Category Archives: faith

Tomorrow We Celebrate

Ok. Seriously. Enough is enough. I am crying Uncle. I am done. Exhausted. Disjointed as it may be here goes…

  
My plans for this week: Prepare for the Do Good Marketplace event that was supposed to be today.  

My reality: doctors appointments, multiple rounds/days of tests capped off by another trip to the hospital. The dehydration from last week had come back to bite us. 

First thing this morning, after staying up deep into the night getting everything ready for The Studio sale which was not to be we got a call from Ty’s doctor. He asked that we take Ty to the ER ASAP as the test results from yesterday were marginally worse with declining kidney function and off the chart protein numbers indicating muscle breakdown. He needed to be seen and soon! The doctor prepared us for the reality that he would probably be admitted. Long story short, by the grace of God Ty is home this afternoon without any restrictions. I can’t even tell you the swing of emotion that has taken place in the span of 12 hours. 

This has been a week of halting stops and starts, highs and lows.  (In the midst of all of this today I got notification that Love Runners 501(c)(3) was approved. We are officially an operating non-profit!)  I was attacked this week at one of my most vulnerable spots, my kids, and I am feeling the after effects of that strain this afternoon like a bad hangover. 

Yet there is so much to celebrate and be thankful for this evening. The celebrations will have to wait until I am a little more energetic though. (As will the cleaning of the extreme mess I made of our family room last night. It looks like the Do Good goods exploded all over it-which they kind of did.) 

I feel like every obstacle has taken a piece of me this week. And the trusting in waiting is so hard when you want answers and action. Watchman Lee nailed this for what it is. 

“Satan has, in fact, a plan against the saints of the Most High, which is to wear them out. What is meant by this phrase, “wear out?” It has in it the idea of reducing a little this minute, then reducing a little further the next minute. Reduce a little today, reduce a little tomorrow. Thus the wearing out is almost imperceptible; nevertheless, it is a reducing. The wearing down is scarcely an activity of which one is conscious, yet the end result is that there is nothing left. He will take away your prayer life little by little and cause you to trust God less and less and yourself more and more, a little at a time. He will make you feel somewhat cleverer than before. Step by step, you are misled to rely more on your own gift, and step by step, your heart is enticed away from The Lord. Now, were Satan to strike the children of a God with great force at one time, they would know exactly how to resist the enemy since they would immediately recognize his work. He uses the method of gradualism to wear down the people of God.”
Today I am going to allow myself the day off (maybe even take a nap, gasp!) and allow God to begin fortifying the areas that Satan has been wearing thin.  

Tomorrow we celebrate!

When The Alarm Does (or Doesn’t) Go Off

packyourbagsA door downstairs flew open, jarring me from my peaceful sleep. “Oh NO! What time is it?!” Fumbling for my phone to check the time I see that we had already overslept an hour. I was tumbling out of bed, down the stairs, asking “What do you need?” while gathering socks, Gatorade, and miscellaneous lunch items.  This poor grown child looked at me with terrified, sleep filled eyes and said “This has to be a nightmare!”

Football two-a-days.  This is a taboo phrase in our house.  Not to be spoken aloud, basically like a four-letter word times four (so you know it’s really, really bad!) If you have had any part in them ever, the memory will stay with you eternally. So, when the alarm didn’t go off at 4:55 for the first time or 5:05 for the second time, we slept until the 10th phone call woke my blissfully unaware son at 6:00.  Thus inducing the Fear Of Coach panic that flooded each of us.  He was out the door in record time and I collapsed into a chair after and remember these words from two years ago during the same season of life …

We had spent the day at the ballpark watching a double header and our friends’ son in his Major League pitching debut.  However, with all of the poster-making, jumbo-tron dancing, hot dog eating excitement of the afternoon it wasn’t until we were on our way home (at 10:30 pm) that I realized I still had two pair of football pants that needed to be washed (spray the Shout, scrub the stains, wash, rinse, repeat if necessary) and more importantly dry by the wee hours of the morning.  Fun has a price.  So, while I waited on the washing machine to do it’s thing, I thought, “You should pack Ty’s lunch.  You will thank yourself in the morning when all you have to do is roll out of bed, grab a coffee, and head out the door.”  I also searched out socks (why does this always seem to be the one missing item?) and had his football bag otherwise packed and ready to go because I knew neither of us would be functional this morning.  And I was right.  And I did thank myself.  On my drive back home from the football field as the coffee began to work and my brain began to wake up I had a thought. I remembered something I had heard a very long time ago and thought it was a great reminder for all of us.  I was as true then as it is now!

You have to live ready.

Tomorrow may be a good day or tomorrow may be a nightmare.  Will you be ready?  Is your faith something you are building and strengthening everyday?  Is your relationship with Jesus something you are nurturing?  Or, are these just things that get dusted off, possibly on Sunday, and otherwise left alone only to be unpacked In Case Of Emergency.  Are you waiting for “tomorrow” to explore this Jesus-thing a little bit deeper? If this is where you find yourself, please, wake up!

When the alarm goes off (hopefully when it is supposed to) at 5am after too few hours of sleep, is your bag packed?  Do you have clean matching socks and a lunch or are you scrambling to pull it together? We have to live ready because we don’t know when the crisis alarm is going to go off.  We don’t get a notification in the mail that says, next month you will be diagnosed with a life-altering disease, please plan accordingly.  We don’t receive a call that says, please make sure you have appropriate clothing you will be attending a funeral next week. (Maybe yours?  I am sorry.  That is harsh but it is also reality.)  Ready or not, here it comes, with no warning.

We have to live ready!  We need to use and strengthen our “faith muscles” every day because if we wait until crisis strikes they will be sluggish and sleepy when we need them most. We will have to dust our faith off and hope that we remember how to work it.  It is so very easy to let our faith and relationship with Jesus rest in hibernation, only to be awakened in crisis.

This is a slippery slope.  I know.  I have been there.  I grew up in a solid Christian home, was involved in church.  We were bringing our children up to love and fear the Lord.  I thought I got it.  Then God let me really have it! Oh, foolish proud heart.  I have realized that I had nothing without Him. I am nothing without Him.

The problem with crisis is that we don’t know when the alarm is going to go off.  When crisis strikes, your brain tends to go into default mode. So what is your default?  You want live ready?  Nurture your relationship with God.  If you don’t have one, start one!  If you don’t know how, ask me, I would love to help you figure this out.  Dig into His Word for nourishment, spend time in prayer, communicating with our Father.  Listen for His voice instead of just talking at Him. I don’t have all the answers.  There is not an Easy 5 Step Plan For Readiness but we can stumble and bumble through this together. There are some things you will never be ready for but with faith you can survive them with hope for a better day ahead.  The point is, don’t wait.

I can remember playing Parcheesi with my son and mom, 8 years ago at least.  In the spirit of competition there was a little smack-talk going on and my son looked at my mom and told her, “Pack your bags your going home!”  This my friends, is great advice, pack your bags.  Live ready.  You’ll thank yourself in the morning.

Spreading Love with Toothpaste and Pencils

Good News!  Great Joy!  Operation Christmas Child- have you heard of it?  Operation Christmas Child delivers great joy to millions of children around the world throughout the year through shoeboxes lovingly and prayerfully packed with gifts that will bring delight to a child. In the hands of local churches, every gift-filled shoebox is a powerful tool for evangelism and discipleship—transforming the lives of children and their families around the world through the Good News of Jesus Christ! After receiving shoebox gifts, many boys and girls are invited to enroll in The Greatest Journey, their 12-lesson discipleship program where children learn what it means to faithfully follow Christ and share their faith with others.  These small shoeboxes are making an unbelievably big impact.

As a family, we have packed shoeboxes for going on 5 years now.  As a family, I wanted the four of us to go hear from a shoebox recipient last Sunday night.  And, as a family, we left that evening changed.  Each of us in turn having our hearts affected by the message that we heard.  Each of us walking away with an urgency to do more.

I sat with tears clouding my vision as I heard story after story of how God is working through something as simple as a shoebox gift, something I had done selfishly because it made me feel good, something that I didn’t really understand until last Sunday.  We heard stories of children with nothing who are experiencing a gift for the first time.  Children who are excited to receive, as a gift, things we take for granted, soap and washcloths, a pair of socks, a comb.  This is how God is using toothpaste and pencils to make an eternal impact.

We heard stories like this one…

Shoebox-stories-YuriA 9 or 10 year old little girl in Mexico was patiently waiting as box after box came though the hands of the volunteers delivering them, but not one for her particular age. They kept telling her they had a box for her, they just had to find it.  When they finally found “hers” she opened it and sat stunned.  They thought something was wrong as she sat holding a picture of the family that had sent the box.  When they asked her what was wrong she pointed to the little girl in the picture and said, “I know her.”

“Honey, you can’t know her,” they replied.  “She lives in Alabama.”

“No, I know her.  We lived in Alabama for a year and I went to school with her.”

This is real!  This happened! God is directing these boxes!

We sat and listened to how a Pastor in the Philippines built his church in four days so that the children would have someplace to gather as the boxes were handed out.  Single handedly built a church in FOUR days! And then, after the boxes were handed out and opened, instead of leaving, the children continued to sit in the middle of this church floor with their parents and families lining the walls around them.  No one moved, no one left, and the Pastor kept sharing the gospel, and out of a shoebox, packed across the globe, a church was born.

timurI would invite you to read the story of Timur, last Sunday’s featured speaker.  I won’t try to sum up his story in just a paragraph other than to share this sentiment from him with you.  “Through the shoebox I felt loved. Someone took the time to put in those items that became my favorites. I wondered a lot how Christians who didn’t know me were willing to give me a gift.” This was a child who would sneak to the bathroom in the orphanage at midnight to read the Bible because that was the only safe place and time to do it, a child who’s life was changed by a box!

Last year Samaritan’s Purse sent 10.5 million boxes to children across the world and through these boxes 1 million of them have come to know Jesus as their personal savior.  This year, they are projecting that, directly through this program, 1.5 million children will come to know Jesus.  That is 4,000 children every day as a direct result of such a small act of giving on our part.

And then I heard this story….peeking throughIn one particular village they had brought 250 boxes to be passed out in the local church.  As they were passing out the boxes they noticed, though the cracks in the wall, little brown eyes.  You see, these were the children on the outside, the ones who weren’t invited in because there weren’t enough boxes.  These were the little ones to whom they had to say, I am sorry.  We don’t have enough.  And this…this is a story, this is an image, that I can’t get out of my head, let alone my heart.

Please, please, please won’t you partner with me, with my family, and as we try to make sure that no child is left on the outside looking in? Let’s band together and see if we can sponsor just 100 boxes.  This is a beautiful picture of our story, being linked through a shoebox gift, to the story – to the life – of a child across the world.

Here’s how you can be involved and help us reach this goal:

Shop! This is the fun part, and was always a great family activity/adventure.  The Dollar Store is a great first stop for small toys, hair accessories, and toiletries.  Multipacks of anything are always good because they can be broken down and split among multiple boxes.  Here are some detailed shopping guidelines.

Locally, on Sunday, November 15 we are going to be hosting a packing party (watch for coming details on the where and when.)  We would love to have you join us to help assemble and prepare these boxes for their final destinations around the world. If you are unable to join us and have items you would like included in this year’s boxes let me know.  I will be happy to come and get them.

Please also consider donating to have a box shipped.  The cost is $7 per box and we will be tracking where each of our boxes end up.

In addition, you can cover the cost of filling a box and shipping it ($25 tax deductible donation) through the Operation Christmas Child site using the email address ashley.cunningham@yahoo.com.  We will be sure to share what the boxes were filled with.

Finally, and most importantly, PRAY.  Prayer is what is fueling the amazing work that is being accomplished through this simple act of giving in the name of Jesus.

If you have any questions or want to have your own packing party, please let me know! Box by box we can change the world, and become part of a kingdom building movement.  Let’s do this!