Sunday, March 30, 2014

Hope In Narnia

It's March 30th and several more inches of snow fell here last night in Erie, PA. I'm starting to think we live in Narnia--that land written about by C.S. Lewis where it is "always winter and never Christmas".

I'm pretty sure we've had more than three snows on the crocuses and they haven't even had a chance to bloom yet as we approach April.

Will spring come?  Is there hope?

When we look outside it seems doubtful...but of course we know spring will come.  How do we know?   Because our faithful God brings it every year.

Yesterday I went to two large indoor community yard sales.  Two.  And I got not one stuffed animal.  Nada.

And no sales have materialized for any other items to purchase for our Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes either.

So, we wait.  And while we wait, several of our faithful workers are busy counting and stapling 39 cases of paper into small packets.  Hope.

If I were to follow the "Facing The Giants" metaphor I'd say we're "preparing for rain," but I'd rather say we're preparing for spring.

Hope--even in Narnia.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

It'll Come

Empty seems to be my story lately.  My mind bounces from one thing to another--retirement, family decisions, leadership thoughts, Operation Christmas Child concerns.  In each case there are choices to make, things to decide...and I come up empty.

Today's message at church was a brief overview about the role of the Old Testament prophets and also a discussion about the role we have to speak God's words to others in our lives today.

After church I headed out the back door and struggled to get our nearly-empty Operation Christmas Child storage container open.  In 2011, 2012, and 2013 it was at least 1/3 or more full by this time.  Not this year, though.

I heaved open the door and stared into the emptiness.

Just then, a woman I've never met and don't know came out of that back church door and stood behind me looking over my shoulder.  She said two words...

"It'll come."

Maybe she is a prophet.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Big Sky Dreaming

Tonight we had our monthly Operation Christmas Child area team meeting.  There were only seven of us, but that's a perfect biblical number.   I needed so much the encouragement that came from being with like-minded people who are as eager as I am to see God do new things in our area.

We did an activity called Big Sky Dreaming--a fancy term for brainstorming--where we threw out any ideas we could think of for getting 55,700 boxes packed from our area this year.

Here are some of our Big Sky Dreams--

-- a teddy bear throw at our local hockey team's games
--a complete team with all coordinators and sub-teams in place that includes younger team members and some men
--billboard advertising
--an Operation Christmas Child shoebox under every seat at the upcoming Rock the Lakes event in September
--inmates at our local prison making toys for shoe boxes
--all shipping for our boxes paid for by donors
--warehouse space
--a giant shoe box in Perry Square in the middle of our city
--a trip to an OCC Processing Center
--an OCC distribution trip

As the ideas flowed I felt buoyed by the possibilities.  Sure, some of them are WAY out in the big sky.  But as we dreamed together I was reminded of how BIG our God truly is.  Our biggest dreams are puny to Him.

We were all smiling by the time we were done, and we all agreed that we can't wait to see what God will do for us eight months from now when we're in National Collection Week.

Heather summed it up best when she said, "God always does it and He does it in a new and different way every year just to keep us trusting Him."

We're trusting God to fulfill dreams that are greater than we can even dream.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Re-Ups and Downs

Every year at this time our Operation Christmas Child area team does 're-ups'.  This means I contact each person on the team to see if they are still called and willing to serve for the coming year.

I've been trying for a few days to reach the last person on my list and complete this task.  I'm happy to report that I've now finished.  I'm unhappy to report that we lost five team members this year.  That's 20% of the team.

Lives change and callings change and passions change and people move on.  That's the way life is.

But it still leaves me wondering what I could do differently to keep people engaged in our team.  My husband, in his effort to be a truth-teller in my life, said to me today, "Well, what do people actually DO when they get on the team?  How do they know what you want them to do?"

He has a point there.

I need to learn to cast the vision better and offer better training experiences and team-building experiences.  In High Impact lingo, I need to recruit and select and train and equip and lead volunteers in a way that's...well...better.

I've always been more of an academic person than a do-er.  I could write you a great essay on how to lead a team via High Impact principles.  But leading takes more than knowing how to lead.  It takes leadership ability and practice.

If God's called me to lead this team then I need to quit making excuses and just do it.

God help me.

The Life of David--Part 3 -- Dr. Ross Rhoads

Before we left the Operation Christmas Child Connect Conference last Sunday morning, Dr. Ross Rhoads gifted us with his third installment of the life of David.  This was based on 2 Samuel 7:18-29 concerning the heart of David

There are two parts of the body God is especially interested in--
--the feet (our walk)
--the head (our thoughts)

But the heart is a combination of action and thinking.

David was "A man after God's heart."  What is God's heart?  What is in your heart?

types of hearts--
--hard heart = comes from being taught without absorbing the teaching
--stony heart = cluttered; more ground based than heaven based
--proud heart = "I" is in the middle of pride
--faint heart = beat up and tired
--turned heart = turned away from God to evil
--clean heart = Psalm 51 "Create in my a clean heart"  (The word 'create' here is the word used for creation=God making something only He can make.)
--perfect heart = David walked with a perfect (complete) heart.  David used perfect (smooth) stones to kill Goliath (he had 5 stones=1 for Goliath and 1 for each of Goliath's 4 brothers)
--obedient heart = Mary only gave 1 commandment.  She pointed to Jesus and said "Do whatever He says."
--whole heart = give ALL your heart;  What else would we do but serve God with ALL our heart?  The people in Bible times had a little blue fringe on their clothing to remind them to follow God.

In 2 Samuel 7:21 David prays, "For the sake of Your word, and according to Your own heart, You have done all this greatness to let Your servant know."

Most of all, we want to be people who know God's heart.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Life of David--Part 2 -- Dr. Ross Rhoads

Dr. Ross Rhoads continues his talk on the life of David at the Operation Christmas Child Connect Conference--

David--shepherd; scholar; statesman; warrior; poet; financier; but...most of all..."servant of the Lord"

David was a 'servant leader' (a paradox) --  What is a leader?

--A leader is first a follower.  You can't lead anyone where you haven't been yourself.
--Leaders lead by example and are followed by people. Leadership can be inherited or obtained by achievement or by delegation but you have to lead to be a leader.
--Our Lord was a leader, yet humble.  He did everything to please the Father.
--A leader motivates, encourages, enables, and unites.

Three Areas of David's Leadership

1)  A servant leader is selfless--this comes from the heart.  In 2 Samuel when David wished for water from a well several of his men risked their life to bring it to him but David would not accept it and poured it out.  He wouldn't take advantage of his position.  A servant does what other people don't want to do.

2)  A servant leader anticipates--sees what is needed before the need is made known.  The Bible says "David inquired of the Lord"--God told him to wait and he waited.  Don't procrastinate but wait.

3)  A servant leader is consistent--the leader is the first one to go into battle.  Leaders lose direction without consistency.  You can't be faithful if you don't tell the truth.

"Make your election sure."  As oil was poured on David's head the scent of it must have stayed with him.  As volunteers for Operation Christmas Child remember when God poured that oil on your head.  He chose you and gifted you.

God said David was "a man after God's own heart" when he was just a youth and his life had not unfolded yet.  God sees our hearts.  Character determines the quality of our service.

I am a servant of the Most High God.  The best way to please God is to serve Him.

You are God's chosen.  Remember the holy oil and keep at it!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Life of David Part 1 -- Ross Rhoads

At the recent Operation Christmas Child Connect Conference we were blessed to have Dr. Ross Rhoads bring us a 3-part series of messages on the life of David.  Dr. Rhoads is the former pastor of Calvary Church in Charlotte--one of the first churches to pack OCC shoe boxes in the United States.

Here are some notes on part 1 of this series--

David lived to be 70 years old and was a character who forecasted the coming of Christ.  

In 1 Samuel the people persisted in asking for a king and anytime believers want to be like the world they invite trouble.  Saul was anointed as the first king but God regretted that choice and in 1 Samuel 16 God plans the anointing of David and says, "I have chosen Me a king in Israel."

In David's years of preparation he learned humility.

Four seasons of David's life--

1)  The Solitude Years -- David had time to meditate as he watched the sheep and the Psalms show the heart of David.  We all need time to think and meditate.  Beware of the barrenness of a busy life.  "Let a holy imagination absorb you as you read the Word of God."

2)  David's Obstacles (obstacles help develop us)
--his father marginalized him (didn't even count him worth considering for king)
--his brothers hated him
--he doesn't really fit in the family
--he is alone
--Saul hated him
--he had years of struggle
"God doesn't lead straight ahead.  He leads zig-zag."

3)  David's Failure  (murder of Uriah)
--he didn't listen to counsel
--became complacent (he didn't go to war)
--his sin resulted in the death of his child
"Many times the things you do don't go away in the theater of the mind."
"When the devil reminds you of the past, remind him of his future."

4) David Experiences The Mercy of God
--After the murder of Uriah David didn't do anything for a year until Nathan confronted him
--David experienced God's forgiveness and then wrote, "Bless the Lord oh my soul."

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Treading the Mill

I'm afraid Brunhilda was back on Saturday morning of the recent Operation Christmas Child Connect Conference.  I don't know what happened in that morning training session but Brunhilda got suddenly overwhelmed in a discussion about leadership and had a meltdown.

We were discussing the concept that as a leader you should do "what only you can do."  This is hard for me.  I fully admit my leadership weaknesses.  The things I am gifted at don't really seem to have much to do with leadership.

One of the other area coordinators (someone I didn't know) said that he and his wife only pack two shoe boxes each year--one for a boy and one for a girl--because they are too busy leading their team to run around shopping for sale items to fill boxes.

Suddenly this wave of emotions kind of hit me and I felt like I spend my time doing all the wrong things.  I started feeling so emotional that I ended up leaving and just going to my room to crawl under the covers and cry for awhile. Silly and selfish and kind of juvenile.  But it passed and I returned to the discussion that had moved on to spiritual warfare--ahem.

At 6:00 am on Sunday morning (yeah--really 5:00 on the old time schedule) I hit the hotel treadmill.  I am not a good treadmill runner.  When I run outside I can vary my pace and don't feel the need to quit.

Running on the treadmill helped me see how slow I have gotten during my outdoor slogs through the snow.  So when I set the pace for a SLOW 9:50 minute mile and still was struggling I wanted to quit.

But I made myself just slow down the pace for awhile until I could catch my breath and then inched it back up again.  I had to do this two other times in order to finish my 30 minutes but I did finish.

I think maybe this applies to OCC leadership, too.  Sometimes when all I can think about is quitting maybe I just need to slow down and take a little break.

Something to consider while I'm treading the mill.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014


In just another 8.5 hours I'll be on a plane to Detroit--flying west so I can get on another plane 4 hours later and fly east to North Carolina for this year's Operation Christmas Child Connect Conference.

Last year's conference was so huge and amazing but this year's will be totally different as it's geared especially for OCC Area Coordinators from around the country.

Now that I'm nearly ready I'm getting excited about getting there.  I have to admit, though, that I'm always a little apprehensive about these conferences.  I'm not a great traveler and I often don't sleep well which makes me easy prey for getting overwhelmed and discouraged at training conferences.

On the other hand, I don't think I'd still be serving as a volunteer if it were not for the 2011 Connect Conference.  I arrived there on the brink of defeat and God really spoke to me.  You can read my post about that conference here.

So as I've been anticipating this year's conference I have a team praying for me and the other area coordinators who will be attending.  We'd love to have you join in praying, too.

I'm praying especially for those who are coming to this conference feeling overwhelmed, discouraged, and ready to quit.  I'm asking God to speak to them in these days as He did to me in 2011 and to affirm their calling.

I'm also asking God to use me to encourage someone this week.  I figure if I focus on that maybe I won't be tempted to fall to defeat myself.

And what makes me so prone to discouragement at these conferences anyway?  I've thought a lot about this today and I really feel my signature sin of pride is at the heart of it--along with a good dose of fear.  The pride makes me shrink back when I'm not achieving (notice that 'me' and 'I' in there?)  Comparing myself to others instead of rejoicing in how God works in my team always causes trouble.  And the fear?  Well 'dis'couragement comes when my faith falters and I lose courage.

Okay...well, the dryer just finished so it's time to iron the last items and get packed.  I'll let you know all about how God connects me to Him and to other OCC volunteers in just a few days.