Missional Marriage: 10 Practical Ways to Serve Other People

My husband, Jeremiah, and I always had a desire for our marriage to make a  difference in the lives of others. We knew that God brought us together for a greater purpose beyond “us.”

Early in our marriage we had the opportunity to serve in an apartment ministry together. Our responsibilities were to facilitate community among residents, build relationships, host dinners and events, and share the love of Christ. We invested in our residents for two years and most of them were non-Christians…

Continue Reading over on StartMarriageRight.com… I’d love to hear your thoughts over there!

The Joy of Being on Mission- Letting God Use You Wherever You Go

On Sunday, God answered a prayer I began praying two years ago for a young woman named *Allison.

Two years ago I was deeply stirred and convicted that I can be salt and light wherever I go: at the grocery store, the park, the mall, Chick-fil-a, wherever… There were people all around me that desperately needed to hear the hope of the gospel. I knew I needed to start being more intentional with people and stop making excuses.

I started thinking about the people in my path on a regular basis and Allison instantly came to mind. She was one of the sitters at our gym’s childcare. I saw her consistently and she had a great affection for my son John. He loved seeing her too. From the moment I met Allison, I got this feeling that she had pain in her life. There was something in her eyes and in the way she carried herself that said it. I felt like God wanted to use me, by his grace, to show her love when I had the opportunity.

On the days I dropped my son off at the gym, I would engage with her by asking about her day and about herself. One day I made banana bread for her and the staff there. I knew simple facts that she had a daughter and lived nearby but that was it. Our time was often cut short with me having to round up the kids.

There were days I got so frustrated because the right timing hadn’t come for me to share Christ with her or invite her to church. But somehow I would always go back to the fact that all I needed to focus on was building a friendship with her and showing Christ’s love. So that’s what I did over a span of two years.

Well about a month ago, I called to set up a childcare appointment and our conversation naturally flowed into me asking if she’d like to come to church with our family. To my amazement, she said she’d love to and we planned to meet in the morning. But morning came and she had to cancel. I was a little upset because I was so excited about it. The next Sunday we had planned to meet again, but her daughter ended up getting sick and my kids got sick too.

I grew discouraged thinking she’d never make it to church with us. I wondered if God really would make it happen. Then out of the blue and not in my timing at all, on our flight home from VA Beach this past Saturday, Allison texted me saying she wanted to join us for church. I was a little doubtful it would happen especially because we weren’t even sure we were going after a long day of traveling, but I trusted the Lord and we planned a time.

I texted her that morning to see if she thought it would work and she was ready to go! We met and she followed us in our van. When we arrived, Jeremiah took the kids and checked them in and I helped her check in her daughter. This was her daughter’s first time to church and she was so excited. When it was time for worship, we got our coffee and seats and the music played. We all stood to sing. I glanced over at Allison and she was blotting her eyes with tissue. She told me midway through how much she loved the songs.

When our young adult pastor, JP, gave the message, I felt like it was one of the best sermons I had ever heard. It was on being a light that shines bright among the darkness and the gospel was clearly presented.

After the service, Allison told me she loved it and wanted to come back next week. Her daughter also loved her class. We went out to lunch after, along with a couple in our community group and Jeremiah’s sister. Amidst the craziness of kids at the table, we learned a little more about her. She felt the freedom to share that she was adopted and her adopted dad died when she was a little girl. Several years ago she was in a very bad relationship, where she was beaten and the man killed the 8 month old baby in her womb.

I had never heard anything so tragic and I was amazed by all that she had gone through and that was only a small part of her story. Allison had experienced tremendous loss. But I was so encouraged that she heard the true gospel and she desired to come back to church. She experienced love from the body of Christ and I believe she knows that Jesus can heal her of all those hurts. I am praying for more opportunities to follow up with her and continue to encourage her toward a relationship with Christ.

As I write this, my eyes fill with tears because God is intervening in Allison’s life. While she may not fully know it yet, I believe it’s clear that he is working. We serve a God who cares deeply for people’s hurts and that they would be reconciled back to Him. We serve a God who wants to use us in every day life as we yield to His Spirit while we’re on mission for Him.

I look forward to seeing what God does with Allison’s life in the future. I’ll be sure to update you.

* name changed to protect privacy

Consumerism and the American Dream

To help people trade in the pursuit of the American Dream for a world that desperately needs Christ.

This is the mission statement behind the work I do every day for RightNow, Bluefish TV, and Small Group Trader.

Our passion is to create Traders. A trader is a new kind of missionary not defined by geography but by a resolve to: Choose Daily, Hate Injustice, Work as Worship, and Act Swiftly by using his or her time, skills and money to impact the world for Christ.

Our 3 strategies for making traders is to inspire church leaders, transform small groups, and coach individuals.

As a writer and editor on our team for our Bible study curriculum, articles, and more, my role in our ministry is fleshed out mainly in inspiring church leaders and transforming small groups. I have to tell you though that every day, I’m challenged and inspired by our mission here. In a culture that is all about consumerism, self-focused leadership, and “what’s in it for me?” (yep in church culture too), I’ve been challenged to really consider what the American Dream means in my personal life.

The truth is that the American Dream was once about opportunity, but it has evolved into a “more” and “me” way of life. More house, more car, more money, more everything. And I have to regularly ask myself, do those things control me? Even in the smaller things like getting a Starbucks drink, buying clothes, or household things, I’m becoming more aware of my motives and realizing that sometimes I just buy things because I can or maybe even because I feel entitled to.

But through a process, I really desire change and to trade in those pursuits in order to give my life away for the sake of other people and for the gospel. And this is no easy task because I’m so s-e-l-f-i-s-h and sometimes I love my agenda more than people. I think when we truly grasp all that is at stake when we cling tightly to the American Dream, our lives are changed and we can’t go back. And life is just too short to live it for ourselves.

Over the past few years, my husband and I have both traded in time, comfort, and sleep to provide meals and community activities to our apartment residents every week and through that experience, I learned more than ever what it means to trade in my life. Since I’ve tasted what being a trader is about, I don’t really want to live life any other way. But I recognize I will always need God’s help in order to be a trader.

Have you thought about the idea of being a “trader”? Are you trading in anything right now or would like to in the future?

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nql4hb9G3Ns&feature=player_embedded]

When faith has action

For quite a while now, I’ve been praying for God to help me live out my faith on a day to day basis (in the mundane details of life). Sometimes I feel like I have a lot inside me, but I don’t know how to give it away. I’m impatient with the Lord and wonder why more opportunities don’t exist to be a light.

Well yesterday, Jeremiah and I went for a walk to the park with John. We put John in his favorite swing and noticed a young man walking our way with three kids. He positioned his twin toddlers in their swings next to us and his older daughter went off to play on the slide. He managed to have his eye on all of them, but he did look tired.

We introduced ourselves and started talking about random stuff. He lived in the lofts off in the distance. Jeremiah engaged with him more so I decided to go play with his kids on the slides. During that time, Jeremiah learned that he was divorced with a lot on his shoulders taking care of three kids and working a lucrative job. It was neat to see him really open up.

When it was time for him to go, I asked Jeremiah if we should give him our number if he ever needed someone to help out with his kids. He nodded, so I went up to him as he was getting his kids situated.

“Hey I know we just met and you don’t know us well, but we’d love to help watch your kids sometime.”

I was nervous about his reaction but his eyes lit up. “Really? That would be such a help. Thank you so much.”

He then asked us to text him our number. He told his kids to tell us goodbye- they were adorable. 30 minutes later, we got a text back saying how he would probably be spent by the end of the week. We told him we were available Saturday to help him out. I couldn’t believe how quickly we were going to be able to help!

Initially it was tempting to not act on the need we saw. This guy didn’t know us at all. But I think the issue wasn’t really him, but us. Would we extend a hand? Yesterday really helped me see that God uses us to help bring his love to people. And to me, that is just amazing that he would use us (in spite of our shortcomings).

I’m thankful that a Monday evening at the park is going to turn into more opportunities to serve…

Oh me of little faith

Heart’s racing. Knees weak. Stuttered words. What will they think of me? Will I be rejected? Laughed at?

Sharing my faith with other people isn’t always easy.

I fear and worry still today even when the last time I tried to get things going spiritually, everything went fine. My waiter was receptive. It was an awesome conversation. The last time I had the opportunity at my eye doctor’s office, I didn’t take it. I had a hard time transitioning into spiritual matters. I think most of all, I feared what the admin. assistant would think of me.

I’ve been really thinking though- what is the worse thing that could happen when we share our faith? The worse thing that has happened to me so far is that my husband was fired for sharing his faith on the job three months into our marriage. You can hear more about our story in this 3 minute video.

I remember in high school being called “religious” at times. I’ve had people change a spiritual conversation on me really fast. I’m guessing I’ve been made fun of for my facebook status updates that are about God. And I’m guessing someone may have chosen not to be around me because I love and talk about Jesus. But I can’t pinpoint anything (as of yet) where people cussed me out or just hated me after loving on them and sharing my story of grace.

And even if they did, that’s okay. I’ve been commanded not to be silent. Heaven and hell are at stake. I know, no one talks about hell anymore. But it’s the hard truth. It’s okay if our heart races a little and we feel like we’re going to fall over and die! Because God is the one who cultivates. Convicts. Redeems. Restores. He is the only one with the ability to raise a life up from the dead.

He just chooses to use us in his plan. I’m so thankful he does despite all my crazy, ridiculous fears.

Being on Mission with Your Children- Part 2

This is part two of the series, Being On Mission with Your Children. Part one consisted of Being a Mommy on Mission. This final part is about Being a Daddy on Mission. I encourage Mommy’s and Daddy’s (anyone) to read both.

In Being a Mommy on Mission, I addressed how the tiniest moments of slowing down will define the huge moments of how we meet our child’s physical and emotional needs. Slowing down is just one of the many ways that mommy’s can be on mission.

I appreciated Dan Browne’s comment from last week: “We made a decision to live each day with our child to the fullest. Even if that means Mickey Mouse Club House for a few hours because she wants to see the fish or dog or show us the flower on the screen, etc…”

Daddy’s don’t want to miss those moments either, and I’m convinced that Daddy’s role is equally important as Mommy’s, if not more important.

1 Corinthians 11:7 says that a man is the image and glory of God. I just love that. God has designed the man as the leader and head of the home. He has purposefully created men to cultivate and to build (Gen. 2:15), so I think the important issue with being a Daddy on Mission is that you have to fight in the Battle as you build.

God created Daddy’s to cultivate their children through discipline, love, encouragement, rebuke, and making sure there is steady progress in the family. But the reality is that since the fall where sin made its first ugly appearance, Daddy’s have to work hard at cultivating (Gen. 3:17-19). It doesn’t come natural and it doesn’t happen over night.

I sense the fight in our family. When my husband Jeremiah leads the three of us in prayer before bed time every night, searches out the deeper things in my heart, loves me and John well, and is being the spiritual leader he was created to be, there are all kinds of things that want to thwart that mission.

I can be a very difficult wife sometimes and an impatient mommy. John can be fussy, disobedient, and a handful. Jeremiah sometimes gives into his flesh and has a hard time leading. All of that coupled with the flesh, spiritual warfare, baggage, and Satan’s ultimate plan to destroy the family can’t be diminished.

But what I do see is that Jeremiah puts his armor on daily and is ready to fight back. He’s not perfect, but he works hard at loving us even when he doesn’t always get the response he wants. He strives to love me like Christ loved the church by being in the word, confessing sin, staying pure, and being held accountable to other guys. His love has encouraged me to be the person God created me to be. And honestly, I think he “gets” how to love much more than I do.

While he fights to cultivate well, I’m also learning that it’s my role to build him up and not tear him down when he has failed. I realize the implications of that are massive. Choosing to tear down could result in another casualty- a mere tragedy all together.

So why do you have to be in the war? How come it’s just so hard sometimes?

In our experience, we’re learning to expect the battle because we’re fallen. In our marriage and in raising John, we’re starting to appreciate the gospel even more. We treasure God’s constant grace on our failures and sin. We become more dependent on him to make it through each day because some days are just plain hard. We’re thankful he’s in the process of sanctifying us for his glory.

Daddy’s have such a high calling as cultivators of their marriage and their children and to love without conditions. And apart from the Holy Spirit’s transforming power in a man’s life, it’s impossible to be the cultivator God desires. But Daddy’s who are in Christ, have been given everything they need to stand strong and fight the battle against sin.

So build away, and continue to let God be your ultimate strength as you raise your family. We need you, Daddy, more than you could ever imagine!

Question: What challenges do you face in being on mission as a cultivator? What rewards? What do you want wives and mommy’s out there to know about “the fight”?

Being on Mission with Your Children- Part 1

This is part one of a two-part series called “Being on Mission with Your Children.” Part one will consist of being a Mommy on Mission and part two will deal with being a Daddy on Mission. I encourage you to read both parts.

Kelly Sauer‘s Twitter bio caught my attention the other day. It read: I dream big and change diapers.

I just love that and it made me think of a little mission statement that’s been ringing in my head since I’ve been re-reading a book I had to read for my Child Developmental Psychology class in college called The Power of Mother Love.

My new-found mission is: I want to change the world, one diaper at a time.

To tell you the truth, however, I didn’t know this would be my desire until God gave me my son John.

I’m learning that he is my mission. He is 15 months old so of course he doesn’t know it yet, but how I give my love away to him now will profoundly influence and shape his life and character and ultimately, who he will become one day.

Many of you know that I’m fresh into being a mommy so I’m not a pro, but I’ve found a little secret that’s helping me to be “on mission” with him each day and to value, above anything else, the importance of who I am to my child.

This might seem way too obvious, but it starts with Slowing Down.

It requires a lot of intentionality on my part to see the world how John is seeing it, to get off my computer or i-Phone, to stop doing the dishes or the laundry, or worrying about this or that, but to really be all there with him. He invites me in to his world every time and his world is already at a much slower pace than mine. The choice is if I will choose to be still, within my own spirit, and embrace his world with him.

I’ve found that when I’m still and engage with him, I’m able to meet his deepest emotional needs by letting him know I hear his words and see each little step he makes. We’re able to capture moments together like when he first says “t-e-n-k you” or learns how to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on his own. Or when he’s offering to kiss me on the cheek or give me “that look” when he needs something. I can sense his needs easier and I’m there to nurture him whenever he needs it. And he always has a way of knowing whether I’m fully there or not.

My love is more available when I slow down.

Being on Mission as Mommy’s starts with slowing down, to where we are meeting our children’s deepest emotional needs, but that is not the end, it’s the means to the end where we’re slowing down so that we can best live out our faith and instill biblical truth into their lives.

In a hectic, over-worked, disorganized schedule it’s difficult to be all there and live out our faith in front of our children. Nine times out of ten, over commitment results in frustration, anger, restlessness, impatience, depleting quiet times and prayer and we end up not being who we want to be. I’ve been there and it has affected my home. I’m convinced that the tiniest moments of slowing down will help define the huge moments of how our children will grow and come to salvation in the Lord later on.

Of course, their salvation is an act only by God, but we have a huge part to play in how they view and love God for the rest of their lives. What a challenge and responsibility, but what a joy and privilege to help lead them to the cross and have them join us in God’s mission.

If you’re a mommy, and like me, have been wondering where your ministry is and how you can best serve God, remember that you are on mission right where you are, the best place you could ever be…

In your home.

The place where you were meant to help change the world, one diaper at a time.

Will you join me in this mission?

Question: What are some other ways you’re giving your love away and being “on mission” in your home?

Church, Meth, & the Gospel

“The church I grew up in was hypocritical,” my waiter said after I asked him about his church background.

“I’m from east Texas- you know the Meth capital of the world. So people would do Meth and then go to our Baptist church on Sunday,” he said with a somewhat frustrated voice. “They acted so religious too.”

Not being from Texas, I didn’t know east Texas was famous for that.

“Do you go to church anywhere now?” I asked.

“No, I work Sundays and everything… and… church just isn’t for me.”

“Yeah I understand,” I said.

Where’s the life and joy?

My husband chimed in and shared about the ugliness of hypocrisy he saw at times in his church growing up.

Our waiter listened, gazing at the glasses that needed to be filled in the distance. As they conversed, I took some bites out of my steak, completely annoyed at where we stand as “the church” today.

I remember times growing up in the church and putting on my Sunday best. Singing those hymns, smiling, and shaking hands with people, but feeling like I was swimming in a sea of dead people. All I wanted to see was life and joy. I didn’t want to see hypocrisy.

When I went to college, I began to see God’s love like never before through his people and his Word. I grew in intimacy with him as I was surrounded by other Christ-followers. I started to look to God, and not at other people. Since getting married and moving to Dallas several years ago, I’ve been learning a lot about true, biblical community at our church. I’ve experienced what it means to be authentic, confess sins, and share struggles and it’s been life-changing.

The Church isn’t a Building

It’s the gospel over and over again- broken people coming to Jesus. But how come the church is missing it- they’re not even on the map?

I think we all have to face the fact that there is nothing great in us apart from Christ. We are all, in a sense, hypocritical people. That’s why we need a Savior. We need him to help us navigate the rough waters of isolation and pretending.

We have to realize that the church is made up of real people who are supposed to love God and others. It’s not a building. It’s the bride of Christ, put here on earth to reflect his glory.

The Gospel’s Transforming Power

Well my husband wrapped up what he was saying to our waiter and then invited him to our church, handing him a card with info on it. I sensed that he thought we were a little weird (Okay, maybe foreign), but that somehow he appreciated us chatting with him.

It’s my prayer that one day he can step foot in the church again and see how the church was really meant to be. That he would see the power of the gospel transform all forms of hypocrisy.

5 Ways to Fight Consumerism this Christmas

Consumerism is the equation of personal happiness with consumption and the purchase of material possessions (Wikipedia). Consumerism reigns like a proud King in America. He’s captured hearts. Chained families to debt. Caused divorce. And has crept into churches.

But that’s not all. Consumerism is mainly an issue of the heart— the flesh’s desire for more, and a failure to trust in God to provide all things.

Here are five practical ways I’m trying to fight consumerism this Christmas:

1.) Remember former debt. It wasn’t a fun experience a few years ago paying off around $700.00 of credit card debt from Christmas time. (Thanks to Dave Ramsey, we cut our credit cards up so they no longer tempt us).

2.) Pray for a spirit-led shopping experience. Before I went out the other day I prayed that God would help me decide what I needed to get vs. what I wanted to get for other people. I  believe that prayer and being led by the Spirit helps keep me from over-spending.

3.) Accumulate experiences, not possessions (thanks Mark Batterson). I’ve tried to put relationships and time together with those closest to me in my life above accumulating stuff and things that don’t last.

4.) Be in authentic community. I’ve surrounded myself with friends who will ask me the hard questions. And they know our budget. While they don’t ask about this all the time, I know I have to be ready if they do.

5.) Give to those you know who are in need and love on them. This Christmas, we’ll be giving away some of the resources God’s given to us to certain family members who are struggling. Sometimes I think I’m only doing “good” if I give to a charity or other organization, but if a family member is in need- he or she really is who takes precedence.

Above all, the gospel is what transforms our hearts and keeps us from being led away by the desire for more. I’m thankful that as I daily surrender to the Spirit’s control, I can be victorious in the constant battle where consumerism tries to be King.

Have you thought of a plan of attack for fighting consumerism in the upcoming days?

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