Thursday, April 21, 2016

A Journey I Never Expected...

The summer between my Freshman and Sophmore year of High School, I attended Nazarene Youth Congress.  That event changed the course of my life because during one of those worship services, I felt a call to full time Christian service...but I didn't know in what form as yet.  So, my journey began.

My family had been in Evangelism when I was growing up and I had a decent singing voice so I thought perhaps I was supposed to be a song evangelist.  But, I really had no idea if that was what I was supposed to do.  By the middle of my first semester at Trevecca Nazarene University, I was feeling pulled in a different direction and I changed my major from Vocal Performance to Music Business and I really felt like I was supposed to be used within the music industry...perhaps as a producer of Christian music or something of that nature.  But, I became ill before I finished my Music Business degree (though I had finished all the music classes, I lacked some of the business courses), and it seemed like God had a different plan for me.  My illness would not allow me to return to finish the few credits I lacked so I graduated with an AA in General Studies.  I was determined to follow that plan, but I still didn't know what that was.

While I was praying and trying to find out God's will for me, I took jobs as a church secretary and then later secretarial positions at both Ball State and Anderson University while I tried to discern God's plan for me.  For a time after college, I really thought I was supposed to make Christian films and one day own my own studio. I performed in Community Theater and learned all I could about performing and putting on performances and while I loved it, it still didn't seem like the right fit.

By this time I had moved back to Indiana and had been attending my home church in Middletown where I was a volunteer in both the children and youth departments.  I helped in any way they would let me.  Rev. Jill Waltz gave me added responsibilities and I was even slightly paid for a time as a leader of one of the areas.  I loved working with the children and I enjoyed seeing their eyes light up as they started to understand a Biblical concept or beam with pride when they memorized a scripture. For five years, I worked with Jill and she trained me in many aspects of children's ministry...but the whole time, I was struggling.  I couldn't figure out why the Lord wouldn't show me where He wanted me to work.  What was His plan?

And then one day, it hit a lighting bolt.  "You are to be a Children's Pastor."

And then the questioning began..."You can't mean me?  My Dad's a Pastor.  My brother is a Pastor.  You surely don't need me in the pastorate too?"

But God replied, gently but firmly, "Yes, I do.  I need you to be a Children's Pastor."

So, I went into Children's Ministry.  I received my first Local Minister's License from the Middletown Church of the Nazarene in 2003, took my first full time ministry assignment as the Children and Youth Pastor at the Muncie Southside Church of the Nazarene in 2004, was given my first District License in 2005 and have been working toward becoming and Ordained Elder since that time. 

This is not a journey I ever planned to take.  I knew when I started on it that it would not be easy.  In fact, at first I was terrified at the thought of being a Pastor. I knew that it would include new challenges, moments of joy, heartbreak, new friends, hard work, exhaustion and exhilaration.  But I also knew that the One who called me would walk through all those times with me.  And from the first step of this Journey...I never again felt like I wasn't where I was supposed to be.  I knew I was doing what God wanted.

Twenty five years ago, I told the Lord that I would go anywhere, do anything, and be whatever He wanted me to be.  So far that journey has literally taken me across the country, out of my comfort zone, and into places I never dreamed. On May 4th,  after 10 years and working toward the goal on four Districts in three States, I will be Ordained as an Elder in the Church of the Nazarene.  And I want to say "Thank you" to all of you who have supported me on this journey.  Whether you were there when it started 25 years ago, or have come along side me at some point since then, I want you to know that you are a blessing to my life. 

The Journey is by no means over, but this will be a milestone marker in my life and I just wanted to take a moment and reflect on the road that has brought me to this point.  God has been and continues to be my Guide, my Comfort, my Shelter, my All...and I look forward to continuing to follow His lead.

Friday, April 24, 2015 hero.

I've been living with my Grandma now for more than a year.  She will be 81 next month and is not in the best of health.  However in the last few months I have begun to see her really start to slip in her mind and that is a tough thing to be witness to.  She forgets nearly anything she is told, she is easily frustrated, and I am beginning to see where I get my stubborn streak from.  But the hardest to watch might be her preparation for leaving this world.  She goes through old letters and papers and sets them aside as things that different family members might want.  She talks often of leaving and of how much she misses her sisters and parents who have gone before her.

I do not look forward to the day that she passes away.  I hope it is not for a long time yet.  Grandma has been a shining light in my life for as long as I can remember.  She has always been a listening ear when I needed it, a prayer warrior, and encourager and one who shows unconditional love to all within her reach.  She has demonstrated to me how to show the love of Jesus to those who cause her pain, how to persevere no matter the circumstance, and the joys of the little things in life.   I am quite certain that I will never hear a bird sing or  listen to the wind blow without thinking of her and of how she enjoys those two things so much.

Dad and Grandma
The thing she doesn't realize is just how far a reach her influence has had over the years.  It is not uncommon that I will meet someone whose life she has touched.  She sees herself as a small person (she's not quite 5 feet tall) without much influence, but what I have seen is a mild mannered woman with a superhuman capacity to love, encourage, teach, and pray.  In many ways, she is my hero.

She can not drive, has difficulty walking, one arm is nearly immobile and she can not see all that well.  But she is still one of the most amazing women I have ever known in my life.   I am so blessed to get to live with her.  I am blessed to get to help take care of her as she gets older.

We often take for granted our loved ones.  We get busy and forget to call or choose to let other things take priority in our lives because after all...we can talk to them later.  But living with Grandma reminds me that that is simply not true.  Sadly, one day they will be gone, so we must take advantage of the time that we are given.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Leaving a Lasting Impression...

Today I will be attending a funeral.  The funeral is for Betty Whitteberry, an amazing woman of faith who I have known most of my life.  She was a strong woman who was not afraid to say what was on her mind.  She was a godly woman who wanted others to know her Savior as well.  She and her husband, Rev. David Whitteberry have impacted my life in ways they will never fully know.  Partially because they have had such a profound impact on my parent's life and the life of my grandparents as well.  I have many times heard my Dad speak of Rev. Whitteberry and how much Dad has learned from him over the years.  My Mom loved Betty and my Grandma refers to Betty as someone akin to a sister in her life.  These three people have been some of the biggest influences on my spiritual life and some of their biggest influences were the Whitteberrys.  So you can see, that though I have had the privilege of knowing both Rev. and Mrs. Whitteberry personally, their impact on my life far surpasses the time I have had with them.  Though Betty is now with our loving Savior, her influence can still be seen in all who knew her.

Influence is like that.  We have an impact on those around us, but it can go much farther than we realize.  Those who impact us, impact those we are in contact with as well.  And that leaves a lasting impression on far more people than we realize.

It makes me wonder what kind of impact I am leaving on those around me?  What kind of impact are you leaving?  The memory verse we are learning is Children's Church is James 2:17 "In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead."  If our faith in Christ isn't being lived out in our lives through our actions, we are not leaving the kind of impression we should be.

Ms. Betty left a legacy of faith being lived out through her actions that will last far longer than her earthly life.  I hope someday the same can be said of me. 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Semis still scare me, but...

So, today was not anything like I had expected.  This morning I left the house early to get to Marion for the last day of my Supervised Ministry Class.  I had been working through this class for 6 months, so it was a relief to turn in my binder of papers and complete it.

Around 11:00am, class was over and I started to head for home.  It had started to snow while I was in class and I was amazed at how difficult it was to see and how quickly it had changed from when I had left the house this morning.  I decided to do a quick drive through for lunch and head home.  Normally, I would not have eaten so early, but I just felt like it might be a good idea.  I'm so glad I did.

As I got on interstate 69, I was just amazed at how strange the weather was.  It was bright with sunshine one minute and then nearly a whiteout the next.  I was only going probably 50 miles and hour or less on at 70mph road because it was so frequent that you could not see more than a few dozen feet in front of you.

Directly in front of me.
Then it happened.  I came through at white out section and saw that in front of me was a huge group of cars and trucks...stopped.  I thought to myself, if there is any ice at all here, I'm going to crash, but I hit the brakes and miraculously there was no ice and I stopped before I hit any cars.  There was a large semi perhaps 50-100 yards behind me who had also stopped without hitting anything.  I saw trucks and cars sliding all around me into the ditch on one side or the median on the other.  There was a large group of teenagers (I assume from the school bus in the accident) who were climbing a fence into a field to get away from the oncoming cars who could not stop.  I called 911 and as I talked to the operator (it was now 11:35am) I could see hear cars crunching into the semi behind me hard enough to move the semi forward and I saw parts of one of the cars fly in the air, but having that semi there, kept the cars from hitting me and the couple of cars on either side of me (one of which had 3 small children in it).  Several years ago, a semi accidentally ran my Mom and I off the road, and I've been afraid to be near them ever since...but not today.  Never did I feel so blessed to have a semi behind me. 

The field the teens were going to for safety at one point.
The semi's who protected me
Eventually the crashing stopped and people felt safe enough to get out of their cars and see what was happening.  I, did not personally see any injured person near me, but I did not get out of my car at first.  I was too nervous that some other car would come barreling through. But none did.  I called my parents to let them know what had happened and my Aunt because I knew she had been north of the accident and didn't want her to get caught in it.  Then I called my Grandma so she wouldn't worry (I live with her and she is prone to worry.)  Then I sat in my car and waited.  I knew that I was going to be there awhile.  I got out and took a couple pictures and got back in my car.  The police came through and told everyone to stay in their vehicles so the EMT's could work.  I'm sure there were hurt people (had to be from some of the crashes I heard), but I only saw one gurney come through and only heard a couple of ambulances leave with sirens blaring so I am hopeful that most injuries were not too severe.  For that I am so thankful.

In front and to the left of me.
We sat there for nearly 4 hours.  During that time, I got to thinking about how crazy it was that not only didn't I hit anyone, but no one hit me.  In fact, one of the policemen (or firefighters...was a little hard to tell as there were so many around) asked me several times if I was ok and seemed shocked that I hadn't hit anyone or anyone hit me.  But if that semi and the one behind it, hadn't been there, this would be a very different story.  A very different story.  I very much feel that I was a part of a miracle.  Especially, since I have not heard of one fatality from the pileup.  That, is a miracle indeed.

The news reports I have seen say there were at least 20 cars in this wreck.  I would say it was at least double that number if not more.  I myself, counted 22 and that was just the cars I could see.  Not the ones blocked by the semi's and other vehicles.  In fact, one of the police officers, climbed a ladder leaned against a semi in front of me to take pictures of the accident.  Must have been a huge area to need to get that high. 

As I sit at home now, safe and sound, I am in awe of what could have happened, but didn't.  I felt the prayers of those who were lifting them up.  This was indeed a day that I won't soon forget.  Thank you Jesus, for you protection. 

For the record, I'm still rather afraid of semis...but I am so thankful this one was there today.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Few Words About Movies...From A Fan

       In recent years, we have seen an upswing in the number of Christian movies that are being made.  I am beyond thrilled by this because it is a wonderful way to teach others about the love of Christ or for the Lord to open a door to conversation about Him.  Films like “Fireproof”, “God’s Not Dead”, “The Grace Card” and “Courageous” are all powerful films you could bring anyone to and they would hear about God’s love.  However, not all movies that claim to be Christian or are touted by others as such are very Christ Like.  And this bothers me and has bothered me for some time.  Let me explain. 
       Years ago, there was a movie out called “The Cross and the Switchblade.”  It was a wonderful film (though cheesy and dated by today’s standards) that portrayed the true story of a preacher who reached out to gangs in New York.  The fact that it was about real people and showed real situations made it powerful.  Though it was showing gang life (a tame version I’m sure, but still eye-opening), it did this by not only showing the vicious fighting that occurred, but also by making you use your imagination some.  And while I’m sure the gangs in question did not speak like choir boys, there were only a very few swear words in the film.  And the movie showed the power of God’s love to change you for the better and how He doesn’t give up on anyone.  No matter your background and no matter what you've done, God still loves us and wants us in His family. I still find the film powerful, though it is more than 30 years old.
         In contrast, I went to see a more current movie with my brother awhile back. (I’m not going to use the movie name here, but if you ask me I’ll tell you what it was.)  And while I was not a really a fan of the person the film was about to begin with, I had heard the name and good things about their talent plus I enjoy biographical films.  But mostly, I just wanted to hang out with my brother.  It was a treat for me since I rare have that opportunity.   
         I left the movie having no desire to ever hear anything about or by the person the movie revolved around.  My opinion of the person, from that film (and only from that film as I had nothing else to base it on), was that the person was paranoid that people would leave or not like the person, was one of the most joyless people I had ever seen portrayed and was quite selfish.  Not selfish where money or time is concerned, but more in the fact that everything had to revolve around him.  His needs, his issues, his feelings.  If it didn't revolve around him, then it didn't matter.  Even the charity work him did seemed to be more to make the person feel better about himself.  Now the actual person was perhaps not this way, but that was what was portrayed in the film.    
       I understand that not everyone is happy all the time and I know that being a Christian does not mean that everything goes well in our lives all the time.  But if they were wanting to make a movie about how God’s love can change you, how God’s love is amazing, or how God’s love is powerful, they missed the mark.  I’m not saying the person didn’t have a walk with the Lord…please don’t take that from my words.  Just that, the movie portrayed this person in a way that made me…well, pity him.
I saw someone online recently talking about what a wonderful Christian movie a certain film was. (Again, I am not posting the movie name, but if you ask, I will tell you.) I had not heard about the film so I looked it up.  When I saw that it was rated R and had around 30 F words (according to a secular website) as well as a bunch of other stuff that I wouldn't want to see/hear. I questioned the person about it.  They responded in part, that it was a powerful Christian film and that the main character in the film is constantly shown as a light against the darkness around them and was able to speak to them because of that.    

That may well be, (I have not seen the film and do not plan to) but here is the bottom line as I see it.  When I go to a Christian film I was to learn about Christ.  I want to see the difference He makes in people’s lives.  And though I know we need to see the difference between those who walk in the darkness and those who walk in the light, I don’t want to be accosted by a barrage of swear words, smut, or innuendo in order for them to do that.   And if the screenwriter is any good at all, I don’t need to be.  

Many years ago, Dick Van Dyke, was asked by a magazine why his show (at the time he was on “Diagnosis Murder”) didn’t have more sex and violence in it.  The magazine felt he wasn’t showing life as it is.   His response was, “What’s wrong with telling like it ought to be?”  I love that.  If he, as a secular artist, felt that way shouldn’t we, as Christians be even more vigilant about that?

We see the bad.  It’s all around us.  We don’t need Hollywood to inform us that the world is a dark place.  We are called to be the light in that darkness.  God gives us creativity.  He gives talent.  I am not a screenwriter by any means, but I know that God has given some people an incredible talent for that.  We serve an amazing God.  He has overcome the world and we have been called to bring the world to Him.  Tell me, how making someone who is already dealing with the darkness around them, trudge through even more of it is a good way to reach them for Christ?   

           I have often heard people talk about movies being good because they are “real”.   Well, “real” is overrated.  We all know real.  And for some, the reality of life is more overwhelming than for others.  We are here to show them the life God has for them.   I’m with Dick Van Dyke on this one. “What’s wrong with telling it like it ought to be?”

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Love is more powerful than hate...Care to help me demonstrate?

Winter has arrived!  I am so excited.

I know...start telling me how crazy I am.  It's ok.  Everyone does.   I'll wait...

Feel better now?  Ok, I'll continue then.

Actually, the reason I am excited is because it is the holiday season.  My favorite holiday is Christmas.  I love it.  I love the smiles I see on people's faces.  I love how we start decorating everything with pretty lights, figurines, and ornaments that bring back fond memories of days gone by.

And I love the goodwill people tend to show to their fellow men.  Well, usually they do.  This year, seems to be starting out with folks finding that challenging.  I know some people are mad about the grand jury verdict in Missouri and others are relieved that the officer involved was not indited for doing his job.  But seriously does destroying stuff and hurting people benefit anyone?  I mean, if I got mad at my neighbor and so I decided to go break the windows of the folks three blocks away, then I would be clearly in the wrong and most people would think that there was something wrong with me mentally.  After all, even if I really did have reason for my anger toward my neighbor it would be absolute lunacy to take it out on a random person who is clearly not involved in the situation.  Not that violence of any kind is ok simply because someone is angry.

Part of my devotions today came out of Proverbs and how interesting that it seems to address just such an issue.

Proverbs 29: 8, 10-11 (NIV)
Mockers stir up a city, but wise men turn away anger.
Bloodthirsty men hate a man of integrity and seek to kill the upright.
A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.

It seems, we as a people, have had trouble with our anger for centuries.  But, how wonderful that God doesn't leave us in our selfish way of thinking.  He gives us warnings of how letting our anger control our actions will do nothing but cause more problems...and most of the time make us look bad too.

We have entered the Advent Season...a season of expectation and joy as we await celebration of the coming of our Lord.  A Savior who came knowing full well our faults.  Knowing we are a messed up people.  But also knowing that we could be saved.  It is not a season of anger but of peace.  It is a season of joy...a season of love...and most of all a season of hope.

Can you imagine what would happen in our world if people were as vocal and demonstrative about spreading peace, joy, love and hope as they have been in spreading their anger and hate?  We all know which is more powerful.  The change we would see in the world would be mind boggling.  If fact, it would be world changing. 

So do you really want to change the world for the better?  Really want to make a difference? Join me in sharing God's peace, joy, love and hope in the world this season.  Love is much more powerful than hate.  Care to help me demonstrate?

Let's change the world! 

Monday, September 15, 2014

So, what do you do for a living?

I have been in Children's Ministry for over ten years now, and I love my job.  Truly!  I do.  It's an amazing job and every day is different.  I am allowed and encouraged to be creative.  I get to be around amazing children and adults.  AND I get to tell them about Jesus!  It is indeed a fantastic position and I am honored to be a Children's Pastor. 

However, there is one question that I have gotten many many times over the years.  And that is this: "What do you do for a living?"  I respond, "I'm a Children's Pastor." To which the response is then, "Yes, but what do you do for a job?"  This surprised me at first.  After all, being a Children's Pastor is my job.  If I had responded, "I am a teacher" or "I am a welder" would the response have been, "Yes, but what do you do for a job?"  But it rapidly became clear that many people do not know what a Children's Pastor does.  Perhaps they think that we simply babysit on Sundays and Wednesdays and if that is the case, then I do indeed understand the confusion. 

So, below you will find some of the duties of a Children's Pastor.  This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but at least it will hopefully help answer the questions about what a Children's Pastor does.  You will notice that in the list I have not placed PRAYER or BIBLE STUDY.  This is not because we don't do it, but because of all the things people wonder about ministry, those two things are a given and we must do them if we want to be effective in our ministry and grow as a Pastor and as a Christian. 

Preparation for services:
    This takes up a good portion of the week's work.  How much will depend on how long the service is, how much of the program needs to be learned because it is "brand new," if we are writing the curriculum or using a purchased one, etc.  And it includes not just the message, but also the games, music, object lessons, review sections, prayer activities, preparing the agendas, technical/video needs, and prep for the volunteers who help as well. 

Contacts and/or calling
     While many Children's Pastors do not do as many home visits as perhaps a Sr. Pastor does, we do try to attend the events or programs that our children are involved in...when we know about them.  We can not attend everything, but we do try to attend what we can.  We also often help with the regular calling of the church to hospitals, nursing homes, shut-in's etc.  This also includes correspondence via email, postal mail, social media and etc. 

Event Preparation
     Events such as Bible School, Easter Eggstravaganza, Trunk or Treat, Special Family Sundays, and Revivals take lots and lots of planning.  Most people only see the event itself, but for each 2 hour event there is probably 50-75 hours of planning (or more) that was done prior to that event to get things ready so that it goes smoothly and properly.  And that doesn't include the hours put in by the volunteers who help to plan the event.

     In most churches, there is a weekly staff meeting that will be about an hour or so.  Then over the course of the week there are other smaller meetings as things get planned or talked about.  Some may not be seen as a regular sort of meeting, but they are still meetings of a sort and are vital to making sure all bases are covered.  Then there are the Zone or District Meetings that we attend.  They are not as often as our staff meetings, but some are on a monthly basis and some are several times a year.  Again, these can last from 1-3 hours or so and for District Meetings will often involve driving to another location 45 minutes or more away. 

     I know it probably seems odd that shopping is a part of my regular duties, but in order to do things well and using a tight budget (which nearly all Children's Pastors have), it takes a lot of time to search for the best buys on items needed.  Shopping can occur online (so from the office) or having to go to the actual store.  There is always an event coming up so something always seems to be needed. Shopping is something that is never really finished.

Publicity/Information Sharing 
    This takes many forms.  From creating monthly newsletters to creating a poster or flyer for an upcoming program, to updating the department facebook or twitter account or even putting new information on the bulletin board. And let us not forget the many sign up sheets and permission slips that are needed. 

    Children's trends change by the minute it seems and if we want to be able to minister to them, we need to know what is important to them.  From the popular TV shows and movies, to the music and video games that are bombarding them.  And let us not forget the books and magazines they read.  Aside from our own studies into how to reach children, we need to keep up with what is currently reaching for them from every side.  Sometimes that means watching a movie that they are all talking about or reading the book that they can't put down.  If it is important to them, it has influence and if we want to be able to influence them for the Lord, we have to know about what is important to them.

    There are Board Reports, expense vouchers, and other office details that must be taken care of as with any other sort of position.

Other Teaching...
    Many Children's Pastors teach outside the regular services in some capacity from time to time.  Sometimes it is being asked to preach in an adult service or it could be leading a workshop within the church or at another event.  Some also may speak at a chapel service of a local school, or help with an after school program. 

I'll stop there.  As I said, this is not an exhaustive list, there are many other things I could have included, but it's a start.  Yes, it's a big job, but I think my Children's Pastor friends would all agree that we wouldn't want to do anything else.  We love what we have been called to do and get excited about the things we plan.  God called us to minister to children and their families and we are honored to answer that call.  To Him be all the glory!