The Best Thing We Gained at the Fair

Have you ever noticed how kids have a very accurate internal clock, like, from the get go?

We took our oldest to the county fair when she was about three and the next summer, days before the fair was going to start, she started asking me about that place with lights and food and rides? We definitely went to the fair again that year,

and the next,

and every year. ¬†ūüôā

Nowadays the fair falls the weekend after youth camps end so it’s easy for all of us to anticipate. ¬†It’s a tradition.

When our oldest kids were little, and there were just a handful of them (instead of 2 hands-full) we would buy a sheet of tickets and let them ride a few kiddie rides. ¬†As they got older, the more mature rides cost more. ¬†With more children, one sheet didn’t provide enough tickets to go around. ¬†We learned to be content walking through all the exhibits, petting the animals and having a treat. ¬†My husband loves the malted milk shakes… it’s once a year. ūüėČ

{Farm to Table Children’s Exhibit}

 

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{Miss our goats this year!}

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{Still wearing the camp swimming arm band… and look at that adorable face!}

This year, the big kids were hankering to do some rides and I promised them we’d save up for them to buy an arm band to do unlimited rides. ¬†Tuesday of this week was that day. ¬†However, rather than simply purchase the arm bands and send them off to get hot, dizzy and tired, we gave them the $20 we’d saved for each one of our flock. ¬†We told them that they could pay for the arm bands themselves, or… ¬†they could spend it (or save it) on whatever they pleased.

Somehow, with the $20 they gained in their hands, fair rides didn’t sound so appealing to them anymore. They suddenly appreciated the effort that it would take for them to earn that money back themselves. ¬†Somebody mentioned having money for Christmas presents.

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No one went on rides.  When dad bought his malt, they bought their own ice cream (while mom *cringe* said nothing about all the sugar) and they enjoyed eating them together.  Dad got to taste every flavor because dads are good at sweet talking a taste.

We took in the exhibits.  We petted the animals.  C2 won a frisbee from The Pulse Radio. We won a $10 gift card for Cub Foods.

Yes, we brought home a lot of extra stuff, but the best thing we gained was the reminder that God is a Good Father when we lost. a. child!

Yes! Standing in a crowd with other people, holding tickets as the union for the grocery stores had a big drawing, Ella had a winning #.  She claimed her prize.  The giveaway ended, and as we started to walk away from the booth, I did what I always do:  I counted heads.

“5, 6, 7…” someone was missing. ¬†I have had kids coming and going from camp all summer. ¬†Every week we’ve had a different number at home, so the counting thing has been a little strange. ¬†This is the first week we’ve had all the kids home since the beginning of June.

I re-counted with names and I panicked. ¬†C2 is 4, and I didn’t see his little buzzed head or tye dye shirt. ¬†We had been standing there, all together, the whole time! ¬†How did he slip away? ¬†Where could he have gone?

It’s amazing the clarity with which one can remember the details of a beloved in a moment of bereavement. ¬†His big, tender eyes, full of wide wonderment filled my mind as I hollered his name and scanned the crowd.

I prayed.

While hubby turned the whole crew around, I spoke with the man at the grocery booth, and he said someone had taken a child to the fair office –{he pointed}– >>> that way.

We found him with an older couple, sitting in front of the information booth, and quietly crying as hard as he could. ¬†He was hugging 2 stuffed animals from someone’s game booth. ¬†When he saw us he flung himself into Dad’s arms and held on for dear life, and I silently praised God for keeping him safe. ¬†As we walked away, the older couple who had cared for him said to him,

“Now, remember, your parents will always come for you.”

It was all I could do to restrain myself from snatching him up.  I let my husband hold on to him, but my arms ached to hold him, and I know that is how God feels about every son and daughter who wanders away from the safety of His will.  I can picture Him at the ready, even watching us as we consider stepping away; how he wants to snatch us from danger, but allows us to choose our own footing.

He’s the Good Father.

You’re never really a lost child when you belong to the King. ¬†You can be rebellious, and you can suffer the consequences, but your Father knows where you are. ¬†He has his eye on you and He’s listening for your repentant cry. ¬†When you’re ready to find your way home, He will always come for you.

Always.

“What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them gets lost, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountain and go in search of the one that is lost?¬†¬†And if it turns out that he finds it, I assure you¬†and¬†most solemnly say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that did not get lost.¬†¬†So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones be lost.” Matthew 18:12-14 (emphasis mine)

Always.

 

How to Minister to the Lord

Several years ago, a women’s pastor who sometimes spoke at our camp Ladies’ Retreats was in the area and stopped by my home for a brief visit. ¬†When I asked her how she was doing she glowed, explaining that she had just returned from a quiet retreat where she had fasted and prayed, “and,” she said, “just really ministered to the Lord.”

Ministered to the Lord…

I got stuck right there. ¬†I had never heard anyone say that before. ¬†Of course, God ministers to us and we minister to others on His behalf, but to minister to a God who already has everything and doesn’t need anything captured my attention…

earnestly I seek you photo

This week Ella came to me asking, “Mom, was Lazarus good?”

I knew she had just finished her devotions but, not knowing what she was searching out, I let her question settle while saying a prayer for His guidance.

“He was a sinner, just like us,” I ventured.

She was quiet a moment. ¬†“But,” she continued, “he was Jesus’s friend. ¬†Jesus cried when Lazarus died.”

“Yes, he was Jesus’ friend. ¬†When Jesus traveled to his town, he and his sisters gave Him a place to stay. ¬†They provided His meals… I’m sure they laughed together. ¬†They sat at His feet and He taught them.”

I smiled. ¬†There it was, on the tip of my tongue. ¬†“They ministered to the Lord.”

None of us are good. ¬†The Bible tells us that the heart of man is desperately wicked. (Jeremiah 17:9) ¬†Yet, Jesus took our punishment for our sin and gave us His righteousness in order to make us friends of God. ¬†This is the gift of God (Ephesians 2), not a result of anything we can ever do, but God’s grace extended to us. ¬†His Holy Spirit lives with those who are saved. ¬†He our counselor, our comforter, our Friend. ¬†When we choose to sin~to live like we’re still spiritually dead~he is grieved like Jesus was when Lazarus died, but we bless Him when we choose to walk by His Spirit, seeking His will for our lives, and ABIDING in Him (John 15).

John tells us we love God because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19)  He is our friend and, like Lazarus, we can minister to Him!

We minister to Him when we remember His greatness,

“Bless the¬†Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.” ¬†Psalm 103

when we seek Him,

“O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” ¬†Psalm 63:1 ¬† ¬†¬†

when we sing to Him,

“Oh sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth!” ¬†Psalm 96:1

when we praise Him,

“Praise the LORD, for the LORD is good; sing to his name, for it is pleasant!” ¬†Psalm 135:3

when we talk with Him,

“Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me,¬†and I will hear you.” Jeremiah 29:12 (Read here for context.)

when we obey Him,

“Jesus replied, ‘Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.'” John 14:23

when we follow His example,
“For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.” John 13:15

 

when we serve others…

“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” ¬†Matthew 25:40

We can minister to the Lord. ¬†Today, many of you will be meeting with your local church assembly. ¬†You will hear God’s Word, have opportunity to encourage and help your brothers and sisters, praise God through song… let it not just be an act of going through the motions and checking it off of your to-do list. ¬†Be aware of the attitude you put on. Make it your goal to minister to the Lord! ¬†You also will be blessed when you do.