Sunday, February 23, 2014

Looking Backward and Forward

We've had a bit of a thaw here in Northwestern PA, so on Friday after school we loaded our van and headed for the storage container to stash some of the Operation Christmas Child shoe box items.

God granted us success!  Thanks for all the prayers...because we were able to open the lock on the first try and get the first van full of cartons put into that forlorn empty container.   Right now it's mostly inhabited by empty boxes and a few as-yet-uninventoried leftovers.  There are even six sad looking half-filled mylar balloons left from last year's packing party.

As a bonus the weather was nice enough today to take a second load with us to church.  Here's a picture of the ten bags with 1000 stuffed animals God has blessed us with so far.

Almost 200 of those stuffed animals were donated in the past few days.  A guest came to our Wednesday OCC Area Team meeting to bring us 140 Webkins that she bought for us with a grant from Thrivent Financial, and on Thursday a friend brought me a bag of 56 beanie babies.

Still, I was a little concerned about having only 1000 stuffed animals until I looked back at my records for 2013 and saw that I had just 1200 at this time last year.

It makes me gulp a little to think of needing 22,000 more stuffed animals in the next seven months but God did it in 2013 and He will do it again by His grace.

Looking backward makes me look forward.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Going For Gold

Okay, I admit it.  Every two years I put a lot of life on hold to focus on the Olympics.  I love everything about watching those athletes compete for the chance to win a medal.

So today I was wondering what it would be like if Operation Christmas Child shoe box packing had some sort of Olympic competition.

There would be competitors in various events like Combined Bargain Shopping,  Super Team Recruitment, Powerful Praying, Giant Box Stacking, Carton Lifting, etc.

Truthfully, most OCC volunteers are competing in multiple events like this on a weekly basis.

Then there are our counterparts in the receiving countries who excel at Strategic Customs Exoneration, Creative Carton Transportation, Super Storage, Team Distribution--well, you get the idea.

Thousands of OCC staff, volunteers, and shoe box donors around the world are all competing on the team to get millions of boxes to children in the name of Jesus.

We aren't in it for something as trivial as a gold medal.  The stakes are much higher than that.

I've been struggling in recent months to motivate myself to focus on the job of Operation Christmas Child so I needed a reminder from Paul today.

In 2 Corinthians 9:24-26 Paul says, "Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize?  Run in such a way that you may win.  Everyone who competes in the games executes self-control in all things.  They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.  Therefore, I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box (or pack boxes) in such a way, as not beating the air."

It's time to get back into training, huddle up my team, develop a ministry plan, and run straight to the goal in His power.

Because this race matters for eternity.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Living Expectantly

My reading this morning was Exodus 12--God gave an explicit step-by-step procedure for memorializing His deliverance when this deliverance had not yet occurred.

The people were still in bondage in Egypt but God was instructing them on celebrating their victorious release.

God has given me thousands of promises and this morning He reminded me that He wants me to live as though His victory is complete in my life--because every one of those promises is "yes" in Christ.

So I'm thinking about my nearly empty storage container.

But I'm also thinking about the fact that in the five annual Operation Christmas child community-wide packing parties from 2009-2012 God has allowed us to pack a total of just under 78,000 boxes.  If God grants us 22,012 boxes this year it would put us over 100,000 boxes.

I've been thinking about that 100,000.  I've been praying.

And now, by God's grace, I want to expect it!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Two Feet At A Time

Every Thursday after school I've been making the trip to Gabe's--a local discount store--looking for shoes on sale for our Operation Christmas Child boxes.  But every week they remained too pricey for me and I began to despair that they would ever reduce their prices as they had in previous years.

Yesterday He answered my prayers and I was thrilled to load my cart with 37 pairs of nice sturdy shoes for $1.00 a pair.

Getting 37 pairs of shoes doesn't seem like much when I look at our goal of 23,000 boxes to be packed on October 4th.

But they mean that 37 children with 74 feet will be blessed.

Thank You, Lord, for these and for the other 22,963 blessings that are on the way.

Monday, February 3, 2014

What's The Plan?

I just realized it's been too many days since I posted here.  Sometimes days run into one another and that's how it's been lately.  My Operation Christmas Child journey creeps on but I don't always think about it much.

We had one day off from school this past week and one late start because of sub-zero wind chill temperatures.  So I've had time to think about OCC but in many ways I feel like I'm running into the wind--the way I felt when I ran last Monday.  I was running forward with all my strength but it felt like the strong wind was pushing me backwards.

The weather has kept me from getting into my outdoor storage container to inventory, organize, and store anything.  I need the boxes that are in there in order to stash the items I've been purchasing.  Not that I've found much to purchase yet.

There were the cute hats at Children's Place and the pencils we found at K-Mart (packs of 10 pencils for .25 each) and the 77 stuffed animals I got at the thrift store last Saturday when the weather broke and the temps climbed into the 20s.

But overall--my 2014 shoe box stash is pathetic.

Our church is involved in a Bible-reading series called E-100 and we are reading and studying together the essential 100 stories of the Bible over 20 weeks.

I've been blessed over the past two weeks as I've read again about Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph.  God had a plan for each of them.  Sometimes, as in the case of Noah's ark, the plans were very specific.  Sometimes, as in the case of Abraham, God kept His people waiting for years and wondering when His plan would unfold.

No matter what, though--God had (and still has) a plan.

And I know He has a plan for these 2014 Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes here in Northwestern PA.

And just what IS that plan?  

I don't know...but I know the ONE who does and next year at this time I'll tell you all about it.