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

Growing in the Seasons of Drought blog picture

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!

Take Note: Thank You Still Matters– Mama Mia Monday

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I went to mailbox Friday and there it was. In its simple white envelope, with my name slightly misspelled, was a true treasure–Real Mail! Not only was it a piece of real mail, it was a real thank you note. I mean real, as in hand made, hand written, straight from Abby’s heart to ours!

Mama Mia!

The message was short, but definitely sweet:

thank you note

In that instant, I remembered, yet again, why thank you notes still matter. That note made us feel special. It made us feel like our niece appreciated our gift and our love for her. It made our relationship two way and not one way.

As we parent our children, some of the greatest gifts we can give them are to learn to make other people feel special, to appreciate not only what they have been given, but those who have given them those things and that relationships are two way streets.

The not-so-simple thank you note is a great way to instill those precious values in our children. It’s not always easy. At first, you may need to require that they be written. There were occassions when we wouldn’t let our boys play with their gifts until a thank you was written.

What began as lessons in respect, love and thankfulness became the character of our boys who would all to soon become men.

Here are a few things to consider when teaching your children to write their thank you notes:

1) Start with a greeting. A simple “Dear Auntie and Uncle” is perfect. (Well, only if that is the name of the person you are sending the note to.

2) Say thank you. Just be upfront and direct. “Thanks so much for the birthday money. I can’t wait to use it when I go school shopping.”

3) Make it personal. It’s great to add a line about how the person is special to you. I love how Abby did this in our card when she said, “Thank you so much for always remembering me, and it’s cool how my friends met you. Some of them told me you were really awesome, and I was like, duh, she’s a Farris!”

4) Humor is okay! Abby did a great job adding a little splash of humor at the end–which I loved! Sometime we think that our thank you’s have to be all business, but it’s good to share something you know will make your recipient smile!

5) Say it again! Close out with something like a “Thanks again!” and then. . .

6) Sign out. A simple “Love, Abby” or just “Abby” is always appropriate. (Again, only if Abby is your name!)

Then just pop that puppy in an envelope, address it, stamp it and mail it. I have to add this final step because it’s not uncommon that after going to the effort to get the notes written, we forget to put them in the mail. And then someone, like me, misses out on the joy of receiving their real, live thank you card and their real, live blessing!!

Mama Mia! Let’s get writing some thank you cards today!

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Here are some of those amazing Farris women–including my niece Abby, some of her sisters, her mom and me after a quick meal at Subway. I’m overwhelmingly thankful for them!

Manners Matter–Mama Mia Monday

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They do! They really do! Manners Matter! Mama Mia! This is one we should talk about.

Manners are simply basic rules we follow to show respect to one another.

Today I was reading in Proverbs 11 and a couple of verses jumped off the page at me:

“A kindhearted woman gains respect.” Verse 16a

“Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion.” Verse 22

These verses got my mind going in several directions, in part because I realized how rare it is to find women who exemplify the simple qualities of kindness and discretion anymore. Thankfully I am fortunate to know several, and they continually make a great impact on my life and the lives of those around me.

Sadly, we now applaud exhibitionism, and the foul-mouthed, drunken, immoral woman has become our hero. So, it’s no wonder our sons, daughters, and sometimes our mothers and fathers, are confused as to how to behave.

Manners matter.
Discretion is a virtue.
Self Control is a good thing.
Thank You needs to rejoin our vocabularies.
Kindness gains respect.
Other people are important, too.
Respect is a good thing–not just to receive but to give.

The list could go on and on, and the fact remains that as moms, we need to, I mean, we really need to, slow down and make sure that we are teaching our children to honor God and honor others by the way we treat them and ourselves.

As I’ve mentioned before we had an intern living with us this summer. Precious girl. A girl whose mom and dad and grandparents have most definitely taken the time to teach and model to her the preciousness of God and others. She was, without a doubt, the most thankful person I have been around in a long time! She was always telling us thank you for everything. I mean everything. Candy bar. Bottle of Dr Pepper. A cookie. So we like sugar . . . treat us well, this is a blog about manners!

But she wasn’t just telling us thank you. She was thankful. She had within her a true kindness and spirit of appreciation for even the smallest things in her life. She is, the woman of Proverbs 11:16a
“A kindhearted woman who has gained respect,” and she made an impact on pretty much every life she came into contact with while she was here.

Mama Mia!

Seriously, moms! These are the things I believe you want for your children. Sometimes we may get a little off track and begin to think that what we really want for them is to gain a spot on “Dance Moms” or their own show on the Disney Channel–or at the very least stay near the top of the food chain in middle school.

But in reality, those things don’t matter. The things that do matter are God and others, and how we treat and respond to both–with love, honor and respect–which is why. . .

Manners Matter–Mama Mia! They really do!

A great resource on Kindle for teaching your kids about manners is Manners Made Easy for the Family by June Hines Moore. There are 365 little tidbits of manners that can be shared one day at a time or whatever pace you choose. It’s also available for teens and in a workbook format for homeschoolers.

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Transformed–Taste and See Sunday

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I love cake!!! I made an angel food cake recently. Not just your ordinary angel food cake–a transformed angel food cake. Nothing fancy, but different nonetheless. I used to make it years ago, and had sort of forgotten about it. Then thanks to Rebekah the intern, and our “Cooking with Ms Dawn” lessons, it was back in my life once again.

Let’s cut to the chase-lol-I know you want to know how to make it. Here the thing. It’s super simple. Simply take a box angel food cake and a can of cherry pie filling–nothing else. Mix them together (it gets all pinky and foamy like), throw them in a 9×13 pan, bake for about 30 minutes and tah-dah! Cake!

A normal angel food cake transformed! I know it doesn’t sound like much, but it is. What started out as something really simple was transformed into something that is now simply better!

Now my little angel food cake keeps coming back to my mind. You see the topic of transformation has been coming up a lot lately in my life, and it makes me really thankful. Thankful to be reminded of Christ’s power to transform us. Thankful for the truth of Romans 12:2 which says,

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

When I allow God’s word to renew my mind, I am transformed. I am renewed and transformed as I allow truth to take the place of lies. Honesty to take the place of deception. Humility to take the place of pride. I am transformed when I choose to take the risk to trust God, take Him at His word and let Him take me and transform me into someone I could have never imagined.

Evan as God transforms me, I’m still a pretty simple girl. But with the power of Christ at work renewing my mind, I am simply better–more joyful, more patient, kinder. . .

Taste and See. . .the Lord is good!

Finding Flowers Among the Weeds–Mama Mia Monday

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Today I had the privilege of spending a couple hours in Hannibal, MO, with our summer intern, Rebekah. She’ll be leaving in a few days. VBS and camps are finished, and it was time for a bit of Sabbath rest enjoying God’s goodness along the river.

Near the banks of the Mississippi, we strolled down to a statue of Samuel Clemens which was surrounded by several flower gardens. Despite a summer of both flooding and a bit of drought, the flowers were doing quite nicely. We stumbled across the bed pictured above noticing the small, yet beautiful flowers and commenting on the fact that they were nestled among the weeds.

It struck me that as moms we can be tempted to forget that beautiful things can grow up among the weeds in our lives. What I mean is that, God is more than able to work in spite of our imperfections. Our children can grow–bloom even–despite the imperfect conditions we may present for them.

Mama Mia!

Now, I’m not suggesting that we throw all caution to the wind and not being careful or intentional about the things we do or say or teach our children. I am simply suggesting that we can rest assured that the God of the Universe can and will work in our children while He is working in us.

And that truth, like a walk by the river, is a very restful thing to experience. Flowers among the weeds, who knew?

He who began a good work in you

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Open Door Policy–Dadderdays

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Can I just say that I am thankful, like oh so thankful, that there are still mommas out there teaching their sons to open doors for women? Of course, I can say that, it’s my blog after all, but it would be wrong of me to do so.

For one thing, it means I’m assuming it’s the mommas who are teaching their babies to be gentlemen, and that may very well not be the case. It also means I’m assuming the dads are not, which may also not be the case.

I do know it’s becoming a lost art, and since today is “Dadderday,” I just want to spend a minute or two encouraging you dads out there to not give up when it comes to teaching and training your sons in the art and science of becoming a man.

A real man.

The kind of man who opens doors, provides for his family, works hard, plays hard and loves God and his family.

Recently I’ve had the privilege of having a couple of doors opened for me, and I’ve also had the experience of having a couple of doors ’bout hit me in the face as some young, and not so young, bucks went through them before me. I bet you can guess which one was the more pleasant.

Dads, I commend you for teaching your children to be honorable, respectful and responsible. I’m thankful for those of you who are not only teaching your children to open doors, you are doing so with an open door policy of your own. In other words you are talking with your kids, you are listening to your kids and you are showing them by your example what it means to be a man, a dad, a husband and a father.

So to you, dads, I tip my hat (figuratively anyhow), and say “thank you.” Keep up the good work and thanks for making your mommas, your daddies, your children and some random non face-smacked-by-a-door ladies very proud.

Apples to Apples–Take A Seat Saturday

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We dropped our youngest son off in Washington State this week. In fact, we just got home last night. He just graduated from college and is beginning ministry at a fabulous church, Valley Real Life, in the Spokane Valley. People often ask us if it’s been hard for us to have him live so far away. Our answer, always, is “it’s not Russia.” Russia is, by the way, the home of our oldest son. So, you can see why Washington doesn’t seem so far away after all.

And I would say all in all that we are doing pretty well with the whole “move across the country” thing. After all, we moved to France when we were in our early twenties. We are big believers in going where God leads you, wherever that may be, and we are confident, as is the son, that God has led him to Washington.

Yet. . .
Today when we stopped by the grocery store to pick up a few things, it was the husband who declared, “Look! ‘Washington’ apples.”

Well, whaddayaknow?

The father is missing the son. And it made me smile. To know that he’s been looking at these same apples for years and never really cared that they came from Washington–until today.

Love does that y’know? It makes you see things you’ve never seen before. Notice things you normally overlook.

And the more you love, the more you care, the more you take that risk, the more you see things like apples. Or Russian news reports. Or storm warnings. Or beef jerky. And when you stop, and take the time to take a seat and think, you will see that apples to apples, that’s a very good thing.

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The son, his fiance and the apple noticing parents while in Spokane, Washington.

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Mock On–Word Up Wednesday

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About a week ago, I came across one of those little passages of Scripture that kind of blow your socks off. You know what I mean? The kind of thing that makes you think, “How come I never knew that was there before?”

At first I just thought it was a bit humorous. Then, I felt like it–to a small degree–gave me license for sarcasm. But now I’m seeing there is some great truth in these little words. You’re dying to know what they are, aren’t you???

Well, here goes:
In Job 21:1-2 Job said these words to his friends.

“Listen carefully to my words; let this be the consolation you give me. Bear with me while I speak, and after I have spoken, Mock On!”

Ha! Mock on! Who knew? I have to tell you that I absolutely love that Job was so incredibly honest with his friends. “Hey, guys, just listen to me for a bit, that’s the least you can do as I sit here suffering and listening to you go on and on. Just be patient a few minutes and when I’m done, go back and mock me all you want.”

I seriously laughed when I realized Job said, “MOCK ON!”

Now, the more I’ve thought about his words, the more I realize how much I like this attitude. I mean, technically, we should expect to be mocked anyway. We shouldn’t care what others say. We should pretty much see it coming and even rejoice in it when it does. Instead, we tend to let it derail us when people oppose us–friend or foe. Yet, God has given us forewarning that this is how it will be for those who follow Him.

Matthew 5:11 says,

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad because great is your reward in heaven.”

And Matthew 10:34 reminds us:

“Don’t suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I didn’t come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law–a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.”

So even from those closest to us, we can expect opposition. And because of Christ, we can say, “Mock on!” For it’s better to be mocked and be with Christ than to be find approval from others, yet be without Him.

The more I read, the more I understand how well Job knew that truth. Although Job had this paradox of understanding and lack of understanding all at the same time, he had great security in time of trouble because although he may have felt abandoned by God, he knew he wasn’t. Not only that, he knew that no matter what anyone said to him or about him, it couldn’t change one smackerel the things he knew to be true.

You may be facing some persecution today. Maybe someone is saying things that aren’t true, mocking your beliefs, or falsely accusing you of something. I hope you may take a little consolation in our friend, Job, and his now infamous, in my mind anyway, words–Mock On!

That’s the Word Up this Wednesday, May 8!

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