Monday, December 31, 2012

Time Square? No thank you...I'd rather celebrate in Sullivan Gardens. By Tony C

First, let me apologize for missing two weeks. Sometimes, we let the holiday season overwhelm us, and I'm guilty this year for sure. Nature slowed me back down though as I've spent the past three days in bed with bronchitis and an upper respiratory infection. I'm feeling much better today, so let's kick the week off with a memorable New Year Celebration from each of your Kingdom Bloggers.

Wow. There have been so many memorable ones for yours truly. Some I'd be glad to share, and some...well...not so proud. In the understanding that our total life experiences make up who we truly are and that all things are used for God's glory, I can say that while I may be down right ashamed today recapping some of those Father has separated the not so nice ones from me as far as the East is from the West. Hallelujah!

With that in mind, I think my choice for a most memorable New Year celebration is also an honoring of someone very deserving. My Aunt Kay is the very definition of a godly woman. Sweet and mild mannered. Humble and pious. She walks the walk our Savior often spoke of during His earthly ministry.  My mom and her sister were two of the younger siblings in a clan that saw eleven of thirteen children survive to adulthood. My grandfather was a pastor, but he died while they both were still young,  forcing all the kids to grow up a bit faster than would have been normal even in those days.

When I was in my preteen years, my sister and I  spent several New Year's Eve nights with my Aunt Kay. Mom and dad made a tradition of spending that time together without children, and I honestly don't want to even try to imagine why. Somethings concerning parents are best left undiscovered despite what Sigmund Freud tries to sell us.

Aunt Kay has two sons younger than me and my sister, but not by much. Her husband is a witty fellow that I've always enjoyed being around. They still live in the same house today that I remember with such warmth and affection. It is a home, and the love my Aunt Kay radiates is a large reason why. She would laugh at our antics and comfort my sister (who was both a mama's girl and homebody). We would stay up and watch the ball drop in Times Square on TV and blow horns while wearing our party hats to welcome the New Year.

No. It wasn't grandiose or pomp...but I've done those things too, and honestly, I'd take an evening celebrating with my Aunt Kay and her loving manner over any of those empty, fanciful celebrations any day. Her godly influence lives in me today and will be passed on to my children and hopefully their children too.

Happy New Year to my Aunt Kay and her family...and to my Kingdom Blogger family too.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

In This Great Big World, Can You See the One? by Linda Maynard

Let me explain the title.

When we quote John 3:16 “Go so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever shall believe in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” we see the word WORLD and think of the masses. Is it not true that until the Word pierces our heart, personally, it can be dismissed with thinking “Oh yea…I know that God loves the world. Yep, I know that."

But it becomes life changing ,when we realize”He loves ME!”

This truth makes my heart leap still.

Years ago, I was focusing my prayers the Middle East. Then I was transported … my thoughts? In the spirit? I don’t know. I found myself seeing a Muslim woman Her face not fully covered, so I could see her injuries. She had been badly beaten and she actually had some of her teeth knocked out. I “knew” her name (It sounded like Betina) So I spoke her name and prayed a prayer specifically for her.

I remember thinking…Lord, you know her by name. That prayer was addressing her need personally.

I had never experienced anything like that before.

Another time I was praying, I was as if I was flying…on an eagle? like an eagle? I don’t know which.

I was going over the United States and praying, as the Holy Spirit led. Suddenly we were above New England.

Quickly the speed and direction changed and we flew straight down. The flight path was strategic and narrowly focused.

Where we had been high over New England, we were now headed into the heart of Maine, into the deep woods.

I “knew” by revelation of the Holy Spirit that this prayer was targeted for a man who lived in a cabin. The Lord chose to touch this man…that day and in way, only God can understand.

All I know is that the Lord pierced that man’s heart with a revelation of His love, which this man had heretofore never considered.

Now how does all of this bring me to a most memorable Christmas, that I experienced?

I have written about this before but I don’t tire of telling my testimony because this part is a miracle of Christmas. 

It is about LIGHT piercing the DARKNESS, not only over mankind, but being targeted towards a scared, unwed and pregnant teenage girl, who lived in New Britain CT. 

It didn’t happen in a church or a temple and the messenger he used was unusual. 

She is a Jewish woman, by birth. 

She is considered a great star. 

The Christmas songs, in which she sang about THE Star, were what awakened me to the realization that life was worth living.

To her they may have just been words on the page…to me they were words of life.

Her name is Barbra Streisand. 

Through her voice and music, God used her to break through the darkness that entombed my soul. 

Hope exploded in its place like an array of fireworks.

Despair was left in ashes.

Emmanuel…the One she sang about, came!

Yes He came.

He came for ME!

Just like He came for the beaten Middle Eastern Woman. He wanted her to know…” I came for YOU!”

That lonely man, in the cabin of Maine may have thought “no one cares if I live or die”, but God knew right where that man was living. He knew, no only his physical location but the location of where his soul was.

Yes Emmanuel shouted into the woods of Maine…” I came for YOU’ 

So He came into my crowded apartment one winter. 

He sang. He sang over me songs of deliverance, using the voice of one of His own. 

Won’t you join me in prayer that Barbra, who at least seems to be uninterested in the true God, will nevertheless be found by Him? 

Let’s pray that the day comes, that the final arrow of Love, will demolish all the lies.

May all her walls of fear and all the fortresses of self protection be obliterated.

May she come to know You Lord… as her Yeshua HaMashiach.

Joyous Noel by Jenna Vick Silliman

When I was just a little girl about five years old, I loved the Christmas carols “Oh Come all Ye Faithful”, “The First Noel” and “We Three Kings of Orient Are.” I sang them over and over again and they became a part of me, imprinted on my memory. Now at Christmas time, it is still one of my favorite things to do to sing Christmas carols. Christmas doesn't feel like Christmas without singing those old time Christmas stories put to music.

During our “Prayer Watch” on Friday night the seven of us women were wondering what Noel really meant and so we looked it up. It is a word for the Christmas season of joy and runs from December 24 to January 6th. So we decided to keep on celebrating this year and hold onto the joys of Christmas time and to me that means to keep singing! The Wise Men arrived after Jesus was born, so “We Three Kings” is a perfect song to sing for a joyous Noel.

Every year I like to think of something homemade to give for special gifts for friends and family. This year I made up booklets of Christmas carols with my top ten favorites. How handy to give them out just in time to do some singing! Usually people oblige me a few songs. Personally, I’d like to sing for a couple of hours! Hahaha!

This fall I took a watercolor painting class and I learned a technique with salt to make “salt stars.” The teacher gave me the class and supplies in exchange for working for her for about ten hours helping her sell her paintings and notecards at Scandinavian festivals. She provided paint brushes, a paint palette full of the basic colors of watercolor paint arranged in a color wheel, and she gave me odds and ends of watercolor paper of various quality and the last few pages in several tablets. Each color reacts with the salt a little differently, but I really like the way the midnight blue was soaked up by the grains of salt to make amazing “salt stars.”

Reading my Bible one morning I decided to read about the star the wise men followed. This one verse popped out to me. “When the wise men saw the star, they were thrilled with ecstatic joy.” (See Matthew 2:10 Amplified.) I decided to paint beautiful blue skies full of salt stars, but to mask off a bit of sky using masking tape cut into the shape of the special star the wise men followed. I think that was the hardest part—cutting out those stars on the sticky tape! At the bottom of each painting I wrote out the verse. What a great gift and Christmas card in one!
I started out with small three by five inch paintings, and as I gained in confidence I cut a bigger piece of watercolor paper to do four by six inch paintings. Then I got brave and did a few five by sevens. The technique is done with sprinkling salt. You paint the area with water, then add a few strokes of paint and wait until it is almost dry and quickly sprinkle on the salt very lightly—almost a grain at a time. There is this magical chemical reaction before your very eyes as the salt absorbs the pigment/color of the paint and makes a crystalline pattern—like snow or a starry night! You wait until the watercolor paper is completely dry, then wipe off the salt. It is amazing how each one comes out differently.

SO fun! I used every bit of watercolor paper I had, and almost all my midnight blue paint, because I didn’t want to stop. I got so absorbed in my project I stayed up until two in the morning painting!
The theme for Kingdom Bloggers this week is a favorite Christmas memory—my painting is one of them. Hahaha! I guess it shows I love my life, I’m enjoying the present, and living in the “now”. Have A JOYOUS NOEL everyone!!!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Light of Christmas

The people walking in darkness 
have seen a great light;
 on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. Isaiah 9:2.

In the great holiday classic by Dickens, A Christmas Carol, Scrooge has a visitation with three spirits, the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future. For Scrooge, a miserly man with no friends who will not even extend a Christmas greeting to his only living family member, his present life is bleak and lonely. Only his Christmas past seems pleasant. He was a different person then, full of hopes and dreams and laughter, until he allowed disappointment to embitter him and money to become his god.

Sometimes our past may seem an easier place to stay: when we were young and hopeful or slimmer or wealthier, when our children ran to the Christmas tree in their footed pj’s, when loved ones were around our dinner table, instead of empty chairs.

We recently watched old videos of Christmases 15 to 20 years ago, to introduce our son’s fiancĂ©e to our Christmas past. It was hilarious and sweet and also poignant as the camera captured moments with family members who no longer occupy those chairs.

But the point of the Christmas Carol, I think, is to jolt us to our present, even if sadness is present, and to recognize that we can choose the light of the living. We are alive and while we are still breathing, there is hope and more life to come!

Evil in the hearts of men is real. But the power of God to transform hearts and lives is just as real and has the victory over the dark things people do. Yesterday, not 15 miles from our home, another person chose to plot and kill the innocent. Families grieve the loss of brave firefighters today, because of a man blinded by his own fury and his choice to commit evil.

But his darkness does not have power over God’s goodness and hope. “There is no darkness in our hearts that God is not willing to walk into, shining the light of love and compassion and solidarity with our human condition. There is no sorrow that God does not share. And there is no place any of us can go, including the grave, that Christ has not entered first, hallowing, blessing, and filling all of it with the grace of God.”  Rev. Kit Carlson.

Remember, our Message is not about ourselves; we’re proclaiming Jesus Christ, the Master. All we are is messengers, errand runners from Jesus for you. It started when God said, “Light up the darkness!” and our lives filled up with light as we saw and understood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful. 2 Corinthians 4:6.

Friday, December 21, 2012

A Collage of Christmas Memories by Linda Maynard

This collage of memories of Christmas has, as many of you, I’ve had, joy filled moments and those that are tinged with sorrow and pain. Both ends of the spectrum touch us all.

Topping my list would be a meaningful tradition that was and still is observed. It sharing of the Oplatek (Oh-pwa-tech) on Christmas Eve. It is a Polish Tradition.

During the evening, the oldest of the family, has a plate with the Oplatek  (the wafer). The Oplatek symbolizes Christ’s body being broken for us. They approach another person and extend the Oplatek to them. Speaking words of affirmation and blessing, they break the wafer simultaneously. They each, then partake of it. The recipient returns the gesture. This is repeated until the entire group has blessed one another.

Losing a loved one around Christmas is extremely painful. The families of the recently murdered innocents in the Newtown CT massacre have an unspeakable horror to deal with. It will forever taint their Holidays. I lost a brother and a son due to tragic deaths, close to Christmas and the emptiness remains.  Others have lost loved ones and memories may be bittersweet. 

When I was old enough, to be able to purchase gifts for my youngest brothers, I carved out a memory. The circumstances in our home were such that, we did not get gifts from our parents or Santa. I wanted them to be able to return to school to have something to say, when gifts were discussed.

One year, my paternal grandfather would be home alone on Christmas Eve, as he was ill. I couldn’t accept that he would be alone, so I volunteered to be with him, forgoing the celebration. It filled me with the satisfaction of putting the needs of another, first.

Sometimes, too much food, unrealistic expectations, unhealed relationships, fueled by too much to drink, could taint the hoped for Silent Night. Too many families experience this. I praise God for the healing in my own family, as well as a prayer that others can experience freedom and peace that comes with New Life.

In recent years, my husband and my family have been involved in certain clandestine operations, to bless others around the Holidays.

When our children were young, we filled bags with presents and goodies and left them, without tags, on doorsteps or on mailbox hooks, as a way to say to others, “You are not forgotten.”

We have sent cards, including money, with the signature line, saying “Jesus loves you”

In the last 2 years, I have taken 3- $20 and went out in public to give a $20 bill to 3 people. It was a Giving Adventure.  At first, I thought the amount that I was giving was too little, but then realized we were giving what we could.

 I asked God to point out the people He wanted to bless.

The first year, I remember a young mother who got tears in her eyes. She was paying for her groceries and exclaimed “You have no idea what this means!” (But God did!)

Two other recipients from last year come to mind.

One was a disheveled man. At the counter of a store, he had asked for a product. The cashier misunderstood him. When the item was placed on the counter, he sheepishly tried to tell her of her error. She treated him with disdain and loudly criticized him. I and the other shoppers just looked at one another with disbelief.

When he left the line, I went over to him and handed him a $20 bill, telling him about the Lord wanting to bless him. I also mentioned that the Lord specifically pointed him out to me. I told him how much the Lord loved him. Though I will never know this man’s full story, but from appearances, I gathered his life was not easy.

Another day, a couple was behind me in line at Goodwill. Thrift Stores

 As I started to leave, I felt the prompting of the Holy Spirit; to give the next $20 to them They were Spanish. The man spoke with the little English that he knew. I tried to explain to him the best I could that this was a free gift, with no strings attached. He looked puzzled, but eventually accepted the money. He then kind of bowed to me.

I walked to my car, but soon realized that I had to go back. I wanted them to understand that this gift was from God. So with a little Spanish, that I know and lots of hand gestures, I pointed to my heart to their hearts and then to the sky…they got it!

Then they nodded and smiled and we ALL started to cry!

It became a Holy Moment in this thrift store.

Somehow, I can imagine that the Lord did the same. He nodded, smiled and even start to weep.

He may have then said to the angels about all of us.

 “They get it! By golly, they really get it!”

“They got a glimpse of my Love.”

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Christmas Memories by Jenna Vick Silliman

Dressed up for Christmas Caroling in the nursing homes.
I have lots of fun and happy Christmas memories. Cliff and I got engaged on Christmas Eve 33 years ago! Our first home was on a Christmas tree farm in Northern California. We cut our own little tree and set it up in our living room, but we didn’t have any ornaments so I tried red ribbon into little bows all over it. The first ornament I bought was a tiny three inch teddy bear with a red bow around his neck. He’s been on our Christmas tree every year since!
In January Cliff and I decided to dispose of our first Christmas tree by burning it in the fireplace. We got the fire going and started shoving the tree into the fireplace. At some point it dawned on us this was not a good idea and we pulled the tree out before we had more of a blaze than we bargained on! Hahaha! Talk about learning the hard way!

It seems like events stick in the memory banks when something goes wrong. About Christmas 1992 we gave our kids one of those little log cabin play houses that is really made out of brown plastic. Cliff and I thought it would be easy to put together on Christmas Eve after the kids had gone to bed, so we could surprise them on Christmas morning. We spread all the pieces out on the back patio and got a big mallet and started to try to bop the pieces into place. I don’t know if it was because of the freezing temperature or if we didn’t have the right tools or what, but those plastic logs did not want to go together no matter how much we pounded on them. At midnight we suddenly heard knocking on our front door. It was the police! Our hammering was disturbing the “Silent Night” for our neighbors!  We shoved the pieces back in the box and surprised the kids with a great gift, a build-it-yourself play house.

Some of our other fun activities at this time of year include, making snow men with my kids, taking Christmas pictures of our family, baking and decorating Christmas cookies, cutting snowflakes, reading stories aloud, my daughter playing the piano, watching a Christmas play with my son Stephen in the lead role, hearing my husband read the Christmas story out of the Bible, driving around town looking at beautiful Christmas lights, and serving homemade Texas fudge (and not telling the secret ingredient is refried beans instead of butter).

One of my favorite things to do at Christmas time is get all dressed up in bright colors and a funny hat and go caroling in the nursing homes. Today I will wear a shiny white skirt that is long and very twirly, a red top and a red and green elf hat with bells on it. Today my friend Charli and I will go a-caroling and enjoy some beautiful smiles light up the faces of our friends living in nursing homes.

'Tis the season to be jolly, so have a merry day!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

High-Kicking it at Christmas

This week, we are remembering special Christmas events. After last Friday, Christmastime going forward, especially for those families who have suffered incredible loss, may be both traumatic and comforting. The trauma of losing a child or parent or spouse to a monstrous act is obvious. The comfort comes from knowing the one who willingly left His heavenly kingdom to live as one of us and to die for us, holds the victorious weapon over evil: His love.  "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you." Isaiah 41:10.

My favorite Christmas event involved lots of legs. Watching 36 pairs in synchronized perfection was mesmerizing. Watching my daughters’ faces brighten in wonder and amazement at the singing and dancing was heartwarming. I had thought my son, about 12 at the time, might find it dull, but his eyes never left the stage.

Radio City Christmas Spectacular may not be the usual pious Christian choice for holiday inspiration, especially since Santa Claus makes an appearance, but I don’t remember being quite so moved--and teary--at another Christmas production. I had prepared myself for tourist trap schlock, but instead was treated to a first-rate, thoughtfully produced musical extravaganza that also offered a stunning rendering of the Nativity.

Because the birth of Christ--replete with a blue-black starlit sky, Mary, Joseph and the babe, shepherds, live animals and beautiful music--occurs at the end of the show, it is the images in that scene the audience carries out the doors to the noise and holiday crush on a New York City sidewalk.

Creating special memories at Christmas seems to be an Olympic sport in some families. I just love to cook and enjoy people and put up some special lights. My mother-in-law, however, a longtime Broadway fan, wanted her children’s families to experience what she considered to be the magic of Radio City Music Hall’s annual extravaganza. She gave us quite a gift. 

I confess that today, several years later, I cannot recollect with specificity most of the musical numbers of much of the show, but I will never forget the beauty and the care that the show’s director and cast took with portraying our Savior’s birth. Nor will I forget my six year-old high-kicking it down Sixth Avenue, hoping to be the next Rockette.

The show’s website proclaims the Christmas Spectacular as “an unparalleled Christmas show with universal appeal that lifts the spirits and creates memories.” Yup. Except it was not just the show that lifted our spirits--it was seeing it together. At Christmas.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Women Reporting the News by Linda Maynard

Did you ever feel that the Lord is just chuckling as He watches you?

I do.

I had, with reservation, started to go to a Women’s Bible Study. This was still all new to me. I wasn’t sure about it all and was suspicious. Were they were going to lead me down a heretical path? Surprisingly, the Bible Study was interesting. So far so good.

My friend, Linda knew that I was going to ask Jesus into my heart, on a certain morning. I went to a Christian Women’s Breakfast. However, He told her not to go, as she would “get in the way.” I remember, on the drive home, I wept deeply, realizing just how much I was loved.

It was another huge step in the progression of my faith journey.

Shortly later, she invited me to another Christian Women’s Breakfast. I agreed as I was feeling more comfortable.

The first event, I would liken to a Women’s Tea. Everything was lovely, from the table decorations to the conversations.

This new one was different.

It was a Charismatic group.

My fears were heightened.It was a little nerve wracking talking to strangers, but it started OK.

Then things started to get totally out of hand, as far as I was concerned.

It became time for Praise and Worship.

We all stood.

The songs they sang were unfamiliar. They were not singing Agnus Dei.

The tempo started out lively AND many women were clapping!

To make matters worse, when the music got slower, some even raised their hands!

“Oh boy, this is a cult. I am sure of it.” I thought

I thought “Get me out of here!”

I felt I stepped into a strange place or was it a place with strange people?

I was ready to run out of the room and drive home. The problem was, I was not driving.

When that was over, I was never so glad to be seated again. At least I wasn’t going to pass out from fright.

The speaker was a Preacher from England. His tone and his manner calmed me down.

His sermon was about the women who arrived first, at the tomb of Jesus, on Easter morning.

8 Then the women remembered his words, 9 returned from the tomb, and told all these things to the eleven disciples and all the rest. 10 The women were Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James; they and the other women with them told these things to the apostles.11 But the apostles thought that what the women said was nonsense, and they did not believe them…Luke 24…Good News Translation.

Having known very little about Bible stories, I was intrigued to learn about this episode.

What became the “take away” for me was that he elevated the women in the story. It was as if he took special consideration that women were the first witnesses to this monumental event. And in that, they became, to him, noteworthy. They didn’t realize Jesus had risen from the dead.  They only knew that the grave was empty.

He also noted, when they ran to tell the disciples, it seemed like they might not have been believed. He explained, in those days, women had very little importance. He wondered if it had been a man reporting, would their news been more readily accepted?

The Preacher’s perspective interested me. Here was a man, who was clergy, and he was looking at other men with attitudes. He seemed chagrined that they might have diminished the women’s credibility, based only on the fact that they were women.

Up until that point, I didn’t realize that I also thought that women had very little role in religious life.

 I sincerely wanted to be a nun, because I longed to be closer to God. I saw that as the only path for that to happen.

So that day, in the midst of what I thought was “craziness”, I came away with a sense that, as a woman, I was important to God and that He didn’t ignore me.

As my faith matured, I would realize the truth of the scripture that says that in Christ, there is neither male nor female.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female…Galatians 3:28

I have not been one to want to usurp men’s position, but deep inside I always had a sense that it couldn’t be all one sided.

That day, the preacher from England, opened up the door of possibility, that women were not only important, but essential.
That sermon became a springboard on which I was able to put myself right in the center of the greatest Story of all.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Jesus Sits in the Chair By Me (adapted by Jenna Vick Silliman)

A man’s daughter had asked the local minister to come and pray with her father. When the minister arrived, he found the man lying in bed with his head propped up on two pillows. An empty chair sat beside his bed. The minister assumed that the old man had been informed of his impending visit. “I guess you were expecting me,” he said. 

“No, who are you?” said the father. “I’m the new minister at your church,” he replied. “When I saw the empty chair, I figured you knew I was going to show up.”

“Oh yeah, the chair,” said the bedridden man. “Would you mind closing the door?” Puzzled, the minister shut the door. “I have never told anyone this, not even my daughter,” said the man. “But all of my life I have never known how to pray. At church I used to hear the preacher talk about prayer, but it went right over my head. I abandoned any attempt at prayer,” the old man continued, “until one day about four years ago my best friend said to me, ‘Joe, prayer is just a simple matter of having a conversation with Jesus. Here is what I suggest. Sit down in a chair; place an empty chair in front of you, and, in faith, see Jesus in the chair. It’s not spooky because He promised, “I’ll be with you always.” Then just speak to Him and listen in the same way you’re doing with me right now.’” “So, I tried it and I've liked it so much that I do it a couple of hours every day. I’m careful though. If my daughter saw me talking to an empty chair, she’d either have a nervous breakdown or send me off to the funny farm.” 

The minister was deeply moved by the story and encouraged the old man to continue on the journey. Then he prayed with him and returned to the church building. Two nights later the daughter called to tell the minister that her daddy had died that afternoon. “Did he die in peace?” he asked. 

“Yes, when I left the house about two o’clock, he called me over to his bedside, told me he loved me, and kissed me on the cheek. When I got back from the store an hour later, I found him dead. But there was something strange about his death. Apparently, just before Daddy died, he leaned over and had his arms around the chair beside the bed. What do you make of that?” 

The minister wiped a tear from his eye and said, “I wish we all could go that way.” ~Author Unknown

Monday, December 10, 2012

A sermon can contain many Tony C

I've been very fortunate to have had several great pastors in my lifetime. I've written about two of them before here on Kingdom Bloggers. This week, we will each be sharing a favorite sermon from a past service. A message that stuck in the wheel well, so to speak, and provoked deeper thought or study after hearing it.

On September 30 of this year, my friend Derek preached his last sermon as my pastor. I knew it was coming. I had prayed for him diligently as he prepared for the transition. He was on a path he felt God put before him, and I tried my hardest to submit to God's will...even though I really, really didn't like what was about to happen.

For his last sermon, my friend and pastor went back to the very outline he had preached ten years earlier as his first sermon where I attend church. He had preceded my coming to the church as the new pastor just months before I started attending.

He was coming to shepherd. I was coming to rejoin the flock I had been lost from for many years.

As I write this, I know in my heart God knew I needed a man like Derek in my life. Someone who would challenge me spiritually in an encouraging manner. His words on September 30 still echo through me today.

But, not because of the message he preached from II Kings 6 on the faithfulness of God. While it was a great message, it was his words before he preached the message that resonated with me deeply. He told the congregation before his very first message at our church that he called his dad from his office to ask him to pray. Derek was nervous and needed the reassurance only a parent can often give. He also shared he had done the same thing that very morning before coming from his office to the church for services.

As Derek spoke about his father, about his parents, and what they meant to his life, I knew with a strong conviction that I longed to be that kind of father for my own daughters. Not just the spiritual example I'm charged to be by God's word, but to also really be there for them whenever I'm needed and for whatever I'm needed for at the moment.

Life makes such a vow or commitment often more difficult than it sounds. My expectations may sometimes conflict with a path one, maybe all,  of them may chose. Their decisions may lead me to believe my head might actually explode from frustration. My heart may get broken again and again with disappointment.

Yet, through it all,  I need to be there for each one of them...when they need reflect the very same reassurance I get from my Abba Father. To demonstrate that their father loves them unconditionally and completely with a love only surpassed by their Heavenly Father. I will not leave them. I can never forsake them.

Thanks for the enduring lesson my dear friend. Thanks to your dad Mike too for being that light of love.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Apocrypha...Say What? by Linda Maynard

Growing up, I attended a Catholic School and so my religious education took place as part of the curriculum.

I do remember studying the Catechism, but not studying the Bible. It was never mentioned or offered in those years.

While attending Mass, the Catholic Sunday Service, there is a part of the Mass, when the priest reads a portion from the Bible. He reads one portion from the Old Testament and another portion from the New Testament. Then he gave what was called a Homily, which is kind of like a sermon or teaching on what he just read.

 I distinctly remembered thinking, “let’s get over the readings before the talk.* and let’s get to the good stuff.”

The sermon/homily was the better part, as far as I was concerned.

*It actually took me many years to realize that these portions of the readings, were from the Bible and were quite important.

The only Bible, I had ever seen in our home, was a huge Family Bible. It usually sat on an end table in the Living Room. A far as I know, it was never read. I remember casually looking at it and wondering why all the information was not filled out. You know information like marriages, births etc.

As an adult, I was introduced to the Bible, in a more personal manner. My new southern friend, Linda invited me to a Bible Study.

I politely refused her many times.

One day I said OK and was immediately filled with fear and anxiety. I not only knew so little about the Bible, but these women seemed like they were all Protestants. Who knew what heresies they would try to teach me?

Still, I wasn’t too taken aback by the study part, as I really liked Linda and I was sure that she understood my lack of knowledge. I trusted that she would do me no harm.

The women welcomed me and I generally felt accepted. However, I must admit that I was still a little nervous about being with these Protestant women. We were warned about taking part in non-Catholic services.

Linda purchased my first Bible. Doing that, she followed specific instructions that the Lord gave her. He told her, “Buy Linda (me) a Bible, but it has to be a Catholic Bible, as she will not accept one that isn’t Catholic.”

That was 100% accurate.

So I continued meeting weekly with these women with my very own Bible.

I remember an incident from the early days of that Bible Study Group.

Ruth, our leader, was hospitalized. During her recuperation, we each volunteered to go over in an afternoon to keep her company.

When I was with her, we had a pleasant conversation. I didn’t feel uncomfortable, even though I only knew her for a short while.

In the course of our visit, I told her that I had prayed and asked the Lord for something to read to her from my Bible, to encourage her. So I did. She seemed to be appreciative of the entire visit.

It wasn’t until many years later, that I realized I had read a portion of the Apocrypha, which of course is included in Catholic Bibles, but not in Protestant ones.

While contemplating that, I was so impressed that Ruth, who was Protestant, through and through said nothing except thanks. Her ancestry being from England, was of a solid New England Protestant.

She must have seen that my reading, of that portion of scripture, came from a giving heart. She was not about to get into a theological discussion about whether the Apocrypha was valid. She didn’t use it as an opening to “correct” me.

That wasn’t a sermon per se, but it really was.

You have heard the quote “Preach the Gospel at all times, if necessary use words.”

This was a perfect example of that being lived out.

It taught me more than any others, who may have had degrees and letters, ad infinitum behind their name.

She was a teacher, par excellence. Maybe not in the formal sense, but that day, she taught me through her actions, how to live out the words of the Gospel. There wasn’t a little chime that rang along with an announcement…”practical application!” Yet there it was…the word becoming flesh.

She travelled on the higher road.

She picked the better way.

She had chosen not to educate me or diminish my intention.

She exercised a measure of humility that day.

I left her house, feeling the pleasure of giving of myself to another human being.

She made that completely possible, through her silence.

The right exegesis didn’t trump that day….rather LOVE did!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Sunday School Take-Over by Jenna Vick Silliman

I was raised in a Catholic family that went to mass on Easter and Christmas, so Sunday school was not part of my life. I became a Christian when I was 16 through the youth group called Young Life. Though I have attended church all these years, I never experienced Sunday school very much. However, around 1989 I my husband Cliff and I visited a little church that had a Sunday school class with a book study going on about living life full of the Holy Spirit. The chapter mentioned speaking in tongues. The teacher asked if anyone in the class spoke in tongues. Cliff and I raised our hands. The teacher asked Cliff to tell the class about it. Cliff spoke for the whole hour with a full discourse with Scriptures from the book of Acts on being baptized in the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues and he shared his Jesus People days story and what happened to him. At one point Cliff asked me to share how I received the gift of tongues, so I gave my testimony as a part of the class too. (Note: For my testimony on receiving the gift of tongues, here is the link:  ) We didn’t plan on a Sunday School Take-over—it just happened. Hahaha! 
My husband and I both enjoyed remembering that day over twenty years ago. That is our favorite Sunday school class memory, but a runner up would be another week in the same class when the pastor’s wife shared about speaking in tongues while she was in Israel and someone recognized the language she was speaking and wrote down the interpretation for her. She still had the ragged scrap of paper and read it to us. It was a beautiful prayer and it was also speaking of our glorious love relationship with the Lord Jesus.
To me the best part of any class, book, or lecture is the stories people tell about what happened to them. I have found that testimonies, or stories of real lives, are extremely powerful, moving, and life giving. They are also memorable!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

What's Sunday School?

"Sunday School" seems an old-fashioned term for the cool church these days: lots of churches create clever names for the time during or after a church service kids gather in classrooms or meeting space to learn about God; it makes that hour seem more exciting and fun, I suppose. But really, it is still Sunday School: a time for children to learn that God loves them, has interesting and important stories to share with them through the Bible, and that He cares about their lives, now and eternally.

I had a jumble of Sunday School and catechism classes in my childhood: I attended an Episcopal church until I was ten, and then a Catholic Church for many years. I am grateful to both churches for having people who cared enough to spend time with children on Sundays. From my teachers at Grace Episcopal, I learned the stories of the Bible. 

Years later, as a 24 year-old teaching Confirmation Classes at my church, I was stunned that none of the 14 year olds could tell me about Moses, whom God used to lead Israel out of slavery in Egypt, or of David, the boy shepherd who became king of Israel (David and Goliath, anyone?). Their stories were foundational to learning about Jesus at Grace Episcopal.

At St. Catherine’s, our Confirmation class in eighth grade was led by a married couple who had a couple of toddlers. They must have had busy lives, but they taught our class every week at their home, and they were fun. They actually liked us, and we could tell it was genuine. That was a special time, and though I did not understand it then, God was doing a significant work in me during those classes and at my Confirmation. Whatever your theology holds about the work of the Holy Spirit, especially in regards to baptism and Confirmation, I can tell you, He was present in that little church that day.

I teach “Sunday School” now--both to teens and adults, and I love it, but not just because it can be “fun.”  Having the responsibility of discipling others makes me even more thankful for those adults who sacrificed time so I could learn more about Jesus and His Word, and His amazing, saving grace. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

I warmly remember...and for that I'm very thankful. by Tony C

Welcome to December! All this month on Kingdom Bloggers, we will each be taking a weekly trip down Memory Lane and sharing some of our fondest moments/people. We start the month by posting about one of our favorite Sunday School classes/teachers.

I really can't complain because I picked the theme for the month, but this week's subject is particularly difficult for me. I've had a number of influential Sunday School teachers and memorable classes, and thinking through the multiple choices brings a warmth of memories flooding to my heart. Just this weekend alone, I spoke of two very influential people from the topic. Since I have to pick one, here it goes...

Some people can make you laugh just reading the phonebook. Paul Rector was one of those guys.

For several years, I just had to look directly across an aisle on Sunday mornings and nights along with Wednesday nights to see Paul sitting in his normal spot at church. Often when we dismissed church with a closing prayer while joining hands across the aisles, my hand would end up in his. He would make a joke about me standing on the pew, so I could reach his hand, and I would fire back with warnings of lustful thoughts during church services.

We had that type of relationship...and I loved it.

Part of the camaraderie we shared stemmed from being kindred spirits. Paul loved God very much, but God hadn't always been first in Paul's adult life. Paul loved music and had played in a number of bands. He loved to teach and speak on Biblical subjects and didn't often mince words. God blessed Paul, much like his namesake, with a tremendous testimony...and he wasn't afraid to share it with anyone who would listen either.

Like my friend Paul, I understand and appreciate the limitless bounds of God's grace from a standpoint of someone who oft tested those limits. We had a number of great conversation just on that subject matter alone. When I was approached about teaching a Sunday School class, I called Paul for guidance because I knew he was a wonderful example. He was teaching the class I attended and had been nationally recognized for his efforts (great story here).

Over his last several years, diabetes robbed my friend of many things we take for granted. He lost his eye sight then much of his mobility. This is where it gets tough for me...

Paul never, ever let those things get him down. He continued to teach Sunday School and praise his Father through the storm. He would always send a whisper of encouragement my way as I would take my seat across from him after worship music had concluded. Great job little buddy. Hot drumming today. Way to wake these people up brother. He would always take time to talk to anyone about God's word even on his worst days.

My friend had a stroke early in 2011 that eventually took him Home. He left behind a loving, tireless wife who has been a family anchor for so long, a son I'm honored to call my dear friend, and a daughter that completely adored him. He never saw/heard his son in the pulpit or got to hold his grandson, but he would be immensely proud of both.

I miss my friend and mentor, and I think of him often. Right after he passed in April 2011, I thought of a way to make him laugh given the opportunity again. So Paul, from the bottom of my heart, this one's for you me a seat close to you please.