Friday, March 27, 2009

Mother Madelaine

She is just a few years shy of 100. She was helped to the front of the room this morning to share a word at the CUE Conference, calling us to be faithful, aggressive, and effective beacons of Christ's light in the city. This tiny, fragile African-American lady had a voice far stronger than her body led me to anticipate. She is Mother Madelaine Johnson, the grand-daughter of an escaped slave, and heroine in the Free Methodist Church.

Mother Madelaine and her husband Walter (recently gone to heaven) planted 9 different churches in the US and Canada over the years. Her husband was described as one who "showed the Father's heart." Together they were used of God to change thousands of people's destinies.

Mother Madelaine looked at us and called us all "beautiful young people". At 56, that felt pretty good. Then she leaned towards us and said, "My grandfather, an escaped slave, always said to me, 'If I could do it, YOU can do it.' And I say to you. YOU can do it. Don't ever quit. Keep going. YOU are needed in this world."

OK..I am pumped. Ready. This world needs us. ARE YOU IN???

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Sad Cities

According to MSN, "Some U.S. cities were depressed even before the economy went on life support. These were the cities that saw the highest depression and suicide rates even while the Dow Jones was climbing to 14,000 and Countrywide Financial was considered a respected mortgage lender. Why? Blame a variety of reasons, from divorce and crime to lousy weather and job loss. As the rest of the country struggles with the financial crisis, it is possible that some of these cities may soon become even unhappier."

Then, MSN went on to list the 10 unhappiest US Cities...they'll shock you.
1. Portland
2. St. Louis
3. New Orleans
4. Detroit
5. Cleveland
6. Jacksonville
7. Las Vegas
8. Nashville-Davidson
9. Cincinnati
10. Atlanta

When you think of the size of these cities, you realize we are talking about a massive number of people with a high degree of sadness. This morning I heard Supt. Paul Walter (Ohio FMC Superintendent) speak about what God said to Jonah about Nineveh. Niniveh would have ranked as one of the Old Testament 10 saddest cities because of the sin, dysfunction, and violence there. God said to the runaway prophet Jonah, "Isn't it right that I should care about what happens to this great city?" It was his heartfelt desire that Jonah would care, too, and would willingly be a tool to help the sad people in the sad, sad city see hope.

I think God feels the same way today about these cities. Do you care? Do I care? Let's pray today for the sad people in sad cities--let's pray for the believers to rise above circumstances, and be lights in a dark place. Pray for churches to care about what matters most, and be beacons of hope. "Is it not right that we should care for these great cities?"

Saturday, March 21, 2009

John Maxwell at the Airport

John Maxwell, leadership guru and author of many books selling over 16 million copies, is an old friend of our family. I have known and respected John C. Maxwell since I was in high school. He is the person most responsible for my wonderful husband’s (of 35 years) salvation, and was a groomsman in our wedding.

Imagine my surprise when I read that John had been arrested an an airport for trying to board a jet with a weapon in his carry-on! A man where John had been speaking gave him the gun as a gift for protection for John's wife Margaret when John travels. John carried it with him for the next couple days and completely forgot about it until a few seconds after he casually laid his bag down on the conveyor belt. Thankfully, our security systems were working well, and despite John's explanation, he was cuffed and arrested, and eventually released on bail. True to form for John, he cooperated fully, took full responsibility for his "Mr. Magoo moment", and paid the piper.

He wrote about his experience on his blog, and many comments have been made. One writer bemoaned the fact that, though John has been "forgiven" by his followers, other people like Ted Haggard (former leader of the National Association of Evangelicals) who was caught and forced to resign over repeated sexual misconduct have been "unforgiven", and made to pay for their sins. Kim says they all deserve equal forgiveness.

Several of the writer's responses are understandable, but I would point out major differences that need to be considered. Ted Haggard’s issue was deliberate, ongoing sin, done by knowing choice. John’s was a stupid mistake, without intent to deceive. I have been very appreciative of Ted Haggard’s contributions in our world, my heart broke at his fall, and I pray for his complete restoration. He has long been forgiven by me. Ted and John both are due our forgiveness. But restoration to leadership is a different matter. A stupid, careless mistake clearly has different ramifications with God and with people than does a chosen pathway of sin. It is irresponsible and lacks wise love to the leader himself/herself and to the people who follow to equate all actions in their impact, and want the consequences to be the same. Mr. Haggard needs and deserves for the Body of Christ to love him, forgive him, walk with him–and withhold leadership from him until such a time as capable people are able to say that the issues that caused his very public sin and fall are resolved in a way that minimizes the chance of further heartbreak for him, his family, and anyone who follows him. That’s not a lack of forgiveness–that is Christ-like love at it’s best.

As for John? Maybe we should pay his tuition for a memory improvement course. His heart and his lifestyle are right on; his memory was bad.

Even so, he made no excuses, acknowledged it, and stepped up to pay the price for his failure. That is always what is at the the heart of true, godly repentance, whether it is for deliberate, chosen sin, or a unintentional mistake.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

March Madness

Yep, it's that time again...the time when all the basketball lovers in my family (that would be just about everyone)are even more hyped up than usual about the game and their teams. The other night in that incredible 6 over-timer, the yelling in the living room into the wee hours was so persistent and loud that I pretty much knew what was going on even though I was "sleeping" on the other side of the wall.

I've picked up alot about the game over the years. I'm certainly no ESPN whiz, but a few things have really stuck to me because they are so true in the game, so true in life.

--It's a team sport. Doesn't matter how good one person is, without a supporting cast, no one wins. The starters can't do it without a solid bench.
--Starters often don't play the whole game.
--Assists are as important as points. The guy getting it IN the basket generally needs alot of significant help getting it there.
--The basics are more essential than flash.
--It ain't over till it's over. Don't quit too early.
--The story of the game can't be told just by the scoreboard.
--The winners win first at practice.
--The desire to win is important; the desire to prepare is even more important.

OK...gotta go. The game is about to start.

Friday, March 6, 2009

And that's three! :-)

It seems like just a month or two ago we found out I was pregnant with Rachel--she'll be 30 this month. So, for 30 years we have been praying for our birth children, and also the 3 we wouldn't know until Rachel, Zachary, and Jacob chose them and brought them into our lives. It's amazing, the bond God creates between you and a person you don't know yet when you pray for them since YOUR child was born. That's what has been happening in our lives the last few years. We have prayed earnestly for God's hand to be on the beautiful people our children would marry, and would hold them close to His heart, keep them pure, and help them know Him deeply. As of tonight, it looks like those prayers have been answered for the third time.

Tonight Jacob, our youngest, asked Jessica (his girlfriend of 2 years) to marry him. To no one's surprise,she gave him an exuberant "yes!" So, now we know who all of our six children are. And we love them all dearly. God has answered our prayers in His usual over-the-top way.

It's been really fun to see how they all have done it. Zack, middle child and the most "social" of our 3, popped the question first to his highschool sweetheart Amanda White. He asked her father's permission and blessing (in fear and trembling :-) about a month prior to the Cavs game where he asked her to marry him. They are very sports-minded (they go to a Red Sox game at the "Green Monsta" every year), so this was a fitting scenario. He attached the ring to a lotto parachute and told her she could have whatever they won. When she looked at the ticket and began screaming as she saw the ring, he asked her to be his forever love in marriage. They have been married for 4 years in April, and gave us little Skylar this year.

Rachel married Aron Carpenter in November '08. Aron is a great guy, and both he and Rachel kind of "fly under the radar"...they keep things quiet and private till they are ready for news to be public. So,after dating over a year, Aron asked me about styles of rings I thought Rachel would like (my clue something was about to happen :-). He officially asked Charlie for Rachel's hand in marriage, and for his blessing the first week of July. When he went to pick up Rachel for a July 4th all family Bar-BQ, he delighted her by dropping to one knee, ring in hand, and very romantically proposed. Then they came to the party where we welcomed them to the music of GOING TO THE CHAPEL.

Jessica Harold and JL went to high school together at Coventry, though they didn't meet until one SNL service at Cornerstone after her family had been attending for about a year. They have been great friends and then an official couple for 2 years.
JL works at Cornerstone, and tonight he prepared the sanctuary with candlelight and memories. He surprised her (she thought he had to go on to turn off the projection system :-)by saying something like, "We met in this room, we have grown in Jesus together in this room, and I hope that we will celebrate our marriage together with friends and family in this room. So (now on one knee) I want to ask you in this room: will you be my wife? will you marry me?" And she said yes. :-)

So...we are so thankful to all 3 families for sharing Amanda, Aron, and Jessica with us. They are all 3 wonderful young people with Jesus at the center of their hearts. Prayer matters. It really, really does.

"I 'll Pray For You"

This morning I was privileged to go to the Summit County Pastors Prayer Breakfast at the Haven of Rest with two dear friends. Pastor Jim Stetler is an associate pastor at Cornerstone Church and one of the leading laymen in Akron in such efforts. Shirley Chuchu is the energy behind much of the Bible Reading that goes on for 90 straight hours the first week in May, and is the push behind getting pastors and churches involved. I was proud to be with them.

It was great to be in a concert of prayer, asking God first of all to set a fire for prayer in the hearts of pastors. And then I received a very special blessing. Hank Richards, a Catholic lay leader who was there (I have met him in other settings because he is a close friend to Pastor Jim and we have worked on projects together)unexpectedly prayed for me. When I thanked him, he said with candor, "Oh, I pray for you every single day."

That blew me away. The thought that someone I don't see often was lifting me to Jesus on a daily basis meant so very much to me, and I was humbly aware that Hank is responsible for much of the blessings and protection that come my way. Then it occured to me that I might be the only one praying for some of the people God brings to my mind. To have someone for whom to pray is a tremendous privilege and huge responsibiltiy. I want to live up to it.

"I'll be praying for you." What an amazing gift to get. What an incredible gift to give.

Monday, March 2, 2009

More Money Thoughts

Yesterday we talked about money at church--actually had quite a bit of fun with it! I just read this today, and wanted to share it with you. Some pretty profund thoughts for any of us, especially in financial crisis.

During one of the most volatile periods of the current economic crisis—a week in which global stock markets declined by $7 trillion—Philip Yancey received a call from an editor at Time magazine. The editor's question was simple: "How should a person pray during a crisis like this?" Here is a summary of what Yancey shared in response:

The first stage is simple, an instinctive cry: "Help!" For someone who faces a job cut or health crisis or watches retirement savings wither away, prayer offers a way to voice fear and anxiety. I have learned to resist the tendency to edit my prayers so that they sound sophisticated and mature. I believe God wants us to come exactly as we are, no matter how childlike we may feel. A God aware of every sparrow that falls surely knows the impact of scary financial times on frail human beings. …

If I pray with the intent to listen as well as talk, I can enter into a second stage, that of meditation and reflection. Okay, my life savings has virtually disappeared. What can I learn from this seeming catastrophe? … A time of crisis presents a good opportunity to identify the foundation on which I construct my life. If I place my ultimate trust in financial security or in the government's ability to solve my problems, I will surely watch the basement flood and the walls crumble.

A friend from Chicago, Bill Leslie, used to say that the Bible asks three main questions about money: (1) How did you get it? (Legally and justly or exploitatively?); (2) What are you doing with it? (Indulging in luxuries or helping the needy?); and (3) What is it doing to you? Some of Jesus' most trenchant parables and sayings go straight to the heart of that last question. …

The same week that global wealth shrank by $7 trillion, Zimbabwe's inflation rate hit a record 231 million percent. In other words, if you had saved $1 million Zimbabwean dollars by Monday, on Tuesday it was worth $158. This sobering fact leads me to the third and most difficult stage of prayer in crisis: I need God's help in taking my eyes off my own problems in order to look with compassion on the truly desperate. …

What a testimony it would be if, in 2009, Christians resolved to increase their giving to build houses for the poor, combat AIDS in Africa, and announce kingdom values to a decadent, celebrity-driven culture. Such a response defies all logic and common sense — unless, of course, we take seriously the moral of Jesus' simple tale about building houses on a sure foundation. (Christianity Today)