Planted in Pearland

What's going on in the life of Covenant Community Church

Can I even call it “suffering?” May 18, 2010

Filed under: Learning,Parenting — Maggie @ 8:58 pm

A couple of weeks ago, my one year-old son, Shepherd (pictured below), was waking up at 6am for several days in a row. His usual wake-up time is around 7:30, and in the Lord’s kindness, he’s been back to “normal” for the last week or so. It has been quite a relief from the unwanted 6am wake-up call. That said, I know that  he will very likely go through a waking up early phase again, perhaps even next week. I’ve been thinking about what my response to this unwanted wake-up call should be. Certainly, it should not be angry grumbling or a spiteful attitude that takes pleasure in letting him cry for 30 minutes while I refuse to get him out of bed. (You should know that I’m not opposed, in general, to letting him cry, just the attitude with which I do it.)

To my shame, both of these things have characterized my heart and my response.

Instead of acknowledging that this “light momentary affliction (and I do mean “light!”) is preparing for [me] an eternal  weight of glory beyond all comparison (2 Cor. 4:17), I have been frantically trying to fix what I deem to be a problem. I even took him to the doctor in the middle of it all to rule out an ear infection. (Confession: I really wanted it to be an ear infection that explained the early wake-up). Unfortunately (or fortunately), he got a clean bill of health, and I’m sure the pediatrician thought I was a crazy, paranoid new mom since Shep was giving her smiles and giggles the whole time she examined him. I left kind of embarrassed but trying to justify that I did it for his good rather than as a desperate attempt to explain and then fix something that is uncomfortable to me – an early morning wake-up call.

So now, knowing that he was perfectly healthy, I have been trying to think through how I have failed to respond in a godly way to this trial and what needs to change in my heart in order to respond differently. Why am I so quick to want to fix anything that makes me uncomfortable? Why is my first response anger and frustration when things get in the way of what I want – in this case, an awake, crying baby getting in the way of my desire to sleep.

Obviously, I am not believing that this is happening for my good and that the Lord is in control of it. Rather than agreeing with James 1:2-3, which says, ” Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance,” I am anything but joyful. I do not think rightly about suffering – I just want it to go away. I know this is because I don’t really understand what Paul means when he says in Romans:

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”  Romans 5:3-5

“The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Romans 8:16-18

I want to embrace any form of suffering (even an hour less of sleep) with joy and the hope of heaven always before me. Having an unexpected early wake-up call should serve as an opportunity to thank the Lord for producing endurance, character and hope in me. I want to embrace it as discipline and yield the peaceful fruit of righteousness from it (Heb. 12:11).

The Lord is merciful to be showing me my sin and teaching me this now, with “suffering” as minor as a 6am wake-up call.

 

Watermelon

Filed under: Learning,Parenting,Random — Sarah @ 8:06 pm

I love watermelon. It’s the perfect, refreshing, delicious, sweet, summery fruit. When I was a kid, we ate watermelon almost every day during the summer. We’d be playing in the sprinkler or at the neighborhood pool (which we also did almost every day), and my mom would bring out a plate of ice-cold, freshly sliced chunks of watermelon. We would dig in; it would drip all over our faces and suits, but it didn’t matter because we’d just hop right back in the water! Yum and fun!

So, filled with those memories, I impulsively I bought a watermelon today at the grocery store (it was NOT on the list :). And you know what I’ve realized? Watermelon is a pain to cut. I mean, you REALLY have to work for it, especially if you want to “chunk” it, which is my favorite way to eat it. After spending most of Eliza’s nap slicing and chunking this massive watermelon, I have to admit, as much as I love watermelon, I’ll be tempted to bypass it next time I’m in the store thinking “Oh, it’s too much trouble” and go buy some grapes instead.

But I hope my next thought will be, “What if my mom had done that?” If she had, we kids wouldn’t have the water-playing-watermelon-eating memories that we have, and I probably wouldn’t enjoy eating watermelon as much as I do. It’s in the simple moments like this that I’m reminded – I’M the mom now, which means now I have to do things that I don’t necessarily like to do for the benefit of my kids.

The Bible talks about this. In Philippians, Paul tells us to “consider others better than ourselves” and to “look not only to you own interests but also to the interests of others” (Phil 2:3&4). I am grateful that, because God is so gracious, I can apply this truth to something as simple as cutting up a watermelon for my family to enjoy… And I’m thankful that I have a mom who modeled it for me first!

 

Craziness March 6, 2010

Filed under: Adoption,Hospitality,Learning — Sarah @ 4:20 pm

Like Maggie, I can give a list of excuses for the delay in blog posts: travelling, a crashed computer that took all my blog outlines and rough drafts with it, our first public service launch (!!!!), illness (we each took a turn: Tim, Eliza, me), the list goes on, blah, blah, blah. I do want to do a post on the launch and services since – it has been awesome – but I have something on my heart I need to share.

Truthfully, I wrote this blog post a couple weeks ago, but I didn’t post it because I was afraid of what other people would think. The Bible has a name for this. It’s called fear of man, and it is sin. As believers, we are called to fear God and not man. And because, as Maggie mentioned, I am no longer a slave to sin but to righteousness because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, I have the ability to put this sin to death. So here it goes.

A couple weeks ago, a lady named Heather, whose blog I read, posted a notice about an opportunity for Texas families to sponsor (kind of like fostering) Haitian orphans who need to come to the US for medical attention. The post stopped me in my tracks.

This was one of the most clear “orphan in distress” (James 1:27) cases I had ever seen – and here was an opportunity to care for these orphans, dropped right into my lap. I just couldn’t ignore it. I showed the post to Tim when he got home, and he agreed we should ask for more information.

The information we got was not exactly “ideal.” There is no timeframe for when the kids will arrive in the US. Most of the kids brought to the US would be school age or close to it. They will be mostly amputees in need of many medical interventions of all kinds. They will not be wards of the state and therefore not eligible for Medicaid. It is unclear when or if they will ever be eligible for adoption. They, obviously, will have gone through a horrible ordeal and will be in need of massive amounts of love and patience as they adjust physically, mentally, emotionally.

I have to admit, my first reaction was, “No way.” We always talked about adopting a child close to the age of our biological children. We always talked about adopting a “young child” (translation: not old enough to be too screwed up from trauma). We had never talked about (translation: never even considered the possibility of) adopting a physically disabled child before. We always talked about adopting “after this” or “when this happens” – and now was certainly not the right time.

As we were talking about all this, God was doing a work in my heart. He came to help me realize that every time I said “we want to adopt” what I meant was “we want to adopt the right child, who’s the right age, at the right time, when it’s most convenient, suits our family best, etc.” I didn’t really mean “we want to care for orphans in distress through adoption.” I wanted to adopt – but in a safe, comfortable way that I could predict and control.

Safety, security, predictability, comfort, control – these are idols that God has been working on ripping out of my heart for years.

  • Moving to Louisville, a zillion miles from anyone and anything I had ever known – rip!
  •  Trusting God to decide when a child should be added to our family, in the middle of seminary, with no money – rip!
  • Deciding to church plant, the most insecure and unpredictable job you can possibly choose after seminary (with the exception of foreign missions) – rip!

Obviously, God has placed me in circumstances time and time again (these are just a few examples) that require me to let go of my idols of security and comfort and trust Him. Yet I still often find myself holding on to these idols with all my might.

I don’t want to be this person. I don’t want to be the person who always chooses the safe, predictable, secure, comfortable, “wise” path- and who kicks and screams when I’m asked to get off that path. To be clear, that is indeed who I am – I just don’t want to be. I want to be the person who fearlessly follows after Jesus no matter how uncomfortable it makes me.

So here I am yet again. My idol of a comfortable, secure and predictable life is being threatened again – this time with a call to extend hospitality to and provide care, love and a family for a Haitian “orphan in distress.”

Pray for us. We are still wrestling, talking, walking down this road as far as it will take us. We’ve got a lot of work to do.

**Update: We pursued this opportunity as far as we could. Eventually, we found out that we were not a good candidate family. Ultimately, the final word we got on this was that they were not able to gain permission for these kids to leave the country and therefore the kids were not able to come.**

 

It’s Been Awhile… March 4, 2010

Filed under: Learning — Maggie @ 6:00 pm

One month to be exact. Forgive us for the lapse in posts. I know that for me this has been a season of learning my limitations – and they are many! Being the wife of a bi-vocational pastor of a church plant and the mom of a very active 10 month-old has forced me (in the best sense of the word) to come to terms with just how limited I am. My priorities are first to my husband and my son, and this has not always been an easy lesson for me to learn.  I am often tempted to throw myself a pity party – and quite often, I give in to this temptation. I pity myself when my husband meets with men in the church in the evening after he worked all day to provide for his family. I pity myself for having to give my son his bath again while my husband studies to prepare a lesson or the liturgy for the church. I pity myself when my son only takes an hour and a half nap instead of a two-hour nap (he takes two of these naps during the day, I might add). I even pity myself when I intend to write a blog post and other “life stuff” gets in the way.

Ugh. Just putting those things into words is painful and reveals the ugliness in my heart. But, praise be to God that he dealt with that ugliness and sin when Christ paid for it on the cross. I am no longer enslaved to sin but to righteousness instead! I do not have to give into the temptation to pity myself; rather, I am free to chose to respond in faithfulness and not self-pity. That is truly freeing! At the same time, it is also freeing to know that I am indeed limited in my time and abilities and that is okay. Rather than rage against my circumstances and always wish for more time, I want to use the time I have been given faithfully, seeking to be a faithful wife and mother first and not giving in to the poison of self-pity. My first job is to help my husband and do him good and in this season of life that often means freeing him to do the work of the ministry in Covenant Community Church and not making him feel guilty for it!

As I have struggled with these things over the past few months, I have been encouraged by the words of the apostle Paul in Acts 20:24: “But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”  I want this verse to be ever-present in the forefront of my mind, so that when self-pity rears it’s ugly head, I will choose to say no to self-pity and to accounting my life as precious to myself and seek to finish the ministry I’ve been called to. And, I’m pretty sure that joyfully giving my son a bath so that my husband can serve the church is one way for me to do this!

 

Community: Lesson One January 13, 2010

Filed under: Community,Learning — Sarah @ 9:57 pm

I realized after I started thinking about how to approach this series that this is a huge topic. God, in his incredible mercy and grace, has been so faithful to teach me so much about community in the past 3 ½ years, yet every day I still feel like I have more to learn. I got kind of overwhelmed thinking about organizing or planning it out just right, so I’m just going to start at the beginning of my journey on learning about community. My first “a ha!” moment, my first lesson.

Our first week in Louisville, our neighbors Jeff and Kelly invited us to Sojourn Community Church and introduced us to Daniel and Joy.  Unbeknownst to us, God used Jeff and Kelly’s hospitality and kind invitation to put our lives on the course he had planned for us. After our introduction to Daniel and Joy, we soon met Dave and Maggie and were invited to join their community group when groups started up in August. Having no idea what we were getting into, but wanting to get plugged into Sojourn, we agreed. 

Looking back, I think it’s so cool that Dave and Maggie were our first community group leaders, and that Daniel and Joy were our second community group leaders, especially considering the journey we are all now on. I am so thankful for the time we spent in community group with them. God used it to knit our hearts together and prepare us for our future ministry together. 

Anyway, back to the story, my first “a ha!” moment. I remember our first community group so very clearly. We were all sitting in a circle in Dave and Maggie’s living room, and Dave asked us to go around and talk about what we were hoping to get out of this group (I’m not sure that’s exactly how he worded it, but that’s what I understood the question to be). 

My turn came, and I answered as honestly as I could. I told everyone that I really didn’t know what I wanted out of this group, but I was very clear on what I didn’t want. I didn’t want the same old church group, Bible study, Sunday School, small group stuff I had always experienced. Meaning, I didn’t want surface conversations about nothing important. I didn’t want awkwardness or forced and uncomfortable answers during the discussions. I didn’t want prayer requests that only centered on difficulties on the job or grandmothers having surgery (to be clear, there is nothing wrong with praying for tough job situations or family members’ surgeries- we can and should pray for those things- I just didn’t want that to be the focus of prayer time). I wanted something different than all that. I just had no category for what different would look like. 

Well, people continued around the circle, and when Meaghan’s turn came, she gave my first category for what “different” looks like. I don’t remember anything anyone else shared that night, but I distinctly remember what Meaghan said. She was holding her 6-month-old son, Conner, and said very simply, “Well, what I’m really hoping for in this group is some friends. I really need some friends because since Conner was born I’ve really been struggling with post-partum depression.” 

I know that comment may not seem like much to you, but to me it was absolutely revolutionary. I had never heard anyone be that real or that honest in a church setting before, EVER. It rocked my world. It was like God used Meaghan’s transparency at that moment to say to me, “Hold on, Sarah, you’re about to see something you’ve never seen before.” 

So, what is community? My first lesson taught me that community is raw, it’s real, it’s honest, it’s transparent. There is no room for masks or facades in true community. 

**Because community does require honesty and transparency, there is an expectation of confidentiality and privacy concerning the things shared in community group. I asked for and received Meaghan’s permission to share this story**

 

What’s all the fuss about Community? January 2, 2010

Filed under: Community,Learning — Sarah @ 9:45 pm

In an effort to make my posts on this blog a little more regular, I was thinking I could do a series on community. This is a word that gets tossed around a lot- it’s definitely a vogue topic and buzz word in church circles, and there’s even a television show entitled, “Community” (I’ve never watched this show, only heard of it).

So what’s the big deal about community? Well, there are a lot of reasons community is a big deal, especially for believers. For me, community has been a huge “a ha!” discovery in my Christian walk. I spent many, many years being a “lone ranger” Christian, trying really hard to work out my faith on my own. God finally brought me to a place where I learned that it is impossible to truly grow or change without community.

You see, all humans are created for community. This goes all the way back to Genesis and the garden of Eden. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). As humans, we are created in the image of God. There are many facets to this image, but one aspect of being created in the image of God is that we image God’s own community. God has been in perfect community with himself, in three persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, for all of eternity. He has always exsited in community and always will. Therefore, if humans are to image God, we must also exist in community.

This is the reason God said of Adam the first man, “It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper fit for him” (Genesis 2:18). A lot of people probably know the rest of this story, God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, took a rib out of his side, made Eve and presented her to Adam as his wife. This shows us that marriage was the first and still is the most intimate community we can have. However, all people, even unmarried ones, still want and need community. And, for those who are married, marriage alone is not “all we need” in regards to community.

In this series, I’ll try to do a “journalistic” approach on community – answering the “What, How, When, Why” questions that are so important to really get a good grasp of the concept being discussed. Most of it will be personal anecdotes of how God used certain people, places, passages of Scripture, etc. to each me about community.

 

Sick Baby Part 2 November 26, 2009

Filed under: Kids,Learning,Parenting — Sarah @ 7:24 pm

Joy called a couple days into Eliza’s illness. We kind of chatted about this and that, housekeeping stuff about our ladies book study, Thanksgiving travel plans, whatever. She kept going back to Eliza, and I soon just started crying and telling her how sad I was to see Eliza like this, how I felt like a bad mom, etc. She was kind, gentle and sympathetic, asked some “experienced mom” questions about taking care of a sick baby, affirmed how hard it is to deal with an ill child, then said, “Well, let me pray.”

 

She asked God to heal Eliza’s body, grant her restful sleep for recovery, comfort from the pain, etc. Then her prayer turned to me. She asked God to remind me of his sovereignty in the midst of this illness, that he would grow me and change me through this trial and that I would be aware of his hand at work through it all.

 

This is exactly what I needed to hear. I realized I had made this trial all about me- what I was or was not doing to care for my daughter and how sad I was about her being sick. I had not even considered what God was doing through the illness or what he wanted me to learn. After God mercifully, through the prayer of a friend, turned my thoughts away from myself and onto him, he brought to mind many truths from his word for me to meditate upon.  I’ll share one with you.

 

“For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:19-20).  Our world is broken- from my daughter’s relatively mild childhood disease to all the deformities, decay, death, calamity, tragedy that surround us, we are constantly reminded that our world is not as it should be. 

 

Why is this? Sin. This goes back to Genesis and the garden. Do you remember the punishment God gave Adam and Eve  for their sin? He cursed Adam’s body with sweat and the ground with thorns — his body would have to labor with difficulty to bring forth food from the ground. He cursed Eve with greater pain in childbirth. Notice that God cursed Adam and Eve with physical pain even though their sin was a moral problem. Physical suffering and turmoil, then, must be a signpost for how horrible sin is.

 

I know that I am not emotionally outraged at my own sin- I rarely hate or respond in any kind of emotional upheaval when I sin. In contrast, as I learned during Eliza’s illness, I am an emotional wreck when confronted with physical pain or disease, especially my child’s. God taught me that as much as I hate my daughter being sick, as sad as I was to see her ill, I should be even more quick to hate and be even more greatly saddened at my own sin. Yes, Lord, let this be true in my heart. Praise God for the faithful words and prayers of a friend and for truth from his Word to inform my circumstances. God is good.

 

**John Piper’s sermon “Where is God?” from desiringgod.org has been incredibly helpful for me in developing a biblical framework for trial and suffering**