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God’s Plans

It always amazes me how quickly time flies when I attend a conference. And I’ve attended quite a few in my day. I’ve even planned several conferences during my career and so I know what it takes to put together a first-class conference. So does the staff at the Speak Up Conference 2012. This conference is sponsored by Carol Kent Ministries (www.CarolKent.org; www.SpeakUpConference.com). From the moment I registered for the conference in March, until the end of the conference this past Saturday, every question I had was answered, every need I had was met. Every keynote session, every breakout session, every meal started and ended on time.

The conference had three tracks: writing, speaking and leadership. The staff invited some of the top authors, editors and publishers from around the country to come and teach us about our chosen track. They listened to the writers’ pitches about their books; they listened to the speakers’ presentations; or, as in my case, brainstormed with those of us who weren’t quite ready to “pitch our book.”

But the conference was far more than just keynotes, breakouts and great meals. We were blessed with the gift of Babbie Mason and her magnificent voice as she led us to the throne of God in worship throughout the weekend.The presence and the anointing of God were, at times, almost  overwhelming. His presence was so sweet during those quiet moments of worship. His presence was powerful during the times of prayer. And as we exuberantly praised Him, His presence was joyful.

It was a beautiful sight to see as the remaining attendees gathered in a huge circle at the close of the meeting on Saturday afteroon. Carol had printed scriptures and had selected people at random to read each verse. The Holy Spirit directed and the scriptures read spoke directly to my heart.

God planned for me to attend that conference and although the enemy had other plans, they were thwarted a long time ago. God knew exactly what I and every attendee needed to hear, the type of ministry each of us needed and He showed Himself strong on each person’s behalf.

Jeremiah 29:11
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

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Oh Ye of Little Faith

Some time ago, a dear friend forwarded me information on a conference called “Speak Up!” She wrote, “They’re offering scholarships. You should apply for one.” I went to the “Speak Up!” website and saw where they were offering $100 scholarships towards the total registration fee. That’s actually a great deal, but with our budget the way it is this year, I knew I would not be able to attend. I emailed my friend back, explained my position and she answered me. “No. Cec Murphy is offering full-ride scholarahips. Apply for that one.:” (My friend is a dear sweet Christian woman, but I could just see her eyes rolling as she typed her answer!) I contacted the coordinator of the conference inquiring how I could apply.She told me to write a brief explanation of why I needed the scholarship and send it back to her. God knew my heart – how much I wanted to come to this conference. I poured my heart into my explanation but as I wrote, I kept thinking in the back of my mind “There’s no way I’m going to get a schloarship. There are so many people who are in much more dire straits financially than me.”  “Oh ye of little faith.” I arrived yesterday afternoon in Grand Rapids, MI for the 2012 “Speak Up! Conference.” God is good. Selah.

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In the Midst of the Storm

We lived in Louisiana when Katrina hit and saw first hand the devastation storms can bring, but we saw so much more! We saw communities unite, churches and Christians mobilize, and a blanket of love encompass the area.

 A short time after Katrina, when our city was full of storm refugees, the Billy Graham crusade came through. Storm victims were living in our cities’ churches, surrounded by Christ’s love, and our cities were filled with an influx of caring, serving, giving Christians coming to see the crusade. As I saw people actively demonstrate Christ’s love, I was reminded that even during the storm–especially during the storm–God was there.

God is always here—ever-present, but let us never forget, He often reveals His presence through us, His children. He has chosen you and I to be His hands and feet, to pour out His love through us to a hurting world.

He asks us to comfort those who mourn, to carry one another’s burdens, to speak out for the oppressed, and to care for the widow and orphan. In essence, how we love reveals the depth of our faith.

James 1:27 reminds us, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

The world tells us it’s all about what we can get and achieve, but God tells us its all about how freely we can give. To focus on those things that are eternal, joining in His forever-love plan.

Today, I invite you to live out James 1:27 … in a unique way. A friend and I have the potential to win $5,500 for two fabulous orphan ministries, and you can help. And all you have to do is click your computer mouse a few times.

Simply pop by the Mary Kay website (https://www.mkmakeovercontest.com/gallery.jsp?id=163379) and voting for Jennifer Slattery’s not-so-lovely mug shot. If her photo wins, Mary Kay will donate a total of $5,500 GoThreads (http://gothreads.org/) and the Raining Season (http://www.therainingseason.org/). As an added incentive, Mary Kay consultant Sharyline Cochrane (http://www.marykay.com/sharilyne/default.aspx) is giving away $10 gift certificates and free make-overs (in person or via Skype) to everyone who votes then lets us know they did so in the comments of this post. You can vote up to five times per day, so start clicking! J

And if you feel led, you can also meander over to the orphan ministries’ websites to give them a personal donation. I know they’ll put it to eternally good use.

***

Jennifer Slattery lives in the Midwest with her husband and daughter. She writes for Christ to the World Ministries, the ACFW Journal, Internet Café Devotions, and Jewels of Encouragement. You can connect with her online at her devotional blog at http://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.comor via Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/JenSlatte
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An Anniversary

A few days ago, June 16 came and went with no fanfare, no celebration, just very quietly. But that date was and is significant to me. June 16 was my eighth year of employment at my present job.

I am called to be a writer and speaker; but my “day-time” job is a business administrator for a church. Although I’ve been at this particular church for eight years, I have worked as a Church Business Administrator (CBA) for seventeen years.

 
I’ve had a lot of fun working as a CBA and I’ve had some sad times too. As in most jobs, there have been times of frustration and times of being so busy I couldn’t think straight by the end of the day. I’ve had some great laughs and there’ve been hard times when I’ve shed many tears.

My first position as a CBA was for a church with a paid staff (at its largest) of seven people. I started there in November, 1987. In January of that year, the church experienced a fire that gutted the sanctuary and most of the surrounding classrooms. When I joined the staff, the congregation was meeting across the street from its original location at the local high school while the building was being rebuilt. The offices were located in a house at the back of the church property.

I was there for the remainder of the rebuilding, the building of a new sanctuary (we outgrew the old one), the MOVE across the county line to the new property/sanctuary, the start of a preschool and kindergarten, the changes in staff, etc. A lot can happen in nine years. We had some funny times there although the laughs sometimes came after the fact…

… like the time I was completely alone in the building during lunch one hot, summer day. I don’t remember exactly where everyone was, but I do remember that the Senior Pastor had taken his youngest son to lunch. I went down the hall to the supply closet, got what I needed and was walking back up the hall, my mind completely focused on the next thing I needed to do. Out of the corner of my right eye, I spotted something on the floor. Thinking it was a rope, I headed in that direction to pick it up. However, the closer I got to the object, I realized it wasn’t a rope at all. It was a coiled snake. A live, coiled snake. I backed up, gave the snake a wide berth, and ran to my desk like the devil himself was after me. I paged the senior pastor and when he returned my call, the conversation went something like this:

Me: “You must get back here immediately! I don’t care where you are, whether you’ve eaten or not, or where you’re heading next. GET BACK HERE NOW!!!!!” (Of course, the first thing that pops into his mind is the building is on fire.)

            SP: “Why? What’s wrong? Is the building on fire?”

            Me: “No, but there is a HUGE snake coiled up in the hallway.”

            SP:  “A snake? Is that all?”

Me: “IS THAT ALL??  YOU BETTER GET BACK HERE RIGHT NOW AND KILL THIS THING OR I’M LEAVING AND I MAY NOT BE BACK!”

            He actually had the nerve to laugh before he hung up!

Thirty minutes later, the Senior Pastor and his son nonchalantly walked in. By that time, I was practically on top of my desk for fear of seeing that snake slither around the corner towards me. Upon seeing the size and type of snake, I was told it’s a harmless, 3-foot black snake. As far as I’m concerned, no snake is harmless, I don’t care what color it is. And it wasn’t 3 feet long; it was at least six feet long!

We had some sad times there…when some of our staff moved away, when members of the church passed away…and we had some hard times too, like most churches do. But for the most part, it was a job I enjoyed. When the Senior Pastor left to start another church, I knew I’d be leaving soon too. I had been there just under nine years and I was burned out. Most people find it hard to believe that church work can be so stressful. It is rewarding work, but stressful. I decided that I would never work as a CBA again. Never say “never” to God, unless you want to do exactly what you said you would not do. Eight years later, I was back working in a church as a CBA.

I just celebrated my eighth anniversary as the CBA at this church. It’s been a totally different experience because I don’t attend the church as a member—I’m just employed there. But I’ve never been made to feel as I’m “just an employee.” The Sunday before I began work, I was welcomed by the entire congregation. They have supported me when I’ve been ill, when my husband had surgeries, when my father was hospitalized and in a rehab center for a month and most recently, during the six times my mother has been hospitalized in the last two months. They have prayed with me and for me and my family. Try getting that kind of support and encouragement in a large corporation, like…well, you fill in the name of most any corporation.

It’s interesting. I never chose the career path of a Church Business Administrator. Obviously, God chose it for me. And it was a good choice.

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A Piece of Heaven by Joy McGee, Guest Blogger

I am delighted to host Joy McGee today. She has written a very moving tribute about my parents and my family. I am humbled and grateful that she was so blessed by God while visiting with my family yesterday.  Enjoy!

A piece of heaven

The clock struck three p.m. and out the door, I went; bag over my shoulder full of all things needed to cut hair. Two days ago, a dear friend of mine asked if I would come and cut her parents’ hair. Up in age, they are unable to get out of their home, and happily I accepted the opportunity to make a house call. I have met Mr. and Mrs. Evans on one other occasion under the same circumstance; however, since then they have had to move into their other daughter’s home (my friend’s sister) due to the decline of their health.

As I walked into this unfamiliar place, I was greeted with open arms full of hugs. They all knew me by name. How? I assume my friend had already told them of me but I couldn’t be sure. The way they said it, was as if it had been on their lips forever and within seconds, it felt like home. The walls busted at the seams with family members, all there to visit with the couple of sixty six years and to learn from the eyes that had seen much of this life. Did Mr. and Mrs. Evans know they were teaching as they sat in their seperate chairs there in the living room?; teaching of Christ’s love over each generation represented that gathered around them (three in all); teaching of commitment and loyalty. I doubt they did but I am certain that as laughter filled the air with stories and jokes floating through, the family learned. I cut hair with slow gentle hands and soaked the moments in…listening, smiling, witnessing. Jesus stroking the hearts of all. Love pouring out of every syllable spoken.

When my work was finished, fresh peaches and strawberries served over warm cream cheese bunt cake was brought to everyone in the room. I sat and ate, the sweet taste on my tongue, cacooned in the romance of my Abba through this wonderful family, listening to the rain. Such peace.

Departing was just as sweet, hugging the necks of all; each whispering words of thanks in my ear. Little did they know, the pleasure was all mine. I received such a blessing being in their midst, an outsider welcomed into this piece of heaven on earth. It will be a moment in time that will remain with me always.