It’s hard to believe that it has been nearly 5 years since we first started coming to FUMC Hillsville. I have gone from being a back seat Christian to front and center. I have gone from non committal to total commitment. I have been watered, fed and nurtured by the people of the church. Not just this church, but others as well. I have stepped out with my art at the encouragement of both Pastors and I have been given many opportunities to minister to others through art. My church family has rallied around me like a team and they have said, “ you can do it!” In that encouragement I have grown, I have faltered, I have questioned and I have doubted. What God has for me to do has often felt crazy and wild and it has taken me some time to adjust to that feeling. Adjustments are never easy, but they are necessary in order to get to the next spiritual level that God has designed especially for each one of us.
We make adjustments to our vehicle, most often called a tune up, when it is not running right. In order for it to run right we need to clean the plugs, or even change them, check the wires, filter, oil and timing. Setting the timing on a vehicle takes patience, practice and persistence. If the timing is off the vehicle runs poorly, spitting, sputtering and refusing to run. If the timing is set just right then it will purr like a kitten and reach top performance. The vehicle will get better gas mileage and run much longer when we keep it tuned up. It will get us to our destination on time.
Some people are lost with no directions, no map, no destination, no North Star. This past January a team of people were commissioned to go out and be missionaries to downtown Hillsville. Out of the Box worship Center was born. The conference had a vision to turn an old store front into a place of worship. They provided the funds for it while the team was provided by FUMC Hillsville. The goal was to reach people who were not in church or were unchurched. None of us had ever done anything like this before but we each accepted God’s call to be on this local mission team. We decided to go as a family.
Two years prior to this I had taken my first mission trip to Slovakia. It was there that I learned what it meant to work and function as a team. I was sent with the blessings of the entire church, many of you helped me to go with your financial donations. It was a time of testing, growth and trust. It was the hardest thing I had ever done…until now. I remember Pastor Ty telling us to remember to BE FLEXIBLE. He was right. On that trip I had to deal with my own selfish desires and put them aside. I went from being disappointed to angry to broken and convicted. It is only when we put SELF aside that God can do a mighty work in us and through us. We aren’t there yet.
I see this same thing happening here today. We were called to be missionaries, to work as a team for Christ. We are to be flexible to God’s will and not our own. It’s not easy, but it is serious business. I don’t know about anyone else, but when Pastor Ty prayed over us, as a team and with the blessings and prayers of my church family it was a commitment that I took very seriously. I thought I knew what I was stepping into because it was only a mile down the road. I never thought, in my wildest dreams, that I would be where I am today. It has not been easy for anyone. It has brought great joy as well as grief. The main church has struggled with the loss of their family-family that they have nurtured, watered and fed just for this very purpose. We don’t take in God’s Word to keep it inside of us, we are to release it to the world-even if it is only a mile down the road. I released it in Slovakia and today I am doing the same on Main Street. There is no difference. As a member of the launch team I have struggled greatly with various issues over the last year. Things that I have chosen not to share for fear that they would be seen as negative. But they aren’t, today I see that they are spiritual growth markers.
One of the struggles has been going downtown as a family, taking Emily out of Sunday School so she could be with us. Some people have openly shared their “advice” with me about this and I have taken each into consideration and prayer. Some of it has deeply hurt. My heart said that we were to all be together, as a family unit in this journey. We did try to take Emily to SS and then go back downtown, but this caused separation anxiety in her and she begged to stay with us on main street. So we were flexible and we did as she wished. I remember her saying, “ Mommy, I just want to be with you and Daddy and Sissy.” I couldn’t say no to that and I doubt that any of you could either. It was hard. People grumbled and I stood firm.
Time went on and we began to discuss opening the children’s wing at OOTBWC. Kids were coming with their parents-people that I had never seen before. They began asking for classes for their kids. We told them that there were classes at the main church and they too chose to stay together as a family during worship. Over time it started to become very evident that we would need to add classes for the kids. In this in between time Emily has struggled greatly with where she belongs. She has a compassionate heart for children and she absolutely loves helping in the nursery. She asked if she could be a permanent helper in the nursery. Due to safe sanctuary rules that was not possible and she didn’t understand that at all. All she wanted to do was HELP! Even as Emily was still feeling like she had no specific job to do we pressed on. She would help me with the nursery when I worked it. It was in these times that I saw my little girl mature and become like Christ with these babies and toddlers. I began to see the call that God has on her life. Miss Patti saw it too. I remember the day that Miss Patti told Emily that she would be a future children’s minister. Emily lit up like a Christmas tree. I can tell you from my perspective that my heart leapt for joy because I knew that Emily had finally found her place. Home.
Sigh. Following God is not easy no matter where you are. It should be done with much prayer, commitment, dedication, perseverance and patience. When we know, without a doubt that God has called us to it we need to plant our feet firmly and stand our ground. Like a mighty oak we need to sway with the wind, be flexible and stay rooted and grounded in love. That love comes from God and the only way we can have a supernatural, all consuming love for others is to ask God to supply it and He will.
I will be completely honest with you, over these past 10 months I have wanted to cancel my church membership and just quit altogether. It has been hard being torn in two and having to deal with the negativity from others when you know that you are in God’s will and doing it. It creates dissension, strife and anger. But then I think about Jesus being torn in two at the Garden of Gethsemane, praying for his Father to take this cup away and then being arrested and whipped at the post until his skin was shredded and bloodied. He endured. He stayed committed no matter what. Why? Because he knew what the ending would be when he did. Eternal life. What are we thinking when we point fingers and accuse others of things we know nothing of? We aren’t. I’ve done it. You’ve done it. We all do it. We need to do everything in the shadow of the cross. In fact, my new friends, Amy, April and Brenda have told me that time and time again. God sent them to us when we needed them. It works both ways you know. I remember going to Slovakia selfishly thinking how I could change people’s lives, when in reality they changed my life. These women have been sent by God to shape and mold me as well as me them. There is give and take, stretch and pull, up and down, in and out. It is only when I refocus my eyes, taking them off of the bad stuff and placing them on Christ, that I am blown away by God’s great love for us. When I look at my new friends I see total healing, courage, truth, commitment, answered prayers, joy, joy, joy, and a work of God Almighty in their lives. I am humbled by their stories of redemption and grace and I know, without a single doubt, that I am right where God wants me. These women have received a new life because of the work that God is doing downtown through each one of us. THAT is what keeps me planted. THAT is my motivation to keep going and never quit. Ever. We are called to BE and MAKE disciples for Christ. We ARE fulfilling that call as a team, the team that God lined up a long time ago and sent out with the blessings of the congregation 10 months ago.
The seeds that were sown and watered many years ago are now producing fruit and that produces joy unspeakable in all of us. This past Sunday we started a new Life Group for kids in grades 3-5. The kids picked the name, “ Seeds of Faith.” We talked about being seedlings and sowing seeds and this bunch of kids will change their world with their faith. They are excited and ready to share God! They are a team working for the cause of Christ-to share the Good News with the world. I am blessed beyond measure to be given the opportunity to work with these kids. I know we will help each other along the way and that they will open my eyes in ways I haven’t even considered! I can’t wait! This new class is Emily’s class and she is thrilled! It will be a place for the kids to call their own, like a youth group on Sunday mornings. Leigh Ann, Jason, Brenda, Kerry and I are very excited about this team of kids who are so eager to work for Christ! Patience and perseverance work together to produce the fruit of faith-these kids! We met for the first time this past Sunday and the excitement in the room was energizing and explosive! We talked about what it means to be a team, and parents, your kids get it! Thank you for giving us the opportunity to work with your children! We can’t wait to see what God is going to do through each one of them!
When you know you are where God wants you, don’t ever give up, don’t let anyone or anything get in the way of your focus. Look to Jesus and no one else. Satan IS creeping around using good people, like you and I, to get each other to quit on God. Don’t fall for the trap or listen to the lie. Remember who you are and who loves you. God placed us here for a purpose- to share his LOVE with others. When we do that with all of our heart, mind and soul, lives WILL and DO change. If you want to meet some folks whose lives have changed come to OOTBWC on Sunday morning or Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. Drop in and introduce yourself-you might be surprised at what you will hear!
Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”