Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Jesus is Merciful, Jesus Will Save

“And Jesus said, “Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” Mark 1:17

On Monday, Chad spent his day helping move a lady who was being evicted. She also needed help towing her car to the auto shop. She and her pet guinea pig were locked out at 8:30 in the morning, so Chad, one of the men from QSBC, this woman and her guinea pig all rode together to the auto shop.

On the same day, another couple in our church landed here from New York. They are looking for work and needed another week in their motel room. We agreed to help them because they are making progress they just needed some assistance.

Chad and “Craig”, from New York, were standing at the counter of the motel to pay for the room. The owner of the establishment read the name of our church out loud in a thick Indian accent. “You are from a church?” he asked. Chad answered, “Yes, I am the pastor.”

The owner went on to explain that there was a crippled woman living in his motel who cannot walk without braces on her legs. Her husband has been beating her and forcing her into prostitution. “If I give you the room number, will you go visit her?” He asked.

They took the number and went to find the room. Chad said he knocked on the door, and after some yelling and shuffling the door opened. He looked down to see a badly beaten woman. She had crawled to the door on her knees.

Both of the man and the woman are terminally ill with cancer, and they had no food. The woman had grown up in church. Not knowing how much longer they have to live she had been praying day and night for a pastor to find them. Chad prayed with them and the couple from our church who are living in the motel drove the woman to the store to buy groceries. That night her husband was hospitalized with low oxygen levels. If the woman is able, she wants to come to church on Sunday.

So many people we encounter are hurting tremendously. While their situations at first glance seem overwhelmingly complicated, what they really need most is to be shown the love of Jesus Christ. I pray we will always have the strength and courage to follow Jesus to the dark places. With confidence in The Gospel and by the power of The Holy Spirit we can witness lives transformed!

Rescue the Perishing

By Fanny Crosby

Rescue the perishing, care for the dying,

Snatch them in pity from sin and the grave;

Weep o'er the erring one, lift up the fallen,

Tell them of Jesus, the mighty to save.

Though they are slighting Him, still He is waiting,

Waiting the penitent child to receive;

Plead with them earnestly, plead with them gently,

He will forgive if they only believe.

Down in the human heart, crushed by the tempter,

Feelings lie buried that grace can restore;

Touched by a loving heart, wakened by kindness,

Cords that are broken will vibrate once more.

Rescue the perishing, duty demands it

Strength for your labor the Lord will provide;

Back to the narrow way patiently win them,

Tell the poor wand'rer a Savior has died.

Rescue the perishing, Care for the dying;

Jesus is merciful, Jesus will save.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

His Love Endures Forever

We've finally moved all of our things from Amarillo where from among other treasures, the kids found their sleeping bags. They are all snuggled down in them soaking in the warmth from the fire. There is a peace in our home tonight I thought we'd never know again.

One year, on the anniversary of his successful liver transplant, my dad used Psalm 118 to remember all the ways God's love had been demonstrated to him and our family. He took the stanzas and made them personal for all God had brought us through. Since I am overwhelmed with thankfulness and unsure how to express it all I decided to do the same.

Psalm 118 reads . . .

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.
Let Israel say: “His love endures forever.”
Let the house of Aaron say: “His love endures forever.”
Let those who fear the LORD say:

“His love endures forever.”

When hard pressed, I cried to the LORD; he brought me into a spacious place.
The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?
The LORD is with me; he is my helper.

I look in triumph on my enemies. It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in humans. It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes.

All the nations surrounded me, but in the name of the LORD I cut them down. They surrounded me on every side, but in the name of the LORD I cut them down. They swarmed around me like bees, but they were consumed as quickly as burning thorns; in the name of the LORD I cut them down.

I was pushed back and about to fall, but the LORD helped me.

The LORD is my strength and my defense;

he has become my salvation.

Now to make it personal. . .

God has redeemed us and is restoring our life.
His Love endures forever . . .

God renewed our sense of calling and placed us in a field of lost souls.
He has helped us be effective, provided a facility and given us a vision for growth.
His love endures forever . . .

God has gone before us in so many instances and given us favor with people we hardly knew.
His love endures forever . . .

We have a church family who prays for us, serves with us and encourages us daily.
His love endures forever . . .

We have learned to make family a priority. God is blessing our marriage
and enriching the lives of our children.
His love endures forever . . .

In a two week span our family battled colds, the flu then croup.
One by one the kids are healing and were all able to go back to school this week.
His love endures forever. . .

I have the love of Chad, David, Sean and Ruby.
His love endures forever . . .

My mother and best friend.
His love endures forever . . .

We get to see Chad's parents more often and share in special days. Last month after I told Chad's aunt Mary how much I appreciated them travelling all the way to Oklahoma from Kansas to help with lunches
she said, "We're family. We support each other!"
His love endures forever . . .

He has provided extra work so we can make ends meet.
His love endures forever . . .

By God's hand we were lead to a beautiful school called King's Gate Christian School
where our children are learning and growing in wisdom, knowledge and understanding.
This opportunity is one of the greatest testaments to God's faithfulness to us and we are thankful everyday.
His love endures forever . . .

Chad left Monday to gather up all of the things we left behind in Amarillo.
It was the last week to sell our home and the bank had already taken steps to foreclose the property.
While Chad was in Amarillo the realtor called and asked if we would be willing to accept a short sale.
A couple had been waiting for their preapproval and praying we would accept their offer.
By the end of the evening the contracts were signed and a burden is being lifted.
His love endures forever . . .

We went from having to visit the food pantry for our own family in February
to serving 960 meals in the month of October.
His love endures forever . . .

What started with one family in our living room grew to over 60 in worship each Sunday.
Last month we baptized four new followers of Christ.
His love endures forever . . .

I have a home being built for me in Heaven, by my Creator, Savior and Lord, so that
where HE is I can one day spend eternity.
His love endures forever . . .

"You are my God and I will praise You; You are my God, I will exalt you."
Psalm 118:28

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Broken Bottles

Saturday Morning I took the kids to the trails at Lake Hefner just to walk. It was a beautiful day, but the lake level is very low. The sun was hitting the beach area around the water and all of us were distracted by all the glass sparkling in the mud. We stopped and carefully pulled some of the pieces out, brought them home and cleaned them off. I guess I'll make something out of them. They were just too beautiful to leave behind.

I lead the ladies Bible Study last night. Two women came who did not know each other before. All of us have a relationship with The Redeemer and this was our common bond. We shared our stories together. One lady had been in Prison. She said the day she was released she came home got on her knees and prayed for Salvation. The other lady had been on her own since she was 16. Both expressed how living in these apartments they felt alone until one of them saw us leading worship on the tennis courts. The other lady saw pastor Chad praying with her neighbor. They shared how they felt God had sent us here just for them. As I was falling asleep, I wrote this poem.


You're just a piece of what used to be a whole
Now your sharp and ragged edges show

Stuck in the mud where by the waves you were buried
Still the light hits and your beautiful colors shine through

Try to remember who claimed you once,
Then try to forget who tossed you away

It doesn't matter now what you held or who held you
All the places you were shattered make sense

As He takes the edges down and fits you together
With other beautiful broken pieces
To make something new

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

My God is Mighty To Save

Sunday  night we met in our new space at Artisan Ridge for the second time. Already we are experiencing a need for more space. After serving the burgers outside on the patio we invited everyone in for worship. As I looked around the room there were families with children, older adults single adults lots of children who came on their own and a group of six young people right up front.

Many of these young people I already knew from the summer. Most of them come by to get a drink and snack in the afternoons after school. There was one fifteen year old boy on the front row who was new to me. He was trying his best to act like he didn’t want to be there.  As soon as I began to lead worship he stuck a pair of headphones in his ears and clapped loudly and off beat with every song we sang.

After worship, we dismissed the children and youth to their classes. I was excited to have the opportunity to teach the youth, especially this young man “Michael” even as he sang, “OUR GOD IS MIGHTY TO SAVE! MIGHTY TO SAVE!” loud and sarcastically all the way to our class. I said, "See, you thought you were being so cool. Now you can't get that song out of your head!"

Having endured years of this type of behavior I carried on un-phased to teach. However, before starting my lesson I explained to “Michael” he was not obligated to stay. If he would rather listen to his headphones and cut up, he was welcome to leave. Surprisingly he stayed. Then listened intently to my lesson on how “Blind Bartmaeus” cried out in desperation to Jesus knowing Jesus was the only one who could heal his blind eyes and free him from sin.

The next day while cooking dinner I heard the familiar sound of a knock on the door. When I opened it there was “Michael”. He asked, “Is pastor Chad here?” I invited him in to visit with Chad in the living room. He wasn’t hungry, didn’t want anything to drink, but he seemed to just want to talk.

From the kitchen I could hear Michael and Chad’s conversation about football. He plays for John Marshall and had just finished practice. Then he got quiet before he explained to Chad how scared he was right now. His mother is in the hospital. She has abused alcohol her whole life and her kidneys are failing. Michael is living in a less than stable situation with his mom’s boyfriend. Then he said there had been something on his mind from Sunday night. “Why did Jesus HAVE to die?” He asked bluntly.  

It was a perfect opportunity for Chad to witness to this young man who is now realizing, despite all the horribly wrong things in his life – there is Hope.

Calling Artisan Ridge "home" is not always easy for me, it’s a challenge to have the faith to fight discouragement day after day; However, we are desperate to tell the good news and we’re living in a world that is desperate to hear it. Seeing lives transformed day by day to the glory of God keeps us planted. 

Friday, August 19, 2011

A Boy Like Sean

Sean was just four months old at Christmas time and we were making the holiday rounds to see family. One night, towards the end of our travels he woke up with a very high fever and was congested. Our first son, David, was a pretty healthy boy and never did we make any trips to the pediatrician with him other that his well child checks. So, having a small baby with a high fever scared me a little bit.

The nurse at Dr. Young's office was nice enough to call me back in the wee hours of the morning. She gave me instructions to help bring the fever down. I thought if I could keep him comfortable he'd be fine for the rest of the trip.

After two nights of fever and more congestion his breathing sounded much worse so Chad and I decided to take him to the children's hospital in Ft. Worth, the town we were staying in. His oxygen levels were low and his fever was worse, but they called it bronchitis and sent us home with a prescription.

The next day was December 30th and we decided to get home to Amarillo, to get Sean well. New Years eve night Sean started turning blue and he was struggling to breath. His fever was spiking, so we rushed him back to the emergency room where he was diagnosed with Pneumonia.

The good doctor set us up with breathing treatments and other instructions to help clear Sean's lungs then sent us home. I will never forget the next few days. I'd take him into the bathroom and run the shower till it steamed up the place and let him cry as loud as he could to open up his lungs. I just remember holding him, praying over him and thinking how badly I wanted to watch him get better and grow up.

Next week Sean will turn FIVE. What a handsome, funny boy he has turned out to be! He says things all the time that give me insight into the man he might become. God has made each of our children with their own personalities and they each shine in different ways. What Sean does best is make people smile and laugh with his stories of wild adventures. He's always observing the world around him and if he can't study a bug close enough with his naked eye he'll use my old glasses to magnify it. He's very open about what's on his mind and takes matters to heart.

The other day he said emphatically, "I want to be a veterarian when I grow up. If I'm ever working on a turtle. . .and that turtle snaps at me. . .I'll keep working on him because it's my job to take care of him."

Happy almost birthday Sean, we're proud of you. It's a joy to be your mom and to watch you grow in wisdom, stature and favor with God and men!

Friday, August 5, 2011

A Day at the Beach

Chad felt God leading him to come to this prayer event in Houston when he heard about it on the radio last week. Grandma Jennifer generously offered to watch the kids so I could go too. We took the kids over after dinner Thursday night intending to wake up early to drive the next day. Chad, knowing that I’m always up for an adventure, said on his way out the door, “If you can get us packed up we’ll leave tonight and have more time to go to the beach.”

I was on it! Figuring I had at least an hour to get enough clothes together for one night and two days. By the time he came back from taking the kids I was ready. We loaded up in our car that I have affectionately named, “Hatch” as in “Escape Hatch” and headed south.

Chad and I have very different personalities. We are both practical and adventurous, but he is more pragmatic while I am creative and romantic. The key to harmony for us is that we are constantly “making deals”. For instance, Chad knew that I would take less time looking for the perfect bumper sticker at the Truck Stops if he bribed me with watching the sunrise on the beach. So, right at the onset of our trip he said, “If we don’t waste time we’ll get to Galveston just in time for sunrise.” “Who wants to waste time?” I asked innocently.

His trick worked. I was in and out of those truck stops like a man. I didn’t even bother to take a picture of one very funny inscription on the bathroom stalls. I just saved it in my mind and recalled the event to Chad after we were buckled up and on the road.

As a result, we didn’t miss a single shade of pink, purple or orange as the sun came over the horizon. It was beautiful! We took pictures and I thanked my strong sure captain for keeping his word. Then reality set in. By now, we were stinky and sleepy and a few of the other dwarfs. “Now,” I said excitedly “Let’s go shower and sleep!” “We can’t do that” Chad replied. “We can’t check in until 3:00.” In all of our excitement at the thought of getting away together we missed this important little detail.

“Let’s go eat breakfast. That will waste some time”, we told ourselves. We ate, got refills on our drinks and watched the guy clean the fish tank in full snorkel gear at McDonlad’s. Still it was only 8:00 am. and we were both too brain dead to even make polite conversation.

We decided to go to the state park and spend some time on the beach. After playing in the surf for about an hour we came up to the beach to lay down. Even with the sun beaming down on us we both conked out as soon as our eyes shut. I’m guessing we were out for a while since the surfing class that started as we dozed off were receiving certificates of achievement when we woke up.

We showered off in the camp ground bathrooms and drove to the motel. By now, it's only 11:30 am. Chad called the motel and begged for an early check in which they gave us, “your room will be ready at 2:00 pm” they said. I gave up hope and fell asleep again, covered in sand, sun beaming down on me through the car window, in my wet bathing suit smelling like a bait shop. Chad startled me awake by announcing abruptly, “Captain America is starting right now!” I was still feeling disoriented and having trouble figuring what the heck he was talking about. I had also fallen asleep with my mouth open and the air conditioner vent was pointed right at the back of my throat, so I couldn’t even make words. I realized he was talking about waiting out the rest of the time in an air-conditioned movie and was once again, “on board” - as long as he bought me a big icy drink.

Don’t ask how we got our regular clothes back on, but we did. I was concerned about our slobby appearance until we got to the theatre and it looked like everyone else had changed clothes in their trunk too. We enjoyed the movie, came back to the motel, kicked the maid out of our room and slept. Just another day at the beach for us.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Fixing Our Eyes on The Unseen

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18

Sunday service at our apartment has always been interesting, but last Sunday had an extra dynamic. Chad and I were babysitting a 6 week old baby and his older brother for our “charter members” and friends who were in need of a date night. It’s been a while since I have cared for a newborn baby overnight. I forgot how much they like to keep people company in wee hours of the morning. It was a joy to spend time with Micah, but I knew Sunday morning would be an adventure.

A few weeks ago we started having two services on Sunday. From 9:30 to 10:30 we have children’s church and from 10:30 to 11:30 we have adult services. I actually woke up feeling pretty rested, and Chad was merciful enough to buy donuts for breakfast. I had used the late night hours to study for my lesson, so I was confident to teach.

The children arrived and Micah decided to help out by taking an extra long nap. About mid way through my lesson Chad got a call from the security guard at our apartments. About a week earlier Chad had trouble getting through the gate and asked this guard what the code was. After they talked for a while Chad gave him his card.

Much to our surprise he was calling to find out what time our services start. We have a few other adults who have started coming on Sunday morning regularly. One lady is a widow and prayer warrior. She serves her neighbors in the apartment complex where she lives and has a heart for missions.

After Chad prayed and as he began to preach our neighbor walked through the door. He described how he had moved here from New York to get away from a life of crime and has lived here for only a few months. As Chad preached he listened and followed along in his borrowed Bible.

Sunday afternoon Chad and I were reflecting on our day. Even though it was kind of crazy we were grateful to have had so many children come and to see God moving in the lives of those around us. About that time “Jerry”, the security guard, called. He was under conviction during the sermon about the way he had been living. He said he came to church in search of answers for his life. Chad asked him if he had ever asked Jesus into his heart. He had not. I bowed my head and prayed at our table as Chad led this man to Jesus over the phone.

I don’t know how to explain how we got here – to this place. It is a place of perfect peace in the center of God’s will. Everyday God proves His love for us and His love for those around us. It is in the precious notes and gifts from perfect strangers and longtime friends who are a part of our extended family of God. We are strengthened daily by the prayers of so many of you. Our church family at Quail Springs have served faithfully with us all summer, young and old alike, making lunches, walking door to door, and serving popsicles poolside while children listen to a Bible story.

We have benefitted from wisdom and guidance from Pastors Hance Dilbeck, Ray Griffin and Greg Penna. We’ve been blessed by support from Chad’s family and my mother. We have also grown through a healing of our hearts and renewed sense of calling that can only come from our Heavenly Father.

If we’re looking at our lives in the physical we don’t really amount to much, but when we consider the work God is doing, the souls saved and lives changed we feel unstoppable. We have a glimpse of the walk Paul describes in 2 Corinthians 4: 6-18

“For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. It is written: ‘I believed; therefore I have spoken.’ With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Sold Out

“Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added. . .” Matthew 6:33

Last week in the midst feeding kids we received a call that the compressor at our home in Amarillo had gone out. I’m not sure what connection Air conditioner compressors have to the universe, but if there is ever a bad time for them to go out – they pick the worst. We were pouring every dime and bit of energy into the work here, and truly did not have the money to drive to Amarillo, much less make the repairs. After we prayed and considered all our options (none of them very good) we decided to go to Amarillo and sell the items we had stored in an attempt to make the money we needed.

It was a quiet drive. The kids were sleeping, and Chad and I both were thinking about how we’d get through the next 24 hours. It’s in moments like these that Satan really doesn’t even have to bring out the big guns to discourage. He can just make a few subtle observations to bring us down. Like, “. . .weren’t you just telling people how great God is all week. Now, you’re resorting to having a garage sale to save a house you aren’t living in?”

We arrived late and woke up early, left the kids in Nana’s care and drove to the old house. I love our old house. It’s in a nice neighborhood and has a pretty yard. In the front is an herb garden my dad helped us build for mother’s day; then Chad built a fenced in garden off the front yard with a view of the park.

I tried not to even look that direction as we opened the gate leading to the storage building containing the last of our worldly possessions. “Trust me, there’s some good stuff in here.”, Chad reassured me. I knew there would be it was all the things, that at one time, we thought we couldn’t live without. While it was good we hadn’t driven this far to sell a perfume bottle collection, I wasn’t thrilled to be setting “our life” out on the lawn.

Piece by piece we did just that. Piece by piece it was carried away until by the end of the day we had made enough (with a little left over) to buy a new A/C compressor all without even setting out a sign. We went ahead and called the guy over to make the repairs, and drove away feeling victorious.

We arrived back in Oklahoma in time to get a good nights rest. The next morning we had the opportunity to speak to several Sunday School classes at Quail Springs Baptist Church. We let people know about the ministry God has made possible so far this summer. Many of them are already involved and wanted to know about our future plans.

It’s hard to think about our own future much less the future of Truth Baptist when we are buried in what appear to be desperate circumstances. Even so, in all of what God has brought our family through He is teaching us there is nothing in this world as trust worthy as His word. Nothing is more powerful than a life lived for Him and we should seek after His Kingdom with our whole hearts. We won’t be disappointed with the result.

In I Kings 18: 20 – 39 we find Elijah challenging the false god of weather, Baal. He told the 450 prophets of Baal to choose a bull, quarter it and put it on their altar. Then he told them to pray for their god to light the fire. After a full day of yelling, cutting themselves and “raving” the prayers to Baal fell on deaf ears. There was no fire and the sacrifice was not consumed.

In verse 30 in says, “Then Elijah said to all the people, ‘Come near me.” So all the people approached him. Then he repaired the Lord’s altar that had been torn down.”Elijah set twelve stones representing the tribes of Israel in the name of Yahweh. He dug a trench around the altar and instructed the Israelites to drench the altar with water, not once, not twice but three times.

I can’t get away from the impossible scenario Elijah is creating here. If he’s trying to earn his fire starter merit badge he lost it at digging a trench around the altar and filling it with water.

In show business there is a term used called, “planned spontaneity”. It may look like David Letterman just hops up from his desk and walks down to the sandwich shop and ends up back at his desk to great laughs from the audience. What the unsuspecting public doesn’t realize is that these stunts are all perfectly timed, well rehearsed, scripted actions built in to generate interest.

That is what Elijah was doing here. He wasn’t pacing back and forth, hoping God would come through. He knew no matter how much he drenched that wood the Creator of the universe was in control and could send fire without difficulty. In doing the elaborate show, he got the attention of those who had seen the Baal fall to shame.

In verse 36 it says, “Elijah the prophet approached the altar and said, ‘LORD God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, today let it be known that You are God in Israel, and I am Your servant, and that at Your word I have done all these things.”

In order for what we’ve been through personally to make sense and in order to have hope for the future, we must settle some issues in our hearts. Is our faith in God or are we praying at the altar of a false idol? Are we truly serving Him and obeying His word? If so, we should pray with confidence! It is just a matter of time until His word comes to fruition in our lives.

Finally, Elijah prayed, “Answer me, LORD! Answer me so that this people will know that you Yahweh, are God and that You have turned their hearts back.”

Then God sent the fire. His word says Yahweh’s fire fell consuming the offering the stones and the dust. It even burnt up the water in the trench. “When all the people saw it, they fell facedown and said, Yahweh, He is God! Yahweh, He is God!”

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Alpine Loop

The summer I came home from college mom, dad and I set out on a crazy adventure. Dad had just bought an international Scout II and wanted to test it’s limits so we planned a trip to Colorado. He welded a rack on the top of the Scout to hold our gear and we hit the road.

The plan was to drive the Scout up through ATV trails and camp, in a tent, in remote areas that big campers can’t go. We drove through Wolf Creek pass, into Silverton and Durango. At the time I bemoaned the fact that Dad would wake up every morning and drive us into town for a donut and to find a Kmart. He was in search of the ultimate mattress pad that would make sleeping on the ground more comfortable. With every stop to Kmart the gear on top of the Scout would get higher and higher. It got ridiculous. We looked like a band of Gypsies pulling into town. To make matters worse, every morning we had to restack all our gear onto the top of the Scout so we could set out on the next adventure. When we’d pass under a bridge dad would jokingly ask me to get out and check the clearance.

One morning, mom and I came out of the KOA bathroom from taking our first real shower in days. Dad was sitting behind the wheel with his cap on looking at a map. He had found an old mule trail, called The Alpine Loop. It was a 65 mile strip of road full of hair pin turns through the San Juan mountains boasting two 12,000 foot passes. It was one of those, “Only the strong will survive” kind of drives. Dad wanted to drive it and he wanted mom and I to go along.

Before I knew it I was staring down the side of the mountain. There were literally only inches of clearance on the side of Dad’s tires. The mist was making the mud slick. At one point the nose of the Scout was pointed directly up in the air but Dad just kept climbing up the mountain, loving every minute of it. Once I realized we probably weren't going to die, I could appreciate the rare and beautiful view of the terrain.

I’ve been thinking about my dad all day. I miss him. I wish I could thank him for sharing so much of his life with me. He blessed me in every way he could. Most importantly, he showed me how much better the view is when you dare to take the road less travelled.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Diving In To The 6

My new favorite pass time is watching our boys swim. Sean has a new swim suit with floaties in it. He calls it his “shark suit” and David can swim on his own. The other night Ruby was already asleep and it was still warm outside, so I took the boys to swim.

David chose to start out his swim with a dive into the deep end. As he put his toes to the edge of the pool all the other neighborhood kids just stared; then when he jumped in they gasped and screamed at me, “Ooooooh! Miss Anna! Your son just jumped in ‘the 6’” “The 6?” I wondered. Then I looked and realized they were referring to the deep end of the pool. I wanted to find out how their mothers had so instilled the fear into their children about not swimming in “the 6”! By the looks on their faces they were imagining David met his fate in the mouth of a shark.

I couldn’t get “the 6” out of my mind for the rest of the night. It’s like I finally had a picture of the way I had been living before the last six months – really the last year. We are starting to see glimpses of Divine providence as our family has been plunged in to the deep. It was time to sink or swim. When we dive into the Glory of our Heavenly Father, the deeper we dare go the more beautiful our relationship with Him becomes.

If you don’t care to read some of the lessons I’ve learned you can stop reading here. But I thought I’d share some things that have changed about who I am in this process. Maybe someone else can relate. I’ll try to limit myself to 6 deeper things I’ve learned about life.

1. God’s power and attributes are as real as the air we breath. He never fails to see His plan for our lives through. Though we may face difficult circumstances, pain, death, and discouragement - God is there and He is working.

2. The power and attributes of God are not attached to any other name, denomination, mode or method other than JESUS. There is no other name where by we can receive Salvation, live to the fullest, and enjoy eternal life.

3. While it is painful to know that others, even Christians, can hurt me with their words and actions; I cannot attempt to shield myself by making my highest goal pleasing or impressing others. I have to “fix my eyes on Jesus. The author and finisher of my faith.” Hebrews 12:2 (paraphrased)

4. God made Chad and I for one another. Our love has been put to the test. We’ve laughed, cried and worked through difficult issues in bad circumstances with admiration and respect for each other. Through it all we see how enduring our love is.

5. David, Sean and Ruby are amazing kids. God has given Chad and I both the gift of time to spend with them like we’ve never had before. Slowing down and paying more attention to them has done wonders for all of us.

6. Someone told me not too long ago that to encourage someone means you’re giving them courage to “go for it!”. I would have lost heart with out the encouragement of many of you. I've learned when you dive in the deep end of life your true friends become easy to identify. They’re the ones cheering for you to kick your feet and SWIM!

Can’t wait to see what’s in “the 7” ☺

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Safe Place to Run

I had just dropped the boys off at school and was unloading Ruby from the car when we noticed the sound of angry voices arguing across the yard and immediately became concerned for the children living there. The oldest, who is in the first grade, was suspended from school for taking a pocket knife and the younger three children were home for sure.

In the last few weeks our apartment has become a hub of activity
and we love it. Everyday after school the kids know they can stop by for cookies or fruit. The weather has been nice enough to leave the door open so kids and neighbors come and go as they please. This particular family of children spend lots of time at our house eating and playing and they never want to go home. The youngest boy who is Ruby's age who she calls "Binky", tells David and Sean everyday that he wants to live with us. We have been praying for them each by name because we knew something wasn't right in their home.

After unloading the groceries, We came inside and went to work on the house which was still a mess from our "Lobster Fest" the night before. About thirty minutes later there was a quick knock on the door, it opened and the little boy "T" and his sister ran through, locking it behind them. "Miss Anna! Can we hide here! Our uncle is beatin' our momma!"

"Ofcourse!" I said while hugging them tightly. With an unforgettable look of terror on his face he said, "The babies are still in there!" At first, I wasn't sure what to do. Even though it is a short walk to their apartment, I didn't want to leave Ruby or take her with me not knowing what I'd be walking in to. Honestly, I thought if I knocked on their door they might either let me take the three year old and eight month old or at least they'd calm down.

Turns out they did neither. From the front door I could hear the man cursing at their mother, commanding her to "calm down" She was bawling and trying to catch her breath, responding every time with, "I'm trying, I'm sorry, I'm trying."

The best thing I could do at that point was lock the oldest kids in our apartment, call the police then call Chad to come home from work. Just as I was closing the door, in ran 3 year old "Binky"! He had made it safely across the yard. After calling for help, I gave everybody a lunchable and some milk; then at "Binky's" request turned on some cartoons.

Suddenly I heard a loud banging on our front door and the sound of the uncle's voice yelling. "Are the kids in there?" I told him through the door that the kids were eating their snacks and I'd be glad to bring them home when they were finished. Through the peep hole I could see him pacing back and forth. He knew the police had been called and I was determined to keep the children with me until the police took him away. I kept praying for either the police or Chad to walk up at that moment.

Shortly after he left our door step, the police arrived. Apparently other people from our complex had also called to complain. Watching from our front porch I was sad and disgusted to see the mother putting on her best fake smile to cover for this dirt bag. She stood there shaking with marks on her neck and face and let the guy drive away. She refused to press charges.

Later, she came over to get the kids with her bags packed. She asked Chad if he would drive her to her sisters house. I begged her to let the kids stay until she found a safe place. We offered to take her to a shelter, but she claimed to have family to stay with out of town. She went on to say, "I told the kids, 'whenever he starts beating on me, you just run to Annie and Chad's!' "

Less than 24 hours later she was right back at the guys apartment for the rest of the weekend.

On Sunday the boys came over for dinner. "T" was sitting at our table. He said, "Do you know how we got away the other day? He started beating our momma so we waited until he took her in the bedroom and closed the door. I grabbed my sister and we ran as fast as we could to your door."

We told "T" Sunday how much Jesus loves him, and promised to do everything we could to keep that man from being out on the streets. In the mean time, "T" knows God sent us here so he could have a safe place to run.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Muddy Easter

This morning Chad and I woke to a bolt of lightening followed directly by a loud clap of thunder. If it's true that the distance can be told by how many seconds pass between the two, I'd say the storm was at our front door. The sound of rain hitting our window replaced the sun that would usually shine through.

Already, we had cancelled the outdoor Easter picnic plans because of the chance of rain and cold temperatures. We were hoping it would atleast hold off until after church this morning.

Last week was beautiful. Kids were out playing so we just opened up the front door. We fed lots of kids and our families breakfast then I taught 12 children in Sunday School under the tree.

This week, Chad was ready to preach his first Easter sermon, but I had to pare down my lesson plans for lack of space and participants in doors.

Still one faithful little family, the Balderas' came across the yard with a hot breakfast in hand.

For Ruby's birthday her Mimi and Papa had given her a perfectly white polka dot dress which she wore this morning with her light pink tights and white shoes.

After they had eaten breakfast, while the adults were still visiting, the kids went straight out the front door to play like they always do.

Ruby lead the way. David and Josiah came back in immediately. They're not crazy! It was rainy and cold.

About five minutes later Sean came up to the door with Ruby. Ruby ran through the front door giggling and scot free, but not Sean! Sean was covered knee deep in red Oklahoma MUD!

I jumped up from my seat and stopped him at the door. Made him leave his boots off, but his socks and pants were soaked and muddy.

I took him back to the room, scolding him all the way. Really I was upset with myself for letting him go outside in the first place.

We replaced his pants and he put on his sandles. While I huffed and puffed about it he said, "Mom, do you know why Ruby didn't get muddy but I did? I saw her about to step in the mud and I had already stepped in it so I picked her up and carried her to you."

Now, having been a mom for a while, I'm sure this may have been a clever attempt to get himself off the hook. But tonight, as I think about what Sean did, it is a picture of what Jesus does for His children.

One day we will stand before our Heavenly father. The only explanation for the stain of sin missing off of our lives will be when Jesus comes to our defense.

2 Corinthians 5:21 says

"He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."

It is only through Jesus we can be made clean and granted access to the Father. Because He bore our sin on the cross. On this day and every other I am so thankful for this truth.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Give and It Shall Be Given. . .

“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Luke 12:32-34

At the beginning of the week Chad and I felt blessed. We didn’t have any outstanding bills and the fridge was stocked with groceries. Chad worked Monday and Tuesday at a church in Norman resealing a concrete floor, earning us enough money to keep gas in the car.

Last night at dinner we had our nightly dinner guest. The little boy from across the way came in and took his place at the table. After dinner the boys went out to play. They came right back in with friends and said, “the kids were wondering if you were going to make cookies tonight?”

We had cooked all the cookie dough, but still had a case of applesauce from Sam’s which we handed out until it was all gone. Finally at around 8:00, we had to lock our door to slow what had been a constant stream of children all evening.

This morning the weatherman was calling for storms about the time we would be teaching this afternoon. Even if we wanted to brave the storm we had no food or anything else for the kids. I was doing good to make lunches for the boys to take to school.

Needless to say we were generally discouraged. It would be nice to wake up and have everything in order to do all the “great” things we want to do. It would certainly be easier to give food away if we knew how it was going to be replaced, and to spend time in preparation instead of worrying.

I took the boys to school and prayed all the way home. Chad had a meeting with a pastor in town and I stayed home with Ruby to get our house in order. We waited until around 11:00 then called our volunteers to cancel the Bible Club.

The pastor Chad met with said he would call Chad later with some news. On our way to pick up the boys from school he called and said their church wanted to pay our rent for the month of May. This was a huge encouragement and burden lifted off of both of us! Our apartment has become a place of ministry and we’re thankful for it!

We came home from school and I went straight to the kitchen to make brownies. I thought, even though we weren’t able to have Bible Club across the street we could have afterschool snacks for the kids in our complex.

Just then my phone rang. It was a friend from Amarillo who moved to Oklahoma City not long before we did. She asked how we were doing and said, “I’ve been blessed with some extra money and the Lord laid you on my heart.” She followed it up by saying, “You’re not discouraged are you?”

I told her we had cancelled tonight, but were going to do what we could. She said, “Why don’t you come over here and visit with me for a while. I want to give you something.”

SO. . .I did. I got back in the car and noticed we had just enough time to make it to Sam’s, buy some food and candy and get to the apartments on time.

So . . . that’s what we did. Chad went to our apartment and loaded up our equipment. I went to Sam’s. We had great food for the kids and still had enough money left over to fill up the tank in our car and buy groceries for ourselves.

Chad and I pray everyday for God to bless in abundance so we can be a blessing. We know God can and is making a way to do great and mighty things through us. Right now we’re learning to trust.

To follow the Lord’s principle of giving in Luke 6:38 takes courage! “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

Obeying God’s principle of giving is the only way to realize His eternal rewards. While we work towards to "big picture" for Truth Baptist Church we realize it requires a daily dependence of our Heavenly Father. We have committed to working as hard as we can and using the resources God provides each day as far as they go. To be faithful with as much or as little as He sees fit to bless us with.

Tonight with the sun shining through the clouds and with thanksgiving in our hearts we praised Jesus for His provision, for His grace and for another week to tell The Good News.

Friday, April 8, 2011

He Is The Vine

By Chad Clement

Have you ever had your life stripped down to the bare bones? Usually it takes a cataclysmic event to separate us from the possessions that we love, like a divorce or a house fire, maybe a death in the family. You find yourself in a place where the things that you relied upon, your life tools, are no longer at your disposal and it’s just you and your decisions. We all like to think that we would excel in this situation, but you never really know until you face it.

I like to use Michael Phelps the Olympic gold medalist as an example. Michael may have a tour bus, handlers, personal trainers, PR people and others helping him, but at some point he has to strip down to his Speedo, stand on the blocks and prepare to be tested. Nothing else matters at this point but preparation form and speed.

Six months ago, my family was pretty normal. We were serving and giving our lives away to serve inner-city children. My wife Anna was the principal of the school that she founded that provided free Christian education to desperately poor children. I was serving as the Children’s Minister and together in the summer we were feeding 2300 kids a day and teaching 10 weeks of bible school in the park we built. Ok, so maybe that’s not “Normal”, but outside of work we were like most couples with three children, busy raising them and enjoying life.

However, there was a problem in paradise, God was laying on my heart to plant a church to duplicate the work we were doing. I thought perhaps we might return to Dallas where I was familiar with the inner-city areas. To be honest, the depth of our roots, the momentum of our lives and my resistance to change deterred me from getting a shovel and digging up my family and moving them to a situation that seemed less secure.

What I failed to recognize was that the only thing secure in this life, the only thing that can’t fail, is when a child of God is obedient to the voice of God. Every plan and scheme draw up by men, including myself has the potential of failure. The failure comes when we refuse to listen and obey.

I have to say that in our case God was gracious to our family. He didn’t sit quietly aside as we moved on in our direction in disobedience. He pulled us up out of the ground like a sapling and took us where He pleased. From the perspective of the sapling we just saw roots breaking, leaves falling off and bark being stripped away. It is a traumatic event for a tree to be transplanted, but the careful arborist knows the right season and series of steps to ensure future health.

After many sleepless nights, agonizing over the loss of so many things we thought were precious to us, God has corrected our priorities, planted us in moist fertile ground and we have begun to bear fruit for Him.

We are in a little apartment south of Quail Springs Mall, surrounded by lost and hurting people, who God loves enough to send us to minister to them. He loves the children who normally get a free lunch at school, but in the summer that turns into a question mark, followed by despair. He loves the mothers, who are the second or third generation of women living in poverty. He loves the fathers, who just a few days back were little boys frightened and confused because they had no father to teach them or provide for them.

If you have never known God’s love, come this summer and witness as He shows His faithfulness and pours out His love on these families. If you know God’s love, this is your chance to be fruitful. Come this summer and experience the joy of working shoulder to shoulder with the Lord of the Harvest in His fields. We will be feeding 600-1000 lunches a day, teaching the bible and breaking the chains of sin with the truth of God’s word. Take it from one who has been stripped bare; it is a privilege to be completely poured out for His purposes.