Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Baptized in the River

I spend most summers doing crazy, pointless, childish things with the youth group. No wrong things, just ... you know off the wall things. It's how we bond together as a group and build memories. But this summer, we managed to do something that was actually meaningful. 

I have been blessed to come to know Anthony, who is one of the many hard working people who are concerned with correcting the social injustice, provide for the needs, and the futures of the people of this earth. Brother Anthony has worked to make a difference in his community, first in Memphis and now in North Little Rock.

I like Anthony's outlook on life and the ministry. He says, "I show up and make myself available to be used by God to help the poor and homeless know Him and make Him known." And this the work of God! Paul said of God, "As it is written, 'He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.'" (2 Corinthians 9:9). 

This was also the mission for Jesus Christ when He came to earth. "And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.' And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, 'Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.'" (Luke 4:17-21). And this is the very work that we were blessed enough to be involved in this summer.

We came to River City Ministry on a Saturday, a very busy Saturday. On this Saturday RCM was hosting their...

And, understandably, everyone was exhausted when we arrived. That night we talked about our plans for the week, had a little fun, and went to bed.... eventually. We might have watched a little (or a lot) of LOST before we hit the hay. (whatever, think of me what you will, I love the show and think it has a great message about people changing their lives, overcoming or submitting to evil, yada yada. If you don't like my choice of TV get your own Youth Group and watch Dr. Quinn or something... rant over).

They call this The Lostsupper lol... *Wipes away a tear from being so amused*... it's ok, I'm over it

The next day began with a prayer walk. And if you have never been on one, you should. We just asked people if we could talk with them about God and if they had any struggles they would like the Lord to help them with, and then we pray with those who are willing. Great way to get to know people, share the Lord, and get out of that stupid shell we tend to build up around ourselves. 

Then we were able to worship with the River City congregation. Beautiful to hear people whose lives are so full of hardship sing with such love and appreciation to the Lord. It was a very exciting, moving, uplifting, and Spirit filled experience. The young man who brought the message is an amazing young man. Although life has not been easy for him, he works mightily for the Lord. He is wonderful at connecting with others and sympathizing with those who are in pain. He is a great example of what young people can do for the Lord if the have a desire to serve Him.
I'm not sure how well you can see the artwork over the baptistery, but it is the beautiful work of a young lady who received assistance from River City Ministry, and is now working with them to help others.
After the close of the service, we went to The River City Ministry building for lunch. 

More artwork by the people who make River City Ministry meaningful
Here we were able to mingle with the people, get to know them, learn from their experiences, talk and listen about God. We were also able to help serve the meals to these wonderful people. Several congregations prepare and bring food to RCM each Sunday. And boy can they cook, take a look.

Afterwords, we prepared for the days to come, had a group devotional, and went to bed even later.
We began the next day with another prayer walk (it was over 100 degrees, not complaining... just saying), and we were able to talk to several of the people who had visited the day before. The wonderful people we were blessed to meet taught us such a lesson about honesty, trust, and humility. So often we hide our problems and struggles from our brethren, or even try to hide them from the Lord, but not the wonderful men and women we met that day. These wonderful children of God knew how to share, knew how to lay it all before the Lord, and how to let go of worry once it was in the Lord's hands. We all need to learn how to do that.
Then came the support letters, because it takes money to do anything. And there were a lot of letters too.

I think it gave us all a real look at the work. It's not all as fun and instantly gratifying as talking with someone who wants to know the Lord, helping someone who is in a jam, putting food on someones table, or growing together in love. Some of the work is just tedious and boring, but it's all a part.  

About half way through the day, Anthony came to tell us that one of the men he had been studying with was ready to give his life God. Praise the Lord! And one of our young men were able to help baptize him into Christ. What a wonderful and joyful experience!

We were able to help with lunch once again, and I was able to share the lesson before lunch (Soul food before belly food). 

Monday night we were able to be a part of a rehabilitation program. Brother Don has labored with his wife and others to create a friendly, loving, Christ focused, and judgment free group meeting for people struggling with any kind of addiction. It was once again wonderful to learn such honesty and such faith in the Lord.

Tuesday was much like Monday, but one of our young men, Shawn, brought the lesson of the day.

He did a wonderful job and i am very proud of him. And, Shawn also got to help baptize someone that day! Two more people were added to the Lord that day!

That evening we helped with the Vacation Bible School for the children in the area, which was lots of fun and very rewarding.  

And just when we thought we were all done, a lady knocked on our door and asked for a Bible Study! How often does that happen?! Of course I was happy to do this, and I pray that this lady and her family continue on their road to growing closer to God

Wednesday, after another morning of stuffing and addressing envelopes, lunch, and a lesson, we took several vans full of children to the local water park (and the owners even gave us the tickets!). EVERYONE had fun.

When we got back, showered, and put on dry clothes, I got soaked again, because there was another baptism! It was a wonderful, wonderful day. And Anthony, Keith, and the other hard workers at RCM treated us to Mexican (my favorite!) and... made sure I would not forget it. 
It's as blurry as all get out, but I got covered in whip cream
And even though our schedule seemed busy, we were not involved in all the things that River City Ministry does on a daily basis! They also have a program to help people find jobs and better the marriages/family lives which they have every weekday. they have housing programs, they pick up the children who come to the events, Bible studies with those who are interested, etc.

River City Ministries helped us to become immersed in the work of the Lord (for those of you wondering if the title would ever come into play). I think we all have grown though the experience, and that it has awakened a desire in us to serve the Lord. Thank you so much to all the people who work with River City, and all those who provide the work to be done. God bless you all.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Why Are You Talking Like That?

Dear Bride,  
Why do you talk to me so formally? 
When you speak to me you get real serious and somber, and its not at all like the way you talk to your friends and family. One last thing my love, why do you speak to me in Elizabethian English? It's sort of weird. 
I love you, just be yourself around me.  
Love, Jesus

A dear friend of mine posted this as his facebook status. I don't know if everyone grew up hearing prayers like this, full of Thee's and Though's and Thine's and unnecessary th endings, but a lot of us did. Maybe you pray this way. I'm not poking fun, I'm not telling anyone how to pray, I'm just sharing a thought. 

I've been told that praying like this is a way of showing respect to God, and I believe we need to respect our sovereign Lord. No one is more deserving of our respect! Jesus began His model prayer with Respect for God (Matt. 6:9). But do we need to make our prayers Shakespeare?

Jesus died for us, to take away our sins, to justify and purify us, and tome make us the sons and daughters God deserves. His sacrifice gives us the ability to come boldly before the throne of mercy (Heb. 4:16) and cry Abba (Hebrew for daddy), Father). 

God tells us over and over to come to Him with our needs and our desires. Talk to God as you would a father. Be real with God. Don't show up before God like its prom and show yourself all clean shaven in a tux when He sees you all shaggy and real, you're not fooling God! Be respectful, but be yourself. Open up your heart to the Lord. Don't be fearful as if you were before a king who would behead you over the slightest offense, but talk to the Father who knows and cares. When is the last time you talked to God? Really talked to Him? Some times we have no idea what to ask, but read the Psalms and you will find that David often just laid his case before the Lord. If you don't know what to ask for, just take time to talk to God about what you are going through. He was patient with Job, with Moses, with Abraham, and with David, and they all came before God at time because they had no idea what was going on.

Make prayer a constant part of your life, make it personal, make it meaningful, make it habit. Pray as if Jesus was right there with you, holding you, because, after all, He is. If that doesn't change the way you think about prayer, I don't know what will. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

What My Children Deserve

I just thought I would share with you a thought I had the other day.
Most of us grew up without. Weather we grew up without the popular clothes, shoes, toys, or we were not able to be in the dance, sport, martial art, or musical programs we wanted to be in. Maybe we grew up without an idea of financial security, college funds, or getting a brand new car handed to us like the other kids had. But
we grew up, little worse for ware, but with an idea ever growing in our minds. "My children will not grow up lacking anything! I will do whatever I have to do to make sure my child has everything he (or she) deserves!"

As adults we started developing our work ethics early on. We worked overtime and showed up for every shift so our boss would know we meant business and soon learned overtime meant lots more money, or we got our education so we would be sure to earn a good living. But a good education and a reputation of being dependable does not go as far as working longer and harder, so no matter what the preparation, we seemed to find ourselves working longer and harder, either to stay ahead, or because we wanted to do a better job.

Then the children came, and HELLO, it turns out they cost more than we budgeted or imagined. So we went back to school, or took more hours, or took the job that meant leaving town for day at a time, because it meant more money. We weren't being greedy, honestly, we just wanted to make sure we provided for our family, we just wanted to make sure our children had a bright start and a brighter future. The sky would be the limit for our kids, and who says you have to stop there? After all, that little baby could be the next astronaut if that's the path in life he wanted. Our child would not have to worry about giving up dreams on account of money. No Sir, Not my baby!

Then those sleepless nights came to an end, finally, if we were there for them, cause lets face it, if you are not willing to work the graveyard shift once in a while they will promote someone else. Day care is a must, not that we want to say goodbye to our baby, but with both of us working, money will come easier and maybe we wont have to work as many ours or be gone as much. In the long run it will be better.
Then the day comes, with tears in your eyes you kiss them goodbye as they make the first long walk from our arms to their desk, because they are starting school. It happened so fast!

So they go to school, and you go to work, everyone comes home for dinner together, by the time dinner is done yo are exhausted, but you had to bring some work home. You get right on it, and before you know it here come the kids for a goodnight kiss, and they are off to bed. If you are lucky, you get to spend a little time with your spouse before you drift off to sleep. And day after day is much the same, you see each other little, and once sports, dance class, or band starts, you see each other even less, but at least they got to be a part of these things you missed out on. At least they have the nice clothes and no one makes fun of them for wearing hand-me-downs, and they can relate to the other kids when they talk about the newes t toys or video games. It's worth all your sacrifice to make them smile... right? After all, if that's what it take to make sure my children have what they deserve, if that's what it take to make sure my child does not grow up without anything, then so be it!

But wait! My children, your children, all children deserve a parent! and we are working so hard to make sure they don't grow up without the things we didn't have that we take from them the one thing we did have... we make them grow up without parents.

We never wanted this to happen! We love our children! It's not that we don't want to spend time with them, we just wanted them to have a bright future. But we can spend so much time providing for their future that we miss their childhood, we take away a part of their childhood. And unless we stop, step back, re-prioritize, and make a conscience effort to make their childhood wonderful by being with them and showing them how much we care, they grow up missing that everything we did was supposed to be for them. They grow up and have no real relationship with mommy and daddy because they never really know them. They were there on nights and weekends like those free long-distance hours that everyone is too busy to ever use. Lets not drift in and out of our children's lives but be the rock that they depend on, the one they know will always be there.

Some one has to show our children how to grow up into a proper adult, some one has to help our children grow to know and love God. Some one has to show our children how a marriage aught to be. Someone has to show our children how to be parents. If we don't do that who will? Their therapist? Their in-laws? Their Preacher? Sure they may help, but they cannot make up for a lost childhood, for growing up orphans because the corporate world took their parents from them.

For Christ sake, get off your computer and spend some time with your child! Read them a book, take them fishing, hunting, have a tea party, lay out under the stars, just let them know you are there and you love them. And I do not use the term "for Christ sake" flippantly. I mean do it for Christ. Make sure He is in their life, make sure they know He is in your life. And building your relationship with your child is God's work, because being a Christian is all about building relationships. Relationships with God, our fellow man, and our family, and helping them to build those same relationships. Anyone can father or mother a child, but only someone who focuses on the most important things can be a mommy or daddy. So what if your child is not set for life by the time they graduate high school, money cannot make up for a parent, for a Savior, for a life without end. So, "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
(Mat 6:19-21)