Friday, April 28, 2006

Seeds are Planted in Rwanda

My father-in-law Sam Shewmaker, is planning to return to the mission field in Rwanda in a few years. When I found out about his desire to return to a country that has suffered so much pain and strife, (I might post my feelings on the Rwandan genocide at another time, but it is VERY difficult for me to express), I asked why this particular country was selected. Sam, as the voice of Christ, said because they need the love of God the most. Wow! What a selfless attitude he has for the gospel of Christ! As difficult as it is for me personally to see them go back to Africa, I can not ignore the steps God is so clearly placing for Sam and Nancy to return, specifically to Rwanda. They have recently moved from Searcy AR to Fort Worth and were only a couple of hours from OCU where Sam was asked to deliver an address to the Rwandan President, First Lady and Ambassador to the US.

This is what he said.

Your Excellency, President Kagame and Madame Kagame
Ambassador Nsenga
President and Mrs. Oneal
Distinguished guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

Mwaramutse nyose
Karibuni sana mu Amerika

Your Excellency, we wish to express thanks to you and your people for honoring us by a
visit to this campus today. Murakoze!

As a son of Africa myself, it is a special pleasure for me personally to witness the
beginnings of a relationship between this Christian University and the Nation of Rwanda.

Your Excellency, as a citizen of the United States of America, I would like to express, on
behalf of many of my fellow-Americans, and indeed on my own behalf, a belated, though
deeply felt apology, that the government of the United States did not come to the aid of
the people of Rwanda in their darkest hour. This fact is a stain on our national honor for
which we are deeply sorry.

Some of us have visited your beautiful country and have met some of your beautiful
people. While we have been moved to deep grief for the tragedy of Rwanda, we do not
pity the people of Rwanda, because they are not a pitiable people. We see them as a
resilient people who are growing in their hope every day. Your Excellency, we believe that
this is in large part due to your effective leadership. We believe that God has put you and
your government in this position of leadership in Rwanda "for such a time as this."

Many of us present here today represent a fellowship of Christian congregations known as
Churches of Christ. As followers of Jesus Christ both in belief and in action, it is our
desire to partner with Rwandans in the planting of churches that, in a holistic way, will
become communities of healing that meet the spiritual, emotional and physical needs of
the people.

It is our desire to work in solidarity alongside your people to achieve the goals of your
national Vision 2020, in whatever fields, be they in the field of spiritual development and
the planting of churches, the fields of education, of training in business, information
technology, in primary health care training, or in strategies to assist families to break out
of the cycle of poverty. We look forward to a harmonious working relationship with
Rwanda that expresses Christ's spirit of compassion and service.

In closing, let me say on behalf of Churches of Christ, that we wish you, the government
and the people of Rwanda great success and the bountiful blessings of God on your path
to national unity, prosperity and well-being.

May God always abide in Rwanda. Imana Ikurinde.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

I Love Ann!

Ok, I added Ann Coulter's web link to my page because I really love what she has to say. Dan said I had better be careful who I tell that I liker her, someone could get offended. Although some people might need to read with a grain of salt, I like how conservative she is and she doesn't care who she offends! I'm certainly not comparing her to Jesus, but He wasn't politically correct either. In our current world of not wanting to step on toes, she tells it like it is in a way that people need to hear and I predict she will continue to have a growing audience.


p.s. Although Ann's current article "It's Hard Out Here for a Pump" is good, I was particularly fond of the following posts:
-Lie Down With Strippers Wake-up With Pleas
-Brown is the New Black
-Revenge of the Queers
You can access these articles, and a host of others, on her Archives tab at the left of her home page. Happy reading, salt shaker in hand.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Four Friends

Yesterday our pastor delivered a message about Jesus healing the paralytic taken from Mark chapter 2. He made the observation that the men that were with the paralytic were his friends. I had never thought about that. It was probably true, who else would carry a paralyzed man across town, dig a hole in the roof, and lower him to Jesus. These men had probably been with him a long time and were not "fair weather friends". They knew if their friend saw Jesus he would be healed and their faith is what Jesus saw (Mark 2:5) and he healed the man. I thought a lot about that yesterday, that the faith of the friends is why Jesus healed him. Our Connection group talked about four friends in our own lives that would drop everything to help us. I was the last one in our group to speak so I was able to hear the comments of the others. There were a couple of people in our group who were disappointed they could only name one or two friends that they would call for help. When it was my turn, I shared about when I fell down our stairs in Cali and broke both my ankles. I couldn't walk for six weeks so I was in a similar situation as the paralyzed man. Our son was a baby, our daughter was three and my mom lived and worked in Mass so she couldn't help me. My friend Laurie organized our church to have someone come every day when Dan left for work at 7:30 and stay until he came home at 6:30. Some volunteers could only come to help for a couple of hours, some brought dinner. It was very difficult for me to just lie there and let someone else clean my kitchen, do my laundry, feed my family, but what I learned is that those people weren't ministering to me because they were my friends (although they were) but because they were being Jesus' servants. Some of them were only acquaintances but they were members of my church and were therefore my friends. Other people who don't have the Church family don't have any way to cope with the hard times in this life so they become alcoholics, adulterers, they abuse their children and spouses or even commit suicide. When God established his church, he knew we would need other Christians to help us in times of need. When we share our vulnerabilities with other Christians we become closer friends and able to connect on a deeper level. When we minister to our brothers and sisters we are being Christ in their lives.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Dear Mr President

This letter sums up my feelings on the immigration issue well... I don't know it's origin, but I found most of the points hit the nail on the head!

Dear President Bush:

I'm planning a little trip with my family and extended family, and I would like you to assist me. I'm going to walk across the border from the U.S. into Mexico, and I need to make a few arrangements. I know you can help with this.

You see, I plan to skip all the legal stuff like visas, passports, immigration laws and all that, and I'm sure they handle those things down there the same way you do here.

So, would you mind telling your buddy El Presidente Vicente Fox that I'm on my way over? Please let him know that I will be expecting all of the following:

1. Free medical care for myself and my entire family.
2. English-speaking government bureaucrats for all services I might need, whether I use them or not.
3. All government forms must be printed in English.
4. I want my children to be taught by English-speaking teachers.
5. Schools must include classes on American culture and history.
6. I want my kids to see the American flag flying on a flagpole at least as high as the Mexican flag, if not higher.
7. Please plan to feed my kids both breakfast and lunch at school, free of charge. And make sure it's nutritious.
8. I will need a local Mexican driver's license so I can get easy access to government services.
9. I do not plan to have any car insurance, nor will I make any effort to learn local traffic laws.
10. In case any Mexican police officers do not get the memo from El Presidente Fox to leave me alone, please be sure that all police officers speak English.
11. I plan to fly the American flag in my yard, put American flag decals on my car, and have a gigantic American celebration every July 4th. I do not expect, nor will I appreciate, any complaints or comments from Mexicans.
12. Make sure jobs that pay cash without extracting taxes are available, because I plan to send large portions of that money back to my relatives in America, and cash expedites the process.
13. Please expect, and calmly tolerate, frequent angry demonstrations disruptive to the local economy should anybody ever complain about the strain I might be placing on the Mexican economy.

I know this is an easy request, because you already do ALL these things for all the people who come to the U.S. from Mexico under the same conditions. I'm sure El Presidente Fox won't mind returning the favor if you ask him nicely. I'm sure he's always been friendly and generous to those who evade Mexican law when entering Mexico.

Thank you so much for your kind help.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Precious Children

Sometimes I forget how blessed I am to have my three children. My girl is so innocent and full of curiosity. While taking her to kindergarten, the voice from the back of the van will say, "Mommy, why is the sky blue?" I didn't know kids actually said that! She is a joyful child, so sweet and trusting of those around her. My prayer is she will adjust to her new school in Arizona and speak with confidence in her class among her peers. She is smart girl and can go anywhere in life. The boy, is all boy! He is always in the dirt or mud or climbing on something, but still needs cuddle time with mommy in the mornings. I love his tiny voice and spikey hair, he is the sweet one and will be able to do anything he sets his mind to. Our baby is becoming her own individual, probably out of necessity, or she could be lost in the chaos of our house! She likes to talk and will waive bye-bye when asked (neither of the other kids would). Being my last baby, I relish each baby milestone with great emotion and some tears. She has been such a blessing in our lives, we all love her. God, forgive me for neglecting the reality that I am richly blessed with the gift of healthy children. I dedicate my life to raising them to your glory.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Walking in the Desert

I've been asked to post the reasons why God led us to Arizona, so here goes!

My life journey started off being born into a fourth generation Church of Christ family, and when I was 11 years old I made the decision to be baptized into Christ by my best friends dad. I had a fairly uneventful life as a teenager, due to the constant intersession of prayer by my mom (a true prayer warrior). As a freshman in college at Hope International University in Fullerton, CA, I was exposed to young adults who seemed to have a different relationship with God than I did. They talked about Him in a personal way that I had never felt. I was curious as well as disappointed that I didn't know God this way. What were they talking about, a "personal Jesus", what in the world was that? I met and married my husband through our church, where we sponsored his family as missionaries to Zambia and Kenya. I spent our early married life happy, but somewhat lost for true purpose. While searching for the perfect diet solution, my dear friend Laurie asked me to be a part of a new weight loss program called The Weigh Down Workshop. After one session I realized my life was not focused on God, but on other things. Satan was using food to distract me from worshipping God with all my heart. "Those who live according to the sinful nature have there minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires." Romans 8:5. This verse focused my mind on God as the provider of nutrition, and that all food is blessed by God. After three sessions of WDW, I had given God complete control of my eating and was no longer tempted to make eating healthy foods my idol. I was sending an e-mail to several of my closest friends asking for direction to a deeper study of God's word and my hunger to know Him better, when my brother in law Jon suggested I look into a study called Experiencing God. My husbands parents, along with several of our elders, were beginning the study and I joined them. I have gone through the study three times, led it once and taught a Sunday school Bible class. The principles of EG are sevenfold.
1. God is always at work around you.
2. God pursues a continuing love relationship with you that is real and personal.
3. God invites you to become involved with Him in His work.
4. God speaks by the Holy Spirit through the Bible, prayer, circumstances, and the church to reveal Himself, His purposes, and His ways.
5. God's invitation for you to work with Him always leads you to a crisis of belief that requires faith and action.
6. You must make major adjustments in your life to join God in what He is doing.
7. You come to know God by experience as you obey Him and He accomplishes His work through you.
God was just waiting for me to find Him. He has always been right there, waiting for me to ask Him into each part of my life. When I found out I was expecting an unexpected third child, I sure felt a crisis of belief! I had my life all worked out the way I wanted with two kids, a beautiful house in OC, a great husband (and a great relationship thanks to Intimate Issues), and a great church home where I'd attended since I was 8 years old. All this seemed to be what God had put in my life as blessings, but what would another child mean? There was no realistic way to remain in the house we currently had with three kids, and buying a bigger house in the insanity of the '05 market was not going to happen if I wanted to continue to remain the primary care giver for my children (the most valuable job). We began to search for what God was saying we needed to do to keep in His way. We found that the Phoenix housing market was quickly moving out of our price range and several neighborhoods we looked at were sold out. My uncle in Scottsdale suggested we look at Anthem, as he really liked the community idea and recreational activities offered to members. We drove up on a Sunday morning and signed the papers on our new house after lunch. We were blessed to be immediately involved at Canyon Church by several members that have known my family for decades. All this is to say that God has definitely led us to the desert, as He did Abraham when He said "Go forth from your country, And from your relatives to the land which I will show you; And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great..." Genesis 12:1 & 2. God didn't tell Abraham where he was going or what would happen to him once he got there, only to go. Abraham went, and all people are blessed because of his faith in God. I carry this passage in my heart and I still feel we are living in the desert God led us to, but He is faithful and will bless me and my family for trusting Him.

Why A Praise Team?

The current dilemma
-Because we aren't getting people's attention, two-thirds of the Churches of Christ are declining or reaching a plateau with attendance. This is largely due to the fact that many churches are not addressing the 21st century culture in the assembly.
-Over 80% become Christians before age 20 and 75% between age 9-14. If we aren't reaching the youth, we aren't reaching the world.
-The world is watching satellite tv, communicating via e-mail and gathering information from the internet. Many churches are still using language and images from the turn of the 20th century. This can not compete with popular media, which freely uses images and techniques that completely outdo it.
-We need to recognize that this generation does not understand much of the language many churches insist on using.
-We must be flexible enough to communicate and unchanging message to a changing culture.

Some of the resistance issues I have heard have been the following:
-It's nothing but entertainment (with the assumption that anything associated with entertainment is corrupt. The motivation to entertain is subject to suspicion because of the performers need for self-gratification.)
-They're making a spectacle of themselves (anyone who draws attention to themselves during worship makes a spectacle, by making spontaneous expressions of worship like standing alone during a song, clapping or raising one's hands. This is deemed in violation of Jesus' command to pray in secret in Matt 6:6)

Three Goals for a Praise Team
1. The members demeanor and spirit lead the newer and older Christian spiritually by visually displaying heart felt emotions as they interpret the lyrics of worship songs.

2. The members lead the congregation musically. It is not an attempt to replace congregational singing, it is to enhance it. By providing musical leadership of all four parts, the average singer can pick out a part that is most comfortable and follow a praise team member. Teaching new songs and musically leading older ones is a valuable service to the congregation.

3. The members lead visually. A large group of worshippers requires coordination and leadership. Although a single worship leader is still required to begin the songs, visual leadership is more than keeping time by waving one's hand. The facial encouragement, and direction of the worship leader are all visually oriented aspects of leadership. All members of the praise team are leading somebody at sometime, and the group as a whole leads visually all the time. The visual impact a group of joyful and energetic singer can make on a church is significant.

Taking these goals into consideration, a Praise Team required to sit down front would be handicapped in their ability to lead spiritually, musically, and most certainly visually.

How to use those whom God has called?
"He gives to each one just as He determines" 1 Cor 12:11. Some people love to sing but have no heart for God, and some people have a heart for God and love to sing but are not called to lead worship in song. Excellence in presentation is always the goal, but the ability to worship authentically and with zeal is most important. Three criteria for all Praise Team members are the love of worship (heart for God), passion to lead others into worship (heart for leadership), and musical ability (ability to blend). Worship is about God, and a Praise Team should be about helping people draw closer to God, not about us!

*Some of this information came from the Zoe worship conference at Fresno Church of Christ, February 2003

God Speaks in Quiet Moments

So, it's late and my kids will be up and full of energy in a few hours. But here I am, writing away, instead of getting my beauty sleep. I've been on an emotional teeter-totter since yesterday when our precious baby Jill had her first birthday. My sweet friend Janis came over to give me some adorable frames she made, and I started to cry. I told her I was having one of those days where the littlest thing could make me cry, but I hadn't actually done it until she came over. I felt all the emotion of the past year, the babys birth, our move from Cali, a new Church, a new house, my girl starting school, was overwhelming and it all came out when Janis stopped by to drop off a housewarming gift! I suppose I just needed to get it out and she was there at the right time, but I don't believe in coincidences, I do believe in God-incidences. God sent Janis to me at that moment to let me know that I can trust Him. He has a special plan, and He wants to be a part of my life to the smallest degree, but I have to ask. He brought us to AZ for a specific purpose and I will trust He will use our family for His glory in His time. I may never see the fruit of this journey, but that is not promised in this life. He is faithful and will always be here for me. Anytime.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Here I am!

Well, I've decided to jump in and join the 'blog' team. I'm not new to the scene, I've been poking around on MySpace for a few months (as a nosy viewer). I didn't feel comfortable with MySpace, I'm old enough to be the mom of most of their members-lol. I'm joining Blogger to see if this is a good way for me to communicate with my friends that I don't get to talk to regularly and my friends at church that I see only for a few minutes on Sunday. I'm hoping to get a lot of response and maybe find some old friends, too!