How’s Your Heart: Questions from Michelle Beckman

Michelle was real---she could ask questions and get Read more

A Welcome for Refugee Children by Heather Dellamater

My husband’s home church, Temple Baptist in Rockford IL, has a history with refugees and immigrants. Started by Swedish arrivals, services were held in Swedish well into the last century. Apparently memories of being new to a nation were passed on and kept the hearts of members open as they have continued to welcome new arrivals, including refugee children. It was five o’clock on a Friday morning and I am driving to the grocery store to pick up bananas— trying to muster all my self-control to keep from crying. I could not believe that the end of the most joyful week of my life was here. Buying something simple like bananas for their breakfast was a welcome chore as my mind wandered and pondered the events leading up to and throughout The Welcome Project. My heart was so overwhelmed by the blessings of the Lord and broken because it would be over at 3 o’clock that afternoon. The Welcome Project was a God created weeklong event specifically, prayerfully and strategically held for refugee children living in my hometown. In our city there are thousands of refugee families living among us. They are often out of sight because they usually live in the most impoverished and dangerous neighborhoods in our city. Over the past few years, my church has been blessed to partner with a congregation of refugees from Myanmar. The plight of the refugee parents has been an ever-growing learning experience, this year, God revealed to us the difficult situation of their children. While there are English classes and job training assistance for adult refugees, their children arrive in the United States one day to then be dropped into a school the very next day. With limited English at best, in a foreign country with foreign customs in a strange school, these children face incredible obstacles that they negotiate alone. As I began to learn about their struggles, I could not help but imagine what it would be like to find your school bus, classrooms, figure out lunch lines, lockers, P.E. games, understand text books and teaching in a language foreign to my own. How challenging Read more

Labor Day: Celebrating the Value of Work and Worker

Labor Day celebrates American workers and the work they do.  It was first established in 1882, and in 1894 President Glover Cleveland made it a federal holiday on the first Monday in September to honor the American labor movement and the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of the country. God honored work and worker long before that. Just look at these Scriptures on the importance and value of work. God Himself was the first worker-and He is still working By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. (Genesis 2:2) One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts. (Psalm 145:4) Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. (Isaiah 64:8) In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” (John 5:17) God assigned work to us The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. (Genesis 2:15) …to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up (Ephesians 4:12) Make the tabernacle with ten curtains of finely twisted linen and blue, purple and scarlet yarn, with cherubim woven into them by a skilled worker. (Exodus 26:1) He has filled them with skill to do all kinds of work as engravers, designers, embroiderers in blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen, and weavers—all of them skilled workers and designers. (Exodus 35:35)  He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. (Luke 10:2) Paul appreciated his co-workers Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in Christ Jesus. Greet Mary, who worked very hard for you. Greet Urbanus, our co-worker in Christ, and my dear friend Stachys. Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, those women who work hard in the Lord. Greet my dear friend Persis, another woman who has worked very hard in the Lord. Timothy, my co-worker, sends his greetings to you, as do Lucius, Jason and Sosipater, my fellow Jews. Gaius, whose Read more

What to Wear as a Child of God: Patience

We all know what patience means—and we often assure others that patience is not our strength. Read more

Loving a Prodigal: Immersed in His Mercy

Our God loves mercy. And He is willing to immerse us in His Read more

How’s Your Heart: Questions from Michelle Beckman

Michelle and friends

Michelle Beckman’s memorial service was beautiful, like Michelle. Tears, laughter, insight. We saw into the life of this amazing woman. And we saw how she used questions to always turn the conversation to “you” and how “you” were doing.

A few weeks before Michelle left for her new home in Heaven, I had a delightful two hours with her. She seemed to have some energy, and every time I said I should leave, she said, “Please stay.” And every time I tried to ask the questions so I could hear how she was, she said talking made her tired, and she asked me another question.

As person after person told of Michelle’s impact on their lives—and on so many others—it became clear that she had an amazing gift to draw people out, to discern needs, to mention just the right Scriptures, to have the most encouraging response, to pray the best prayer.

Michelle with her family

Michelle and friends

Questions were her currency.

I have gathered here—from a Facebook question I asked–some of the questions Michelle frequently used to get to the heart of every person she encountered. She almost always began with, “How’s your heart?”

Stacey: She always asked me “how can I pray for you?” This would be a question asked even without the deep conversation but more of a “hey! How are you?” kind of thing.

Lori: But it probably still made you pause and think. Because you can’t answer that question with, “I’m fine” it made you be sincere with her because she didn’t ask you the typical How are you?

Katie: Michelle was real—she could ask questions and get answers, because she shared her struggles and her life as well.

Kelly: How are you and Jesus doing? How is your heart? How did (insert something in my life here) go? How are you feeling about that? Where is Jesus meeting you in this?

(Insert affirmation here)

(Insert Michelle sharing vulnerably from her life experience here)

I hear you saying _________. ^This one is key, because this is how Michelle always always showed me she was         not only listening, but she cared and understood.

How can I pray for you? Let’s pray right now (enter into extended time of specific prayer).

Lori: Kelly, those were great. I love how you outlined a typical conversation.

Shawna: How is your heart? What are you learning? What has He been saying to you lately?

Joy: Always asked me ‘how’s your heart’! Loved it. Because she really wanted to hear the answer!

Bethany: “Where is God in this?” It was always a hard question to answer, but answering it always revealed a whole lot of truth to my heart. I don’t remember the follow up, but I believe it was something like, “Where do you want him to be?”

Bethany: Yes, it usually came when I was dealing with something hard. Her response was always to listen intently and then, when the time was right, to relate her experiences to mine with “hope on the horizon” as she put it.

Naomi: If I was fighting back tears, not letting them come, she wouldn’t let me get away with it. She would acknowledge and draw me out. Something to the effect of, “It looks like you have tears in your eyes. What’s behind those?”

I’m sure other friends could add more questions.

Michelle with Desiree

Michelle with friends

I’m missing Michelle—I was used to seeing her almost weekly. But, of course, I am rejoicing at her joy! And hoping I can practice more of what she lived.

What about you? What questions do you ask?

C2016 Judy Douglass

You can watch a video of her memorial service here.

Related post: Kingdom Women: Michelle Beckman




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A Welcome for Refugee Children by Heather Dellamater

My husband’s home church, Temple Baptist in Rockford IL, has a history with refugees and immigrants. Started by Swedish arrivals, services were held in Swedish well into the last century. Apparently memories of being new to a nation were passed on and kept the hearts of members open as they have continued to welcome new arrivals, including refugee children.

small group time for refugee children

It was five o’clock on a Friday morning and I am driving to the grocery store to pick up bananas— trying to muster all my self-control to keep from crying. I could not believe that the end of the most joyful week of my life was here.

Buying something simple like bananas for their breakfast was a welcome chore as my mind wandered and pondered the events leading up to and throughout The Welcome Project. My heart was so overwhelmed by the blessings of the Lord and broken because it would be over at 3 o’clock that afternoon.

The Welcome Project was a God created weeklong event specifically, prayerfully and strategically held for refugee children living in my hometown. In our city there are thousands of refugee families living among us. They are often out of sight because they usually live in the most impoverished and dangerous neighborhoods in our city.

Over the past few years, my church has been blessed to partner with a congregation of refugees from Myanmar. The plight of the refugee parents has been an ever-growing learning experience, this year, God revealed to us the difficult situation of their children.

While there are English classes and job training assistance for adult refugees, their children arrive in the United States one day to then be dropped into a school the very next day. With limited English at best, in a foreign country with foreign customs in a strange school, these children face incredible obstacles that they negotiate alone.

As I began to learn about their struggles, I could not help but imagine what it would be like to find your school bus, classrooms, figure out lunch lines, lockers, P.E. games, understand text books and teaching in a language foreign to my own. How challenging it would be to make friends who looked, talked, and acted completely differently from what I was most familiar with.

Then imagine if you began to understand what the politicians and media were saying about you and your family. As states decided to block other refugees from coming into their communities, you realized you were unwanted and unwelcome and, depending on your country of origin, you were considered a terrorist.

The Welcome Project’s purpose was to send the opposite message…our desire was to love these children as Jesus commanded in Matthew 22:39, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Our church collaborated with other believers throughout our community to host The Welcome Project that was designed to let these children know that Jesus loved them, we want to love them and they are so very welcome in our community. To send the message that our city is your city!

craft time

On the first day we had 39 students from 3rd-8th grade registered from 7 different countries; Syria, Colombia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Myanmar, Iraq and Congo. We planned a week full of tutoring in basic subjects: math, reading and vocabulary. We added fun games, a water-play day and crafts. We transported them and fed them.

The refugee students moved about their day in a team along with other students and small group leaders. Each day hosted a different community helper: police officers, fire fighters, an immigrant college student, an educator and a pastor who spoke on the purpose of God’s church.

learning on computers

The biggest activity of the day was worship (along with some really fun dance moves) and teaching that revealed Jesus through the story of Joseph. The small group leaders then met with their students to attempt to further the story of Joseph in small group discussions.

So there I stood in the checkout line on Friday morning just before the end of The Welcome Project, paying for bananas. My sadness gave way to the anticipation that the day was going to be so good and all the glory would belong to the Lord!

Syrian cousins

Syrian cousins

With a receipt and plastic bag in hand I drove to church. Volunteers would be arriving at 7:30am for devotions, church vans would be heading out to pick up students at 8am and vans filled with refugee students would return at 8:30. The last day of the first Welcome Project was just starting.

Looking back at Monday, I realized how much we learned in one week. We learned that refugee children were incredibly intimidated by good-sized white men coming to pick them up at their homes because they have a great fear of authority figures. But once the hint of trust and safety appeared, they happily ran to the vans every day afterward.

We learned that children from different countries made friends quickly over play. That food doesn’t always translate well across so many different diets (therefore, the bananas = a fan favorite). College students were superheroes. Music breaks the ice and sets the students and leaders as ease. Refugee students understand the value of learning as a key to success. They spent their tutoring time indulging in all the information they could get. Their laughter brings tears to your eyes and joy to your heart.

Their personal stories that changed our lives. These students had minimal information as to the “why” they were in the USA. Repeatedly we heard students tell us that bad people did bad things and their loved ones were either beaten, arrested or killed. None of them had an understanding of the “who” or “what” behind the circumstances that made their homeland impossible to live in. They simply follow their parents and diligently seek to negotiate their way in a new country.

The week ended with each student receiving a backpack filled with school supplies. Volunteers prayed for each one. In tears, I offered the closing teaching session on Joseph–Genesis 50:20 recounts Joseph’s comments to his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good…”

visit-with-police

 

Looking into the eyes of 3rd grader May from Myanmar, 4th grader Yordanos from Ethiopia, 5th grader,Kevin from Colombia, 6th grader Esta from Congo, 7th grader, Abdulrahman from Syria and his cousin, 8th grader Mohammed and all the others… I could barely speak the words of scripture that so aptly captured the evil intent of people who horribly disrupted the lives of these children. Yet, in God’s grace and mercy The Welcome Project provided a platform to speak into their lives and wholeheartedly tell them that God loves them, redeems all things and intends this for good.

On this last day a significant amount of our community came out for the final session and all of us, in the great love and name of Jesus, welcomed them to our city and God created a space welcome them into our hearts.

The interaction with the students did not end after The Welcome Project. God graciously left that door open, but that is a story for another day. The Welcome Project will return in 2017 and the prayer and preparation is already underway.

What about you? How welcoming is your heart?

heather-and-brian-dellamaterHeather Dellamater loves God, loves her family and loves the Green Bay Packers and peanut butter (in that order).  She has been married to Brian for 22 years.  Mother of two boys – Noah, 19 and Gabe, 13.  Heather is currently the Family Life Director and Temple Baptist Church but will soon be heading to the mission field of Kenya in early 2017.  In Kenya, she will be the Director of Kijani Farm alongside her husband in a gospel-centered community development project.  Heather is a self-defined nerd who loves to learn, read, teach, listen to podcasts, and tackling the occasional Pinterest project.  Above all things, Heather truly loves to serve God and considers herself to be incredibly blessed that through serving the Lord she has met amazing people that have challenged and encouraged her in her own walk with God. 




Posted on by JudyDouglass in True Followers Leave a comment

Labor Day: Celebrating the Value of Work and Worker

labor day worker tools

Text Illustration Featuring Construction Tools That Represent Labor Day

Labor Day celebrates American workers and the work they do.  It was first established in 1882, and in 1894 President Glover Cleveland made it a federal holiday on the first Monday in September to honor the American labor movement and the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of the country.

God honored work and worker long before that. Just look at these Scriptures on the importance and value of work.

God Himself was the first worker-and He is still working

By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. (Genesis 2:2)

One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts. (Psalm 145:4)

Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. (Isaiah 64:8)

In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” (John 5:17)

God assigned work to us

The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. (Genesis 2:15)

…to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up (Ephesians 4:12)

Make the tabernacle with ten curtains of finely twisted linen and blue, purple and scarlet yarn, with cherubim woven into them by a skilled worker. (Exodus 26:1)

He has filled them with skill to do all kinds of work as engravers, designers, embroiderers in blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen, and weavers—all of them skilled workers and designers. (Exodus 35:35) 

He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. (Luke 10:2)

Paul appreciated his co-workers

Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in Christ Jesus.

Greet Mary, who worked very hard for you.

Greet Urbanus, our co-worker in Christ, and my dear friend Stachys.

Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, those women who work hard in the Lord. Greet my dear friend Persis, another woman who has worked very hard in the Lord.

Timothy, my co-worker, sends his greetings to you, as do Lucius, Jason and Sosipater, my fellow Jews.

Gaius, whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy, sends you his greetings. Erastus, who is the city’s director of public works, and our brother Quartus send you their greetings.

For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building. (from Romans 16)

Some warnings on work

Do not take advantage of a hired worker who is poor and needy, whether that worker is a fellow Israelite or a foreigner residing in one of your towns. (Deuteronomy 24:14)

The craving of a sluggard will be the death of him, because his hands refuse to work. (Proverbs 21:25)

Some final words on work 

Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. (Exodus 20:9-10)

May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us— yes, establish the work of our hands. (Psalm 90:17)

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:58)

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,… (Colossians 3:23)

Enjoy your Labor Day, and know that God smiles on your work and your rest.

What about you?  Do you love your work?

c2016 Judy Douglass




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What to Wear as a Child of God: Patience

waiting with patience for bamboo to grow

I am rejoicing at hard evidence that I have truly grown in patience.

All my things are red: Mustang convertible, luggage, MacAir, Iphone, Mini-Ipad.  And so was the Vodaphone charging station in the Lisbon airport. There I sat, surrounded by red, charging all my electronics.

My assistant Michelle came running up: “Quick, we have to get through Immigration to get to the Club, and four planes just landed. So I quickly pulled my cords, wrapped them up, grabbed my phone and ipad and rushed to Immigration.  Leaving my red Mac lying on the red Vodaphone station—almost invisible.

After immigration (which quickly filled up behind us), we had to go through security again. Sigh. Oh no! Alarm!  My laptop was missing.  Immediately I could see it—red on red. Michelle tried to go back where we had just come, but no way. We made it to the club, I got settled, and she took off.  Two hours later, she returned, no computer, but with a promise from the airport police to look through the security footage.

I was amazed at my peace of mind and heart, at my ability to say Thank You, Lord. I could hardly believe how patient I was. And so grateful for good work God has done in my life to bring me to this point.

And it’s lasted.  The police found the computer, turned into a nearby store by an honest traveler.  But it’s been more than two weeks, and my forever companion computer is still in Lisbon, making round trips between airport police and city police via UPS.  Not only has patience prevailed, but so has laughter. (It helps that I have a loaner.)

As we look again at “what to wear” as a child of God, we turn to Colossians 3:12: Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

We all know what patience means—and we often assure others that patience is not our strength. Like the new dad who said, “I have no patience for all this baby stuff.” Or the mom who waits impatiently for her daughter to get home from a date.  Or the boss who declares, “I am losing my patience with your carelessness.” Or my long wait for a prodigal to see the light and turn from the “dark side.”

The dictionary gives us these definitions for patience:

  1. the quality of being patient, as the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation (often not so easy to do)
  2.  an ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay:                         to have patience with a slow learner.
  3.  quiet, steady perseverance; even-tempered care; diligence—to work with patience. Also patience in suffering.

Synonyms often help us grasp the true meaning of the word: composure, diligence, endurance, fortitude, grit, humility, moderation, perseverance, persistence, poise, restraint, self-control. (Hmm—so how am I doing?)

Scripture reveals the patience of God to us:

“Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4)

“ What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction?  What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory—“ (Romans 9:22-23)

“But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.” (1 Timothy 1:16)

God’s Word tells us of the rewards of patience:

“A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.” (Proverbs 19:11) 

“We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.” (Hebrews 6:12)

And there are admonitions to be patient:

“Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains.” (James 5:7)

How? How do we become patient? It seems impossible for many of us. God does not leave us helpless:

“…being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, (Colossians 1:11)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control; (Galatians 5:22-23)

Once again we see that God calls us to the impossible—in this case to grow into a patient person.  Then He provides the means—the powerful, available, doing the impossible Holy Spirit.

What about you? Are you becoming a patient person? 

c2016 Judy Douglass

Related posts: What to Wear Series

 




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Loving a Prodigal: Immersed in His Mercy

Once a month I write a letter to the wonderful Prayer for Prodigals community I am part of.  Often those letters, though specific to those who love a prodigal, apply to any or all of us in the challenging circumstances of life.   

Mercy

Dear Lover of Prodigals,

What was the last thing your prodigal did that really exasperated you?

Lied to you? Stole from you? Drove high or intoxicated? Moved in with a girlfriend/boyfriend? Refused to go to school? Did something foolish and dangerous? Yes, and there are many more possibilities.

What was your response?  I will let you name your own.

What was the last thing you did that might have frustrated God—or saddened Him?

Probably not the obviously destructive things your prodigal might have done.  But God is saddened by many of our choices in response to our loved ones or to other events and circumstances in our lives: anger, hurtful words, harsh punishments, fear, deceit, lack of kindness or compassion, unloving, impatient.  It could be a long list.

And what was God’s response? Here are some of Jesus’ responses:

The woman at the well: Jews always avoided going through Samaria, but Jesus “had to go through Samaria.” Why? He had an appointment to keep, with a sinful woman. Five husbands, now living with a man not her husband. Jesus knew all this. Yet He talked to her—a Samaritan, a woman, a sinner. The shame of it. He told her what He knew, but He didn’t condemn. Instead He offered her living water and a changed life. (John 4)

The thief on the cross: An evil man, certainly, to have earned crucifixion as punishment for his crimes. Yet, even as he is dying, he asks for mercy from Jesus. Jesus could have said, “It’s too late. You have lived a terrible life. You are only repenting now because you are afraid.” But no, Jesus said, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:38-43)

The woman caught in adultery: They surely had set up the “caught in the act” shaming of this woman.  Dragged from her bed apparently and thrust at the feet of Jesus, she awaited His condemnation—and her own death.  “Let him who is without sin throw the first stone,” He said.  She cringed, anticipating. Nothing but the sound of stones dropping to the ground and feet shuffling away.  “Has no one accused you or thrown a stone?” “No, Rabbi, no one has,” the amazed woman replied.  “Neither do I,” Jesus said gently. “Go and sin no more.”

And you and I? Surely we too often find ourselves crying out to God for mercy as David did after his sin with Bathseba:

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions…” (Psalm 51:1)

We are grateful that our God is like the merciful father in Luke 15: As the prodigal wanderer returned, before he could even speak his repentance, the father ran to him, threw his arms around him, kissed him, put a cloak and a ring on him and threw a party.

Our God loves mercy.  And He is willing to immerse us in His mercy:

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” (Ephesians 2:4-5)

Yes, God is opposed to sin. And sin generates consequences—some that are the natural result of choices made, others that we impose.

But our primary response should be one that flows out of the love and grace we have received. Even as we have been immersed in the mercy of our God, so should we give mercy to our prodigals.

We should be less like the Pharisees dragging in the woman caught in adultery and more like the very-wronged father who ran to his prodigal son.

May we live in this truth: “Mercy triumphs over judgment.” (James 2:13)

In His mercy,

Judy

What about you? When have you received mercy, given mercy?

c2016 Judy Douglass

If you would be interested in requesting prayer for a prodigal loved one, or being a part of our wonderful praying community, respond in comments or write to me at PrayerforProdigals at gmaildotcom.

 




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