It’s Just Me…

Hunter and LaurenThis seems like a true circle. Many of you may know me as Donn’s son or as the “pastor’s kid.” The truth is, I hope that I can be much more than just those things. It’s not that I am embarrassed of my family or am resentful of them in any way. It has more to do with the fact that since my family moved here back in 1995 I have always been known for what my family members did.

Originally I was that State Patrol officer’s kid. Then my mother became the secretary at the church we were attending and I was her son. After that my parents became the volunteer youth leaders and then I was the son that wasn’t old enough to be going to youth group. Then my dad felt called to be the pastor of a new church… and well, you get the idea.

I thought that it would be better in school and truth be told, it was worse. Every action/inaction was a reflection of my family who, it seemed, EVERYONE knew. It was not until college that I experienced the freedom of not being known. For the first time in my life people got to know me for who I was and not who my parents or brother were. It was just me.

Now that I’ve moved back to Strasburg I have already been reminded that this has not necessarily changed. Again, it’s not a bad thing; I’m proud of my family and what we stand for… but I would also like for the people of MVF to see my actions apart from my mother, father, and brother.

So when I was asked to write a blog to introduce myself, I thought about how I could write this. I decided the best thing to do would be to describe what my life has looked like since I left Strasburg and really started asking myself the question, “Who am I?”

I graduated in 2008 from SHS and got out of town as quickly as possible. I knew that I wanted to be a youth pastor and so I only applied to one school: Ozark Christian College. When I got there I found incredible freedom to do what I wanted. I was placed in an academic dorm on a floor of guys that prided themselves on being very intellectual and theological.

I felt like I was not accepted or liked. I graduated from Strasburg High School with my Associate’s Degree and entered college as a junior. However, at OCC they had Christian prerequisite classes that I was required to take. This meant that as I was taking junior level classes in theology while I was taking the freshman prerequisite classes that were giving me the required knowledge for the junior classes I was taking.

Simply put, I didn’t do well my first semester. I was placed on academic probation and the frustration that was already evident by the other people who were living all around me only increased. After talking with my academic advisor we figured out what was going on and why I was having such a hard time with everything. After a long talk and some shifting of the following semester’s classes I went from being on academic probation directly to the honor roll.

The summer after my freshman year at OCC, I worked an internship near my grandparents in Colorado Springs at a church that my parents had attended before ever moving to Strasburg. I loved it and only became more confident that this is what God had in mind for me.

I came back to Ozark pumped up and more excited than ever. The dorm floor I was placed on had the rule that every semester we got new roommates. The roommate that I had for the first semester of my sophomore year was the guy who was basically the social leader of the floor. It took all of three weeks of me asking questions and watching movies in my dorm room for him to come to resent me. He quickly turned the whole floor against me.

I was no longer welcome to spend free time with the other guys. So I spent my spare time working part time at an indoor putt putt golf course. I got really good at a sport that no one cares about. I put in lots of overtime and got paid a decent amount. But I had no friends and felt like an outsider.

I was soon offered a weekend position at a church as an intern. I accepted without any hesitation. I was now off campus as much as I possibly could be. I enjoyed the internship a lot but when it wrapped up, I couldn’t take being at OCC anymore. So, I took a break and spent the following year back in Strasburg.

This would be a year of change for me… it became both intolerable and critical for me as far as making me the man I am today. I discovered not just who I was, but more importantly, who God wanted me to be. I even found the woman that I would marry. After a rough year and lots of health issues, I decided to go back to a different school that was closer to my bride-to-be. This lead me to Dallas Christian College.

I found an entirely different environment at DCC. An entire school that was more dedicated to doing ministry than just learning about it. A school that was much smaller than Ozark but was twice as passionate about saving the lost. I was home, almost.

I proposed to Lauren after my first semester at DCC; some of you may remember, as I proposed on stage at Mountain View Fellowship’s Christmas Eve-Eve service.  We set our date for January 2014.

The following year I worked hard. I worked the night shift at a hotel during the week and filled in as the children’s pastor for an inner-city Hispanic church named Iglesias De Miestro in Dallas. I also carried a heavy load those two semesters… one at 19 credit hours and the following at 22 credit hours. Sometimes I look back and wonder how I did it, but I know God gave me the strength.

It was all worth it… I had more ministry experience than ever before, I graduated early, had a beautiful wife, and was ready to start this new life adventure! I was hired at Aspen Ridge Church and worked there for two and a half years. I had the pleasure of watching God take that youth ministry from six teens to over sixty. Now that I’m here at Mountain View Fellowship, I’m craving being part of long-term student ministry. Using the experience that I (and all of our youth workers) have, the youth team and I will be able to craft a student ministry for both middle and high school teens that will be welcoming, safe, and encouraging. Our goal is to show teens that God loves them, that the Bible is still relevant today, and that He has a plan for their life.

As you will come to find, our student ministry will always be doing something. Every month we’ll be reaching out to new students and friends of the students already coming. We’ll be showing them first-hand how to serve, and give them experiences that will impact the rest of their life.

All of this will be done though the building of relationships with the students so they’ll always have somewhere to turn and a safe place to talk where they won’t be judged. But most importantly this will all be done so that we can point students to a relationship with Jesus Christ.

I have the pleasure to be part of a team of dedicated sponsors (that are all amazing, by the way… you should hug the next one you see!) that leads this already successful group of students into a ministry that will overflow into the communities of Bennett, Byers, Strasburg, and beyond.

I ask for your prayers and support as we start this mission of winning the students of the 1-70 corridor as they dive into a life-long relationship with Jesus. I ask this not as Donn’s son, Angie’s kid, or the guitar player’s older brother, but as the Youth Pastor God has called me to be, and the man that I am trying to become.

-Hunter Headley
Hunter Crazy

Open and Closed Doors

My sister and I are pretty close. We talk and text quite a bit and have a deep sister-bond thing going on. She lives in Houston and whenever I visit her, the second I walk through the front door with my suitcase and pillow, (Don’t judge. That thing has been all over the world.) it’s like going home, because she’s there. Her entry isn’t big or fancy, but it’s welcoming and I know I can immediately kick off my shoes and get comfy. Most importantly, her door is easy to walk through, and I know it’s always open.

Once in high school, I had an argument with a girlfriend. After cooling off and deciding that the blame was partly mine and our friendship was worth more to me than being right, I went to her house to apologize. She answered the door and before I could get five words out, she slammed it in my face. Apparently I had taken a step towards her when I started talking, because the door literally hit my forehead and took out the toes on one foot. Though we could eventually hang out again, it was unfortunately never the same.   That particular door closed painfully and abruptly (both physically and emotionally) and stayed closed.

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Doors seem to be a theme in my life lately because the only constant has been change. What do doors have to do with change? Whenever you walk through an open door your environment or situation changes. Whenever a door closes, you either stay where you are, or, if that’s not an option, you go in a different direction.

If you know me at all, I’m usually not one to seek out or enjoy change. I’m generally not the one in our family who appreciates spontaneous adventures. I might even be a little… a-hem… uptight, according to a 50% poll result within our marriage. But this past season, especially in our personal lives, the amount of change has been incredible:

  • We had a friend stop by the office asking if we knew anyone who was looking to buy a house. (We’d been kicking around the idea of selling our home and getting completely out of debt.) The owner wanted to get rid of it quick and offered it to us at a reduced price. Door Opened.
  • We quickly decided to fix up and sell the house we’d raised our boys in and lived in for nineteen years. It sold quickly. Door opened.
  • We moved into the unfinished basement of our friend’s house and started to pay rent, thinking we were going to start remodeling the home as soon as the purchase was complete. There were issues with the purchase, so we continued to rent the house instead. Door Closed.
  • There was a sudden opening in the youth pastor position at our church. One Door Closed and a new Door Opened.
  • Donn began looking at and interviewing over sixty applicants. Our son, who has a bachelor’s in Youth Ministry from Dallas Christian College, sent his application in. Donn withdrew from the interviewing process completely and a committee was formed to hire the new youth pastor. Door Closed.
  • To our great glee and surprise, the committee chose our son Hunter to be the new youth pastor. He accepted the position. Door Opened.
  • When Hunter and his wife began looking at houses for their move to Strasburg, there was very little available, and nothing that they could afford. Door Seemingly Closed.
  • It occurred to us that they could afford the house we were currently renting. They loved it, spoke to the owner, and made the same deal we had originally made with the owner to buy a house they’ll be able to grow into and couldn’t have afforded otherwise. And it was a house that wouldn’t have been available at all had we not been renting (and unknowingly holding) it for them. Door Opened.
  • We were worried about continuing to live in the basement of a house our kids bought and started looking for a rental. We looked and prayed. Nothing seemed available. Door Closed
  • Just in time, and right before the kids moved into their new house, a friend tipped us off to a rental that hadn’t even come on the market yet. It’s small and needs some work, but we were able to acquire it and are working on making it home for the next few months while we walk through the next door (Opened).

Honestly, I could keep going on and on. And I bet if you looked at some of the circumstances currently going on in your life, you’d have a pretty big list of opened and closed doors yourself. A lot of people call these things fate or karma, but I don’t.

I think opened and closed doors are one of the biggest ways that God speaks to us and directs us. You didn’t get into your number one college choice? Door Closed. God has a plan for you somewhere else and that door will open; you’ll walk through it thinking you’ve settled for less than you wanted or that you didn’t make the mark, and your mind is going to be blown by how “right” everything is. God’s view of our lives is So. Much. Bigger. than our own.

Jesus compares himself to a door in John 14:6, He says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. From this point forward, I’m going to refer to doors and gates interchangeably. We’re going to wrap this up with a shepherd and some sheep, so a gate completes the metaphor more naturally, with the same outcome.

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Here are a few things the Bible tells us that I believe in- instead of fate, luck, and karma… I pray you do too!

Jesus is the gate for the sheep. John 10:7- Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep.”

He opens and closes the gates. John 10:9- “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.”

Jesus wants the best and fullest life possible for us. John 10:10-  The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

The shepherd can see the wolf coming when the sheep can’t and opens and closes the gates for them to keep them safe. John 10:11-13 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.”

He is the Good Shepherd – He knows us and knows what’s best for us and opens and closes the gate/door to this end. John 10:14-15-  “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.”

It isn’t only “us” he cares for and this is why our “out” relationships are so important. John 10:16- I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.”

We can trust him to make decisions for us (by opening and closing the gate) because he wants the very best for us. Jeremiah 29:11- For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

 Sometimes it’s difficult to see past a closed door when it’s something you want badly. We can get lost staring at that door… trying to see what could have been (or, in our eyes, what should have been). We waste precious time not being open to God’s version and dwell on our own. Sometimes we bang on the door, insisting that we be let in, or worse, force our way in, failing to trust that whatever is behind it was not meant for us.

The next time a door knocks you in the head because it was slammed in your face, remember it’s the perfect opportunity for God to open the right one.

Finding Joy in Your Lament

Can I get 2 pumps of extra ‘sweet’ with my VENTE…

Did you know the French word ‘vente’ is a word meaning sale or selling? And sell they do…I love me some Starbucks!  It reminds me of the English word ‘vent’. Vent means to express (an emotion) usually in a loud or angry manner, to give often vigorous or emotional expression to ______… you fill in the blank. Maybe some injustice you are feeling? 

Interesting.

Put the 2 together and we can ‘vent’ or show vigorous emotion to try and ‘sell’ someone else on our side of an issue.  And just like adding some sweet stuff to our vente drinks, we usually try to throw in some ‘sweet stuff’ relating to ourselves to further the ‘sale’ of our side of the story.  Usually, we are venting to another person. Rarely are we seeking God.

I would propose that it’s okay to vent from time to time.  But, we may be going about it all wrong. As believers and Christ followers, we should be ‘lamenting’ not venting. And we should be lamenting to God, the only one with power to change circumstances, way more than venting an issue to move others to our side.

In King David’s time, he vented—I mean, lamented—many a time. A lament is a passionate expression of grief or sorrow. Did you know that over a third of the Psalms found in the bible are laments? I find it ironic that a third of the psalms are expressing deep grief about something and yet the Jews referred to the Book of Psalms as ‘The Book of Praises.’  Laments and Praises—hmmm…I think we can learn something here.  

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There is praise to be given despite the sorrow and grief.  There is joy to be found in Him, irregardless of the circumstances.  

For most of us parents, a send-off is bittersweet, a mixture of praise and sorrow—like the summer camp send off, or the college send off or the week at Grandma’s send off.  The send off is mixed with some sadness at being separated or a chapter of life ending and the joy (praise) in new opportunities and adventures. The preparation for this type of send off begins early and tends to be more highly anticipated than dreaded. But for some of us parents, there is another send off which is more dreaded than anticipated and where preparation is put off until the last possible moment. It’s the divorced child swap/send off. Statistically it happens in about half of all households. If you can relate, either as a parent or as a child of divorce, I am deeply sorry.

If you are divorced, I pray you know Christ as your Savior and feel His forgiveness and peace.  If your parents are divorced, I pray you not only know Christ as your Savior, but God as your ultimate parent, who loves you and protects you.

According to Moody Bible Commentary, a lament psalm has certain characteristics. It begins with an introductory plea to God followed by the specific lament or description of the issue being lamented over.

It’s that time again Lord.  Be gracious to me.  I don’t want to send my kids. I know it’s selfish, but I love being a mama.  I hate the ‘uglies’ that come out during this preparation time.

The arguing and fits over laundry, appropriate clothes to pack, and cleaning of their rooms, which is about so much more than a messy room. This is all the surface stuff Lord. This is what we ‘fight’ about rather than the real issue…divorce.

You know Lord, for a girl who always wanted to have a big family, to be a wife and a mama, divorce was not an option or even on my radar.

I never thought I would be sharing my kids. At least not until they got married and took off on their own.

I never thought I would miss out on holidays and vacations with my kids.

I never thought that trips to the airport, sending off my ‘unaccompanied minors,’ would be such a regular occurrence.

I never thought I would be comforting my crying kids as we said goodbye and then walking away…alone…while my own tears fall.

I never thought send offs would mean ‘losing it’ over messy rooms and packing.

There is a confession of trust in God despite the circumstances and a plea for help. Laments conclude with a promise to praise God in the circumstance AND no matter the outcome or lack of deliverance.

Oh, God, I know the kiddos struggle between sadness over leaving us and excitement about going to see their dad. Lord, help me to be a wise woman who builds up her house, not tears it down. I don’t want to make it any harder on them. I will put my trust in you Lord. I will be clinging to you God since we’ll be doing this send off thing for about 9 more years. I know messy rooms and packing shouldn’t be a big deal, but divorce has a way of amplifying the littlest things, Lord. It takes a lot of time to pack these kids, time I’d rather be spending doing something fun with them.  And what to pack? It drives me crazy when they forget stuff at their dad’s. I know Lord, You provided the stuff to begin with and You’ll work it out.. Thank you Lord for the cell phone, which I normally have issues with.  At least we can snap a photo of everything they’ve packed to help them.  Lord, I’m trusting you!  It is your strength and peace working within me. Thank you that You are concerned over all my tears and that You, God, are for me. I will praise You in all circumstances, including send offs. You’ve protected them every time thus far.  I read Proverbs 14:13 today, Lord.  “Even in laughter the heart may be in pain, And the end of joy may be grief.”  Let us laugh together despite the circumstances, and Lord, let there be joy found in You! You are a good God and I will praise You! Amen.

Like King David modeled in his laments, we too can go to God, be real with Him about our issues, seek His help and guidance, and then declare our trust in Him and praise Him!

I don’t like the ‘uglies’ before send off.  I don’t like the actual send-off.  I don’t like the silent tears after send-off.  I’m telling you and I’m telling God.

Because if King David cried out to God and was real with Him, then I can too. He has given us the example of how to properly lament, not vent.

Jodi Ross
Director of Women’s Ministry at MVF
Ross family

Love Letter

Touching the harvest

Father, thank you for being the author of my faith. Actually, I guess I should say, thank you for not letting me be the ‘author of my faith,’ because it wouldn’t be what you have created and are still creating. From a blessed childhood, molded by parents who loved me and loved Jesus; to sweet friendships; to a great education. Those early chapters in my life were how I prayed and hoped they would be.

Then along came Titus☺…. In your good favor, you gave me this wonderful, crazy man who loves me and loves Jesus.

It’s here that in my limited visibility and lack of holy creativity, I took over the narrative. I figured Your plan would go something like this…. Titus goes to Bible college. Titus becomes a pastor. I become a pastor’s wife. We follow his brother and sister in law to the mission field and serve God together there.

But as I (we) plowed ahead, I am so thankful that You stayed our hands and our plans. You put us in a very “normal/traditional” church in Indiana and said, “Hold right here; I have plans for you here.” Our one year stay turned into 10 years of God molding us in that place.

So Father, amidst a bit of confusion, I quickly aligned myself in this new large-church paradigm. But my alignment and submission to Your story slowly, almost unknowingly, became me crafting my own “reality.” I assumed, or rather created, my own version of wife, mom, pastor’s wife, etc. There were so many times during those years that I found my identity in all of the wrong places… my kids, the size of my husband’s ministry, the size of my ministry, how organized, how disciplined, how… whatever.  But thank you Lord for redeeming the misguided.  Thank you for taking my offering (as impure as it could be at times) and choosing to accept it.  Thank you for the years of blessing and underserved fruit.blogquote

This husband, who I truly loved, started wrestling with You, and somehow I got drug into the fight.  As you pricked Titus’ heart and challenged His comfortable Christianity, you so lovingly and patiently were trying to awake the same tension in me: that tension that comes from being willing to let go of all this earth holds and become so focused on Your kingdom that I care very little for everything I thought I cared so much about.

I assured You and Titus that I could give those up; that my crafted life and identity were easily dispensable. Just please don’t ask me to sell my house or leave all of my friends and family. That’s when You added an unexpected chapter entitled, “move to Belize!”

Father, you are so many steps ahead. You took me from my super-normal land of control and comfort, and landed me in central America. Stripped of most of of my misplaced identities. My tidy clean house was replaced by one constantly covered in sand and dust. My role of pastor’s wife at a strong thriving church was replaced with praying that people would show up on Sunday morning. My network of friends of family was non-existant. And Titus, who I always called my best friend, became my only friend. And Father, there were times I felt like you were asking, “How do you like the story now?” You heard my honest answer and my cry to you.  And you gently and lovingly brought me in line with your heart. I slowly and painfully learned to thrive in Christ without all of the trappings. Thank you for that year… that year of refining us and allowing us to find You.

And now one year later, Father, my heart is about to burst. I am so thankful that you are writing my story. I am so thankful for my life on the prairie. For my church made up of real people with real struggles and real joys.  Thank you for leading us in your perfect will. I trust you with the rest of my life’s story.

-Kelly Curtis
MVF’s Children’s Director
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Fish Story

r-48If you were to ask me what my favorite book of the Bible was, I’d have to say Jonah. It’s often idealized as a super cute little kid’s story but if you really think about it, the story of Jonah isn’t that cute at all. Unlike Jonah, I don’t think any of us can say that we’ve ever been swallowed by a huge fish. In order to have an idea of what that must have been like, we’ll have to use our imagination: It’s dark. It’s smelly. It’s freezing. There’s probably not a lot of room to move around and I have to think that Jonah was absolutely terrified not knowing what was going to happen next.

You’re probably wondering why I love this book so much after my not-so-pleasant description of his stay inside of a fish, but here’s what I’ve come to know in my last five years of working in youth ministry – the story of Jonah is the story of many of our students. And I don’t mean they’ve been swallowed by a huge fish (but if they have, I want to know that story!)

Let’s back up to the beginning. Jonah was given very specific instructions from God to go to Nineveh and preach against the Ninevites because of their wickedness. Instead, he ran away, hopped on a boat and fled from God. It’s not surprising when we find out a verse or two later that he was hurled off of the boat into the sea. That’s when God sends this under-water, mobile Motel Six to come along and swallow Jonah up. For three days and three nights, Jonah is trapped in this fish’s belly and he begins to cry out to God. It literally took Jonah being swallowed by a fish for him to realize that he should have obeyed God in the first place.

Every summer, about 60 students and devoted youth leaders pack up and head to the Christ In Youth conference (CIY). A lot of them show up to hang out with their friends, a lot of them go to learn a little more about who God is, and a lot of them go because their parents are making them. Regardless, they are taken out of their comfort zone and placed in an environment that they aren’t familiar with—much like Jonah was in the belly of that fish. They really have nothing else to focus on for an entire week but God.

Untitled-2God used those three days and three nights to teach Jonah that while it might not always be the easiest path, obeying God is always going to be the best way to go. Jonah is then vomited back onto the beach and immediately goes and does what is commanded of him (after a long shower, I’d assume.)

Like Jonah, many of our students spend a lot of time knowing what God expects of them but run the other way. A lot of our students don’t even know what it is that God expects of them. But similar to Jonah being trapped in the uncomfortable place that is the belly of a fish, these students that attend CIY are trapped on one (sometimes uncomfortable) campus and spend most of their day listening to a goofy guy on a stage tell them about God and who He is. God taught some fella’ in a nasty fish belly such an important lesson in just three days. Can you imagine the lessons he can teach a bunch of crazy, enthusiastic, high school students in five?

Please be in prayer for the awesome things God is going to do in the hearts of these students. 

Jonah relied completely on God when he was in the belly of the fish. But that’s not where his story ends. Chapter 4 tells us Jonah returns to his original way of thinking that he knew better than God. Similarly, the end of CIY is not where it ends for our students either.

One of my favorite things about CIY is that on the very last night, they receive “Kingdom Worker” cards. The cards offer challenges that most of our students choose to take on before they even know what they’ll be asked to do. They range from volunteering monthly at an elderly/assisted living facility to keeping only ten outfits and donating the money you would have spent on clothes to somebody in need; and those are just the tip of the iceberg. It’s amazing the stories you’ll hear back from them about what God has done in their life because they accepted a challenge in His name and for His glory.

Be in prayer for these students not only while we’re at CIY but also in the months after CIY as they transition back into the real world and try to live out their lives as the hands and feet of Christ.

From the Editor: This year’s conference is July 10-16 at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. The cost for one child to attend is about $350. If you’d like to donate any amount to help a needy MVF student attend CIY (and there are a lot of them,) simply click HERE and select the “CIY Conference” designation.  Thanks for caring about our kids!

Plenty

I’ve been listening to the podcast “Never Was” lately, where the host and a guest spend an hour sharing stories about their past and what they’re doing now. It’s such a catchy phrase…Never Was… and maybe even a great topic for the next ‘getting to know you’ exercise at your small group meeting. After listening to more than fifteen episodes of the podcast, I find my heart hurting for the host because it usually sounds like he isn’t content with having been in a band that had a small semblance of recognition and influence.

What nerve- to waste such a thing while many would be happy to be in his shoes. But wait… haven’t I found myself in similar circumstances? When I know without a doubt that I could’ve been much happier if I just had something different? I have fond memories of being a young teenager wishing for a few years to quickly pass, because then I’d be an adult. And then there’s the time I found myself saying to Aimee, “We need to buy a house and have some kids!” (I must confess, my accountant might have affirmed this proclamation at the time, and it may or may not have had something to do with the amount that we paid to Uncle Sam that year.) Or even more recently with my request to have more children, where I’ve employed my skills of manipulation in having the boys plead for a baby sister because after all, my family is incomplete without a daughter.
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Philippians 4:11-13 proclaims, “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.” I feel comfortable saying that most of us are not stranger to being in need and wouldn’t hesitate to seize the opportunity of being in “plenty” if it were offered. Work with me here for a minute: What exactly IS plenty? Who do we allow to define it? Is it something that has finite parameters or is it ever evolving?

A random survey was conducted at my house, and the data revealed that four out of four individuals disagree on what “plenty” is. Thankfully, God doesn’t leave us without resources to come to a better understanding of what His definition of plenty is and His desires for us.

There’ve been times in my life where God has used His children and their circumstances to shape my understanding of plenty. He started me at the young age of, well… birth. I was the seventh child of eleven, and it didn’t take long to grasp even the smallest understanding of what plenty could look like. There were plenty of kids; there were not always plenty of choice meals or fancy clothes. This certainly bothered me as a child, but God continually helped me to find plenty as I grew older and matured in my relationship with Him.

It doesn’t take much for our understanding of plenty to morph, like wanting an RV after the neighbor purchased one or wanting a new flashy car because of the coworker who just upgraded their Mercedes. Sometimes however, it’s less superficial. Paul talks about being content in any and every situation.

When Aimee and I went to China in 2001, we traveled to areas where families had next to nothing. I remember going into homes that most people stateside would consider uninhabitable, and it didn’t take long to realize that the family had ‘nothing’ compared to most Americans. They were extremely gracious and excited to share a meal with us, even if it was all they had. It was incredibly life-transforming for me to see that these families would just as soon go hungry if it allowed them to spend time with us. Then there was the time I wanted to buy new pants and shoes for one of my youth pastors because I thought he needed them. However, he was genuinely gracious in letting me know that it wasn’t something he needed. He had plenty! It’s moments like these where God showed me how He desires His children to worship Him, and in that worshiping we find our contentment.

I’m thankful for the roof over our heads every time I hear about how expensive it is to live in Colorado. And every time I have a conversation with Aimee about school clothes for the boys and I sneak in the suggestion of having another child that God reminds me of Keegan and Elias and how He’s completing the good work that He started in them.  Or better yet, now that I’m an adult, I’m thankful for any hair that continues to grow on my head, even the gray ones!

So, what does plenty look like?  Verse 13 tells us “I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.” Christ is our strength! Christ is our plenty!! There’s an amazing freedom when we allow ourselves to be consumed with the God who Always Was and not the self who Never Was!

Ryan Dwyer
Missions Pastor

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Inspect What You Expect

Earlier this fall I asked my children (7 year old Silas, and twin 5 year olds Claire and Olivia) to go clean dog poo out of the back yard. Keep in mind we have an English Mastiff and a Yellow Lab. We have significant amounts of poo… This is a job I had slowly been entrusting to my seven year old but the addition of the girls changed things up a bit. I looked out the window several minutes later to see them pushing the large toy dump truck around the yard to collect the poo. Fair enough. A little while later, Silas informed me the job was complete and that they had put the poo in the big hole. In my distraction I heard what he said and briefly wondered at the “big hole,” but distraction won out and I thanked them. They went about playing, and I went about my busyness.  toy truck planter

Fast forward: I am downstairs cleaning up near the window and something outside at the top of the basement window well catches my attention. I look up to see the yellow dump truck perched at the edge, with the dumper in the elevated position. The realization hit me. I had discovered the “big hole.” My basement window well was filled with dog poo. A great amount of dog poo.

Honestly I had to laugh; and that catchy phrase “Inspect what you Expect” jumped to mind. Because the reality is that children need to be taught. Parenting would be heck of a lot easier if children came pre-programmed. Knowing how to tie their shoes, pick up a destroyed playroom, bathe themselves, pack a lunch, dispose of dog poo… The list goes on and on and consequently, so does the job of training and teaching our children. I do realize that there are times that our children know what to do and how to do it and fail to do what they know. But I also know that many times my lack of instruction, intention, and monitoring lead to me and my kids just being frustrated at the end by a task poorly completed or not completed at all. But when I stop and realize that the whole reason God gave children to parents was to train then up, well that puts my frustration in perspective. My children are a canvas. How I train (or fail to train) them paints a future student, employer, spouse, and friend. What will they look like?

Great Expectations

Will they look like me? Yikes… that’s a scary thought. But you have ever considered that “Inspect what you Expect” phrase when it comes to you personally?  For instance, I expect my children to speak in a kind tone and loving manner with each other. Is that how I speak with them? Is that how I speak to my spouse? I expect my children to do a not-so-fun job without complaining or grumbling. How do they hear me talk about the not-so-fun jobs I’m responsible for? I expect my children to start a job and finish it well. How many times have I started a job only to get lost in my phone?

Expectations are a part of life. We have them for our children and we have them for ourselves. Let’s season those expectations with grace – knowing every one of us is like the rest of us. All of us are in need of being trained and taught. We need to be taught by someone who loves us and wants the best for us, and most importantly, wants all of the glory to go to God. Let’s be those patient teachers and willing learners.

Oh and the mountain of dog poo in my basement window well? I didn’t mess with it last fall. I figured that it would just go away on it’s own, you know…. with the falling and melting snow this winter. It didn’t. It had to be removed – yuck! But that’s a different life lesson for a different day…