Category Archives: humility

Lessons from the Front Desk and Beyond

926338625-canstock5690339 My husband and I spent the past year doing volunteer work at Hephzibah Children’s Home in Macon, Ga. For us this was an opportunity of a lifetime! Most of our lives we have been involved in raising children, six of our own and three foster sons as well as other foster children and at one time we had even talked of opening a children’s home of our own one day. But it just wasn’t in God’s plan for us.

We had been serving as volunteers at the Children’s Home for several years, first with church groups and later going there for two weeks each year with another couple, so when the option came to serve long term we gave it serious thought and began to pray and seek God’s direction. It took almost three years before the way would be clear for us to make a one year commitment. We set the date for April of 2016 to April 2017.

We are both thankful for the opportunity and glad that we took this step in faith to serve God for that year at Hephzibah! Our only regret is that we didn’t do it sooner when we were younger and in better shape.

This past year has been an experience in faith, faith for strength to serve, faith for good health while we served, and faith for God to watch over our family that we left 950 miles behind for a year. And God did not disappoint!

There were many great experiences during our year of service. Experiences in learning new skills, in meeting new friends, and seeing new places. But the greatest experiences, for me, were the lessons learned at the front desk of the administration building where I spent many days filling in the gaps for the regular receptionist and as an interim receptionist between the permanent receptionists.

Now I will have to admit that it was no secret that this was not my favorite assignment while I was there. My favorite assignment was working in their donation center where I did sorting, organizing and distributing necessary items to the children and staff. This work gave me instant gratification and “felt” important and appreciated. And I worked alone a lot of the time so I could work at my own pace.

But the most valuable lessons are always learned in community with other people! I often felt that my contribution as a receptionist was small because I “just” answered the phone and greeted people directing them to where they needed to go or who they needed to talk to. Not exactly earth shaking work but as time went on and I had the opportunity to interact with many of the kids, staff, other volunteers and even the vendors and service people and I found fellowship, blessings and enjoyment in the work.

It is sad but true that it wasn’t until the last couple of months when we were completing our year and preparing to return home that I really began to realize the learning experiences God had blessed me with at that front desk as I interacted with the Hephzibah community. Not only did I learn the skills I needed to do the work but also some lessons that are still ongoing today in changing my life!

I learned what it is to accept people where they are and that everyone has a story if we are willing to listen;  that everyone needs encouragement (even those who may seem to have it all together); lessons in being accepted just the way I am and accepting encouragement as well.

In the area of communications; lessons about when to speak and when to be still, and especially about when to humble myself and ask forgiveness when I mess up the proper sequence.

My husband and I learned some things together as well.

God blessed us with time to get away from the hustle and bustle of a blessed but busy life. And after 52 years of marriage, six married children, three foster sons, fifteen grandchildren, five great grandchildren, friends, church, and community, we had built up a lot of hustle and bustle back home.

We had more time to pray and listen for God, to stop and smell the flowers and to enjoy new experiences, make new friends and create new memories. We were often able to minister one-on-one to staff, kids and other volunteers whenever and wherever God gave us the opportunities, and we learned to accept the ministry of others to us.

Other lessons learned: 

We can live with less

Our children and grand-children can survive without us (they knew that but I didn’t)

We can still work five days a week but not as fast as we once could

We can still be useful even though we are retired

And solitude is not necessarily a bad thing

But for me the best of all was that our year at Hephzibah gave us the opportunity to serve God and do ministry together in a place we love. A place where we were blessed and hopefully blessed others. A place where we worked alongside some amazing people who often face struggles and many of the challenges that every ministry experiences, yet they remain faithful and passionate in serving at risk teens and children who have been neglected and abused, and they share with them that they are loved, that they are the King’s Kids!

For most of us “baby boomers” retirement offers many great opportunities for travel, winter homes in the south, and cruises and all that is great. We have been blessed with some of these opportunities as well.

But for my husband and I, we will always be most thankful for this opportunity.

It’s been a great year!

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Filed under accountability, Children, communication, enjoyment, faith stages, Family, humility, quiet, self-examination, Work

“Education or Transformation?”

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Then Jesus came to them (the disciples) and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.                                                                                                                Matthew 28:16-20

These are the instructions Jesus gave to the leadership of the early church after His resurrection and before His ascension back to the Father.They were to go, to make disciples, to baptize in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and to teach them to obey His commands. Jesus prefaced his command with a proclamation that “all authority” was His to give such a command and followed the command with a promise to be with them “to the very end of the age”.

This was and still is the primary work of the church!

However, I believe it is one of the greatest challenges facing the church today. We  invite, entertain, include, educate, baptize, teach them God’s commands and add them to the membership rolls.

Now all these things are important but it seems that in our haste to move new believers along we tend to jump over the “making disciples” part. And I believe one reason we do is because we aren’t sure how to disciple because we may not have been discipled ourselves. God has been convicting me in the area of making disciples but, honestly, I didn’t know how.

Unfortunately, we, “the Church”, in varying degrees, seems to have lost the focus on “making disciples” and in many of our churches we have become more of a social club, entertainment club, and/or an educational center where we can learn many things about what Scripture teaches and the principles we are to live by but fail to move God’s truth from our heads to our hearts, our hands, and our feet. We are not often challenged to put them into practice and can become comfortable with gaining information but not  walking in obedience to God’s commands and according to His principles. Therefore, we see little transformation in our lives. Some who have been Christians for years don’t know how to disciple because many have not yet been taught discipleship themselves, present company not excluded!

To many times I have been guilty of wanting to make it comfortable for new believers so I didn’t challenge them with the truths that sometimes are difficult to live by and in so doing have watered down the scriptures. After all they were saved, and were doing all the things they needed to do.  They were attending church, getting involved in a ministry in the church, tithing, and the list goes on, but there was no significant maturing of fruit in lives as a result of the doing. I realize now believers should do all those things but we also need to be challenged by the God’s word to be more Christlike in our daily activities.

We have programs to increase attendance, to grow the Sunday school and children’s programs and increase membership numbers. We post attendance and offering numbers (see my blog post) Are We Counting What Really Counts There are places on our annual reports for the number of those accepting Christ as Savior and those sanctified.

But how many disciples are we making who are in turn discipling others? Do we have effective training in our churches in discipleship or are we teaching new believers just enough to make them comfortable in their salvation so they can get into heaven but possibly with the smell of smoke on their coattails?

Having been involved in both Bible Studies and Sunday school classes where the teaching on Scripture was excellent and ideas for practical application were discussed yet often where there were few testimonies shared of how God’s truth had transformed lives or the lives of others. To often the story of our conversion, important as it is, is the only testimony we have, but that should only be the beginning. God’s continued changing grace through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit adds to our testimony and God’s power can be seen in our lives as we walk in humble obedience to the principles and commands in His word every day.

However, if what we learn is not applied to everyday life; if we don’t meditate on God’s truths and let them become the guiding force in our lives, we have education but without transformation. We grow in knowledge but lack understanding and do not mature in our faith and we miss out on His best for us. If we don’t interact with God and become  teachable; if we aren’t allowing the Holy Spirit to transform our thinking and understanding; if the truths of God are not seen in our lives how can it help others believe Jesus could transform their lives.

 

Are our small groups and Sunday school classes just providing information or seeing transformation as a result of spending time together in the Word?

If not, why not?

As we reach out to those who are lost and share the gospel and they respond by receiving Christ as their Savior do we continue to disciple them and help them to grow in their faith? Do we share scriptural truths and God’s commands and challenge them to live by them while sharing our testimony of the challenges where He has brought us victory? Do we share our own testimony of how God has transformed our lives and the lives of so many others?

Do we really disciple?

Are we making disciples?

Just what does it mean to “make disciples”?

Got Questions Ministries web site answers that question pretty well:

“A Christian disciple is a person who accepts and assists in the spreading of the good news of Jesus Christ. Christian discipleship is the process by which disciples grow in the Lord Jesus Christ and are equipped by the Holy Spirit, who resides in our hearts, to overcome the pressures and trials of this present life and become more and more Christlike. This process requires believers to respond to the Holy Spirit’s prompting to examine their thoughts, words and actions and compare them with the Word of God. This requires that we be in the Word daily—studying it, praying over it, and obeying it. In addition, we should always be ready to give testimony of the reason for the hope that is within us (1Peter 3:15) and to disciple others to walk in His way.”

(© Copyright 2002-2016 Got Questions Ministries)

Just how do we go about “making disciples”?

How do we measure how we are doing in this area of the Great Commission, “making disciples”?

In any educational institution there is always a book learning aspect so we know the basic principles we are working from and then a skills lab where we are shown a demonstration of how to apply the knowledge in order to connect what we learned from the book to practical application. Along the way there are test that include both aspects to evaluate proficiency in obtaining the desired outcomes for the skill and the course.

The Bible is our text book and Jesus is our instructor for the skills lab. He made it simple for us by demonstrating how it is done. All through life there are tests used to help us to grow and obtain God’s desired outcomes in us and in His church.

We simply follow the example Jesus set as he went out and chose 12 ordinary men and made disciples out of them, praying for them, spending time with them, speaking God’s truth to them,teaching them and challenging them to obey His commands and live by His principles. This is what should be happening in our Bible Studies, our Sunday School classes, our Small Groups. Praying, teaching, training and practicing the same principles that Jesus taught,  challenging and expecting those we are teaching to do the same. To follow our example as we follow Christ’s.

 

To make disciples we must pray for them, spend time with them, teach them from Scripture and by what the Father has given us to speak, practice what He taught and challenge them to do the same.

His disciples learned from him, watched him, saw how he taught them and followed his example. Believers in the early church followed the disciples example as they followed Christ’s and the church grew in strength and in faith and unity.

How do we measure? Not in tithes or attendance but in the strength and unity of our churches. In how we are able to reach the lost for Christ and make disciples who will go and do the same. And then we will see a steady increase in both tithe and attendance that will blow us away!

“I (Jesus) have set you and example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”                                                                                                                                        John 13:15-17

Is there someone willing to come along side of you to disciple you? Ask them!

Is there someone who needs you to come along side them to disciple them? Reach out to them!

Maybe your sensing a call to begin a discipleship ministry in your church? Start one!

You will be blessed if you do!!!

 

 

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Filed under accountability, character study, communication, Discipleship, faith stages, humility, Promises, responsibility, self-examination, Uncategorized

Going Out While Staying In

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I was recently challenged to do a 7 Day Experiment in Intentional Living from John Maxwell’s blog.

The first day of the experiment was about putting family first and the exercise was to pick a family member to do something special for them. It was suggested to take them out to a place that I knew they would enjoy. (if your interested in doing this experiment go to John C. Maxwell and Intentional Living).

My husband is the family member I wanted to do something with and for because I know that after 50 plus years of marriage we can get into a rut now and then and take each other for granted. But I had a problem because going out was not in our budget that week. As a retired couple on a fixed income we have to watch our pennies you know.
As I contemplated what I could do for him I realized that I could go out of my way and comfort zone to do something with him right here at home.

My husband is a real Sci-fy kind of guy and I am soooo not a Sci-fy gal! So in the evenings he graciously hands me the remote and has me watch what I am comfortable with, or if there is a Sci-fy that he really wants to watch I go to the den and read while he watches it.
On day one of the 7 Day Experiment we stayed in and I fixed him a special dinner and after dishes were done and we settled in for the evening I gave him the remote and told him to watch whatever he would like, even the Sci-fy channel and then stayed in the room with him to watch it.
Before we went to bed that night I gave him a card with a poem I wrote ( I use the term poem loosely here) noted below:

“I fixed you a special dinner and gave the remote to you
Because I love you and
I know that you love me too!”

Needless to say he was surprised and pleased and he even mentioned it the next day!
But most of all I was absolutely giddy when I went to bed that night and the world seemed a better place over all! It is amazing what a blessing can come from one little act of kindness, and especially when that act of kindness is for someone you love.
I plan to make it a regular event on my calendar each month!

When was the last time you went out of your comfort zone to spend some special time with a loved one, a spouse, a significant other, a child or parent?

Choose someone today, and don’t forget to write them a note at the end of the day to let them know they are special to you.

 

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Filed under Children, communication, humility, Kindness, Uncategorized

Life Strategies, Hard Questions

Hard questions

Have you ever wished you could talk with a loved one who has gone home to be with the Lord?

Recently, I was actually challenged with some “hard questions” posed to me by my sister Lois from her own last days on this earth. No,  she didn’t contact me in an audible voice or as a spirit but through her journals, that I was blessed to end up with after her death.

I have had these journals for many years and had scanned through them on occasion but recently was drawn back to them during a time of questioning about my own life and wishing I could talk with her. Suddenly, one particular page jumped out at me challenging me to evaluate my own life strategies with the following “hard questions.”

1.  Am I really headed where I want to go or am I wandering around with no purpose failing to seek God’s purpose for my life?

2. Is what I’m doing today really what God wants me to be doing and gifted me for, or am I “doing” to please others?

3. Do I really have a God-given strategy in my life or am I allowing someone else’s strategy to guide me?

4. Do I make initial assumptions because of what I want to be true or am I seeking God’s truth?

5. Do I practice deceptive and/or manipulative behaviors to have things my way ?

6. Am I in denial about anything in my life or am I allowing God to search me and know me, all of me, to reveal anything in me that is not right and help me follow him in His truth?

My Sister was asking these same hard questions in her last days on this earth as she was bedridden with Emphysema and I find them challenging me today.

I have been blessed with two great lessons through this experience.

First, I believe my sister would have wanted me to search for the answers to these questions earlier on than she did and to know a part of her heart that she had not had the opportunity to share with me before she went to Heaven.

And secondly, as I have been feeling that my journaling and blogging are not all that important to anyone but me, now  I can see how God can use  “journaling” in whatever form we may put it (a journal, a blog, writing a book, or even a personal note to someone) to help someone else who may be struggling with the same things we struggle with bringing hope to them as they see the victory God will give for our good and His glory.

I may, and most likely won’t, ever be a famous blogger or writer but as I ask myself these questions I am finding that the love of study and writing is a gift God has given me. It is my hope that one day something that challenged me will challenge someone else to ask the hard questions and find God’s purpose for them.

And my sister Lois, Well, I know from her other journals that she faced these questions , answered them and surrendered it all to her heavenly Father, who gave her His grace, wisdom and strength to accept the things she couldn’t change and to change the things she could and to know His peace in and through it all even into eternity.

And today all her questions are answered and are yes Lord yes!

I challenge you to not wait until your last days to ask the hard questions! Start today for it is the first day of your remaining days on this earth!

For He (God) says, “In a favorable time I listened to you and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” (Isaiah 49:8) Behold, now is the favorable time; behold now is the day of salvation. (2 Corinthians 6:2)

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Filed under faith stages, humility, self-examination

Lessons From a 4 Year Old

Evan Rockin On !

Last week I was on the patio watching our 4 year old, very lively, grandson, Evan, playing in the yard. While he ran around getting rid of some of his energy I took advantage of the time at the patio table to write in my journal and talk with God about a prayer request I had received that morning. After a few minutes Evan stopped on one of his passes by the patio and asked me, “What are you doin Grama?” I explained to him that there were some people who had some problems and I was praying for them and asking God to help them to know what to do.  I asked if he wanted to pray with me and he said yes and bowed his little head and remained quiet until the Amen and then ran off to resume running around the yard and playing.

I then proceeded to get out my phone to look at my schedule for the coming week and once again Evan came over and asked “What are you doin now Grama?” and from there it went like this:

Evan: “What are you doin now Grama?”

Me: “Just looking at all the things I have to do next week and trying to figure out how I can get it all done.”

Evan: “Why don’t you just ask God?”

We went to prayer together again but this time as I was praying I heard Evan say his own prayer.

Evan: “God help Grama!”

Lesson learned: We often pray for others to have God meet their needs and  encourage them to believe He will but then turn around and attempt to meet our own needs without seeking Him first.

God, help Grama!

Thank you Evan, God and Grama love you!!!

“Therefore Whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”   Matthew 18:4

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Filed under Children, communication, humility