Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Humbling Experience

I have been experiencing some anxiety regarding beginning this new church plant that God has called me to start. One of the questions I had was focused on where are we going to meet? I am grateful to God that since my last blog He has provided a space at the church where I currently have my counseling practice. The leadership agreed to allow me to use the space above my office which was formerly their main sanctuary. The church several years ago built a new sanctuary and the space above my office, which they now call their chapel, became available for other uses. We in essence will be sharing the building. Many churches are starting to consider sharing their space with other congregations due to the increasing expense in trying to maintain a building especially if a congregation is relatively small. It also presents an opportunity for fellowship and in some cases cross cultural experiences. As I met with my spiritual director, I was sharing with him how the space became available. A pastoral colleague who I will call Pat (not his real name) is a member of this host church and serves as a leader in the congregation. I came to know Pat because I began counseling his children around various adolescent issues. Pat was invested in seeing me start a church plant and has been very supportive in leading the charge to make it a reality. God worked in Pat's heart to speak into the lives of his fellow church leaders and the senior pastor. In a meeting approximately two weeks ago, the leadership unanimously agreed to move forward. Pat admitted that he really wanted me to stay at that church because of the work I had done with his children in counseling. He said, "If you leave, who will take care of my children?" As I shared Pat's words with my spiritual director, something inside of me broke and tears began to flow. It felt like the grace of God had overwhelmed me and the Holy Spirit was commissioning me to likewise take care of His children. It reminded me of Isaiah's commission in Isaiah chapter 6, "Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!" (Isaiah 6:8) I realized in that moment how awesome a task I have and at the same time how humbling it is to have the Lord of heaven and earth call you to take care of His people. I am at a loss for words to adequately describe what I was feeling and the magnitude of this experience. And so, like Isaiah I can only reply, "Here am I, Lord. Send me."
In humble gratitude to God,
Pastor Sheree

Monday, July 15, 2013

A Cry For Help

Believe it or not, we have another pair of house wrens that have nested in our bird house. After the chicks from the last nesting pair flew off I thought that was all to be seen until next summer. But within a week or so after, I heard the familiar song of the male house wren looking for a perspective bride. The process had begun all over again. I was wondering what to make of this "repeat performance." One of the possibilities I have been thinking about as we venture out into this new unknown territory of church planting is planting a church within an already existing church building. I happen to work in such a situation wherein my office is located in the basement of a church. The congregation of this church built a new sanctuary several years ago leaving the old space, which they now call the chapel available for use. I approached the pastor about the idea and he was open to pursuing it. Meanwhile, the church I currently attend also extended the possibility of using their space. During one of my prayer times I was watching the house wrens going through their rituals and it occurred to me that this new pair was in essence using the same bird house that was now unoccupied and available. A sort of "nest sharing" plan. While I was sitting there, the Lord impressed upon my heart the message, "a new pair occupying the same house." I began to think about the journey we are now taking. My husband and I are possibly going to become that new pair going to occupy the same house as another congregation, space that has become available. As we move closer to this new reality I find myself becoming anxious and overwhelmed by the idea of church planting. Many of my colleagues who are aware of what's happening are supportive but there is also the impression that they are glad they're not in the same situation. The Scriptures are full of examples wherein an individual or individuals find themselves in scary situations. In every instance they make their concerns known and cry out to God. God responded to the cry of the Israelites under the oppression of the Egyptians, "The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. God heard their groaning and He remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them." (Exodus 2:23b-25) We see other examples in the Psalms, "Give ear to my words, O Lord, consider my sighing. Listen to my cry for help, My King and my God, for to you I pray. In the morning O Lord, You hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before You and wait in expectation." (Psalm 5:1-3) "The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears are attentive to their cry." (Psalm 34:15) Likewise in the New Testament, Jesus calls out to the Father in His time of struggle in the Garden of Gethsemane. (Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42, Luke 22:40-46) Finally, Paul gives assurance that those who truly seek the Lord and call out to Him will be saved. (Romans 10:12-13) God showed me a practical example of His intervention with the house wrens. Lately, they have been disturbed by a male sparrow who perches himself in front of the opening to the bird house. The house wrens in their panic cry out and take turns flying at the sparrow. As I observed this event, I waited for the house wrens to be victorious. However, the sparrow seemed mildly annoyed by their efforts. Finally, as it looked like the house wrens were becoming exhausted, I intervened by opening the slider and scaring off the sparrow. The Lord impressed upon me that this is how He answers my cry for help. I am bigger and stronger than that sparrow and so I was able to help the nearly exhausted and frustrated pair of wrens. Similarly, God is bigger and stronger than I am and will intervene when I become spiritually and emotionally exhausted. Jesus said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-29) Where do you go when you are burdened and overwhelmed? Jesus hears your cry for help and is waiting to give you rest.

Pastor Sheree