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,

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,

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,

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 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,

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 wasn't even the money that meant the most to 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 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,