Monday, February 28, 2011

We Are Not Alone

Chad and I both woke up at 5 am yesterday morning with a kind of “deer in the headlights” look in our eyes. The room was reserved, by faith, we had purchased some sound equipment and bought food to share. I had a lesson prepared for the children. Chad worked all week on preparing the sermon and I was ready to lead worship. It was time to have church.

I stayed with David, Sean and Ruby while Chad loaded up the TV to use as a monitor. As Chad loaded up all the equipment I had to crack Dad’s old joke about naming our church, “The Church on the Move.”

We set it all up and ran through the worship songs. Then we waited and wondered if any of the people we invited would show up. At ten-till-eleven in walked five little girls and their mother/aunt. It was the lady who told us earlier in the week “we need to go to church.” Here she was! The girls were hungry and went right to the fresh fruit. They ate and ate and ate!

This week we had two girls who are 16 and 18 move in with their parents to the apartment above us. They are from what they described as a “ghetto” close to San Diego. Their father is working to get his Masters degree in education. We invited them to church when we helped them move in some of their furniture. They came!

Another young family walked in. They are ex-Navy from Gulf Port Mississippi. They brought their six-year-old son who became fast friends with David and Sean.

We all ate breakfast together then gathered together for worship. After we sang I explained that we want to pray for them and pray for one another. As we visited over breakfast Rafael’s mother and I talked about how disappointed we were that our apartment complex was zoned out from all the good Edmond schools.

So, we prayed for her little boy to adjust well to his new school. Her husband shared about the impossible time he is having finding work to support his family. Here we were all recently new to Oklahoma City, trying to find work, good education and make a life for our families.

I realized how all of the pain, loss, frustration and dark times our family has been through in the last few months brought us to this place. We are able to understand the needs of the thousands of people surrounding us right down to the maintenance problems in our building. I see the trials have meaning and purpose now. What better way to encourage someone; to know how to pray than to share in their hardships. Was not Jesus the ultimate example of this?

It’s one thing to leave Amarillo and come to Oklahoma. It’s another thing to leave Heaven and come as a little baby born in a barn. Jesus even knows what it is to stare in the face of doing the will of God. This morning I read in The Rev. Billy Graham book about Angels called, “Angels: God’s Secret Agents”

“The night before His crucifixion Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane. Only a short time later, He was to be seized by the soldiers, betrayed by Judas Iscariot, set before the rulers, beaten and at last crucified. Before He was hung on the cross He went though the terrible agony in the Garden which made Him sweat, as it were, drops of blood. It was in this situation that the Son of Man needed inner strength to face what no other being in heaven, hell or earth had ever known. In fact, He was to face what no created being could have faced and gone through in victory. He was about to take upon Himself the sins of men. He was to become sin for us.

Then it was in that crucial moment that the angel came to assist Him ‘strengthening Him’ The Greek word for strengthening is eniskuo, which means to make strong inwardly. Where the disciples of the Lord Jesus had failed to share His agony, as they slept the angel came to help.”

We all might face difficult circumstances and endure trials. As we endure, it is important to realize we are not alone. I’m thankful for a Savior who endured the full weight of my sin so that I can go free and tell others about Him.

Do you know Him?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

When Crazy Is All You Got

The last few days off from WalMart have been very blessed and productive.

On Monday, Chad and I met with Pastor Hance Dilbeck at Quail Springs Baptist Church. Since we’ve been in Oklahoma we have visited a few services. On the Sunday we attended Quail Springs for the first time Chad pretty much made me go. I was one bad experience away from being church residue.

Chad and I both felt the Holy Spirit move as we worshipped and the sermon was just what we needed to hear. The next Wednesday we got a call from the pastor inviting us to come back.

When we joined, Pastor Hance asked to meet us. In passing, we had told him of God leading us to start a church to reach the thousands of families living in our apartment complexes. When we finally had the opportunity to share our vision with him we weren’t sure what to expect.

It wasn’t long into the conversation Chad and I both knew this was a pastor with a heart for evangelism. More than that, he had already been prayerfully leading his congregation to have a heart for local missions. We look forward to seeing how God uses QSBC and us together to do great things for The Kingdom of God.

After our meeting we came home and got more cookies to deliver to our neighbors. It was a little awkward going door to door with cookies. We’re used to our reputation preceding us at Citychurch. When a deep voice yells from the back, “Who is it?!” all we had to say was, “We’re from Citychurch!” and we’d get the open door.

What we’re doing now is more like setting the blades of the plow to some untouched ground. One man came to the door. Chad told him we were with Truth Baptist Church, invited him to come Sunday and asked if he already has a church home. The man smiled and said, “We don’t. . .really . . . go to church.” Then a female voice from the kitchen hollered, “But WE NEED TO! Tell him we’ll be there Sunday!”

At the next apartment a woman opened the door. We handed her some cookies and she explained she would not be getting involved. “I will probably be moving soon.” She tearfully explained, “If my son and daughter-in-law choose to keep the baby she’s carrying they will need my help.”

I asked if we could pray for her family. She told me it was too late and the decision was theirs to make. I asked if I could pray for her. She refused and said she had to get to work. We prayed as we walked away for all involved especially for the fragile little life hanging in the balance.

House after house, we saw familiar little faces locking their eyes on the cookies and running to thank us. They’d say “. . .make sure you knock on our door Sunday to remind my parents. We want to come to church!”

This morning Chad and I walked though a 9 acre tract of land located in the flow of foot traffic. There is a beaten path from the apartments to the mall where many people, who live here, work. It is perfect for building the church, because kids and youth can walk or ride bikes from the apartments on a sidewalk.

We sat in the middle of this field with the sea of apartments in view and prayed for a miracle. We prayed for God to do a great work in the lives of those who attend Sunday, for a boldness in our own walk that only comes by The Holy Spirit. We asked God for the land we were standing on. We know Our Heavenly Father can and will provide as our hearts come in line with His heart and His plan. So we continue to trust, listen and obey.

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Friday, February 18, 2011

Witnessing to Tobacco Girl

So there is a lady at work who doesn't seem to like me very much. From what I gather she's upset because they hired me for a shift she wanted, or thought she was going to get. I've tried to be nice to her, but last night she embarrassed me in front of a customer. I was really dreading going to work today. Patly because of this lady and I was having too much fun with Ruby and Sean.

Now, before I leave the impression of somehow being a self righteous nut job, I need to explain. There is nothing about my life worth bragging about right now and I'm painfully aware of it. As a matter of fact it's hilarious to me my new job requires me to smile and be polite all day. There is no explanation for how I'm dealing other than the Holy Spirit at work in me. I literally drove home the other day defiantly singing, "I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart. . . and if the devil doesn't like it he can sit on a tack!"

My flesh does cry out! I get worn down, but refuse to hand a victory over in the form of a bad attitude to the enemy.

For a few minutes before my shift started today I just sat in the car for a while, staring at the parking lot, telling God how much I didn't want to go inside. I had my Bible and somehow found my way to I Corinthians 15:58. Closing my Bible I prayed out loud, "God, I'm holding on to Your Word like the last rung on the monkey bars. My belief in who You are and the hope that You'll use my life is all I have." Before I finished praying I asked God to help me be a witness to the other ladies I work with today.

The first part of my shift was alright; then the lady who has been giving me grief came on shift. She was in a slightly better mood.

About two hours before my shift ended the phone rang.

She answered, looked stunned, looked at me and said, "They asked if I was ready for Jesus to come back."

"What?" I asked

She said, "I answered the phone and the person on the other line just asked me if I was ready for when Jesus comes back." We all were laughing and I said, "Well. . . I am. I'd love for Jesus to come back.. . right now!"

She laughed at me and said, "then you get to handle that call."

Later, the cashier who they call, "Tobacco girl" (because she stands at customer service with us and sells the cigarettes) said the phone call got her thinking. As traffic slowed in the store she started asking me about where I went to school and how long I planned to work for Walmart. Then she asked me, "How do you know what you're doing with your life?"

Just to clarify, I asked, "What do you mean?"

She asked again, "I mean, how do you know what your supposed to do, or if you're doing the right thing? Because I'm not sure if I'm doing what I need to do with my life. "

I explained that right now was a difficult time for my family, but my faith in Jesus sustains me everyday and His word directs my steps through life. "I know that's right." she responded. I asked her if she had a church home since she seemed to understand when I talked about faith. She said she doesn't really go anywhere. I invited her to come to our Bible Study this week. And told her she could be a hero to her kids by studying the word of God and teaching them about Jesus. She said she'd like to come if we could pick her up. Her car is in the shop.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Consumed by His Calling

“You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that you should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatever you shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.” John 15:13

It’s hard to believe we’ve only lived in our apartment for a little over one week. We’re settling in to a schedule. At my new job I get three days off in a row giving Chad work. He has a house painting job starting next week and has been busy getting details for the church together.

We’ve decided the name of the church should be Truth Baptist Church. Our mission will be to share The Truth of God’s Word so others can hear and live The Truth. Chad was encouraged after attending a church plant training last weekend. He met a man named Solomon from Ethiopia who works in Tulsa, Ok planting churches.

Solomon shared his testimony of how he saw God heal a woman who had been paralyzed after giving birth. He was walking from house to house sharing the Gospel and the woman’s husband said, “You can witness to my family if you will come pray for my wife. If your God heals her then we will listen to you.”

Solomon told the man that he had never seen anyone healed so dramatically, but if this man believed then he would pray and believe with him for God to heal his wife. Together these men prayed over the woman and she stood up and walked. They told all of their neighbors what had happened, they all received Jesus and a church began in their village. Everyone, including Solomon’s faith was increased.

The question asked of the group was, was this an isolated incident. Do we have to be on foreign soil for God to move or is The Holy Spirit at work here in Oklahoma?

I’ve been confronted by the same question. Chad and I felt like we lived and worked in the flow of The Holy Spirit at Citychurch in Amarillo. It’s a scary thing to be spun from that orbit, but God has shown us He still has our address.

Tonight the weather was nice and the kids were at their Grandma Jennifer’s so Chad and I decided to take a walk around the apartment complex. We live on the end where all the other families with children are living. There is a grassy area running through the complexes and many families were out playing and enjoying the warm evening. As we walked back we noticed children riding their tricycles on the tennis courts. All the activity makes me look forward to an exciting season of ministry this spring and summer.

We keep saying, “God is feeding us like birds.” It is our way of praising God for His timely provision. We received a check in the exact amount of our car payment yesterday on the day it was due from Chad’s work at the car dealership. The week I started at Walmart was during the big snowstorm. Management was allowing overtime, so I took it! My brother James helped me with video project last month that will help make our rent this month.

Looking back on all we’ve been though the last few months I feel we accomplished a lot just by staying alive! While there has been a tearing down in our lives, we are also being built back up where we were weak.

Since we don’t have Dish Network anymore, we spend time after the kids go to sleep sharing about the different things we are learning and how we are growing in the Lord though all of our recent adversity. It happens to be some pretty funny sets of circumstances. The other night we started comparing stories about our day and got to laughing so hard our sides hurt. Real life is better than reality TV at this point.

As mom said the other day, we're living our own story. I just hope I can survive all the excitement to write it!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

To Do What is Right and Live Without Fear

I’m feeling a little bit more at home now in Oklahoma. The radio in our car is programmed with the necessary stations. I’ve got my big three set.- Country, AM Talk/news and a sermon station. Everyday at 8:00 a.m. as I pull away from taking David to school Adrian Rogers comes on. Yesterday, by some sort of miracle I was running a few minutes early and heard Chuck Swindoll reading from 1 Peter chapter 3.

“Wives, in the same way, submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, even if some disobey the Christian message, they may be won over without a message by the way their wives live, when they observe your pure, reverent lives. Your beauty should not consist of outward things like elaborate hairstyles and wearing of gold ornaments or fine clothes; instead, it should consist of the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very valuable in God’s eyes. For in the past, the holy women who hoped in God also beautified themselves in this way, submitting to their own husbands, just as Sarah obeyed Abraham and called him lord. You have become her daughters when you do what is right and live without fear.” 1 Peter 3:1-6

I realize that this passage of scripture has been misinterpreted more often than it has been properly understood. When I heard it spoken so clearly yesterday morning it was refreshing. All the way home was an evaluation of how I’m doing as a wife and a witness.

If I’m taking my cues from the world, everything is wrong. And I’ll admit even now it’s hard to shake the temptation to become resentful when everything doesn’t go my way. Until I remember our wedding day, when I stood and joined myself to Chad. We gave our lives to each other and surrendered our future to God. Therefore, what hurts Chad hurts me and what brings him joy, brings me joy. Ultimately, what honors God for both of us will strengthen our marriage, home and witness.

Then there is the insecurity I feel when I watch the real housewives shows. They seem to think the most important thing they can do for their husbands is put on the tightest blouse and spend their time and money injecting everything until they look like living dolls. Everything is beautiful until they open their mouths. Out comes the most venomous bile I’ve ever heard.

In 1 Peter 3:4 it says ” . . . a gentle and quiet spirit is very valuable in God’s eyes.” I know, I laughed out loud too. My college transportation was a Jeep Wagoneer with an “ain’t skeered” bumper sticker.

I pride myself in my strength. I’m not a push over by any means, and if you try to my hurt my husband’s heart you’ll get the worst of it. Proverbs 31:1-11 says, “Who can find a capable wife? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will lack nothing good.”

While my husband is working to provide and make Christ honoring decisions for our family, it is my job to be a helper to him. To lift him up in prayer, guard his heart and make him laugh as we walk through life and serve the Lord together. Most importantly I must stay rooted in the word of God, so when we’re discussing major life decisions, I’m not just weighing-in with my feelings of what the most “secure” move would be.

The night my dad sat down at dinner with the plan to move in to the building downtown I threw a fit. In my mind moving into an old building on Polk Street was one step closer to crazy-ville. Later when venting to my mom about how I felt, she said, “Anna, your dad is following the Lord and we need to help him.”

The statement Chuck Swindoll made was “You may spend two or three hours getting ready for an elegant dinner with your husband, but the hidden person takes a lifetime of preparation to present to God.”

“And just as Sarah obeyed Abraham. . .You have become her daughters when you do what is right and live without fear.” This is not for the faint of heart!