Young children love birthday parties. The balloons, the cake and ice cream, the festive decorations, the chance to laugh together with your friends – all these things make celebrating birthdays fun. Young friendships blossom on these occasions. For this reason, as a mother, I gladly help my daughters wrap the presents for their friends and prepare for these festive occasions.
Celebrating is important and not only on birthdays. Celebrating helps us remember what we value. Celebrating brings people together. Celebrating also motivates us. As Thomas J. Peters, a best-selling author of books on business management practices, once said, “Celebrate what you want to see more of.”
Ministry involves celebrating. In Romans 12:15, we read, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” Many times in ministry we focus on bringing comfort to those in need, but we overlook the importance of celebration. While we need to walk alongside those experiencing struggles and defeats, we also need to come alongside each other to join in the celebration of victories.
It was 5 AM, April 1996. Looking out the window as the sun began wakening the morning sky, the day looked promising; but there was such a weariness of my soul as I struggled to appreciate the beauty. You see, my Dad had been given two weeks to live. That pronouncement had been in February. The intensity of living each day to the full by trying to make a difference in his failing condition, dealing with the emotional implications of the imminent future, struggling to get enough sleep, and endeavoring to keep life functioning created a weariness that sleep could not restore.
To gain strength and endurance for the day, I craved time to read God's Word and be in God's presence. It was the only way I could make it through the day. A few days earlier Isaiah 33:6 had offered comfort and hope, "He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge, the fear of the LORD is the key to this treasure." The reminder, reassurance, and security of God's unchangeable character and presence gave soothing hope.
Well it's pretty much official, isn't it girls? Fall is here and winter is right around the corner. The time to start packing away the summer furniture and pool paraphernalia has come and gone (at least for most of us!) while boxes filled with autumn & Christmas décor are waiting to be unpacked. Can I ask you a question though? As you reopened your closets, attics and storage sheds and faced the clutter awaiting you, did you find yourself wondering why you yourself didn't have a yard sale to unload some of these things? I mean you probably visited at least one or two yard sales yourself this past summer, right? Now maybe you just happen to be one of "those women" who has one every other year and is on top of the clutter in your life. But some of us, well...we find ourselves putting it off year after year.
I think we can all agree that yard sales may be enjoyable to visit but they are not necessarily all that pleasant and easy to prepare for. There's the sorting through items, revisiting old memories, cleaning and making them ready to move out.
The air was crisp and the evening was dark! It was a great night to be outdoors. With only a crescent moon, the darkness made the stars seem to twinkle brighter. One deep breath made you want to inhale all the wonder of the night.
The setting was perfect. But, we were walking along a dark rural street with 3 small children. Occasional cars passed us as we walked along the edges of fields, lawns and driveways. "Hold my hand." was the directive given by each adult. Each child eagerly and willingly put their hands in ours as we ventured into the night's unknowns.
The warm little hand in mine brought joy to my heart. This child belonged to me and felt more secure because I was holding their hand. She knew she was not alone in the blackness. Fear slipped out of her mind because her hand was in mine. Feeling secure to face anything she might encounter in the unseen night, she enjoyed the journey.
We went to the beach last week. Our two youngest daughters got to ride in a convertible on the way. I could see them in their car seats with their hands high up in the air and smiles on their faces. I couldn't see their faces, but I know they were smiling. This was their first time to see the ocean. They had no maps, no idea how to get there. They were just enjoying the ride, the sights, and their friends. They had no worries. They were going to get to the beach real soon, because they simply trust their driver.
It appears trust is a simple word with the implications that it is simple to do. Is it easy to trust? I guess it would depend on who we are trusting. Are we trusting in an all knowing, dependable, loving, caring God?
My 90 year old mom lives with us. Needing the phone number of one of her friends, I paged through her address book. Written on the inside cover were these words, words she had probably jotted there when she was in her 70's. "Today's choices are tomorrow's future; past choices are today's reality." Sobering message, don't you think? Whatever age, the somber truth remains-- today's choices do shape our tomorrow and our past choices have woven to form our present reality.
Each day is filled with choices. Some appear so small and insignificant that they seem to be of little consequence. But each one contributes to a larger plan. After reading these words, I have looked at each day more astutely. Each day I can choose to serve the Lord wholeheartedly or be apathetic. I can choose to forgive or become bitter. I can choose to be kind or be selfish. I can choose to reach out to others or remain alone. Each opportunity comes in a small package called choice.
What realities are you experiencing today that reflect your past choices? Maybe you now have a degree because you chose to study and work hard in college. There were days when college was not easy and you felt like quitting, but you made the choice to continue. And now, you reap the benefit of small choices to get out of bed, go to class, work and study.
Rev. Anne K. Bates was born and raised in Wellesley, Massachusetts. She attended Saint Michael's College and majored in Psychology. After working in that field for a few years she made a change to photography. While enrolled at the R.I. School of Photography she came to know Jesus Christ as her personal Lord and Savior at the age of 27. She will attest that this experience changed her life forever.
Feeling the call to full-time ministry, Anne went to Zion Bible College and received a Bachelor of Arts in Bible and went on to pursue and complete a Masters in Divinity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.
Anne is an ordained minister with the Assemblies of God. She is the Associate Pastor of Crossroads Worship Center in Weymouth, MA. She also is an Adjunct Faculty member at Zion Bible College.
Rev. Janis Collette is an ordained minister with the Southern New England Ministry Network. She has been serving alongside her husband Gary as Women's Pastor and Ministries Facilitator at the Bread of Life Church of Westminster for the past 18 years. She and Gary are also the proud parents of a 13 yr. old son, Lucas.