another brand new thang…

Lately, my husband and I have had a longing for community. For a group of closer friends who we could share with and encourage and who could encourage us. At our church, the staff has been struggling a bit with how to make groups a very integral part of our congregation. We go to what some might call a “mega-church” although realistically, it’s not that in the true sense of the word. But for our rural area, it’s certainly a much larger church than usual.

Anyway, the church experienced some sudden growth spurts at different times, which always makes for some trials in how to handle the influx of people in the different areas of ministry.

At one time we were in a “small group” with our lead pastor. We loved it, it was a great way to get to know him a little more personally and of course, to meet others in the church that we may not have otherwise gotten to know.

As time went on, however, the group grew too large for one room so we split and somehow we ended up in the group without our pastor, which turned out to be okay, we just would have chosen differently. And so this new group did well for several months until one night, the leader and his wife didn’t show up. There were about 3 other couples there and two new people showed up as well, so we all just kind of went on with things the way we usually did. The next week, the same thing happened and another new person showed up.

I was concerned about the situation because I’d seen the couple who were leaders of the group at church that morning, so I sent a message to one of the associate pastors asking what we should do or if he knew if there was something wrong with the other couple. The reply I got was “Congratulations! You have just become group leaders!” Hahaha… um, no. 🙂

Actually, we didn’t mind, it was just a little scary to be given that title and so we asked the other two couples who were regular attenders if they wanted to lead and were told emphatically NO, so we carried on with the group.

After about a year, things changed, the church began to want groups to meet in homes instead of the church which made ME nervous and then things happened like one couple’s job schedules changed drastically and they couldn’t meet the same night anymore, then another couple had some scheduling issues and finally, our group just kind of fell apart. Soon after, though, the church tried a new approach to groups and asked two of our regular couples to become leaders of their own groups.

That didn’t work so well as we were put into a large room with a sign telling what sort of group we had (age range, location, meeting day, etc) and then people would come and “join” whichever group would work for them. We had one couple in our new group and they seemed to always have some conflict and didn’t often show up, so that fell apart too and we had no group at all.

It’s been that way for a couple years now so we finally just gave up and filled out a form to be put into a group. We ended up being put into a group lead by a couple we know and love, but they’ve had a group for years and still had one couple in it that had been there from the start. The other couple was nice, we knew and liked them as well, but it was really hard with so much history between them to feel as if we belonged. Maybe that was our own doing, but there it is. We just felt so outside the loop it was uncomfortable to try and belong. As it was, this all happened just before Thanksgiving so we put off scheduling a meeting til after that and Christmas since our church does a MAJOR Christmas event that draws thousands and so many of us volunteer to help with it.

And so here it is the end of February and we hadn’t had the first meeting. I wasn’t sure if they’d been meeting without us or what, but found out that they hadn’t started meeting yet. I guess life is crazy for all of us!

And so, while I was serving at camp for a young girls’ Emmaus weekend, one of the pastors called and asked Tommy if we would lead a group. He immediately said we would, which kind of surprised me, but I was glad.

The fact was that I’d been talking with another lady that had discussed desire for a group to join and was contacting another to see if we could just start our own study group. What was even funnier is that after this lady and her husband said they would love to start a group with us, we got this call and they also got asked to lead a group!

—February 27, 2016—
(that’s what happens when I get interrupted repeatedly during a post! LOL!)

The other thing that was going on during this same time is an Emmaus friend of ours and her husband were starting LIFE group at their home and asked if we wanted to join them. (read about what LIFE group is at the link above)

The first week there was only one other couple there and it was nice, we got excited about it. The curriculum revolves around the real meaning of the Tree of Life and the Tree of The Knowledge of Good and Evil. So far, we really like it.

So, here it is a week later and last time I checked, there are three people signed up for our discipleship group. One of them is my sister, which we’re not sure about. I mean, one of the objectives we’ve been given is to get people to open up. That’s NOT as ominous as it sounds. The idea is to form a close, cohesive group that comes to love and depend on each other and what better way to do that than by sharing about our lives? As you may or may not know, my sister and I have had a pretty non-functional, almost non-existent relationship most of our lives. Lots of things contributed to that, but nevertheless, we have just in this past year been able to deal with it in a more productive way. Once she went on an Emmaus walk for herself, frankly, she almost became a different (better!) person! Her inward, self-focused thinking changed and it’s been a really great thing.

For the past several months, she’s actually been going to our church which is a big change for her all by itself. Much the same way it was for us. She’s really been loving it and learning more than ever. So anyway, it’s NOT that the relationship is still so strained, it’s just that, well, she’s my sister so I would think either it’d be easier to open up with other people or that it would just be nicer to chat with people she doesn’t have history with. I guess she just wanted to be where she knew someone, but we are hoping that either it works EXTREMELY well, or that she’ll see the wisdom in moving to another group. I’m hoping there is a women’s group she can get in since, for the time being, her husband isn’t going to be coming with her.

So anyhow, the other two people in the group is a couple that we sort-of know. Well, we know the husband very well. He and I went to school together from kindergarten through high school! This is his second wife, so I don’t know her, but it’ll be interesting to see how this thing works.

We were under the impression that the staff would be putting people into groups, but apparently, they are able to choose which group they want. I’m not sure, but from what one staffer told us, I think maybe they are surprised by this too…I think they assumed it was set up so that the people were only signing up with their info and not actually able to choose a group!

We had our second week at LIFE group and more people were there, including Corey, our eldest son and his wife! I was so glad they agreed to come and hope they will continue. Corey’s a youth pastor at another church and they are both always just stretched to the limit with church activities. I get a little irritated (okay, a LOT irritated sometimes!) because of the way the church will schedule things that require Corey’s involvement without consulting him. Just last weekend, they took the group to Winter Jam and then had a lock-in at the church and the next day he was responsible for much of the Sunday service then they had a belated Valentine’s dinner planned that, of course, the youth are supposed to be in charge of. WHY would anyone schedule all that stuff the same weekend?!?! It happens all the time and I really wish Corey would just tell them NOPE sometimes, but he usually picks up whatever they throw at him and deals with it. *sigh* He’s much more patient than me, obviously.

So there it is… I’ll post again with news of how the discipleship group goes. Maybe we will have more people by Wednesday and it will all balance out. 🙂

Blessings!

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the good old days

That might not be the best title for this post, but I have a lot on my mind and it has to do with trying to “get back” to the way things once were.

Of course, I know “you can’t go back home” and this isn’t about trying to reverse time either physically or emotionally. This is about rebuilding my spiritual self.

WARNING: it’s about to get real up in here…brutal honesty about myself forthcoming.

More than a decade ago, there was a time when I absolutely LOVED spending time reading my Bible. I would get up at least an hour before everyone else to read and pray and journal. I guess that was maybe the second time I ever read all the way through the Bible, beginning to end. But this time, I took notes. I had a couple of notebooks full of thoughts and scriptures and prayers. I don’t remember what spurred me into this wonderful period of just loving my time with the Lord, but it seems like so long ago and I don’t know how to recreate it again.

Something happened. Somewhere along the line, something just happened. I honestly don’t remember what it was. I don’t know if something happened emotionally that sent me into a tailspin or if it was that I got physically sick and fell out of the routine. I just realized one day that, hey, I used to spend a lot of time in The Word…what happened?

I wish I knew. I have been trying, half-heartedly, I admit, for the past couple of years to get back to that place where I loved spending time reading and learning about Jesus.

Our pastor just did an amazing series of classes, four weeks, on how to have a devotional time and how to pray. Seriously, it was awesome. I had such high hopes that it would kick me into action, but it hasn’t seemed to do that. Even though I learned SO much, it just didn’t seem to do whatever it is that I need to reawaken that desire for The Word.

I don’t know about you, but being saved at the tender age of eight in a small Baptist church in the seventies, I didn’t get a discipleship class. I had never even heard of such a thing until my kids were in their teens! Did they not exist back then? Are they something new that just came to be in the past couple decades? Maybe it was because I grew up in a Christian home? Or maybe our little church just didn’t offer them for some reason? I don’t recall any other people having a time of mentoring and “lessons” about how to be a Christian after they were saved. I often wonder now why that wasn’t just a routine. I mean, even when I was part of larger churches, there were no such ‘classes’ for new Christians.

That’s something my pastor spoke about in his prayer/devotional classes. He said he felt like he’d failed for not thinking to do something like these classes sooner. He spoke of a couple who had spent hours each Friday evening years ago with him and his wife, sharing with them the things he was teaching us. What a blessing that must have been!

Maybe that’s the issue with me right now? Maybe, since I’m in a place where, having been “a Christian”, in church, ‘serving the Lord’ for so many decades now, and I’ve honestly just grown cold, satisfied, complacent…maybe that’s why I’m finding it so hard to rekindle my fire? To regain my thirst for Jesus? Maybe if I had had some training or at least some guidelines when I was a brand new Christian, or even a few years later after I was a bit older, maybe then I would be better at this?

As it is, I feel like a failure. I have to MAKE myself sit down and read my Bible and I feel at a loss for anything to write in my journal and praying? I have never been very good at that.

I learned from my pastor some great tips for how to just pray from scripture though…and how to keep a separate prayer journal or list. How to read scripture, aloud, emphasizing a different word each time. Like this: Genesis 1:1 King James Version says, “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.”

And so, you would read this aloud, giving emphasis to a different word in the verse each time. Try it and see how it draws out the meanings and changes what the scripture says to you. (yes, it’s important to do it out loud…I know, it feels weird, but just try it.)

IN the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.
In THE beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.
In the BEGINNING, God created the heaven and the earth.
In the beginning, GOD created the heaven and the earth.
In the beginning, God CREATED the heaven and the earth.
In the beginning, God created THE heaven and the earth.
In the beginning, God created the HEAVEN and the earth.
In the beginning, God created the heaven AND the earth.
In the beginning, God created the heaven and THE earth.
In the beginning, God created the heaven and the EARTH.

I got so many things out of the classes that are honestly very helpful, but I just don’t seem to be latching onto them or finding any excitement.

He also taught us that doing these things has nothing to do with our feelings. That we should study and pray even when we don’t “feel like it”. So I am trying.

Right now, I have this cool little graphic that I’ve been using. 30 Day Thanksgiving Scripture Writing Plan

Isn’t it awesome? I had never seen or heard of anything like this before. And I’ve started using it, although I sometimes end up doing a couple days’ worth in a sitting, but so far, I’m keeping up with it. I figure if I can’t “feel” the excitement that I used to for God’s word, at least I can write it out each day until I do feel it again.

Is that a good plan? I don’t know. But if you search for “scripture writing plans“, you will find pages like this for each month. I plan to try and keep up with this.

my scripture journal

I just finished writing half of Psalm 136 where every single verse ends with the words “for his mercy endures forever.”

That’s good to know because I sure need it these days. Even if I was enthusiastically devouring scripture, I would still need His mercy every single day.

If you have suggestions or ideas for ways to reignite a hunger for studying God’s word and spending time in prayer, would you share it with me? Let me know if you’ve ever used a writing plan like this or if anything here helped you.

Maybe learning from you or hearing that you are progressing too will help me get back to “the good old days” when I had a deep thirst for God’s word!

I thank you in advance for sharing!

Deuteronomy 31:12“Gather the people together, men and women, and children, and thy stranger that is within thy gates, that they may hear, and that they may learn, and fear the Lord your God, and observe to do all the words of this law:”