A New Year: Thrive 1/20

a-new-year-thriveMany of you know my sister has been struggling for the past few years with mental health issues, alcoholism, and substance abuse. In this struggle, she has lost her children, her husband, and her job. Through her struggles, I have found my own. I don’t understand how we could have grown up together, have experienced the same trials, and now lead such different lifestyles. I know this is more common than not, but it is hard to see someone you love follow such a dismal path…by choice.

My mom called not too long ago and shared a bible verse that one of her coworkers shared with her. My bible was in the car, so I reached for the nearest one, my Mimi’s. This bible has been sitting on her piano that we brought to our house after she passed away 6 years ago. I have never touched it. In fact, her bookmarks and writing utensils are still in the pocket where she left them.

As I opened her bible, I noticed a sticky note attached to the inside cover. I touched it where she had touched it and I looked at her beautiful handwriting. I turned to the verse my mom told me about and it was indeed fitting for my sister, but not for me.  It didn’t “touch” me the way it had my mom. So instead, I turned to the verse my Mimi had written on the sticky note…1 Corinthians 10:13.

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

This verse caught my breath. It was exactly what I needed in order to be reminded my sister can still turn back to God. She just has to have an open heart to see the way out He provides.

My Mimi was very special to both my sister and I. To know God spoke to my Mimi through this verse, so much so that she wrote it down on the inside cover of her bible, means so much. God knew when I would need this verse. He knew when I would open her bible. He knew all these things before we were even created. The fact He chose my Mimi to share this with me even after she is gone, means so much and fills my heart.

The Post-It Note or sticky note was invented in 1968 by a scientist at 3M named Dr. Spencer Silver. Dr. Silver promoted his invention as a “solution without a problem.” Dr. Silver found something noone knew we needed and his invention has been used by all of us at one time or another. We all have problems and many times we cannot see or find solutions to them.  We often are so focused on the problem, the cause of the problem, the symptoms of the problem, or the consequences of the problem that thinking about the problem itself keeps our eyes off of the only One who can deliver us through or past that problem-Jesus.

My Mimi placed that sticky note inside the front cover of her Bible to remind herself of that verse each time she opened it, and she opened it daily. If we can find a way to stick ourselves to Jesus, we have our victory over struggle even before the struggle begins.

Michelle Martinez

mimi

A New Year: Thrive 1/19

a-new-year-thriveOur home telephone rang on the morning of January 1, 2003.
Still recovering from a youth lock-in the night before, I hardly noticed it. The phone was on Sara’s side of the bed, so I did not even move. But after answering the phone, Sara woke me and said I needed to get on the phone with her.
Strange.
My father-in-law was on the phone. Immediately, I felt something was wrong. I could hear it in his voice. Indeed, the news he had to deliver…well, you can’t mask it and talk as though everything is okay.
“Jared, your Dad went for a walk this morning…”
He didn’t have to say anything else. Somehow I knew.
My Dad had died.
I don’t remember anything else that was said.
I dropped the phone, went to the living room, dropped to my knees, and wept. Instinctively, I yelled, “No!” I must have said it a dozen times. My wife came moments later and wept with me.
Up to that point in my life, I’d never really wept over anything. Sure, there had been times I had cried, but I had never experienced loss like this. And I haven’t experienced anything like it since.
My Dad was my best friend. I always felt loved and valued in his presence. And there was a deep sense of warmth and joy when we were together. In an instant, those days were over…
Fourteen years later, I stood in my kitchen surrounded by my wife and kids. I was telling my kids the story of how I asked Sara to marry me (that’s another story for another day). Dad played a key role in that story and so I began to tell my kids about him. And surprisingly, as though it happened yesterday, I suddenly began to weep.
As it turns out, after fourteen years and at a moments notice, I can reenter that world of grief.
Having experienced grief for myself and having observed grief in others while serving as pastor, three thoughts come to mind.
Weep. Jesus wept. There’s a time for us to weep also. Grief is a glorious ruin. We live in a broken world. The Bible takes it as a given people will weep. In weeping we acknowledge things are not as they should be. We are restless for God to set the world right. We join with others and say, “How long, O Lord?” We look at the world as it is and with deep grief, yell, “No!” 
 
Hope. Though we say, “No!” to the world as it presently is, we are assured the brokenness is fleeting. Why? Because Christ has overcome death. One day we will chant with all the saints, “O death, where is you victory? O death, where is your sting?” O, to utter those beautifully powerful words! In hope we boast in the victory of our great God and Savior.
 
Learn. Losing someone often drives us to think more critically about life, our relationships, and our purpose. We realize our time is short and life is fragile. Grief can help us gain greater focus on what matters and clarity on why we are here. Paul encouraged his readers to make the best use of the time for the days are evil (Ephesians 5:15-21). Walking through grief can motivate a person to take this admonition more seriously.
In the end, I remain deeply thankful for the time I had to spend with my Dad. I recommitted to love those closest to me, making the most of the time we have together. And one day, I know I will be reunited with Dad in the presence of Jesus, where there is fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore.
Jared Burt
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A New Year: Thrive 1/18

a-new-year-thriveMy name is Madison. I am a teenage girl and this is my story.
As a very young toddler, weekends were a struggle. While my mom worked weekend shifts trying to keep our family afloat, my Saturdays were often spent taking care of my younger brother’s most basic needs, feeding us both while my dad was MIA or incoherent. By age four I was left without a father and the struggle to survive was greater. At the age of six I had a second little brother come into my world, but when I found out he was physically disabled and unable to communicate, my entire world came crashing down.
Over time, I learned to cope with the difficult days, but with my littlest brother Caleb needing special care and attention, I often felt pushed to the back.
At age seven I accepted Christ and have great memories of those tween years.
When I turned ten we moved away from our home town. Moving was difficult because it meant leaving the home, friends, and family I had always known. Two hours away seemed worlds away.
My mom remarried and I found myself in a new family. With now six kids under the roof, I again often felt overlooked for the next five years. Yelling and arguing became the norm with that many personalities colliding together.
The marriage didn’t last, and after the divorce, we moved back to the city I had once called my home. I was now thirteen and starting my eighth grade year. Eighth grade year began less eventful, and seemed smooth sailing until Christmas. Caleb, my youngest brother, took a huge dip in physical health and at the time, we thought he wouldn’t make it to Christmas Day.
I was shaken so hard when I was told.
I stopped eating for a while. I lost my appetite most days and I lost a lot of weight.
When Christmas Day finally came, he was still with us and I was ecstatic. I couldn’t believe it.
The summer went well, ninth grade year rolled around, and I was doing great. Then, at the beginning of January, I told my mom I needed help with some depression issues I was having. I felt I was almost to my breaking point. Once I started talking to my counselor, things got better. But it seemed just when things were taking a turn, I found out my one year old cousin, Mabry, was sick and in the hospital. I went to visit her and could not stop crying. I was so afraid to lose her and I still am. One of my biggest fears is to lose anyone I love. Whether it be by death or a lost relationship.
God has helped me through all of this by sticking by my side. One verse that helps me is,
“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”
Philippians 4:13
Christ will always be there. He’s always with you, so lean in and accept His help.

A New Year: Thrive 1/17

a-new-year-thriveIn November 2013, I (Marilyn) attended a Bible Study in an Assisted Living Center in a small Texas panhandle town. Bob, a 67-year-old resident, was leading a study on Acts 4. As he read the chapter discussing each verse, his passion, knowledge and love of Jesus was evident. Bob, pastor of a tiny church nearby, was not an ordained or trained pastor. Without notes, he taught the lesson from his heart as he shared Luke’s words sprinkled with God-inspired personal insights.

Bob, a humble and simple man who clearly loved Jesus with all his heart and soul; a man who found joy and peace in the challenges of his life; a man whose greatest desire was to serve Jesus and share the gospel in both word and deed — made an impression on my life that day. He challenged me to be BOLD in my faith, to speak out in BOLDNESS, and to share with others.

Thanks to Bob, I no longer ‘just read’ Acts 4 and specifically Acts 4:12. Each time I read or study this scripture, I remember Jesus’ humble servant, Bob, and the passionate love for Jesus that radiated from him as he spoke of the disciples’ sacrifice and Jesus’ gift of salvation.

“Salvation is found in no one else (but Jesus), for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

(Acts 4:12)

839b6a61932169b592f3044905a1ffbeThank you Lord for crossing my path with Bob’s. May you bless him. May he continue to serve you all his days. May we too BOLDLY share the truth of salvation with the passion and love exemplified so clearly by this simple man named Bob.

Marilyn Hoeth

A New Year: Thrive 1/16

a-new-year-thriveAfter our second session studying “What’s Best Next” by Matt Perman yesterday, I was reminded of when I was first learning Perman’s principles for productivity. The biblical way he approaches “getting organized” forced me to become a disciple again of God’s Word and learn something new for immediate practice. As it goes with most kinds of change, the process was challenging and at times painful. But just as we have read the last few weeks in his book, we are called to be good stewards of our time because we love God and therefore love people. Love and generosity should drive our productivity as well as our daily choices.

A few years ago a friend mommy blogger hosted a blog series, asking women to write entries on varied subjects while including practical tips relevant to their topic (see my original post here). Since I was at the time halfway through the pursuit of a Masters in Theological Studies, she asked me to write one offering tips on going back to school mid-mommyhood. As requested, I included practical tips that had helped me survive (including reading the book “What’s Best Next“!), but I also gave an apologetic for why I had chosen to go back to school in the first place. Below is an excerpt:

“At first thought, it may seem as if going back to school is a decision “for me.” Au contraire. My husband and I are approaching our 13th wedding anniversary, and of those 13 years, he was enrolled in either undergraduate or graduate school for almost a decade.

sara-family-2While there were several very difficult years (we added 4 to our family count in 7 years), I truly enjoyed the innumerable late night conversations as he stretched my brain working out his thoughts. Our little family stood beside him when he graduated with his Masters of Divinity, feeling like we all owned a part of that degree.

Little did I know God was preparing me for my own journey back to school as a homeschooling mom of 4.

Why go back?” “Who will this benefit?”

screen-shot-2017-01-16-at-8-11-59-amFive years ago, my oldest was given a school assignment while studying the medieval time period. The assignment required the family to design and create a family crest. After much discussion (read debate), we all agreed on the following family motto: Amo, Disco, Duco: (I love, I learn, I lead). The motto was birthed out of Matthew 22:36-39 (ESV),

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

If you think about it, these verses drive the desire to be educated. As our love for God grows, we want to know Him more. As we know Him more, our love for Him grows. We know wisdom’s source:

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight” (Proverbs 9:10 ESV).

The Burt family motto, Amo, Disco, Duco merely speaks to the two greatest commandments Jesus provided as the foundation for our existence. In loving God we desire to learn. His love drives us to love and lead others, following in Christ’s footsteps.

Furthermore, do we ever cease to be a disciple? God has called and gifted each of us, empowering us to participate in the Cultural Mandate (Genesis 1:28). This means God is glorified as we cultivate and sharpen the gifts He has graciously given each of us, aiming to influence our culture.”

12359830_10207529807859740_1953154052611412749_nWith the Lord’s help and the never-ending support of my family, I finished the degree half a year later. Yet the journey with discipleship, loving God with my heart, soul, mind, and strength, is a lifelong endeavor.

 

If you are diving into What’s Best Next with Thrive this month, yesterday’s session was a day of many practical tips full of change – which can be challenging. But don’t give up. Take the first steps this week.

  1. Come up with a draft of your mission statement, the declaration of your core purpose that stands true even when your world falls apart.
  2. Next write down a few of your core principles that guide your life.
  3. Finally, jot down your core beliefs including the baseline principle for why you do what you do – the gospel, what God has done for us in Christ.

I can finish this post the same way I finished the guest blog for my friend:

“Bottom line – women rock. You can do this and even enjoy the process! Above all, God will be glorified as you love Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. So buy some frozen dinners, brew a cup of coffee, and dive in.”

A New Year: Thrive 1/15

Toddler parenting is fairly new in our household. Communication with a stubborn opinionated two-year old takes a lot of goldfish bribes, patience, deep breathing, and love. We have found a few key phrases we consistently speak to our daughter, N, in order to get our point across in a loving fashion. In the process, we have found a picture of ourselves with our Heavenly Father.
“You’re safe.”

When N falls and looks up at us, we tell her she’s safe, imitating a baseball umpire. This phrase however, refers to things much deeper than childhood scrapes and bruises. When we stumble in our faith and look up, Psalm 91:4 tells us “With his feathers he will cover you, under his wings you will find safety.” 

“Fun/No Fun.”

When an emotional power struggle rears its head, we tell N she can “obey and have fun with us OR not obey and have no fun (aka time out).” Likewise, our desires can cause a power struggle with our Father, who simply responds, “If you love me, you will keep my commands” (John 14:15). Disobedience will instead bring consequences.

“Look at me.”

When N is running full speed in her own direction and we need to get her attention, we will say “Look at me.” Sometimes we have to get on her level to disrupt her play. How many times is this me, caught up in my own desires and the Lord has to get my attention? John 8:47 says, “Whoever is of God hears the words of God.” O may I be more attentive to the messages the Lord has for me!

Even though I know it’s just a season we are passing through, I am thankful to be reminded that God’s love is sovereign, gracious, and merciful. What parallels are you seeing in your season of life that reflect the Father’s love for us?

Jennifer Perrin

A New Year: Thrive 1/14

a-new-year-thriveOk. Writing your testimony is difficult. Not because you don’t know what has happened in your life, but because life keeps going and doesn’t give you time to absorb half the things that happen.

I am the product of a woman that searched many religions and was raised in a semi-Catholic home and a Muslim man who is very close-minded. Needless to say, that relationship did not work well. I was however, loved very much by both parents. My father loved me so much. That love birthed his decision to show me his way of life by abducting me to the Middle East. After eleven months my mother was able to bring my back to the great state of Texas with the help of a church. My mother finally settled on this small Baptist church that helped to locate me as her church home. They needed her four-octave range in their choir and we needed stability. I grew up with the kind people of Oak Ridge Baptist Church in San Antonio. It was there where at the innocent age of nine, I felt the “tug at my heart.” I participated in See You at the Pole, GAs, and every VBS imaginable. My mother ran any and every committee that she could. We were at church on Mondays for visitation, Tuesdays for the benevolence closet, Wednesdays for business meetings and service, Thursdays because she said so, Friday for youth and children gatherings, Saturday for work days and Sundays for the Sabbath. I lived there. I feel safe in saying I was raised in the church.

I eventually went to summer camps where I fell in love with the green grass and quiet campus of the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor. I decided in sixth grade UMHB was the campus for me. I would attend there a few years later where I would continue my very strict plan of earning a degree in psychology (so that I may solve the problems of the world). During my sophomore year I was told in order to be a true therapist, I would need a master’s degree. This became my new plan. I did not however, plan on meeting the man in which my dreams were made of. Of course I had to marry him and alter my plans ever so slightly. During all this planning, I tried to be strong in the loss of my mom to colon cancer. It was not until January of 2008 that I realized my mom had given me more than I could ever plan for or achieve. She had given me a wonderful example of true faith. I changed my life focus from “I” to “Him” and have been searching and striving ever since.

I have lived an eventful life in the eyes of most, but I find it simple to the greatness I have now with my beautiful boys that keep me running, as well as the voice of God I daily long to hear. I still crave to be a great therapist for the people I serve, but I want much more to be the wife, mother and friend Christ wants me to be. I am thrilled to have our church family here, building and investing in the continuing story of my life.

Nidal Pascoe