I wrote a book (What Could I Be?) for Kesleigh and published an iPad version on Amazon. My friend and ex-student Sonya Hunt helped me get started on the illustrations. It’s a Christian children’s book about a little girl daydreaming about what she might do when she grows up. She is transported to the Olympics, a rock concert, into the sky, underwater, and even to a fashion show. In the end, she decides that no matter what she ends up doing, she already knows the kind of girl she wants to be.
We just got back from a little trip with our Community Group (or “Life Group” as they will be called soon) and so I’ve been reflecting on some of our times together:
I love this group. We play together, serve together, worship/learn/grow together, and just do life together. They have been there for us in both good and bad times. Don’t get me wrong – cultivating these relationships hasn’t been easy. We’ve all worked at being intentional and made sacrifices, but in the end, it’s definitely worth it.
In general, we just enjoy being together and find ways to be together. I don’t think it matters what we’re doing near as much as just being together. In doing so, we “rub off” on one another and begin to share memories/experiences which shape us. Even our parenting skills are influenced as we watch how everyone else “does” it. These are the people I consciously choose as “influencers” in our lives and I will protect those relationships.
Here are just a few of the things we’ve experienced together so far:
Before my son Kasen had surgery earlier this summer, the kids from our group gathered around him and prayed for him. In this one act, they were an example for taking our burdens to the Lord. Their faith gave him more courage and their little prayers communicated their love and support for him. They taught him that God is in control and his faith was strengthened as he witnessed God answering those prayers.
When my truck broke down, one of the guys in our group came to my house to help with repairs – truly an answer to prayer. I’m not good with this sort of thing, but my friend is. This is how the body of Christ should function – each one offering his own gifts.
Some of them showed up to support me on the night I was leading a fundraiser for another organization I’m involved in. One of them actually serves on the board.
We volunteer together at the Pregnancy Help Center and work to be a blessing to one of our local schools. We also serve at our church together by cleaning the building and working behind the scenes.
The girls celebrate birthdays together and the men hang out and see movies together. We plan “Date Nights” together. Our kids play on the same soccer teams.
We go on trips/retreats together – Jellystone and Livingston.
We spontaneously decide to do things together – bike rides to the park for picnics.
We spend time praying for each other and study the Scriptures together. We have worked our way through a few books (Respectable Sins, The Praying Life) as well as sharing our own life stories with one another.
Prayer: LORD, Thank you for giving these people to us. They are instruments in Your hands to help keep our family on track. When they speak, I often hear Your voice. When we’re together I sense Your presence and know You are near. When we’re together, I feel safe to ask questions and wrestle with what it means to live as You have called us. These relationships give us opportunities to practice living out this call to love one another and I must admit that sometimes it can be difficult. I’m so grateful that You brought them to us and pray that You will continue to draw us into deeper relationships that will push us deeper into our relationship with You. AMEN.
Food. Sometimes, it’s just that. Food. Nothing special. Just our regular old lunch. On the other hand, food can be so much more. There are some meals we return to every time there’s something to celebrate. These dishes hold hands with memories. The people with whom we share our meals, also share our lives.
It’s not just a burger. It’s a reminder of a backyard cookout and the laughter of children playing on the lawn. It’s not just a cookie. It’s one of the ways my aunt expressed her Christmas love for us. The smell of a Chai Tea Latte makes me think of our friend Shana who introduced my bride to what she called “Christmas in a Cup.” If I make a cake today, the taste of batter on my fingers transports me to a 1973 counter top in Del City, Oklahoma where my brother and I licked mixer blades. Food is not just food. It is so much more.
An old man once said, “I don’t remember every meal my wife made for me, but each one of them kept me alive and provided the fuel I needed to live.” Our time with God is the same. We may not have a memorable experience with Him every day, but His Word keeps us alive and fuels our days.
Prayer: LORD, as we enjoy our meals, sustain and fuel us for life. When we eat, remind us that You (Jesus) are our true provider and that your Word fuels us spiritually. Every once in a while allow us to experience a meal that is more than food – one that reminds us of your incredible love – the love that would send Jesus to die in our place in order to rescue us from ourselves. Give us opportunities to return to this meal every time we need to be reminded of your sacrifice and grant us favor that it will sustain not only our bodies, but our heart and soul as well. AMEN.
Mt 4:4 – “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
PS – This post was adapted from an article I wrote for a cookbook that our community group gave away in February 2013.
Miranda and I have been working onteachingour children about repentancequite a bit lately. We never really use that word, but we’re trying to lay a foundation which will make it easy to understand as they grow older. Our practice is to teach them a few things to say when they have hurt someone:
1)I’m sorry. (Stop behavior)
2) I won’t do it again. (Turn around behaviorally)
3) Will you forgive me? (Restore relationship)
After listening to a sermon from Rob Morris (Love146) I’m considering adding another element. He reminded me of the Biblical accounts where the repentant sinner’s first action was to “right” the wrong that he caused and and to even go beyond “right” to make it “better.”
Remember Zacchaeus, the tax collector who gave back four times everything he had taken? (Lk 19:1-10)
Or when the rich young rulerwent away grieved because he could not bring himself to help the poor. (Mk 10:17-22)
In Luke 3:10-14, John the Baptist is preaching a baptism of repentance and when asked “What shall we do?” He tells them to give to the poor and to treat others fairly.
Evidently, ourrepentance should impact the poor and oppressed as well.
All this is to say, I need to find some ways to help my kids see that repentance is more than my three step lesson. It should have legs on it and actions tied to it. Repentance should impact everyone around us.
Maybe we should add the question: “How can I make it better?” (Restore/Improve situation)
Lord, guide us to model repentance for our children. Lead us to the strategies that will help us to encounter You – to be confronted by sin, and to recognize that our behaviors hinder our relationship with You. Forgive us. Restore us unto You. Change us. Empower us by the Holy Spirit to choose new behaviors and walk different roads and lead us to improve the situations that we have caused in our sin. AMEN.
In spite of her gifts as a communicator and writer, Heather Zempel is truly humble. She admits her mistakes and paints a picture of stumbling through the maze of small group ministry and leadership, but her passion and heart are also very clear. She loves people and isn’t afraid of a little mess – and in some cases a lot of mess. She doesn’t try to prescribe any particular model for building community but rather draws on her experiences (sometimes very funny) to give the reader some helpful tools for gaining a better perspective on your particular situation.
Here are some of my favorite quotes:
“I decided a couple years ago to stop trying to strike a balance [in my life] and to pursue life in rhythm instead.”
“People can find legitimate community and be discipled outside our structures.”
“Most people come into groups looking for social space; we encourage leaders to aim for taking their groups [beyond that] to personal space; and we hope individuals will look for intimate space opportunities with a select few inside the group.”
“We need to ensure that our routines don’t become routine.”
This is the best book I’ve ever read on small group ministry! If you’re a part of a small group or want to be, you should read this book!
Heather is actually a family friend, (As a child, Miranda played football with her every Thanksgiving. Mike was the all-time quarterback.) but. . . . well, nevermind – I can’t deny that I’m biased to this book, but it’s still the best I’ve ever read on community groups.
Tonight I had the privilege to lead a group from our church through a teaching called “Christ in the Passover.” Here’s a link to the guide I created for the event as well as a link to pics for the video presentation.
I watched her giggling across the room as she danced. The flashing lights sparkled in her eyes which lit up as she noticed me watching her. Her smile expanded even wider. She floated across the dance floor and threw her arms open to me saying “Hold me daddy!” We danced. Well….I danced and her feet dangled a few feet above the dance floor. It was an incredible night and I’m so grateful that I took the time to ask her out.
Kesleigh is 3, almost 4, and I had asked her to go with me about a week before the big event. As her father, it’s my goal tolove her like God loves her. I know I’ll never do that well, but it’s my responsibility to be an earthly representation of Him to her. That’s HUGE! I’ve got to do all I can and pray that God will use my even feeble efforts to reveal Himself to her.
I also wanted to make a special effort that night to let her see how a man should treat her. I know it’s early, but I want her to grow up knowing what to look for in a husband. I got dressed up for her – that may very well be the biggest expression of my love. I opened the door for her and was courteous. I bought her dinner (Yes it was McDonalds, but that’ll change as she gets older) and held her hand as we walked into the ballroom. I proudly introduced her to the people around us and waited patiently as she picked out candy for her snack. I asked her to dance with me and even embarrassed myself a bit for her entertainment. I laughed with her as I tried to teach her a few dances – Chicken Dance, YMCA, 2 Step, etc. I tried to serve her in every capacity and when the time was right….in the middle of a slow dance, I spoke to her gently and tried to explain how much she meant to me. I know she’s only three, but she truly seemed to grasp the significance of the moment and before I even finished talking, she looked directly in my eyes, and said, “I love you daddy.” as she wrapped her little arms around my neck. She just held me for the rest of the song. It was magical. The rest of the evening she wouldn’t leave my side. Even when I tried to get her to dance with her friends, she only wanted to be with me.
This is my prayer – that Kesleigh would grasp the significance of God’s love for her and that she would never want to be out of His presence again. LORD, may it be so.
P.S. – If you ask her what the best part of the evening was, she won’t mention any of these events. All she’s gonna talk about is the “Candy Bar” and how she was able to go back as many times as she wanted.