Thursday, August 10, 2017

A Post from Katy: "Jesus had a brother?"

The following entry is from our dear Children's Ministries intern, Katy Buckner, as she reflects back on her summer spent with the kids at CCP.

They say you learn a lot from kids.

Well, I am a true witness to that.

Ironically, when I was supposed to be a “leader”, I often felt like the kids were leading me. Their innocence, their obedience, and their discipline taught me more about being a follower of Jesus than any lesson or sermon ever could.
I was not raised going to church every Sunday with my family. We went occasionally, on holidays for the most part, to my grandfather’s Baptist church. Back then, church for me was an old people thing, and I always felt intimidated by the “regular” kids who came every Sunday. The kids who knew all of the answers and stories of the Bible. I figured they were always better than me because I did not grow up in church and did not attend regularly.
This summer, Elizabeth and I led a bible study with fourth and fifth graders. We met every week and went over the chapter we were supposed to read for that week. The book had daily devotionals for 28 days, that we talked and discussed together each week.  My younger self would have referred to these kids as the “regulars”. The ones who were forced to go to church by their parents, the ones who grew up in the church, the ones who knew all of the answers and bible stories. My initial thought helping lead this bible study was, “These kids probably know more about Jesus and the Bible than I do, so I’m not going to have anything to offer”.

I know, it is a silly thought to have, but it was real.

I had experienced the love of God before and Jesus was in my heart, but did I know the Bible enough? Oh no, I certainly did not. Did you know Jesus had a brother? Because I did not prior to this summer. Anyway, my fear was that I would not be able to teach well.
I learned that actions speak louder than words. You can know all of the factual answers, but a real relationship with God is more important than that. I am a relational person, so it was easy for me to understand having a relationship with Christ.  A lot of kids who have grown up in Church know all of the answers, but they struggle with the relationship part. There’s a disconnect in the head knowledge and the heart application.  One thing I learned for myself was that I could teach kids the love of God just by the way I carried myself and loved others.

The beginning of this summer started out a little rough for me. I had always followed the same path all throughout high school: going to church every week, staying away from the “party” scene and hanging out with all the" good" people. 

Things began to shift by the end of my Senior year. I made a lot of people angry and frustrated, I argued with my family more than ever, and I hid things from people I loved. I would still attend church amidst all of the tension and guilt I felt, but would ask myself who am I? I was coming home late at night then getting up the next morning to help lead kids to Jesus? How could God be using me to help out at this church when I have nothing to give Him? 

I mean, I was definitely not leading by example. 

I had a major change of heart this summer, and that is when I really started to “get it”. Whatever I had, even if it was nothing at all, God would use it; I just had to be humble and willing to give it all to Him.

God will work with whatever you give Him.

Being uncomfortable was an important key for me this summer.

Interning for Children's Ministries was not comfortable for me. I was intimidated by the job, but it has been the most rewarding experience ever and has helped me grow the most in my faith and belief in who God created me to be.

Being around kids, for most of my summer, taught me to lead by example, to give everything to God, and to live uncomfortably. Now, as I am about to head off to college, I realize I won’t have all of the answers and sometimes I may feel intimidated by others who do know all of the answers. But, the one thing I can do is to give what I have to God and He will use that in the most unbelievable ways.

I encourage you to step out and do something uncomfortable in your faith, give God whatever you have to offer, even if it is the smallest thing, and to lead by love.

Monday, July 10, 2017


Last week I had a conversation with our 5th graders about the pressures of being "perfect". We talked about where we feel pressure from, what standard we are trying to reach, and why we get so disappointed in ourselves when we aren't the best of the best.

I listened and closely related to the hearts of those kids. It's impossible to live a sinless life. In many ways through scripture, "perfect" is used to describe Christ and how he operates. His ways are perfect. He is perfect in faithfulness.  His authority is perfect. His word is perfect.  

 In Matthew, Jesus even commands us to be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect. 

No pressure, right?

Then, I had this thought, "I wonder if it's idolatry when we tell people their homes, children, bodies, jobs, or lives are perfect?" If the only reason we know perfection is because of God and who He is, how He loves, is it wrong that we as humans use that to describe things on earth? I'm going to venture to say God doesn't love it when we comment on pictures on Instagram saying "So perfect!" It has been convicting me so strongly that I only know the meaning and the very definition of that word "without sin" because of Christ. So I should probably take it out of my daily usage describing people or situations. As awesome as we can interpret others' lives to be, those people are not Jesus, so let's stop describing people as if they were equal with Christ.

BUT, here's the beautiful tension and redemption with my struggle with this word. Not only is the word "perfect" used through scripture to describe sinlessness but, it's used to describe a process Christ is doing in the hearts of those who love him. "Perfect" is also used to describe someone who is of complete maturity and faith; an ongoing process for a lifetime of believers. Praise God this word won't hang over me forever. Praise God He's working this out in my heart and life. Praise God I'm being made perfect through my sin, doubt, and unfaithfulness. Let's remind our children of this, that their standard to live up to is not of this world. Their idea of perfection should have nothing to do with what this world offers- it's about being perfected in the sight of Jesus. 

The scripture of Matthew 5 is brought back into focus, and I am so empowered. This command of Jesus isn't only a reminder of why to live a sinless life, but it's also a reminder to live a life that is open. Jesus is commanding us to open ourselves so God can do the work in us. The work that leads to maturity, full faith and wisdom. Allow Christ to work in you, so that you, in His holy and perfect sight, will be made perfect when you see Him face to face. 

" I am called to live in such a perfect relationship with God that my life produces a yearning for God in the lives of others, not admiration for myself. Thoughts about myself hinder my usefulness to God. God’s purpose is not to perfect me to make me a trophy in His showcase; He is getting me to the place where He can use me. Let Him do what He wants." Oswald Chambers

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Resurrection Response

One of my greatest joys and equally greatest area of nervousness is teaching bible study for our third grade Whiz Kids once a week. When I teach the children of our church, I have insight as to how a child grows up, their knowledge of scripture, their home life, and church history. I love knowing these parts of children's lives. So it's hard not knowing if any of these precious students our church members tudor have even heard who Christ is.

Each year we've begun Whiz Kids with a blank slate assuming that none of these kids have been introduced to the Gospel especially the "churchy" words that we use in bible study at the church.  Some years, we've had more churched kids than others. The past few weeks, we've been studying the death and resurrection of Jesus. We've had such tender conversations about how awful and tragic the death of Jesus was including fresh tears from these kids. There's nothing like seeing the Gospel unfold and click in the hearts of 9-year-olds. We talked about the celebration all of Jesus' friends, family, and followers must have experienced when they saw him resurrected in all of His glory. They worshiped at His feet! We talked about what it means for US that Jesus came back from the dead- and what a gift salvation is for us!

So yesterday before we dismissed our students for spring break, we talked about since we now believe Jesus is actually IS who He said He was, now what?

Is this story supposed to remind us of God's love for us? You bet.
Is it something to celebrate and Praise God for? Absolutely.
Does this real event in history make us proclaim personal salvation? Yes!

But, any of the above statements WITHOUT obeying the Great Commission isn't listening to Jesus' authority. The last documented words we have of Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels are of Jesus telling His disciples to go to all the nations and make disciples. That was His response to the Resurrection.

His documented words after the Resurrection weren't "See, I told you I loved you!" or "Keep this act of love only in your heart forever."  Even though there is a deeply personal response and life change to the resurrection of Christ, the established believers weren't His focus. It was the exact opposite. Jesus' response was get up, go, and tell everyone who doesn't know, and God will be with us.

So, I challenged our Whiz Kids with this question: What does that look like for you, in the third grade in Dalton? Does it mean God is calling you across the world? Not necessarily. It means where you are, talk about Jesus. One child suggested in a very detailed way that she could have bible study with her class on Fridays at lunch. YES! One child said he would make sure his younger brother and sister knew the teachings of Jesus because they've never heard them before. YES!

Friends, what can be our response? Are we making sure that this is our response to Easter morning? Are we talking, teaching, and sharing with our coworkers, family, and parents of children on sports teams? If third graders in Dalton can be creative and enthusiastic about their response to the Resurrection and the direct order from Christ Himself... surely, we can too.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Sacred Spaces

When I was a freshman in highschool, our school had just begun major construction. We were moved to a vacant high school building that was significantly smaller than our school...and pretty gross. But, we loved to hate on that building. It was thrilling to guess what gross thing was going to happen next. Subsequently, because of the small space, there was no room for underclassman in the lunch room. There was a small courtyard with maybe 5 concrete tables in which underclassmen could gather and eat (in all temperatures and weather conditions). OR, even better, we could eat on the floor of the first-floor hallways. (Side story, one afternoon sewage water overflowed from the bathrooms on that same first floor and flooded the hallways. I'm not making one part of that up. We lived to complain on days like that!  It was pretty comical. )

I don't know who originally had the idea of asking a teacher if we could meet in their classroom. But, I had a large group of friends that decided we didn't want to be outside in the rain and cold anymore.

We asked a Spanish teacher that a lot of us had in common, Ms. Addis, if we could eat lunch in her classroom. I think we even disguised our need telling her we wanted a place to have a bible study?.. Who could turn down a group of high schoolers wanting to have bible studies during lunch. Thankfully, not her.

(I think we had a real bible study maybe 5 times... during the 2 years we ate in her classroom. )

Regardless, she let us eat in her room. Every. single. day.

She gave up her period of quiet, alone time to welcome us in her room. Often times, she stayed in the room grading papers or replying to emails and we could hear her chuckle at the weird conversations that were had. She would often participate in our pointless banter and become invested in our interests and chat with us.

When it came time for her to get married, it was such a joy for us to plan to get her tickets to a concert with her new husband. We had built a relationship with her that called for us to equally be invested in her joy, and to celebrate the good things happening in her life.

This past weekend at If:Gathering, I was asked to recall people in my life who had sacrificed their comfort to help build community and disciples of Jesus. Unintentionally, Ms. Addis (Now, Mrs. McRee), built a community. We not only wanted to be around each other and decompress at lunch, but we wanted to be with her. She didn't openly share her faith, because it wasn't allowed, but very clearly we knew of her faith and trust in Christ. She modeled it in her care for us, her sacrifice of comfort, and choosing to encourage this rambunctous and loud group of friends. She cared for us- and she did that because of her love for Christ.

A long time has passed since I was in high school. But, I'm positive that if you polled my faithful lunch group from Greenville High and asked what adult helped build community in their lives, they would also answer Mrs. McRee. Our thankfulness wasn't about how great of a teacher she was. EVEN THOUGH, she is a phenominal Spanish teacher, and I have lots of friends that used their Spanish handouts from her class in college. Our thankfulness stems from her quiet witness she shared with us- which led us to become pastors, ministry leaders, educators, counselors and people who now share their lives with others.

 I've learned that community building is a gift AND a calling. It takes somoene willing to sacrifice themselves, willing to minister to people right under their own two feet, even in their place of work. It takes people willing to keep a group of people connected. Sometimes that connectedness can look like a life stage, a sports team, a common interest, a common belief, or even a not so pleasant space in run-down Parker High school.

Thank you, Mrs. McRee, from the lunch group you loved and was equally annoyed by in 2005. You taught us how to gather anywhere and make it sacred. You taught us that community and discipleship can happen everywhere. Still so very thankful for your investment in our lives!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Context Context Context

I've discovered that I do my best in the context of relationships. Surprise! I think I get that from my Mom. Cleaning baseboards...sure! As long as she had someone to hang with, count her in.  The flip side of doing my best everything in the context of relationships, means that I also unfortunately get the most frustrated and discouraged in the context of relationships. I am at my best (and worst) with other people. Sorry!

I can point out to you which of our kids at ChristChurch are most encouraged through relationship in a matter of minutes. I think you would be surprised how many we have. Some kids want a task they can brainstorm and construct successfully. Some, do their best thinking and studying by themselves. Some, do their best in the context of being competitive and a drive to win.  But, we have so many who do their best by just being known.

 The faithful leaders in my life kept me in the church.  I wanted to spend time with them and be in communication about life's small details. But, the leaders that led from a place of blueprints, and a set discipleship model discouraged me.  NOT because they weren't awesome leaders/teachers/mentors, but because they didn't know me. They were trying to use the same methods of discipleship for every single person.  But, PRAISE GOD he created us uniquely different, with different styles of learning, loving, growing, and teaching.

I've shared about my high school small group leader many times. Dana's compassion, availability,  and nurture in my life is a part of my story and call to ministry.  Her knowledge and awareness of our group's spiritual needs was one of the biggest ways I've ever experienced God working through another person. We had so many different needs emotionally and spiritually, because we were unstable, hormonal high school girls. BLESS YOU, DANA. And honestly, we weren't that great of a group. We did a book study, once or twice, and not only did we not read the chapters but, we made fun of the book. We weren't consistent in showing up. We had arguments within the group that she would have to navigate around. Dana made us the most beautiful notebooks to keep all of our notes in for the Bible scholars that we were. But, we wouldn't even bring them. (Seriously, the most beautiful personalized notebooks with scrapbooking paper and handmade pages!!)  But yet, she still wanted to know us all.

Here's the thing, I don't remember a ton of the content that was taught. I don't remember the arguments. I don't remember what we even prayed for our years together. If I got out my notebook, I would! ( I do still have it, Dana.) I remember that Dana was faithful, loved us well, and she wanted to know us SO THAT she could point us to Jesus in the ways she best knew how. She did that through praying with us, sharing her own personal story, and turning us to scripture over and over.  She didn't use a book called "How to Disciple other Humans"  by some famous scholar as a blueprint.  She didn't use a set rubric or bullet points to guide us into deeper theology.

She related to us through relationship. Just how Jesus does.

I came to understand my need for community, transparency, the Gospel, and mentors in my life through her and that sweet small group.  I've experienced the pin pointed attention and relationship with someone invested and interested in my salvation and knowledge of Christ-- and it made me stick around. Over 10 years later, if I had to poll my high school small group of ministry leaders, medical professionals, counselors, and business leaders, I could guarantee they would tell you the same things. They would tell you they also felt pin pointed spiritual nurturing from Dana. I'm still so thankful for that group, and how they have helped shape my own model for ministry to people.

Friends, I pray this for our children. This is my biggest prayer for the children of ChristChurch.This concept is what has kept me in the Church when I have been broken and disappointed. I pray that we continue to not only know our children's names, but know what makes them tick. I pray the Lord continues to create these bonds outside of families,  even outside of church staff,  that makes children want to stick around and know more about Christ. Shoot, I pray that we create these bonds with one another as adults, that make us want to stick around and be more invested, too.   I see it happening! Our church is a place of safety, counsel and personal discipleship already. So few things bring me as much joy in ministry as seeing children of our church running to adults who are not apart of their family to sit in their laps,  ask questions, tell secrets, give hugs, or show their new wiggly tooth. That means they are feeling known, secure, and loved. This season, be thinking about ways you can invest more deeply to help personally encourage our children's faith in Christ. What does it look like of you to know a child more fully and to point him/her to the Gospel in a relational way? Christmas break is right around the corner! Go hang with our babies and listen. They need you!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Resources For Your Family This Fall

I cannot believe the summer is already over! I'm sure you, parents, have mixed emotions about sending your kids back to school. You may have relief, joy,  or a heavy heart as your child is one grade level older. I am praying for you all this week- as you soak up your last summer moments and also as you keep a sane head trying to get everyone out the door Monday morning.

I'm often asked what I've read to better help and equip parents. This summer, I've done A LOT of reading. I've read some great books- and some not so great books. So, I've put together a list of recommendations for you to read as parents. Books that will encourage, inform, and teach you about where your child is developmentally, psychologically,  and spiritually. But also, books that will better inform and encourage your own faith as a follower of Christ... and as parents.

I've also put together a list of books for your kids . These are resources that can be helpful to your child as you are trying to find ways to bring more of Christ into your conversations and routines. They can also be resources for them as they try to personalize their own faith.  Some books may just encourage conversations at home about what unconditional love and the salvation of Christ mean.

(Links to order books are included in the title! Wanted to make it easy for you if you're interested!)

Parent Recommendations:

-- Emotionally Healthy Spirituality (Peter Scazzero)
         Basically the whole idea of the book is that it's impossible to be spiritual mature and wise if you are emotionally immature and uninformed. The book addresses avoided conflict in the name of Christianity, ignored anger sadness and fear, and living without boundaries. It's a super thought provoking book, using scriptural references as to how Christ lived in an emotionally healthy way and even how the early church got itself into trouble when it didn't act in an emotionally stable way. Scazzero also wrote a book called "Emotionally Healthy Church" that is equally as great. I think this book can be so helpful to you as you help your child navigate the role of emotional health in their own faith, in your family unit, in how they interact with God. It's important for us all to know that emotions are designed by God but we have to be healthy in the way we show and react to those around us.

--It's Just a Phase So Don't Miss It (Reggie Joiner and Kristen Ivey)
          If anyone interacts with a child regularly, I highly recommend this awesome book! It's filled with super cool charts, graphics, statistics about a child's spiritual development, technological engagement, sexual maturity, and physical health. The book goes through each phase of development in a child's life and outlines significant relationships, present realities everyone needs to understand, and distinctive opportunities presented to a child in that age group. It takes the parent, teacher, reader into the brain and life of a child. It goes through each phase and breaks down how children relate to God, the church and their community. SO awesome.

--Plugged in Parenting (Bob Waliszewski)
      Written by the Director of the PluggedIn group, many of you are familiar with this website that rates and reviews current movies, books, games and music from a Christian perspective. Waliszewski writes about how to handle media conflicts that arise in your home about screen time and appropriate viewing. He also describes how some content can also led way for teachable moments if addressed in healthy ways with parents and in hand with scripture. He also outlines a "blueprint for family entertainment" that can help your family keep the peace at home.

-- The Sabbath (Abraham Heschel)
      This book is written by maybe the most well known 20th century Jewish scholar. If you've struggled with seeing the purpose in a Sabbath, this book is for you. It's pretty academic, but clearly gives support from the historical jewish perspective on ritual living and keeping holy days for not only God, but for yourself. To me, when practicing or trying to apply a biblical concept, I like to know the historical story and fight behind it. He suggests our whole week should "be a pilgrimage to the Sabbath Day." AND also he says "that all six days must be spiritually consistent with how we treat our Sabbath day." If that isn't convicting, I don't know what is.

Also pictured:
"I Wonder" -Elizabeth Caldwell 
"Show Them Jesus: Teaching the Gospel to Kids- Jack Klumpenhower
"Family Worship" - Donald Whitney

Recommendations for your Kids!

--Everything A Child Should Know About God: Kenneth Taylor
      This has become one of my very favorite resources this spring. Many of you already know it's one of my favorites! It's published in England, and spells "Mom" as "mum" and that's just an extra perk. It is totally a book that can be read by your child 1st grade and older. It's divided into 10 Parts with many smaller (1-2 page) lessons/devotions on the topic.  The ten Parts are:  All About the Bible, What God Has Done, Who God Is, The Problem of Sin, Jesus Comes to Help Us, Jesus Wants to Save You, The Holy Spirit Helps Us, Why We Go to Church Living as Jesus' Friends and When Jesus comes back. This is an excellent resource for bedtime, or a book to practice your child's reading. It's awesome.

--Where In The World, Know God, Stand Up- Devotionals for Kids Published by Think Orange!
    These are all awesome 8-9 week daily devotionals for kids. They are designed for your older elementary school student (3rd-6th grade) to be able to read and study themselves. If you can help your child establish a routine/ habit of doing a personal devotion for themselves, books like this will be helpful guidebooks to teach them how to have personal time with God.

---The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back To The Garden -Kevin DeYoung
      If any of you follow The Gospel Coalition, DeYoung should be a familiar name. He has authored many adult resources and blogs regularly for Gospel Coalition. The illustrations in this book are unbelievable! It's written as one complete narrative from the Garden of Eden to when Christ comes back to restore the Earth. This would be an excellent multi-night bedtime story. It's such a beautifully written and illustrated book. I cannot recommend this enough for a child to understand the complete narrative of scripture and how Christ is central in it all.

Also Pictured:

"I AM: 40 Reasons to Trust God" by Diane Shortz

If you have any questions, or would like to have a conversation about any of these books, I would love to do that!

Monday, November 23, 2015

A Blank Page

There's something thrilling and equally as terrifying about a blank page. Being the inner 85 year old woman that I self- admittedly am, I love writing a note or journaling something with my own hands.  I love crisp stationery, an unopened notebook, a new (extra) fine tipped pen, or even a brand new word document (or blog). Fresh.

I think about the people throughout scripture who God has called upon to leave everything they once new as "life" and "living" and called them to a new level of trust; to that same terrifying yet equally as thrilling newness. Sometimes this required a lifestyle change, sometimes it involved a lowering of pride, sometimes it involved sitting and listening. I think of Noah, when God did away with all that was familiar and Noah walked in obedience to the Lord's calling of all things new. A new world! Abraham did the same even at a much later age. Abraham didn't realize his newness and calling upon His life in the Lord, until his late age and the desire and birth of his son. God promised His faithfulness to Abraham, in exchange for Abraham's obedience and trust. Leadership was expanded! Generations looked to Abraham's steadfast leadership. Even Joseph's life was significantly altered as he found himself at the bottom of a well. Everything He once was, was still a part of His life and story, but God used His abandonment by his brothers, to put Joseph in a place of trust and awareness. Look how God used HIS "newness"!

I feel so often in ministry at CCP and personally, that God calls me to new. He calls me to fresh eyes. He calls me to alter my lifestyle. He calls me to abandon old habits and bondage. He calls me to eagerly expect how He is going to work this very day. But, because I haven't had numerous shaking life-altering moments with God, I get stuck in the mundane. I experience Him with a stale and humdrum heart. I don't eagerly await His working. 

When in conversations with friends, and I'm getting new information that is exciting or that I know nothing about, I can't help but lean in. I can't help to want to be quiet and listen attentively. My mouth moves so quickly asking questions, people can barely understand what I'm saying! I want gather all the information I can because it's new!

Friends, this is our current season. Something new is so, so close.  I, like many of you, are clinging to the Lord's every move and every provision. We're leaning in. When we are experiencing the unveiling of newness, and doing away with bondage and being called out of waiting, we will experience Him in  a new way. I trust whole heartedly the changes about to be experienced in the life of CCP, because I know the Lord does everything in His power to know and love me. God has proven Himself so faithful to us, so tender-hearted, and so near. Here comes a new wave of new! Let's lean in, listen attentively, and not only watch how He works, but take part!