Shaking off Snakes and Other Helpful Hints for Those in Ministry

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God is with you everywhere!

That’s been our preschoolers’ theme this month. If you who know me, you know I love a good theme snack–especially when it comes to preschoolers. So before we dig a littler deeper, I hope you get a kick out of these snakes snacks we made our “littles” had this week. So simple, just a bread stick wrapped around a skewer. I sprinkled them with a little cinnamon sugar and used raisins for eyes!) They were super fun and, well, and they were super delicious! Thank you, Pinterest and Pillsbury Dough Boy for another preschool snack win!

plate of snakes

Anyway. . .

Today’s lesson was about Paul when he landed on the island of Malta–hence the snake snacks! The Bible says that,

“Welcomed by the unusual kindness of the islanders, Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand.” (Acts 28:1-4)

Yikes! There are vipers on the island!!

The superstitious islanders wrongly conclude that Paul must have been a murderer. They reason that even though he escaped alive from the shipwreck at sea, for cryin’ out loud, someone’s pretty upset with him because he’s about to die from viper bite.

But, no, it was not to be, because then Scripture tells us,

“But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects.” (Acts 28:5)

The islanders watched and waited.

The people expected him to swell up or suddenly fall dead, but after waiting a long time and seeing nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god.”

I can see that. In fact, I’d like to have seen that.

This leads those hospitable islanders to invite Paul and some others to the home of the chief official of the island. Here, Paul winds up healing the man’s father along with the rest of the sick on the island. When they were ready to sail again, the kind folks on Malta gave them everything they needed.

In other words, Paul after being bitten by a viper, just shook that snake off and kept doing ministry.

What??? That’s awesome!!! Completely and totally awesome!!

Now I’m just tellin’ ya, that’s not how I would have handled it. But isn’t his way so much better than mine?

Snakes alive, you bet it is!! So here’s the helpful hint for ministry:

Ministry can be tough. Using the term “ministry” for those who are in paid and non paid ministry, I have always believed we are all called to be ministers of the gospel. And when we follow Jesus, snakes bite. It would do us well to learn to use the viper response method of the infamous “Mr. Paul.” But paid or volunteer, I’m pretty sure that if a viper bit me, I would be running around screaming, and then sitting down waiting for the ill effects to take place hoping someone is praying and someone else is calling 911.

Oh, but not Paul. He just shakes it off, and goes on about his business. (I’m so sorry if a T-Swift song just started playing in your head.)

When spiritual snakes bite, I’m afraid that many of us, myself included, forget the simple, yet profound, message of our preschoolers’ lesson: “God is with us everywhere!” He is here. He knows the danger of the poison, but He’s got our back and we can go on walking in trust.

Because when people see us walking in faith and victory, although they may be a bit confused, they will be able to see firsthand the power of God at work.

So when the snakes bite, and they will, remember that God is with you everywhere, and He is more than enough to enable us to shake it off and continue serving in ways that bring Him honor in all we do.

“I will be with you always.” Matthew

Finding Freedom in Finding Your Focus

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My husband just told me I’m kind of “anal” about certain things. Hmmm. Insight.

In his defense, you should know that he didn’t just randomly share that information. I asked him if he thought I was a focused person. You see, I had just started this post out with a sentence that said, “I’m not really what you would call a focused person.” (Then backspace, backspace, backspace, backspace. . . )

Let me explain further:

Sitting in an airport, I asked him, “Would you say I’m a focused person?” He gave me one of those looks that said, “Is this a ‘Does this make my butt look big?’ kind of question.”

So when he cautiously replied, “Yes, yes you are,” I was kind of taken by surprise. And then he added, “You’re kind of anal about certain things.”

Nice.

After 30 years of marriage I have learned to listen to him, (Now, I want to say in my own defense, I learned that well before the 30th year). I realized that he was probably speaking truth (although I’m not sure “anal” is exactly the right word.) As we talked, it didn’t surprise me when he said one of my areas of “focus” was ministry.

In the past few years I have tried to spend more time seeking God as to the things He wants me to do, the places He wants me to go, the people He wants me to reach, and the ways He wants me to spend His money.

Then this January I set a focus. Like, I penned a “woman on a mission” statement. I made myself a little piece of art. Cruised to Wal-mart and invested $1.99 on a frame and hung it on a wall directly across from my desk where I can see it every day.  It says simply:

“Teach people about Jesus and teach people to teach people about Jesus.”

So each week, I determine to do just that. It may be through training or speaking, or my regular teaching as the children’s director at my church. It may be through writing or coaching or leading a small group of kids or women. It may happen over a beverage or breakfast or a power walk or during kids’ worship practice. Although it usually happens with words, I hope it also takes place every day through my actions.

Through the leading of the Holy Spirit, I have determined that I will not be deterred. I’ve found the freedom to be able to say “Yes,” and “No,” when necessary, and to walk in joy and awe of God.

Like Paul, I find myself compelled to share the gospel so that people will know the One who knows them, loves them, died and rose again to set them free to walk in hope, grace and victory, and to teach others to do the same.

If the Spirit is leading you to set a focus, let me encourage you to listen to His leading. Get some away time and let Him show you how He wants to use you and enjoy the freedom and adventures that lie ahead.

Oh, and if you’d like to share, I’d love to hear where God is focusing you!

The Ugliest Cookies I Ever Made and What God Taught Me Through Them

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I had visions of the most beautiful cookies. Tiny little hand prints to remind lil HiSKidZ that Jesus healed a man’s hand.

However, my husband couldn’t decide whether they were supposed to be bird prints or animal tracks. He also thought they looked like a good opportunity to try out his new camera lens.

Hey! What?????? Leave my animal tracks, I mean, hand print cookies, alone! OK, maybe he had a point. These may have been the ugliest cookies I had ever made.

And God taught me a great lesson because of them.

Like I was saying, our preschoolers were scheduled to have a lesson entitled, “Jesus Heals a Man’s Bent Hand,” as part of a series we are doing on Jesus Makes Us Well.

In choosing a theme snack, I thought to myself, “Hand print cookies! That would be awesome!!” So I borrowed a hand print cookie cutter and off to work I went. Never mind the fact that I don’t make cut out sugar cookies, or that I don’t own a rolling pin or have any all purpose flour. I was not to be deterred.

Betty Crocker and I got mixing things up and life was good. Since I didn’t have that rolling pin, I just scooped the dough out and patted it down in my whole wheat flour blend and then cut out my now slightly speckled little hands, laying them carefully down on the cookie sheets. Sure they looked a little lopsided, and perhaps they looked like they needed to be washed. Maybe the fingers were bent a little here and there. I mean, c’mon, it was a lesson about a man with a bent hand after all.

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As I scooped, and patted and cut and baked these cookies were, ummm, well, they were not exactly looking like little hands. Rather, they were crooked, bent, a bit disfigured animal tracks. They did taste good, though!

The more I baked, the more I laughed. I sent texts to some friends, and we laughed together as they tried to console me.

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But the coolest thing is, I didn’t need to be consoled. I was perfectly fine with my perfectly imperfect cookies. Something that may not have been true about me a few years ago. In fact, you would be correct to assume that I would have been out at the store late on Saturday night to buy more ingredients, starting all over until everything was just perfect.

But because a man’s hand wasn’t the only thing Jesus healed, I stayed at home, finished my baking and thanked God for doing miraculous things in the lives of imperfect people.

My imperfection may not have been physically obvious, but it was still there. Because Jesus had healed my striving, perfectionist heart, I was now free to laugh at mistakes and creative oversights, confident knowing that He cares more about my heart than my perfection.

Because of Jesus, I was able to be happy, joyful even, with the decision that the cookies would simply be hands before the healing, rather than after. Either way, the kids would love them and they would learn that Jesus had the power to heal a man with a bent hand, and I was reminded that He had the power to heal their imperfect leader, and that’s what really matters.

Oh! One more thing: Tonight during our 6th grade discipleship group, we shared some of the left over cookies. The kids thought they were jellyfish (just turned upside down), and my husband did this:

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He called it Wilson!

Taste and See the Lord is good!

Raising Up Kids to Serve in Children’s Ministry–A Lesson from the Laminator

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A couple of weeks ago our church shook things up a bit and had a small group open house on a Sunday morning. This meant changing up our services and where and how we did some things in our children’s ministry area.

Since we were beginning some new teaching on “Growing the Fruit of the Spirit,” I decided that maybe this would be a good time to pull out the old laminator from my Children’s Ministry Bag-O-Tricks and let the kids spend some time making a “Fruit of the Spirit” placemat! (And yes, I did think that perhaps it would use up some time since we had no idea how long these things take.)

Plus, I mean, after all, who doesn’t love a good church-made placemat???? And did I mention it was LAMINATED???!!! Because it was!

So HiSKidZ got busy with their base mats, glue-sticking on their fruits of the Spirit until finally the moment of magic arrived. It was time to LAMINATE!!!! (Yes, there was that kind of excitement in the room, and they still seemed to have no real idea of the awesomeness they were about to be a part of!)

One by one they came in awe and wonder at this amazing machine I had obviously kept hidden from them for the span of their entire lives. (For their safety, or the safety of the laminator, I suppose)

“How does it do that?”

“OOOO! It’s hot!”

“What’s it doing in there?”

“Hey! My thing looks so much prettier when it comes out.”

“Where did you get that?”

“I think my glue melted.”

“Can I do it?”

“Here I’ll do it.”

“Hey, get out of my way. I’m helping Ms Dawn.”

“He’s not letting us have a turn.”

After a quick intervention so no one lost their Fruit of the Spirit, (including me) we continued on.

And on and on it went. They couldn’t get enough of the amazing plastic melting machine and the technology of transformation that was happening right before their very eyes.

It was then that I realized how much I had been keeping from them, and I began to ponder how many other amazing wonders were used in preparing things for them to use rather than allowing them to know the joy of using them for themselves.

Things like envelope glue pens, three hole punches, three hole paper, those super long giant staplers, spiral book binding machines. . . the list is probably endless.

But more than keeping them from experiencing the joy of the tool itself, I had taken from them the joy of serving with the tools.

And so, in large group time on this Small Group Sunday I learned this most valuable lesson:

Lead a child to the laminator and you have equipped him for the day, but teach him to laminate and you have equipped a children’s volunteer for life.

fruit of the Spirit placemat

Growing in Times of Ministry Drought—A Family Vacation Object Lesson

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Children’s Ministry, like many other forms of ministry, can be prone to seasons of drought. Many of us who serve as children’s pastors or volunteers often endure long seasons where we don’t attending worship services (because we are teaching), aren’t being poured into (because we are pouring into others), face continual shortages of team members (because of enough reasons to warrant another blog post), wear too many “hats” serving in too many places (because of the same shortage of team members), and are often overlooked by leadership and adult ministry with an “out of sight out of mind attitude.”

While many times creativity, enthusiasm and growth are the song we sing, many other times fatigue, discouragement and disillusionment take over. We can become dry, weak and in danger of burn out.

This past week I have been on vacation with my family, and we have been driving through many areas affected not only by drought, but also by the stress of high temperatures. Grasses in most areas were dry, brittle and brown. But in a few places we saw patches of lush, green fields. The reason? Irrigation systems.

Some farmers were using irrigation to ensure that their crops were being taken care of and continued growing in the midst of harsh, hot, dry, stress inducing times.

As a kidmin leader, I love a good object lesson, and this one was too easy to pass up. In the dry, drought or stress filled seasons of ministry we need to be sure that we are being spiritually irrigated.

So the question of the day is, “How do we keep growing in desolate times?” Here are a few examples of how we can stay hydrated in dry times gleaned from our family vacation.

1) Faith–Trust God to fill you. Stand on His promises that He will care for you in hard times. Don’t give into the temptation to believe that your circumstances can’t or won’t change. Those plants weren’t worried about being watered, and we can trust God to take care of us in dry times as well.

2) Prayer–Pray for wisdom, strength, and refreshing. Then keep praying that God brings workers for your fields, encouragement in these end times, and joy through your trials. Just as God provided a farmer to hydrate the fields we can trust God to provide people in our ministries—after all, He was the One who told us the harvest is plentiful, and the workers are few and that we should ask Him for workers for the fields.

3) The Word–Take in the living water of God’s Word DAILY. It’s so easy to skip a little time here and there and not even realize it. Like the farmer daily irrigates his crops, be sure to take time, and make time to let God’s Word refresh you.

To be honest, sometimes droughts pass quickly, but there are times when it takes a while before the drought will pass. But we can still grow, and even flourish when we allow ourselves to be spiritually watered through on a consistent basis through faith, prayer and the Word of God.

Don’t Scrap This (Part Two)

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Today’s post contains the notes from the second part of a talk I gave recently at the Ladies’ Scrapbook Retreat at Lamoine Christian Camp. I hope you can enjoy it in its unpolished form. Part one can be found under the Mama Mia Monday section of my blog.

 

Adding to the concepts of templates and adhesives, tonight we are going to quickly talk a little about cropping. Cropping is great when it’s a picture. Snip, slice, or chop, whatever method you prefer, we remove unwanted or unnecessary images from our pictures, leaving us with a close up what we really wanted to focus on—the thing which leaves the greatest impact on those who will look back through the pages of our lives.

Well, you guessed it. Not only is God in the template business, and the adhesive business—God is in the cropping business.

God desires to trim us, shape us and crop us in ways that leave a focused image of Him—one that will also leave the greatest impact on those who come into contact with us.

And like we eagerly go at the cropping of our pictures, we CAN eagerly embrace the cropping that God wants to do in us.

We call it cropping.  Some call it chiseling, molding. I like what God calls it—sanctification—a setting apart, being freed . . .  from sin.

John 17:17   Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. –God crops us through His word.

 

I Thessalonians 5:23  May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  –God crops us in order to keep us pure and ready for His coming.

 

2 Thessalonians 2:13   But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as first fruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.   God crops us because we are His.

When we allow God to trim, shape, crop, or prune us, we are allowing Him to reveal to the world more of His character, more His grace, more of Him. As the unnecessary and undesirable parts of our life are cropped away we have a greater impact on those who see us.

Sometimes I think we confuse cropping with corner rounding. Corner rounding is just, well; it’s just making the picture look a little more inviting, a little softer maybe. But corner rounding, well, it’s really just cutting corners. And cutting corners is not cropping. You just can’t cut corners on the sanctification process. It takes commitment!

In I Corinthians 4, The apostle Paul asked the Corinthian people how they would like to be cropped suggesting two methods:  a whip or in love with a gentle spirit.

Ladies, I would ask you the same question, “How would you prefer the Lord to crop you????” Yeah, me too, gentle trumps whipping every time. . . In my mind, but in my actions, sometimes not so much. . . .

Don’t be afraid to ask the Lord to crop away the parts of your life that may need to go. It may be an attitude, a habit, a grudge or fear. Ladies, let him crop so that He can shine through you for the world to see.

Now as we work our way through our weekend, we have talked about our templates, our adhesive, the cropping process and to finish it all off, we embellish.

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Just the word itself is pretty awesome. Embellish. . . .It just sounds fancy y’know? It doesn’t really sound like a sit in your pajamas in a big gym in the middle of the night kind of word.

Embellishing is like a work of art. Embellishing is to beautify by or as if in ornamentation to adorn.  And adorn comes from the word adore.

So again, The Lord had this down way before we did. He has adored us, and adorned us since the beginning of time.

Ephesians 2:10 says, For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do.

 

I Peter 3:3-4 remind us that the beauty and adornment that God desires doesn’t come from our clothes or hair, but the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit

 

I John 3:1 tell us that God makes us beautiful—he adorns us by lavishing us with His love

I think that God’s embellishing work is really a lot like ours. Most of our books look quite a bit the same on the outside. But when you look inside you see what makes them special. You see the love, the care, and the personal touches that make the stories on the pages captivate our hearts.

That’s how God loves us. He is a God who works from the inside and on the inside. You know our outside is just a shell that will someday pass away, but as we set our hearts to follow His template for our lives, adhering His truths to our hearts, willingly letting him gently trim away that which isn’t needed, His lavish and abundant love transforms the pages of our lives into His-story– A story that reminds us who we are, where we come from and can ultimately point us to where we are going when the One who loves us returns.

 

 

 

Casting My Burdens Onto Jesus

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“Blasted! I’ve been casted!”

But dontcha just love it? I got a cast on my arm a couple of weeks ago, and yesterday, my friend, Kate, painted it for me!!

You know. . . These things happen. Sometimes we are wrong, and it’s no big deal. Sometimes we are wrong, and it’s a big deal. And then again, sometimes we are wrong and it just is what it is.

Sometimes you break your wrist. . . in the middle of July and don’t find out until the end of September because you were wrong about what you did.

And so, now, it is what it is.

And it is a big purple cast on my arm. When i got it, I knew the kids at church were going to ask why I didn’t get an orange cast since all my favorite things are orange. (There’s a good reason in and of itself. But the truth is the doctor’s office was out of orange–I tried.)

But, like I said, my super creative friend, Kate, stopped in yesterday and helped me decorate it. I’ve wanted her to do her embellishing magic since week 1 (We are on week 3 now) when I got my  beautiful, purple hunk of fiberglass,

When it first went on, I looked at it in disbelief  and was pretty stunned that after this much of life on earth I was getting a cast now. And yet, at the same time, the verse, “Cast your burdens onto Jesus,” kept coming to my mind, and I thought, “Oh, Jesus, you are so smart and so witty at the same time.”

So those are the words I had Kate put onto my cast. (not, “Jesus you are so smart and witty,” but “cast your burdens onto Jesus!”) I love it because it’s a visual reminder of several truths God has put in my heart these past months.

For example:

1) There are things I have no control over.

2) I cannot heal myself–healing is His job.

3)  When I am weak, God’s work in me is more evident.

4)  When I wounded, God supports me.

5)  When I am hurt, God cares for me.

6) When I am broken, God restores me.

7)  When I am stubborn or won’t slow down, God will humble me.

8)  Hard, uncomfortable things are often exactly what I need.

9) Inconveniences are simply that, inconveniences, but certainly not the end of the world.

10)   I can truly cast my burdens onto Jesus, because He cares for me!

I am not thrilled that I waited too long to see the doctor. I am not thrilled that I misdiagnosed myself. I am not thrilled that I am a bit stubborn sometimes. But I am pretty thrilled that when I cast my burdens onto Jesus, He proves to me over and over again that He cares for me–even when things are broken, hard, confining, restricting and inconvenient. Because when things are broken, hard, confining, restricting and yes, even inconvenient, I know God is at work and that He is caring for me, and that He can make all things beautiful (even a cast) in His time!

Thanks, Kate, for being a blessing in my day and for letting God use you to help me rememeber to cast my burdens onto Jesus!