A New Year: Thrive 1/8

a-new-year-thriveTherefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

2 Corinthians 5:17

It wasn’t until the very beginning of 2016 that I opened up my life to Christ. My marriage was falling apart and I was lost. I made some very big mistakes, (some that nearly tore my whole family apart) but God worked through my mistakes to bring my husband and I both closer to Him.

Through God, I have been granted a second chance.

In February, My husband and I chose to be baptized together at Taylor’s Valley! We began a new life together, placing God in the center and focusing on Him and using His Word to guide us. We have never been stronger or happier, and we have begun to see a huge change in our children, too. It’s amazing to look back over this past year and see just how much leading a godly-centered life has changed us. We have lost every friendship we had before being baptized, but have gained an entirely new family and circle of friends that are dear to our hearts.

We ended up going to a Christian marriage counselor to work through our problems and learn how to communicate again. I am so glad things didn’t end in divorce. God has spoken to both of us and He has shown us an entirely new path to walk. Watching my husband go from being an agnostic to a devout Christian man who prays and studies God’s Word, has been an amazing transition. We are happier, healthier, stronger, and still learning. So much has changed in these last 11 months! I can’t wait to see what is in store for 2017.

Amber Schaaf

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Angels Unaware

8617F1BF-3CB1-4B32-87FF-A83770667580A year ago this week I was traveling to South Africa by myself to visit some dear friends and learn about their project overseas. This was my first overseas trip in a decade and I was going it alone. My family and I were somewhat apprehensive as the departing day grew closer. I had been briefed concerning what to say, who not to talk to, etc.

Departure at the airport was bittersweet as my brother dropped me off. I had this moment where I stood still, surveyed the horizon, and determined to dive into the adventure. I was quite proud of my adventurous spirit. The boarding process was smooth as I found my seat and settled in for the first 12-hour flight.

About halfway through the flight I rose from my seat and headed to the restroom. As I walked the isle, I noticed an older gentleman of foreign nationality watching me a little too closely. As I returned to my seat, he stood in the isle blocking my way, and clearly intended to talk. Through his thick accent he asked my name, where I was from, where I was going, and why. Red alarms went off inside my head. Such questions were ones I had been prompted to avoid. I certainly was not providing my destination point and my reasons for travel. I feigned unable to understand his questions, and quickly found the comfort of my seat.

Unfortunately on such a long flight, restroom trips become more frequent as the trip continued. During several other passes to the restroom, the same gentleman attempted conversation. By his last attempt, I was sure he thought me to be quite rude as I was not at all willing to continue any conversation at length. The cold shoulder…I was giving it my best shot.

With great excitement, we arrived in Dubai and waited to exit the plane. As we departed the plane and into the airport, we first had a security checkpoint. A hundred or more passengers went through security check in front of me with no delays. Due to seat placement, I was in one of the last sections of passengers to go through security. I watched the passengers pass security checks without problems, and I assured myself I would pass through without delay.

As my backpack went through the security belt, I was horrified to see and hear red lights and alarms. I cannot quite describe the immediate panic. I had tediously followed the rules precisely because I did not want to be searched in a foreign country while traveling alone! I had memorized my flight itinerary, and subsequently knew I had only 45 minutes before boarding ended for my next flight. The security attendant grabbed my backpack and walked to a corner private room with dark windows. Another security guard asked me to sit down on a bench underneath those large looming windows facing the tarmac, and wait. Wait to see if I would pass security.

As the minutes ticked by, I watched my backpack sit isolated on a table in the darkroom, with no one touching it. I myself sat on the designated bench frozen in fear as I watched the remaining 50 or so passengers pass through security and leave the area for their terminal. After what felt like hours (25 minutes), two attendants entered the dark room and began removing every item from my backpack, piece by piece. They examined each article, swiped each with a wet cloth, and ultimately emptied my belongings onto the table. When nothing was left to remove, the security guards began packing my items back into my bag, zipped it up, and headed my direction. By this time, no passengers remained in the entire security area. I was completely alone.

Without any drama, an attendant handed my backpack over and nonchalantly said thank you as dismissal. I chose not to ask why my backpack had been flagged, but kindly thanked them and made a bee-line for the exit. As I turned the corner for the escalators, two men had evidently been sitting on a bench hidden from site by a partition. As we saw one another, they stood and waited for me. As I neared the men, I was shocked and scared to identify one of the men as the one whom was relentless in his conversation attempts on the plane. He immediately put both of his hands up in front of his chest, as to say no harm here.

I am sure my face was a mixture of apprehension and concern. He removed a business card from his coat and offered it to me as he began talking. He introduced himself as a pastor and his friend as a bishop in a neighboring country. They themselves had met on the plane and realized their commonality under Christ. Then he said something I will never forget. This man claimed when he saw me on the plane, the Spirit spoke to him and said to watch over me. He chuckled as he commented on my coldness on the plane, assuring me I had no need to fear because God told him I was a fellow believer. He beamed. To provide even further assurances, he noted my elusiveness was understandable. The other gentleman finally spoke in broken English, and asked me if I was ok. When neither man saw me come through the checkpoint, they both decided to wait and if necessary, claimed they would have inquired of my whereabouts.

I was stunned, humbled, and overwhelmed by God’s presence in that moment. As a believer for almost thirty years, I know God is always with me. But to have it fleshed out in such an obvious tangible way was almost too much to soak up and fathom. I finally confessed I was a believer and divulged where I was headed. For one of the first times in my life, I wondered if I had just experienced the presence of angels unaware (Hebrews 13:4). Since both men were headed to a different part of Africa, we were not on the same connecting flight. I humbly thanked them for their watch care and headed for my terminal.

Thankfully I made my connecting flight and the rest of the week in South Africa was a trip never to forget. The circumstances surrounding that trip and the difficulties I went through personally to commit to go were considered trivial after that experience with the two men in that airport. God’s presence is always with us and I am grateful for the times He chooses to show us in ways we can never forget. Lord I believe, help my unbelief (Mark 9:24).

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A picture I sent my family in Dubai as proof I was making it! I chose not to share the ordeal until safely in Johannesburg. 

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We studied Islam after the trip and so I brought them a special souvenir to fit the occasion.

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Johannesburg, South Africa.

It Isn’t Too Late

easter picPlease share this post. Someone needs to hear it isn’t too late.

I did not plan on posting today, but during my run God would not let go of me until I wrote this down.

Tomorrow is a colossal celebration. I have planned our menu, the kids’ meaningful gifts, and ultimately planned to protect our family time. Why? Well I can tell you it isn’t so my children can gorge themselves on candy from an Easter basket. I want my children to know this Sunday is different than all other Sundays. I need to be reminded this Sunday is different than all other Sundays. While every Sunday we celebrate Christ’s resurrection on the first day of the week, tomorrow is a monumental Resurrection Sunday.

Over the course of the last few weeks, several fellow believers have suggested their family does not historically celebrate Easter as they do Christmas. “I mean, we celebrate, but it isn’t as big a holiday.” I wish I was shocked. The truth is the influence of culture is an obnoxious indoctrination, commonly leveraged undetected.

Without a doubt, we would not have a Saviour without His birth. However, without the resurrection, we don’t have Christianity! My faith in my future resurrection and eternal life is based on the resurrection of Christ.

Indeed, “if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:14).

His resurrection means what I do now matters! It means my past, present, and future relationships matter for eternity (Galatians 6:7-8).

Maybe if we spent the weeks and months in between Christmas and Easter reflecting on the cycle of human rebellion and God’s grace that has existed since the garden of Eden, then just maybe Good Friday and The Resurrection Sunday would be “as big a holiday.”

I know who I am without Christ. I know He is ALL I have to boast in (Romans 15:17; Galatians 6:14; Philippians 3:3). Brothers and sisters, Christ’s resurrection is my only hope. If He had merely been born only to die on a cross, my life would be meaningless.

But His death was just the beginning. We have cause to celebrate tomorrow!

At Christmas we make less of the North Pole and more of the Manger. For the love of Christ, tomorrow make less of the Bunny and more of the Empty Tomb! It isn’t too late!

 

Christ is risen from the dead!

Trampling over death by death!

Come awake! Come awake!

Come and rise up from the grave!

(from “Christ Is Risen” by Matt Maher)

 

The Mother’s Day Problem

The Mother’s Day Problem. Where do I want to be this Mother’s Day? Celebrating with my momma, of course! Where do my children want to be? Celebrating with me (I hope)! And therein lies the dilemma.

On this side of adolescence, I find myself blessed immeasurably to have grown up in a minister’s family. I am able to answer God’s call for full-time ministry with experiential, first-hand ministry knowledge. I am familiar with a handful of the dilemmas unique to full-time ministry. Sunday holidays can be difficult. I remember as a kid listening to my parents wisely determining the best use of my Dad’s Sundays off. Maybe your church provides you with more Sundays off than you know what to do with, but most of us ration our free Sundays for family and for our own spiritual edification, a time when we can be fed and replenished. Naturally, requesting a Sunday off for Mother’s Day isn’t usually a priority. So what are my options? The kids and I could travel to my parents’ home and celebrate, but leaving my husband behind on this holiday just doesn’t sit right. My Mom could come to me, but then she would be coming solo…because as previously mentioned my Dad is a minister. Again, leaving the guy behind who has seen you through the ups and downs of motherhood seems anti-climactic. What about you? Maybe your Mom and Dad can travel to you, or maybe due to extenuating circumstances or location, that isn’t a possibility either. I could sit in a puddle of tears and self-pity. I could resent my husband’s job or the calling. And truth be told, I have unfortunately chosen the path of self-abasement on occasion because I was stricken with homesickness. However, without fail God gently speaks to me, the Spirit awakens His calling, and I am forced to decide whom I will serve. God or myself. Will I think about and set my mind on things eternal (Colossians 3:2) or will I worship my own desires (Philippians 3:19). Perspective is everything. Will I celebrate with my mother during our next visit? You bet. I have a heightened thankfulness for the culture God has allowed me to live in. I do not have to wait for the snow to melt before I can hitch up the horses to a cart and travel hundreds of miles to see my mother. Hello FaceTime! I cannot allow my sadness to catapult me into tunnel vision, lead me to self-pity, and loose the kingdom perspective.

So as we approach another Sunday holiday, if you are a minister’s wife and find yourself wishing things were different, just know I am praying for both of us. I pray we will live and work out of the Spirit inside of us and not our flesh (Romans 8:5). I pray God will use these sometimes lonely holidays to grow our love for His people and open our eyes to those around us hurting. I pray Satan is not given the opportunity  to sow resentment and bitterness in our hearts. You can be certain there are many other women wearing the same ministerial shoes and walking the same path. May we all tune our hearts and minds to Christ…and love our mommas.

My Mom and I

My Mom and I

 

Mob Mentality

Mob mentality.  What comes to mind? Most think of riots, violence, anger, sports arenas, and probably even politics. I recently read an article proposing that people involved in a mob usually become abnormal in behavior, they lose their individualistic drive to the greater mob’s benefit, and display strong emotions or beliefs in their participation. It amazes me what little effort it sometimes takes for a crowd to gather, assembling with a common bond. And yet, how many of us experience this among believers? This past weekend, I saw mob mentality and the impact it can have when Jesus is the common denominator.

Awaken

Awaken

Ten churches in our community gathered together, experienced gospel fellowship, and left empowered by the Spirit to spread the gospel. Yes, you might say some of us became abnormal in our behavior, and surely our individual drives were drowned out by the church’s call to unity under the headship of Christ. Worship was sweet, fellowship was sweet, and the unifying power of Christ was made famous among us.1015903_263241483842220_229044914_o

Acts chapter 2 begins, “When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place.  And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.  And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven.  And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language.  And they were amazed and astonished, saying, ‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans?  And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?  Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.’  And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’ But others mocking said, ‘They are filled with new wine’ “(1-16).

I can’t help but laugh at the “multitudes” reaction to this mob of lit-up believers.  In the next few verses, Peter has to assure the multitudes who have been drawn to the commotion, the believers aren’t drunk. Can you even imagine being so empowered by the Holy Spirit you are accused of being drunk? I have no doubt that as some in our community looked at the mob at Trinity Pines Conference Center, they were perplexed and amazed, probably saying to one another, “I can’t believe she would go to church with so-and-so!” “I can’t believe they managed to get all those Pastors to get along!” “I can’t believe they were willing to drop all their differences to come together!”

Trinity Area Pastors involved in Awaken

Trinity Area Pastors involved in Awaken

Some probably thought it would take some “new wine” for some of us to want to worship together (much less be edified through it), and yet the Holy Spirit made it happen! Christ proved more valuable than our individual church differences and past conflicts. His cause is greater. For a moment, divine mob mentality took over and Christ was glorified! So many, both churched and unchurched have publicly marveled over the work that only God could bring about. Abnormal behavior? You bet! Strong emotion? Not a doubt!  The evangelist for the event, Heath Peloquin, began Awaken by echoing Christ’s question to His disciples in Matthew 16, “Who do you say that I am?” Do we believe Christ is able to mute our differences equipping the body to spread His gospel? When we allow His message to unify us, we see Christ’s church as she really is: many nationalities, many tongues, many members, yet one body…His bride. Our unity brings heavenly things, promises of God, to the present. The Kingdom is at hand (Matthew 10:7).1617488_262705107229191_892654424_o

My Hubby and I at the Awaken Photo Booth

My Hubby and I at the Awaken Photo Booth