Thursday, June 28, 2018

The Promise Bird

Last Thursday as I pulled into my driveway after a long day of running errands in this crazy heat, I noticed a white bird by my mailbox. It sort of caught me off guard because honestly, I had never seen a bird like this one up close. I pulled down the driveway and went on about the rest of my day, but in the back of my mind the Lord whispered.....notice Me. On Friday when I pulled into the driveway, the poor Amazon Prime gal was dropping off a package (I'm sure in the back of her mind she's wondering why the crazy lady that lives here doesn't just go ahead and order all the things at once....it sure would save her a few trips). When I went to grab it at the front door, you wouldn’t believe what was there.....the white bird. I ran and grabbed my phone. 



I knew at this point the Lord was trying to get my attention. You see, a week earlier I had asked the Lord, during my prayer time, for a sign from Him. A sign that all of these promises I had been writing about and reading and the things He had put on my heart as His promises for all we were walking through as a family were truly from Him and that He was going to follow through on them. I immediately apologized to Him after asking for a sign....feeling shame that I’d need another sign after He had been so faithful up to this point in my life. But Friday, He got my attention. He said, Shannon, slow down, rest your thoughts on My promises, this bird is for you. This is your sign. So I ran and got a shower and the Lord reminded me of Noah and the Ark and His faithful promise to him. He reminded me of the rainbow He sent as a sign of His covenant and then I about fell to my knees as I remembered that the Lord also sent a white dove carrying an olive branch to show Noah that the Lord has fulfilled His promise to His family....it was safe to exit the ark.

When Kayleigh got home I showed her the bird.  We wanted to make sure it was ok and not hurt, knowing it was very unusual for a bird, especially one this size, to just be hanging around. She was able to get it to fly so we were thankful it wasn’t hurt. It flew away that Friday afternoon and so the Lord just gave me a sweet peace that He had answered my prayer as He so faithfully does. 



Sunday evening as Paul got home from preaching in Cincinnati, he noticed our bird was back in the driveway. 

At this point I was just elated and truly had my ears in tune to what all the Lord was wanting to continue to show me. As I shared about the bird with a precious friend she mentioned to me how sweet the Father was to teach me so many things through this. She showed me how the Father wants to continue to give gifts as well as answer the prayers of His children over and over again, just like we as parents want to do more and more for our own children. She also showed me that He allowed the bird to come and dwell around my home for a few days, just to remind me of His presence with me.






Tuesday came and Paul noticed something wasn’t right with the bird. Knowing it would break my heart and knowing what all we had on our plate that day, he waited until the end of that day to tell me. As Paul left, the bird just laid it’s head down....Paul knew at this point he was dying.

Little did we know what we would walk through on Tuesday. We had meetings going on all day so being by our phones wasn’t an option. I noticed I had missed several calls from one of our former youth who is a close friend of our family. When I checked in with Morgan, through tears she shared with us that Charles Elder, one of our former youth students, was missing. She asked us to be praying. I immediately called Paul and we took it to the staff and asked for prayers. Our hearts and minds were just in knots. After about 30 minutes Morgan called to let us know they had found Charles truck but it was abandoned and to continue to pray. An hour had passed and my phone rang. Although we were still covered up in meetings, I was glued to my phone at this point. Morgan shared that they had found Charles’s body and that he was gone. We just couldn’t believe it. Why Lord? He’s only 32 years old. He has a wife and two precious children he just dropped off at daycare. He just got off the phone with his wife telling her how precious the kids were when he was leaving from drop off, how they just hugged and kissed him and told him how much they loved him. What happened?? Why did he just abruptly hang up the phone with her and never answer another call again?? Father, we don’t understand.

As Paul shared with me that evening that the bird had passed away my heart just broke. Why Charles, Father? And now....why this bird?? What are you trying to show me??

I asked Paul to please go lay the bird somewhere safe in the field. As he did I just went into the other room, I needed to cry. As I sat down, I noticed a verse I had framed that was the main verse we had been focusing on as we wrote out His promises. This verse has been wrecking me for the past several months.





“He will cover you with His feathers. He will shelter you with His wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection.”    Psalms‬ ‭91:4‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I woke up Wednesday morning still trying to make sense of it all. Paul had received a text from Randy, Charles’s father.....”Thanks for praying, we’re all just broken over this.”

The Father stopped me right then and there. “Shannon, just as Randy is broken over his child and hurting, I want you to see that My heart breaks for My children as well. I’m here. I see your pain. I hear the cries of your heart. You can trust Me. I’m working all things together for your good, for Paul’s good, for your children, My church, the women you lead.”

I’m sure there will be many more lessons as the days go by. The Lord will continue to show me about this precious bird. Just as we didn’t know this bird was hurting and going to die soon, Charles family didn’t know he was hurting and in pain and going to die soon as well. There are so many around us walking through deep hurts; who don’t know how to process them, let alone let anyone on the inside to be raw and honest. Oh Jesus, heal our hearts. Heal our pain. Thank You for Your faithful promises. Thank You that they are our armor and protection in this world we are living. Give us eyes to see and ears to hear and hearts full of wisdom to be Your hands and feet.

I find myself often humming the tune of a song my brother used to sing in church. After all that has been going on, I texted him and asked him to stop what he was doing and record himself singing this song for me. I told him, I can’t explain everything right now, I just really need to hear it and I need it to be you singing it for me. My heart needs this today. He was like, “My piano is so out of tune.” I told him to just belt it acapella, I just needed to hear it. As a great big brother can only do, I had this in my inbox an hour later.

His Eye is on the Sparrow
Why should I feel discouraged?
Why should the shadows come?
And why should my heart be lonely
And long for Heaven and home?
When Jesus is my portion
My constant friend is He
His eye is on the sparrow
And I know He watches me

And I sing because I'm happy
I sing because I'm free
His eye is on the sparrow
And I know He watches me

Let not your heart be troubled
His tender word I hear
And resting on His goodness
I lose my doubts and fears
Though by the path He leadeth
But one step I may see
His eye is on the sparrow
And I know He watches me

I sing because I'm happy
I sing because I am free
His eye is on the sparrow
And I know He watches me
Oh-oh.. His eye is on the sparrow
And I know He watches me
He watches me








Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Easter Egg Gift



It was the week before IF:TCAL 2018.  I was praying for our women as they would begin to discover who they were in Christ and what individual spiritual gifts they each had.  I had been praying about what it would look like for us as women to truly walk in the gifts He had given each of us.

As I was praying, the Lord took me back to what it was like taking my children on Easter egg hunts.  Honestly He caught me completely off guard. Easter egg hunts? Lord, it's like February.  What does an Easter egg hunt have to do with spiritual gifts? Little did I know all He would begin to show me.

One of the things I remember most about Easter as a child was dying the eggs and getting excited about the annual Easter egg hunt.  Oh what treasures would I find inside each egg??!! Would it be candy? Would it be coins? Selfishly I'd wonder how many eggs I would get and if it would be just as much as everyone else?

As I became a parent it was so much fun creating these same memories with my own children.  Oh to see the excitement in their eyes as they anticipated hunting Easter eggs and what treasures they would find inside! I remember what it was like holding their hand trying to help them walk and carry their basket while at the same time pick up their eggs so they wouldn't get trampled over by the bigger children.  I remember putting eggs in their basket I'd find as well so they would get plenty and not end up with just one or two.

 

As I looked back on this time the Lord began to open my eyes to so many promises He has for us.

Shannon, I want you to see those eggs as the gifts I have given you, the gifts I have given each of the women.  Those are from me.  They are gifts given to you for you to use for me.  I have given you everything you need for this journey.  Just as you held your child's hand and helped them along the way to find these gifts, I'm doing the same for you.

So do not fear — for I am with you; do not be dismayed — for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with My righteous right hand!"  Isaiah 41:10 

Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the LORD holds them by the hand.
Psalm 37:24

What a precious promise to us as His children who fear we are on this journey alone! 

But wait....there's more! 

Remember what it was like to sit down at the end of the hunt and open your eggs and see what treasures you'd found...to share them with others around you as well as see what treasures they had found?

Shannon, that is what this journey is all about!! I'm not only holding you by your hand through this journey as you carry the gifts I've given you, I want you to share those gifts with those around you as well as celebrate the gifts I've given to them that you may not have received!

Some of you received some of the same gifts, enjoy them together!! Just because they came in a different color egg doesn't mean it's worth any less than your gift! Just because their egg is more shiny than yours or without cracks doesn't disqualify your gift or make it any less!! 


 






Everything in your basket came from the Father to you!! He loves you just the way you are! He knew exactly what gifts would glorify Him the most in your life which is why He entrusted them to you! Take some time to open up each one and let Him show you how He wants you to use it.  Take some time to sit down with someone else and see what gifts they have as well.

Easter is the day when we celebrate Jesus Christ rising from the dead. Jesus is the Son of God and heroically gave His life to die for our sins. On the third day after He died -- the day we now celebrate as Easter Sunday -- His friends went to His grave, and found that He had risen from the dead. They saw an angel who told them, "Don't be afraid! I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn't here! He has been raised from the dead, just as He said it would happen."

Jesus rose from the dead on Easter Sunday.  Now He offers to you the gift of eternal life and forgiveness of sins. This is the true story of Easter, and how it can change your life. .
Oh precious friend, what comfort is here! We have so much to celebrate this Easter.









Thursday, February 22, 2018

You're Never Gonna Let Me Down?

You’re Never Gonna Let Me Down?

Our church recently added a new song to our worship music. There’s a lyric in the song that says, “You’re never gonna let, you’re never gonna let me down.” It’s a big part of the song and we sing it over and over and I’ve really wondered what people are thinking while we’re singing it. When we first introduced the song I had to put my own heart in check while singing that part. The truth is we really do feel like God lets us down sometimes if we’re honest enough to admit it. In our hearts and minds we say, “I thought I was going to get that promotion but instead I got laid off”. “I prayed and asked God to heal my family member but instead he got worse or even died”. “I started tithing and instead of my financial situation getting better it got way worse and waaaaay scarier”. “I thought my daughter was going to finally get off drugs and here she is in rehab…again. God I trusted you and you let me down”. But is this really true? What we don’t understand or fail to remember in those times is this:
1. God is good. He wants the best for us and dearly loves us more than we can imagine. He is a good father who gives good gifts (Matthew 7:11). He wants us to prosper and flourish even more that we do ourselves, but He does this according to HIS plan. 
2. God has an intricate master plan that our human minds can’t begin to comprehend. His ways are not our ways. Our thoughts are not His thoughts. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9) He’s much smarter than we are even though we think we have everything planned out and think we know what should happen. 
3. We are not here for ourselves but we are here for Him. As Christians we were bought with a price. We are His. We were created for His good works which He planned before we were in existence. (Ephesians 2:10) God has us on HIS path. His way is greater.
I recognize that sometimes knowing the truth doesn’t make us feel better when we find ourselves feeling let down. When we are disappointed and feel like God has let us down we need to choose to believe the truth even if our heart, mind, and feelings are failing us. We need to actively put our faith in the fact that He dearly loves us, wants the best for us, and has a better plan than we can imagine for ourselves. We simply have to trust Him because in reality He never has and will never let us down.

Doneda Bailey





Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Storms of Life

It has been said you are either going through a storm, headed in to one, or just got out of a storm!  Live long enough and you will discover the storms of life do indeed come.   We know so many of you are bravely walking through various storms in your personal lives right now.  From health battles, wayward children, marriage difficulties, death of loved ones, financial stressors, or juggling the demands of children.  The storms of this life can be discouraging, right?  However, what IF we followed God with perseverance instead of insecurity?

This month we are taking a journey through the books of I and 2 Timothy in preparation for the IF:TCAL on March 2-3.  These letters were written by the Apostle Paul, who was also acquainted with sufferings.  He was beaten, imprisoned, and ultimately killed for sharing the gospel in hostile territories. However, he persevered.  He persisted.  He did not give up.  He trusted in the God whom he met on the road to Damascus (Acts 9).  In I Timothy 1:18-19, we read Paul’s encouragement to his little brother in the faith:

“I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight, holding on to faith and a good conscience.  Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith.”

Paul’s instructions to Timothy are also beneficial for us.  We must navigate the storms of life by resolving in our hearts to fight the good fight and to hold on to our faith!  If not, the consequences are grave.  Paul says in rejecting the truth, some have shipwrecked their faith.

So, what does fighting the good fight look like? 

It is caring for your aging parents.
It is serving joyfully in the children’s ministry.
It is showing up to The Well when you are terrified to go.
It is courageously fighting through a cancer diagnosis.
It is trusting God through a difficult season of marriage.
It is washing those dishes one more time!
It is living in community with other believers instead of isolating in fear.
It is reaching out for help when you need it.
It is intentionally spending time in God’s Word to grow your faith.

We know so many of you are already fighting the good fight and not giving in to insecurities that can tempt us all.  We see you.  God sees you! You inspire us! Let’s be women who walk in perseverance instead of insecurity. 

We are praying for you as we countdown to IF:TCAL.  Have you registered yet?  REGISTER 
Invest and invite a friend! We know God is going to teach us some incredible truths to help us persevere through any storm!


Lynzee Bolton 

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

A New Year, A New Awakening



A New Year, A New Awakening



Can you believe the first month of 2018 is almost behind us? Where does the time go? Hopefully you are getting adjusted into a rhythm of life after the holidays and settling into the new year with a renewed sense of hope.  The sermon series this month, “Awakening,” has encouraged us to get out of our spiritual slumber and awaken to the new thing God desires to do in and through us (Isaiah 43:19).

If you have not already, set aside some quiet time to thank God for seeing you through the last year, and ponder what new thing God desires to lead you to in 2018. Trust your Heavenly Father has a plan to give you a future and a hope this year (Jeremiah 29:11).

We want to partner with you as you journey through 2018.  We are gearing up for an exciting time in women’s ministry and want you to be present for all of it! Please save the following dates:

The Well- Thursday, February 1 for an intimate night of worship for the women of TCAL



IF:TCAL—March 2-3 You won’t want to miss out on this exciting weekend planned just for you!



Register for a Community Group Now--Are you connected?  We encourage you to be a part of a community group this year.  It is imperative to your spiritual growth to be connected in Christian community.  This is where God grows you and you will have so much fun!!  We have some incredible groups.  Registration is happening right now online at www.tcalchurch.com



Journey in the Word- We are committed to reading and journaling a different book of the Bible each month.  Invest in the Word of God this year and watch the new thing the Lord will do in your heart!  Be on the lookout for a new scripture reading plan the first of every month. 

We look forward to partnering with you as you continue your journey of faith.  Let us know how we may help you take any next steps.  May this year be one of living with intention, living in authentic Christian community, and living loved by God!


See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.
Isaiah 43:19


Wednesday, November 22, 2017

A Thanksgiving Heart - Barbara Johnson





Happy Thanksgiving!!! We are so excited to have our very own Barbara Johnson as our guest blogger today.  Barbara is the wife of Vic Johnson, Pastor of Cares.  She is the mother of three children...Adam, Andrew and Kara, and Gangy (Grandmother) to four precious littles.   If you haven't had the chance to meet her, you're going to want to find her and introduce yourself!! Barbara has a love for Jesus that oozes onto everyone she comes in contact with.  

A Thanksgiving Heart


I’m not a writer. I know and love really good writers. I’m (unfortunately) not one of them. But, OHHHHH, do I have a grateful heart. 

This past year GOD has brought so many blessings to my life for which I’m thankful. 2017 has been chocked full of the sweetest gifts from the loving hand of FATHER.  I could not possibly describe them all adequately.   

The end of 2016...not so much...

A year ago, this month, I survived: 

**An incredibly stressful new job start (3-weeks intensive training with 20 hour days...averaging 3-4 hours sleep each night.) 

**The difficult delivery of a precious new grandson that Drs. gave bleak hope of a full recovery. 

**Our daughter being re-admitted to the hospital with a serious infection brought on by this difficult delivery.

**And I’m beginning the new job where I fly all over the country for 3 days out of every week.

Anyone feeling cheerful yet?

But GOD....

“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship GOD acceptably with reverence and awe,”  
Hebrews 12:28 (NIV)

This is one of the scripture passages for November that our precious Shannon has encouraged us to “write out.”  I had never participated in the “write out the scripture” thingy (thingy’s a good word.)  What a blessing it has been, to not only read and drink in GOD’s Holy Word, but write it out.  I’m hooked, now.

Let’s do some more “drinking”....

“Do you see what we’ve got? An unshakable kingdom! And do you see how thankful we must be? Not only thankful, but brimming with worship, deeply reverent before GOD.” (The Message)
I love the note from the Life Application Bible...
“Eventually the world will crumble, and only God’s kingdom will last.  Those who follow Christ are part of this unshakable kingdom, and they will withstand the shaking, sifting, and burning....No matter what happens here, our future is built on a solid foundation that cannot be destroyed.”

And The Teacher’s Commentary, by Lawrence Richards...
“And so the writer promises us that God will guide us into an experience of His holiness.  At times our way may seem difficult.  But so was Jesus’ way.  Through it all, we are assured of the Father’s changeless love.”

And, finally, Life Application-New Testament Commentary...
“Because we have this kind of kingdom, we should be thankful and worship God with holy fear and awe.  When we truly worship God, we do it all the time--not just in a Sunday morning worship service...True worship includes every action of every day,”

Thinking through Hebrews 12:28, and how GOD restored my November of 2016 “exceeding, abundantly, beyond all I could hope or imagine”, has left me ashamed that I ever doubted HIS great goodness in my life.  This Thanksgiving certainly holds new meaning for me.  

**Two days ago, a perfect, sun-drenched, fall day...not a cloud in the sky...I had the breathtaking view of GOD’s Grand Canyon at 30,000 feet.  The other flight attendants and I had taken care of our passengers, and were just gazing out the back galley windows.  I had to stop and silently tell FATHER “thank You” for His incredible creation.  Did I mention I was getting paid for this tough new job?  GOD really does bless and love me so perfectly.  

**There’s also a precious, gorgeous, smart, one-year-old; that all his doctors proclaim to be PERFECT....that I cannot live without.  I kiss him regularly and A LOT.  He has a mother that loves to worship GOD, and lead others to do the same. Both are perfectly healthy and whole. Thankful!!!  Soooo very, very, thankful.

2017 has been a year where my perfect FATHER has told me gently over and over how much HE loves me. How carefully HE cares for all my needs.  And that HE “never ever no not ever” leaves me alone.  

This December four big parts of my “heart” are moving to Boston when our son starts a new job there.  I will remain faithful to The ever faithful ONE...even in December. GOD can be trusted, and I choose gratefulness.

“FATHER, my prayer for all of us is that we may worship thankfully and faithfully no matter what tomorrow brings.  Because we are part of Your kingdom that cannot be shaken. Glory!!  Amen”