Thursday, February 23, 2012

It's time to MAN UP

I spent the better part of my life in ministry in suburban churches. Most were in very affluent areas.
I found that the majority of my frustration came from trying to get some of the youth to understand they did not in fact have it all or know it all. Of course there were many exceptions. And now I find myself on the flip side working with inner city kids.

Not only are these inner city kids aware that they don't have it all, but they hunger and thirst for it. The problem is...what is "it"?  Most of these kids are growing up without a stable father figure in their home. Many are being raised by a single parent or grandparent. Some of these kids are exhibiting things such as extreme anger issues, sexual relationships at young ages, skipping school, stealing, gang involvement, failing grades. They are pursuing all of these things to try and fill a void that many of them have don't realize they are trying to fill with these various things.

I came across a news story today on Google that ABC News did on the 5 worst cities for Urban Youth.
The number 3 city was Atlanta.

It said, "At 44% the City of Atlanta boasts one of the nation's lowest graduation rates. The Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice reports that for Atlanta's Fulton County, African-American youth made up over 93% of total intake for unique youth served for criminal offenses. The Atlanta Department of Police's Gang Unit has identified some 50 youth gangs in the city."

This is a major result of a "Fatherless Generation", the lack of a stable male (or sometimes even female) role model. I also know of kids shuffling from relative to relative, to hotel, to car...because they don't have a stable home environment. When you have an unstable home life...this too is going to effect a student's grades, emotions, identity, and ultimately the path they choose to take.  That is why we do what we do. We want to make a difference in these kids lives. We want to be consistent role models. We want to create a tutoring program, attend their games at school, invite them into our home. As Larry Acosta from the Urban Youth Workers Institute told me on a conference call today, "You need to help them have a vision that is bigger than their current reality."

Thankfully, there are some men in Atlanta who recognize this need and have created a Conference called "Man Up 2012". Details can be found HERE. Basically it is intended for youth and men living in the urban areas. In fact, for my Savannah friends, one of Bull Street's very own SCAD graduates and member of the 180 college ministry family, Adam Thomason, is one of the speakers! It's so awesome to see old friends doing great things for God.  The following is from the Man Up Website:
There's an ongoing war within urban culture. Confusion over what manhood is has plagued our cities, families and lives. The concept of a biblical man has been lost in our generation. Unfortunately, many churches struggle to provide its urban members, much less those beyond their walls, with a tangible definition of a real man.

ReachLife Ministries in partnership with Reach Records, Man Up is a new campaign, calling men in the hip-hop culture to true biblical manhood through repentance and faith in Christ. It is our call for men in urban culture to repent for their failure to become the men that God has created them to be and for believers to live as who they truly are in Christ.

Reach Records and Man Up have graciously responded to our request for scholarships for a limited number of our youth to attend. However, we would like to bring as many of our youth and men enrolling in our Urban Training Institute as possible.  The cost for each individual is $50. When I say the opportunity for these youth and men to attend could have a life long have no idea just how important it could be. I am on a campaign to raise money to fill up a bus of men to go on this trip.  If you feel led to sponsor a youth or man to go to Man Up 2012, your donation can be tax deductible. Consider "Donating your Date or Dinner." That's about what we typically spend on a date on for dinner and a movie these days. Tell the person you love you'd rather have a night in and invest in the life of a young man. How simple and meaningful is that?

Please pray about having an incredible hand in helping these guys be given hope in what is a hopeless situation in many of their eyes.  If you feel led to sponsor one or many, please let me know by emailing me at: And I can tell you how to make out the checks and where to send it. Thank you in advance for your support and prayers.

I'll be blogging soon about some exciting upcoming events at Rescue Atlanta as well as some big dreams I have that may be coming into fruition.

Stay Tuned.
For His Renown,

Monday, February 20, 2012

My Life as a Farmer - Without Touching Dirt:

I know from the beginning this will be a long post...but please read til the end. I can't tell this story in a "Short" way.

The past 24 hours was one of the hardest yet amazing days I've experienced in youth ministry. It was as if I was experiencing a mountain top and valley at the same exact time. I hit the road for Montgomery, AL at 5:45 am CST to attend the funeral of one the youth from my beginning days of youth ministry. In a previous post I told the story of Addy Hamilton and how she passed away of Brain Cancer last week. It was less than a week from the time they found the tumor til they unhooked her from life support. I was so busy last week that I was almost in "go" mode the entire time and never really let myself feel the loss until Saturday night when I burst into tears as I was trying to go to sleep. My husband wasn't going to be able to go with me and I felt like I was going to have to face this "alone." Although I wish I could have had him by my side...I was everything BUT alone on Sunday. God was with me and had gone before me.

I got to Montgomery in time to attend the early church service. I don't get to visit often, so I wanted to try and see as many people as I could. From the time i walked in the door at Aldersgate UMC, I was greeted with hugs and smiles of old familiar faces. I went to take a seat and immediately saw some previous co-workers and youth (who are now adults). One former youth in particular had her little boy and husband with her. As the service started I watched as two of my grown youth participated in the praise team. As they finished, one of them came and sat with me through the service. My favorite moment was when her phone dinged as the preaching began and I looked over and said, "Some things never change, huh?" with a smile and laugh.

During the hour between the first and second service I went out to my car to get a book when a car drove by me, hit the brakes, and reversed back to me. It was a dear former co-worker who was shocked to see me, so I hopped in her car as she ran an errand. We caught up and she looked at my wedding pictures. It was as if no time had passed at all. As I walked through the hallways of the church where I first started my journey as a youth minister, it triggered so many memories. There are  a lot of people there who don't know me or my past service there, but there were many smiling faces young and old who blessed me with their hugs and smiles. As I walked into the sanctuary to meet up with my best friends family, one of the lights of my life intercepted me in the hallway. Jacob Tribble. Jacob was in my youth group and I try to visit with him every time I'm in town. We have been through a lot together. From having him at every youth event to holding his hand through his girlfriend's funeral years back to the youth always supporting him in the Buddy Walk. One thing is for sure, no matter how I feel, Jacob brings the smile back to my face and fills my heart with joy. He was shocked when he saw me and kept going, "Oh my gosh...Morgan, it's Morgan, Dad look, it's Morgan." He immediately became attached to my side the rest of the day, which was more of a blessing than he will ever know. As the second church service started more familiar faces filled the room. I would look over at Jacob throughout the service and he would just smile from ear to ear.

As the service came to a close, the church emptied and those of us left, were those who knew Addy. The day we had dreaded was upon us. As her closest friends and former youth of mine came in, they immediately came up to me and hugged me. We exchanged sentiments, but what can you really say? Everyone had something in common. We had all been impacted by Addy's life. As we chose our seats the rows filled up all around us of Addy's friends and family. Charter buses of students from the University of Alabama filed in one after another. The church was almost packed. The night before, 1000 people had come to pay their respects at her visitation.  By the time the service started our row and the row in front of me (as well as scattered around the sanctuary) were filled with my former youth, youth volunteers, and their families. It was the first time since 2005 that this exact group had been together.

During the service, the music minister, Steve Badskey, who had been on every youth choir tour with Addy, shared about her life. Most of his stories stemmed from the mission trip we took to Vancouver, British Columbia...the place that had impacted my life so much, and I wanted my youth, at the time, to experience the same thing. Steve shared stories of and memories of that trip and other youth mission trips and choir tours.....things that no one else in the room would understand but those few rows and it felt really special, that in those moments,despite time and distance, the seeds that were planted by years ago, were showing buds in the life of now adults.  As the service ended, we were the last group to leave the sanctuary. We sat and cried with each other, laughed with each other, hugged each other. Former youth, their families, and youth volunteers. Those who couldn't be there were remembered in our hearts. As we said our goodbyes, to each go back in different directions to the places God has called us, there were several "thank you's" whispered in my ear. "Thank you for being here. Thank you for pouring into these kids lives back then. Thank you for supporting them now. Thank you for being there for Addy." If you are in ministry. That's not why you do it. In fact, you don't expect it and when it happens, it is a gem, but it wasn't the thank you's that meant the most.

You see....from my seat...the "bud" on the plant...was seeing former youth, as adults, giving back at the church, participating in worship, helping with children's classes, seeing them support each other through a hard time, watching them mouth the words to a praise song at the end of the service while their heart was breaking, seeing a beautiful life and hearing a testimony of a youth whose earthly race is over but impacted thousands of lives. Addy's love for the Lord, her family, her church, the homeless, missions, choir....everything was testified to as she finished the race in a strong way. Truth be told, back in the day some of these kids made me want to pull my hair out at times. (And I'm sure I made them want to pull out theirs) :)  Some of them I had the same conversation with over and over and over and felt like I was getting no where. I was reminded of something in the midst: sometimes God gives you the tool to till the soil. Other times He lets you plant the seeds. There are other times when we get the watering can or the fertilizer, and sometimes....we get the blessings of seeing the plant grow. We don't always get to be a part of every process in every young persons life....but we are all part of THE process. We're all farmers. It's a huge field and it takes everyone doing their part. I'm so glad I had so many "Farmers" in my life as a teenager...that have continued on in my adult years.

As I woke up this morning....I had a text from a youth in Atlanta. This youth in particular is one that I've labored over since I've been there. Most of the time, its frustrating mainly, because it's heartbreaking, but God knew I needed a little reminder that He is at work, even when it feels like we aren't getting through. It said, " Goodnight Mama Morgan. I love you very much and you're the one I can count on. You're like my Mama/Best Friend. I love you and have fun." Im so thankful for the opportunity to be a Farmer in the Urban Setting. There's lots of different types of things in the soil that I've never really faced before, but I know God gives us everything we need for HIM to work THROUGH us.

Thank you God for the small things. Thank you God for not letting me walk away from youth ministry. Thank you for a giving me a husband who is passionate about the same things. Thank you for all YOU have done in the lives of youth.

To ALL of my "kids" around the south east. I am SO proud of the young men and women you have become. I pray that you will pick up a tool and sow into the lives of the generation behind you. To the youth volunteers and families....thank you for walking with me and with them. Your role is INVALUABLE. Thank you for standing in the gap for them all these years and continuing to show them support. And as well all know......those of us who have the privilege to work with youth...WE are the ones who are most richly blessed in the end.

We will miss you Addy...but I know it made you so happy to see us together again.

How about a Vancouver reunion trip? ;)

For His Renown,

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Learning to be Me.

This picture reflects how I feel a lot of days:
Can you identify with this? Do you feel pulled in a thousand different directions at work, home, school, etc? Are you a people pleaser? Maybe it's that you are faced with many opportunities and it's not that they are bad but you have to learn to say "No" to some in order to "yes" to other things.

I spent a lot of my life trying to be who other people wanted me to be. I wanted to be liked. I wanted to be included, so I would over commit myself to various activities as a means of acceptance. I wasn't exactly sure what God was doing in my life or what exactly He wanted me to do so I tried to do everything.   In various jobs I'd end up doing things that really weren't in my realm of responsibility but "someone" needed to do it so I was a warm body that picked up the slack (not to be confused with "teamwork").  I'm famous for seeing a need that isn't being filled and taking it on as my project.  But the older I get, the more I'm realizing that there are just some things that are not in my skill set and I don't need to apologize for that. 

I'm sure I've shared the following before in some form, but it made such an impression on me, I'm sharing it again. I was blessed to have some bosses in my career that really invested in me beyond the normal work day. One of my bosses and his wife told me the following during a real transitional point in their life and mine. As I was visiting with them one night, they explained to me that each person may have a set of skills that they are "good at" or that they "could do" if necessary, but there is a small are in which they really "flourish".  The broad range of things they "could" do sometimes leaves that person feeling extremely frustrated because although they "could" do it, it is not something they are good at or enjoy. Sometimes people take jobs or career paths that leave them frustrated or feeling inadequate because they ignore this idea. 

Now every job is going to require some flexibility, but if I know that I really don't enjoy doing something, or I'm really not good at it. Why should I apologize for how God wired me? If I spent my time and energy doing the things that I'm gifted at or that I'm passionate about and find other people who are "gifted" in those frustrating areas, wouldn't everyone be better off? Now, I'm not talking about being stretched. We all have room to grow, but on the front end, there are just some things you know you are not good at or just cringe at the thought of doing them. 

I truly believe that God created us all with a unique purpose in this world. I am not designed to do the same thing my neighbor or co-worker does. We are the Body of Christ. We each have a part. Learning to be yourself and not apologizing for how God created you and empowering/encouraging others to find/serve in your weaknesses is part of what makes our uniqueness and purpose a beautiful thing.

I'm still learning this, even today. My prayer is that God gives me the confidence to be Me.
I'm still learning the art of "No" and praying He surrounds me with people to fill the gaps.

I just don't want to miss the mark of what God has created me to do because I'm too busy trying to be someone else.

As I seek His face, and as I face each day, I know one thing is for sure: I Will Follow. This is my prayer.

For we are His creation-created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10

For His Renown,

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

When It Seems Like Death Knocks Too Soon - Losing a Youth

I've been involved with youth since 2001 on some level. In 2002 I took my first Full Time Youth Minister position at Aldersgate UMC in Montgomery, AL. To be honest, looking back, I had no idea what I was doing. The senior class was just a few years younger than me. I had a heart and a vision, but no real training and limited experience. But...they took a chance on me. Sure there are things I'd go back and do differently, but I'd like to think I did some good while I was there. Those kids were awesome. They had big personalities, big hearts, and honestly were a lot of fun. I tried to have an open door rule in my office as well as my home. I tried to hang out a lot. I was young and had the time. I still talk to a lot of those students today, some of which are married now with their own families. If you've ever worked with youth, you know they are always "yours" no matter how far the distance or how long the time. I had the opportunity to work at various churches around the southeast and it remains true of those youth as well. They are all awesome and all left an impression on me.
I've been able to talk students through relationships, parents divorce, loss of others...but I've never had to face losing one of them until recently.

One of the other places I had an opportunity to work was Faithbridge UMC in Spring, TX. It was a phenomenal place to work with phenomenal staff and one of the most incredible bosses I've ever had.  The youth were so passionate about God and about missions. One of the girls in the youth group was named Kelsey Jackowski. With such a large youth group she kind of flew under my radar for a little while ONLY because she was always so sweet and kind of shy (at first). But then I got to know her a little better and she wasn't really quiet. She was fun and had a great time with her friends. She was highly involved in the band and very talented. I didn't get to know her personally as much as I would have liked to, but I did have the privilege of going on her Junior/Senior retreat where we stayed in the same house. Unfortunately.....after moving away I received word that in May 2011 Kelsey had been diagnosed with adrenalcortical carcenoma with mets to the liver and IVC. The tumor was about the size of a football.  Kelsey fought a hard fight spending a lot of time at MD Anderson. Through it all she remained a source of hope and strength for her family and friends. She had the best attitude and was solid in her walk with Christ. In December 2011, her earthly race ended and she went to join her Heavenly Father. This is Kelsey's Senior Picture:

I was unable to attend her funeral although I was definitely there in spirit. When I got the news that she passed away I just sat in my car and sobbed before going into work. I couldn't wrap my head around it.

Fast forward to this week. I noticed on Facebook that a lot of my old youth were talking about Addy having surgery. I quickly emailed a former youth's parent (Mitzi) who's daughter was best friends with Addy and asked what was going on. I was told that Addy, who was a student at the University of Alabama had been having some serious headaches and actually started to feel sick in one of her classes. Upon going home from class she became paralyzed on one side of her body and lost her speech.  After many tests at the hospital it was discovered that Addy had a brain tumor.  She regained feeling and her ability to speak and surgery was scheduled for February 14, Valentine's Day, to remove the tumor. I asked the mom for Addy's phone number so I could call and pray with her before her surgery. That was on Saturday. On Sunday, I was reading all of these posts about Addy passing away. I couldn't believe it, so I emailed Mitzi to confirm. Apparently the Doctor's had told Addy she could go home for the weekend to rest and be with her family before Tuesday's procedure.  Upon arriving at home, Addy slipped into a coma and was taken to the hospital. She never woke up and was declared brain dead. She was living on life support. On Sunday, the life support was unhooked and Addy passed away.

I can't even begin to tell you the range of emotions I felt in that instant. Heartbreak, sorrow, anger, guilt. "Why, God?" ....."Why Addy?" ...."Why now?"  Where as I knew Kelsey and it was heartbreaking to lose her, I was Addy's Youth Minister and was more personally involved with her. I remember taking her home from youth group for the first time and going inside to meet her mother. Addy was at every youth event. She went on every trip. She NEVER stopped smiling. She was goofy, funny, outgoing,  and always tried to make sure other people felt included. She was one of the most optimistic people you could meet. It will take me a long time to get over not picking up the phone the second I got her number and calling to check on her. Why did I want to wait til the day of the surgery? I will regret that. I know all of her friends and family were are in total and complete shock.  Here are some pictures I have of my years with Addy Hamilton.

Senior girls. I surprised them at their senior dinner at the church after I had moved. Addy is on my right.

The Youth who went with me to Vancouver. Addy is in the Navy Blue Shirt on the Front Row.

 English Bay in Vancouver. Addy is the second from the right on the front row.

I'm going to Montgomery on Sunday to attend her funeral. I selfishly don't want to go because I don't want to face the reality that one of my precious youth beat me home. But I want to honor her life, support her family, and hug the necks of all of these youth and families that are hurting. I'm afraid I won't have the answers or words to comfort, but maybe that's the point. We're all there together. We're all grieving.  We're all there to celebrate her life.

This is a first for me.....and to lose the presence of 2 sweet girls on this earth so close to each other is more than I can comprehend. But I'm thankful to have known them. And I KNOW without a shadow of a doubt that each of these young ladies is with Jesus. Their smiles are making Heaven even brighter. I know they each want every single one of their family and friends to join them there some day. IF you read this and are not sure of how you make that happen. Ask someone....or message me. And if Kelsey and Addy were here today they would be telling everyone to "smile."

They both had an amazing amount of JOY....and this song makes me think of them.

And they both left such an incredible Legacy...

This is just a little of their legacy....and I wanted to do my part to share it and help it live on.
Please pray for the families of Kelsey Jackowski and Addy Hamilton. And please say an extra prayer for me this Sunday as I face unknown territory in youth ministry.

For His Renown,

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Spreading the Love

A few weeks ago Katie and I had the opportunity to meet with some of the teachers and administrative staff at a local elementary school to discuss ways we could partner together.  We are really excited about finding ways for Rescue Atlanta to partner with other organizations and schools in our community. It is a way that we can spread Christ's love in a tangible way and bless even further than beyond the walls of our ministry.  One of the ways we are working with them is by helping to provide an outfit to children in the school who need a new or gently used set of clothing. An email was sent out to the teachers asking them to identify students in their class who may need the blessing of a new outfit of pair or shoes. This school is in the general neighborhood of our ministry and many of the families are below the poverty line. Some of the kids from our ministry attend their school.

Last week I received the name of 34 children who were in need. On Saturday, Katie and I put together bags. We had some leftover drawstring bags so each child received a bag with a small school supply kid, a pair of socks and underwear, pants, a long sleeve shirt, a jacket or hoodie, and a pair of shoes. We labeled them with the child's name and teachers name for easy distribution.

Yesterday I delivered the bags to the school. The faculty and staff were so appreciative. There were handshakes and hugs all around. Here are some pictures from the delivery:

We would love to continue to bless the children of our community who are in need. Our greatest need in this area is for children's underwear and socks, and boys clothing. As well as children's shoes sizes 4 and up. As your children grow, consider donating their outgrown clothes and shoes to this effort.

I'll close this Valentine's Day post with the follow letter from God to His Daughters. I read this in our middle school class this past week and challenged the girls to remember who they were in Christ and that they needed to wait for a man who would remind them of the following. I also challenged the guys to be the kind of man who God desired for His daughters. They were pretty rowdy in the beginning of class but you could have heard a pin drop as I read this. Some of the girls faces expressed that they understood every word of this letter in a very real way. I encourage you to share it with the women in your life. I found it online with no trace of an author to credit:

My precious daughter,
I will never leave you,
I will never forsake you,
I will be faithful until the end,
You are more than just "my daughter"
You are my princess,
My beloved, my delight,
I rejoice in you,
You are beautiful,
You shine with light,
You have dove's eyes,
I rejoice in you with singing,
I will quiet you with my love,
Hold you in my arms,
Never let you go,
For you are never alone,
You never have been alone,
I've been with you all along,
Your whole life,

I understand your pain,
My sacrifice wasn't for nothing,
Let me tell you I understand your confusion,
I understand your anger and frustration,
I understand your tears,
And I care,
Very much,
For you,
Everything that is important to you,
Is important to me too,
My love for you will never end,
I will not leave you for another,
I will not abandon you ever,
No matter how far you go,
My love will never end.

I have examined you heart,
I know everything about you,
When you sit down or stand up,
I know your thoughts,
Even when you are far away,
I see you when you travel,
Or when you rest at home,
I see the tears that fall from your eyes,
I see the heartache in your home,
Believe me I know the lies,
I know the temptations,
But I am here,
I know what you are going to say,
Even before you say it.
I go before you and follow,
I place my hand of blessing on your head,
Such knowledge is beyond comprehension,
It is too wonderful for you to understand,
You can never escape from my Spirit,
You can never get away from my presence!
If you go up to heaven, I am there;
If you go down to the grave, I am there.
If you ride the wings of the morning,
If you dwell by the farthest oceans,
Even there my hand will guide you,
And my strength will support you.

You could ask the darkness to hide you,
And the light around you to become night,
But even in darkness you cannot hide from me,
To me night shine as day,
Darkness and light are the same to me,
I made all the delicate, inner parts of your body,
I made your heart,
I know what makes you hurt,
I know what makes you cry,
I know what makes you tick,
I know when breaks your heart the most,
And I know how to comfort you,
I know how to make you smile,
I know how to love you,
I know how to be a daddy who loves,
Such a beautiful daughter like you,
You long for acceptance,
When you were already accepted into my family,
You are fearfully and wonderfully made,
I love you more than you know,
I will fill your heart with the love and peace you long for,
I saw you before you were born,
I knit you together in your mother's womb,
Even then I loved you,
And I was proud of you,
And I thought of you as my beautiful daughter, my princess,
Everyday of your life is recorded in my book,
Every moment was laid out,
Every moment that would bring you joy,
Every moment that would bring you pain.

My thoughts about you are precious,
They cannot be numbered,
They out number the grains of sand,
And when you wake up in the morning,
I am still with you,
I love you more than you know,
You are beautiful to me,
Even though you feel something is always wrong,
Just look into my eyes,
See how I see you,
A beautiful princess,
With beautiful eyes that shine with my love and my light,
I love you,
And I will say it again,
I love you,
My princess, my beloved,
My precious daughter,

I love you,
I love you,
I love you.

Don't give up,
For I see the brokenness in your families,
In your friendships,
I see the pain in your eyes,
Your beautiful heart,
That used to be so filled joy,
Is now crushed beneath your burdens,
But you're still beautiful to me,
So beautiful to me,
I will heal you and restore you once again,

My precious daughter,
I will never leave you,
I will never forsake you,
I will be faithful until the end,

Faithful until the end...

Your loving Father and Daddy, Prince of Peace, King of Glory,

Thanks for sharing the love.
For His Renown,
Morgan Paddock

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Truth vs. Grace

I've been toying around with several blog topics today. There is SO much going on, it's hard to choose. Expect a lot of updates this week. In fact, if you go up to the top right corner of the page, you can have my blogs delivered right to your email inbox.

Today, I want to talk about Truth vs. Grace. Today was one of those days where the kids at RA were just C-R-A-Z-Y. Some people would think I was the "mean" teacher, but I expect our kids to "Behave" in worship. It's not that I want them to be perfect, but I want them to understand and not only respect those around them but respect the ONE whom we are worshiping. So...I make them put away their cell phones. Our middle school class knows that when worship starts they better be standing up, participating. They are learning. The first few weeks it was like pulling teeth, but usually now when worship starts, they are on their feet elbowing their neighbors to stand up as well. I usually separate brothers who can't seem to keep their hands to themselves. Today we had to take away a football, skateboard and have a talk with a 4 year old about stealing sidewalk chalk out of one of the rooms. And you may even think...."Morgan, give the kids a break!" But here is what I've learned. If you expect it from them, they can, and will EVENTUALLY deliver. If it is not expected of them, they will usually not rise to the occasion on their own.

When kids send me messages in txt type, misspelling everything, I make them type it in English. When they put inappropriate messages or pictures on facebook, I call them out on it. Why? Because I want them to know I care. Most kids/teenagers WANT boundaries. They'll never admit it, but they want someone to set the boundary lines in places because they don't want to have to choose where they fall. My setting boundaries and enforcing them, you are actually taking the pressure off of them to have to choose. They want to know that someone cares enough to call them out. If the ONLY attention they get is when they do something bad...expect bad behavior because at least someone is noticing. I think sometimes, a few of our kids do things to test me to see if I will say something and I do...Every time. But I also try to find ways to encourage the good  behavior.

There are a lot of inner city kids that have a home life that goes one of two ways. Either 1: The parents don't care what they do so they get away with everything and get caught up in some bad behavior. Or 2: The parents are super strict and probably are sometimes abrasive to the point of abuse. I try to deliver truth with grace. I'll call them out, correct the action, and then affirm who they are. The little boy who stole the chalk today looked and me with puppy dog eyes. We talked about why stealing was bad. He apologized. I forgave him and then gave him a hug and told him just to ask next time, I would have given it to him. Glenn and I are tough on our middle school class because we want to see them succeed. We want them to speak and write in clear English for THEIR sake and future. We make them pray in class. We make them search the scriptures. We have consequences for their actions both good and bad. We've had to kick some out of class for the day when they can't behave but we also have fun in class. We bring them snacks almost every week. We try to play games and use multi media in our teaching. We hand out hugs.....and you know what? No one has stopped coming to our class. In fact...our class grows every week. If they all came on the same Sunday, we'd have 30-40 kids.

Too much grace with no truth is just as damaging as too much truth without grace. Think about that for a minute. They work together and create beautiful results when practiced as one. Is our Heavenly Father not the same with us? I don't think I understood or practiced this balance until now. In my early days of youth ministry, I wanted the kids to "like" me. I was sometimes afraid to speak the truth. Frankly I don't think my skin was tough enough to handle their responses. In my later years of youth ministry, I think I got so ticked off with self entitled teens who had no respect for authroity that I lost the fun and grace part. Needless to say neither approach produced desirable results and I became more frustrated. When you can speak truth IN love....and be CONSISTENT....that's when trust is earned and ministry really can take place at a deeper level.

We are seeing kids start to open up, starting to be actively involved with a hunger and interest to know more. I snapped this picture today because two of our regular kids were helping a first time visitor find a scripture in the bible. It truly made me smile.

True and lasting change and trust takes time and repetition. Please continue to pray for us that God would open up the doors for us to continue doing life with these students on a deeper level. Pray for an extra sense of grace on the hard days and for the boldness in declaring God's Word in their lives.

I'll close with the following song. It is our new "class song." We end with it almost every week. We split up the rap parts to different students today and are planning on learning it and performing it in church sometime in the future. The kids love it and I pray every week that the words they've come to learn will sink deep and take root in their hearts.

May we all find the balance between truth and grace in our relationships and learn to take the background.

For His Renown,

Check back often this week. I'll probably be posting almost daily. :) Thanks for following and sharing with your friends.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

And Things Start to Unfold...

I love books. I love reading and writing.  When you get into a really good book it seems like you can't turn the pages fast enough. A good writer will leave you coming back for more. I have felt like my life has been in one of those cliffhanger moments the past few months except on a "to be continued..." note. I feel like the Author (God), built up the story with how Glenn and I met, fell in love, how He brought us to inner city Atlanta, all with the purpose of living for His Renown and then put down the pen for a little while. We have definitely had some exciting moments, but most of the past 3 months I've spent flipping pages waiting to understand how this was all gonna work out. I haven't been exactly sure of my purpose. We came in to the ministry at a really busy time of year so we just automatically went into GO MODE doing whatever had to be done. I knew what we were doing was important, but I couldn't exactly find my niche. 

As you know from previous blog posts it's been lonely at times and although I never questioned us making the move to Atlanta, there were definitely moments of "God, exactly what are you doing?" mixed in with tears on some occasions. This week......I almost can't keep up with how rapidly He is unfolding the story. My life is becoming a page turner, and I am SO excited about what HE is doing. 

Here are a few "God moments" this week:

1. In talking with someone from another ministry in Atlanta to schedule the drop of donations from Passion 2012, it led to us now having a scheduled meeting with that ministry next week to discuss ways to partner together. (something I've really been frustrated at the lack of recently). I also just received an email from another local ministry whom we are meeting with next week to tour their facility, and then they are coming to tour ours. They are in the same neighborhood and the guy who founded it is a well known for inner city ministry and author of several books about inner city ministry. 

2. I went to a local elementary school this morning whom we are partnering with as well. The opportunity to reach children and their families is endless through this partnership. They are excited. I am excited. I am going back on Friday to speak to another group of parents.  I was able to meet with the PTA President and suggest ways for their school to get funding to be able to do more for the students. I think they want to make me an honorary PTA member. She said..."Girl how come you're not on the PTA?" to which I replied, "um...I have no children." Ha! Having the freedom to go into a public school and talk about what we do here at Rescue Atlanta is such a blessing.

3. On Saturday, Glenn was overseeing a group of students when someone told him there was a man outside who wanted to speak to him.  Glenn went outside and met a guy who works with a ministry that focuses on men who just got out of prison. As they talked, the guy said he had driven by our ministry several times and never stopped, but felt strongly that he needed to stop and check it out that day. We aren't normally there on Saturdays unless we have a group.  The more they talked, Glenn and the guy discovered that they had extremely similar stories/testimonies. The guy suggested that maybe he and his wife could get to together with us sometime to hang out because they live in our area as well. We have plans with them this Saturday. YAY FOR MORE FRIENDS! (and friends who understand what we do at that).

4. And my favorite "Small World" God moment of them all:
I'm just getting into the World of Twitter. It's so confusing. But I managed to make a Tweet to @Passion268 thanking them for the towel and sock donation. They retweeted the comment to their 57,000 followers and several people started following @RescueAtlanta on Twitter. I happened to click on one girls profile and the more I read, the more intrigued I became. She was a graphic designer and photographer. She loved the Lord, loves to cook, craft, blog, etc. We had several things in common. The thing that caught my eye was that she was planning to move to Atlanta, GA. I read her blog and felt VERY compelled to send her a personal email. So I did. I just let her know that a lot of what she said resonated with me because I too, had been in her shoes. I assured her that although she did not know me, I would be glad to meet her for coffee and help her feel like she had "a friend" in Atlanta.  She emailed me back and that started a string of back to back emails, swapping stories, feeling like "we'd known each other" a long time. We even have a mutual friend. One of young ladies who was in the youth group I served with in Texas was one of her co-workers in Glorieta, New Mexico as part of the summer staff. Glorieta, oddly enough, is where I accepted Christ when I was in 7th grade. At the actual place she served.  Talk about God orchestrating something that was not even on my radar. I am so excited to meet this sweet girl and look forward to what God has in store for our friendship to come.  She is still looking for a job in Atlanta, so if any of you out there have any leads on design type jobs, please let me know.  She is INCREDIBLY talented and I'd love for you to see her work

There are several things on the horizon. I'm busy trying to make contacts and get in donations of Men's Boxers, new or gently used Men's Jeans sizes 32-38, Ladies Undergarments, Children's Undergarments and Socks and Boys Clothing to help propel our efforts forward with a few projects.  Those are the types of things we ALWAYS need. So if you are cleaning out the closet and want to send some our way, pick up a pack the next time you're in Walmart, Do a Drive, or have a connection......Bring it on!

In closing, I know that God isn't just working when life is a page turner. In fact, I know most of life changing moments are when I'm waiting, intently seeking Him, watching and waiting in expectation. I know that the purpose is not just in the doing, but in the BEING. Thank you for praying for and encouraging me with each turn of the page. I am reminded of the following to be True of my Author:

For His Renown,

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Come Together! :)

Towel and Sock collection at Passion 2012

So it has been an exciting week of deliveries here at Rescue Atlanta. I love when someone calls back to my office and says, "Morgan, you have a delivery!" I want to say "thank you" to everyone who has sent care packages of towels, socks, clothing, gift cards, etc. Each and everyone of them both personally and for the ministry has been a blessing! This week I wanted to give a shout out of thanks to two groups:

First, if you have not heard of the Passion Conference, let me fill you in on a phenomenal ministry.
Passion 2012 happened in Atlanta in January. It was a gathering of over 40,000 college students and young adults who came together for one purpose: Jesus. All for His Renown. These students raised over $3 million dollars towards efforts in ending Human Trafficking. The goal was $1 million. They also collected 36,000 towels and 156,000 pairs of socks for the homeless in Atlanta.  I received a phone call last week that Rescue Atlanta was going to be blessed by this. Y'all know the plea I've put out for towels recently. Well last week we received 1,000 towels and close to 1,500 pairs of socks.

I am humbled and challenged to know that these towels and socks are from people who love the Lord and love others. Passion donors: These towels and socks are such a basic necessity, but HUGE blessing to the people who receive them! Thank you for caring for the homeless of Atlanta.

Please watch an incredibly inspiring video that CNN did about the efforts made by these students:
Passion 2012 Video

The second group I would love to thank is
Girl Scout Troop # 6503 from Emmaus, Pennsylvania.

My Aunt Lesa called me a few weeks ago and said that my cousins troop had to vote on a project of a place to help. The group decided they wanted to "Help the people in Georgia." They did a collection and sent the following items to us this week!

Thank you sweet girls for sending us so much awesome stuff. You will make everyone in our ministry smile, from children to adults!

Isn't it so encouraging to see generations of young people and children giving back and making a difference?

I truly believe that the generations of young people and children to come are going to rock our world in amazing ways by doing something. They are generations that want to play a part and be active in changing the world around them. I am so thankful to be in a position to witness these types of blessings all the time.

Please don't think that just because we got a large donation of towels and socks, your one towel or one pair of socks aren't needed!! EVERY towels goes to an individual that needs it. We help 100's of people every week. Do the math :) There will always be a need.

Let's continue to Come Together as a people who care more for others than ourselves!

Don't forget to follow us on Twitter: @RescueAtlanta and @MoPaddock.
You can also friend Rescue Atlanta on Facebook for up to date information!

For His Renown,

Friday, February 3, 2012

All For One And One For All

Today was one of those information overload days. Not a bad day, just a huge intake of info day.
We are in North Georgia at a gorgeous lake house with most of the staff of Rescue Atlanta to talk through 2012. We went through every month planning things. Sometimes it's a little overwhelming to look at a month and see only one or two days the entire month that have nothing on them. My first reaction is a sigh of exhaustion before it even happens, but then I look again and realize how much ministry is taking place in those days. How many hundreds of people will come and serve at Rescue Atlanta, whose lives will be changed  and how many hundreds of people will be blessed by their servant hearts. There will be stories of what God is doing spread all over the country as the people return to their homes following their weeks and days of service.

One of the things I have a heart for is networking.  I believe that no matter what our profession, talent, skill, hobby, can be used to bring God glory. I also firmly believe in the following scriptures:

Ephesians 4:4-6: 
"You were all called to travel on the same road and in the same direction, so stay together, both outwardly and inwardly. You have one Master, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who rules over all, works through all, and is present in all. Everything you are and think and do is permeated with Oneness."

 John 17:20-23
  I'm praying not only for them
   But also for those who will believe in me
   Because of them and their witness about me.
   The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind—
   Just as you, Father, are in me and I in you,
   So they might be one heart and mind with us.
   Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me.
   The same glory you gave me, I gave them,
   So they'll be as unified and together as we are—
   I in them and you in me.
   Then they'll be mature in this oneness,
   And give the godless world evidence
   That you've sent me and loved them
   In the same way you've loved me. 

I realize this doesn't mean we are all called to the same exact specific task, however, I do believe the underlying goal is the same. To be Christlike, bring Christ glory, make Him famous, honor Him in all we do, including working together.  I believe working together brings God glory.

One thing that always kills me is how competitive Christian ministries can be.  I mean everything from churches to para-church organizations. It has been my experience that rather than working together for the same goal, often times ministries are trying to one up the church or ministry down the street. If someone asks a question about the ministry, it's almost as if motives are questioned. I've found this out recently just among some organizations that work with the homeless in Atlanta.

I have tried to contact several  people and organizations that do similar work as us and my efforts at reaching out have gone completely unregarded.  It's sad because I'm not trying to "steal" ideas. I mean, seriously......Do you think the city of Atlanta is really hurting to have people to help? If anything, I want to be able to send people the right direction if there is a need we can't meet through our ministry.  This type of thing really makes me pound the table.  Thankfully, I recently had a break through. I was talking to a staff member of a very well known mission in Atlanta the other day and he actually took the time to ask about our ministry, about me and Glenn, and after sharing he said, "I'd really love to schedule a time where I can introduce you to some of our staff and we can sit down and learn from each other and find ways to partner together." Wow...what a breath of fresh air. We also discussed how we are all working towards the same goal as a Christian organizations yet he informed me that Atlanta is especially competitive in homeless outreach.  Today, he delivered us a large amount of towels and socks that they had in excess.  While he was there, he noticed we had a game they could use for a Superbowl outreach and asked if they could borrow it. It seems really simple, but in 3 months, that is one of the first times I've actually had a positive reaction to working "together." (Of course, I'm not talking about our regular volunteers and church supporters.)

I digress. All of that to say.....whether it be in our ministries, our businesses, our churches, or our homes, I think its healthy from time to time to say..."Are we working as one? Are we a good picture to those outside of our circle of what it means to be One in Christ?  What does it mean to stay together both outwardly and inwardly?"

And in addition to that, we need to be looking for ways to connect the isolated hand or foot that is broken off from the body. If we are the body and all parts are needed and useful, each with a purpose, it means we are lacking when the body is missing parts.  What are some ways that you can be attached to the body? What are some ways you can connect others to the body? Sometimes it requires us to think outside the box.  God has given us infinite ways to connect and be creative.  Sometimes we just have to clean off the glasses or look at things from a different angle.

Please pray for Rescue Atlanta as we are charting new territory in a few areas. There are some programs and things on the horizon that this specific ministry has never done before. There is a ton of potential, but we will need a lot help. I will fill you in more specifically in the coming days. Please pray for open doors and favor with networking to make these things possible if it is God's will.

Also pray for the staff and people involved. Any time you implement change or something new, it comes with it's own set of challenges. Pray that we would be a unified staff and team both inwardly and outwardly. Pray for a hedge of protection around our relationships as many of us work, serve, and live together with our family members. Pray that God will be glorified and that we are attentive to His leading, sensitive to His spirit,  and that lives are changed for His glory. May we always be humbled first as leaders and changed in the process.

We appreciate your love, prayers, and support today and always.

For His Renown,