Category Archives: Alton Mission

A new area for me.

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Two years ago a few of us in my town started meeting in homes to form “Restore Groups/Communities”. We met to have communion, some sort of devotional, prayer, to have accountability with each other, to try and love each other, God and the neighborhoods around us well. My group still meets every other Monday night, at least for the most part, unless we’re all out of whack from our summer schedules 🙂

One year ago we became the “Alton Mission” and started meeting on Sunday mornings for a gathering of all of the Restore Groups to have a weekly worship service together where we again take communion, pray, hear a sermon and sing and worship together.

It’s not a big church by any means. About 40-50 people if everybody is there I would guess. But in one year’s time we’ve developed two worship teams so that we can rotate and nobody has to be leading all the time…which is a bit unheard of in most small churches I’ve been a part of. Since me and my girls are on one of the teams…I’m grateful for the rotation.

We also have a team of people who do the speaking on Sunday mornings. We have a pastor and he does most of the speaking. But we also have 3 others who have done some speaking too. One person is a pastor who is doing a different job now but still speaks when he gets opportunity. One person is a school teacher who has about the biggest servant’s heart I’ve ever been around and one person is a lady :), who is a counselor and also a new mom. I love the variety. And again, I think this is a very rare thing for a church our size to have that kind of quality rotation of speakers to speak to the community of believers in our church.

When this started I was asked if I might consider speaking as well once in awhile. The first time it came up was around the holidays last year. As a music teacher, it was obvious and easy for me to figure out that was not a good time for me to give it enough attention and thought for me to feel confident to get up in front and speak. I backed out…said “later”.

The next time…I partially signed on…it was early spring and I knew that I would enjoy the process of doing it, the preparation that goes in, etc. But again, with my life I quickly realized that something had to give and when I looked at the list of my responsibilities as a single mom and full time working teacher, speaking at my church wasn’t something that I just “had” to do. I told our pastor that I would try again when I was on sabbatical.

Now it’s the third time that this opportunity has come around and it feels right to me. So…I’ve committed to speaking on August 25th. Plenty of time for me to sit and think about what God might want me to share.

My subject area is about us living a “common life” together. Or something like that. The scripture is from 1 Thessalonians 2:1-13

I’ve done some “talks” in the past here and there. But preparing a sermon is not something I’ve ever done before. It felt a little different to me. I’m not sure why…just did. I thought maybe I would need commentaries and knowledge that I don’t have to pursue the history and culture and background better. My pastor instead said….just sit with the scripture and see what God brings to your attention. Quite freeing really.

So last night I started to commit to the process. I decided that I would try and read through this scripture once a day, either in the morning or at night before going to bed.

Day one…I read it last night and my mind woke me up in the night…or maybe God woke me up, I’m not sure, thinking about what all is in that passage of scripture.

I started thinking about verbs. I’m a word nut, I admit it. The scripture is about Paul telling the church how he lived among them, what he did and didn’t do. I started thinking about the specific verbs mentioned and wondering if I am “doing” any of those things. I started to think about how when Paul writes this letter he doesn’t say “I” did this but it’s always “We”. Makes me wonder who the “we” was and how maybe I need more “we” in my own life trying to live out those verbs than “I”. He mentions two specific visual pictures of relationships. One is about a mother nursing her child and the other is about a father dealing with his children. I immediately thought of a picture I recently saw on facebook from a couple at our church that just recently had a baby boy. They took some family pictures and also some pictures of just their baby. The love, pride, joy, intensity, gratitude, commitment they feel toward their son is so obvious. I started to think about this in relation to more than just our “own” children and tried to picture this kind of relationship with someone else who might not even be in my family. Is that even possible? I then started to think about my husband and a couple of pictures I have of him and Lauren when she tried soccer for a season. He volunteered to help coach and I was reminded of how he encouraged Lauren and was right in there with her. The idea of a Father figure and what that means is something that I want to give more thought to. Can we really be that to somebody outside out own family? I think so…but I think it’s incredibly rare. I then started to think about the excuses Paul could’ve made to not have lived among the people there the way he did. He had plenty…they had already gone through so much at Philippi and he had to work to make a living. You can tell he was burning the candle at both ends so to speak and yet…he made a deliberate choice to live among the people anyway.

All of these thoughts were swirling in my mind at 4:30am this morning. I finally just got up.

This is only day one of interacting with the scripture!

I wish I could say it’s like this for me with scripture all the time. But it’s not. Often I just read some little devotional thought in the morning but it’s very rare that I “study” scripture in any in depth kind of way.

I’m reminded in preparation for this sermon in about six weeks, why I enjoy this kind of opportunity. It pushes me to go deeper. It pushes me to think through truth more. Clearly, this shouldn’t require a sermon prep to do…but that seems to be the nature of life if I’m going to be real about it.

Because I opened myself to the opportunity…I woke up early this morning with God thoughts about scripture. That is very rare. Usually I wake up with fear on my mind, or a to do list of what needs to get done. But this morning I just couldn’t go back to sleep…I was thinking about scripture. Paul “dared” to speak the gospel even despite huge opposition. I laid in bed trying to think what I’ve “dared” to do lately.

I’m not sure how it will all piece tother and honestly, I don’t want to put anything in stone yet. I just want to make myself wait a bit and let thoughts come to the surface that I haven’t even considered yet, but I’m thankful this morning to have my soul stirred by the Word of God in a fresh way. Sometimes I forget how that can happen.

Just me and my bible. No pastor on site, no commentaries, no previous knowledge required. Just me and my bible and the Holy Spirit who leads us as we open our lives to truth.

It doesn’t happen often for me. Probably because I don’t approach scripture this way very often. Last night though when I read the passage I just felt this feeling of “Ok God…I’m listening…speak”.

I’m reminded this morning…very early…He still does.

How has it been for you lately with scripture? What is God speaking to you about? When I have mornings like this one today I realize how many days upon days go by without me giving nearly enough time, energy, or thought to God and His Word. And yet, He still meets me there…even when I don’t often meet Him. This morning I can’t help but worship God and be reminded of His amazing grace that He lavishly pours out upon my life day by day all without me often stopping to take a bit of notice. God is near. God is listening to us and speaking truth into our lives.

The Word of God is active…sharper than a two edged sword, cutting to the marrow…leading us to truth. I so easily forget this…until I’m woke up at 4:30am with scripture on my mind 🙂

My first three days

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I’ve just spent my first three precious sabbatical/summer days at a church conference event in Bolivar, MO.

This event would not have been my first choice if I was thinking six months ago about what I would want to do to celebrate finally reaching my desired goal. I might have planned a vacation, or just some R and R at home…but going to a church meeting/conference event would not have ranked high on my list.

I grew up going to these kinds of things. My family didn’t take many vacations but summer camp and conference was a mainstay of our home. We always went for 2 full weeks to our church camp and my parents made us attend all of the services…regardless of length or regardless of whether our friends had to go or not. I’m sure this was character building…but not exactly a child’s dream 🙂

I then married a pastor and continued to attend these types of things as a spouse.

I hadn’t gone to one in a while though. Being away from home, away from the ministry, not married to a pastor any longer kind of takes that part of the world out of your life.

This weekend as I attended I realized…this was probably a perfect start to my change of life, my sabbatical. In some ways, it felt like coming home, even though there were many, many people I didn’t know. The rhythms, the worship, the topics, the ways of life in that group of people were very familiar to me.

Someone asked me if it was hard and felt bad for me…but it wasn’t like that. It was actually comforting. It gave me a glimpse of my husband again and the world in which he moved. It reacquainted me with old friends and situations that have been gone from my life because of loss.

This weekend I was talking with my daughters about depression, about loss, etc. Lauren had a great point…she said “Mom…I think it would be far worse to feel nothing at all then to feel sad or lonely, or angry.” I agree completely. Feeling numb, disconnected, or nothing at all would be awful.

I am so thankful for the feelings I felt this weekend. I held pieces of my former life in my hands and also felt incredibly reassured about the direction my life is taking at this point.

I’ve been teaching a bit differently this week…

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We’ve had one of those springs with very few really nice days with no rain. It’s been cooler and wetter than usual it seems. So this week when I saw the weather forecast for sunshine and 80’s for Monday-Wednesday I just felt the urge to take full advantage of the moment. So…at my elementary I’ve been taking the kids outside for their music time instead of staying in our classroom. I’ve just let them play on the play ground. I don’t do it often…usually once or twice a year but it just felt like the right thing to do until Thursday when it rains and is cold again.

This is what I’ve noticed. Being outside on a beautiful day has got to be the healthiest thing for all of us. We smile more, we laugh more, we run around and get our heart pumping. I’ve enjoyed watching the kids swing and play tag and go down slides. It’s given me time to be with them and not think about behavior or about subject matter. I understand this is not the way an education is made but one or two days spent soaking up life instead of trying to cram in education has to be a good thing.

I’ve had time to look at children differently than I do in my room. The kids don’t know it. I’ve not acted strange or done anything out loud but I find myself walking around the playground praying for each one. Praying for God to guard their future and to help them make good decisions with their lives. I’ve prayed for girls who I can see are already going to be prone to looking for love in the wrong places. I’ve prayed for tough boys who already show signs of rebellion and wildness to come. I’ve prayed for kids who are wearing far too big of clothes and kids who aren’t clean and kids who are obviously rich, white and could easily live their lives based on everything on the outside rather than focusing on what matters most.

I’ve looked into the eyes of children this week and tried to see them as eternal creatures that are made in the image of God.

In my normal classroom life I rarely get that kind of slowed time to focus in on prayer. It takes everything I am to just teach and keep the class behaved most days. So it’s been very refreshing for me.

Especially as I get ready to leave the classroom.

I wonder what hardships these kids will face. What struggles they’ll run into. What kinds of choices they’ll make. This is what I’ve decided…if I could just show up once a week on the play ground and walk around and smile and pray in my mind for these kids I think it would be a worthwhile thing to do. Skip the teaching. Skip the classroom management and the programs I have to put on…just walk around with them on the play ground, them playing and enjoying the outdoors and me praying…I could do that :).

It’s made me think more about my “ideal life” and realize…I want to learn to pray for people I don’t know, specifically my city. My church is all about loving our city and serving our city so these are not original thoughts…but me actually wanting to pray and put it into my schedule, a time and place to pray weekly is an important step for me.

I haven’t decided where I’ll show up for that time. Maybe just somewhere downtown. Maybe a park. Maybe a restaurant. Maybe I’ll just walk random streets. My kids suggested the Lincoln/Douglas statue area downtown. I’m not sure what might happen if I pray. I might never see a single thing from it.  But I think that it’s something I want to be more about.

Prayer was Paul’s main ministry in the bible. That thought still stuns me. I want prayer to become a larger part of my ministry.

I’m not going to set up a program or try to advertise or cause a scene. But I do want to regularly show up and pray for whatever God brings to my mind and just trust that God will do something with those prayers.

Already this week, I’ve been wrestling in prayer over my own two girls. Praying for their college/future choices. Praying for them to have dreams and imaginations led by God. Already…in just a couple of days I’m amazed at what God is bringing to the light.

I have a feeling maybe the same kind of thing could happen in my city. That’s my desire. For everything to be brought to the light. For healing to take place. For those who feel unloved to feel loved. For those who are hungry and without shelter to be taken care of. For those who are broken to be restored. For those who are downhearted to be encouraged. For those who are overwhelmed and not sure where to turn next to find peace.

I’m a prayer struggler. I admit it. I don’t understand how prayer works…but I think that my part is just praying anyway. Jesus did it…surely if He needed to than I do too.