The Monday After: Story: A Love Story {Anita}

You know that Sunday feeling, right?

We leave the church building inspired and filled with Truth and encouragement on Sundays … and somewhere along the course of the week, pieces of the message tend to fade and we often lose that Sunday feeling.

The Monday After {the Sunday Sermon} carries the Sunday message into Monday mornings by sharing how what we’ve heard on Sunday morning is making a difference in our Mondays, our weeks, our lives. Because of your generosity to Accelerate, we are able to share these stories! Thank you!

The Monday After Sunday, December 8, 2013: Story: A Love Story

By Anita Everly

I’ve had laryngitis for the past two days. While I’ve hated not being to talk, when I came into the service Sunday I realized I wasn’t going to be able to sing in worship either. I couldn’t squeak out a note and the tears flowed. I was weary of feeling ill and, frankly, hated not being able to join in song.

Yet in this forced silence was also an invitation to listen.

Instead of my own voice, I was more attuned to the baritone of my sixteen-year-old son standing next to me. The melody of my brothers and sisters in Christ in unified chorus surrounded me. The guitar strumming was crisp, clearer than usual. I began to settle into my own silence and embrace what I heard around me.

And then, as Pastor Joe began to speak on God’s love for us, coming down in the form of a humble birth of our Savior, I remembered another time of silence for me, when the listening was louder than any words ever spoken.

Two years ago I had been wrestling with a lot, much of it specific to me and all my shortcomings. It happened that I attended a retreat where the time away afforded me some much needed solitude.  During a time of silence directed by the retreat leader, I was forced to sit quietly. There were no distractions to take me away and I focused on the scripture and began to prayerfully journal.

Though I grew up in a loving home, married an incredibly loving man and have been a Christian for the majority of my life, it was in that quiet moment that I felt like the Lord was saying to me words that no human could convince me of. As if God himself was right there with me, He said, “Anita, right now, at what you think is your worst, most wretched state, I do not and cannot love you any less than I always do.”

Though I’ve had head and heart knowledge of His love, for the first time I was able to receive it in its fullness, deep down in my soul. I was overwhelmed grasping His love for me, which He conveyed so clearly and personally.

When Pastor Joe says Jesus understands more than we think; Jesus cares more than we know; and Jesus can do more than you realize, he speaks deep truth. I have experienced all of that firsthand over the course of the last two years as I have lived more out of His love for me.

We are not mass-produced carbon copies.  He knit each of us, intricately woven, in our mother’s wombs, on purpose and with great purpose (Psalm 139). Furthermore, He calls us by name (Isaiah 41)! He knows us and loves us deeply. As we look at His life throughout Scripture, there is nothing that we experience that Jesus did not himself encounter.

That was the plan, for Jesus to be so commonly man and yet fully God. Love came down to give us the ultimate gift of salvation, and in our time on earth, assurance of His intimate love for us.

Occasionally we need a case of spiritual laryngitis, where we stop talking and listen to God! Often it takes intentional silence in order to keenly hear and be surprised anew by His loving presence in our lives.

May we take time during this busy season to be silent, draw near and be awed, surprised and loved anew by the greatest Gift ever given to us, the surprising and almost strange gift of Jesus …

Anita Everly is the wife of David and mom to their three sons.  She can be found watching the lives of her men unfold, creating a home, and encouraging other women in life and motherhood.  She is striving to live life on purpose because she is crazy in love with the One who is crazy in love with her.

 

ICYouth: Put Down that Xbox Controller (Grant)

Thank you for your generosity to our one-fund, Accelerate. Because of your geneorsity, we are able to share stories of how God is changing lives! Every Friday, one of our student bloggers shares how God is working in his or her life. Leave some encouragement by commenting?

By Grant Everly

As Christians, one of our key struggles is to keep moving forward. No matter how hard we try or want to push forward toward Christ, we constantly find ourselves slipping into phases of spiritual apathy and idleness. I often wonder what God thinks of us when we go through times in which we are essentially “spiritual bums.”

If I were to ask you to envision a bum, chances are you might go to the popular stereotype. You’d probably think of the 40-year-old man who lives in his mom’s basement, sits around and plays video games all day and literally does nothing. As you’re picturing this person, he’s probably sprawled out on a couch, Xbox controller in hand, cell phone wedged between his shoulder and his jaw (likely calling Dominos to place a delivery order). His accomplice, the 2-liter of Mountain Dew, sits beside him and he alternates taking drinks directly from the bottle, with eating potato chips from the bowl on his other side.

When confronted with this image, many average, hard-working people would be understandably upset. Some of us would probably be tempted to walk over to him, rip the Xbox controller out of his hand, and give him a convicting pep talk that more or less boiled down to “get off the couch and get busy.”

Chances are your daily life looks nothing like the life of this person, but what about your spiritual life? If God looked at your relationship with him what would He find you doing? Would you be sitting on the couch eating potato chips waiting for something to happen? If I’m being honest with myself, He probably finds me hoarding a large pizza as I play Xbox on my mom’s couch more often than I would care to think about. Perhaps the more frightening thing is that in God’s domain, the stakes are heightened. There is no time to waste and no spiritual stalling to be had. We need to have the mentality that Paul has when he says “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” in Pillippians 3:13-14. We must strain toward the future with every fiber in our body, and we must relentlessly press on toward “the goal.” And perhaps the most motivating fact is that we cannot afford not to.

At Deeper this past Tuesday we talked about making sure that we aren’t becoming spiritually idle. We went to the parable of the talents for help. The story is found in Mathew 25:14-30. Essentially, a young man takes some of his money and gives it to three of the servants, expecting them to take the money and come back with more. The master gave each servant what he knew the servant could handle. The first two of the three came to the master, having doubled what was given to them, but the third man had taken the money and simply buried it, obviously not reaping any sort of growth. The master was very upset and called the servant “wicked” and “lazy,” but the most startling and unsettling of the master’s comments come in verses 29 and 30 when he says “  For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”

I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t want to be the worthless servant thrown outside. The good thing is that the way to avoid this predicament is simple: Use what God has given you, and relentlessly work for Him. Don’t go burying your talents (both literal and metaphorical).

Let’s put the Xbox controller down and get off the couch. Let’s get to work and not waste the precious time God has given us.

“Ditch your idol, and get busy”  ~Josh Peterson

Grant Everly is a junior at Warren Township High School and regularly attends church with his family and iMPACT on Sunday nights. He plays soccer, enjoys sports and has passion for learning more about Christ and growing in Him.

World Outreach: Christmas Around the World

by Laura Forman

December is a season of preparation, of both hearts and homes.  Advent stems from the Latin adventus, or coming. We wait expectantly for the most special of days. Beyond the glittering tree, gifts from Santa and even Holiday dinner, Christmas is a celebration of the moment the Word, God’s Word, blessed us in person.

So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. John 1:14 (NLT)

Christmas is particularly meaningful to our missionaries living half a world away and the new (and not yet) Christians they minister to. Choosing to spend the Holiday with brothers and sisters most in need, these special families reach out to share the love of Jesus in ways that are both selfless and inspiring.

In Jos, Nigeria, preparation for the “biggest Christian celebration” begins at least two months in advance. The Galadima family started their planning in October by joining in the purchase of a cow to be shared at Christmas.

The gift of food is an important part of the Holiday; the meat will be shared with parents, poor family members and orphans in their extended family. Rice will be gifted to widows the family is acquainted with and yet more food is to be distributed to international students remaining on a nearby campus for Christmas.

Cooking begins several days before the Holiday with Rose preparing pastries with the help of the girls living with them. The family attends church both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, culminating with fellowship and the sharing of a special meal.

“Children visit from one house to another all day long. They expect to eat something and get a gift of money. It’s like trick-or-treating.” This tradition continues throughout the day after Christmas, when Rose and Bulus visit their respective mothers, having spent the Holiday entertaining.

In Central Mexico, Chris and Kathy Gouzoules welcome many into their home, “Christian and non-Christian, [who] for a variety of reasons will not be spending Christmas with their families. Some of [them] have been ‘expelled’ from their families due to their faith in Jesus, others due to family feuds, and yet others due to living away from their families.”

The large and late meal served on Christmas Eve, and into the wee hours of the morning, is the focus of the Holiday. Traditional fare for this area is “pozole, turkey, ham, shrimp soup, hot fruit punch and plenty of alcohol.” The Gouzoules serve a cidra, or non-alcoholic cider in place of the latter. Small gifts are shared with the guests, often poor and/or single mothers, and “all go home with a plate of homemade Christmas cookies, candies and sweet breads” (lovingly baked by Chris himself).

Many years Chris, Kathy and their children participate in outreach, such as serving a meal for families of patients at a local hospital or delivering food and warm clothing to poor areas of their city of Tenancingo. According to Chris, “these outreaches are usually accompanied by a brief message on the great gift of God’s love in the form of Jesus. The kids have LOVED this part of Christmas and [it] always makes them appreciate a little more the many blessings we have.”

To read about these and other missionary families Immanuel partners with, visit http://www.immanuelhome.org/world.php

100_1824Laura Forman is married to David and they live in Gurnee with their five children. She is a fitness instructor, freelance writer and can be found at church or www.lauralisaforman.com.

The Monday After: Story: An Adoption Story {Hyacynth}

You know that Sunday feeling, right?

We leave the church building inspired and filled with Truth and encouragement on Sundays … and somewhere along the course of the week, pieces of the message tend to fade and we often lose that Sunday feeling. 

The Monday After {the Sunday Sermon} is our attempt to carry the Sunday message into Monday mornings by walking together and sharing how what we’ve heard on Sunday morning is making a difference in our Mondays, our weeks, our lives. Because of your generosity to Accelerate, we are able to share these stories! Thank you!

The Monday After Sunday, December 1, 2013 {Listen to the message HERE!}

By Hyacynth Worth

When I was growing up, my mother had an open-door policy that I freely took advantage of at least once a week, bringing friends home for dinner, the weekend and even for an entire school year. During my high school and college years especially, we welcomed people into our home who had nowhere else to go — those whose parents were too far geographically or too distant emotionally or who had checked out of their children’s lives almost completely.

Though we didn’t have much while I was growing up, God always provided what we needed.

I didn’t understand it then, but my mother knew it well and lived it out through our lives —  though we didn’t have much, there was always room at the table for one more.

I’ve carried that with me all of my life. Wherever I’ve lived, there’s always been room at the table for others. I guess that’s one reason why we kept trying to add to our family after we’d been blessed with two healthy and happy little boys — I felt like there was still room.

This past summer, when I was aching and reeling from the loss of our fifth baby during pregnancy, I begged God to help my hurting heart make sense of all of the pain and loss and grief that accompanied three miscarriages in less than 18 months. 

I pleaded with Him to help me understand why my husband and I still so strongly desired to add to our family if we weren’t mean to have more children. Why did we have room at the table for more people if there weren’t to be  more people to sit there?

In my crying out to Him, loudly I heard him speak to my heart a call to care for the least of these, so much so that I couldn’t ignore coming across article after article about children who’d been abandoned by parents either through death or choice and scripture that calls us to such pure religion as this  — caring for the widows and orphans.

As we prayed, God answered our family’s pleas, and in my brokenness over losing three babies, He broke my heart for the children who no parents to care for them. In the breaking of our hearts for these children, we’ve felt called to action; we’ve felt nudged to make room at the table for the least of these.

Just two short weeks from today, our table will be one person fuller. Just two short weeks from today, a young girl from half a world, just 12 years old without a family to call her own, will find a place just for her at our table.

I don’t know what it’s like to have been abandoned by the people who brought me into this world. I don’t know what it’s like to wonder who will care for me or love me. I know we can’t fix that kind of brokenness with even the deepest love and acceptance a family can give a hurting soul.

But I think we can help change her life simply through offering her a seat at our table as part of our family for the month she is here. One of the goals in hosting an orphan, aside from helping the child meet her potential forever family, is to simply show the child that she is worthwhile — that she has been chosen, that there’s room for her at the table.

And while I know nothing of what it’s like to be abandoned, I do know what it’s like to be chosen, to have a space to sit around the table and know that it’s mine to fill.

Those of us who know Christ, know what it’s like to be adopted into a family, an heir of a Father who will never quit on us, who will never walk away from us, who will never abandon us, who makes a place for us at His table.

This Christmas, I can’t help but marvel at what it means to have been chosen, to have a seat at His table — to have been adopted by a Father who has bought me at such high cost, the cost of the son He sent to bear our burdens, reconciling wild hearts to His steadfast heart.

I pray as we welcome our host child into our home for a month, as we show her love and pray for God to reveal this young girl’s adoptive family, be it ours or another, I pray that He might show her that her truest forever family is the one where He sits at the head of the table.

Because at His table, there’s always room for one more.

For me. For her. For you.

Last island hurrah for the year. Say it ain't so.

Hyacynth Worth is grateful daughter to the Perfect Father, wife to John and mother to two little boys and three souls she will one day meet in Heaven. In between mothering and coordinating online communication for Immanuel, she writes about grace, motherhood and living a healthy lifestyle at Undercover Mother.