Sunday, October 9, 2016

Sue's Blog

Sue's Blog
As we approach mid-October, I am reminded that the days between October 1 and Christmas Day always seem to pass by like the blink of an eye. Below is an article that I wrote a few years ago to remind myself not to let the stress of the holiday season blind me to the joy of what it is really all about.

Why Bother With Christmas?

“What night are we going to get together with the kids to have our family Christmas?” My husband asked as he walked through the room, barely stopping to hear my reply. Staring at the ink-filled squares representing my life for the coming month, I tried to formulate a reply, which came out more like a desperate plea for help. “From the looks of the calendar, I think we’ll be waiting until New Year’s. We have something going on every night in December. There are all the church group parties, our friend’s parties, our small group caroling, the ladies’ cookie exchange, the elders’ and wives party, the staff party, and then of course, the 12 Christmas Eve services. I don’t see any way we can get together with the kids in the middle of all this. For one thing, I haven’t had time to do any shopping, and after I find time to do that, I have to wrap everything. Somehow I have to get the decorations up before the pastors’ wives party, which reminds me – when can you put the lights on the outside of the house? And I need you to assemble the tree so I can decorate it!”

For families in ministry, this conversation may ring a familiar bell. For most people Christmas is a time for family, perhaps attending a Christmas Eve service together before gathering around the Christmas tree. For a pastor’s family, celebrating Christmas can hold a unique challenge as family time must compete with a myriad of church obligations. Our family has celebrated Christmas on Thanksgiving, on New Year’s, or anywhere in-between, but rarely do we have the time – or the energy – to celebrate on Christmas Eve.

As our church has grown, so have the number of Christmas Eve services. In our household, Christmas Eve has come to be synonymous with multiple services and spending Christmas at the church building. A few years ago, my husband discovered that many people were torn between attending Christmas Eve service and being with family. In an effort to allow them to do both, he began to offer Christmas Eve services on December 23rd, as well as December 24th. This addition has been surprisingly well-received and it seems every year the services for both evenings are packed with those who feel a special need to reconnect with the Christmas story and still have time to be with family. For us, it’s a time of great blessing to see so many people gather, knowing that many only have this one chance to hear of God’s amazing love. But finding time – and energy -- for a family celebration in the midst of all this has become an annual challenge, especially now that all three of our grown children are also in ministry, with families of their own -- and in-laws to factor in! Each year we juggle our schedules to try and find time to make it happen.

In spite of what could easily be termed “a hassle” by some, our family has found that the joy of Christmas is always there, waiting for us, no matter when we celebrate it. It may not be on Christmas Eve, or Christmas morning, or even on Christmas evening, as it is for many families. But the moment we gather together we are reminded why we make the effort as the real meaning of Christmas finds its way into our hearts.

I’ll never forget one special Christmas, as our family carved out some time to share in the Christmas celebration. We decided to dig out some costumes from the church props closet and prevail upon the children to perform a reenactment of the first Christmas. As you can probably imagine, a gathering of our three children, their spouses, and our 11 grandchildren is often accompanied by what borders on chaos, and this night was no different. It was an effort to corral squirming kids to decide which costume best fit whom, and referee arguments over who would play which part. When at last we found ourselves ready for the big event, my husband read the Christmas story from the Bible. As parents and grandparents we gathered around, watching the transformation of rowdy little boys into regal wise men and a dignified Joseph. Excited and giggly little girls suddenly became curious shepherds, glorious angels, and an extremely maternal Mary. One wiggly little baby was surprisingly willing to be still long enough to be the baby that brought the purest of all love into the world.

Amidst much flashing of cameras and parental pride, we were all struck by the importance of what really took place, not just on this make-shift stage, but on that long ago night. A night when another Father watched as His Son was cradled by humanity. These children whom we love were acting out a love of another kind, a love that brings us to our knees as we try to grasp the meaning of the words of the angel, “For unto us a Son is born.” As we watched our children in their rag-tag costumes posed before us, we were reminded once again that Christmas is not about a day on the calendar – it’s about a living God and a love that transcends our understanding.

This was the Christmas card we sent out in 2005. That little baby "Jesus" is now 11 years old and nearly every one of these children are taller than me! But this image will always be one of my all time favorites and hopefully these children, many of whom are already young adults, will never forget the time they were transformed into a living reminder that Jesus is the Reason for the Season!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Why I Decided Not to Host My Own Cooking Show

Today, as I was trying to make several different recipes at once for a special celebration of our family, I began to get frustrated because things just weren't going well. Then I thought about how I came to the decision to give up cooking (obviously, I was having second thoughts about that decision, because here I was, frantically trying to chop, stir, and layer, all at the same time). I remembered that when my children left home I needed to make a decision about cooking and considered the pros of cooking in a home with no children:
  1. I would get to lick all the bowls and spoons myself.
  2. I wouldn't have to share any of the finished foods if I didn't want to.
  3. I wouldn't have to listen to complaints about how it doesn't taste like so and so's mom makes it.
But then I had also weighed the cons:
  1. I would gain a lot of weight.
  2. I wouldn't have anyone I could force into cleaning up my mess (and I am a really messy cooker -- see photo).
  3. Most of the time I mess up the recipe and it doesn't taste like I used to make it.
So then I thought about my options. My first option would be to have my own TV cooking show -- this would allow me to:
  1. cook whatever I wanted, plus the ingredients would all be pre-measured and ready to pour into the bowl or pot or whatever..
  2. be as messy as I want because someone else would get paid to clean up my mess.
  3. not be stressed out about gaining weight because other people could eat part of whatever it was so that I wouldn't eat it all myself.
It didn't take long to rule out this first option on the mere fact that I am not that great a cook and probably even if someone agreed to let me go on the air, no one would actually watch the show.

So that left me with option #2 which was to give up cooking in any formal sort of way (hotdogs and grilled cheese sandwiches don't really count.). This would mean that:
  1. I could spend more time making reservations at restaurants around town.
  2. Someone else would get paid to clean up my mess.
  3. I could invite someone to dinner and they can eat whatever they want.
This is obviously the choice I made -- it's a no-brainer! Why, oh why, do I keep second -guessing myself like I did today? It always ends up with me being really tired, the food being mostly so-so, and nobody really caring that I made it myself! Sigh. 

(And then there's that thing about gaining weight, which seems to be a factor no matter which choice you make....)

Friday, December 11, 2015

Tribute to Reba:
My Mother Lost Everything, But Gained What Really Matters....

My mother died yesterday, just a few days short of her 96th birthday. Three years ago, she moved from the home where I grew up. This was the home where she had raised her children; the home where she and my dad had lived for most of their married lives; the home where she thrived and made a difference in her community and served her Lord for over 60 years. The place where she waited to welcome her children home as they came to visit from the lives they had carved out for themselves after leaving her care. The place where she took joy in welcoming grandchildren and great-grandchildren as they stopped by on their travels across Kansas. She came to Arizona to start a new chapter in her life, knowing that it would be the last of many chapters she had lived. I was thrilled to know that for the first time in my adult life, I would have my mother living near me. My other siblings had all lived near her at some time after leaving home, but not me. She would often say things to me like, "you remember so and so or such and such, don't you?" I would have to remind her that I had not lived in my home town since I left for college, and no, I did not remember any of what she was referring to. The last three years I have grown in a relationship with my mom that I never had before. As a child, I saw her as demanding and critical, and yet, I always knew I was loved -- that she simply wanted me to be the best I could be. As an adult, living far from her, she was often my place of refuge. I could run to be with her when I needed an escape from the demands of my life at home. She was always there to let me return to being a daughter, and I could briefly escape the expectations of all the other roles I had to fill. When she moved to Arizona, of course, she continued to be my mother, and at times that was difficult for both of us. She had her way of doing things and I had mine. Quite often, I would defer to her ways -- sometimes out of respect and sometimes out of frustration. She began her life in Arizona splitting her time between my house and my brother's house. She basically came to Arizona because my brother and his family were moving here, and my siblings and I all agreed that she could not remain in her current situation without one of us close by. We tried to fall into a pattern of sharing her, but it became more and more difficult for her to settle in when she had to pack a bag every week and move from one house to the other. She was feeling lost, partly because "her stuff" was split between two homes, and partly because she didn't really feel like she was AT home in either of our homes. She missed having her own home. It was difficult for us as we tried to meet her needed expectations to be comfortable here, and eventually we all just settled into the compromise of doing the best we could with the circumstances we were in. I loved that I was able to spend time with my mom regularly, but it was hard knowing that she wasn't really happy. We would talk about it and many times we laughed and cried in the same conversation, as she did her best to try and make someone else's home her home. She was a great help to me because she loved doing laundry and cleaning up minor messes around the house. Most days she would have my dishes cleaned up before I was even finished using them! My mom was a woman who loved to work. She loved house work and she loved yard work -- both of which she had spent her life doing and had taken great pride in doing it well. Somehow, that gene did not pass on to me, so I was only too happy to let her do whatever her aging body would allow her to do. At times it was annoying, because if she was not able to do it, she wanted me to do it, and she wanted me to do it NOW. But that was her creedo; do what needs to be done, do it immediately, and do it well. Not a bad precept by which to live, if you think about it. But then the stroke came. Not totally unexpected, but certainly unprepared for. Suddenly, everything changed. No longer could she tolerate the stress of splitting her time between my brother's home and my home. No longer could she fold laundry or do dishes or write notes to the dozens of people that she regularly communicated with through the U.S. postal service. Slowly she began to lose control of all the things in her life that she loved to do. Slowly she had to learn to depend on help from others to do even the simplest of things. We began to work at finding humor in stroke recovery. Things like "if you can't get your pajama bottoms off and there is no one in the immediate area to help you, just pull the scissors out of the bathroom drawer and cut them off!" Or things like, "beware that you don't try to eat your finger because you mistake it for part of your toast!"  As days turned into months, it became obvious to both she and I that she needed more help than I was physically or emotionally capable of providing. So once again, she had the burden of letting go of the "new normal" that had been so hard to accept. She stepped into the life of a group home where, although she was loved and well-cared for, it was not her home. She had good days and bad days, as we all do, but for her, the bad days became increasingly bad as her health declined and her spirits sagged. She found joy in the relationships of those with whom she shared the home and initiated the formation of a daily Bible study for those who wanted to participate. She encouraged the other residents to trust in God, and she worked at taking her own advice. Time became both an enemy and an ally as each day was a gift, but also something to be endured. Day after day, she would proclaim her readiness for God to send his golden chariot to take her to His throne. Yet our time is not God's time. She was living in a time of loss. Loss of possessions, loss of physical health, loss of loved ones who passed before her, loss of control of everything in her life. She had to depend on someone else for her every need and also be willing to submit to their timing in completing those needs. Watching this happen to my mother was one of the hardest things I've ever done in my life. Knowing that it will most likely happen to me sometime in my future is the next hardest thing. Accepting the fact that God designed humans to enter the world with nothing and leave the world with nothing has become clearly focused for me. When I think of all the things my mom struggled to let go of when she moved to Arizona, then all the things she struggled to let go of to move into her group home, and finally how she had to let go of everything to enter Heaven, I am slammed with the perspective of all my possessions. I now have in my home possessions that were my great-grandmother's, my grandmother's, my mother's and mine. That is a lot of stuff that will eventually belong to someone else when I make my final move to Heaven. Some of those possessions are so cherished that I find it hard to imagine ever not having them. But I am at the same time hit between the eyes with the realization that none of it will matter when I see Jesus face to face. He really and truly is all I need -- in this life and the next. All the time spent on this earth is given to me to teach me that truth. There is nothing I possess that will have any usefulness whatsoever when I step into the presence of the Almighty God. I don't say that because I plan to rid myself of all earthly possessions and live in a cave until He comes for me. I truly believe that God wants us to take joy in the earthly life He has given us. But I now have a more full understanding of what it means to live in the world without being of the world. I realize that clinging too tightly to the things of this world is a waste of time and effort. I have learned from my mother that, as hard as it is, loss truly becomes gain in the end.
1 Timothy 6:7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.

P.S. I found the following notes that I had written at the time of Mom's move and thought it appropriate to add them as a post-script to the above tribute.

A few weeks ago I was driving across southwestern Kansas, something I've done many times in my lifetime, but this time it was different. Passing by town after town, each holding specific memories of people or events from my past, it suddenly occurred to me that I may never have a reason to pass that way again. I drove by the town that holds the graves of ancestors I never met and thought of stories about them that I have read in family history books. I passed by the town where my mother grew up; the town I knew as a child to be where my grandmothers both lived. I remembered days spent there as family members gathered for reunions. I passed the town where my cousins lived and remembered times I stayed at their home and met their friends.I passed by towns I traveled to as a teenager, cheering on our school teams in various sporting events. I passed by towns where boys lived that I met at church camp and remembered how it felt to have a crush on someone who never gave you a second glance. As I drove, the tears flowed freely down my cheeks. On each side of the road, I passed field after empty field, each one at rest for the winter. I marveled at the way the horizon stretched into the distance on each side of the road, remembering how we were always able to see the lights from a town 60 miles away on a clear night. Passing only an occasional pick-up truck and seeing the motorized sprinkler system that looked like mini-bridges spanning field after field, my mind was occupied with thoughts of change. Soon I would have nothing to draw me back to this place of memories. As I drew nearer to my childhood home and remembered that soon it would become the home of some other family, my heart was filled with emotion. The excitement of the coming transition, mingled with the anxiety of the change was nearly overwhelming.

I was on my way to help my mother with the final preparations to relocate to Arizona. She would be leaving behind a lifetime of memories and a home she had lived in since 1949. As hard as it was for me to face this challenge, I knew that her challenge was far greater. Her life was about to be reduced to a truckload of belongings. She was leaving behind the place she and my dad had spent their lives, building a business, raising a family, supporting a community and being part of a church family. She was leaving the graves of loved ones, including my dad, in a cemetery that she would no longer be able to visit when she felt the need to do so. This was a big deal. And yet, she was up for it. She faced it bravely and with few tears. Of course there were times of looking back with longing for what was lost forever, but still she marched into her new future with a strength that many women half her age would not possess.

I only hope that I can face my unknown future with that same strength and trust in God's plan for my life.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Been Thinking

When was the last time you set your mind free? By free, I don't mean you did something fun or relaxing, I mean you did something that was mindless -- something you can do without thinking about what you're doing, therefore leaving your mind free to go wherever it wants to go. In today's culture our minds are constantly engaged. We go from device to device, and our mind is constantly required to focus. Perhaps you're thinking, "but I play video games, that's pretty mindless." Really? Maybe so, if you have absolutely no intention of winning, but I think most of us play to win, which requires us to pay attention to what's going on. Let me illustrate. 

I have a condition called Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) which takes over my body when I get relaxed and requires me to get up and move. I won't take time to try and explain it, but if you really want to know more you can Google it and find tons of information. Anyway, sometimes I get to the end of my day and I realize I have forgotten to take my RLS medication during the day, which allows me to relax and go to sleep at bedtime. You see, it is when I start to relax that the evil RLS activates and requires me to get up and move around, so I need to take small amounts of medication all through the day, keeping my body from allowing the RLS to activate. It's on such days of forgetfulness, which is probably due to being "connected" on one of my devices, that I have to do something which will require me to engage my mind so that I will not relax. I have one particular computer game that does just that, and whenever I am plagued with insomnia due to this condition, I know that I can play that game and it will require a connection with my brain to keep it occupied until my medication kicks in and helps me settle down. So in other words, playing games is not really all that mindless. Our brain is engaged in what we will do next so that we can win. 

Today, I was cleaning my refrigerator. Why, you ask? I know, its not something most of us do frequently. But here is the story leading up to the "cleaning of the fridge." My fridge basically died -- well, the computer board in the fridge died, so it had to be removed and sent off to be repaired, which meant the fridge was unusable until the part can be reinstalled. So, I had to move every thing out of my fridge and into the "spare fridge" in the laundry room. That was when I noticed that my kitchen fridge was absolutely filthy. I don't even remember the last time I cleaned the inside of it. While it was full, I really didn't notice the sticky, gooey shelves and the crumbs that had fallen onto the shelves and into the drawers. Once empty, however, it was painfully apparent that I had neglected it. 

Cleaning the fridge is a mindless job. As I removed shelves and drawers and washed and dried them, and wiped down the entire inside of the appliance, I realized my brain felt free. My thoughts were just wandering from thing to thing and moving around in my brain like they haven't done in a long, long time. I started thinking about how differently I live than the way my mother lived. My mother never neglected to clean out her fridge. It was a part of her job as a homemaker. She took her job very seriously and it included making sure every inch of her home got cleaned on a regular basis, keeping all our clothing clean and in good repair so that we always had something ready to wear, making sure the children were disciplined and kept their things orderly, having meals prepared and served at regular times and being supportive of my dad as he provided the means for her to do all this. I began to wonder if I really take my job as a homemaker that seriously. I have piles of things to be done here and there around the house, and for some reason I never seem to get to them. I sometimes go to bed with dirty dishes in the sink. I don't always make my bed. My husband sometimes has to remind me that he needs clean underwear, and "would you please do laundry?"

Thinking about that, I wondered why I'm like that. I didn't start out that way. I started out doing things the way my mom did them and tried to follow her example to keep my home orderly and engage with my children and prepare meals. But, at some point, that began to change, and if I'm honest with myself, I think that change started creeping in about the time I got my first "device." I discovered the world of the internet and it seemed so much more fun than taking care of my home and my family. It was a whole new world where I could explore and connect and shop and learn and create, etc. But I can see now it's a world that keeps my brain constantly engaged so it is never free to just think whatever it wants to think. It doesn't get a chance to ponder. 

Instead of filing a stack of papers, or washing the dishes, or folding the laundry -- all jobs that I can do while my brain thinks about other things, I tend to sit at my computer and focus on things that require my brain to be fully engaged. I didn't realize how taxing that was until today. It was almost like I could hear my brain "sigh" with relief when I started to clean my fridge. "Finally, she's doing something that I don't have think about!" 

So, here I am, writing about something that my brain conceived while it was free to think. Imagine that.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Ever Feel Like a Bent Can?

This morning I was up way earlier than I wanted to be for reasons that are not necessary to share, but just let me say it was still dark outside. As usual, if my eyes are open, I'm feeling like I need to eat something, so I went on a search for some kind of protein source that would make my tummy stop growling at me. All I could come up with that didn't require cooking and a lot of noise that would wake up my husband, was a couple cans of tuna. So tuna salad for breakfast, sounds good! I've never believed that any food should be confined to being consumed at a certain time of the day -- I don't know whose idea it was to assume that we must eat cereal for breakfast or pot roast for dinner. For me, any food is fair game for any time of the day, so, today, tuna salad fit the bill just fine. Only one problem, both cans were significantly bent and I couldn't get my can opener - electric or manual - to make a connection long enough to get them open. I was finally able to pry open a big enough hole in each lid to slide a fork in and dig out the tuna, but not before spilling tuna water all over the counter and cutting my finger with the knife that cuts flesh but not tin. I finally got my tuna salad sandwich made, but for some reason, I started to think about how I was a little like those bent cans.

I have always felt I was just not quite like everyone else (well, really, who is?), but for some reason, today I was hit with the thought that there are times I feel a little bent -- just like those tuna cans. The device that was made to open a normal can wouldn't work on a bent can, Neither do the activities of society that are meant to "open up a person" work well on me. I don't really like to be open, nor do I feel comfortable in social settings. I hold on to my privacy the way a bent can holds onto its contents. The more one tries to "draw me out", the more I tighten my grip. I'm not sure why, really, except that I am concerned that once I am "drawn out", I just might not meet the expectations of those doing the drawing! We have expectations of the contents of a can, bent or not, we expect the contents to live up to what the label says is inside. If the label says it contains tuna fish, then we expect to find tuna fish inside.

Let's face it -- people have labels too! Usually more than one, and sometimes those labels change over the years. One of my labels is "Pastor's Wife." If that label had ingredients listed on it, what would they be? Here's just a few that have been expected of me over the years:

Friendly extrovert
Accomplished musician
Spontaneous pray-er
Bible verse quoter
Church member name recaller
Mother of well-behaved children
Always appropriate dresser
Perfect words for any situation
Habitual law abider
Complete honesty
Willingness to share husband endlessly

I can't say I have ever actually lived up to any of these expected ingredients with complete satisfaction. I wonder if any pastor's wife really can? I can say that I have more of some of these ingredients than I do of others, but overall, knowing that you can't be all that is expected of you, can, over time, make you begin to feel like a bent can. Like you just don't fit on the shelf properly. Like you can't be "opened up" the way others can be. Like maybe you are constantly being "dug out" of your comfort zone.

I have learned over the years that ultimately, my life is not really about what others expect of me or what they think of me. It is really about who I am in God's eyes. My life is about who God created me to be and the ingredients He used to make me who I am. His recipe is different for each person and there is no label that fits us all except the label "Child of God, imperfect in every way, but made perfect by the blood of Jesus." In reality, we are all just bent cans compared to the perfection of Jesus. But ironically, Jesus is the very can-opener that each of us needs to be opened and used in a world where perfection is always just out of our reach. It is only when we admit and embrace our own imperfections, that we are able to be made perfect by Him.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Ode to Dad

I actually wrote this a few years ago, but somehow it seems appropriate to re-post it for Father's Day. I miss my Dad so much!

When I feel like complaining, I think of my dad. Not because he was a complainer – quite the opposite! My dad suffered physically for most of his adult life and yet I can’t recall a single time when I heard him complain. As I think about the way my dad lived, I am reminded to take my focus off myself and my own personal pain and put it back where it belongs – on Jesus. Dad lived every day as an example of Christ’s love. As we saw his funeral flooded with more flowers than the front of the church could hold and the floral arrangements spilling over into the aisles along each side of the church auditorium, it became clear that our dad’s life had touched nearly everyone in the little town where he lived his life. Dad had been the hands and feet of Jesus to the people God put in his path every day. He gave what he didn’t have and trusted God to make it up.

I have a vivid memory of the bum who spent his days sitting in front of my dad’s store. Many were the times when Dad filled up a bag of groceries from his shelves and sent it home with a man most people ignored. Everyone who came into Dad’s store needing food left with that need met, whether they could pay or not. Each person was greeted with a smile and a handshake. Dad's Bible often lay open on his desk in the customer service center where he held watch over his business. Dad was a true Christ-follower in both word and deed.

As a child, I watched my father model self-sacrifice as he willingly gave of himself when he saw a need. He followed the example of Jesus as he showed a genuine love for people, even those others might not consider worthy. The cut of a man’s clothing or the size of his bank account meant nothing to my dad. He taught me by his actions that I must learn to see each person through God’s eyes. My dad lived the truth of Proverbs 22:1, “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.”

Dad continually trusted God to provide for both the physical needs as well as the emotional needs of our family. He worked hard even on days when he was in pain and knew that God would honor his commitment to provide for his family. By his example, he taught us to work hard and play hard and trust God to be faithful to His promises. Galatians 6:9 says, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” I learned from my dad that I never need to worry about my future. I grew up seeing God’s provision in my dad’s trust and have continued to see that provision to this very day.

Of course, as a typical human, I am often tempted to think I deserve more than I have or that my life is too hard. Sometimes I fall into self-pity and wonder why God does not intervene on my behalf. Sometimes I get frustrated with life and people and wonder why God doesn’t give me something better. It’s in those times of human failure that My Father reminds me of my father, and once again I understand that the life I live is not about me. Its about Him. Thanks, Dad, for teaching me that, and by the way, Happy Father’s Day! Can’t wait to see you when God calls me home.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Musing 30 Years

People often ask me if it’s hard being a pastor’s wife of a large church, and usually they are surprised if I don’t answer with a resounding, “yes!” After being asked this question a number of times, I sometimes am tempted to begin thinking that perhaps it IS hard. I start to focus on the many bumps in the road and the difficult circumstances that have come my way in a lifetime of serving God.  Then somehow, God finds a way to get me to take a look at the people around me. He gets me to thinking about where they were and where they are now. He reminds me of His life-changing power. I am humbled when I recognize that He took me serious when I offered to serve Him with my life. I am amazed to see the many ways he has worked in me and through me to make a difference for His Kingdom.

For instance, consider Terry and Cindy. When we first met them, they had been divorced, but were now remarried – to each other. They were in a neighborhood Bible study that we attended. As time passed their faith grew. He became part of the worship team at church. Some years later he joined the leadership of the church as an elder. Recently he gave up his secular job to join the church staff full-time as a neighborhood pastor.

As I look down the list of people who have given their lives to the ministry of CCV – I’m just talking about the ones who get paid, there’s a whole lot more who serve as lay leaders – I am so inspired and so convinced that just having the privilege of watching God change lives, and then watching those lives change other lives, makes any possible hardship of ministry so worth it.

Dustin was just a kid when we first met him. He came to the youth group and gave his life to Christ. He went to a Christian college and met Megan, who became his life partner in his call to ministry. He came back to CCV as a pastor, and together he and his wife mentor our youth to be all-in for Jesus.

We got to know Bill and Annette when they hosted our neighborhood Bible study. They were seeking to provide a strong foundation of faith for their family. They didn’t know the books of the Bible, but they knew that the Bible held the answers to the questions they had about God and about strengthening their marriage. Bill is now serving on our church staff after leaving a successful career in the marketplace. He brings his unique skills to the feet of Jesus and uses them to serve the church.

Sonny and Denise made their way from frills to faith, and have an exciting story of how God met them right where they were and taught them that making money cannot compare to making a difference. Sonny has also become a neighborhood pastor for our church and finds the fulfillment that can only come through following the call of God, no matter what the cost.

Larry and Sheila and Richard and Leslie are two couples who were founding members with us from the inception of CCV. Their faithful service to the church and to God has touched thousands of lives, not just in our valley, but around the world. Larrie left his secular career to serve full time at CCV and is now the leader of our missions outreach. He travels around the world, often with Sheila by his side, to encourage and assist missionaries who are changing lives in the places where God has placed them.  Richard and Leslie have ministered in nearly every conceivable way at CCV, all the way from administrative duties to teaching kids. It’s impossible to count the thousands of lives these two couples have touched with the message of God’s love.

I could keep going right down the roster of people who are now paid staff at CCV. They each have a unique story of how God took them from where they were to where He wanted them to be and taught them that there is no joy like the joy of seeing lives changed by a God who loves to work through and in people. Person to person – that’s how the love of God spreads. When I think of all the lives that have touched mine because of Jesus, I am overwhelmed, but of all the lives that have been touched by the love of Christ, those that move me most are the ones in my own family.

Thirty years is the difference between childhood and adulthood. Thirty years ago, when we started CCV, we had children. Today our children have children. In another thirty years, their children will have children. I have no doubt that many of our descendants will feel the call of God to minister full-time. I am convinced they will come to know that getting paid to watch the Savior change lives and know that in some small way, He used you to help make it happen, could never be a burden. No matter how hard the road is along the way, there is no greater joy than that of seeing someone find his or her true purpose in life – the purpose of knowing, loving and serving the one who created them.