Sunday, February 28, 2016

"Put Me to the Test," says the Lord

First of all, as I start with my story, I think it’s important that you know, my mom’s life revolves around money.  Usually other people’s money. She is an accountant. When my older brother got his first job, she shared with us all the importance of tithing, of giving 10% of our income to the church.  She shared with us from Malachi, and pointed out that this was the only time God said to test him with something in the whole Bible.  

So when I got my first job, I started tithing…and it wasn’t easy. No matter how old you are, it is hard to get started. Money isn’t just money. It’s control over your future. Its countless possibilities. The truth is there is something that money can do when it is in my hands, even if it does none of them.

Right after Nick and I got married, we moved to Mississippi to serve a church plant. 7 months after we arrived, the lay leader called the District Superintendent and officially closed the church. I was 6 months pregnant, and ready to move back home. Talk about no control and no future. That night, I woke up at 3 am unable to sleep and thinking about how much we had trusted God with. Half asleep, I found the day’s pile of mail on the kitchen table. There was a letter from my home church that said how much they believed in our call to ministry and a check for $1000.  Along with that, the closing church gave us what was left in their account to get us home to Indiana.

When our life was out of control, God passed the test.

Our last picture with Schira.
Less than a year later, on Wednesday, May 28, 2008, Nick called me from the emergency room after slicing his fingers with a tablesaw. I packed up Lydia, who was now 4 months old, and we headed to see him. He couldn’t work the rest of the week so we went down to see his parents living in Marion for a couple days. 

When we got back on Monday, Nick was fired. That Thursday, Nick’s dad called us, to tell us that Nick’s mother, Schira had died. After a week of sleeping on Carlos’s floor, and then a week up to bury Schira in Michigan, we came home to another surprise. Our power had been out, and everything in the freezer and frig was gone. Our credit cards were maxed. Our savings was gone. Our checking was gone. And we had hardly anything left in our house to eat.

Even though we had hardly made anything for five months, we had tithed faithfully, 10% every paycheck. Now tithing was easy: 10% of $0, is $0.

All we had left was this promise: “10 Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need"

That week, our frig, freezer, and cupboards were filled up by a Christian. Even more miraculous, after 8 months of silence, we received a call from a UMC District Superintendent the following week. Within 2 weeks we were serving a church…and had income again.

Giving to God has built more faith within me than anything else I have done. More than any part of seminary, more than any mission trip, more than anything. If you feel there is something missing in your faithwalk, I would recommend you check you bank statement.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Fold Your Hand and Bow Your Heads

When I was twelve, my mother made the decision to change churches. It seemed like a perfect fit. Dad had friends there, they had a great youth group for my brother and sister, and they had plenty of young kids. In fact, there were three other girls my exact age.The only problem was that none of them would talk to me.  I went from seeing my best friend every week to being the outcast.  I prayed and prayed that God would give me friends. And Sunday night after Sunday night I cried myself to sleep, alone.  

Until one Sunday morning, as we sang our opening songs before Sunday school, I prayed something different.  

I said to God, “God, I’m sorry.  I have been praying the wrong thing. Church isn’t about friends it’s about you. Today I am here for just you; I don’t care about anyone else.”  

As soon as we finished singing, all three girls came up to me and invited me to sing special music with them. Not only that but they also asked me to sit with them! The moment I had started giving God the attention I wanted, and had centered my prayer on him, he answered it. I knew in that moment, that God was real. All those stories I had heard in Sunday school became alive. 

Prayer is an amazing thing because it doesn’t just change the world around us, it changes us. Prayer took me from being self-centered to God-centered.

But that’s not all prayer does. Prayer has helped this control freak who wants to fix everyone else’s problems with a way to do something when I am powerless. So often it is prayer that precedes a miracle:

  • It was the appointments after a prayer vigil when doctors saw a drastic change from the malignant fast growing tumor becoming gradually smaller without any medical intervention. And then the transformation of a whole town as that woman witnessed to God’s healing.
  • It was a friend’s prayer for God to do something in the next 24 hours that brought to light the deep seeded tension in a marriage on the brink of divorce…and started the long process of healing.
  • It was prayer that opened the doors to friendships that have brought real life…what the Bible calls “zoe” life to our family.

You know Christians say prayer is powerful but I’m not sure we all believe it. But I do. I really do.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Can I Get a Witness?

 I accepted Christ as my Lord and savior around 7th grade and within a year, I felt God call me to pastoral ministry. If you know me, you know, as my dad puts it, that I don’t wade into anything. When I am in, I am all the way in. So it should be no surprise that by the time I was in high school, I was really involved in my church and serious about being Jesus’ disciple.
 At that time we had a pastor who was really into witnessing and inviting people to church. I remember getting yelled at from the pulpit, with visitors in the second row, about how he was the only one actively inviting people to church. I remember him telling us during youth group about how this was the easiest time in our whole lives to invite people to worship because we were in school. Well, I didn’t agree with him on either point, because I was constantly sharing my faith and inviting people to church…and just as constantly hearing no. Everyone it seemed had an excuse, and many of my closest friends had their own church.

It is because of that rejection that I so remember inviting Misty to church. I was better friends with her friend than with her, and had invited and been told she already had a church by said friend. So when I invited Misty to church, I remember that I was totally not prepared when she said yes. In fact, I already had started to say, “That’s alright, I just wanted to offer,” when she said yes. This hadn’t happened for years! I didn’t even know what to do!

Deanne, Me and Misty in Front row w/ our Youth Group
After I got over the initial shock, I asked her where she lived, and made arrangements to pick her up on Sunday. She came very faithfully, and continued to after I had moved away. Now she is serving at another church in a ministry for families with children with disabilities. I am amazed every time I get one of her posts on Facebook of how God has made her into a disciple that transforms the world, and how God used me, despite myself, in that process.

Being a witness is all about pointing to what God is doing and inviting others to be part of it. I have learned over the years that being a witness for me means being me. For me that means being open about who I am as a disciple and where I see God working, being overexcited about the things happening at church (remember that all-in thing?), and to keep asking others to join along. Because who knows? There may be another Misty out there that just needs to be asked…