We’re cruising down the road on a sunny, Sunday morning. My husband has finally convinced me to serve in the café at church. Appealing to me is the fact that our children can serve with us. The trees swish by and the pavement flows beneath like a river carrying us to the body of...
I have a history of a back and forth relationship with God, but I have a feeling I’m not alone. We have times when we walk closely with God, but we might fall away. And then we will come to a point where we are at the end of ourselves and we realize how much we need Jesus. There is a...
In 1955 Pittsburgh, there was an accident in a steel Mill. Perhaps there were lots of accidents in steel mills during that time, but this one changed the perspective on race in one man’s mind. Billy was working a fire in the mill. To make the fire hotter, a kind of lacquer was added to...
We’ve talked about why it’s important to serve (see Serving Part 1 here), and hopefully by now you’ve decided that either you need to start serving, or you just need to serve more. Most of us are in one of these two boats. There are a few people who serve a lot of their...
In that moment when hate was overcoming me the Lord broke through and began to work on my heart. I felt as though He was asking me, "Why is your heart so wicked?" I began to place the blame on the individual who's words hurt me. I felt that my feelings were justified. I felt the Lord speak again...
The end of August is synonymous with back to school. This one event affects a vast majority of the population. Children, teens, young adults, teachers, parents - everyone jolted from the ease of summer to the demands of the school year. There are a whirlwind of activities that surround this...
Why is it so difficult to have real conversation about our personal relationship with Jesus, especially with non-believers? When given the opportunity, we are quick to say that God has incredible power to transform lives, but we belittle the example of transformed life that we know the most...
“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28) There is hope, even in these turbulent times. The spirit of the world is divisive, angry, hateful and racist. Those forces can deeply...
Following one of the most controversial election cycles in modern history, where the political drama was only amplified by the voices of our friends and family online, the social media bashing of one another’s views has not stopped. It’s easy to get swept away in it all. Convictions...
To live as followers of Jesus, we must not ignore the example Jesus set. Jesus didn’t talk about religion in buildings. He didn’t spend his time in Torah studies discussing the merits of this teacher or that. Those things have their place…but more often than not during his...
My wife and I attended Northern Chesapeake Sheltie Rescue’s annual picnic on September 23rd. This year we went alone as our own Shetland Sheepdog, Chipper, passed away last spring.
We have been grieving his loss ever since and this picnic was a good opportunity to get reacquainted with those we had met over the years as well as to get our Sheltie fix.
Jackson is a nine-year-old rescue Sheltie who, in the first seven years of his life, was kept confined and isolated in a barn with little to eat or drink. He was abused and even though being in a loving home for the past two years, he still bears the scars and fears of his former life. When he was first rescued he did not bark and now he is happy to join the other shelties with his new voice.
Jackson is devoted to his adoptive mother and follows her everywhere, but he is afraid of strangers. At the picnic, our families sat near one another. Jackson was skittish and wary of my overtures of friendship but, under the watchful eye of “Mom,” I was able to pet him and, eventually, lift him up onto my lap.
Once there, he was happy and felt safe. Together, we experienced about an hour of mutual therapy.
Since his adoption, Jackson has been slowly healing from his abusive past and is becoming more comfortable around other dogs. However, he remains timid and fearful of people. His healing will be a lifelong process, which has been helped by the adoption of two more sheltie rescues to mentor him in his loving home.
It was certainly a pleasure on my part to not only be able to extend love to this sweet sheltie, but to know that – as he was giving me therapy – I was also showing him that he could be loved by other people. (The world is not as dark and fearful as he thinks.)
Despite our time together, just a short time later, as we were departing, Jackson again shied away from me. His wounds run deep, as so often do the wounds in our own human hearts.
Many of the shelties at this picnic come from abused backgrounds. That is why they have been rescued and adopted into loving homes. Most are very friendly and approachable. A few, like Jackson, need more time and encouragement.
It occurred to me that people are like that, too. We all come with our own – very mixed – baggage. There is no one universal approach to healing. We must be alert to the nuances of each situation and story.
For those most wounded, like Jackson, patience, persistence, and love are required. Like some people, Jackson expects the worst from others, including those who may intend no harm and actually have pure love to share.
Jonah Goldberg notes that, almost uniquely among animals, dogs “can read human body language and expressions.” For wounded creatures (human and animal), suspicions and fears can paralyze us and dull our senses. (Our perceptions are not always reality.)
Darkness has a way of blinding us to truth, to love, and to the good that surrounds us. It can blind us to the wounds within other people. And it can blind us to the love that our heavenly Father wants to share with His children.
In our case, we have Jesus to share with others. Let us help heal the Jacksons of this world with the love of Jesus, one encounter at a time, moment by moment, until the Light fully dispels the darkness.
If you’ve experienced times when God has picked you up, placed you on His lap, and lavished His love on you, then share those experiences with others. You never know whose heart might be healed. (It might even be your own.)
[Jackson’s mom emailed me writing, “Thank you for 'seeing' Jackson as he is.” It made me think; do we see God’s creatures through His eyes or through the lens of our own prejudices, pain, and fear?]
As a mom, I want to give my kids their hearts’ every desire; tempered with a healthy dose of fiscal responsibility and work ethic, of course.
As my kids create Christmas wish lists, we discuss the limits of our budget but also, that we indeed have a Christmas budget. While they may be disappointed that much to their dismay, we do not have unlimited funds for toys, books, games and the highly desired video games and electronics, they do have hope that some of the items on their lists may actually end up packaged neatly beneath the tree on Christmas morning waiting to be unwrapped.
However, this is not the reality for many children in Curtis Bay. They may or may not have gifts under their tree this Christmas.
This is why The Well hosts a Christmas Toy Store.
New, unwrapped donated toys are carefully displayed by age and gender in a large room that becomes the toy store. Community members begin lining up by 8 a.m. in a line that begins to snake around the building on the corner of Church Street and Pennington Avenue. Children are led inside, out of the cold, to a “Christmas Party” where they play and make crafts while their parents wait for their turn in the toy store. Line volunteers serve warm beverages and treats, while they make conversation and offer to pray with those waiting to get in.
At 10 a.m. the first of the community members comes inside. They are paired with a “personal shopper” to assist them through the toy store. The personal shopper gets to know their needs and guides them to the proper areas of the store where they are likely to find age-appropriate toys for their children. After they have made their selections, they make nametags for the packages and hand the toys over to gift wrappers.
The personal shopper leads the guest to The Well’s desk where they are given flyers and information about upcoming events and programs. They can make appointments to visit the Hope Chest (clothing closet) or fill out an application for the mentorship program. While they wait for their gifts to be wrapped and delivered, guests make their way upstairs to enjoy more treats and mingle with other community members before receiving their packages, picking up their children from the party, and heading home.
The Well’s Toy Store enables low-income families in Curtis Bay to purchase donated toys (valued at $10 or more) for a fraction of the store price ($2 per toy). The toy store allows them the opportunity to shop and choose toys based on their children’s interests as well as promotes dignity and responsibility in the act of being able to purchase toys while on a limited budget.
Severn Runners have the opportunity to be involved in a couple of different ways! Be sure to sign up on severnrunner.info and look for:
Be the Difference Level 2
- Donate new, unwrapped toys that are valued at $10 or more
Be the Difference Level 3
- Sign up for a volunteer position in the Toy Store
Help spread Christmas joy this year in Curtis Bay by helping meet such an important need for the community.
Psalm 31:4 "Keep me from the trap that is set for me, for you are my refuge."
Did you ever feel trapped? Were you ever stuck someplace and unable to get out? Even for just a few minutes…which in retrospect seems like an eternity.
On a recent trip to California, I was walking along the beach in Carlsbad enjoying the sound of the waves crashing on the rocks. It was a beautiful, sunny day with temperatures in the mid seventies. I was walking along the rocks on the coastline-the rocks towered over 30 feet high. As the waves rolled in, there was nowhere to go to avoid the water. The waves came in and splashed me as I was leaning against the rocks. I realized if you were stuck here when the tide came in you would be trapped. The only way out would be to swim in the water or climb up the rocks.
In life, we can often feel trapped by our sin. We may be overcome with the sin of alcoholism, pornography, infidelity, gossip, lying, or other sinful behaviors.
When you are feeling trapped by sin, turn to God for guidance and direction. Take it one day at a time and continually lift up your prayers to Him.
Remember that God is a loving God and he forgives you for all your sins and unrighteousness. For we all fall short of the glory of God, but Jesus died on the cross so that our sins may be forgiven. "God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him." (John 3:17)
How do you get out of feeling trapped?
Pray. Start with this from Isaiah 54:17a, "No weapon that is formed against thee [Satan] shall prosper..." Pray to God and ask him to defeat Satan in the name of Jesus and help you turn from sin. Seek his forgiveness. Then make the deliberate action of turning away from your sin (repent) and endeavor to separate yourself from this behavior.
If you need more help understanding the grace and forgiveness of God, or if you need help with a chronic sin, please feel free to reach out to us. We are a church of broken people (read not sinless) who love the Lord and want to help each other overcome.
#MyStory : Beth Fabianski
“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” – Genesis 50:20 (NIV)
God performs the most amazing miracles in people’s lives every day. Each of us has probably experienced one without even knowing it. He can take the broken pieces of our lives and form them into a tapestry of great beauty and worth.
Such was my life about a year ago today. I was in the middle of one of the most difficult experiences I had ever been through, the death of my oldest sister, and on the cusp of other hardships that I would endure throughout the coming year. I had just lost about 160 lbs. and remade myself. My sister dying put that into perspective. Not much else mattered when she was gone.
The funeral passed and we settled back into the rhythm of our normal lives. Thanksgiving and Christmas were around the corner. We tried to glide back into the spirit of the holidays, but this year they did not come. I was a changed person, altered by the hole my sister had left in my life and other chasms created by childhood occurrences.
I journaled frequently back then, and one of the stories I chose to borrow from that fall was the story of Joseph. I had related to this story frequently when I was a child. It was reassuring, the way God never left Joseph behind. He took every bad circumstance Joseph was in and made it something beautiful. I wished that God could rewrite the narrative to my life like he did with Joseph!
Before the holidays came, I was gutted, emotionally. I was left a shell of myself just occupying space. I no longer wanted to live, and planned to remove myself from the world. I wrote a letter, explaining this, to my primary doctor, a friend of mine. He received the letter, contacted me and convinced me to go to an emergency room for care. I did this, and began a year-long odyssey that took me through six hospitals for stays of about two weeks each!
For now, I was happy to be home for Christmas. I rang in the New Year at another hospital and finally landed in Norwood Hospital in Massachusetts. There I received electro-convulsive-therapy, or ECT. Unfortunately, I did not understand the side-effects of the treatment well enough. I finished an in-patient course of ECT with my short-term and most of the memories from the past year gone. To this day, I don’t remember being in the hospital, at that point, and I remember none of what came next.
While I was in Norwood, one of my sons let it slip that my husband had lost his job. I didn’t work. We depended on his job for our entire well-being. His bosses were trying to reduce expenses and figured that getting rid of Paul would eliminate a huge amount of expense.
Poor Paul was never even able to mourn the loss of his job. I needed to be comforted and he needed to find a new job. He never got a chance to mourn. He started looking for a new job immediately.
We hoped he would find one that would allow us to stay in Massachusetts. Unfortunately, things did not work out that way for us! We wound up moving to Maryland at the beginning of the next month. While the thought of a new home excited us, leaving our home of many, many years was difficult. Paul and I were forced to leave our home and our three grown children. Everything was brand-new, including the doctors that I would now be forced to see.
All the relationships I had developed over the years were now gone. I had to find and acclimate to new doctors in Maryland. I was not happy. Matter of fact, I made Paul’s task even harder by digging in my heels and being reluctant to go. We did, however!
As we settled in Maryland, I slowly found new doctors and put my trust in them. There are times when you know God has you by the hand and is directing your steps. Because ECT had improved my disposition so much, I decided to chance the memory problems again and subject myself to it. I discovered a hospital that had an ECT program, Johns Hopkins, and they were accepting new people into that program. Everything lined up right and I could enter!
Not only was I accepted into the program, but the doctors at Johns Hopkins cared about my memory difficulties very much. I was assured that they could administer ECT without the catastrophic memory side effects I had experienced at Norwood. I continued in the ECT program, which was far superior to the one in Massachusetts. My mood improved and there was no residual memory loss as there had been in Massachusetts. This was how the treatment was supposed to have worked.
As that fall began, I was feeling renewed! Paul and I joined a wonderful church where we clicked almost immediately. Bible studies began that September, for the fall, and God made sure I knew he was speaking to me once again. I had no idea what they had chosen to study for that fall study series. At the first meeting, it was revealed that we would be studying the story of Joseph. It was a story of how Joseph’s brothers had meant him harm, but God chose to use the circumstances for good, and how he can do that with any circumstances.
The next group I went to had also chosen to study Joseph for the fall! I was being surrounded by God’s message to me through Joseph! God could take the most horrible year I thought I had ever had and turn it into a thing of beauty! Maryland was no longer a punishment, it was our home! I had a job and a church and friends.
I found myself working again, nothing earth-shattering, but a job that allowed me to earn a little of my own money for a change. I didn’t feel as dependent. Through so many situations, God was showing me the worth I had as an individual. It was amazing! I realized that if I didn’t see my own worth, I would be in that constant state of self-loathing and worthlessness. Living with self-worth and love, I could see a future for myself. Just as God had stayed by Joseph’s side throughout his trials in Egypt, he also stayed by my side in Maryland and showed me just how valuable I was to him and to others.
Now God has me here, standing on the threshold of a new life. I don’t find that statement over exaggerated: physically, God has had me renewed at Johns Hopkins and, spiritually, he has remade me himself!
I don’t know where I will go from here; I just know that I am in a state of renewal unlike any I have been in for years and years, if ever. I look forward to my future, I am excited to become all that God has created me to be! I am thankful for all the individuals who have helped me recreate my life and myself.
Know that anyone can recreate themselves with God’s help. Joseph became so much more than he ever imagined he could be. I am happy. This alone is something I never thought I could achieve in this life. Everything that is to come will be frosting on the cake!
We live in a broken world. We all know it and see it every day. We all want something to be done about it but we often fail to see that WE, the community of Christ, are the only group with the strength and support to make an eternal difference. Though we've all been called to serve (Romans 12:1), here I am, in particular, challenging and encouraging men to take the lead in serving.
Men are called to be the spiritual leaders of their families (Ephesians 5:23) and that includes leading through serving (Matthew 20:26-28). In order to explore this idea further let us consider Nehemiah and his example of leadership after he saw his home of Jerusalem broken and in ruin.
They said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.” When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. - Nehemiah 1:3-4
Nehemiah listened when he was told about the fall of the wall of Jerusalem. He did not wonder about how wicked the world is and how this could be allowed to happen to his people. He did not wish that someone else would do something about it. He turned to God and confessed his sins and the sins of his people. Nehemiah prayed to God for direction and for favor as he began to plan how to rebuild the wall and the hearts of the people of Jerusalem.
I pray that men would listen to the broken and respond as Nehemiah did to the seemingly overwhelming problems they faced. We need to recognize the hard truth that the fall of our communities is entirely due to our absence, because we failed to lead and love as Jesus sent us to do (John 20:21-23). We have to step up and respond to the darkness and despair that we see in the world today by serving in our community with the Spirit that lives in us.
Nehemiah went on to use the resources available (and probably some that he didn't think were available) as cupbearer to the king to do God's work in rebuilding his community. Likewise, we all have been gifted by God with talents, resources, and opportunities to build up our community. We must be willing to use them.
When Nehemiah took on a leadership role, the people of Jerusalem followed. Scores of people (listed in various chapters of Nehemiah) volunteered to rebuild their community because one man stepped up to lead. Not everyone got on board though, the Samaritans and Ammonites ridiculed the Jews. The Jews themselves began to question themselves and their mission. Likewise, evil will try to tell us that we are wasting our time and that the world is too far gone to be saved, but we know better.
After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don't be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.” - Nehemiah 4:14
Pray that God would reveal to us all the resources that he has given us so that we may use them to serve and rebuild our communities. Humble ourselves in recognizing the part men have played in allowing brokenness to exist unimpeded due to an absence of leadership. Understand the part we have to play in living out the gospel of Christ. Pray that we would be courageous to stand up and take the lead in bringing the love of God to his people. Let's step up!