Outside the Ministry Zone – When God Leads You Down a Desert Road

Outside the ministry zoneHave you ever learned something new only to then read your own journal or notes and realize it isn’t actually the first time you’ve learned that very thing? You’ve learned this before, you just forgot!

Yeah, me too.

It happened to me again this week. I was doing my “homework” for BSF (Bible Study Fellowship). In this study, we go through one book of the Bible each year, chapter-by-chapter, verse-by-verse. I’ve been in BSF for about 9 years, and I enjoy the learning. The group discussions are so interesting. The lectures are illuminating. I even like the homework. (There’s almost never math involved, so that really helps!)

This week, we learned about Acts chapters 8 and 9. I read about Philip, who is a believer, and disciple of Jesus, going to Samaria and preaching and doing miraculous signs. Things go well. There’s a response. People hear and believe what he tells them about Jesus. The leaders of the early church, Peter and John, come and affirm his ministry there by praying for the Holy Spirit to come to these new converts.

Ministry is happening here.

And then I read further. Right after this ministry-rich time in Samaria, God asks Philip to

“Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” Acts 8:26

Philip obeys. He travels down the desert road.

Wow, I thought, he’s going away from the perceived “ministry” spot, and going by himself on a desert road where there’s no ministry opportunities in sight.

And then I read what I’d written in ink in the margin of my Bible.

“Away from where the ‘ministry’ is happening.”

Oh. I’ve learned this before. Okay. Good thinking, Christy. Good thought.

Apparently, I need a refresher. I need to learn this anew. In this particular season of my life, this idea means something different to me than it must have years ago when I wrote with a pen in my Bible’s margin.

Let me be clear. God’s Word doesn’t change. It was true last time I read it too. And, I am not to take verses out of context, or make them mean only what I want them to mean. But, God’s Word is “living and active” (Hebrews 4:12) and it teaches me and impacts me in fresh ways as I apply it to different seasons and experiences in my life.

Such is the case with this passage.

This week, I was struck by the fact that Philip could have thought that his ministry opportunity for the day, or the week, was complete. Check that off the scroll, buddy! Good work.

But it turns out a man, an Ethiopian guy, was on this desert road, sitting in a chariot reading the Old Testament book of Isaiah, and needing someone to help him understand it.

The man was not in the perceived, “ministry zone,” but away from everyone else. He was in the desert. On the side of the road. Not waiting for Triple A, but waiting for someone to help him find The Way.

And Philip was God’s chosen instrument that day. God partnered with him to help this Ethiopian understand who Jesus is.

For me, in the season of life I’m in right now, I sometimes get into a rut of thinking that ministry is a “regularly scheduled program.” My husband is in full-time ministry. He has official ministry duties. I write and speak about faith and hope. Ministry does happen in these zones.

But, who is out the ministry zone waiting for me to help them know Jesus?

Is it the woman cutting my hair in the salon?

Is mom in line behind me at Starbucks?

Is it my own child who wants me to take time to listen and help them understand something they’ve been wondering through in their faith?

Philip was so obedient to travel down the desert road with no ministry plan or programming in place. He just climbed up into this guy’s chariot and started right where the Ethiopian was reading and told him about Jesus from there.

I like that.

What empty seat can I slide into? What searching heart can I help? Am I listening to God’s leading and allowing myself to partner with Him where He calls me?

I hope I can put this thought into practice. That’s what really helps me learn something for good – putting it into action.

Writing it in my margin was a good start. This time, I’m looking for the chariot on the side of the road.

I Care About How My Kids Look During Their Sporting Events.

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When we were kids, my younger brother owned a sweatshirt with words on the front that read,

“It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you look playing the game.”

Oddly enough, this statement was accompanied by a cartoon penguin wearing a baseball cap. Apparently this image was to help convey the message that we too could look as cool as an athletic penguin while competing in sports. Built-in tuxedo not included.

Regardless of the marketing scheme, I remember the motto. “…it’s how you look playing the game.”

I never really bought into the sentiment.

I’m more for playing the game with determination and grit than winning any style points. But, as I’ve gotten older, and have become a mother to young athletes of my own, I’ve changed my mind a little.

The sentiment has taken on a new meaning to me.

Don’t get me wrong; I care very little about my kids’ appearance on the court or field when it comes to their fashion. The cartoon penguin may have them beat in the “cool” department.

But, I do care about how my children look during their sporting events.

How they look in the manner of what they do.

Because what they do is an overflow of who they are.

For example, if my son accidently collides with an opponent at first base, I’m concerned about what his next actions look like. Will he get up and brush himself off and argue with the umpire over the call? Or will he get up and reach out his hand to help his opponent to his feet? No matter the umpire’s call.

If my daughter is called for a travel on the basketball court, will she slam the ball down and roll her eyes, or toss the ball to the referee and continue to play the game to the best of her ability? Even if she knows in her heart she didn’t travel in the first place.

If my son’s team wins on a buzz beater will he still line up to give the other team high fives and congratulate them for a game well played?

If my son’s team loses a heartbreaker, and he’s the one to miss the game-deciding free throw, will he still believe his life is no less valuable than it was twenty minutes before?

You see, how my kids look during their athletic competitions is the indicator of who they are that I can see as their mother. Their actions are an overflow of their heart. Their responses and reactions to the game show me their character.

And as their mom, I care deeply about their character.

Matthew 12:34b says, “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.”

I want them to be children who value kindness more than victory. Empathy more than points. Integrity more than statistics. Sportsmanship more than sports.

I want them to look their coaches in the eye and truly listen to their instruction. I want them to be respectful to the referees, as well as to their own teammates, and opponents. In victory, or in defeat.

Don’t get me wrong. I want them to win. They get their competitive nature from both their dad and me. And it’s a pretty strong one at that! But, as much as I want them to win, I care about their character even more.

The games will end. The scoreboard lights will be turned off. But who my kids are, as a result of what they learn on the court, will remain. And that’s how I ultimately define winning now.

I guess how they look playing the game is pretty important to me now.

Too bad I don’t have one of those penguin sweatshirts to wear to their games.


This article originally appeared as a guest post on the Winning Women website: “Connecting and Equipping the Female in Sport.”

Neighbor Day Weekend

Happy Neighbor Day

My youngest daughter snuggled into me this morning on the recliner. She had just gotten out of bed for the day and carried her seemingly ever-present-when-she-first-wakes-up purple blanket down with her. She rubbed it against her face.

She’s in first grade, so I delight in these moments. They are becoming increasingly rare.

“I’m excited about today.” She said softly.

“Why?” I asked, expecting her to tell me she likes the fact it’s picture day at school, or something she is planning to play at recess.

“It’s Neighbor Day weekend!”

I laughed, and before I could correct her, her big sister chimed in.

“Not Neighbor Day, Kenzie! LABOR day.” Karly said as she shook her know-it-all third grade head.

“Then when is Neighbor Day?” Kenzie asked.

Karly told her there was no such thing.

I corrected her.

“Actually,” I said, “EVERY day is Neighbor Day. Jesus told us to love our neighbors as ourselves, and he didn’t say just one certain day of the year. He meant every day.”

Karly gave me an eye roll. And then she grinned.

“Yeah. I guess you’re right.” She said.

If only we were given a three-day weekend to celebrate Neighbor Day every week.

Sigh.

But nonetheless, I hope to celebrate today.

And every day.

Happy Neighbor Day to you! Today, and always.


This blog was inspired by the Five Minute Friday community where bloggers are encouraged to spend 5 minute blogging based on a one-word prompt. This week’s word: NEIGHBOR.

 

Home Base.

When I was 10 years old, my dad took the position of pastor at Emmanuel Community Church. Six weeks later, my mom died suddenly in our kitchen while sitting at the table. She had been reading a book, and drinking a cup of coffee when she began to collapse.

Needless to say, it was a rough beginning of my tenure at Emmanuel Community Church. But our bond became strong, and we stayed together, and for the past 28 years, I’ve grown up at ECC. And come to think of it, the church has grown up with me too.

Last night I began the “speaking tour” for my book Brownie Crumbs and Other Life Morsels. I will be traveling and sharing the messages of the book at various churches and venues across the country over the next several months.  I hit the road on Friday to speak in Erie, PA, and Buffalo, NY.

Last night I was able to start by speaking at ECC.  Home. What a logical place to step into the batter’s box.

As I stood in front of that room of women, many of whom are close personal friends, I marveled at how God had brought me to that moment.

And even that very spot.

You see, the church has grown and changed over the past three decades. The place where I stood and spoke last night is now called “The Commons,” and it’s a large gathering room with round tables for discussion and a little kitchen window in the corner for snacks. But it used to be our sanctuary. And the very spot where I stood last night is where my dad stood for years when he would preach. Now we have a bigger sanctuary (they say it’s called the ‘Worship Center’…) and the building has been remodeled.

But before the room became “The Commons,” as it is now, it went through some other transitions.

While it was still the main sanctuary, my dad got remarried, to the woman I now call “Mom.” I was her maid of honor, and stood up in that wedding – exactly where I stood last night as I spoke.

That room, in its original form, was where I sat through sermons, performed in children’s musicals, attended VBS weeks, and where I learned to love those people who became my church family.

I attended Sunday school classes behind the sanctuary in a little room with ugly red carpet.

When the room was remodeled to include a second-story loft, I helped with middle school youth group up there and later taught kids about God’s word using my Grow in His Word for Kids curriculum.

At one point, the room was transformed into a hallway with three classrooms on each side. In that hallway, I first walked past a man name Kraig Cabe. I saw him, but he didn’t see me. We didn’t meet for a few month after that, but eventually, we started teaching a Sunday school class together in one of those rooms – just a few feet from where I stood last night – and we eventually fell in love and got married in that big new sanctuary, er… Worship Center.

That room, that very spot where I stood and spoke last evening, has great significance for me. And I was so blessed to begin my speaking tour right there. It was the perfect launching ground. And as I shared about these things with the ladies and told them some stories from my life (old news to many of them!) they laughed and cried along with me.

And they served brownies. What more could you ask for?

After I finished, these friends of mine lined up to get my autograph in their books. I laughed. “Really?” I said, “It’s just ME!” They hugged me and supported me and got their picture taken with me. And I laughed all the more.

Because who would have thought this dream would become a reality. That God would redeem my life – my story – and use it for His glory through a book with a brownie on the cover and an imperfect girl-turned-woman who is willing to share.

That room, that spot where I stood last night, has been repurposed, reshaped, and put to the best use for each season.

Sounds a lot like me.

And for this season of my life, God has given me the opportunity to share my story. I’m thrilled, and nervous, and excited, and hopeful.

Because God has proven faithful through every season thus far.

And I have no doubt He’ll direct me, around each stop along the way, until I get back home.

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For more about my speaking schedule, or to have me consider speaking at your venue, click on Speaking or Contact in the menu.

It’s My Book’s Birthday!

Today, after three years of labor, my book has been born! (Phew!)

I’m so excited to announce that my first book, Brownie Crumbs and Other Life Morsels, is now available on Amazon in paperback, and for the Kindle.

You can find it here:

 

Also, I had a book trailer made to give everyone a short glimpse of what the book is about – much like you’d discover from reading the back cover. If you’d like to see it, it is here:

 

 

And finally, if you’d like to follow my writing page on Facebook, you can find it here:

https://www.facebook.com/christycabewriter/

Thanks for your support, reader!

Happy Birthday, Book!

Christy

Is this going to be on the test?

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I’m a big fan of mnemonic devices. I know that may sound a little intimidating. I promise, I’m not going to hurt you. A mnemonic device isn’t a weapon, it’s a tool. Big difference.

According to Wikipedia, a mnemonic device is “any learning technique that aids information retention in the human memory.”

I’ve got many of these little aides running around in my brain and plugging the leaks where the memories are threatening to ooze out of the crevices.

These aides help me to remember the notes on the treble clef scale (Every Good Boy Does Fine) (PS: This phrase happens to be true in parenting a middle school son as well.)

The aides help me to remember that when writing an email to my daughter’s principal, I can address it to her as the princiPAL, not the princiPLE, because she’s not only in charge of the school,she’s my pal. See what I did there?

The aides helped me to memorize the names and birth order of Jacob’s 12 sons in the Old Testament. That’s right. You never know when you’re going to need this information, and quickly. I haven’t come across a time yet, but I’m prepared for when I do.

And just last night my son was studying Latin root words for an upcoming test and he told me his own mnemonic devices for each one. It was a proud moment as his mother when he explained that he remembers the definition of “superfluous” by thinking of a super hero named “Super Floss” who has too much floss. Brilliant. (And I think most of us can relate to this super hero as we also have too much floss and not enough motivation to actually use it. Actual flossing must be the superpower of another hero?)

All of these little mnemonic devices help me keep things straight. I don’t have to remember EVERYTHING, that’s what Google is for, but it does help to have a few stored memories when I’m not getting a good wifi signal.

And we’ve all learned from school that the real question is, “Is this going to be on the test?” Translated, this means, “What do I really have to remember here?”

And granted, this is a big question when it comes to life. What do we really have to remember here?

There are many things that seem important. Traffic rules (‘Hands on the steering wheel at 10 and 2 like on the face of a clock!’) The order of the planets in our solar system (My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Noodlesand who can forget ROY G. BIV. Everybody knows him and his colorful personality.

Yes, all good things to know. But when it comes down to it, I believe the most important things to remember in life are these:

  1. Love God.
  2. Love Others.

Those are the big ones.

Everything else is just superfluous.

 


This blog is part of the Five Minute Friday community where bloggers are challenged to write about a topic for about 5 minutes based on a one-word prompt. This week’s word: TEST.

The Eyes of the Beholder

img_9544_jpg-version-2I remember holding my infant daughter one day and being struck with a realization about beauty. Although I believed I looked like “death warmed over” in my sweat pants, greasy hair and smeared make-up, her eyes reflected a different woman. She looked up at me as though I was the most beautiful creature she’d ever seen. As her little eyes locked on mine they were full of love and admiration. It didn’t matter how ugly I thought myself to be at that moment, she saw me as perfectly beautiful.

Recently, that same daughter looked at me as I again sported my sweat pants and smeared make-up and she said, “Mom, are you even going to try to look pretty today?”

I was in the middle of cleaning a bathroom and so I smiled back and said, “No honey. No, I’m not.” As she shrugged and walked away I laughed to myself. Oh, how quickly we women learn. If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then us beholders must have some pretty tough standards. And we learn them young.

The truth is, our Creator has some pretty tough standards too. He desires– and even commands– us to be holy, above reproach, to bear the good fruits of patience, kindness and self-control. And what’s more, if we are His children, He even calls us “saints.” Wow. Can I ever live up to that? Sometimes when I hold myself up to those standards I feel pretty ugly.

However, I know the Truth. And thankfully, the Truth looks at my heart.

As the Lord told Samuel in 1 Samuel 16:7:

The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.

It’s like my baby daughter’s eyes. No matter how ugly I may feel, my Heavenly Father’s eyes are able to see the beauty in my heart. And what’s more, he put that beauty there and is able to help me as I strive to become more beautiful in Him.

I’ve found that as I hold myself to the standards of this world I can feel ugly, defeated, and lonely. At times I’ve even felt like no one even cares to see me at all.

Am I going to choose to believe that?

God’s Word paints a different picture about beauty. Being beautiful in God’s eyes means I believe what He tells me about who I am.

God’s Word is full of truths that tell me I am His child (John 1:12), that I am complete in Him (Colossians 2:10), that I have been given the spirit of power, love, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 2:7), that I can find grace and mercy when I need it (Hebrews 4:16). It even reminds me that I may approach the throne of grace itself… with freedom and confidence (Ephesians 3:12)!

The bottom line is, it doesn’t matter how I “look” to others. What matters is who I am in Christ.

And when I truly feel secure in my beauty, the beauty that God desires, then I am able to in turn love others in a more true and meaningful way- no matter how they see me. And that makes us all feel more beautiful.

Yes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Some days I may actually pass the world’s beauty standard, and other days I fail miserably. But that doesn’t really matter.

The only eyes that really matter belong to Him who is able to behold my heart.

Together.

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The five of us knelt by the couch in our family room. Our hair was blonder and our skin more tan than three months before when summer began. Now it was the night before school started back in session. The eve of routine and alarm clocks.

My husband asked if I’d be the one to pray aloud for the family as we prepared for the next morning and new season of life. I agreed, but took a deep breath first as the thoughts of all the transitions to come filled my mind.

Our oldest child would be heading to middle school in the morning at a somewhat ungodly hour. Many days he’ll leave before the sun comes up. He had practiced his locker combination and reviewed his new schedule sufficiently, yet it felt like the unknowns still trumped our preparation.

Our middle child was off to second grade, where reading skills and independence increase at a surprising but encouraging rate. She’s turning into a little lady right before my eyes.

And the biggest transition that was looming over me and causing my shoulders to be tense with dreaded anticipation was sending our youngest child to Kindergarten. After twelve years of staying home full-time with my children, I felt a sadness about my impending empty day-time nest.

Finally I began to pray aloud. My voice quivered a few times as thanked God for His goodness and the gift of a wonderful summer. I had to swallow several times and clear my throat as I asked Him to guide our children this school year and to give them each the two things I most often request on their  behalf: wisdom and courage.

Wisdom to know what to do and the courage to do it. 

As I said “Amen” my son glanced my way to verify his suspicion that I was holding back the tears. I shrugged and made small talk about getting up to bed. Transitions are hard enough for the kids without them realizing Mommy is about to melt.

Before they got their last drinks of water for the evening and headed up the steps we gathered in a circle and put our hands together. We were as ready as we could be to face the newness.

Now five days later with a week of school under our belts we’ve dealt with a few highs and lows. We’ve rejoiced about sitting next to best friends and eating really good middle school cafeteria lunches (really?). We’ve also had sobbing at the bus stop wishing for more days at home with Mommy. My heart and neck muscles have been wrenched even further. We’ve had excitement over new opportunities to play in the school band, and disappointment for getting scolding for taking too many grapes in the 2nd grade lunch line. Oh, the grapes of wrath!

But we have each other still.

We’ve got each other’s back and we’ve wiped each other’s tears. We’ve delivered forgotten items to the school and slapped each other on the back with joy over new successes.

And so dear family, my favorite home team, here’s to a great school year and to acceptance of all the transitions that comes our way.

May we have the wisdom to know how to live well, and courage to make it happen!


This post is linked up with the Five Minute Friday blogging community. Each Friday a one-word prompt is given here and bloggers are challenged to write for about five minutes about whatever come to mind based on the word. This weeks’ word: TEAM

 

 

I’m Going To Dream Small This Year.

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I’m a day late and at least a dollar short.

It’s January 2nd and I haven’t made any official resolutions or goals yet for 2014. I’m still in “Christmas Break Mode” and I consider the fact that I did laundry today a pretty big accomplishment. Well, I haven’t folded it yet, but I did move it from the washer to the dryer. Yep, time for a break.

Anyway, I’ve been feeling a little anxious about not having any huge goals or big dreams for this new year. The world seems to be telling me that I need to dream big, shoot for the stars, be a pioneer in my day, blaze the trails and do it all with gusto. Even my spam emails are asking me if I want to eat healthier, lose weight, travel more and save money. I feel like I’m supposed to accomplish something epic before the ball drops again (the ball in Times Square, not me ‘dropping the ball’ …although that’s possible too).

But do my hopes and dreams for 2014 have to be so grandiose? If everything has to be so epic these days then nothing really is epic at all. I think I sometimes get caught up in  thinking that if I’m not doing something that’s perceived as magnificent or worthy of sharing on Facebook then I’m not succeeding. But, I don’t think that’s true.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating being lazy and complacent this year. I’m simply feeling stirred to do the small things well.

And as I’m doing the small things with excellence I may actually do something seen as big and honorable that others would admire, but I may not. I could make a mark on society, but I probably won’t even make much of an impact on my neighborhood. And I think that’s ok.

I’ve been studying the book of Matthew this year in a Bible study. We’ve been reading a lot of Jesus’ teachings and I’ve noticed that He likes to bring up a particular verse. It’s from the Old Testament and was written hundreds of years before He even walked on the earth, but I’ve found it’s still applicable to me today. Hey, if it was important to Jesus, it must be good.

Hosea 6:6 says,

For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.

This convicts me. Jesus repeatedly tells the Pharisees and His disciples that he wants their obedience, not their fancy words or displays of upholding the law. Jesus doesn’t seem as interested in a vision, big dreams or having a list of accomplishments, as he does our hearts.

So, with that in mind I’m going to try to dream small this year. I’m not going to aim to do anything epic or monumental and if I do, then may it just be a consequence of a heart that loves God and loves people.

I want to do things that society would view as small, but that God views as big.

Things like being kind to someone when I don’t feel like it or being joyful in the midst of a hectic schedule on a gloomy day.

Things like being patient when my child has asks me for the fourth time, “What comes after 39?”

Things like noticing that the lady behind me in line at the grocery store has a fussy baby and tired eyes and then asking her if she’d like to go ahead of me in line because I can stand to wait a bit longer.

Things like listening at the school committee meeting with an open mind and willing hands so that I can help make a difference in my community by simply serving where I’m needed.

Things like taking the time and energy to train and teach my children to be independent instead of frustratedly doing things for them all of the time.

Things like extending grace to my husband when I feel frustrated that he forgot to take out the trash and instead thanking him that evening for all that he does for our family every single day.

Yes, things like that.

They are small dreams.

Basically I’m just hoping to love God and people better… and love myself less.

I’m pretty sure my goals for 2014 are about as opposite of epic as you can get. And I’m glad about that.

I’ve got small dreams for 2014 and I am ready to get started.

And I guess I’ll have to fold that laundry in the dryer sometime this year too.