In All Things…

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28

 

Ah, those famous words. “All things God works for the good of those who love him…” Romans 8:28 are words that often seem to come up when we are confounded by life.  They are tossed our way by other well meaning souls in hopes of offering genuine comfort or at the very least in hopes of placating our souls. For some these words do bring great comfort, for others, they can seem empty and even mocking.

I confess I’ve been in both camps at various points in my life. Sometimes, I’m able to lean and trust that God’s plans, even if they are not working out in my favor are still good plans… Other times, I’ve wondered how any part of a life burden could bring good?

It was reminded me this week that a little more than 6 years ago, I was in a pit of sorrow. I had just gone through one of the most trialing times ever in my marriage to that point. We had made it. But life was still raw and uncertain. Yet, God found reason to place in my womb a new life. And all I could figure was that He must have a good plan. God must know something that I didn’t at the time. He knew I could somehow handle caring for a new life when my own still seemed so fragile.

But, as the weeks went on… that life, that flutter of a heartbeat vanished. And I was left in the dark about God’s good plan. I was left with a vacant hole in my heart. I was left rocking and trying to understand how a “Good God” after so much hardship would strip away the very thing that might of been good, that might have testified “Restored,” from our lives.

Yeah, Roman 8:28 rang hollow in those days.

But, life steps forward whether we are ready to step forward with it, doesn’t it? Sunrise to sunset the days come and they go, and we move with them.  And to some extent time does heal all wounds and God speaks again. Jesus softly whispers: “I didn’t do the destroying. I’m too good for that. I came for you to have life, abundant life.” (Ref. John 10:10

And there were glimpses of the good plan again. If only in that I now knew the grief another might encounter. I could now better (I hoped) walk alongside someone, and mourn as they mourned.

Good enough, I suppose.

Leading the children in Sunday school last week, I found myself lead to the story of Joseph. You know him? Josephs story begins in Genesis 37, picks back up in Genesis 39 and continues until the end of the book.

Joseph: the favored son, the one who bared the envy of his brothers. The boy who at 17 was tossed in a pit, sold as a slave, later thrown into prison, and oh yeah, who God was with the whole time, yet he still couldn’t seem to catch a break.

As I read the children’s version of this story to these wide eyed 4 and 5 year-olds, I heard myself saying after every turn of the page, “But, God had a plan.”
I began to wonder, if Joseph ever questioned God’s plan? Did he ever think, “Seriously? Now what?”
It is true we don’t know his thought process in the whole matter, and sure, there is plenty to wonder about. Was it wise for him to so chipperly chat up his brothers about these prophetic dreams of his? Eh, maybe not. Should he maybe have second guessed working in the house alone with his bosses wife? Probably.

However, the theme that I kept catching as I went back and re-read the story. I began to see that whether Joseph was acutely aware or not, whether things were good or not, God was still with him.

God was with Joseph when everything he did prospered and God was with him when it all fell apart in his hands. God never at any point said, “Sorry, I’m out.”

In the end what did Joseph have to say about all that he had gone through? Essentially (and I am paraphrasing) he was able to say, “I can now see God had a plan.” (Ref Genesis 45:4-8

You see, when we are in the midst of hard. When we are in the valley of sorrow, or pain, or whatever heartache we face. The thing I hope you will remember is that God has not left you. Whether we are the subject of the enemy’s cruelty or our own poor choices. Whether we are a victim of circumstance or have come to where we are by our own steps. God has not left. He sees. He knows. And He can and will bring us to the other side, however far the journey. Why? Because of the other part of that Romans verse. Because we love him, we have been called according to his purposes. He has a plan.

Later this week we are celebrating a birthday. Six short years after my time of deep sorrow, I will hold the hand of a little girl who will be turning five years old. I call her my “Rainbow Baby.” She is the child born after the storm. Born after grief and loss. She is our gift. And God didn’t skimp either. He gave her passion, and the light and love of several children. The very light of her smile is testimony that God overcomes darkness EVERY TIME.

Romans 8-28 blog

~Rita

__________________________

Reference
Romans 8:28
John 10:10 NKJV
Genesis 37
Genesis 39 – 50

Mirror Mirror

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Read 2 Corinthians 4

I think it is interesting that one of the bi-products (if we can call it that) of having children is the opportunity to see ourselves more deeply. I’m of course not just talking about the physical attributes, though those are fun. I’m speaking more to the deeper things. The soul inspiring, or soul crushing. The things we wish to hide about ourselves or the things we love about ourselves. Never have I been more humbled than by a the words spoken from a round little face with more heart in her eyes than in her chest. Words that at one point may have been my own, be they loving and life giving, or soul injuring.

As a mother, every day I am watched and mimicked and copy-cat’ed. Sometimes it makes me laugh. Sometimes, it makes me want to hide and have a good cry. Parenting has so much beauty and it is also so much hard. No doubt, it is a refining fire.

And it reminds me of something else, for these mirror like little bodies walking around me all day long, I am also a mirror. Or at least I am supposed to cast the reflection of someone else. Sure, I am a reflection of my own upbringing, but if we are Jesus followers we are also supposed to be vessels of light shining the nature and character of the one who has seen us in our most broken states, and loved us anyway. The one who had no fear of our screaming, our tantrums, our own ugly moments and saved us anyway. We are to be Jesus mirrors.

Every day (by God’s great mercy) I find myself learning more and more about the reflection I am casting on these little ones around me. Of course I will not even suggest that I have things figured out. No, our bedtime routine (or the lack there of) last night was an absolute testimony to the fact that I don’t. But, I am in the process of learning and becoming more aware, that while I am walking in the mercy and grace my Father in Heaven has shown me. I must also look for the opportunities to shine Christ, though dimly, to these little ones and others around me.

~

I know these people. They are probably the most unique people I have ever met. They have chosen to do something really, rather radical. They said, “Yes” to God. And they said, “Yes.” wholeheartedly with no holding back. What is so interesting about these people is that I would say they glow. Not in some weird ethereal way. But, often (and I do know they are human) they shine Jesus in a way that I would say is rare and precious today.

It has taken me a long time to understand it. But, it dawned on me the other day, as I was coming away from a moment where I had yet again failed to be light in my own home, to my own little mission field. That what was making me different from these people I so admire and respect, is that when I look at them, I totally see the reflection of Jesus.

I began to consider why there was such a stark contrast in how me, as a redeemed human’s light was so different from these other redeemed humans? It finally dawned on me perhaps it was the level of “Yes” they had offered God.

~

Isn’t Jesus good? Today, as I sit here watching the sun rise on a land that yesterday was cast in shadows, rain, and darkness. That the difference between darkness and light is the filter through which it shines. The sun was always behind the clouds of yesterday, though they blocked it’s golden rays. But, this morning, with the clouds scattered that light is free to fall on and through the freshly washed trees and grasses.

My point: Christ is always with us, waiting patiently to shine through us. And the best way to clear out the clouds is to repent, and then say, “Yes.” Not so we can be like anyone else, but so that we can shine more like Him.

 For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”[a] made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.

2 Corinthians 4:5-7

~Rita

______________________________

Reference:
2 Corinthians 4

Perspective Adjustment

2 Cor 13-11

I personally love to receive adjustments to my perspective. These moments where God steps in a realigns what is out of place in my heart are of great value to me. I also love how they come in the moments I least expect.
My most recent adjustment came last week.

So, last week my son got glasses for the first time. As you can imagine this was a significant event in his life. For me however, it was a bit of a shock. Up until this year, he had had pretty good vision. He had no trouble reading. And other than seeming to be inching himself closer to the TV, I really hadn’t noticed a change, nor did he ever complain about having trouble seeing anything in the distance.

Nevertheless, the result from the eye exam: Nearsighted.

Fast forward two weeks when his glasses arrived and we went to the eye doctor to have them fitted. This is where the adjustment in my perspective began to take place.
As my son sat in the chair in front of the attendant, mirror before of him, the gentleman cleaned the already spotless lenses of his new glasses and handed them to my boy. “Go ahead and try’em out.” he said. Gingerly holding the glasses my son slid them on and over his ears. “What do you think?” I ask. Totally expecting him to be looking at his own reflection in the mirror. To my amusement he was not even looking in the direction of the mirror. He was looking at the rows of glasses on the wall, he was looking toward the back of the building. His gaze took him around the entire room. And that’s when my heart broke a little. He was trying to see everything he couldn’t before.

He also, was not the least bit interested in what these glasses did to change his appearance.

Over this past week, so many new observations have been shared. Things I have taken as common place have been exciting for him. Things that I have counted as small have shown up large to him.

This week, that still small voice within has been asking if I get it yet? Do I get that it is more important and more valuable to see what is around me than to focus on me? Do I get that the ordinary in every day can be extraordinary? Do I see that letting my gaze fall far, letting it fall on Christ and the glorious future he has planned for us, helps bring meaning, purpose and clarity to what seems out of focus or out of order today? 

Then on Sunday, our pastor took time to notice my sons new glasses and take time to celebrate them. If I’m honest, I haven’t been feeling so excited about this process, thinking still about the hassle glasses might impose on a energetic young man. But, in that moment that still small voice piped up again, “Do you get it? Do you see that restoration that brings clarity is worthy of rejoicing?”
Yes, I think I’m starting to get it. And so, we rejoiced.

Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice!
Strive for full restoration,
encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace.
And the God of love and peace will be with you.

2 Corinthians 13:11

 

~Rita

There’s a Spot for You!

We are just a two short weeks away from the Allegan Western Days!!!
As excited as we are, and as amazing as it has been to watch God step in and prepare every detail of this event, we still need to remember that each of us must do our part to reach out to our community and make this event happen.

So, we are once again sharing a list of needs for this years event. Remember we are all a part of the body of Christ, and it is such a beautiful thing when God’s people – a.k.a. “The Church” unite and function according to His design.

Western Days is not about being a cowboy. It is about being the hands and feet of Jesus, it is the live action of the Church reaching out to our community and fulfilling The Great Commission starting right where we are.

So, I encorage you to read through this list. You know the gifts and talents God has given you, or even the ones that have yet to be developed. Let’s all step out of our comfort zone and serve God and our community wholeheartedly.

On behalf of the Ministry team, Thank you.

Western Days 2017 Allegan, MI

This year’s event will be held June 17th-18th. You can find a detailed schedule of this years event on our website: https://www.westerndaysministries.org/
Also, keep updated about our events on our FaceBook page:
https://www.facebook.com/Western-Days-Ministries-1543022115955344/

If you would like to help us out with getting the word out about western days here are a few ideas:
1. Call your friends and invite them. Let them know (especially if they could use encouragement) that cowboy or not Western Days is a great way for families to spend the day together, and be encouraged. There is something for every age at this event. So, don’t be shy, the worst they can say is, “No.” But, who knows how many might say, “YES!”I

2. Share our Facebook event posts, or even better open them and invite people. These FB Events are public and that means you can invite anyone on your friends list. If you can jot a quick note to your friends and let them know you really care and would love them to come, even better!

3. Have you seen our brochures around town? When you do grab one, but don’t keep it to yourself, give it to someone; your neighbor, a friend, a stranger on the street. It doesn’t matter, just let people know you care and that this event is for them.

Tuesday Nights

We have just TWO prayer/planning meetings left before Western Days! This Tuesday Night at 7pm our Prayer and Planning is at the Allegan Fairgrounds. The last one will be at Rectify (728 River St., Allegan) and will include our favorite Christian Country Music Artist, Tommy Brandt! Don’t miss these meetings if you are (or want to be) involved in this event.  From the very beginning Western Days has been God’s event and therefore we want to keep Him in the forefront of the preparation and planning. We can testify that God has done mighty things to ensure the success of our past events and we look forward to what is ahead.

Saturday June 17th

This is our “Big Event “ day and we will have a lot happening. There will be complementary food available throughout the day as well as food available for purchase from a local vendor, but feel free to bring a picnic lunch if you’d like. Toss a blanket or some lawn chairs into your vehicle and plan to spend the day with us.

  •  Life Walk: Back again this year, Positive Options will host their annual Life Walk fund raising event. Participants will begin the walk inside the fairgrounds. Contact your local Positive Options on how to get involved in this special event.
  • Family Bible Camp: This is a unique opportunity for families to learn biblical principals in a truly “cowboy” way. Camp is currently scheduled to run from 10am – 1pm and will include several learning stations, each complete with life lessons from the Word of God and hands-on activities. Plan to participate in this one-of-a-kind camp with your children or grandchildren. If you would like to volunteer contact: Sue Sowle (269) 650-6288 or email her at: solwesue@gmail.com
  • Cowboy Eventing: ENTRIES FOR THIS EVENT ARE NOW OPEN! Contact Brian Sowle to enter: 269-720-7690.
    We are also looking for volunteers to help with set-up/tear down. Contact Kyle & Rita Gleason to help: 269-370-8108
    This event features obstacle challenges for horse and rider teams that mimic what a cowboy might experience “home on the range.”  Cowboys must be proficient in all areas of horsemanship, as well as be able to ride hazardous terrain to search out stray or loose cattle. The horses that were required for this work also had to be adjustable, in that they had to transition easily from job to job. Cowboy Eventing requires horses and riders to be efficient in three events.
    1. Cowboy Dressage
    2. Open Range
    3. Cattle Sorting.
    Winner of the event will be determined by the highest score from all three events.
  • Ushers: We need about a dozen ushers to help with various tasks on Saturday. These jobs could be greeting, helping direct people, Security, and Safety Staff. Please Contact Brian Sowle (269-720-7690) if you can help.
  • Set up/Tear down: If you don’t mind a little manual labor, we could really use some strong men or women to help with the set up and tear down of this event. The more the merrier. As the saying goes, “Many hands make for Light work.” Brian Sowle is the contact for this as well.
  • Evangelism Team: If God has laid it on your heart to share the gospel, then please contact Marcia Wright (616-218-4916) Don’t be shy, anyone can share God’s love.
  •  Chili Cook Off Judges & Participants:
    Are you a Chili connoisseur? We’re looking for a couple of judges to choose a worthy winner of this friendly competition.
    On the other hand, do you cook a mean Chili? Then you’ll want to get your entry in A.S.A.P. Contact Patricia (269-793-0138) if you want to help with this part of the event.

Sunday June 18th

Happy Father’s Day! We hope you will join us as we close out our weekend with a pancake breakfast and a community church service.

  • Pancake Turners: We are still looking for Pancake turners for the breakfast starting at 8am. If you can help us in this area, please contact Patricia (269-793-0138)

Last year we not only had a multitude of people come forward to receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior during the weekend events, we also had over 20 people come forward during the church service to be baptized cowboy style – in a water trough. Plan to lift your hearts and voices together as “The Church,” in Allegan while we praise and worship our Heavenly Father.
If you and your congregation would like to become more deeply involved in this outreach ministry, please contact Sue Sowle for additional information. [sowlesue@gmail.com]

He Needed to be Forgiven

Genesis 4-4

This past weekend we went to a new church plant. We went to support friends who are stepping boldly forward and answering the call of God saying, “Here I am, send me.” We went to support a friend looking for a place to worship. 
But, I had no idea that what would happen in that little service would tear open our hearts, clean us out and fill us with the water of life. Quenching that insatiable thirst and yet leaving me craving, praying, worshiping all day, like I could never get quite enough. 

And it all came out of the mouths of babes. 

Cain and Abel

Adam[a] made love to his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain.[b] She said, “With the help of the Lord I have brought forth[c] a man.” Later she gave birth to his brother Abel.

Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord.And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you

But, God was doing something greater. 

The pastor, asked the congregation, “What was the difference between Cain’s offering and Abel’s. And we thought it was rhetorical. We know the story. We get that it was a heart issue. Yet no one offered to put themselves out there and answer the question. 

But one young boy raised his hand. 

In the sweetness of his seven years, he shyly put together the words, “He knew he had sinned and needed to be forgiven.”

……

He (Abel) knew he needed to be forgiven.

I still have to soak that one in. 

You see, as many times as I ever heard this story… as many times have I have recounted it’s meaning. I have never once thought of Abel, the son who brought the best offering as a broken sinning soul. 

I have never once thought that Abel, understood something about the disconnect of sin, and the need for atonement. The longing for restoration and connection with God. 

I thought Abel had it all figured out. I thought he was the good boy who knew how to do the right things. That he was so pure of heart that he never messed up. 

But, today a sweet seven-year-old boy taught me a lesson. Abel, was bringing that sacrifice, bringing the best of what he had to the Living God, not because he had already done all the right things, but because he wanted to be restored. He needed to be forgiven. He needed to be right with God. 

yeah. 

 

~Rita

 

How You Can be a Part of the Allegan Western Days

Western Days 2017 Allegan, MI

It’s that time of year again! Planning is underway for Western Days 2017 at the Allegan County Fairgrounds. This year’s event will be held June 17th-18th. Since this is a community outreach event, our ministry team would like you to be well informed of the many available opportunities for you and your congregation.
We invite you to share your God-given gifts and talents and love on your community. .
If you have any questions about our ministry we invite you to check out our web site: www.westerndaysministries.org and send us you questions through our Contact US tab.

Below are some of the areas where you could bless this ministry and your community:

Prayer: Community prayer meetings are happening every Tuesday evening at various locations around the community. Please check out this LINK to view the complete schedule. From the very beginning Western Days has been God’s event. These prayer meetings are an integral part of the planning of our events.

Bake Sale Fundraiser: We are once again having a Bake Sale Fund Raiser at the Allegan Farmers Market. Fundraisers like these are part of why Western Days is FREE to the community. You will find us under the community tent by City Hall at the Markets new Locust Street location. We have reserved the Community Tent for May 25th And June 8th. We are seeking Volunteers for both dates to put their baking talents to work and also, help with set up/tear down and taking a shift in collecting donations.
Please Contact Rita Gleason (269-370-8108) if you can help with this event. Of course we need people to come and buy the delicious treats as well. Your support in this way is greatly appreciated.

Evangelism: Above all things, Western Days is an outreach ministry designed to present the gospel of Jesus to a lost and dying world and to minister to the needs of the people as the Spirit leads. If this is an area of passion for you, we could use your help throughout the event. Contact Sue for further information.

Camp Workers: We are looking for several volunteers to help with the family bible camp. Specific positions include registration, teachers and camp guides. We will be happy to train you so no need to worry about experience.

Kitchen Ministry: People love to eat, and we enjoy providing them with food. As in the past, we will have food available at no cost at different points of the day on Saturday. We are in need of multiple volunteers to minister to the community through food service.

Food Truck: We are looking for someone with a food wagon that will help cook hot dogs to distribute after the Round’em Up Bible Camp. This person will also be able to sell food later during the Bull Riding. Please Contact Brian Sowle (269-720-7690 for more information.

Chili Cook off: We need a volunteer to organize this valued part of our event. We are also seeking outstanding entries to submit their favorite chili recipe to share with the group. This has always been a hit and this year it will be judged again with a trophy to be given to the winner! We would love to get a pot from each church in the area! Who’s your best chili maker?

Information, Medical & Security: Those looking to minister in this capacity should be comfortable being on their feet and on the go. The primary responsibility will be to provide guests with information about time schedules & events as well as location of the food court, restrooms, etc. We do not anticipate any security or medical issues, however, volunteers should be on the lookout for potential problems and be prepared to assist guests as needed.

Flyers: Once again Western Days event flyers will be available for distribution in the community. We are looking for volunteers to put up posters throughout Allegan County and to distribute flyers to businesses or door-to-door. This could be a great opportunity to involve the youth of your congregation.

Banners: Banners to advertise your church or business are available for purchase. These will be displayed at various locations throughout the fairgrounds and will be returned to purchasers after the event. Talk to Sue for further details.

Set Up/Take Down: Perhaps you are more of a hands-on, manual labor type of person. No problem, we have a place for you. We could use committed volunteers to help with the set up and take down work during the day on Friday and Sunday. We tend to have a good turn out for set-up and could use some equally committed individuals for take down.

Donations: Western Days Ministries is now a 501C3 corporation under the covering of World Ministry Fellowship. If you would like to make a financial donation to Western Days Ministries to help cover the cost of this year’s outreach events, please visit our webpage at https://www.westerndaysministries.org

The One

Luke 15-4

Most know I have a love/hate relationship with social media. I love it because it allows me to stay in contact with far away friends and family, who otherwise I would not hear from except for the annual Christmas card. I love that it allows us to peek into each others lives and remember that none of us are alone in our struggles. I love that it has given me and this wonderful ministry as a platform to share God’s word and his love for all people. Of course there are many things I don’t love about it, but for today, lets just stick to the positives.

It was because of the blessing of social media I was able to witness baptism of someone I once knew growing up. This proclamation of faith and baptism has stuck with me and I have been rejoicing over it for days. You see, though I don’t really know this person anymore, I did know of the love and prayer and continual reaching out of this persons family. A family who both knew Christ and who was new to a personal relationship with Christ. I knew this person needed Jesus too.
So, it was such a wonderful surprise when the video of this baptism popped up in my news feed. My heart literally stopped as I heard the confession of faith and watched in awe that someone who I had no idea was looking, yet I knew soooo needed Jesus shared the testimony of how God had intervened in their life, And here they were getting baptized, not just this person but his children as well! Can we get a Hallelujah in here!!!

It got me thinking about what Western Days Ministries is all about. You see, even though this ministry had nothing to do with leading this person to the Lord, we rejoice because of the ONE.
Our theme has always been, “Gather’n the Strays.” Though we love putting on events that are family friendly, that seek to draw the community together and unite churches, it is really all about the one. That one person who thinks they have no hope, that one person who needs to hear that God loves them. That one person who feels, …lost.
I’ve heard it over and over, since the beginning of this ministry that if what we do brought just one person to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, then it was worth it!

The Parable of the Lost Sheep
Luke 15:1-7

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons
who do not need to repent.

This is our Calling. Leaving the ninety-nine and going to look for that one. 

The question is, will you join us?

~Rita