Thursday, March 28, 2013

My girls!!!

The ministry that lights my fire more than any other is the time I get to spend with some teenage girls at my church on Sunday nights.  Actually, girls' ministry in general just about makes me break into a praise dance...which wouldn't really be pretty but it would be funny.  I was a mess as a teenage girl!  Who am I kidding, I'm still a mess!  I pretended to be interested in Jesus and church, but basically I was all about being popular and having fun. (By the way, if you are reading this, Justin McKinney, I know you'll find it ironic that the thing I hound you the most about is exactly what I struggled with when I was your age.  You are so blessed to have a parent that understands, huh?) I wanted just enough of Jesus for most people to THINK I was a good girl.  I never really read my bible seriously.  That's why I'm amazed so often when I see the girls I get to hang out with not just reading it, but trying to understand the significance and relevance of it!  I'm 43 years old and I'm just now beginning to see the Holy Scripture in a new light every day, so I don't expect the girls to be perfect, but I wish I'd been more like them when I was their age.  Honestly, sometimes I wish I was more like them now.

Last summer I read a great blog on the LifeWay Girls page written by my friend and boss, Mickey McCloud.  Mickey, who is young and single and gorgeous and just barely older than a teenager herself, wrote about her own experience leading in girls' ministry.  She told of times when she would be with a group of girls who were talking about all sorts of literary or film characters but rarely knew much about Jesus. Reading her blog on that day marked me!  I began to actually think that maybe we've underestimated our girls.  Maybe they really would want to know Jesus for real? We have been recognizing, for a few years now, a heightened thirst among women for bible study and true discipleship.  Surely there is some trickle down effect with our girls?  If not, then is our revival among women real and relevant itself? Shouldn't our daughters notice the inevitable difference bible study and discipleship makes in our lives and want that?

So a group of women at my church helped me start a bible study for teenage girls.  We call it Girl Talk.  We try to meet for about an hour and a half every Sunday night after they've just come from other youth activities.  Of course we have schedule conflicts because these girls are INVOLVED!  And our church is INVOLVED!  Let's face it, we are all too busy.  The most interesting thing about this is that I think the girls miss it when we can't meet!  I know we older women miss it!  And did I mention that these girls don't HAVE to come?!  Not every girl in our youth ministry comes, and I love them all, but these girls have continued to come consistently for the entire school year...they come voluntarily!  It blows me away! When I was their age, I voluntarily did very little!

This is what has been working for us.  We chose the Gospel of Mark this year.  We read one chapter a week and we ask the same 5 questions each week, writing them in a simple notebook.  We always ask:
1.  Who are the characters in this chapter?
2.  What did Jesus say in this chapter?
3.  What did Jesus do in this chapter?
4.  What questions do you have about the passage?
5.  Did God speak to you personally about something as you read?

The most fun and hilarious discussions have come out of this time!  Just last week we pondered and laughed about the significance of a naked guy in Mark 14!  We've struggled with that withered fig tree, and we've asked whether the friends lowered the paralyzed guy through the roof vertically or horizontally!  Honestly, nothings off limits!  The teenage girls and us older girls ask all sorts of questions!  My favorite questions often don't necessarily have answers, but they provoke more questions.  When we are asking questions, even seemingly silly ones, we are actually thinking about the stories rather than just glancing over them. Sometimes they will even text me in the middle of the week with observations!  Seriously, I'm a sucker for a text about scripture from one of them!!

We've also tried to share our own personal stories.  Each adult shared her testimony and we've had some of the girls share as well.  Each week we've tried to focus on one person and ask her questions about her life and walk with Christ.  Sometimes this has worked but honestly sometimes we were so anxious to get into our study that we went straight to Jesus. 

Through this unbelievable experience, one I hope will continue, I've come to love the book of Mark and most of all Jesus!  I've learned that I can study the Word on my own without having to have a written study by someone else. (Now don't think I'm going to quit Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer, Kelly Minter, Lisa Harper, Margaret Feinberg, etc....but sometimes a girl's got to read it for herself!)

 I've also recently come to love a Psalm that speaks to what we are doing.  Psalm 78:1-8 has come alive to me! I particularly love this part...

"...we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands. They would not be like their ancestors - a stubborn and rebellious generation whose hearts were not loyal to God, whose spirits were not faithful to him." 

Our girls are being told all sorts of stuff from all sorts of people.  Shouldn't we be telling them about the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD?  Shouldn't we be lovingly pointing them toward biblical standards.  After all, the world's standards change daily.  I want my girls to know where to find the biblical standards that are for their good, from their loving and merciful and brilliant God - the God Who both created them and continues to know what's best for them.  I've become acutely aware lately that if we stay quiet and just hope they "get it", they won't. Even in my old age I struggle with being popular as I have often thought, "If I go too far with this Jesus thing they will think I'm radical, crazy, a little kooky!  They will turn me off.  And surely they will feel so sorry for Justin and Caleb who have to live with me!" Guess what?  My girls know I'm kooky, "passionate", and old fashioned because I never cease to make a fool of myself.  They love me anyway, even if they may roll their eyes! That's the thing about teenagers, they are even tolerant of old ladies usually, if they see it's genuine!

In the next few weeks I want to introduce you to my girls!  I hope they will even contribute to this blog so that both they and you will see what God wants to do in the lives of young women.  Oh the possibilities are endless!  I'm so grateful for their influence in my life...maybe I'll eventually grow up too!  I praise Him for the fact that they are not like me at their age.  They are the real things!  These girls will go to seminary and theology school, serve in foreign lands, risk their lives for the gospel, teach their families, and lead the church....I'm convinced of it.  I didn't do anything to cause this, God was already at work in them and He so graciously let me be in close proximity to them.  I'm learning to be more like them.  It actually turns out that what I thought was my ministry to girls has ended up being their ministry to me too! Invest in a girl and your life will be changed!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Ruined for anything else for now!

It's been a busy year that recently climaxed in miraculous ways.  As most of my friends know, I have had the privilege of working with LifeWay Women Events for the past year on a couple of events.  Last year I was part of a team of women in KC that hosted Living Proof Live with Beth Moore downtown.  We hosted 9000 women in Municipal Auditorium for worship with Travis Cottrell and teaching by my hometown gal, Beth herself!  I couldn't possibly explain how I became a part of these events.  God simply orchestrated it miraculously and curiously.  The team of gals I've worked with have become dear dear friends!

Because we all had such a glorious time working on the LPL event, when LifeWay asked us to host Priscilla Shirer in 2013 we jumped on it!  I traveled to Nashville back in August 2012 with our city coordinator, Mary Tostenson, to begin planning for Priscilla.  This would be a smaller event at FBC Raytown with only 1400 women. We planned for months, invited women, introduced them to Priscilla (Dr. Tony Evan's daughter), promoted her studies, and prayed constantly that He would blow us away with a mountain top experience. The event concluded on March 2nd and I can honestly say it was a journey I'll never forget.  People say that all the time, but I mean it!  I'm ruined after this one!  My sweet friend Patricia from LifeWay told me once that I'd be changed more than anyone when I signed on to take this responsibility, and was right of course!  I've never been so disgusted with myself and amazed by my God than during this journey! I'm so grateful that He thought it was time to deal with some stuff in me that had rooted itself so deeply I hadn't even realized it!

For both of these events, I was asked to serve as the prayer coordinator.  For an event like this, LifeWay literally asks you to write a prayer strategy.  Seriously, a STRATEGY...written down...and submitted to people who might actually keep you accountable for what you wrote!  YIKES!  I felt like my name was on the line, and honestly I wanted LifeWay and Priscilla to be blessed by our work. I felt so responsible so I prayed like never before.

I've spent the past year praying for so much in addition to my own family and desires!  I've prayed for minute details and HUGE life changing results.  I've prayed for protection from Satan and I've fasted!  I've prayed thousands of scriptures!  I've prayed alone, with one or two others, and with hundreds.  I've begged and pleaded for women and men to pray with me and I've been awake in the middle of the night praying more than I could've imagined.  Why did I take this so seriously?  I honestly can't explain it without admitting that I'm competitive and selfish and prideful and all sorts of other ugliness.  But I'm also utterly aware of His sovereignty and ability and goodness.  I'm pretty sure I went into this whole thing believing that if I just asked often enough or desperately enough He'd answer.  I mean I knew He was going to do what He was going to do with or without me, but I think I thought I could beg enough to make it all "work out". What I now have come to understand is that He so graciously and sweetly invited me to be involved in what He was already doing.  He was giving me the holy opportunity to see His supernatural activity.  I've often prayed something like this over the last year:  "Lord, I know You call us to walk by faith, but I'm asking You to peel back the curtain and let us see just a glimpse of what You're up to.  I promise I'll walk by faith tomorrow after this event, but today I'm asking You to let me just see a glimpse of what You're doing...see some fruit today."  Boy has He done just that!

I've seen young women and teenage girls surrender to Christ for the first time.  I've seen young mothers excitedly accept their callings to lead their children first and any circle of influence they may have next toward the one Merciful God!  I've seen depression replaced with hope.  I've seen women of all races and ages worship in a variety of ways that surely is what heaven will look like! I've seen homeless women find stability in Christ alone.  I've seen men praying for the women of this community humbly.  I've seen miracles...sheer miracles!  I've seen shipments arrive at the last minute as we were asking God to send them.  I've seen people come out of the woodwork to attend an event when we thought no one was coming.  I've seen money for ministry appear out of nowhere.  I've literally seen and heard the Holy Spirit sweep through a room until His presence was palpable.  I've seen Him change my heart of stone toward women's ministry to one of willingness to serve women in His name yet again.  I'm even excited about it. Now that's a miracle!  All this because I was invested in prayer and watching for Him to work.  All this because He is so sweet.


I'm ruined for anything less!  I won't ever stand before 1000's and teach.  I won't ever have my own book or write my own Bible study.  I won't ever travel the world to teach or lead worship.  But I will pray like my life and the lives of the women and men I serve depend on it.  Don't misunderstand me.  I know nothing depends on me, but I am ruined for less than living in such a state of dependance on Him alone from now on!  I believe this is why God graciously allowed me to take part in this past year full of women's ministry.  I want to hear Him, see Him, and sense Him so I'm going to ask Him! I'd welcome anyone else who's with me.  

Thank You Father for focusing me on You again in this season!