Wednesday, September 26, 2012

HOW have you prayed for your children today?  HAVE you prayed for your children today?  At this season of parenting, I'm convinced that I can do no bigger thing than PRAY for Justin, Caleb, and Sarah!  It scares me to death to think about the challenges they face on a minute by minute basis.  I have one in high school who is undoubtedly exposed to more than I want to admit.  My middle schooler struggles with ADD among other psychological issues in addition to being in MIDDLE SCHOOL!  That's enough drama to drive a mom to her knees!  And my preschool baby girl?  Well I've only been raising a girl for 4 years now but I've been one for 42 years so I know some of the things she already faces.  Why is it that we often see prayer as the smallest thing we could do...for anyone?  Haven't you heard people say, "Well, I can't help but the least I can do is pray."?  Are you kidding me, the LEAST??  Oh no, that's the best thing I can do for my children!

I've been recently reminded of this simply because it's been about the only thing I could do in some situations!  It's completely unavoidable that children grow up.  They eventually need to be independent, and I can't control them or everything around them.  Hopefully Blake and I have done much to feed them Truth about God's faithfulness and His plan for them.  Hopefully we've modeled an honest walk with God, but my older two have come to a point where they have to make some decesions for themselves.  They live in worlds I cannot completely control.  Oh sure, we have strict rules at home about what we watch, listen to, have access to, etc., but we've made the decesion to put them in nonchurch schools, teams, clubs, etc.  We don't live in a Christian only village, so they see the real world.  My friend Suzanne assures me that high school is more "real world" than I could imagine.  I have a love/hate feeling about the story that her boys said, "Mom, you know high school is rated R, right?"  That's life for the McKinney''s the decesion we've felt best for our family and our ministry.  So how do I react as a mom?  I'm on my knees every single morning claiming scripture and begging for God to protect them.

But I'm also asking Him to do whatever it takes to make them trust Him and feel His presence with them.  Yes, I said whatever.  Some days I almost choke on the word, but I mean it.  I'm praying for God to use every single circumstance to drive them to a deeper knowledge of and longing for Him.  I want them to have faith based in personal experience!  And if that's what it takes, then my prayers are even more important! 

Another reason I believe prayer is maybe the most important part of my job is that what I pray for, I'm invested in.  Does that make sense?  Seriously, think about that!  What I take the time to pray for becomes HUGE to me.  I want to know how He's answering my prayers and what's going on "behind the scenes".  This motivates me to be "all up in their business"  on a daily basis because I want to know how God is moving!  It changes our conversations from "How was your day?" to "What did God do today?" and "Did you sense Him working?"  Those are some powerful conversations!

Praying scripture for my children also keeps me in His Truth and never fails to convict me as well.  How can I pray "Give Caleb Your Spirit of power, love, and sound mind...(2 Timothy 1:7)" without also realizing I need to pray that for myself as well as act on it in faith!  How can I pray "Please help Justin work hard at whatever he's doing not because he is to please teachers and coaches, but because he's working for You and in Your power...(Colossians 3:23)" without realizing that I need to do the dishes or writing or even selling olive oil at the store in His power and for His glory?   How can I pray for Sarah to love Jesus and spend her life serving Him if I'm not modeling that for her?  This is yet one more divine way God activates and enlivens His Word in me (Hebrews 4:12)!  When I'm praying for them, God's working in me too! 

Here are two resources I have used for some time now to help me pray for my children.

This beautiful book is probably out of print by now because someone gave it to me when Justin was born.  It is a compilation of scriptures to pray for your children catagorized into topics.  I've used it for 14 1/2 years now and I'm so thankful for it!

This one is a prayer journal where I write every name and prayer request I'm praying for on a particular day of the week.  There's so much to bring before Him that my ADD would kick in and I'd be chasing rabbits all day if I didn't use something like this.  It was actually a suggested resource on the Living Proof Blog, and I've been so pleased with it! 
What resources do you use when you pray...either for your children or others?
I'm thankful for a community of believing friends who also pray diligently for my children!  You would never waste a prayer on us!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A little input???

Hey Friends!

So much is going on with the McKinney's these days!  At this stage in our marriage (over 21 years, glory to God!), with 3 really busy kids, Blake and I find ourselves rarely able to spend vast amounts of time together alone.  Who am I kidding?  We have little time together even with other people or the children around.  Mind you, I'm really not complaining.  Oh I miss the opportunities to just sit and talk, but the LORD has been gracious beyond my wildest dreams and we have great jobs, invigorating opportunities to minister, and talented kids! I watched a video blog from Christine Cain the other day that spoke to me when she said sometimes it doesn't take huge segments of doing nothing to recoup, it just means that we should be invigorated and inspired by what we do!  That's how it is for me right now, I'm refreshed and invigorated by almost everything I'm deeply involved in.  I love my job, I love women's ministry, I live for Bible study, and being a mom is the richest experience I'll ever have.  And honestly, I love high school band, lacrosse, gymnastic, and dance...which is really what I spend most of my time watching these days.  It's a great life, a deeply meaningful life.  Thank you God!

Having said that, I'm super excited about an upcoming opportunity Blake and I have to work on something together.  This will be the third year our church has allowed us to lead a couples retreat in Branson in November.  Each year we've done this, the preparation has been a bit of a nightmare.  By the time we've gotten to the retreat, we've managed to do and experience all those feelings and situations that we're trying to teach other couples to deal with in a Godly manner.  I've said this before, but surely you realize we are as human as anyone and, dare I say it, we disagree at times! Every year after the retreat we say, "That was worth it!  That was better for us than probably anyone else!"  So when we discovered that we would be allowed to lead again this year, we started approaching the preparation a bit differently.  We are going to take advantage of the blessing of morning preschool and meet for vanilla spiced chai while studying the word and preparing together a least one day a week.  Instead of using curriculum from someone else, we are writing and developing it ourselves.

If you know Blake, you are aware that he is an amazing writer.  I've never claimed to be a great writer, but I am coming to see it as therapy so I enjoy it.  We have no preconceived ideas that we know anything about marriage but we are searching scripture together.  I'm so stinkin' excited I can hardly stand it!  Bring it Lord!  And please work a bigger miracle in our marriage and family than anyone elses! 

Here's where I would love your input.  If you are a wife, I would love for you to share with me what you pray about most for your marriage?  What passages give you encouragement as a wife?  Do you ever feel like your marriage could be better? 

If you are single, do any of the marriages you see up close point you to Jesus?  Why?

Please feel free to share this with other people who might have something profound (or not so profound) to share.

Thanks!  Pray for us as we write together please.  We know the enemy will attack as never before probably, so we are desparate for your partnership through prayer.


Monday, September 10, 2012

What I've been up to lately???

Many of you know that I recently had the amazingly fun opportunity to fly to Nashville and tape a short segment for the Lifeway Women's Simulcast team about my experience with Living Proof Live events with Beth Moore and Travis Cottrell.  In the process of preparing for that, I was asked to write a bit of my story.  I'm sharing this today on my blog simply because we are preparing to host our first Living Proof Live Simulcast at FBCLS this coming Saturday.  If you live in the area, I'm begging you to's so much fun and really might change your life!  I don't get paid by Lifeway to say that!
If you don't live in KC, then you can watch the simulcast from your own computer for only $20.  Join me and 125,000 women around the world for this live internet streaming event at  Here's how I got connected to Lifeway and what God's been doing...

I started teaching in depth women's Bible study almost 20years ago as a young pastor's wife and college minister in Arkadelphia, Arkansas.  Looking for something to study with college girls, I discovered a new Bible study published by Lifeway titled A Woman's Heart: God's Dwelling Place, and it happened to have been written by someone who grew up in that small town of Arkadelphia, Arkansas.  Maybe you've heard of Beth Moore?  God used that study to plant in me a ravenous hunger for in depth Bible study that hasn't since subsided.  His Word is my lifeline, my standard, the only thing that keeps me sane, and the sheer delight and love of my life!  It has always provided so much more guidance, grace, and hope than I deserved. Leading women in Bible study as they experience that "aha" moment of understanding more of Him and His word is the most fun thing I'll ever get to do in ministry.  I say all the time, "It's more fun than I deserve!” After 21 years of ministry, I've been a part of countless ladies Bible studies, including every single one of Beth's! It has also been a privilege over the years and in two other churches now to take ladies to Lifeway events such as Living Proof Live, Deeper Still, YouLead, and Going Beyond.  Many of my deepest friendships and funniest memories were solidified on these trips to events!  This year marked my eighth event to attend in 7 years and every single time I've taken women they've been changed and challenged to love Him with abundantly more!  In 2011, I took a small group from my new Kansas City suburban church to Lincoln, Nebraska for Living Proof Live. While God showed up as usual and worked in our group to deepen our commitment to Him, He began something new in my life that has been, most assuredly, above and beyond anything I could have dreamed. The Lifeway team announced in Lincoln that they would be coming to Kansas City for Living Proof Live in 2012.  A new chapter of my life started the minute I heard that announcement. 

I immediately prayed for God to use me however to make that event eye opening for my women's ministry and my new city.  Through a series of seemingly random situations, I received a call from the city coordinator in late 2011 asking if I would be willing to serve as the prayer coordinator for Living Proof Live KC2012!  "Sure!" I said, "I can pray!”  What a perfect job!  I could hardly believe that I would be involved in bringing Beth and Travis to Kansas City, and all I had to do was pray! 
As I drove to my first steering team meeting, I prayed out loud in my car, begging God to bind our team together in miraculous ways.  I asked Him to make us not just love each other, but really like each other!  It's always a risk to put that many women together to plan something…and we were from such different denominations and backgrounds that I was sure it would be work!  I immediately loved them and we became lifelong friends! God stirred on our hearts that day to make Ephesians 3:20 as our constant prayer for the event.  We even set our phones to go off at 3:20pm every day to remind us to pray for details and people involved with the event.
Now honestly, I really did think all I had to do for this event was pray.  ALL?  Thankfully, one of the most meaningful parts of working on an event like this is the relationship with Lifeway team!  As I began to talk, almost daily, with Patricia Murphy from Lifeway she helped me understand the necessity of involving more people in our prayers. She challenged me to write a prayer strategy for LPL KC 2012 incorporating various ways to remind partnering individuals and churches of prayer needs.  I began to understand how we needed to invite many women to be consistently praying for every aspect of the event.  This is when I realized that this would be more than just my own personal prayer project, this was an opportunity to lead something with lasting community impact, and something above and beyond what I'd ever assumed was needed!  So I prayed, "Lord, what should our strategy be?”  I talked with my pastor, who also happens to be my husband, about it.  Blake said, "Well, let's just brainstorm some ideas."  We talked about easy plans, things we'd done or been a part of before, and then this big dreamer of a pastor said words I'll never forget.  He said, "Wouldn't it be so meaningful if every woman that came in that building knew, really knew, she'd been prayed for?  Maybe if she received a hand written note telling her she was special and you had prayed for her it would lay the ground work for her letting God speak during the event specifically to her."   

I cannot lie. My reaction was a couple of things, most of which I actually did say out loud to him.
1.  "Honey, there are 9000 seats in that auditorium!  You want me to write 9000 handwritten notes? No one expects that, and I'm pretty sure that's impossible."

 2.  "Ok, in the true spirit of brainstorming I guess I can't totally disregard the idea, but seriously???"
 3.  "Why did I ask a big picture thinking, dreamer type, anything is possible believing MAN?  It's not like he's going to be writing notes anyway!" Okay, well I didn't say that one out loud, but I certainly thought it!
We let the idea marinate and I wrote down every other idea but that one!

 The next day I spoke with Patricia at Lifeway again, and for some reason, when there was a lull in conversation I mentioned the crazy prayer note card idea.  I'll never forget her sweet southern voice when she said, after a brief pause, "Um, that's 9000 ladies.” We didn't speak of it further in that conversation and I made a mental note to never listen to my pastor-husband again when it comes to women's ministry!
 The very next day Patricia called my cell phone to say she'd been praying and reading in her quiet time that morning, and she felt God urging her not to disqualify this crazy idea, not to underestimate what He could do.  She gave me the challenge to think about how we might pull this off. Honestly, my next mental note was to call my husband and say, "Look Buddy, you're going to be writing half of these cards!”  I was overwhelmed with the impossibility of this!  I spent about 40 minutes partially praying about what He'd have us do and partially doing the math to see how many note cards we'd need from each of the 10 girls on the steering team…I'm not a math major!  Within 45 minutes of Patricia's first call that day, she called back to say that she'd been in touch with DaySpring cards, a subsidiary of Hallmark which is based in Kansas City, and they were thrilled to donate all the note cards we would need.   All I had to do was find women to pray over the cards and those who would receive them, then write the notes!  You should have seen the looks on our church staff's faces when boxes and boxes of note cards arrived from DaySpring at the church office.  I remember many of them nervously laughing and saying, “What has Gayla gotten us into?”  They were really laughing when the pastor had to fit them all in his little Camry to bring home.  My dining room was note card central for 12weeks!

 The steering team immediately began to ask partnering churches and individuals to take cards, pray over each one for the lady who would receive it, and write a brief note of encouragement.  The response was astounding, above and beyond what we expected!  Over 300 hundred women from over 25 churches of all denominations prayed over and wrote 9000 cards.  It was such an overwhelming experience for me to watch Him work in the women who graciously prayed!  It seemed to help the women all around Kansas City own the event, become excited, and anticipate miraculous God stories! Each time I dropped off a box of cards or returned to pick up completed cards women would assure me they were praying diligently for every aspect of the event.  I received daily phone calls and emails of encouragement for 12 straight weeks!  I saw God literally doing immeasurably more than I knew to ask or even imagine.  I logged over 300 miles on my minivan dropping off those cards and picking up completed ones, taking my own children to help carry the boxes.  He was even teaching my family that He had infinitely more in store for all of us than we could anticipate! 
Our steering team prayed for God to put just the right card in the each lady's hand as they entered the auditorium on that Friday night.  Of course, He did!  Many women came down to speak to our steering team just to say how the card and prayer they received was absolutely miraculously tailored to their specific situation!  We couldn’t believe it, and yet we knew He was doing exactly what we had been praying for every day at 3:20pm.  You see, Ephesians 3:20, our prayer verse, says, “Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us…” God had indeed been working in ways we wouldn’t have dreamed, so above and beyond! He’s just that sweet!

 His above and beyond ways continued in the weeks following the event.  My own women's ministry was deeply affected by this event and our involvement in prayer for it.  We were studying James: Mercy Triumphs during the weeks leading up to the event, and about 80 ladies wrote note cards and prayed each week prior to and immediately following Bible study time for those who would be attending the event.   Many of the women from my own church served as encouragers and hospitality volunteers for LPL KC 2012.  They were able to actually hand out those cards to every woman and pray with the abundance of women who made commitments. One of the sweet young moms who had been attending in depth Bible study for a year with us attended the event.  She'd written note cards and prayed diligently for so many who attended, but I knew she needed to accept Christ as her personal Savior.  Her name is Tana, and she was the face of all my Ephesians 3:20 prayers. Tana even came down to the arena for our prayer walk the morning before the event started! While at the event, Tana felt compelled to receive Christ as her Lord and Savior!  It was ultimate joy to walk with her down the aisle of our church that next Sunday to make her public profession of faith.  My husband had the sheer privilege of baptizing Tana just a few weeks after LPL KC 2012! As I stood within feet of that baptistery watching Blake baptize Tana in front of a church full of ladies who had prayed for her for a year, I thought, “This was it all along, Lord!  Way to go, God!  This was what you were working that was above and beyond, immeasurably more than all we could have imagined or asked!” 
But wouldn’t you know it? God is still working above and beyond what I thought to ask of Him.  Now Tana and a group of young moms at my church are diligently and excitedly working to host the Living Proof Live Simulcast at our church in a month!  An anonymous donor noticed their recent spiritual interest and growth so she provided the $1500 cost to host our first ever simulcast! There are simply not enough words to express the joy and fulfillment I feel as I watch those girls accept the responsibility to offer the teaching of this LPL Simulcast to our local community and their dear friends because it was life changing for them! This might be my favorite "above and beyond" detail God has orchestrated so far!  Our women's ministry has been unified and recharged, our entire church senses the depth of commitment and excitement, our men's ministry is being supportive and appropriately challenged, and families are making ongoing commitments to trusting and serving the God Who continually does "immeasurably more"!  

 The words of my prayers haven’t changed – I still pray every day at 3:20pm for God to work in Ephesians 3:20 ways.  However, my faith has changed, deepened, and been refined!  Who knows what else God will do through the ministry of these simulcasts, but I do know that He will go above and beyond anything we could ask of Him or imagine.  He’s done it for me, for my family, for my church, for my friends! I don’t want to miss an opportunity to see Him continue!  That God can and does permeate even technology with His very power and presence is more than I can imagine certainly.  The very same excitement I felt at the live event is evident and assured through the simulcast because God is bigger than even technology! I'm so hoping many many women from my church and my community will come to this event at FBCLS on Saturday from 8:15 - 3:15!  I'm even praying that some of the girl's in our youth bible study will attend.  God has used this Living Proof Live event to mark me, transform me into any semblance of His image I may currently exhibit.  I know Saturdays are busy, but come if you can!