Monday, October 1, 2012

The Tension of "Yet"


I have found myself constantly thinking about the word "yet."  It's a three letter word that carries a lot of weight and  meaning. On one side it means things to come, "Are we there yet?" "Is it done yet?" "Are you ready yet?" It includes a time of waiting. Lately when people ask how we are doing, I want to share of all that God has done and how he is providing. I have caught myself saying things like, "I know God will provide. The bills aren't due "Yet." I have felt personally challenged by this statement a lot lately. The truth is.....it is a fact. We have not had a standard paycheck in a year now but.all of our bills have been paid in one form or another.   So why is it that when I check our bank account from time to time my heart starts to beat a little faster and beads of sweat start to form along with the tightness in my chest when it looks like it's not going to be enough? In these moments....God has been whispering the word "Yet" to my soul. It's as if He is reminding me, "I may not be early, but I'm also not late."

My mom just got back from her first mission trip to Guatemala. As we were looking through the pictures of the children and the housing that is common among the residents of the village, we were discussing that they don't really seem to "Want" for anything. The joy on their faces is not plagued with a worry that they won't have what they need. I think growing up in America has spoiled me. When things don't happen on my watch and  the waiting stretches me outside of my comfort zone, I'm tempted to panic. It is so uncalled for. It's usually an indication that my comfort level has dropped. The more that this happens (and it's been happening frequently) the louder God says..."YET!"

Looking back over the past year and even before....my life has been a testimony of the YET of God. I see it. I know it. It doesn't feel easier. I believe God has to continually allow me to be in a position to SEE and LOOK for Him in the YET. If I always had the money for bills weeks in advance....I would become comfortable and content. But when the due date arrives and someone at lunch slides a check across the table for the amount that is due without knowing. Or when a friend that I haven't spoken to in a long time emails me to say..."I have written your name in my journal a lot the past few months. Would it be ok if I sent financial support to you and your husband through May?"  God forgive me for doubting you in the "Yet" moments.

The other definition I've been thinking about is when "yet" means: in spite of. My last summer in Vancouver, I was introduced to a song that would become my theme song in life. One that I would visit many times in the days ahead. The song is "Yet I will praise." I'm sure I've shared it with you before but as a reminder...



YET...I WILL praise You Lord.

Where are you today? Are you living in a "Yet" season? Do you think God has forgotten you? Do you think your struggle is too big to overcome? Does your mountain seem to high? Does your addiction seem too strong? Does your heart feel too broken? Are you too tired?

Don't give up. Our God is famous for the "Yet" seasons. When we come to the end of ourselves and in the midst of our situations are able to say "Yet I Will Praise," our perspectives change, we see our God is Greater, and we wait expectantly for how He chooses to work....not on OUR time....but on His, knowing He is NEVER late.

As hard as it is sometimes, I pray that I always remain in the tension of "yet"....knowing that I can wait expectantly while actively praising Him.

Continually striving for more of Him....and less of me.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Putting Down Roots

If you have known me long, you know that I am one to move. I don't mind change. I like an adventure. For only being 31, I have lived in a number of places. The time has come where I'm ready to put down some roots. The adventure now comes in staying, not going. We have a mission field all around us and we feel like in order to really have an impact, we have to become a neighbor, live among those we are serving, cultivate relationships...and that takes time.

In the beginning of the year, I wrote this blog: My Word for 2012: Cultivate.
Little did I know how prophetic that was in the sense that it has been an idea that has been so relevant to this season. It has also been the subject of many a sermon or bible study I've read so far this year.  Every time the word is mentioned, it stirs something in me.

It's got me thinking a lot about how I'm cultivating in different areas of my life. My friendships? My relationship with my husband? Family? Good health? Income? Ministry?

I've been reminded that it doesn't just happen. A good relationship or good friendship is not healthy if its not being cultivated on a continual basis. Good health doesn't "just" happen. It requires an intentional focus.

I want to leave a legacy of intentional cultivation. I want to look back 5 years from now and see the fruits of staying in \ our neighborhood. I want to have a stronger relationship with my husband, family and friends. I want to be deeper in love with the Lord in a way I never imagined. And ultimately....I want to be changed. Refined. Renewed.

Only when I take the time to cultivate my relationship with God can I be sure that I'm right where I need to be. Christy Nockels has a song on her new album called "For Your Splendor" that I put on repeat quite often.  The chorus reads:
 With my roots deep in you
I'll grow the branch that bears the fruitAnd though I’m small I'll still be standing in the storm.Cause I am planted by the river.By your streams of living water.And I'll grow up strong and beautiful, All for Your splendor Lord.
You can watch the entire video here:


So this is my prayer today. I so desperately want to face the storm with no fear because my roots are deep enough that I know I will weather the storm. I pray, you too, continue to cultivate the different areas of your life.

If you would like to read our full newsletter, you can do so here: The Paddocks Fall Newsletter 2012.

For His Renown,
Morgan

Saturday, September 1, 2012

A Different Kind of Love

This is a blog that's a little difficult to type, yet it has been on my mind A LOT lately and I feel like there are probably people out there that can identify. I think when you get to be in your 30's and married, family just seems to be on the brain. It's like this natural brain shift takes place and you find yourself always thinking about future and what your family will be like (at least I do). But somewhere in the back of your mind you think...IF I get to have a family. It seems like pregnancy is EVERYWHERE. One of my step sister's is pregnant, one already has a daughter, my sister in law is pregnant with her 2nd,
one of my close friends is as well, all of my college roommates are mom's (two of them have or will shortly have 4 kids). And I have this longing that goes deeper than you can put words to.  A longing be able to experience that same thing. I'm not bitter.  I don't want people to feel uncomfortable talking about their kids or feel like they have to hide their excitement. I am happy for them and get the blessing of being surrounded by beautiful children. But there is just that longing.

If you can identify you know that you catch yourself looking at the baby stuff in target, you're always making faces and trying to get the baby in the the check out line or restaurant to smile or laugh at you, you get teary eyed in every movie that has a parenting theme. Glenn and I desire to have a family, but sometimes I wonder what that family will look like. Will they be our flesh and blood? Will we adopt? Will it look like it does now? Playing parent to the kids God brings in our path? And if it's not the first, will God still be good? Will it be "enough"? Sometimes, honestly, I want to say, "no God...it's not enough, " but I know that's not truth.  When I was younger, if you asked me what I wanted to be, I would have said, "A preacher's wife and a mom." Those were my two greatest desires. The first is in progress, but the second.....we'll see. (note: I'm not saying we can't have children, we just haven't yet and so this is all hypothetical if I'm not able to get pregnant.)

While working with inner city youth, we have been given the names, "Mama Morgan and Papa Glenn," and one kid just straight up calls us "mom and dad." We go to sporting events. We have family time: We play games. We watch  movies together. When they act up we have the hard conversations. We laugh. We make them turn off their cell phones when we have quality time. We cry. I sometimes lay awake and worry. Our phone rings at all different times. We are always looking out for their best interest even if they don't understand. We go grocery shopping and they put all manner of things in the basket. They talk back. They get mad. They give hugs. They show love. We provide a safe place. A respite. A place of laughter and love. We give truth in love. We teach boundaries.

We were talking about peace one day when we were working with middle school students at Rescue Atlanta. One of the questions on their worksheet was "Where do you feel most at peace?" My eyes filled with tears as I read sheet after sheet that said, "Morgan and Glenn's House."

Glenn and I catch each other's eyes all the time and have that unspoken moment of "this is what matters." But then the kids go home and the house is quiet and the longing is louder than ever. We went to a church last week and the pastor was speaking on singleness, but he was addressing the goodness of God even when things don't go the way we want. He shared his own personal struggle with not being able to have kids and all the experiences that come with it....but said, "Maybe it's not how God wants me to experience Him" And he talked about not lamenting things but using your situation as leverage for the Kingdom.

While I desire more than anything to be a mom, what if its not God's plan for us? What if being a Mom would prevent me from being invested and flexible to be in all of these youth's lives? What if it would prevent us from being flexible and mobile to GO and do whatever God calls? What if?

So as I wrestle for a place of peace on the issue, I'm reminded that God is good. God is in control, and at the end of the day....it's not about me. I want to be used how HE would have me to be used. To have children of our own, adopt, or to be positive role models in the lives of at risk youth. Maybe it's all three.

There are moments when this path feels too hard. It's hard to struggle to stay where we are. It would be easier to find a good paying job and move. It's hard not knowing how the bills will get paid, or trying to budget with the little you have and struggle with going to games and going to pick up kids because you feel like you don't have the money to drive all over town or pay admission fees. And then I realize....these are the struggles of the people we are reaching. I have compassion on a new level for some of these families situations. But I also know that God is always providing in ways that we know is only HIM.

Anyway, I'm rambling. I just wanted to share because I never really understood that internal struggle until recently and I'm aware that some of my friends may be in that same spot. I wanted to say...you're not alone.

So while we are waiting.... these are some of the moments when my heart feels full, and it feels like enough for that moment.

Thanks for reading,
Morgan



kids falling asleep on our couch






Saturday, August 4, 2012

City Boy with Country Dreams

Yesterday was one of the most rewarding days I've had in Atlanta. We started the Dream Campaign process with one of our students. We'll call him Jay. Jay is the kid who is ALWAYS in trouble. Big trouble. He has been one of those students that frustrates the heck out of me but yet I labor in prayer over at night. He has had a challenging up bringing and I find myself always battling that line of truth and grace. I understand why he is angry, yet I still have to set boundaries and expect respect.

One night Glenn and I picked Jay up and took him out to dinner wherever he wanted to go. His pick - Golden Corral. On our way, we just asked him a lot of questions and discovered that he REALLY loves the country. This totally took me by surprise, but when I looked back at his dreams, it made sense. He wanted to go fishing, ride a four wheeler and ride a horse.  We have dear friends who have a place called Third Day Ranch where all of the above could take place. We had scheduled a trip once before but canceled it because Jay's behavior was bad. However...yesterday we decided to take him and his cousin for an afternoon of swimming and seeing the horses. We believed that this would plant the seed that his dreams CAN be a reality, however it also provides incentive for good behavior. I was completely thrilled when we saw the results. See, Jay usually walks around like he is angry at the world, however as we got off the interstate and got further and further into the countryside....the anger and intensity of him almost melted away.

When we got to Aunt Penny's, he immediately wanted to see the horses, but we told him that would come later on in the evening. First...swimming. Jay and his cousin swam and played. Jay challenged himself and kept stretching his swimming abilities, overcoming fears. I snapped this picture of him "relaxing", something I had never seen before.


After a meal of 2 grilled hamburgers, Cheetos and Fanta there was more swimming and then Jay disappeared. I walked around the side of the house and this is what I saw....Jay was watching the horses from the other side of the fence. .I LOVE this shot. It encompasses what the Dream Campaign is all about.


When we walked up to the house Jay asked me if he could please help clean out the dog kennels. Aunt Penny and her husband have 11 dogs. Who ASKS to clean out the kennel. So Wayne went with him and together they cleaned.


Then it was time.....we all made our way down to the barn where Aunt Penny introduced Jay to all of the horses and taught the boys how to cut up and measure the food for the horses. Jay listened to every word and followed directions.




After feeding the horses, we packed up and got ready to head back to the city. Penny and Wayne talked to Jay about the importance of doing well in school and having good behavior. They made a plan with him that he could come back to the ranch whenever he wants and depending on his behavior, they have some incentives and rewards lined out such as riding the horses, driving the 4 wheelers, etc. Did I mention that Jay wants to be a veterinarian when he grows up? Penny is setting it up for Jay to come out when their vet comes to the ranch so they can meet and Jay can shadow him. 

On the way home (until he passed out from exhaustion) he talked a mile a minute about all of the horses and things he learned. Right before he went to sleep he said, "I'm gonna be really good this year."

A dream. A taste of something he loves. Motivation. Hope.

This is why the Dream Campaign exists. 

To learn more about  the Dream Campaign please visit our  Dream Campaign Facebook Page
 or if you are interested in making a donation to our cause or to purchase a tshirt please email Morgan: morgan@helpmedream.org

You can also see the entire photo album of Jay's visit: Jay's Trip to the Country



Thursday, July 26, 2012

We are practicing what we preach and following our dreams


We are doing it.....we are going all in and diving head first into making the Dream Campaign a 501c3.
(we typed this up to go on our website that is COMING SOON ) :)

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”  This is a question that most of us have been asked in our life time. The response is usually met with answers like, “ I want to be an astronaut, a doctor, a singer, a lawyer, a teacher, an artist…..or if you were me, a clown!” J However, when we asked some of our students in the inner-city what they wanted to be when they grew up they said, “ Work at McDonald’s, the skating rink, Six Flags.”  Those were not the answers we were expecting to hear.

Through a series of conversations and activities we discovered that many of these youth simply had not been taught  or empowered to dream. We spent some time working with them to stretch their imagination or hope factor for the future and after a few weeks I asked them to write down 3 things they have always wanted to do, places they always wanted to go, or things they always wanted to learn more about.  The answers revealed a heartbreaking discovery. Many of these youth had not experienced basic positive childhood experiences that many take for granted. “I want to go fishing. I want to learn how to ride a bike. “  When it came to the future we started getting answer like, “I want to learn how to do hair. I want to be a coach. I want to learn how to draw.”

There are a large number of at-risk youth in this generation who are living with no hope or dream for tomorrow. They are giving up in school and failing because they have no care of a GPA or college because it doesn’t feel like an option. They are joining gangs, getting in trouble and not caring about the consequences because the opportunities for success and happiness feel limited.  We decided we could not sit back and watch without offering hope of a different path.

The Dream Campaign’s mission is “to empower at-risk youth by teaching them to identify, pursue and achieve their dreams through a series of positive experiences, mentoring, and leadership development.”

We are in the process of filing for our 501c3. Please pray for favor and a speedy turn around. Please check back for updates and looks for opportunities to be involved and support these amazing youth. We will be starting with a program in Atlanta and Savannah.  In the meantime….consider buying a Dream Campaign 
t-shirt to help us spread the word and support these efforts.  Tshirts (which are navy blue) are $15 and can be ordered by emailing me at Morgan@helpmedream.org.



Until then, we’ll keep dreaming til’ our dreams come true.

Blessings, 
Morgan Paddock

Friday, June 29, 2012

Scrambled Thoughts

Sorry if these seems scattered. I think my mind feels numb.
I  apologize for not typing more blogs lately, but things have changed so much everyday that I was waiting until I actually had something of substance to report. I wish I still had something of substance to report.

Glenn and I are in Louisiana. We have gone on a tour of the southeast this past week. We went to Alabama to see friends, then on to one of my best friends weddings in Florida, visited family in Mississippi, and we're wrapping up with some time with friends and family in Louisiana. I'll do another post with pictures and stories. I'm definitely feeling like I need a vacation after vacation.

This has been an odd trip home for me. I haven't been (home) to Louisiana in 1.5 years. This is the longest stretch between visits. In fact, the last time I was at many of these places, I was at a very different point in my life. Going back to some places brought with it much joy in seeing people I love, but also dredged up some painful memories. Some relationships picked up right where they left off, and others were very strained. I think I've laughed and cried equally on this trip. And I'm having to face the harsh reality that at some point...Things change. People change. I change.

I am however thankful to experience these places through a new set of eyes through my husband. Glenn had not been to any of these places with me prior to this trip and we started the process of creating new memories. It was definitely fun to experience some of my favorite things and places with him as "firsts." And never did he question me or harp on me in one of my emotional moments or awkward situations. He was just...there. His presence was calming. I know I say it a lot, but I can't tell you how thankful I am to have this man in my life. He is a constant source of comfort and encouragement for me.

So as we leave here tomorrow we are setting out on the next leg of our adventure. While in Louisiana we received a call that we needed to be moved out of our current house by the end of Tuesday of next week. That pretty much gives us Sunday afternoon, Monday, and Tuesday to get the new house ready, the old house packed up, moved, and cleaned. And we already have meetings scheduled in Savannah next week starting on Wednesday as we start a new adventure together as full time urban missionaries, start a non profit, and go back into the world of raising support and become fully immersed in the inner city neighborhood we are moving into.  I've been struggling with trying to accept the fact that not everyone will understand or even support this decision and as a person who was a "people-pleaser" most of my life, this is a tough pill to swallow.  My life path has been anything but "ordinary" and as a result sometimes lonely, but I know that this is the path God has called us on. He has made that very evident as the necessary doors have open and closed to guide us here.

If it sounds like I'm complaining, I'm not. It's just a place of processing a lot about myself and the reality of our situation. I'm actually excited about everything that is ahead for us. But I feel like I'm entering a new chapter in my life in so many ways and it sometimes feels very overwhelming when it seems like "Everything" changes at once. 

One thing is for sure...God has provided each step of the way in completely unexpected ways...even on this trip.  He continues to confirm this next step of our journey in so many ways. I leave you with a picture of our new "home sweet home" to be. We greatly appreciate your prayers in the coming days. I'll have more finalized announcements when we get everything sorted out.



Thanks to the people who have been prayer supporters, financial supports, and just overall good friends and encouragement through this season. Trust me when I say I thank God for you ALL the time.

Blessings,
Morgan 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Time Read 3:47am


So I mentioned on my Facebook status the other day that I kept waking up the past few nights at 3:47. I wouldn't have thought much about waking up in the middle of the night because I've had trouble sleeping, but why did I always seem to look at my phone at 3:47 exactly?

So...I tried to look up verses in the bible that were 3:47...there's only two and I knew neither one of them pertained to my situation. That is when a friend of mine suggested I look at 34:7......and Psalms to be exact.

Here is what Psalms 34:7 says: " The Angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and rescues them."

I was dumbfounded....could it be that God kept waking me up at that exact time so I would have an inkling to search his Word for this truth? I believe so. I believe God can use anything He wants to lead us to His truth.

It has been a tough week as much unknown is ahead the coming days. I am a planner and for me...this is stretching me in a serious way to not know what will happen in a few short weeks. What we will be doing, where we will be living, etc. And in the middle of the night when my mind was racing around these things, I believe God was trying to say...... through a stinking clock..."I've got this."

I imagine the Angel of the Lord pitching tents around my life......and because I fear the Lord....I will be rescued - let out of the woods on the right path.

That is comforting.

Our God is creative....and He can and will use ANYTHING to get our attention..
Even a simple clock.

For His Renown,
Morgan


Saturday, June 2, 2012

In The Meantime...

Do you ever find yourself in those moments where you just kind of have to put ...........?
I'm calling it the "in the meantime" season. That place where you know where you are and the needs of what lies ahead but you don't know how or when you'll get there. It could be needing money to pay the bills, waiting for a job, waiting to get a call from an adoption agency, waiting to take that pregnancy test, waiting for the college acceptance letter, waiting for that phone call after a date, waiting for the diagnosis or waiting to see if they accept your offer on a house. There are a lot of things it could be, but it all involves a lot of waiting and a lot of question marks. So what do you do "in the meantime?"

Glenn and I are in that season. I'm going to be really candid and share with you because it's not a secret, not anyone's fault, and we could use the prayer support. When we came on staff with our current ministry 7 months ago, we raised enough money to support ourselves for the first few months. After that, there was supposed to be another source of income coming into the ministry that would cover our salaries. To make a long story short that income has been delayed by about 6 months and completely out of our control. The ministry  has covered our rent and bills the past few months, however they have said they can not guarantee that they will be able to cover July's bills or anything after due to lack of finances. So.....here we are.............................................................................................................................................................
Did you catch the number of dots?  No one is to blame.  It doesn't mean God is not faithful. It just is what it is.

However with rent and bills due in another few weeks and no income coming in we're left with a big fat question mark. We feel like God brought us here, but was it for different reasons than we once thought? What it a vehicle to a different path? It's hard to walk out a calling that requires you to depend on others for support. Sometimes it is a lonely road and I wonder if people think, "will she ever get a REAL job?" But in those moments, I don't feel the need to defend myself.....it's just the nature of what we do. We have no choice but to keep our options open in the meantime, but what does that look like?  I asked some friends what they do in these moments and one of them said, "I try to focus on a goal that can be accomplished in the midst of the wait...something that calls out to be done, can be done right now, and that will prepare you for wherever HE ends up leading you." So what does it look like to "actively" wait?


Well...I've been reading one of the greatest books I've ever read "The Circle Maker" by Mark Batterson. It's subtitle is "Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears." God has put some really big dreams in my heart the past few months and I've decided to be proactive in praying around those dreams. I have decided to make The Dream Campaign its own 501c3 which will take some time, but it will allow me to make a difference in the lives of inner city youth no matter what happens or where God takes us. I think it was a God idea and He has provided the support and affirmation through numerous individuals.  We will continue to walk out our ministry where He has placed us, all the while sending emails and just asking God to open and shut the necessary doors for us to be right where He wants us to be, be it here in Atlanta or elsewhere. God has placed some people in my life this week that I think will be influential in my life for a very long time. I'm reminded that God can and will use anything for His glory.


I've spent a lot of time on my back porch the past few days enjoying the sunshine, listening to the birds, reading, and honestly just spending some sweet time with the Lord. What I can say is that with all of the question marks and dots.....my soul is at peace. I went out yesterday and got a sketch book that is my dream book. I created my own visual of prayer circles and will spend a good portion of this next month praying circles around these dreams and fears. 




God woke me up this morning with the word "Ebeneezer" on my mind. It means " thus far the Lord has helped us." I believe it was a kiss from the Holy Spirit as I opened my eyes. 


I promised when I first created this blog that I would share the good, bad and the ugly of our journey and this is  some of the "Days in the Paddock's Life.". I'm continually reminded that God has hemmed us in, behind and before. He is faithful. He has set our feet on solid ground. He is with us and He will not abandon us. 


I guess this is just part of the adventure :) I am expectantly waiting and praying to see what God is going to do. It's in His hands so I can rest knowing we are safe there.


Thanks for your prayers.


For His Renown,
Morgan




Monday, May 14, 2012

Our Crazy Blessed Life

When we took our engagement pictures, we used the term "Crazy Blessed" in some of them.....oh how incredibly true and prophetic that was. A short 6.5 months ago, I never would have imagined my life being exactly like it is in this moment. I'm so thankful that God doesn't always let me in on what He is doing, because I would probably screw it up and greatly alter the path He has for me.  I almost stopped doing youth ministry. I said I was finished. And today... I can't imagine my life without the kids at Rescue Atlanta.


Saturday, I had a Birthday BBQ at my house. We had about 20 kids there. We opened the front door and the back door and it was almost like the cartoons with kids literally running circles around and through our house. I didn't worry about dirt or a mess being made. They were having a blast. There was tons of laughter, football, croquet, and my favorite part.....dreams being created. We set up a back drop and took pictures of all of the kids holding up their dreams for the Dream Campaign.  For my 31st birthday I wished to raise $1200 to start the process of helping inner city kids dreams come true. We are over half way there with 18 days left, so if you haven't had a chance to check it out...please do...every little bit helps. I am believing that we will hit our goal.

I was blessed to be able to take 2 sisters to the Aveda Institute of Atlanta where one of their dreams was granted. They spent the day shadowing students there, learning about a career in cosmetology and receiving a free hair treatment. It was awesome to see them smile. You could almost see their mind racing with ideas and dreams. That is the whole goal. They tasted a tiny part of what could be and are motivated. Here is a video of them reflecting on their experience.

And this is a picture of us after getting our "hair did" :)


This was one of my greatest birthdays ever. I feel like I've FINALLY found that niche in my life where I am incredibly passionate about something. Incredibly. I go to bed and wake up motivated and excited. My phenomenal husband made my birthday extremely special. I tell ya, I thank God every day for blessing me with a man who loves me far greater than I could ever hope for on this earth. He brings out the best in me, loves me when I feel unlovable, believes in me and is an incredible spiritual leader in our home. Thank you Glenn Paddock for sharing this CRAZY BLESSED life with me. As amazing as it already is, I feel the best is yet to come. I love you!



For His Renown,
Morgan

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A New Sense of Freedom



I am resting in God's goodness and reminded of His faithfulness today. Yesterday was one of those milestone events in the Paddock Household. As many of you may know, my husband, Glenn, has an incredibly testimony of God's grace and redemption. Click here to read: Glenn's Story.

To sum it up, Glenn had a radical coming to faith, but even after God saved him, he had to pay for the consequences of his past actions. He did some actual time in jail...actually he had violated the terms of his probation and a few months after becoming a Christian he actually went and turned himself in. Thankfully after serving a short sentence the judge ordered him to finish his sentence by completing the program at the Old Savannah City Mission. Although his "time" was done, he still had 3 years of probation left.

Well...the limitations of that probation meant we always had to have a travel voucher if we crossed out of the state lines. We couldn't leave the country. Always had to call in. Always had to pay. Well...yesterday Glenn called to find out what the final balance was on his payments and after he was told he paid it off. Then he said, "when is my probation finished?"  (He had been thinking it was May 15th.) That's when the officer said..."May 7th, that's today. Your probation is over today. I'll start your paperwork." I think Glenn heard the angels in Heaven sing for a moment.

I came across the office and gave him a long hug as tears filled my eyes.....it is finished. No limitations. Freedom. And because it was a first offender's charge, his records will be wiped clean. It will not hinder him. I have never seen my husband smile as much as he smiled yesterday. We went out to dinner last night to "Celebrate" and I will never forget him saying, "I feel like a whole man again."

I am letting you into this personal moment of ours because it IS part of our testimony. It is a day in our life. God has used it to remind me of the fact that Christ wiped our slate clean. HE gave us ultimate freedom. And while there are times when we have to pay the consequences of our actions, at the end of the day, if we accept Christ as our Savior, the One who paid our debts.....we are free.  I am thankful that God allowed me to see it in a different light to tangibly grasp that feeling of "my chains are gone, I've been set free" through my husband's eyes.

I also share this because I know there are people in this world who have messed up and are having to live out the consequences of a past life. And I'm sure there are days when it feels like you're never going to be able to live out your new life in Christ. I'm sure my husband would tell you to hang on. And that every bit of his life, good decisions and bad, all led him to this point. I also know he would tell you it has all worked together for the good. It is his testimony.  Every day, God is using him, to pour into the lives of other men who are walking a path that he once did through the Urban Training Institute.

Thank You God for your faithfulness.......and for allowing us to walk this exact road because we know it is for YOUR renown. I am so thankful for my husband. I am so proud of my husband. And I am loving the look of confidence and freedom in his eyes. It is amazing.

Please keep us in your prayers as we serve each day to make a difference in the lives of people God brings into our path. Please check out one of those ways here by reading about The Dream Campaign and discover how you can be involved in making a huge difference by helping dreams come true.

For His Renown,
Morgan


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes


I'm quickly approaching my 31st birthday and gifts are becoming less and less important while making an impact is on the top of my wish list. It's no secret that working with the inner city youth at Rescue Atlanta had pretty much captured my heart these days. I grow to love these kids a little more everyday and grow attached to them every week. We are becoming a family where we can say hard things in love and laugh together at the same time. We've had a consistent group that has started coming every week and we are slowly but surely seeing some changes in kids lives. I got to have a conversation with a 10 year old a few weeks ago about what it means to be a Christian and this past week one of our students drew us a picture to hang in our office after attending a Man Up Conference a few weeks ago.

We started asking our kids about what they dream of doing and their answers reflected the lack of dreams. It bothered me....a lot....and I knew that we were supposed to do something about it. I made up a little informational sheet and at the bottom they had a few questions:
1. What do you want to be when you grow up?
2. What are 3 things you've always wanted to do or places you've always wanted to go?
3. What do you want to learn more about?

I told them if it took the entire class time to come up with 3 things that was fine, but they weren't leaving til they had 3 things on paper. I spent some time coaching them on examples of dreaming, brainstorming, thinking out side of the box. When I read over their papers after class my heart was very tender. We have some kids who have never been on a boat. Some wanted to ride a horse. One young man wanted to go to an NFL game and learn how to be a coach. Another young man wants to go into business. We had students who want see Africa, learn more about missionaries, try different food from around the world. I was seeing their dreams on paper and my heart almost leaped out of my chest. Many of these are doable. Many of these are attainable.

My mind automatically started racing. The first phone call I made was to the Aveda Institute which is a cosmetology school. One of my girls loves to do hair and wanted to learn about schooling. The lady at the school was SO nice and immediately responded in a positive way. So I now have plans of taking two young ladies to the school in a week where they will be given a tour, shadow a student, informed about that career, and receive a complimentary hair service before they leave. When I told the young women about the opportunity they couldn't wipe the smile off their face.....I saw it....excitement....hope....

So in honor of my inner city kids and kids I have yet to meet. I have created "The Dream Campaign". My birthday wish is to raise $1200 to help at least one dream for each kid come true. Some I can set up for free, others will cost money. I have a webpage with a short video about it and a place to donate. Check it out here:The Dream Campaign

I hope you will consider supporting this and spreading the word. There is no better birthday gift than to know that kids lives are being impacted in a positive way.

Much Love.

For His Renown,
Morgan

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The "What-If" Moments


This picture accurately depicts my heart and mind some days.

Unfortunately,  I am a worrier by nature.  The words "What-If" are always swirling in my mind. My husband can attest to this. I can't tell you how many times he has said, "Morgan, I'm just gonna trust God. He is pretty good at what He does. If I try to handle it on my own, I'm gonna screw it up." That's the type of response I WANT to have, but why is it so hard to sometimes trust that God WILL do what He says He is going to do? I recently picked up a devotional book called "Trusting God: A Life Without Worry" by Women of Faith. (Ladies, I got it at SAMS Club for less than $6, if you're interested.) I thought to myself, "now this is something I need to read."

I've started doing them first thing in the morning when I get to work. Today's devotional was about Issac's Unforgettable Love Story (Read Genesis 24) and dealt with the "what-ifs" in life. I've read this story numerous times but I learned something new today. Just to catch everyone up to speed: Issac was the Son of Abraham and Sarah. Because God had promised that Abraham would be the father of many nations, his son Issac would have to have a son.  The first order of business was to find him a bride, but the bride needed be suitable (aka love the Lord). "What if" Issac couldn't find a suitable bride?

So Abraham gave one of his trusted servant's specific instructions to go and find a suitable wife for his son, Issac. Wow...what kind of pressure is that? Can you imagine the "what-ifs" the servant had? Instead of "worrying" about the situation, he laid out a very specific prayer request to God. 

"Lord, God of my master Abraham, " he prayed, "give me success today, and show kindness to my master Abraham.  I am standing here at the spring where my daughters of the man of the town are coming out to draw water.  Let the girl to whom I say, 'Please lower the water jug, so that I may drink,' and who responds, 'Drink, and I'll water your camels also' - let her be the one You have appointed for Your servant Issac.  By this I will know that You have shown kindness to my master." (Genesis 24:12-14)

Wow. What a SPECIFIC prayer to God. It made me wonder why I am not that specific in a prayer request. Why don't I pour out the details of my heart instead of saying things like, "God you know the situation." It made me think about having lunch with a girlfriend and how we can talk and talk and talk. What if I looked at her and just said..."well...ya know."  That doesn't leave much room for conversation.  I wonder when the last time was that I prayed a bold prayer of expectation....specific enough that if it happened, I just KNEW it had to be God's intervention. I know it has been awhile since I was THAT specific.  Well, you can believe it will start today.

The other part that I noticed is that by praying a specific prayer (which God answered before the servant had even finished the prayer) 2 amazing things happened:

1. The servant was able to testify to Rebekah and her family his specific prayer request and how God answers. It was a huge testimony to how God works in our lives.

2. When Rebekah's family was asked if she would stay with the family or go to be joined with Issac, the family responded by saying, "This is from the Lord; we have no choice in the matter." (Genesis 24:50)

How comforting to know that we can bring every detail of our lives to the heart of the Father - even the "what-ifs". In addition to that, when we pray specific prayers to God, when He answers them, (which He ALWAYS does, by yes, no, or wait), we can say "This is from the Lord."

It definitely helps those leaps of faith feel less scary when we know that Sovereign God, the one who has absolutely everything under control , is directing our steps and is in the details.

What are the "What-ifs" in your life right now? I encourage you to join me in taking your Question Marks to God and allow Him to add the Period. It will testify to the fact that your journey will be full of Exclamation Points!

For His Renown,
Morgan

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Impact of Learning to Man Up


I've experienced a lot of amazing moments in my years of youth ministry, but one of the top three was being able to be a part of the Man Up Conference in Atlanta last weekend. Man Up 2012 was a conference put on by Reach Life Ministries/Reach Records and was geared towards men in the urban context. There were amazing teaching sessions by top urban ministry leaders.  Worship was led by Anthony Evans (You may have seen him on the TV show:The Voice) and amazing Christian Rap and Hip Hop Artists, such as Lecrae, Andy Mineo, Tedashi, Trip Lee and others gave an amazing concert finale. Honestly, it was one of the best concerts I've ever experienced.  We were blessed that Man Up provided scholarships for our guys and gave them an opportunity to experience a once in a lifetime event that left a profound impact on them. Although this was a "Mens Only" event, I was able to be a part of it by volunteering with an incredible team of hardworking people. We housed them all in our home and although an exhausting schedule, I went to bed smiling, knowing they were there and we were able to love on them for the whole weekend. We are thankful for ministries and people who provide these amazing opportunities for our youth and adults at Rescue Atlanta. I thought everyone should read a little about how Man Up 2012 impacted our men:

"The Man Up Conference was one of the most phenomenal conferences that has taken Man hood to a different level.  The Christian rappers motivated me to be a more responsible man; a man with courage and a man who doesn't envy others. As men, we have to be willing to live by the bible." AJ - age 15

"I learned that the man can have lots of encouragement and can be a godly man. Also, it made me feel like I can do better than what I'm doing now and be a better man." Avery - age 15

"It was everything I imagined it to be.  It was lots of fun, but there was also a good Word given.  We met lots of artists and inspiring people.  They had a Word on what a biblical man is.  To me, a man is to live right by God.  It is everything that you are supposed to do and more.  But everything was a good experience over the weekend." LeQuardis - Age 16

"I learned a lot of stuff at the Man Up Conference.  I would like to come back to Man Up.  It was the best place I ever went."  Jamontay - age 13

"What I learned at the Man Up Conference is that is doesn't take just a brave or a muscle man to be a real man.  A man should have courage and be a responsible man, stop with childish games, and Man Up." Malik - age 14

"I learned how to be a biblical man at the Man Up conference.  It was a thrill. I had a great time.  I loved the music." DeAndre - age 13

"What man Up means to me is to be a biblical man.  Man up is when you learn how to step up.  You can finally say that you are a "man."  You can finally take that step." Cameron - age 13

"I learned a man doesn't have to be macho to be a man.  Jesus is a prime example of a man." Travis - age 13

We had one man from our Urban Training Institute to attend. I asked him, as a grown man, to share what it means to "Man Up" and his thoughts on the conference.

" Man Up means living the good life in Jesus Christ, My Lord and Savior.  Man Up mean taking responsibility for my actions and not putting the blame on others.  Man Up means providing for my family when I know that God gave me the ability to do so.  Man Up means keeping the Lord's commandments everyday.  Man Up means to be submissive to the Lord Jesus everyday in every way.  Man Up means having Godly communication with my spouse and friends.  Man Up means putting on the whole armor of God so that I can overcome the evil that is in this world.  Man Up means praising God for who He is and what He has done for me.  Man Up means putting away childish things.  Man Up mean that trusting in the Lord with all my heart.  Man Up means realizing that I can do nothing without Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior! Man Up means this life I live on earth is not about me, it's about living according to the Lord's will, for He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords."

"I especially enjoyed the music and performances.  I loved the fact that there was over 2,000 men of all nationalities that were in one accord praising Jesus Christ without fighting one another.  I felt the presence of the Holy Ghost throughout the whole Man Up convention.  Who else but the Holy Spirit can orchestrate something like the Man Up Convention where people can come and let loose their inner being while worshiping the good Lord Jesus? My hope and faith has been increased simply by being present  at Man Up 2012.  For me, it was a once in a lifetime experience."  Wayne - age 47
 

Glenn and I sat in the back of the room during the finale concert and just observed and were honestly overwhelmed with thankfulness and emotion as tears filled our eyes and we reached over for the others hand. Our Sunday middle school class ends each week with our youth watching the video and singing the song "Background" by Lecrae. It was definitely an emotional moment to know they were belting this song at the top their lungs right along with him at the concert....seeing one of their role models in person giving everything  his all.  This is why we do what we do. This is worth all the sacrifice, all the hard times, all the asking, all the good times, all the bad times. We desperately desire for the people we work with, especially the youth, to have a life changing encounter with God. We will stop at nothing to provide them with every opportunity to help them see there there is more to life than what they see in the hood and that a very loving and personal God cares about them and will pursue their hearts with intensity.

Man Up.

For His Renown,
Morgan

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

When I Grow Up: Helping Kids Dream


The longer I do inner city ministry, the more smiles and sorrow it brings me. I celebrate the innocence of a child when I find it. I grieve the loss of innocence in a child when it's apparent they have had to grow up ahead of their time.

Last week was spring break, so I had the opportunity to spend more time with some of the children and youth than I normally would in a typical week. I took one young girl out to lunch one day. I wanted to take her somewhere that she may not normally get to go. I took her to a sit down restaurant. Her eyes were wide looking all around the room. There were TV's everywhere. I told her she could order anything she wanted. She ordered a cheeseburger. I ordered a burger as well with a little difference on the toppings. Our waiter had told me that he had come up with 1/2 of the burger (idea of toppings) and assured me it would be great.  When the plates were set in front of us, the little girl said..."How do they make it look like that?"  To me, it was nothing more than a burger on a plate, but to her, it looked like a masterpiece, the way it was plated. About half way through my burger I said, "Wow, the waiter was right, that was really good" and without skipping a beat, the little girl said, "That must have been the half he made." I just want to bottle up those moments and save them for many of these kids. It was an innocent precious and rare moment.

Later in the week I had a conversation with a young woman who expressed her interest in experimenting with dating other girls. I simply said, "What's wrong with boys?" I will never forget her response. She said, "Well at least if I date a girl I don't have to worry about getting a black eye." My heart sank. Is that what a relationship with the opposite sex had been reduced to? Not getting a black eye? 

As Glenn and I have asked some of the youth what they want to do when they grow up the answers have been something along the lines of "I'm gonna work at McDonald's, the skating rink, or six flags." (Not that it's bad, we need people to do those jobs), but what it showed me was that our kids aren't dreaming. What happened to wanting to be doctors or teachers even if it didn't happen?

We are committed to helping our kids dream and dream big. I believe that with hard work and determination, these kids can be the first in their family to go to college, or do something they really love. One of our girls likes to do hair, so I'm planning on taking her to the Aveda Institute for our birthday (we share the same one)  to get our nails done, but with the thought of exposing her to the possibility of getting trained in something she loves to do that would provide a good living. Just to simply give light to another option. Give hope for a life more than what she knows right now.

I may not come from the exact situation our kids do, but I know that I sell myself short on so many things the Lord wants to do in me, for me, and through me. I get tunnel vision and think that what I've known is what I'll always know. Or if I fail to succeed at something I set out to do, I quit, become frustrated, and eventually hopeless.

“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” Ephesians 3:20 

 “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”  Philippians 4:13

This is true for adults as well. It is never too late to start dreaming again. You are never too old to dream. Sure, there may be some physical limitations...but there is always something within reach. Don't be afraid to take a leap of faith. If you are comfortable and not being stretched in any area of your life, maybe it's time to start dreaming again.

Please pray for our kids. Pray that they will start dreaming beyond their current circumstances and that God will give us favor with designing creative ways to encourage them in their journey.

What do you want to be when you grow up?
If you were to dream big, what would you do?

Has God put a dream in your heart and you're afraid to take the first step?
If God put it there....He will give you the tools needed to accomplish it.
If you have taken the first step on a hard and winding road....don't give up.
You never know what God may have around the next bend.

For His Renown,
Morgan

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired

It gets harder to blog when I'm not talking "about" stuff going on and instead have to blog about me. I'm sitting here the night before Easter feeling almost disconnected. I'm going back and forth between feelings of "it doesn't feel like Easter" and "but we should carry Easter in us every day." There's no Easter dress, or family get together this year. I'll be doing an Easter egg hunt with kids during the Easter Sermon, and I realize....I have to make the time to reflect on the day, not because it's something "Created" for me.


There is something else happening tomorrow that it will be a milestone in our time here at Rescue Atlanta. Tomorrow marks the beginning of Rescue Atlanta's Urban Training Institute. This will be a 6 month residential program for men who are "sick and tired of being sick and tired" and "mature in their misery." They will go through various classes, training, mentoring, etc to give them the tools necessary to change their life. My husband, Glenn, will be overseeing the program. He is a product of the Urban Training Institute in Savannah, GA and it is really an amazing thing to see his life kind of come back full circle to be able to guide/mentor a group of men. He has sat where they sit and knows what it takes. I couldn't be more proud as a wife.  Please keep this program in your prayers. I'll type more on this later this week.

But the whole idea of it has been on my mind a lot this week and kind of came to a head today. As some of you may know, I have started out on my own journey to better health repeatedly over the past 10 + years. I'll always say..."This is it."..."No turning back.".....etc, etc etc. Only to find myself sitting here months later..in the same place. I'll start, but never finish. I'll give it my best shot, and then trip up and fall off the wagon. I repeat bad habits. And then I end up feeling like the girl who cried wolf. I feel like people read my new attempts and say..."Yeah right." Really...I don't blame them. I create blogs and facebook groups for accountability....and then drop off the face of the earth.

This week, I reconnected with a friend of mine from college on Facebook. The first thing he asked me was..."Are you still doing the pleasingly plump diaries? (This was a blog/facebook group I created for an honest view of my journey). I really enjoyed reading it.  I've lost over 100 lbs in the past year." It was as if a knife of conviction went straight to my gut. Here I was the person setting out to be an example, giving out hope and inspiration...and someone else did what I set out to do. Thanks to that friend, because he caused me to take an honest look at my life. In general...not just weight.

One of the key requirements for the Urban Training Institute is that the men enrolling be "sick and tired of being sick and tired." Why? Because that's really the only way they will make the changes necessary. If there is another way, another out, another option that still holds some sort of intrigue to them....they will, by default, take it.  And I've discovered that it is the same way with me. I need that same standard. I sat out on the porch this afternoon and just whispered to God..."God..I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired..in so many areas of my life. I can't live like this anymore. I'm tired of holding onto the past. I'm tired of living in insecurity. I'm tired of the worry. I'm tired of fear. I'm tired of being afraid to do certain things. I'm tired of being limited in some things I can do. I'm tired of watching many of my friends being pregnant at the same time, some on their fourth child, and not knowing if I can ever experience that due to my health. I know these thoughts and fears are NOT of you.  I'm tired of talking the talk..I am desperate to walk the walk and finish strong. I want my life, even my physical body to be a testimony to glorify you.  So, please...as I reflect on Easter this year...the way your Son died on the cross and rose again to make it possible for me to be a new creation.....help me to put to death these old things, and embrace a new day....a new life...a new way of living as a new creation."

So what does this mean? I'm not sure really. I just know that before..I've done it for all the wrong reasons. I'm not saying I'm not gonna trip up. But there is a desperation that has never been there before. Glenn and I joined a gym this morning...and I'm registered for 20 classes of Zumba to start. But there is a lot of mental and emotional baggage I've got to deal with as well. I ONLY share this in this way because I believe for the number of people that read this...someone else identifies and may need to know they are not alone. I work with people and kids every day that don't believe their circumstances can be any different than they are. I want to do whatever it takes to show them that CHANGE IS POSSIBLE, but it may take hard work!

I'm really thankful tonight for the Sacrifice my Lord made for me. And I want to do a better job of displaying that thankfulness in my life..mind, body, and spirit.

No matter how many times I've stumbled, failed, or quit.....my race is not over.  For I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13

"Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we're in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he's there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!" Hebrews 12:2-3

Never give up.

For His Renown,
Morgan

Monday, March 26, 2012

Be Intentional

Having not blogged in 16 days, I almost don't even know where to begin. One of the things about a blog is that unless its anonymous, it's public...for the world to read. As much as I wish I could be completely transparent about the dealings of my heart. It's just not smart or necessary. So, I've kinda taken a social media hiatus as far as it pertains to my life. Hopefully what I can do, is blog about the fruits of that time and some of the results of praying through things.

Something that is on my heart right now is the act of being intentional. It is easy to become comfortable in our everyday lives: be it marriage, friendships, jobs, exercise. If we are not intentional, we will miss the opportunity to sow into those areas which will, in turn, effect the harvest.  If I'm not intentional to spend quality time with my husband, we'll easily slip into a routine and drift apart. If I'm not intentional about washing the dishes or cleaning the house, I'll end up with a mess. If I'm not intentional about calling or emailing friends, in a few months, it will feel awkward. If I'm not intentional about spending time in the Word and prayer, I'll see my attitude and actions start to to reflect that. If I'm not intentional about building relationships with my neighbors or those who don't share  my faith, I'll find myself living in a Christian bubble without influence to those who are desperate to know my Lord and Savior. If I'm not intentional to forgive, I'll harbor bitterness. If I'm not intentional to dream big, I'll live a mediocre life, missing out on how God wants to use me and the huge ways HE can be glorified through it.

Sometimes intention feels exhausting, but what are we without it?

I list all of those examples because I've found my way there in some form or another. I would venture to say we all do at some point if we aren't careful. Last night, Glenn and I had a huge prayer answered. We attended a "City Group" through Renovation Church. A City Group is more than a small group. They are intentional about being a community of Christians in the context of their neighborhood. There is an element of bible study, fellowship, and service. We hit it off with everyone and feel like this is the answer to a 5 month prayer. The house we met at was literally right around the corner from where we live and most of the members live within a 2 mile radius of us. We love being able to serve at Rescue Atlanta and worship at Church at Chapel Hill but the "intentionally doing life with our neighbors" factor was missing due to the nature of where we serve and the distance of where we worship.  The goal would be to do all three together, but due to our unique situation, we believe this is how God has answered our prayer at this time. And we consider ourselves blessed to be involved with three ministries and the people who worship and serve at each of them.

At City Group last night, the Pastor Leonce Crump, read from Romans 10. I want to specifically look at verses 14-15. They are the verses on my heart, calling me to dream, to be intentional, to evaluate.

"But how can they call on Him if they have not put their trust in Him? And how can they put their trust in Him if they have not heard of Him? And how can they hear of Him unless someone tells them? And how can someone tell them if he is not sent? The Holy Writings say, “The feet of those who bring the Good News are beautiful.” (New Life Version)

 How/if and How/Unless = God's Call/Our Answer.

There is a need. There is a response. But the response is going to require us to intentionally do something. Pastor Leonce was essentially asking "Why do we not respond to this? What is holding us back?" (At least that's what I took from it) :)

I made the comment that sometimes I think we give "Evangelism" it's own box in our lives rather than it being something we just are...something we live and breathe. But even that takes some level of intention.  Are we intentionally doing the things necessary to become the person that lives Evangelism? Do we love the Word? Do we love prayer? Do we feel a desperation for the people who don't know God?

Last night we were asked to write down the name of one person who we knew needed a personal relationship with the Lord. We were challenged to pray for them and each day to add another name. We also were challenged to pray about how God might use us to be a part of that process.


You don't have to be an "Evangelist" or a "Minister" to be a witness. Every single occupation out there needs "Beautiful Feet" to "Tell them."

Who is "Them" in your life and how can you start being intentional to reach them?
The response will be different for each of them, but it's important to always revisit the question so we don't become comfortable. 


For His Renown,
Morgan

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Empty Stands: The Lack of Parental Support in Youth



So this morning Glenn and I got up and went to see one of our girls from Rescue Atlanta play in her school soccer game. This is one of my favorite things about Youth Ministry: attending school activities. As we took our seat in the bleachers, my heart sank as I realized we were probably one of 2 people there to cheer on the the inner city school, and we are not even a "parent." There was ONE mom from the school. We cheered for all of the girls and were happy that they won! We waited by the gate so we could tell them all "Good Job, Way to Go!." Towards the end of the game the next two teams were showing up and the stands were filling up with their parents. Obviously not inner city schools.

As we sat there and witnessed the distinct difference I told Glenn, "Ya know, I wonder how many parents aren't here because they can't afford the $5 per person entry fee to a Jr. High Soccer Game? And wouldn't it be great if there was a non profit or foundation that focused on covering the cost of school events to encourage family support in inner city areas?" We agreed that it was probably a large part of the problem, which makes me sad that money keeps parents from being able to support their kids. On the other hand, it's not JUST money in most cases.

We see a large lack of parental support, and absentee parents. Whether it be in the inner city or in the suburbs where a workaholic Dad is always missing his kids activities. Parental involvement and support is KEY to a child's developmental growth in every way: emotionally, academically, spiritually. When I see a kid who is extremely angry or rebellious, the first thing I want to know is...where is the parent? How involved is the parent? 9 times out of 10 the parent involvement is lacking. Kids need someone to look up to. They NEED someone to support them and cheer them on. Believe it or not, they WANT someone to set boundaries for them so they don't have to make all the hard decisions on their own. Often times a kid will do something drastic or exhibit bad behavior because it's the ONLY way they get any sort of attention. It's the reason a girl will compromise herself to receive the attention of guys and men around her because in their mind Bad attention is better than no attention at all.

If you are a parent reading this...I BEG you to examine how involved you are in your child's life. Are you there for the games? The plays? The recitals? Do you check in with their school progress? Do you know their friends? Do you tell them "I Love You" and give them a hug on a REGULAR basis?  Do you ever look at their Facebook?  (Not stalking, not disrespecting privacy, but monitoring. It's the internet and public...what they are saying...says ALOT). Do you attempt to spend time with them just to hang out?

Does your child only see you when it's convenient for you? Do you show more respect and love to other people than your own child? Does your child feel like he/she can talk to you? Are they always in their room or on their computer or do you make Family Time a priority? Do you pray over your child on a regular basis? Are you an example? Do you want your child to grow up making the same decisions and taking on the same priorities that you are setting?

Because here's the bottom line. They are watching you. They are waiting for you. They NEED you.
This is an incredibly tough world. Life is tough for the child and teenager growing up in these times.
There are those of us that do all we can to support and Love on them when we can, but they are with us a small fraction of the time that they are with their families.

Think about it. And if you're not doing all that you can....DO SOMETHING! Please..

Someone is influencing your kids. Is it you?

For His Renown,
Morgan

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Feast For the Misfits


Then he turned to the host. "The next time you put on a dinner, don't just invite your friends and family and rich neighbors, the kind of people who will return the favor. Invite some people who never get invited out, the misfits from the wrong side of the tracks (the poor, lame, crippled, and blind). You'll be—and experience—a blessing. They won't be able to return the favor, but the favor will be returned—oh, how it will be returned!—at the resurrection of God's people." 
Luke 14:12-14 (The Message)

This passage of scripture has been on my heart for a few weeks now. I've taught a few bible study groups about homelessness recently, and this is one of the passages I used. If you take it to heart, it can be very convicting.  I keep having these mental images of a "Feast for the Misfits".  Imagine what it would look like for different churches, bible studies, families or individuals to come together and each "sponsor" a table. The tables would be decorated with nice plates or china, table clothes, centerpieces. No one is "worried" about keeping the "good stuff" in a cabinet. It is all brought out and USED to bless the poor, lame, blind, and crippled.  The special guests come in and are seated at the tables where "The BEST" has been brought out for them. They are served a feast and the people hosting sit with them at the table and fellowship together. No standing in lines, No paper plates, No plastic forks. The Best....for...the Best.

This is on my list of things I want to do in my lifetime. Organize and plan an event like this. I just know it is something that would be precious to the heart of God. I want to do a better job of giving my best, serving my best, blessing with my best. There was a mural on the wall of the dining room at The Old Savannah City Mission that was an interpretation of the Lord's Supper. It had Jesus in the Middle and the disciples around him were all faces of homeless men that had actually come through the mission at one time. They weren't sitting all prim and proper, they were shown to be "hanging out" together. I think Jesus probably shakes his head at how rigid a lot of the paintings are of him and the Disciples. They did life together. And Life is Messy. This is the best picture of it I could find on the web.


I encourage you to take an assessment of the people around you. Who do you dine with? Who do you hang out with? Who do you do life with? Are they all in your same social economic class? Are they all the same race? Or do you intentionally put yourself in the the body of "misfits"?  I would encourage you to have your own Feast for the Poor in whatever way that is relevant to you.

When I was at my "healthiest" in this regard...this was my group of misfits. I was a misfit too. This was taken after a bible study in Vancouver called Open Table. Every week people would come in, be seated, we would serve them and then study the Word together. I felt whole. I felt well rounded. We learned together, we prayed for each other, and we did life together. I miss my misfits.



For His Renown,
Morgan

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Creating "Good Childhood Memories" for Inner-City Children

When I was a child, I LOVED holidays. I still do. Every Easter we would dye eggs and have Easter egg hunts at home and at church.
yep...this is baby Morgan :)

What happened to my cute little curls?


 Easter morning was almost like Christmas as we awoke very early to see if the Easter Bunny had come.  I remember one Easter in particular when I was probably about 7 years old, I kept getting up in the middle of the night to check and see if our baskets were filled. As I crept quietly down the dark hallway I was disappointed time after time as the empty baskets were still waiting to be filled with toys and candy. My wide-eyed, hope-filled glances around the corner to the dining room table were met with disappointment time after time. However, the last time I got up, as I crept down the hallway being sure not to wake up my parents, I saw what looked to me, like a big and furry white paw that was wrapped around the door frame. I ran back to my room, jumped in my bed, and pulled the covers up over my face. My heart raced, "The Easter Bunny was there IN.MY.HOUSE. I had JUST seen his GIANT WHITE PAW." I dare not try to go back and check my basket because I thought if he saw me, he'd take it back.  In the morning, I walked with confidence to the dining room, knowing my basket was filled because I had seen with my own two eyes.

Now...obviously, it was my own imagination that made me believe I saw the Easter Bunny, but it is a memory I hold dear to me as an adult because of the child-like faith I had. Actually, I was so convinced of what I had seen that I often questioned if my Dad had rented the whole outfit JUST in case I saw him. Ha! As I was flipping through old photo albums last night looking for "Easter Pictures", I smiled as I saw pictures of birthday parties, Christmas morning, school events, family gatherings. All of the pictures made me smile and brought back fond memories.

I can't help but wonder, as I type this, if most of our current children and youth that we work with would have a similar experience? As adults, will they 1)even have a photo album to flip back through and 2) have "good" childhood memories of Christmas mornings, Easter Egg Hunts, Family Gatherings, Field trips, etc.?  I can tell you that for some, their childhoods are heartbreaking, traumatizing, and something they'd rather forget as adults. As frustrating as it is, I can't control that.  Rescue Atlanta is committed to doing all that we can to create positive experiences for children. We try to do our part to give them some of the "normal" experiences that they may not otherwise experience. Every Christmas we partner with individuals and churches to "Adopt a Child" for Christmas. That way they have a Christmas list and have something to open on Christmas morning. We are starting something new called Birthday Blessings, where birthdays will be celebrated and a small gift/devotional/candy will be given to "celebrate them." And Coming up in the very near future, we will be celebrating Easter. One of the things we will do is to have a MASSIVE Easter Egg hunt with over 1,000 plastic eggs. The eggs will be stuffed with candy and small novelty toys like stickers, bouncy balls, stamps. We try to fill some of them with "Easter" items (i.e. Christian themed items). The saying "It takes a Village to raise a child" is true. And it takes just as many to create programs and opportunities for them. We need the help of the "village" to create ways to celebrate the "child." Because they are a  CHILD of GOD and we want to lavish them in tangible ways with the LOVE of their Father.

Would you like to help add a "photograph" to a child's album of "Good Chilldhood Memories?"

It costs us about $400 to provide this "experience" for ALL of our kids. That amounts to about $5 per child on a "Holiday" Sunday.

Here is our "Needs" List:
1. 1,000 plastic eggs. (Various colors/printed eggs always make it fun.
2. Trinket's like stickers, bouncy balls, etc
3. Individually Wrapped Candy
4. Prizes like chocolate bunnies or small easter baskets already filled.
5. OR Donations towards the cause.

If you are have any of those items left over from a previous egg hunt, carnival or VBS and would like to donate them, purchase any listed items,  OR simply make a donation to the cause please let me (MORGAN) know ahead of time so we don't duplicate items. Simply Email me at morgan@rescueatlanta.com or call 404.242.3372.

We need to have any donations or knowledge of donations by March 15 so we know what we have left to order.

Just think about the stories these kids could tell about their "childhood Easter Egg Hunts" :) And we know that we get the opportunity to share the Story of Christ's love for them on that special day.

For His Renown,
Morgan

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Going Deep Before Going Wide


I realize I haven't typed a blog since Feb 23. I have probably sat down to type one approx 10 times since then, but I just never have been able to produce anything. It's as if I have so much to say and yet nothing at all. It's not that anything has been bad, in fact the past week or so has probably been a milestone type of week in my life. Oddly enough, while my heart has been full, my mouth has been silent. I haven't found the words to express all that my heart contains, so bear with me in the randomness.

We started off the week at a beautiful Minister's Retreat at St. Simon's Island, GA. We were blessed to be invited to attend. We didn't really know anyone except our co-workers from Rescue Atlanta, but made many friends by the end. I felt like every word the Speaker, Dr. Jim Bradford, spoke was like an arrow of understanding to my heart. I identified with everything he talked about. It really was a time of being poured into that I was starving for. Some of my journal notes were:

* Don't give up until you rest up.
* God doesn't always answer our question but He's always trying to change our perspective.
* We often think more with our pain than we think with our brain.
* Perspective is distorted by pain and when you are in pain...doubt...your doubts.
* In whatever season we are in God wants us to go deep before we go wide. Depth before Breadth.      Character before influence.
* God does not want us dependent on the ways other people treat us.
* Paul's unmet expectations did not eclipse his focus on mission. Personal hurt did not erase his vision for unity.
* My feelings may be hurt, but it's no excuse to back off the mission.

It may seem pretty basic, but it was exactly what I needed to hear. Then at the very end of the retreat, the Superintendent called Glenn up to the front of the room and told the following story:
At the beginning of the retreat the Superintendent walked by Glenn and I while we were waiting for the rest of the staff to arrive. He quickly turned around and said, "You're here for the Retreat, aren't you." (Glenn was wearing shorts that day and all of his tattoos were showing and we had just finished joking about the fact that no one would think we were there for the "minister's retreat." ) Later that night, Glenn went up to the same man and thanked him for welcoming us and explained that he usually doesn't fit in to these types of scenes because the marks of his past make people assume he isn't "one of them." After telling the story to the 75 to 100 people in the room, Rick (superintendent) looked at Glenn and said, "Brother, you are one of us, and you do fit in." He then personally prayed with Glenn and Glenn said it was one of the most powerful prayers he's ever heard.

After communion, Rick called both of us up to the front and explained what we were doing at Rescue Atlanta and that we were basically living on support. Then he did something he's never done before. He said he felt that God wanted him to ask everyone to show their love and support by giving us a word of encouragement and a financial donation. What followed was the fact that we received TONS of hugs, smiles, encouragement, and some financial assistance. God always provides when we run out. And ya know...it wasn't even the money that meant the most to me...it was the fact that the one thing I have missed the most being in Atlanta is Hugs. I'm a hugger. I love to encourage and it has felt quite lonely at times. I had told God several times in my personal prayers that I missed hugs. And boy did He hear me and deliver. We were blown away by everyone's generosity and God's provision of even our smallest desires. If you ask Glenn about it...he will say, "I've never felt that much love in a room in my life." It had a profound impact on us.

We have been in Savannah the past few days visiting family and friends before we return to Atlanta and our days have been filled with people pouring into us, encouraging us, challenging us, praying with us, and an abundance of hugs and smiles.  I've almost been in this state of simply soaking it all in and being quiet. I feel like God is calling me into the deep with Him in a way I've never known. I have a renewed hunger for His Word, Prayer, and His children. I feel like I can finally embrace a lot of things I've been unsettled about and have a new excitement about what He has called me to do.

On a separate yet related note, I received a call on Monday that I have been accepted as one of 30 people in the nation to be a part of an Urban Youth Worker Certification Program over the course of the next year. I'll receive training from some incredible Urban Ministry Leaders from all over the country as well as one on one coaching. This is a huge honor and huge blessing. This was only possible because I was given incredible favor of a scholarship. I am so humbled and so grateful to serve a God who is beyond the limits and bounds of my mind. He has busted through the limitations of what I thought was possible and has made all things possible.

The road is filled with lots of obstacles but we are so thankful for the confirmation that we are walking in the Will of God and He is not only making each step possible but preparing us for the days ahead.

Thank you for your prayers, your love, your encouragement, your smiles, your financial support, and your hugs. You have no idea how much of a blessing each of you are to us. We consider ourselves rich to have the opportunity to walk together daily in the path God has laid before us. He makes all things work together for our good.

I'm embracing this season of depth before breadth
I think this is part of the cultivation process where God is digging His shovel into my rocky soil, tilling it, and preparing it and sowing seeds.

Do yourself a favor and read Psalm 73. Better yet...you can watch it here and show support to this amazing new project called Streetlight Bible:

"In my life, be lifted high.
In our world, be lifted high.
In our love, be lifted high."

For His Renown,
Morgan