Showing items for 'November 2017'

Trapped

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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...

Showing items filed under “November 2017”

Wrestling with The Word

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I am often surprised and challenged by what I find when reading scripture. God can be subtle in how he reveals himself to us through his word. It is my nature to start asking questions.

“What does the speaker think I need to hear?”

“Does this make sense to me?”

“Is what I'm reading consistent with my beliefs and how I understand other parts of the bible?”

“How do I change my heart and mind so that it is?”

I have also wondered, 

“Is it okay for me to feel the need to ask so many questions?”

“Why don't I just get it?”

It is okay! Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus,

...I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord's holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. - Ephesians 3:17-19

God's love is so deep and covers so much that we can not expect to ever fully comprehend it. Don't be discouraged when you have questions and things aren't as clear as you would like for them to be. God made us curious so that we would seek him, and when we seek him he promises that we will find him.

Practicing Thanksgiving

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(This post originally appeared on the Collide blog for Severn Run Youth)

Ah, Thanksgiving.

A traditional holiday of parades, dog shows, and getting the family together to lie around and stuff your gut. There are people who don’t like Christmas or New Year’s, but Thanksgiving is just one of the day’s that’s loved all around. Why wouldn’t it be? It’s a holiday solely focused on being thankful for what we’re given and what we’ve gotten.

But here are some good questions to ask as Christians: Where does Christianity come into play? Can Christianity have a role in Thanksgiving if the holiday came around after the Bible was written? What does the Bible say about thanks?

Psalm 107:1 says: “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” Not only does this psalm tell us to thank God, but it gives us a reason too! We should thank God because of His goodness to us. I can think of many ways that shows God’s goodness to me, past, present, and future. I was born on American soil and into a loving family. I have good, Christian friends that stick by my side, and I have the hope and promise of heaven. And that’s just naming a few! Ask yourself: “What might I be taking for granted that God has blessed me with?”

We should give Him thanks because His love never ends. It hurts when it seems like the people around us, no matter the reason, have stopped loving us. But God never will. We have the promise that God will never abandon us, holding us in a love that’s eternal. Even when we sin, He will still love us no matter what.

Psalm 107:8-9 adds: “Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.” The psalm is telling us we should thank God, not just for His love, but for all that He gives us. Notice how at the end of the verses, it says that God “fills the hungry with good things”. God doesn’t just give us the things that keep us going, but things that satisfy us. We need air to breathe, but he didn’t have to make the trees that supply our oxygen so beautiful. We need food to nourish us, but God didn’t have to make it taste so good. Even when we feel lonely, God will reveal his presence to us. He doesn’t have to, but He wants to! These all sounds like reasons to be thankful to me!

Ephesians 1:15-16 says: “For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.” In these verses, the apostle Paul is thanking God for fellow Christians. You can be thankful for pastors/leaders at church for guiding you, Christian friends for supporting and loving you, Christian parents for raising you in God’s Word, or the one/ones who have helped you on the path of salvation and strengthened your faith. I thank God for a spiritual leader I knew named Jeff Nevin for teaching me more about God and leading a Bible study through the book of James that changed my way of thinking. And I thank God for a friend of mine named Kaitlyn Sharo who’s not just someone I enjoy talking to, but someone who will listen to me, calm me down when I’m going nuts, and is a godly influence for me.

Some of you may not be able to relate. You may have a really messed up family life, you might not have godly parents or supportive friends, and because of these things you might dread the holiday seasons. I get it. It’s easy enough to thank God for our phones, food, our talents, loved ones, good grades, or when life is dandy, but what about when life gives you a bag of lemons and smacks you in the face with it?

We tend to forget all about our blessings when we’re wronged, when we get caught up in our bad circumstances, when we lose something or someone, or when we just feel down.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 says “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Give thanks in ALL circumstances? Yep, ALL of them. Why does God want us to give thanks in the midst of hardship? I’ll tell you the answer flat out: God knows what is best for us, so by giving thanks, we get off of our sad selves and onto His goodness. In that way, it serves to guard against depression and loneliness. When we give thanks to God, our focus is turned away from the bad things and onto the good things in life. This increases our hope and faith in the Lord.

If you want to make giving thanks your habit then be purposeful about it. Make this Thanksgiving Day a turning point in your life. Here are some ideas for how to do it:

  1. Count your blessings every morning when you wake up or each night before you close your eyes. Count them physically on your fingers. You may even need to use your toes! See how many you can come up with. 
  2. Write out your blessings in a journal every day after or before you do your homework, or chores, or dinnertime, or right before bed. Set a regular schedule to do this and stick to it. 

  3. Purposely tell a loved one or special friend that you thank God for them and tell them why. Make it a point to do this regularly and it may just become a habit!

  4. Practice telling God “thank you” in the moment.
  • when He gives you a good idea
  • when your little brother says or does something funny or weird
  • when you just tripped but you didn’t fall
  • when you fell but no one saw it!
  • when that difficult person does or says something that you believe will help you to grow in patience and love
  • when that teacher or coach is challenging you to be better
  • when you see something (or someone)beautiful
  1. Thank God out loud! Set aside a special time of praise once a week. Not to ask for anything, but just to express thanks to Him for everything you’re grateful for from the past week, big or small. 

 

Naomi’s Nugget: When something happens that is disappointing, STOP! Thank God for all of things in your life that are going well or for His promise to never leave you nor forsake you.

 

#MyStory :: Corbin Pearce - Making Connections Through Serving

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In October I ended up serving at Winter Relief, although it was not quite my plan for the night. I came for the youth Bible study, but it was cancelled because the church was hosting the Winter Relief guests. I decided to go up to where Winter Relief was happening and I met a man with a really heartbreaking story. He told me about how he loved to work. He explained to me that his son was a heroin addict, and his life had gone downhill. He used to be a great student, physically fit, and very smart. He could have been a programmer and had a good life. Instead, addiction had destroyed his life, and he was living on the streets.

This man told me he was working so he could get his son off the streets. Every day he would give him money so he could rent a hotel room, or buy food. Of course, addiction tends to affect priorities so the money would often go to drugs instead of housing. Still, there wasn’t much else this man could do, every day he could he would bring his son to the addiction treatment center, but if he didn’t want to join the program, no one could make him.

So, here was a father who was just doing everything he could to give his son a chance to recover his life, even at his own expense. It vaguely reminded me of the prodigal son; his father didn’t care what he was wrapped up in, he only wanted his son to be okay. As I listened to this man talk, more and more I wanted to pray for him. This was kind of a new and weird experience for me, because I’m not the best at praying for people and I get nervous about praying in public. But God wouldn’t take away the feeling I was having that I had to pray for him. Eventually I asked him if I could pray for him and his son.

Lately I’ve been in a lonely spot in life, and that’s made life depressing for me. When I started praying with this man though, it was really strange…I felt like I suddenly had a real connection with someone. In that short moment I wasn’t lonely. Having that common relationship and trust in God, and having the willingness to call on him together brought us closer in that moment, and that destroyed my loneliness.

It seems to me that when we connect with other people and do what God is calling us to do, we can feel more fulfilled and happier.

Level 1 Serving Opportunity - Serve at The Gear Shop

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Saved people serve people. That’s a phrase that you probably haven’t heard very often, right? That is, unless you attend the church here at Severn Run of course. Then you’re probably rolling your eyes at me because we hear it all the time right now. Hopefully you’re not too tired of hearing it though, because we really don’t want people to get tired of it.

Saved people really do serve people, and because we’re so serious about it around here, we have a ton of different ways that you can serve, and we’ve been highlighting a lot of those so that you can find a spot that’s just right for you. We understand that not everyone is used to serving, and that serving on some of the larger or more visible teams might seem a bit foreboding, so we wanted to highlight a few places that were more ‘low key’, and where you don’t have to jump in head first serving an entire Sunday. (Of course, if you want to do that, we’d welcome it, and we have a lot of opportunities for you to do so!)

One of the places where you can serve in the church on Sundays is at the Gear Shop. You’ve probably seen it if you’ve ever attended a service here. The Gear Shop is a place where you can buy goodies that we’ve created so you can share about Jesus and Severn Run wherever you go. We have mugs, coffee cups, t-shirts, magnets, car stickers, and a variety of other things. (Because who doesn’t want to drink coffee on the way to work in a spiffy Severn Run polo shirt while showing the upset driver behind you that they can find peace from the anger of you just (totally accidentally) cutting them off, right!?) Ok, maybe a bit over the top, but you get the picture. So yes, the Gear Shop is a totally cool way that you can serve and help people show those who they come into contact with what their values are.

We reached out to Rebekah Twardowski who’s the Gear Shop coordinator. Here’s what she said about getting involved at the Gear Shop.

I had been looking for a ministry that I felt God calling me to. I have two little ones and was trying to find something that I could really sink my teeth into. I had been praying about what to do when I was told that our church had a graphic design team. Earlier in the year I had started painting and lettering and had helped design a t-shirt for our Mom's Group. I loved it so much and I thought the design team is something I could step in to and use for God’s glory. In May, I finally emailed Bonni Mace about the design team, and she responded telling me that she was already planning on asking me to lead the Gear Shop. God's hands were clearly all over the situation preparing my heart for this. 

We currently have six consistent volunteers in the Gear Shop. We have had a lot of interest with the ‘Be The Difference’ challenge, and are so happy to be adding new faces to the team! This summer we changed to an "after church" schedule - we are opened from the end of service until the atrium starts to clear after the beginning of the next service (about a 40-minute serving time). Serving includes putting out inventory, making sales, and greeting people with a smile!

Our mission is to creatively reveal the love of the Father through the life of the Son in the Power of the Spirit. We do that by equipping people with gear that they can wear into the world and proudly (and literally) wear their faith on their sleeve.

Our goal this next year is to keep things fresh by keeping our inventory numbers smaller and bringing in new designs fairly often. Our hope is to get some gender-specific t-shirts (since we have always just had unisex tees), and also new products like water bottles and mugs.

So, there you have it! If you’re creative, good at customer service, or just like to smile, the Gear Shop might just be the perfect place for you. If interested, you can go to SevernRunner.info and sign up directly via the ‘Be The Difference’ challenge under ‘Level One’ (look for ‘Empower people to share their stories with Severn Run gear’)!

This is a great place start serving for the first time because this is something that you’d be comfortable doing. If this serving opportunity doesn’t excite you, keep an eye on the blog because we will be highlighting lots of other places in the church and you just might find the perfect one for you.

  Sign Up to Serve!

Jackson – Therapy for Dog and Human

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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?]

 

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