The Danger in Comparing

 

Our girls have always sung: all over the house, at church, in the store… it shouldn’t have surprised me.  I was the child who clogged through every store my mother took me.

I remember our oldest 3 girls singing VBS songs in a grocery store and getting a bit loud, I thought, to serenade a woman standing nearby.  I tried to hush them a little, but as the woman passed me to leave she leaned in close and in a low tone she said, “Just think, they might be the next Point of Grace.”

It took my breath away, the way you know God just used someone to speak important truth to you.  The truth was that they were made to sing out loud, and it wasn’t my place to muffle them. I felt a little panicked, suddenly wondering if I was equipped to teach them what they would need to know.  I started praying right then and there that God would provide by enabling me or sending whatever teachers He will, and He has done both over the years.

My husband started them singing at the camp Annual Banquet each year, and I don’t remember how they began singing at church, but nowadays they sing at no less than 20 churches or events a year.  Their harmony is beautiful.  I don’t turn on the radio at home very often because who needs that when you have live music most of the day?

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It is a joy to watch and see how each one of the children develop in their gift each year, and even the older kids notice and appreciate as their younger siblings reach new levels. Lilly is 14 now, and has been coming into her own.  She is developing her own style and writing her own music.  I’ve seen our oldest listening, shake her head in wonderment, and I’ve known that she was comparing.

“My voice isn’t anything special,” she began to believe.

She forgot about the man who said that whichever sister is singing alto is “Amazing”.

She didn’t think about the woman at church who said she knew my Angel Girl would be able to pick out the elusive harmony.

She never considered how she has been becoming the teacher her sisters all go to when they need help understanding music theory.

I encourage her, but sometimes you need to hear it from someone who isn’t ‘just Mom’.

The comparing… it chokes dreams.  It kills confidence.  Instead of trail blazing, you fall to the rear because that is where you feel more comfortable. You might even talk yourself right out of the plans God has for you, but you and I, we’ve been chosen to be the bearer of the blessing others need.

In the Old Testament, God chose Esther.  He used Esther’s humility to save an entire nation.  He used her position: as the king’s favorite she had potential sway. He used her wisdom: a young woman who respected and listened to the uncle who told her that if she refused, God would use another way and she would forfeit the plan for her life.  He used her Jewish influence–the nation of Israel fasted and prayed with her in preparation for a risk that was greater than any you and I are likely to encounter: to go to the king without an invitation, and it could have cost her life.  She gave what she had to God as an offering.  She said, “If I perish, I perish.”  She didn’t say someone else was better equipped.  She risked everything and history documents how she blazed that trail.

While my Angel Girl was counseling at camp this summer, they put her on worship team. Every chapel, she had the opportunity to lead the singing with her peers while playing the keyboard and/or singing for worship.  I was glad.  I knew it would be a good experience, and I just kept praying God would use it as He weaves together his will for her life.

Angel on Worship Team

She said she played so often that the nervousness which normally paralyzes her concentration and her hands when she plays in public had disappeared by the end of summer camps. And then there was that voice she kept hearing over the monitor… the one she didn’t recognize as belonging to any of the other singers, and then one day she realized it was her own.  “In a good way,” she smiled.

Angel at bleachers

My daughter has been given a song to sing out loud.  So have you, whether literally or figuratively.

Your abilities? They don’t belong to you, as much as society will tell you that they do and that it’s your right to do with them as you please.  No, they were given to you by God and for God.  Don’t think about what other people think. Don’t belittle your gifts.  Don’t allow your song, whatever it is, to be muffled by comparing it to the abilities He has given to others.

Don’t fall back.

Don’t forfeit the plan.

Keep your gaze on the King.  He is your compass.  Orientate your thoughts, your feelings and your feet toward Him, and Keep. Moving. Forward.

You may never know all the lives you touch, but someday you’ll catch a glimpse of yourself the way God sees you.  You’ll hear your own voice in the so called monitor and be surprised {in a good way 🙂 } and you’ll be glad you chose to sing.

 

 

 

One of the Most Valuable Lessons You’ll Ever Learn About Ministry

this treasure

I will never forget the first Ladies’ Retreat that Camp JIM hosted after our family joined the staff.  It was the first time I had ever helped plan a retreat, and to say I learned a lot would be an understatement!

Our theme that year was “Beauty for All Seasons,” and our speaker, a pastor’s wife, was sharing about how God works in the different seasons of our lives. Little did I know she was in a very difficult season herself, and it was because of this that she unintentionally shared one of the most valuable lessons I’ve ever learned about ministry.

That year was one of the biggest retreats we’ve ever had, and to be honest, I think quite a few of the women were there to check out the new director and size up the direction the ministry might take.  Many seemed guarded, and the mood was pretty serious, though I noticed some “reunions” taking place as old campers were seeing each other for the first time in years. We had a hilarious group of older women sing as a special Saturday event, and their comedic music was the bright spot in the afternoon.  All in all, it was pretty standard, for a ladies’ retreat.

And then, something happened that changed everything.  During our Saturday evening session our speaker got real.  As she talked about the autumn of our lives, the season she was living, she began to share the struggles her family was going through.  They were the kind of struggles that no one wishes to experience.  The kind you don’t get through without faith.  The kind you can’t talk about without sobbing.  The kind that showcases God’s glory because He is right there in the middle of the mess, rolling up His sleeves and working side by side with you–pruning your life and polishing all your rough places.

As she struggled to speak through gutteral tears, every protective wall in the room came down that night,  like Jericho, truth spilling and stories tumbling out as the pretense and fear of being “less than” fell away.  Those women stayed up all night sharing their stories; every woman had one.

Every woman HAS one.

You have a story.

Your story has been instrumental in shaping you, but it doesn’t define you;

it changes you, but it doesn’t make you.

Your story is God’s glory.

 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.  We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair;  persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;  always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.”  2 Corinthians 4:7-10

You are an overcomer through Christ.  And the thing is that your story, God’s glory, isn’t meant to be hidden away, but shared because someone else is right now walking a similar path to the one you have already grown familiar.

Have you overcome depression?  Someone else is experiencing despair.

Are you experiencing the freedom of forgiveness?  Someone else is living in shame.

Have you recovered from a financial disaster?  Someone else has lost everything.

Have you survived miscarriage?  Someone else has empty arms.

Was your daughter among the 1 in 3 who is sexually assaulted, and you have walked that path with her?  Someone else’s world just caved in.

Have you forgiven the unforgivable?  Someone else is embittered.

Have you lost a loved one to cancer?  Someone else’s beloved is still in the battle.

Been abandoned?  Broken?

Isn’t it out of our brokenness that God does a new thing?  He said to comfort others with the comfort you have received.  2 Corinthians 1:4

What is your story?

Sharing your story, comforting someone else with the comfort Christ has given you, it reaffirms your victory in Christ.

It softens hearts.

It breaks down walls.

It establishes safe zones.

It declares hope.

It precedes victory.

It cleanses wounds.

Treasure in Jars of Clay.  One of the most valuable lessons you’ll ever learn about ministry?  Be REAL.  TRANSPARENT.  Your story becomes your testimony.  You are not “less than” because of what has happened to you; you are “more than” because of the Christ treasure in you.  Instead of pretense that showcases how great you are, your brokenness allows others see HIM.  And that is what ministry is all about.

 

Photo credit goes to Pixabay.

 

Loving and Leading, Part 1

“Everyone has a story.”

Have you ever wanted to make a difference for Jesus, but you weren’t sure how?  Getting to know George Smith, I learned a thing or two about loving and leading.

Every Sunday of summer youth camps, for decades, George and his wife Karen would pull into camp with a a van load of kids, and every Saturday they came back to take them home.  At minimum that’s 10 trips a summer, and he made those trips for over 50 years.

George was one of my heroes.  He always said that “Everyone has a story.”  He was a retired counselor who “listened” to the people in his community at no charge.  He cared about their hearts, and knew that God is the only way to become truly healed.  He also understood the way Jesus ministered to those whose lives He touched… looking after an individual’s physical and emotional needs today goes hand in hand with looking after their eternal needs.

Our family, out on the farm with George and Karen in 2010.  

Every summer George would go around his small town of Clithrall, Mn. and find the kids who had no place to go, who were bored, who’s families were not involved, or who may have otherwise gotten into trouble and felt that no one cared.

He talked with them.  He listened to them.  And then he would ask their parents for permission to take them to Camp JIM.  He would even throw in ice cream at Dairy Queen—twice—once on the way to camp and once on the way back home.   

For most of these kids, a trip to Dairy Queen was a rare and coveted indulgence. Some of them came for the ice cream, but they loved George because he loved them, and he didn’t ask them for anything in return.  While at camp, they discovered that lots of people care about them.
Especially God.
And we saw these young lives transformed. Most returned to camp with George every summer.  Many stayed and volunteered the whole summer.   When they were old enough they become our counselors and led others to Jesus Christ.  It is thrilling to see them off to a Christian College– to full time ministry careers– and raising Godly families.
Ice Cream and Jesus. 
That’s what it’s all about.
Loving people where they are today…
and leading them to the foot of our Savior who will love them eternally.