A Commitment to the Community-Excel Youth Gets Their Own Youth Center

IMG_1385Being part of a church that is passionate about reaching the lost in our community is a tremendous blessing to our family.  Typically, I write about my family or my decorating endeavors, but I wanted to share EXCEL youth group’s  building renovation.  I know that many of my readers are looking to make a difference in their church and community, so I thought you would enjoy this.  Word of Life Church (www.wordoflifemarionville.tv) recently expanded to include a youth facility.  A team of hard-working volunteers completely remodeled an empty  building in just fourteen days! Those fourteen days were a complete whirl-wind, but the result is fabulous and is already making a difference in our small town.  Roughly fifteen volunteers spent incredibly long hours laying carpet, painting, wiring the sound system,  decorating, scrubbing, cleaning, constructing, etc.  Can we say, “tons of fast food” and “what is a bed?”.  Joking aside, the entire endeavor has made a difference for the teens in our community. Being a store-front church (we are located in a shopping center with the ONLY grocery store in town), this beautiful new youth center is visible to every person who lives in this town, every time they go to buy groceries.  EXCEL youth group celebrated the grand opening of their new facility with a local band, Seeds of Agape. The grand opening night was a huge success, and the building was full!  IMG_1416We were able to create over-sized art by painting over old church signage and banners.  It was a great way to create relevant art for a fraction of the typical cost.  pic 1The back wall of the stage is actually galvanized metal panels-a very easy find at any home-improvement store.

IMG_1410We used metal repair tape to mimic the X in our new EXCEL youth logo.  It requires precision and measuring, but it is a very easy and inexpensive way to add great detail to a space.

IMG_1411IMG_1387We are fortunate to have a graphic designer and photographer in our church, who made us a new logo and helped with printing promotional materials for the Grand Opening.
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IMG_1414IMG_1385The church was very supportive of EXCEL youth group, and many items were donated to this project.  The donated items include: the carpet, computer, game systems,the cost of the chairs and the sound system (donated by a church).
IMG_1394This is my favorite view-the view from the outside.  Every car that pulls up to the local grocery store, everyone who walks by on their way to the neighboring apartment complex, is able to see this fun and safe place for local youth to gather.  Far more than fun and games will be happening in this building-the truth of God’s Word will penetrate hearts and shape futures!  Thanks Word of Life Church for believing in the youth of our community!
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Speaking Truth & Speaking it With Love

It’s been a busy spring at our home, so my blog has been a bit quiet (reflecting the HUGE truth that my home and family have NOT been quiet).  But I have been so moved by a story in the big bad world of reality, that I’ve come out of my little “mom hibernation” to share an inspirational story with you.

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Have you seen these guys?  If you have turned on the t.v. today, searched the web, snuck in a little facebook time, or even read the news, you probably couldn’t miss them.  Until late last night, I’d never heard of them.  Their public name is “The Benham Brothers”, David and Jason Benham.  They are twin brothers, who were getting ready to debut a new show on HGTV.  I am a huge HGTV watcher.  I’ve been tuning into pretty much everything they produce for 17 years!  I’m sure I would have loved their show… But apparently that won’t be happening.  It turns out that being real-estate/property flippers is pretty far down on the list of who they actually are.  The brothers are Christians, family men, Christian speakers……and somewhere down the line comes the property flipper/well-known guys on tv.   Back in 2012 one of the brothers led a prayer rally during the presidential elections.  He was appealing to Christians to stand for what was right in America.  Some of his remarks are now being spread, out-side of the context of the prayer rally, and it was offensive to some…so now fast-forward to early May 2014.  Their show has been cancelled.

But it’s not the cancellation of their show that’s on my heart this morning, it’s what they have done and said AFTER their show was cancelled.  I watched footage of their CNN interview, and let me tell you -I’M A FAN!  Talk about love-these guys exemplify it!  It would be hard to have the attitude they had-complete kindness for HGTV.  They said they have NO hard feelings for HGTV, no hard feelings toward anyone.  Kindness. Forgiveness. Love for their fellow man-it was ALL there!  Yes, they took their stands.  Yes, they preached the truth in the proper confines of a prayer meeting in 2012. Yes, they still stand for truth, but it is kindness and love that is spilling from them.  Wow!  This quote really hit me, “If our faith costs us a television show, then so be it”.  And that’s not all…they are going to keep their commitment to the 6 families that they had committed to help through their show.  Now remember, the show is cancelled, so it’s now their own money & time that they will be using to keep that commitment.

I’m so encouraged this morning by the honor, integrity, and strength to stand in love that has been exemplified by this story.  I hope to hear more from these two.  In fact, I’d love to be able to watch their show, but if not-I’ve been encouraged to stand in the love of Christ.  Christ laid down his life for the lost.  He could tell us, first hand, that the lost don’t always respond kindly, and that there is sometimes a high price to pay for standing.

I would encourage you to support the Benham Brothers by contacting HGTV.  You can do so on this link: http://www.hgtv.com/contact-us/package/index.html  But please, please, please do it in love, and with a kind heart & kind words.  Truth must always be accompanied by LOVE & love is patient, love is kind…it does not dishonor others…it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs…it always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres… (ICor.13)

Here’s to hoping that your day is filled with Truth and Love!

Want to see more of these guys & their great message?  Go to this link & watch…

Smile! You are “God’s Girl”!

God's GirlSomewhere around age five, most little girls are full of giddy smiles, immense confidence, and big dreams…but by the time we reach twenty-five, the smiles have faded, our confidence has dropped and dreams have been replaced with a huge dose of reality.    It’s sad but true.  Is it that our expectations were just too big?  Is it that our society is full of lies about what’s real?  Or are we being unfair in our criticism of ourselves? Well, it’s probably a combination of all of the above.  Here’s what I’ve been finding, as I talk with my godly girl-friends…

Life has thrown us a few curve balls.  We thought we would grow up to be “better”, look “cuter”, be “happier”, have more “perfect” husbands, have more “well behaved” children… and the list goes on..and on…

Guess what?!?!  God’s plan for you was never about YOU being Perfect!  God’s plan for you has always been about CHRIST shining THROUGH you.  I can never be a good enough wife or mom on my own.  You can never do it on your own either…we have to look to the LORD for strength.  It’s time to let up on our harsh self-judgments…the incessant self-doubt and criticism.  YOU & I are God’s Girls!  He sees you as a work of art (in progress).  Be encouraged today & know that you are HIS, and you are enough…pretty enough…strong enough…good enough-through HIM who made you!

Be strong today…Be a God Girl!

…Your Hand Will Guide Me…

HandofGod2“The hand of GOD”, that is the title  various news organizations are giving this amazing sight.  And who can argue that this beautiful formation from a NASA telescope, just a few short days ago, looks exactly like a hand extending from an arm?  It all came from a star that exploded and then expelled debris… Psalm 8:3 “When I look at the night sky and see the work of Your fingers…the moon and the stars YOU set in place…”

I just love this picture.  My heart is so touched to see our amazing, all powerful GOD of the universe remind us of HIS presence through a NASA telescope picture of the stars.  Psalm 139:8-12a “…If I go up to Heaven, You are there; If I go down to the grave, You are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there YOUR HAND WILL GUIDE ME, and Your strength will support me.  I could ask the darkness to hide me, and the light around me to become night-but even in darkness, I cannot hide from You. To You the NIGHT SHINES AS BRIGHT AS DAY.”  

If you are discouraged, look up and know that the GOD of the universe is speaking to you…Isaiah 41:10 “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your GOD. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my VICTORIOUS RIGHT HAND.”

It’s not very often that we are given a physical glimpse of God’s glory and presence.  Be encouraged today, and let HIS hand guide you!

hand of GODphoto: NASA/JPL-Caltech/McGill

Sources: MSN/ HLN/ Huff Post/NASA

New Living Translation/Bible

Two Ministry Approaches-One Ministry Goal

worshipwars

I can just envision Paul and Peter, if they were here today, ministering to their communities in very different ways.  I can just see Peter, all dressed in a suit with shiny shoes, leading some beautiful hymns, with a well orchestrated service where nothing is done out of order. No rules broken.  No traditions changed.  Sitting only in pews.  Singing only Hymns…yes, that’s how I see Peter.  Absolutely he would be reaching the lost!  Absolutely he would be preaching the truth, but Tradition only…PERIOD!

And then there’s Paul, probably in a pair of jeans, a little unshaven, maybe a tattoo or two hiding (or not) on his arm or chest. He would probably have a “rocking loud” worship band-worship that would go on and on. And rules  would.  be.  broken. I can just imaging Paul topping most of the new non-traditional Pastors, with incredible “out of the box” ideas to bring in the lost.  Very, very, very lost and broken people.  But once they were in, Paul would reach them with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  And REAL CHANGE would come forth…

Ok, so I’ve obviously taken a very large amount of “creative liberty” in summarizing these two men and their ministry, but take a look with me at Galatians 2…

Galatians chapter two paints a pretty interesting picture.  Paul, who had recently come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ was “on fire” to share the Gospel.  He had a tarnished past, he had a heart for the “pagans” who were blind to the things of God, and he had a fresh perspective of how to reach them.  Nothing could stop him-nothing that is, except for the established church leaders, James and Peter.  Now wait a minute!  James and Peter? These men were also aflame to share the Gospel!  These men also knew what it was to be persecuted for sharing God’s word, so why on earth would they be standing in Paul’s way?

Paul is clear in his stand, and he boldly stood up to them, “When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face…”(2:11)  Paul was reaching the Gentiles, people who were not of the Jewish blood-line.  God had extended his gift of grace and mercy on ALL people, and Paul was diligently working to reach them with the gospel of Christ.  Romans 15:16 God called me…”to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles with the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.”  Clearly, he did not just want to CONVERT them, but he wanted to CHANGE them with the power of the Holy Spirit.

But Paul came into deep criticism.  Why, you ask?  Well, Paul broke TRADITION. Circumcision,once required by the law, was now (thanks to Jesus sacrifice on the cross) only a tradition.  Paul called out the leaders for this legalism, and he began to bring in very broken people.  This was disturbing to the church establishment.  Paul accused Peter, in Galatians 2:12, of not wanting to be seen with the Gentiles and new converts.  Pretty harsh, but it’s definitely a reflection of Paul’s burning desire to reach those who were as broken and lost as he himself had once been.

So who was wrong?  Who was right?  Well, first we Have to admit that everyone involved in this interesting little “spat” loved God with all of their heart.  They were ALL intending to give God only their best.  They were ALL wanting to reach the lost.  Eventually, the established church would begin to feel comfortable walking in this new-found grace.  It would take a while.  And perhaps Paul was a little harsh with these men who had faithfully walked beside Jesus for so long.  Two persepectives-One goal.  It would take a while to see it that way, and yes, personal growth and understanding would eventually follow.  Paul was correct that they were cleansed by the blood of Jesus and not by their own actions of holding to what was, at this point, only a tradition.  All of these brave men, preached the Gospel with no thought for their own safety or personal gain.  History tells us that all of the men involved were eventually put to death for their faith.

contemporary church pic

So here we are today-still so many controversies over worship styles, still so many controversies over church methodology, still so many controversies over evangelistic tactics…but only ONE GOAL.  So much can be learned from these two amazing men of God, Paul and Peter.  And if you think about it, they are worshiping together now, in one place!

ONE goal, ONE truth, ONE amazing GOD, -that’s pretty much all that matters!

It’s a Calling…Bringing Up Boys

brothers black and whiteI didn’t realize what was happening when they handed me my first precious little baby boy.  And I still didn’t realize it when they handed me my second little son, but wen the third little boy was lying in my arms, I knew I was well on  my way to a unique place.  Mothering multiple sons is a special calling, and without even realizing it, it was a calling that God had placed on my life.  In just a span of thirty-four months, I went from being just a young wife to wife and a mother of three sons…surrounded by “male-ness”.  Not a word, you say…Oh believe me, “male-ness” IS a word-it’s very well understood by the other ladies in this special club I belong to.  What a shift from the days of growing up an only child.  One little girl…and homeschooled at that!  I grew up loving quiet things, pretty things, and cats…so why on earth would I be chosen to raise a pack of loud, testosterone filled, crazy BOYS?  Well, I actually believe my whole life was a preparation for this journey.  I longed for siblings, but not just any siblings-I longed for brothers-brothers that I would never have. When we began to have little boys, fourteen years ago, I was thrilled as each little boy was born! But it was still shocking.  Here are some of the tid-bits I have learned on this journey-much of it is from wise, experienced women who have paved the way for grown up girly-girls like me, as well as experts along the way like Dr. Dobson.

1. It’s natural for boys to be competitive. 

Everything is a race, a competition, a game.  In mothering these men-in-training, we will be ahead of this game, if we work with this natural bend and not against it.  This is where fighting comes in, which must, of course, be managed.  Some boy competitions need adult intervention, and some just need adult supervision.  It’s never alright for a brother to be insulted or bullied, and of-course, those are the moments for intervention.  Good competition is SO healthy for these boys, and can really be used as a great motivational tool!  Many times I have been able to use their competitive side to motivate my sons to strive for greatness.

2. Most boys are born with a healthy amount of natural aggression.

Oh boy, this is where the moms of girls are gasping, and perhaps even moms of just one little boy…but this is actually true & healthy…so let me explain…

All boys will eventually grow into men.  Men will have responsibilities and duties that are “Provider and Protector” based.  I am so thankful for my godly husband.  He would lay down his life for this family.  He rises before the sun is up, and works, most days until it has set again.  That does not just develope one day- it is a life-time in the making. Little boys are born with a very un-fettered sense of adventure.  The pushing, the shouting, the fighting, the building, the competing, the hunting…it’s all part of the strong male nature that will someday be necessary for the strength and leadership that is required of an adult male.  I often say, “Mothering boys is not for wimps!”, and this is SO true!  There is a fine-line to walk here.  One must realize that this is in their nature, but it must be TRAINED! Oh the humiliation I felt when my three year old son intentionally pee-peed on the bathroom wall of a local mega-church! He may have been only three, but we took him home and punished him.  In-fact, we took it so seriously, that we did not move forward, until we knew that he understood how unacceptable this was.  He did not respond well, and most of the next day he spent in various methods of punishment, but by 5:00pm on that Monday night, we had reached a break-through.  He got it, and we moved forward. Harsh?  No. Appropriate.  Boys are born with a natural aggression, but they have no idea how to use this appropriately.  They must not be shamed in their maleness, but disciplined and lovingly shaped, so that they will use this strength as a positive and not run over those around them and use it as a negative.

3.Boys aren’t pretty..This is not for wimps, folks!

This statement may not be true if you have only one boy, but mothers of multiple boys understand this in a unique way.  Because, let’s be honest, it’s like the sleepover that never ends!  The intense male energy of several boys…together…all of the time, is something that not everyone could endure.  If you have been chosen for this journey, there is a reason!  God thinks you can do it!  And there will be some crazy moments that you just need to chill out and laugh…

cup in a cup holder

I know someone just gasped..well, then this post just isn’t for you.  But it absolutely cracked me up!  I was all dressed up for church yesterday, and I was backing the car out of the garage, when I spotted this.  A cup…in a cup holder!  I know you “boy mammas” just laughed your heads off.

But seriously, you just can’t sweat the small stuff.  Discipline when discipline is needed. Comfort when comfort is needed.  Train when training is needed.  And LOVE all of the time!

jill and her boys

Please don’t leave without leaving me a note!

Free Family Resource

I wanted to share this great freebie from Focus on the Family.

This month they are giving away a FREE DOWNLOADABLE activity to help you share your faith with your children!  You can’t beat that!  Free Family Resource.  I hope you will check this out.  It’s so important to share our faith with our kiddos, and it’s also important to answer their tough questions.  This month Focus on the Family featured some excellent discussion reguarding this important topic.  Hope you enjoy!

Athens VBS at Word of Life Church

vbs word of life church
Last week was a big week for Word of life church-VBS 2013! It was such a success, as we reached so many children in our community with the wonderful message of God’s love. The prep started months ago, as our wonderful Kid’s Ministry Director, Sami Young put hours of planning, preparation, and prayer into this power-packed week of ministry. I’m a design lover, so I began to hunt for the perfect way to turn our non-traditional church into Athens, Greece. We were so very blessed when a friend from another church provided a faux, brick wall that had originated from Silver Dollar City! It was a little easier said than done, as it came in four, ten and a half foot rough sections…but my sweet hubby came through for me, helping me pick it up and transport it.  Then came the real fun…sawing, sawing, and even more sawing of the THICKEST styrofoam I’ve ever seen!  Wow, not something I’m ever again hoping to do, but so worth it.  After that Delaney and I touched up the paint on the fronts of the walls & edged out all of the sides that would be visible.  Then, we set it up-right in our own back-yard-just to see if it looked anything like the stone structures in Athens…Whew!  It did!

vbs creating the set

Here is a pictorial summary of this delightful week!

vbs athens window

Athen’s window to the sea…

vbs mural

Lovely mural painted by my friend Tiffany

vbs enterance

The entry-way where very excited children came through to hear the gospel each night!

vbs other athens view

The Athens stage (love the lighting Pastor Kevin!)

vbs marketplace

The market-place, thanks to so many workers, as well as many women who were willing to part with decor from their own homes for the week we borrowed it!

vbs fishers of men

The Fishers of men transformation for our baptismal area-great idea Sami!

vbs paul's tent

Paul’s tent.  Athens VBS is all centered around Paul’s dangerous journey to share God’s love.  The children spent the week experiencing Paul’s stop in Athens, Greece.  Each night they would “crawl” into Paul’s tent where “Paul” shared God’s love with them!

vbs paul

Paul did such a wonderful job!

vbs dionesias

Dionysus, waiting to go into Paul’s tent…another great volunteer!

vbs sami

Sami, our amazing Kid’s Ministry Director!

vbs worship

My favorite part of the night, leading the kiddos in worship!

vbs singing

The kids loved “Yes It’s True”, our theme song!  We tended to go a little wild over this one!

vbs marketplace

vbs marketplace

More market-place fun.

vbs more marketplaceEven more market-place fun-so many wonderful volunteers behind all of this.

vbs prayingThe last night was very special for so many reasons, but most of all because it was the night Paul gave an altar call.  We were able to pray with the children-some  wanted prayer for their families, and some gave their lives to Christ!

vbs parents

We invited the parents to come back about 15 minutes early, so they could be part of our ending worship service.  What a wonderful week!

vbs word of life church

And thanks to countless volunteers (even some parents stayed and helped), Word of Life was ready for Sunday services in a little over an hour!

http://www.wordoflifemarionville.tv/

visit our church website to see what God is doing in our church and community!