The things I’ll miss

Life barrels along, and I’m down to just a few days before I leave for Jacksonville. Z-360 gave me a bit of a surprise going away party tonight. At least I managed to avoid all out, nose snotting tears. Instead I had just enough that the girls warned me that my mascara was running. Thank goodness I didn’t try to mascara my under-eyelashes. What is it about going aways that are so sweet and so melancholy? It wasn’t so much the gift of a beach bag–although that is much appreciated. But that my girls should recognize me. There are only so many times that a woman is allowed to rejoice over things accomplished, but I think tonight was one of those nights. It’s so gratifying to have so many tell me that I’ll be missed, or just give me hugs that tell me silently. The hugs and the kind wishes tell me that I haven’t wasted the past umpteen years of service. God has blessed me with my girls, and even if I don’t always feel like anything has accomplished, somehow these girls have seen just the tiniest bit of Christ in me. And that’s what I really care about.

I’ll miss so many things while I’m gone–Jeremy and Erin’s new baby, Ashley’s potty-training, the Z-360 summer trip, the search for a new youth pastor, the youth softball team’s games. My brother got his announcement that he’s a delegate to the Lancaster County Republican Convention. I’ve missed my chance to be a delegate for this cycle. And I’ll miss two sweet months of Justin and Brandon’s baseball lives, and Brandon might forget where we’re at in the Chronicles of Narnia. And Kaitlin will grow on without me, and Amanda will finish her Lord of the Rings figurines and improve her batting. All without me. Danielle and Jeremy will get married, and I won’t be there to see. So much will happen, and I’ll be gone.

But as Daniel prayed even tonight, “Lord, let her rest.” I take such joy in the busyness of loving the children and enjoying the youth and delighting in the elderly within our body. I spend so much time serving and doing and doing. And like Martha, so many times I am “distracted by much service.” I need to get away from it all so that I can rest. And I have the opportunity to spend two months seeking the face of God. And I can’t wait.

I said that one of my goals for this summer was to see more of what God’s plan for the church is. I think I’ve learned my first lesson. Because the church isn’t something esoteric that can only be tangled through by the most complex of thoughts. No, the church is Erin, who offered her encouragement and prayers and reminded me that the baby would still be here when I got back. The church is Casandra, who hugged me and told me I would be missed, who begged me to keep in touch. The church is Cheryl, who lets me borrow her kids to love and then sends me home with a new beach towel (from the kids) and flowers and cupcakes. The church is Jason, who reminds me, if he doesn’t see me again before I leave, to have a great trip. The church is Kaitlin who offers a hug and always says hi. The church is Carolyn who learns of my upcoming nose job, and not knowing yet that it isn’t cosmetic, just tells the Lord that that’s all right, she’d like for God to bless the surgery. The church is Hazel, who doesn’t really travel that well–but still plenty often. The church is the many who have told me they got my letter and they’re praying, excited about me going. The church is Dora, who offered me her best tips for not peeling when you sunburn. The church is Paula, who offered me my pick of Beach towels, even when I lost her letter in the midst of my paperwork. The church is Starla, who cleaned up lunch for me, even when she didn’t have to. The church is these people, and so many more believers, who choose to lay down their lives, to reflect Christ, to love others.

And now that my mascara’s completely gone, I should probably end my emotional writing. Tomorrow’s a new day, full of frantic rushing and crazy last minute details. I never really imagined how much could be included in leaving my life for two months. But I also see the grace of God in so many ways. Details fall into place, great friends support me, and the hand of God continues to sustain me. Blessed be His name forever!

On Leadership

J. Oswald Sanders, in his book Spiritual Leadership, says “Spiritual leadership requires Spirit-filled people. Other qualities are important; to be Spirit-filled is indispensable.” Last night, I had a revelation of just that.

I was a bit depressed at the lack of interest for God that I was seeing in my girls at youth group. Few were even singing during worship, much less showing any emotion. I think a whole two brought their Bibles and only one was taking notes. Then a line from Remember the Titans popped into my head. “Attitude reflects leadership, Captain.” As soon as the thought came, I dismissed it. The sponsors were singing, even raising their hands. The sponsors had their Bibles and a couple were taking notes. We were doing fine-it didn’t have anything to do with us.

But as the service continued, I began to contemplate my life as a youth sponsor. I thought of our last meeting, where I’d urged more and more student involvement in leadership as a way of allowing the kids to gain ownership of Z-360. I thought of all the ideas I’d jotted down in my notebook–games to do, things to teach on, activities to do together. I realized I’d been applying human answers to a spiritual malady. The kids aren’t excited-let’s have more games. The kids aren’t involved-let’s give them more opportunities to get involved. The kid’s aren’t in the Word-let’s do a teaching on the importance of the Word. But none of those are the answer we need.

When one of the sponsors mentioned at our meeting that the real problem was our students’ spiritual state, I brushed it off. After all, what could we do about that? That’s an easy way out, a pat Sunday School response. It’s a fatalistic response-if the problem is that our students are spiritually dead, then what can we do?

Back to Remember the Titans–“Attitude reflects leadership, Captain.” I thought about it and realized I can’t remember the last time I sat down with the other sponsors and prayed for Z-360. I can’t remember the last time where we sat down together to testify of God’s greatness or to share in our struggles. I don’t remember the last time we opened the Word together. I don’t remember the last time we ate a meal together. I don’t remember the last time we played a game together. We’ve been leading in a fleshly, carnal way. It’s only natural that our student’s attitudes be fleshly and carnal. Attitude, after all, reflects leadership.

“Spiritual leadership requires Spirit-filled people. Other qualities are important; to be Spirit-filled is indispensable.” When the other qualities become our only focus and the Spirit is pushed to the back burner in our ministry, the only logical outcome is loss of vision, loss of momentum, loss of souls. Without the Spirit’s action in our ministries, we cannot excite, we cannot grow, we cannot do anything of eternal value. The Spirit is absolutely essential to Spiritual leadership.