the bomb in time?

Since this relates to how couples work together, I’d like to remind you about one of my favorite marriage resources, refineus.org. Justin and Trisha Davis are recapping their top 5 posts of 2014, so it’s a perfect time to hop over there and find some encouragement at being intentional in your marriage.

Merry Christmas from my husband and me!

Defusing bombs together since 1996!

Thanks for sharing my blogiversary with me! I’m looking forward to another blogging year together.

3 ways you can change the world

WHG_Community-Development_3Isn’t that a wish deep inside of most of us? The chance to affect huge change in the world around us?

The easiest excuse is that I’m just one person. There’s not much that I, personally, can do that will change the world.

However, there are small things that have huge impacts on others. There are ways you can give that will change the future of others who, in their turn, may be able to change a family, a community, and even the world.

One Christmas several years ago, my nieces excitedly showed me a catalog, through which they were searching for the perfect gift. They were shopping, not for gifts for themselves, but for something bigger. It was a catalog, much like the World Help Gift Catalog, and they were trying to decide if they would buy a chicken, or mosquito nets, or books for children in another country. I was surprised, but I loved the idea.

So, this year, here are three ways you could change the world:

WHG_Sustainability_41. Supply a food source to feed a family, not just for one meal, but with years of food.

  • pair of chickens could supply a family with potentially up to 600 eggs in just one year ($22).
  • A goat will provide a family with nutrient-rich milk as well as a source of income from selling milk products ($100).

2. Help a community find clean water or have access to health care, which leads to longer, healthier lives and a stronger community.

  • Participate in a clean-water project to help people access clean water or build new wells ($45 and up).
  • Help with the costs of providing a health clinic to a community ($300 and up).

3. Save someone’s future, by saving a life.

Watch a baby rescue in action in Guatemala:

Wow, that is powerful.

I recommend World Help, because Tom and I have known the founder, Vernon Brewer, since our college days. This isn’t a huge corporation, where things get lost in the shuffle. That’s Brewer’s daughter in the video. World Help works with local groups in the areas where they help, to have a greater impact in the communities.

Today, if you did not know, is #GivingTuesday. I encourage you, if you are part of a local church, give there first. But, after that, would you add a line on your Christmas giving list this year to feed a family, restore a community, or rescue a child? Together, we can change the world.

WHG_Education_4WHG_Sustainability_1

There are many other opportunities through the gift catalog that you may want to browse through. Also, today, as part of #GivingTuesday, a financial gift made to World Help will be matched at 100%.

  • Hi, I'm Janice. I'm part bookworm and part creative. I love both science and music (and the science of music). I'm stumbling around trying to grow closer to God. Click the photo to read more about me.

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