Ministry can be hard work sometimes….and requires a little down time. That’s this afternoon…time to chill. Louis laid down on the floor for a few moments to stretch…and Wesley had to get right up there next to him. Well, the next thing you know…Louis is snoring…and Wesley is not far behind. I captured a few shots before Louis finally opened his eyes. Enjoy the pics of my 2 favorite boys in the world! Love ’em both!!!
Do you ever have some days that are just better than others? I guess we all do! When Louis and I were in Austin for Verge 2010 we learned this song by the Aaron Ivey Band…Oh Happy Day! It’s not the Oh Happy Day that we have all heard before…but a new and different one.Oh Happy Day! Happy Day! You washed my sin away! Oh Happy Day! Happy Day! I’ll never be the same! Forever I am changed!
Celebrate! Jesus is alive!
The quality of the video isn’t the best…but take a listen….You will get the drift of it! While in Austin, we found ourselves jumpin’ up and down just like these kids were!
This is how I feel today! So, you are probably wondering why. I’m not quite sure, but I am going to process it here for a minute. I was just sittin’ here taking a break from work for a moment…looking out the window of my office and was filled with this sense of peace and joy.
Louis and I had scheduled our 2nd retreat for yesterday evening, which didn’t turn out quite like we thought it would, for we had planned to go back to Richmond Hill. But our friend, Marc came by for a visit, which turned out to be a wonderful gift from the Lord! As we sat and talked for hours, the Lord revealed much to us. Later, Louis and I decided to review our list of questions from our previous retreat (which can be found in Enjoy the Journey), and we had received answers or confirmations to many of our questions.
In a nutshell….our answers were centered around the verse…Matthew 6:33:But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
So…today, as I reflect on yesterday’s conversation, I look out the window and see how the birds are provided food and water. Sometimes the Lord uses nature to feed those birds…where the birds have to work and work hard for their keep. Other times…there are people like me who provide it through a feeder and a birdbath…making it really easy for them. Regardless, the birds…they get some food and water.
So, with Louis going half-time and my job coming to an end some time this year, questions come up like…how are we going to make money and pay the bills? Sometimes there is a slight panic (or not so slight panic!) that Louis needs to hurry up and find something to earn additional money. But, we have been sensing… “not yet”. Then, yesterday…the answer became clear! Seek ye first the kingdom! We need to do what the Lord has called us to do to seek the kingdom…not seek money or jobs…but the kingdom. Then Lord will provide when the time comes. We need to keep our priorities straight.
This thought then led me to when God provided manna from heaven for His people when they wandered in the desert. As Louis and I had our retreat in our own home, we listed the times just recently that our Lord provided for us in many ways….in surprising ways…to meet our needs….our “manna from heaven”.
Some folks like to say that the Bible isn’t relevant today…or that miracles don’t happen in modern times. But I am here to encourage you….THEY DO! We just have to be open to seeing them!
Marc, Louis and I were talking just yesterday….that our journey of faith holds many levels. First…we READ stories of faith and provision in the Bible…stories of those who have gone before us. Then, we HEAR the stories of our friends and families who tell of their faith journeys. Then…the sweet spot…the best…..is when you have your own stories to TELL!
If that isn’t worth shouting about…I don’t know what it! As Shirley Caesar and Marc taught me…”Hold my mule. I’m gonna shout right now!…That’s how I feel right now!…I feel like praisin’ Him!”
We are studying the book of Revelation for the Youth and Young Adult Retreat for Louis’ Church this weekend. In prepping for this study, I have learned much. This is a book of the Bible is most people stay away from….even Pastors don’t preach on it much….because it can be confusing and controversial. I look forward to diving into it some more.
The biggest thing I have learned during studying it so far is to “live like you were dying!” I know it is a morbid subject to think about…but what would you do if you thought you were dying? How would you live? What would you change? Would you be willing to face your maker and answer for your decisions and your life?
Recently, I thought about Frank….dying on the street outside my house. He didn’t know what was coming. But, God has given him another chance to live in a way that brings Him glory. Unfortunately, even after EVERYTHING that he and his family went through…the pull of the street was too strong. He went back to his old life and landed himself in prison for about 10-11 years. So far…it’s 1 year down…10 to go! I pray that he meets Jesus in a powerful way and is changed…for good! Jesus makes ALL things new!
But, we are not to judge! Every day…we go back to our lives as we knew them. It’s that constant struggle that Paul referred to. While we are on this earth…there will always be the struggle. But, there will come a day when we will struggle no more. Like Francis Chan’s wife said in the Surrender video…I want to hear him say “Well done, Marti!! Well done!” I WANT to hear…
Well done, Marti! You listened to me…you didn’t move to St Louis even though you don’t know what is next.
Well done, Marti! You obeyed Me. You moved into SBH and stayed even after some really crazy and scary things occurred…because I called you there.
Well done, Marti! You lived on mission with me in spite of what others thought and said.
Well done, Marti! You take my commandments seriously. To love God and love your neighbor. Your neighbors are everyone you meet…at work, at home, in the grocery store, at church, on the corner filled with drug dealers and prostitutes.
Well done, Marti!!! Come on in!
But, I must confess…there are many days that I do NOT rise to that challenge. There are days that I want to pack up and move. There are days that I fail miserably in my marriage and not love Louis like I should. There are days when I just don’t feel like stopping to fix Everett a sandwich because he is hungry. There are days when I’m “too busy” to hang with the kids and listen to them. There are days when I don’t spend time in the Word and in prayer like I should. There are days of being a “pastor’s wife” that are a little too much to ask! (Just to name a few of my many, many faults!!! Don’t see this as me “beating myself up”. This is just the plain reality of it…..life here on earth. I am sinful…)
I am so thankful God knows my HEART! That He doesn’t have a checklist of aaaallll the things we on earth call religion that are not Biblical. The long list of man-made “do’s and don’ts” that so many of us think we won’t and can’t live up to….so we stop trying.
I appreciate that I am Saved by Grace and NOT by works. I could NEVER do enough good works to earn his forgiveness and salvation!
I am grateful for a loving, merciful, holy God who loved me way before I loved Him and just wants a relationship with me…not that routine checklist surface relationship….but an intimate, deep, close relationship.
And, you know what?!?!?!? IT’S FREE!!!!!
Come…all who are thirsty….
Take a long deep drink of God’s Perfect Love….
This was written about noon today, Although we arrived here about 6:30p, I just got online to post it! We just got back to the villa from a wonderful mexican meal with our friends Bill and Miriam…
On the road to Orlando, by way of Charlotte! It’s Sunday morning, and Louis and I left Richmond Saturday for Charlotte to celebrate Mama’s (Louis’ mom) birthday. IPod Genius Mix rocked Hillsong United, David Crowder Band, Mercy Me and Chris Tomlin. This morning, we are chillin’ to a little John Mayer and Steve Tyrell. This afternoon, it will have to be a little more energetic, as we continue this 8-9 hour drive!!!
It’s interesting how music plays an important role in our lives and makes a significant impact on how we feel. ..whether we feel like rockin’, chillin’, worshiping or enjoying the silence. There was a time in my life that I couldn’t STAND silence. Music or TV or something had to be making some noise all the time…even when I slept…the TV was on.
At some point early in my time living in SBH that I learned to really enjoy the quiet…silence. Now I come to expect some time of nothingness. It is during this time that I hear the gentle hushed whisper of my Lord. Before, He really had to YELL at me to get my attention. Now, I look forward to those quiet still times where we can commune together.
Even on the road trip…there are times when the car is full of silliness and laughter. There are others where we are chatting and planning. And still other times where it is just quiet. No music. No voices. Just us and the road.
We are heading to Orlando for a conference….Exponential 2010. Monday – Thursday we will be among 2-3 thousand other people at the largest gathering of church planters and leaders in the world. Louis has been a few times before, but this is my first time. We are looking forward to:
- Praising God for how He is moving throughout the world.
- Gleaning from the words of people like Francis Chan, Neil Cole, Dave Ferguson, Matt Chandler, Alan Hirsch and so many others as the Lord uses and speaks through them.
- Hearing what is new and exciting around the world in church planting?
- Catching up with some of Louis’ contacts and friends he has made over the years.
- Hearing from the Lord. What does He have for us? What divine appointments? What words of wisdom? What’s next, God?
- Talking to each other about our future in church planting.
We also hope to run into the Wagler’s and the Snook’s while we are there, too! I am so glad that they will be able to experience this conference as well and look forward to exchanging notes and thoughts with them when we return to Richmond and Commonwealth Chapel.
Then, we will take a few days off to just play around Orlando…chillaxin’ and sunnin’ pool side, heading to SeaWorld, Aquatica, etc. Bill and Miriam, our friends from Clifton Forge will also be in Orlando playing this week, and we can’t wait to have time to relax with them.
For the last few months, I have been attending my church and Louis’ church. This morning was my first Sunday off from church since Lent started. It really got me thinking about the meaning of taking a Sabbath. Although I am so glad I went to church with Louis each Sunday, I learned that I missed my Sunday Sabbath tremendously.
When Louis and I first started dating, I did not start attending his church. As we got more serious, we also talked about what would happen once we got engaged and got married. The last thing I would want to do is offend him or his congregation. I was (and am) heavily involved in my church, Commonwealth Chapel. In addition, they have a Saturday night service. Since this service started, I quickly drew fond of the time and it became my regular worship time. It was the beginning of my Sabbath. My Sunday mornings became a precious time between me and the Lord.
After much discussion and prayer, Louis and I decided that I would continue to take Sunday’s off of traditional church. I know many of you might judge me saying…”You don’t go to church with your husband?” and “You’re a pastor’s wife?” “Bad wife!” That’s ok…judge away! :o) But, my Sunday mornings were a form of worship, not just in the way most people would look at it. I am so grateful for our church family at Louis’ church for understanding!! And, we get to see each other about once a month when I attend there and we often do visitation together.
Knowing that I am home on Sunday mornings, Everett (the Gardna) started to visit with me as well. We would cook breakfast together, read the word and watch some Bobby Jones Gospel together on TV. We had “church” together just about every Sunday morning. (I am NOT advocating doing this as the only form of worship for any length of time. Yes…you CAN meet with the Lord any time…day, night, weekend, but there is nothing that replaces the fellowship of gathering together for worship!) Everett would eventually fall asleep on the couch, and the Lord and I continued on together. Sunday’s totally rocked! A true day of rest. In retrospect, it reminds me of the parable of the Lost Sheep. The shepherd left the other 99 to go after the 1. I was going after my 1….Everett. Then, my Sunday’s changed.
After Frank progressed out of ICU, Frank and I mainly spent Sunday mornings together. This allowed Vicky a morning off and Geraldine could worship at her church. Thankfully, Commonwealth Chapel has Saturday evening services. But, even if they didn’t…I wouldn’t have changed these moments with Frank for anything! It was just the 2 of us…no distractions. The first morning I went, Frank said something like it’s Sunday, are we doin’ church or what? So, each Sunday morning, Frank and I would spend time reading the Bible and discussing what it meant. Sometimes he would ask me to help him bathe, clean the blood out from under his nails, assist him in going to the bathroom….all kinds of personal stuff.
For some reason, he would rather me assist him than his nurse. Although it was awkward for me at first and I would resist big-time, the Lord would hear NONE of my excuses (and neither would Frank for, that matter), and I was reminded of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. I learned to perform these tasks with joy and love, and it became an intimate and bonding time for us. I learned what the Lord was modeling that day….service.
We talked about all kinds of things…getting real. Our pasts. Our lives. Our hopes. Our dreams. It wasn’t long before Frank was asking me about what was going on with Louis and me. I often wonder if he just wanted to get the subject and focus off of him and onto someone or something else. So, he too could see that Louis and I were “meant to be”. He also came up with my nickname…”Angel”, short for Guardian Angel. Through our talks and his conversations with others, Frank began to learn what God had done for him….how much God loved him and had a plan for his life.
As much as Frank understood and had truly accepted what the Lord had done for him, we talked about how life outside of the hospital would not be easy. When Frank finally got out, the pull of the street and his past and the realities and struggles of living a righteous life was strong. I have heard time and time again, that if you want to make a change…then you have to change your people, places and things. If you don’t…it is nearly impossible.
Well, we would learn what would happen when Frank didn’t change his people, places and things…
Part 2 of our retreat…following The Call to Action.
Based on the pamphlet provided by the Richmond Hill Community, “The Jerusalem Mile was the name given to some labyrinths used for mediation and built in the Middle Ages. The concept was the pilgrims who could not make the journey to Jerusalem during their lifetime could pray and reach Jerusalem in the spirit by walking this labyrinthine path.”
“Richmond Hill’s installation of a copy of the labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral, itself a center for pilgrimages, is called the Jerusalem Mile in honor of this tradition. This example of the widest accepted prayer labyrinth in the Church has eleven circuits, which are spread through four quadrants, and is symbolic of Christ’s cross. Grace is symbolized by the never-ending path to the center and back, allowing the pilgrim to walk the path at his or her own pace and to stop for prayer and meditation as needed.”
While walking The Jerusalem Mile on our retreat, I heard from the Lord…confirming a message that I had received from a friend following the Maundy Thursday service the night before. She had told me to “enjoy the journey”. The Lord confirmed that the next day…while walking the path. I found myself weaving my way through the labyrinth…not knowing where exactly I was heading, when or how I was going to get there. The path twisted and turned.
I found myself singing an old school hymn as I walked, meditated and prayed.Thank you, Lord for saving my soul. Thank you, Lord for making me whole. Thank you, Lord for giving to me…. Thy great salvation so rich and free!
It was like the Lord guided me…telling me when to turn and which way to turn. He spoke to me that day that He will guide us in our decisions…telling us when to go and when to stop, when to turn right and when to go left. Until…we reach the center…the sweet spot…the destination…the center of God’s Will.
So…add this to the theme of The Call to Action I wrote about yesterday…and I was asking myself…what do you get?…what does this all mean?
I am thankful for a clarifying conversation we had with Ben Campbell, from Richmond Hill. Action doesn’t necessarily mean that we will know what the center holds….or when we will arrive there…or how we will get there. But, action DOES mean, to move…even if it is one small step at a time….in faith at the urging and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
So, Louis and I didn’t get answers to all the questions we came with. But, this was the only answer we truly needed at this time. Following our morning together and our time with Ben at lunch, we spent a little time in silence, read a chapter of Crazy Love – Profile of the Obsessed – which again confirmed all that we had heard from the Lord. We then made a list of specific questions we need answers to. Answers that will come in time as we pray and spend time with Him on future retreats.
- Since Louis went part-time last week, should he get another job immediately? Or does God have other plans for him?
- When should Louis act on a message that the Lord gave him years ago? Is it now?
- Our Missional Community…what should we be doing now? What should we be studying and how should we be serving?
- Since my job comes to an end sometime this year, what is next for me? What, if anything specific, should I be doing to prepare?
- Is there a local church in SBH that we could serve with? What are our roles in facilitating cooperation between the local churches to serve SBH?
- As we prepare to attend Exponential Conference in 2 weeks, what does He want us to hear? Who does he want us to meet? Why are we going to be there?
- While we vacation following the conference, is there anything we should specifically plan for? How should we specifically seek God during this down time?
- What is our next step as a couple? as individuals?
- What should our daily Bible reading and study be focused on as a couple and individually?
- Who should we intentionally seek to be in relationship with?
- How should we be spending our time? What should we Start, Stop, Continue?
- How often should we intentionally retreat? When is our next one? (By the way, we scheduled it for May 3rd.)
Enjoying the journey
call to ACTION
in our wonderful City…
There seems to be a theme. This is a summary of what the Lord has been speaking to me at the end of Lent…
Thursday night…Maundy Thursday…Joe Torrence from Embrace Richmond spoke at Commonwealth Chapel on the scriptures around Luke 22 specifically ~ Do this in Remembrance of Me.” What are we suppose to remember? Remembering requires ACTION! Then, He washes their nasty, gnarly, yucky, dirty, stinky feet! Even to the point of washing the feet of the guy who He knows is going to betray him. He models for us what to do…and how to serve. So the question is…WHO are you going to serve and how? John 5 speaks directly to this…v.20 – For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. So, we are to do what Jesus has done…which is what the Father has done….think about the adulterous woman, the lepers, the Samaritan woman, the prostitutes, the thieves, etc.
So, how do we respond to that? In John 13:34-35 Jesus states that our new mandate/commandment to love one another as HE has loved us. So that all will know we are HIS disciples.
A Call to ACTION…Love
So…I’m thinking…who do I love on and why? What is my motive? What am I remembering? Do people know that I am HIS disciple?
Louis and I started our retreat day Friday…rushing around trying to be “on-time” for our retreat. Although we decided that we’d aim to be at Richmond Hill @ 9am, it didn’t take long for us to chill. It wasn’t an appointment we were late for…it was a Sabbath Day….a getaway. So, we slowed down and took our time. The Lord obviously was still going to be there if we were an hour later than what we had planned, right?
At the corner of Broad and 18th there is a Mickey D’s where we stopped for a breakfast sandwich. You wonder WHY things happen like they do. Why we run late….and why the line was long. And why Louis just ran inside instead of waiting in the drive-thru line. On his way out, a 54 year old veteran man (who looked about 70) asked Louis for some money to get something to eat. Most of us are like…yeah right…..and look the other way and ignore the person. Roll the window up. Pretend like we don’t see or hear him. Whatever. But, on this day….this Good Friday…we took the time. Louis explained that we don’t give money out, but we’d be happy to buy him something to eat. Louis and Jerry Lewis (or wonder if it was Louis?) Martin (yes…that is his real name) were able to chat a few minutes.
So, our day started with me thinking about…Matthew 25:31-46…the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats…specifically when Jesus says…
35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 37″Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40″The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.
A Call to ACTION…provide food and drink, invite the strangers in, clothe the naked, look after the sick, and visit the prisoners.
THIRD > (but not the last, I am sure!)
Then, we found ourselves sitting in the Garden of Richmond Hill.
We started our day with reading Jude. Specifically, vs. 17-23 – A Call to Persevere.
17But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. 18They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” 19These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. 20But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. 21Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. 22Be merciful to those who doubt; 23snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.
Call to ACTION…Persevere
Jude also refers to Enoch in v. 14. There’s not a lot in the Bible on Enoch, but I sure do like the sound of him. Genesis 5 reviews the long lineage of Enoch. The only other scripture I can find other than is lineage is in what is known as the Hall of Faith – Hebrews 11.
5By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. 6And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
Now imagine that…the only thing you were known for…the only thing that truly ever mattered was “he was commended as one who pleased God.” It really puts it all in perspective.
Call to ACTION…Please God.
It begs answers to the following questions…
Can this be said of me? What in my life is pleasing to God? What am I willing to do to please God? Am I ready to go ALL out? Am I ready to accept the Call to Action?
These are the feet of Jesus…belonging to a pastor and his wife…willing to serve…willing (and WANTING) to please God.
So, the love story continues….although at this point, I wouldn’t yet call it a LOVE story. I was still not exactly loving Louis, but it had only been a little over 3 weeks, right? Not sure I believe in the whole “love at first sight” thing. But, anyway. Louis and I had date night every Sunday night. It was awkward sometimes for me. Still is sometimes. What in the world was I doing dating (now married to) a pastor. I am NO where near pastor’s wife material. Aren’t they the ones who lead women’s ministry, wear pink and act prim-and-proper? Aren’t they the ones who model a Proverbs 31 Woman? Not exactly my style, right? So, that in itself was a bit much.
THEN, Louis had to go and invite me to his official installation service at his church (where he had been an interim pastor for a few years) on January 20, 2007. Do I go? Do I not go? This is weird! Who am I to him at this point? It’s going a little fast! But, I went! Thanks to Florence for going with me!!!! It’s funny now to think I met his 2 good friends, Bob Fitch and Chic Silver…sitting right behind me…for the first time. I remember Bob insisting we hug….because “we’re huggers”. (btw – glad I was there for it!)
The kids were getting to know Louis and checkin’ him out. I was Miss Marti, you know, a surrogate Mom in many cases. So they weren’t too sure about it. Not to mention…it was different….different than what most of them experienced. Louis was a total gentleman. Treating me with respect, he opened the car and house doors for me (still does actually!!!). Needless to say…he didn’t spend the night with me. And we hadn’t even kissed. The kids actually got to watch Louis court me…and they had many questions about that as they watched us. I’m glad that we got to show them how it can be….how it should be.
So, I had prayed for a change of heart, and got it on our first Saturday night date! For some reason, I got to see the real side of Louis Williams, and I liked it. After eating dinner and listening to John and Kim play (yes..they were the first to meet us as a couple!!!). Although it was a “school night” for Louis, we stayed up waaaay to late considering he had to preach the next morning. But, it was fun.
Trust me…this is leading somewhere! Stick with me.
Sunday night date night comes along, and we decided to stay close to home and throw something on the grill. For a number of reasons, we didn’t get around to eating until late. The kids were already back from youth group and 2 of them, Tony and Mike, were hanging out watching football and doing laundry (theirs! Not mine!) Louis was getting ready to check the meat one more time…and was walking through the breakfast nook (the windows on the right side of the 1st floor). This is when it all began. Gunshots…and a lot of them…went off. It sounded like it was inside the house.
I had heard shots before….but from a distance. Not so close. We all hit the floor. I was on top of the boys, calling 911. Louis, who saw the muzzle flash reflect off the window, crawls over to the windows to look out. This is when he saw one man on the ground and another one on top of him, beating him. With the police still on the phone, I crawled to the ½ bath where I could see better…and the victim was now alone on the ground. After calling out to let Louis know, Louis and I proceeded to go out the back door, to do what? We had no idea. We just knew that a guy had been shot just feet from the back door…and we needed to do something