Wednesday, December 12, 2012

I'll Never Know How Much It Cost

When I was seven years old my dad was pastor at Muldoon Denali Baptist Church in Anchorage, Alaska. In the summer our family would go to Victory Bible Camp for a retreat. The campground was surrounded by beautiful mountain ranges. There were horses to ride and other activities, but the thing I remember the most was the concession stand.

Our family stayed in one of the pastor’s cabins. Across from the cabin was a playground. Just a short walk from the playground was the Victory Bible Camp concession stand. The second morning we were at the camp we had settled in to the cabin, dad took me for a short walk to show me the little store. He walked up to the counter and made an arrangement with the cashier to allow my brothers and I to charge snacks on an account in his name. He agreed to pay the bill at the end of the week.

The little store was so convenient, and being only seven, I was not used to having the freedom to walk places on my own. Everyday during our stay a few times . . . or maybe more like several times a day, my brothers and I would walk to the store and “load up” were the exact words my dad would later use, on snacks, drinks, toys, and other junky souvenirs.

Seriously, it was the most fun I can remember having. As I sit here writing, I’m struggling to remember anything else about our week at Victory Bible Camp other than going crazy at the concession stand.

I also vividly remember the part when the bill came due. It was the typical, last day packing for the trip home scene. There were overfilled suitcases being loaded up in the trunk, mom was checking all the dresser drawers and under the bed to make sure nothing was left behind. It was just about time to load up in the car and I heard dad say, “Diana, I’m going to go pay the store.”

I walked with dad to the store. The lady behind the counter got down her little red plastic box where she filed away all the 3x5 cards. She flipped through the alphabetical tabs until she came to “L” and there was the card. It said, “Lane, Don E.” and on that card was a detailed account of all of the purchases made by my brothers and me during the length of our stay.

There was complete silence as my dad surveyed the damage. He looked down at me, all decked out in my red VICTORY BIBLE CAMP hooded sweatshirt, sipping water from my VICTORY BIBLE CAMP insulated mug. It was all over me what I had done and now the bill was due. I couldn’t see the amount of the bill, but I could see that the blood had drained from my dad’s face. He wasn’t happy. Still, he paid the debt and I went free. I’m sure it crossed his mind to leave me at the camp to be used as an indentured servant until I had worked off the 24 Butterfingers I bought. But he didn’t, he paid the debt and loaded me up in the car to go home.

This morning I was struggling. Something in my heart was just not right. God was convicting me and I didn’t want to call it out for what it was. SIN. I asked the Lord what I needed to do about it and He directed my heart to Psalm 32.

Blessed is the one
 whose transgressions are forgiven,

whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the one
 whose sin the Lord does not count against them

and in whose spirit is no deceit.
When I kept silent,
my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night
 your hand was heavy on me;

my strength was sapped
 as in the heat of summer.
Then I acknowledged my sin to you
 and did not cover up my iniquity.

I said, “I will confess
 my transgressions to the Lord.”

And you forgave
 the guilt of my sin.

Reading this Psalm was like drinking a glass of cool water. Here I am all wrapped up in my sin and the Lord has already paid the debt. I have to turn it over to Him, accept His forgiveness, His grace, His mercy if I want to stay within the sound of His voice.  The rest of the Psalm reads:

Therefore let all the faithful pray to you
while you may be found;

surely the rising of the mighty waters
 will not reach them.
You are my hiding place;
 you will protect me from trouble
 and surround me with songs of deliverance.
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;

I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.
Do not be like the horse or the mule,
which have no understanding

but must be controlled by bit and bridle
or they will not come to you.
Many are the woes of the wicked, 
but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him.
Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous;

sing, all you who are upright in heart!

There is a wonderful worship chorus that we sing at Truth that says, “I’ll never know how much it costs to see my sin upon that cross.” I’ll never understand why God allows His children to enjoy the depth and the fullness of His faithful love while He bore the burden of our sin on the cross. In return He asks me to serve Him in all of my brokenness so He might be glorified. So, to live this way will be my response.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Helping in the Kitchen

Having three kids close in age has made for a pretty intense seven years. Just four years ago, David still had a paci, Sean was still in pull ups and drinking from a bottle and Ruby was nursing and in diapers. 

About the time we out-grow a phase with one child it seems to manifest itself in the next child. Yesterday,  for the first time in a while,  I had to dust off the old, "I don't understand whiney talk" act and use it on Ruby. 

When Chad and I decided to have children closely spaced, each one about  20 months apart, we talked about how much fun it would be when they were older. We had visions of extended sailing expeditions and fun weekend adventures. Those hopes are still alive and kindled each day as we see the kids maturing and becoming more self sufficient.

Today I was inspired by a little sign of growth. 
We had done after school snacks, folded a load of laundry while David read his library book to Sean, signed off on homework; then it was time to start dinner. 

The boys took off on their bikes. 
Ruby came to me in the kitchen, put her hand on her hip and said, "Okay Mom, what can I do to HELP you?" 

Usually, while cooking I'm hurried and distracted giving only one word responses to kid questions and requests for snacks.  This time Ruby  had  my attention. 

With tears in my eyes looking down at my new little helper I picked her up off the ground to give her a big hug. "would you like to set the table?" I asked. She said, "Well, sure!" and proceeded to put the paper plates, napkins and forks on the table in every configuration. It was a beautiful mess, and it reminded me how I learned to serve in the kitchen by my mother's side. 

Is there any better sign of maturity than to become a helper? It means we are able to take our minds off our self for a moment and think about another person. 

 When I feel overwhelmed, my prayers become all about "asking" and at times even begging.  While God is always patient and loving with me, I wonder how much He must long for me to come  before His throne and ask "where can I be your hands and feet today? Who can I encourage for you today? Put me to work building your Kingdom Lord!"

God your child is listening, let me be a part of the work you are doing today. 

Monday, August 6, 2012


At lunch today, David and Sean were discussing the topic of swimming. David was telling Sean he needed to learn how to swim. Sean insisted he already knew how to swim. “NO! All you do is doggy paddle, like this!”  David said, while frantically flailing his arms around like a puppy dog.

Even though Sean was laughing, I took the opportunity to turn this discussion into a teachable moment. “David, you still doggy paddle most of the time.” I said  “Daddy taught you how to swim. Now you need to encourage Sean to get better. Is this how you would want to be encouraged?” To which David replied, “I don’t need to be encouraged! I know all about swimming!”

Chad and I immediately busted out laughing as soon as the outrageous statement was made. But the words, "I don't need to be encouraged" resounded in my heart. "Wow!" I thought, "How many times have I told myself that lie?" 

It might sound funny coming from a pastor’s daughter and from a person who drags people out of the comfort of their home on a regular basis to come to Sunday services; but the hardest thing for me to do after moving to Oklahoma was to attend church. In my mind, my relationship with God was fine and I could certainly get past my heartache without the help of anyone else. If God had not softened my heart, and my loving husband hadn’t dragged me from place to place until we found a church home, I was headed for spiritual defeat. 

Jesus never intended for any of His followers to be self-reliant. Our need for each other is by His design. It is necessary for our growth as Christians to be in regular fellowship with other Christians; to be surrounded by other Christ followers who we can strive and grow with, who we are praying and serving beside and in whom we can confide.

Hebrews 3:13 reminds us of the dangers of becoming a “Lone Christian”,  “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness.”

Denying my need for the encouragement of other Christians might have made way for the hardening of my heart to God’s leading, thus stunting my spiritual growth. It was only after Chad and I began to experience spiritual healing that God began to really reveal the ministry He has instore for us, here in Oklahoma City.

Hebrews 10:25 says, “Not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together . . . but exhorting one another: and so much the more as you see the day approaching.” The commentary on this passage from Barne’s Notes explains the meaning beautifully, “There is an obvious propriety that people should assemble together for the worship of the Most High, and no Christian can hope that his graces will grow, or that he can perform his duty to his Maker, without uniting thus with those who love the service of God.”

I’m thankful for a Heavenly Father who is swift to correct my arrogant heart, and for a church family who we can grow in grace with; “. . .Even as we see the day of the Lord approaching.” 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Home From the War

For the last two weeks we’ve been moving and unpacking boxes. Some of the boxes had things in them that I haven’t unpacked for almost two years. One of the treasures I found was a portrait of my grandmother, Mary Sue. It is a photograph taken in a park in downtown Amarillo on her graduation day. I was so proud to find the perfect spot in our new home to hang her picture.

My Mema told me lots of stories when I was growing up about how she would make a big deal about special events. There was always a new dress, new flowers and a  trip to the beauty shop involved.

My favorite story was about how she prepared for my Pepa to come home from WWII. They married after her high school graduation; then not long after, Pepa joined the army. He spent a lot of his time in Japan after the war had ended climbing into the caves to tell the Japanese soldiers in hiding that the war had ended.

While Pepa was in Japan, Mema worked to make their first home and she told me about how she put their names on the list to own a car once production began. She was so proud to tell Douglas (as she called him)  about all she had done. When word came that Pepa would be arriving the next day on the train, Mema went shopping.

She bought a new dress, new hat and had her hair done. “Mother and Daddy drove me to meet Douglas at the train.” She remembered. “Douglas, anxious to be home, tried to catch an earlier train. The only problem was this train got delayed.”

Mema waited all day at the train station before receiving word that Pepa wouldn’t be arriving until the next day. She described how her disappointment turned into anger,  “I fumed all the way while Mother and Daddy drove me home. I went in my room, threw down my new dress and hat and told daddy, ‘He’s just going to have to find another ride home tomorrow!’”

Her mother and daddy (as she called them) wasted no time giving her a straight talking to. “Mary Sue!” they said, “You’re husband has been away AT WAR! Now he’s coming home to you. Tomorrow you will put that dress and hat back on and MEET HIM AT THE TRAIN!”

The next day when they arrived at the station, there he was, the man Mema described as, “The most handsome man she’d ever seen.” And she sure was glad she didn’t make him catch a cab home.  

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Getting Some Air

Two weeks ago Chad and I had the opportunity to meet an awesome young couple for lunch in Tulsa, OK. They are also stepping out in faith to minister in their apartment community. On our way back from Tulsa we received a call from some men who want to direct support our way. They asked to meet us up at the room for a tour of our facility.

My mom was in town for a short visit and had picked up the kids from school. She had already started dinner, so I headed down to the room to meet up with Chad who was already visiting with our guests.

I had just introduced myself when T.J. walked up. T.J. is in our youth group and has been under conviction for months. She’s made some poor decisions and is now fearful of the consequences.

The week before, while helping to set up for a babysitting class, T.J. began asking questions about the Bible. She actually opened a Bible and said, “I’m gonna see how much you really know, Miss Anna!”  She randomly landed her finger on the passage where Jesus was talking to the woman at the well. I explained the story to her and told her how Jesus wants her to have a new life in Him. She laughed and sarcastically responded, “I’ll do that later Miss Anna. I have plans for the weekend.”

When she showed up at the church again, I excused myself from Chad and our guests expecting to only be a few minutes. We stepped outside and I asked her how she was doing. She started to tear up and said, “I just needed some air.” She went on to say many of the same things I’ve heard her say before. She is a burdened young lady and the weight of her sin and fear get a little heavier every day.

We sat down at the patio table and after listening for a while I asked if she had thought any more about our earlier discussion. She said she’d been thinking about what it meant to have Jesus as Lord of her life. I asked her if she wanted to pray, confessing her sins and accepting Salvation through Jesus Christ. She said no, looked at her feet and confessed “I’m afraid it won’t work.”

God gave me the words to reassure her that her problems would not be solved over night, but as a child of God she will be able to hold on to what is promised in His word. She’ll receive forgiveness from the sin weighing her down. The Holy Spirit of God will come in and equip her to live a new life in Christ. “You’ll begin a new life with the Lord as your guide and He will bless you as His daughter.” I explained

I was determined to not ask her again if she was ready. We just sat in silence until she demanded, “I’m waiting for you to ask me one more time to pray. I’m ready! Let’s get this done!”  She prayed, honestly confessing her sin and humbly asking for forgiveness. She asked Jesus to be the Lord of her life and thanked Him for saving her.

We lifted our heads, and I shared how she can look back on May 14th 2012 as the day she gave her heart and life to Jesus and was born again. “You have and new birthday! A fresh start!” I said. Then she smiled. I haven’t seen this girl smile in weeks. She looked like a huge weight had been lifted.

The next day T.J. called. “What you doin’ miss Anna?!” She asked cheerfully.  I told her about spending time with my mom and asked her how her day had been. “Good! I talked to my mom about last night.” She said “I told her that I have a new birthday and it’s May 14th! That’s the day I’ve been born again.”    

T.J.’s struggles are not over. She had a court date today and could be facing three months in jail for truancy and shoplifting charges. Everyday she calls to update me on her progress as she negotiates with her probation officer. She reminds me every time we talk of her “new birthday”. She’s not afraid to face her life anymore, because she knows she’s not alone.

Born again. A new sister in Christ, redeemed and made new by the sacrifice of Jesus. I’m thankful The Holy Spirit directs our paths and allows us to participate in His life changing work.  

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Grace for Mother's Day

Wednesday got off to a rough start.  For many reasons it was just a chaotic morning.

It was also "Mom’s and Muffins" day and David needed to dress in a white shirt and black pants like a waiter. We went back and forth about the long sleeve shirt he didn’t want to wear. He packed a shirt to change in to and we headed out the door.

I dropped the boys off at car pool and went home  thinking there would be enough time to shower and get dressed up before the mother’s day festivities. I walked in the house, set my purse down, grabbed a diet coke and checked my phone to make sure what time I needed to be back at the school.

It was now 8:40 and David’s reading restaurant started at 8:20. My heart sank. I threw on a dress, pulled my hair back, grabbed Ruby and sped back to the school unshowered and without a stitch of make up. 

Rushing down the hall, all I could see was David waiting with his teacher in his chef’s hat. He was looking down the hallway with his big brown eyes. He was looking for his momma who was late.

His teacher was so sweet to cut my apologies short, refocusing my attention on the sweet welcome from David, “Welcome to the reading restaurant” he said “I’ll be your waiter. Let me show you to your table.”

David read pages from whichever journal I chose off of his reading menu. He’s made amazing progress this year and has beautiful handwriting.  My eyes welled up with tears.  Hugging him tightly I whispered, “David, I’m so sorry I was late.” He leaned into my hug and said, “It’s okay mom. You were right on time.” 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Sifted and Sown

My first official mission post was the spring of 2000 in Tulia, Texas. First Baptist Church Tulia saw a need to reach out to their community, particularly the children, who had been left behind in the wake of a controversial city wide drug bust.

 I was not the first choice for this job.  I started Citychurch Tulia with the young man whom I was engaged to in college. His heart was not in the work. For that and many other reasons I ended the engagement. The first matter of business we discussed at the end of our relationship was what to do about this new work. This ministry was only a few months old. In our last phone conversation he made it clear he was "done" with Tulia.

 The decision for me to take the lead happened at Pizza Hut the next week. I wish we'd had a secretary take official minutes of this meeting. They would be an amusing historical record. Present were Don Lane Sr. (my dad), and Charles Davenport the pastor at FBC Tulia. I sat across from these important men in my life, my face still swollen from crying all week, broken hearted, and confused by all that had happened. Dad and Charles saw something different. They were excited about putting me in a place of leadership. The move was seconded and made official before I could finish my salad or tell them whether or not I wanted the job.

 It was now my responsibility to plan and coordinate with volunteers from the church and to minister to the children. Now, if you are picturing little cherubs who sit and listen intently to Bible stories while they draw a picture of you and them walking through the park, let me just say, it wasn't like that.

The kids we ministered to in Tulia were a tough crowd. They didn't like me because I was white. They were angry because they felt like victims, and they saw everyone of us as "those people". Still, week after week we prepared a meal and served them demonstrating the love of Christ from our hearts for them.

 People like to talk about things in life that "make or break you". I think Tulia started the process of making me. It was a rough two years and I'm sure I never lived up to anyone else's expectations about what I was supposed to do. What I did discover in Tulia was my "grain". On one hand I felt like my life was falling a part, on the other hand there was part of my life being supernaturally protected and nurtured. What was being preserved in me was the part that concerns Jesus, the seed of the Gospel.

 The last couple of weeks for the Clement family have been exciting. We’ve had our weekly brushes with law enforcement, worked around financial issues and had our eyes open daily to why we are here. We have really encouraging  and discouraging moments.

 It just so happened that the lesson I’ve been preparing to teach last week was on the life of Job. We are following a timeline in the Old Testament otherwise I would have sidestepped this story. It’s difficult enough to answer my own “why questions”  when reading Job, even more difficult to answer the questions of children.

 One of the studies I listened to stated how some believe the conversation Satan had with God about Job was unique to the Old Testament. He pointed out the instance where Jesus exposed Satan’s plan to Simon Peter in Luke 22:31.  I looked the passage up for myself and the heart of Jesus for Peter, his disciple, comforted me.

31 “Simon, Simon, look out! Satan has asked to sift you like wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And you, when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

33 “Lord,” he told Him, “I’m ready to go with You both to prison and to death!”

34 “I tell you, Peter,” He said, “the rooster will not crow today until you deny three times that you know Me!”

First of all, I can relate to Peter’s blind passion. Jesus calls out his name twice, “Simon! Simon!” in the same way we would yell someone’s name to get their attention to warn them of danger. Peter is oblivious to the importance of Jesus’ message. At this moment in time there is no context of betrayal for Peter to file this warning away. Peter was so passionate about serving and following Jesus he could never imagine the day where he might fail completely in this pursuit.

The problem is, no matter how zealous we are, we can all be blindsided by our human weakness. The miracle happens when Jesus uses us anyway. I love the verse in 2 Corinthians 4:7 that says “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 broken vessels and when we are filled with the Spirit of God he shines through our brokenness and Jesus is glorified.

Here Jesus sees Peter’s denial and He is warning Peter, “Listen, Satan has asked me for you, to sift you . . .”  This sifting is what they would do after the harvest to wheat. They would take the wheat and throw it up into the wind. As the wind would blow by the chaff would blow away. At the end of this sifting all that would be left was the part the farmer cared about. The grain. The grain of wheat is most useful part of plant, because it provided nourishment and could be used to produce more grain.

If Jesus wasn’t able to look past all of Peter’s “chaff” to the grain He wouldn’ have been giving instruction here. You don’t see an instance of Jesus giving Judas the same kind of warning. He knew Satan had consumed Judas. No part of Judas’ life was ever truly devoted to following Jesus; As a consequence his entire life was destroyed.

What encouraged me the most was when Jesus told Peter, “but I have prayed for you that your faith would not fail . .  .” I wonder how many times Jesus has interceded for me at the throne of God. I know He has. There is no other explanation for my existence. There have been countless times, despite the horrible darkness of depression and fear, I’ve awoken to a new day. It’s not because of my own strength. I can hear a voice in my spirit say, “It’s too soon to give up. Keep walking with me and I’ll get you through this to where I want you to be.”

Just as it was for Peter, it has never been enough for me to just survive this life. The final word Jesus gave to Peter was some solid instruction in verse 32 “and you, when you turn back, strengthen your brothers.” Jesus was saying, “Peter, you’re going to fall on your face. Don’t give up! I’m going to redeem you then I want you to go and preach the good news of this salvation you’ve experienced. Tell the whole hopeless story. Tell them how you came to know forgiveness and restoration. This hope, this redemption - this is “the grain.”

John 12:24-25 says  “I assure you: Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains by itself. But if it dies, it produces a large crop. 25 The one who loves his life will lose it, and the one who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”

As a follower of Christ I’m still growing to see the importance of building a life around the things that matter to Him. That way when we fall, when we fail, when we feel like we’re losing everything we know that after the storm what will be left will be useful for eternal purposes when placed in the hands of our creator. If we keep the faith.

Monday, April 9, 2012

The David and Sean Tooth Extraction Method or (D.S.T.E.M.)

Step 1.) Wait until thirty minutes before your little sister's birthday party. This way your mom and dad will be busy and distracted from what you're doing.

Step 2.) Find your most powerful Nerf gun and about three bullets. Be sure to use the bullets with the hard plastic tips.

Step 3.) Since you know you'll get in trouble shooting your brother in the mouth with a nerf gun, be sure and get your brother's permission this way you're in on it together. Don't bother asking your parents for permission. Afterall, they're busy with the party and they won't mind the mouth shooting since it's serving a utilitarian purpose. But if you get caught make sure both of you are smiling it will make it look like you're working together. Parents like it when their kids are getting along.

Step 4.) If the Nerf gun doesn't complete the extraction you will need to find some string. This may create a problem because it's now 15 minutes until your sisters birthday. If your mom cleaned your room over the weekend and threw away your kite string, you'll need parental assistance.

Step 5.) If your mom says she doesn't have any string, don't let that slow you down. Go to the junk drawer and just start digging. You'll have to really dig and drag things out to make sure there isn't any string. If your mom complains that your making a mess while she's trying to clean for the party just keep sharing the big picture. Talk about how badly Sean wants this tooth pulled, how great it will be to have the tooth fairy come for a visit along the birthday festivities and Easter bunny!

Step 6.) You might be met with resistance with the string on the door knob method. Now it's time to find Dad's tools. You'll need a pair of pliers. Go to the closet where dad keeps his tools and just dump them out in the entry way. Again, mom won't mind. She seemed  excited about the Tooth Fairy and the Easter bunny coming. After all she said, "Yeah, that would be JUST GREAT!"

Step 7.) You're running out of time now. It's time to leave for your sister's party. So just go in the bathroom and have your oldest brother yank that tooth out! You might get blood all over the place but mom will clean that up. The important thing to remember is to work as a team and don't let anything get in your way! Good luck! Let us know how this works out for you!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Love That Will Not Let Me Go

This morning started off kind of rough. I had lost my keys, the set of keys with the remote. Chad handed me his set of keys to take the kids to school so David wouldn’t be late. Got the kids to school. Came home for our regular “staff meeting” where Chad and I sit with our caffeinated beverages to hammer out the details of our week.

With my list of errands in hand I started out the door then the following conversation took place.

Me: “Did you find the other set of keys this morning?”
Chad: “No”
Me: “Well, I know I brought them inside. Didn’t you use them last?”
Chad: “No, because then they’d be hanging up.”

By now we’re both standing on the front porch as I contemplate digging through the dumpster in the pouring rain to find my keys. Then Chad asks,

 “Hey, Where’s the truck?!?”
Me: “I thought you drove it last. Where did you park it?”

Now we know where the keys are. They're with the truck, but the truck is gone. Not just any truck. It was the truck my dad helped me buy in college. I drove it home the day I bought my cap and gown and couldn’t wait to show my parents.  This truck was the  “get away” car at our wedding. It’s got history.

I drove it out of stubbornness with two car seats in the front until Ruby was born; then dad started driving it as his work truck. It still has his leather work gloves and hat on the dash and I haven’t had the heart to move them out of the sun yet. Chad is kind enough to leave them be.

The last couple of years have been emotionally rough, I’ve found comfort hopping in the blue truck on the bad days for a drive to Sonic with the windows down. So, realizing that it was gone was just. .  . sad. I literally stood in the rain and cried like that girl in The Notebook.

“Anna” Chad said “Get in the car. Let’s go find it.” We drove up one turn and there it was, still in our apartment complex.  It was probably just some kid going for a joy ride. For some reason that made me even more upset.  The police came and took a report, but there wasn’t much more she could do.

There is a little boy who spends time with our boys. He was at our house last night until it was time for the boys to take their bath and settle down for the night. His mother is never home and she leaves him in the care of her “boyfriend” who looks to be about 19 years old. This boyfriend has furnished “T” with a cell phone and we suspected before he’s teaching “T” to steal. “T” was upset when I asked him to leave last night and kept knocking on the door. The boys let him in while I was in the kitchen, and he ran out of the house as I rounded the corner to the living room, taking my keys on the way out to give to his mom’s friend.

Right here in the privacy of our own home I had a break down. “If they want to live this way, let them all live this way!” and I went on and on. and on.

Then it hit me like a two by four. This is how Jonah must have felt. When after delivering an obligatory message to the Ninehvites, he went and made himself a shelter within view of the city. He didn’t want to be in the danger zone, but still  wanted to have a good view of God’s judgement. Kind of the same way you choose your seats at the circus.

As Jonah, sulked and seethed, God grew a vine to provide some shade, which Jonah greatly appreciated. “Well thank you, God!” I can hear him say. It was so kind of God to care for his servant this way. After all, think of all the hardships Jonah had endured! He was probably missing patches of hair and most likely has a good bit of acid burn from his custom whale belly transit to shore. It’s hard out there for a saint! *please note the sarcasm

Just as Jonah thought he’d found something to like about the town, God sent a little worm to destroy this one piece of comfort. After the shade was gone a hot dusty wind blew through to sandblast the last little shred of pride off of Jonah’s heart.

What  follows are the greatest gifts God could ever give one of His servants.

 1.)  The Gift of Correction
       Jonah 4:8-11

But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?”
“It is,” he said. “And I’m so angry I wish I were    dead.” 10 But the LORD said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight."
These moments are so painful, when God speaks the hard truth to my heart like he is with Jonah. “Anna, really?! Is this what you want your life to be about? This worn out truck? This treasure is passing and can be gone in an instant. Keep your eyes on eternity, daughter.”
But what if my Heavenly Father indulged me in all of my earthly desires when I pound my fist like a spoiled child? What if He never cared to discipline, correct or instruct me. I’d be forever stuck in my spiritual “terrible 2’s”.

Ofcourse, God understands my needs! I know He  cares for me when I'm hurting,  but I'm so glad He takes the time to shape my heart to be more like His. 

2.)  A Glimpse of His Heart
“But the LORD said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. 11 And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?”
 In the heart of God is a love so deep and so long suffering that it endured the shame and pain of a public crucifixion. Love left the glory of Heaven and dwelt among us in humility.
As Jesus hung on the cross He endured the separation from God we're born to fear. As Jesus cried out, “My God! My God! Why have You forsaken me!”  He was enduring the separation from God that I deserve. 
It’s not something to consider lightly that God gave Jonah the number of people who would be destroyed and the live stock. He knew each one, and He knew them well enough to know that they would be destroyed in ingnorance of the truth.
God needed Jonah to be moved by compassion to run with an urgency and deliver the message of His love.
This is what I want my life to be about. There are a lot of appealing things in this world, focus my eyes on what matters most to you. Give me Your heart for the lost. Give me your eyes to see their needs. Give me more love for those who have no love to give in return. Use this situation to bring about salvation in the home of this young man. 
Oh, love that will not let me go
I rest my weary soul in thee
I give you back the life I owe
And in your ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be

My life is not my own
It's yours
My life is not my own
I know it's yours
Oh, love that will not let me go

Me and my truck when it was new. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Children of God

On Sunday nights I teach the High School boys at church. Last week I had a lesson stirring in my soul after reading Genesis chapter 4 and the account of Cain and Abel’s offering. Verse 4:5 says, “The Lord had regard for Abel and his offering but He did not have regard for Cain and his offering. Cain was furious, and he was downcast.” I couldn’t get the next verse out of my head. “Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you furious? If you do right, won’t you be accepted? But if you do not do right, sin is crouching at the door. It’s desire is for you, but you must master it.’”

What Cain was doing was going through the motions with God and became offended when God didn’t play along.  “Sin is at your door”, He told Cain. God could see the evil intent of Cain towards Abel and He was warning Cain that the murder he was tempted to commit would bring the curse of death and shame upon him, ending his life. “You must master it” “You must rule over it” Cain receives this clear warning and instruction by God; however in the very next verse he says to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.”

I couldn’t wait to deliver this message to our High school boys. It had changed my heart and I wanted to plant this seed in their heart too. Since the weather was good we had twenty youth walk to church. Nearly every kid who usually comes to church brought a friend.

After worship me, Tara, who teaches the girls and her helper Deborah loaded up in the van to go to Freddy’s. We have been “taking over” the ice cream shop on Sunday nights until the weather is nice enough to use the patio again.

We are really at an introduction level with these kids. By that I mean I had to stop the van before we left the apartment complex parking lot to explain that there would be no use of the “f” word, insulting anyone’s momma, or starting gang drama between here and the ice cream shop. They actually listened for the ride over.

I had the boy’s attention as we walked through the hand out for our lesson. I gave them some verses to memorize and we had a good discussion about how much easier it is to just give in to sin than to fight it. Their memory verse was, James 4:7 “Therefore, submit to God. But resist the Devil, and he will flee from you.”

Meanwhile, the girls were distracted by a fight brewing between two of the new girls. Tara had split up the group, but they continued to be disrespectful of the time. As soon as I parked the van at the church they jumped off and started fighting right in front of the church doors. Chad calmed the crowd and dispersed everyone back to their homes quickly. 

As I was driving kids home I thought about how Satan really hasn’t changed his tactics. He’s still pulling the same tricks. Just like Cain the youth received a warning from God’s word and turned in their next breath to say, “. . .come on down to the field.”

The good news is, Satan’s playing a losing game. After dropping everyone off, I parked the van at the gate and declared my refusal to give up on these girls, two of whom are pregnant. I refuse to give up on these young people, these children, these adults. God’s word is true for me and it is true for them and I believe it has the power to transform their hearts! Basically, I was putting the devil on notice.

Last night I got a call from one of the girls who was an instigator Sunday night. She wanted to know if I would take her to school this morning. I told her I would but the other girls she had been fighting with would also go with us. As they got in the car they apologized to me and to each other for what they had done Sunday night.

Over breakfast, the oldest girl started talking about all the things in her life that are making her afraid.  She’s pregnant, she was on track to graduate in May but has been skipping class, altering her report card and is in trouble with her probation officer. On and on she went. The other kids started snickering and making light of her problems until she shouted them down by saying, “How you gon’ disrespect me in front of the gospel lady!”

We made a list of all the things she’s avoiding and came up with a plan to work through them. As we pulled up to the high school this big bully girl started crying. She could hardly get the words out “Miss Anna . . .I love you. . . and I don’t even say that to my momma!”

Thank you Jesus for redemption. We don’t have to accept the same fate as the sons of Adam. We can be called sons and daughters of the king through Jesus Christ.

For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!” Romans 5:17

Thank you Jesus!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Go and Do Likewise

Yesterday I got to do something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. Chad and I were invited to share about what God is doing at Truth Baptist Church with the Village Baptist WMU group. Since we landed here in Oklahoma City I’ve wanted to get over there to thank them for helping our family during a critical time in our lives.

In 1995, When my mom and dad found out it would be necessary for them to move to Oklahoma City and be closer to the transplant center at Baptist hospital, a huge draw back was not having a place to stay in the city. Most people from out of town bring a motor home or stay in local motels. About one week at the Days Inn was all Mom and Dad could afford.

Mom, who has always been resourceful, decided to call and see if any churches in town still had houses open for missionaries to stay while on furlough. Without knowing any more about us than that we were a pastor’s family and had a need, Village Baptist allowed us to use their mission home indefinitely.

When Chad and I arrived at Village yesterday morning we were greeted by a retired missionary named Helen. As the rest of the group gathered and introduced themselves, I realized that almost everyone in this group had served on the mission field in some way. I felt at home sharing our stories. They, more than anyone else, understand the sacrifice and importance of planting a church in an apartment community with over 15,000 residents who are largely un-churched.

The problem we all have, and I believe it is our human nature, is that we want a clearly defined group who we are obligated to love and serve. In Luke chapter 10:25 a Pharisee came to Jesus and asked what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus responded in verse 26 by asking this expert of the law, “What is written in the law? How do you read it?” 27 “He answered, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 “You’ve answered correctly,” He told him. “Do this and you will live.”

29 “But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’”

What the Pharisee wanted was to make sure that he was following the letter of the law. It even says he was asking for clarification in order to “justify himself”.

Jesus answered by telling the parable of the Good Samaritan.

“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell into the hands of robbers who beat him up, and fled, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down that road but when he saw him he passed by on the other side. In the same way, a Levite, when he arrived at the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan on his journey came to him, and when he saw the man, he had compassion. He went over to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and told the inn keeper , ‘take care of him. When I come back I’ll reimburse you for any extra you spend.” Luke 10:30-35

Yesterday, as I shared the story of how their church had helped my family not a single person in the room could remember us staying in their home. They weren’t sure whom the members of their congregation were who brought the huge holiday baskets and made sure the house was furnished with clean towels and linens. At the time, we didn’t necessarily fit into any of their programs and had nothing to offer in return; still they had compassion. However, this gift, which was insignificant to the life of their church, had a huge impact on me and on my family.

It was in this home that as a family we prayed and sought God for direction for our future. It was the place where God called us as a family to go back to Amarillo and start Citychurch.

I get asked a lot of times, why Chad and I chose apartment ministry. The truth is that our heart is not just for apartments. This just happens to be one of the greatest concentrations of hurting and lost people in our city. The reason why I can be at peace living here is because I’ve been poor, I’ve had to write papers in the dark because the electricity is shut off. We’ve stood in line at the food pantry to get groceries for our family. I’ve had to walk home from a lousy job because my car ran out of gas and watched someone I loved dearly be physically destroyed by a horrible disease. I understand first hand that those in need of rescue are seldom in flattering positions.

Looking back I can also remember all my “neighbors”; those who rescued us by showing mercy and compassion in our time of need. In verse 10:36-37 after telling the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus asked the Pharisee, “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?”

“The one who showed mercy to him,” he said.

“Then Jesus told him, ‘Go and do likewise.’ “

When I consider those who have blessed our family in times of need and whose friendship helped heal our hearts, when I think of the sacrifice of Jesus, it moves me to do for others what I can and minister to others His name. We must learn to obey the principle of this parable, which is to be less concerned with defining who our neighbors are and more concerned with whether or not the world around us considers us theirs.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Surely The Presence

This time last year I was sitting in the parking lot of P.F. Chang’s about to go in for another job interview. Having lost a bunch of weight none of my clothes fit, so Chad’s mom who is about six inches shorter than me loaned me some pants.

Something about feeling the cold air on my ankles has always blown a hole in my confidence; still I walked in with my head up, sat down for the interview and tried to convince the twenty-year-old that I was capable of serving food to people in a cheerful and timely manner.

They didn’t give me the job. The last thing I wanted to do was drive back to Jones having failed in yet another job interview. It was so frustrating! I went back to the car and just sat there and cried. I needed to feel God’s presence but could not see Him, could not hear His voice and we so desperately needed His direction.

My senior year of high school my mom and dad moved to Oklahoma City. Dad had been put on the waiting list for a liver at Baptist Hospital and they needed to be closer since they could receive a call at anytime.

My two older brothers and I took part time jobs and were going to school. We would pool our meager income to take care of the household needs, but nobody had money in their pockets. Every weekend we’d drive from Amarillo to Oklahoma City to spend time with mom and dad.

One night I was working a double shift at the fabric store. It was during the holidays and it felt like everybody was buying beautiful things to decorate their homes and celebrate. I had almost forgotten what time of year it was, because we were so focused on what Dad was going through.

It came time for my dinner break. Without a car to leave the store and without any money I just sat in the break room. I was hungry and thirsty and wanted my momma. There was nothing to be done about any of my “wants” so I just put my head down on the table and started to cry.

About that time I heard a “clunk” in the coke machine behind me. I turned around and a cold Diet Dr. Pepper had fallen out. Just happened to be my favorite!

Of all the times God has made His presence known to me this is the one I recall the most often. I felt like the most insignificant person on earth, still He provided and comforted me in the middle of my pain.

This was my “Jacob moment”. God made His presence known to my soul and like Jacob I realized “Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not.” Genesis 28:16

As I sat in the parking lot last January, after failing in the interview, I recalled this moment when as a young woman and all the other times in my life that I became aware of the presence of my Heavenly Father. Even through this difficult time He was at work. Not long after this day we moved into our apartment and started Truth Baptist. Having been guided by God’s hand through a series of disappointments, trials and victories we are making progress today.

Recently I ran across the sermons of G. Campbell Morgan, a British Evangelist and Bible Scholar in the early 1900’s, who wrote

“To be conscious of God is immediately to have a new interpretation of life, to discover that the earth itself is more than dust, that all flowers are more than the operation of blind force; to believe with Jesus that God clothes the grass, and robes the lily as Solomon was never arrayed, that He is with the birds, and remains their comrade in their dying. All creation utters forth this great evangel when a man is conscious of God. "This is the age-abiding life, that they should know Thee the only true God, and Him Whom Thou didst send, even Jesus Christ."

What a beautiful awareness! I pray to never lose sight of the presence of God and His plan to transform the lives of those around us. Relying on this promise “Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20b