Sharing Good Works with Christmas Joy and Hope

December 23, 2011

In most church lectionaries (a list of various portions of Scripture arranged by theme for reading within churches) the reading from the epistles for Christmas is from Paul’s letter to Titus, chapter 2, verses 11-14:

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. 

Notice the straightforward flow of Paul’s presentation: Grace appeared through Christ to bring salvation to all who would believe, to make a holy people, awaiting his “advent.” And while we wait, we are to be a people zealous for good works. May God’s gift of Jesus Christ so stir you and your family this Christmas and into the new year that you are eager to serve others with grace and joy.

It is in this theme that I am so grateful to share with you two stories of joy shared with the completion of our annual Giving Tree project. Thanks to the incredible generosity and good works of our body, we were able to deliver gifts, hope, and Christ’s love to 3 families in great need from the Richland Elementary School in our neighborhood. Keith Mason and Kari Jane Smith’s accounts of their experiences are included so that you too may share in the joy of this project.

[From Keith Mason – Youth Pastor]
Last week I had the opportunity to do one of my favorite things of the year: deliver our Giving Tree gifts. Thanks to the generosity of the TFC community we were able to give bags and bags full of Christmas gifts to some new friends in need. It’s hard to imagine people in such need just a few blocks from the church. They didn’t even have pillows. However, each mom I met was striving to care for her family. One mother of a special needs child told us the story of being given this child when he was only three months old. She has sacrificed to raise him as her own for thirteen years. It helped put our giving in perspective.

Another mom we met told us the story of losing her job this past month. She told us how she had worked odd jobs, one after the other for years to provide for her family. As we brought in the gifts her eyes filled with tears. She was overwhelmed by grace. This was going to be a difficult Christmas for them, but now our unexpected generosity changed things. Her tears of joy had a big impact on me. There’s only been a few times in my life when I’ve been overcome with tears of joy. I want to be overwhelmed by His grace. What I’m asking for this Christmas is for Christ’s unexpected generosity to change things. Change my heart – that I might have tears of joy.

[From Kari Jane Smith- Director of Children’s Ministry]
She rang the church doorbell shyly and waited.  I knew she was coming and wanted to ease her discomfort, so I ran down the hall and around the corner to welcome her. She was not alone…a hesitant child clung to her hand and looked up at me with eyes as big as saucers!  What to say?

“I am so glad you are here…come…let me show you what our friends (that is you all) want to give you today!”
“So many friends and so many presents…look!”

Quiet and unsure…they both follow me to the shinning tree and must be wondering how it is that they are here in a church and about to receive more than they see. What to say?

“This…this is for you, D’Juan…and for your sister Natalia. And what does this name tag say? And this one? And this one?  And look, this one says, “for D’Juan’s mom!”

Smiles and tears cannot be held back anymore….Cherry Hanes is walking towards Mom and a warm hug is offered with prayers.  

“God loves you so much!  He is with you. You are not alone. You need to know that…” 

Christmas is here…right here. Hope is here. Mom tells us she was just laid off and her children knew that there would be no tree or presents or stockings for Christmas this year. God surprised her with hope. 

If you are reading this, you are part of that hope!

As we load her up with food, gifts, and hope, I ask if she has a church family. I encourage her to come for Christmas Eve services.  Everyone gathers and smiles for a photo and one more hug. A hesitant child and shy Mom say thank you over and over, and drive away full with so much more than they can see. Hope-full!

Keith Hileman

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Time Is Short..Will You Help?

November 19, 2010

Time is short. This rude remembrance led to tears. My response to her words were no words, just tears. Not just a little wet-in-the-eye tears, but rather instant-filling-and-falling-out-of-my eyes, down my cheeks, on my lips tears. Salty and hot.

What did she say that resulted in my embarrassing and humbling flood?

She was sharing with me a recent conversation with another…with whom she had shared a study about Joseph in Genesis, similar to the recent sermon Carl preached recently. The conversation between these two centered on Joseph’s upbringing by his parents.

Joseph had learned all there was time to learn from his parents by his 17th birthday. Joseph’s childhood and early teen years were critical in his spiritual development. At 17 he was sold into slavery, taken to a foreign land where there was little or no teaching about God. He had heard and learned all there was time for. Now, it was time to remember all he had heard. We know from the last few chapters of Genesis that he listened well. He remembered that God is good and works in His own time to bring about His plan for His glory!”

Oh Lord, how responsible this makes me feel! What the church does in Children’s and Youth Ministry is of critical importance…and supports what you parents are doing in your homes! We don’t know how much time we have to tell the Story…His Story!

Perhaps my teary reaction was due to not feeling well. Or, the deep awareness of the brevity of time with our kids was fresh on my heart. But it also was due to a huge thankfulness I feel for the adults that have been teaching and working with our kids since September.

We are now recruiting for January spring semester helpers & teachers that will join this amazing ministry beginning January 2011. The curriculum is already here. The rooms are ready! I just need you to prayerfully consider how much time you have to give to the next Joseph that may be in our midst!

With a thankful heart, and realizing that time is short.

Kari Jane Smith
TFC Children’s Director


CHILLS

October 22, 2010

Blogs. Chills.

I don’t know about you, but I find life challenges wonderful and fun. And also just plain scary sometimes! Being asked to contribute to our TFC blog as our Children’s Minister is a huge challenge for me. The scary kind. I read a few blogs that are wonderful. I am so intimidated to even attempt to tell you what I am thinking. Will my words seem contrived and boring to you? What do I have to say that anyone would spend a few moments reading?

Yet this challenge has been given to me. I have chills. But here is my attempt to write a blog entry.

Something happened to me this summer. This was following a very long, dry spell in my personal time with God. This summer I felt a shift begin. It started as the TFC staff was challenged to read 66 Love Letters by Larry Crabb. That was a challenge I thought would be fun and wonderful, so I jumped in and began reading the book, making notes, and reading other resources along with the book.

I was spending a Monday evening reading through Ezra and Nehemiah. It was like watching a movie that hot summer night, and that movie about Nehemiah that led to chills and the awareness that something supernatural was happening. I read about the challenge before Nehemiah–it was daunting!  He was committed to what God asked him to do—to rebuild the walls around Jerusalem.  And Ezra reminded the Jews what God had done to bring them back to Jerusalem! When the rebuilt wall was being dedicated, I imagined the choirs singing praises to God…women and children rejoicing with great joy…as though they were plunged into a sea of joy (Neh. 12:27-43). My heart was burning as I longed to worship with Nehemiah and the women and children of old.  Chills engulfed me as I wondered what it must have sounded like as God’s people worshipped Him with such abandon.

Weeks later, a friend shared with me what she is willing to risk and abandon to go deeper with God. Her transformation is happening right before my eyes…chills.

On another afternoon, while singing with pre-school children about our Great Big God, I was no longer aware of their great big eyes watching me…
chills covered me and my eyes closed for a moment in worship….
Am I getting sick? Am I in a room blasted with cold AC?
No, I don’t feel sick…I have a sweater on, and yet…chills.

Then, it happened again.

On a Sunday, when our Youth Pastor Keith Mason was preaching, he invited me to look at the cross and remember God’s Love, to fall back into the outstretched arms of Jesus…trust Him to catch me…this time there are chills and now tears fill my eyes as I smile and think….yes…yes…yes! Joy! A sea of joy!

God, I was so lonesome for You. Were you waiting for me to slow down and read your Story? Your love story to me? Were you wanting me to listen to my friend… really listen? Were you asking me to simply teach children truth…Your Story?

You were waiting for me…to listen…to be amazed like a child…to BE with you in worship! To be thrilled by your Presence…always more desperate for You than for everything in my life to “work” or “feel good.”

Through His Story, His people, His children, His Church He calls me and I am in awe. I have chills.

Kari Jane Smith
Children’s Director


NEEDED—MORE VBS LEADERS & HELPERS!

June 8, 2010

VBS at TFC starts Monday morning, June 14 at 9:00 am. We have the children, we have the supplies, we have an awesome director (Susan McCullough) and a perfect Paul (Robert Brown). We have many, many volunteers already hard at work. We have music, curriculum, and did I mention children? Lots and lots of children!

But we do need more leaders, simply because we have more children.

Would you consider volunteering for this life-giving, life-changing (the children’s AND yours) opportunity to serve?

This job is not just for anyone. If you are already overcommitted, serving so many places that you find it hard to find time for relationship with God and/or your family, this may not be the year for you to lead at VBS. (Though it may be the perfect year for you to show up Monday morning, not to lead but to hold a child’s hand, serve the snack, or worship alongside the children with a stilled and joyful heart.)

But if you are looking for a way to get connected in our church, if you have been attending for awhile (maybe years) and have never quite found a place that you could offer yourself, if you have been soaking up good teaching and need an opportunity to exercise your spiritual muscles, you might just be right for the job.

In fact, you do not even need to be a “kid person”. You only have to be a “Jesus person”.

What does a leader do? The materials are all provided; the activities are all planned. The leader simply “leads” a group of children through the materials and activities.

What does an assistant do? Assists the leaders, the director, the snack ladies, the children—whoever needs help.

Pray, consider, and then if you desire, call Kari Jane or Susan McCullough (972.690.9535 or 469.384.8800). Do it soon—before the training meetings tomorrow (June 9th)—at either 10-11:30 am or 6:30-8 pm. And whether you choose to participate this year or not, join us in prayer for this important week in the life of our church.


SUPER SIX SERVERS

May 26, 2010

Super Six at NetWork

Serving is not limited to adults at Trinity Fellowship. Our Super Six graders joined in the spirit of fellowship & serving this past weekend, along with me and Youth Pastor Keith Mason.

Meeting for Breakfast at Denny’s started the morning. Funny how you can get to know someone better over pancakes and sausage! The conversation started lightly with how we preferred our eggs, but turned to a more serious topic by the end of breakfast about moving out of the Children’s Ministry. We discussed their elementary years coming to an end and how they felt about moving into the Junior Varsity (junior high) ministry as part of the Youth Ministry in late August.

Many were excited and eager. A few were overwhelmed and not sure they wanted to move on yet. We discussed their concerns, one of which was being with the “scary teenagers!” Youth Pastor Keith reminded them, “You will be a scary teenager!”

After breakfast we went to NetWork Ministries in Richardson to tackle a few service projects lined up for us. TFC member (and NetWork employee) Christy Botens greeted us and showed our 6th graders how to examine the donated, nonperishable food that NetWork receives, then stock the pantry shelves. This kept us busy for 2 hours. We then cleaned the reception area—what a great way to serve together!

The really fun part for me was working alongside our students and not once needing to urge a student to get back to work. They each gave a great effort and enjoyed one another. Soon, some were sorting, some were calling out needs, some were stocking the shelves. They organized themselves and others. We have a great crop of future leaders at TFC! As we drove back to the church, the words I heard were, “That was fun!” I call that super!

Kari Jane Smith
TFC Children’s Director

Super Six Girls Swim Party 2010