April 2016: PERSEVERANCE

We joined MVPC when we had only one daughter, but not long after our son was born, folks started telling us to get our name on “The List” for Troop 212. “Seriously people? He’s still in diapers! I don’t think he’s ready for high adventure camping!” Thereafter our days were long, but the years flew by, as they do, and before we knew it, he was in fourth grade. Now it was time to start thinking seriously about whether we should get our name on “The List.” As with hotel and restaurant reservations, we figured it was easier to cancel than it would be to book at the last minute, so we joined “The List.” By no means was our name at the top. Apparently others had known early on in Junior’s life that he was the backpacking type, or wanted to follow in Eagle Dad’s or Brother’s footsteps. But not us. We were members of the church, so that put us ahead of non-members, but behind members that had gotten their names in prior to us, and even further behind members with siblings in the troop. Maybe I had waited too long. Maybe it wasn’t going to happen for us.

In October of fifth grade we were invited to attend a prospective members’ meeting at The Hut, the little red building across from the fire station where Scout meetings are held every Tuesday night during the school year. We had dropped out of Cub Scouts years before, so I was not going to be shocked if my guys came home from this meeting with the news that some lucky someone moved up a spot on “The List.” To my surprise, my husband and more importantly, my son, wanted to hang in there until March to see if we’d make the cut. Guess what? We did.

As other Troop 212 moms said to me, joining 212 is one of the best parenting decisions we ever made. It is a big time commitment but isn’t everything that’s worth doing? I won’t lie, there was a time when I thought Chad might not make it. Unlike academics or sports or other activities, we weren’t asked to step in at Scouts and bail him out or help carry his load. They tell you when you join the troop that it’s boy-led, but if you’re like me, you just think that’s good marketing! Turns out, they’re the real deal. They live out the promises of the Boy Scout oath, one of which is duty to God.

Instilling faith in our children gives them hope and allows them to persevere. When they trust in God, they can find strength even when they feel like giving up. Going through tough times teaches them that God is always there. When it comes down to it, all of us have experienced things that we never would have experienced if we didn’t push through the difficult times. When we get to the other side, we see something that we never would have seen before – if we just believe in what God can do and what God can do in us!

When things got tough – because they do for everyone at some point in middle school – Chad got encouragement from older Scouts that had walked in his boots, carried the heavy pack, tied all the knots, made the pinecone border, learned to identify poison oak even when it’s dormant, earned the Cooking Merit Badge making dinner for his patrol, and knew some tricks for keeping the rain out of the tent. And now, five years, six ranks, countless meetings and campouts, one high adventure, and 21 merit badges later, Chad is embarking on his Eagle project.

Refusing to give up when life gets hard is the definition of perseverance. It also defines our time in Troop 212. Take it from me, it’s never too soon to get on that list.

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March 2016: HOPE

Oscar Sunday, which is by no means a religious holiday, is a pretty big deal in my house. You see, my dad loved movies and he passed that on to me. Every year I roll out the red carpet for my group of girlfriends and we spend the evening marking our ballots, dishing about the stars, and eating food my husband has prepared to fit the theme (this year it was strictly potato dishes a la The Martian). In the midst of the preparations, my dad would always call and give me his picks on the top six categories and I had to be prepared to give him mine. Once the show started, there were no changes to the ballots. “After all, you’ve had weeks to decide!” Every Wednesday night, he took my mother to dinner and a show, so when awards’ season rolled around, he was well-versed on the year’s films and had an opinion on how things should shake out. He read movie reviews in The Washington Post, The New Yorker, and Time magazine and he watched with a critical eye. He thought Netflix was one of the greatest business ideas of our time. He loved watching old movies and was planning on doing just that before God decided He had other plans that day.

My dad was not a religious man. He did not profess a faith – quite the opposite in fact. He fought in three wars and had great faith and hope in his fellow man. So after his stroke, when we made the decision to move him to palliative care, my faith had to be great enough for the both of us. In the song “Borrow Mine,” Bebo Norman sings:

When you are weak, unable to speak
You are not alone
The God who has saved us will never forsake us
He’s coming to take us, take us to our home
You can borrow mine when your hope is gone
Borrow mine when you can’t go on
‘Cause the world will not defeat you when we’re side by side
When your faith is hard to find
You can borrow mine

I stayed by my dad’s side around the clock those final days. I got texts, emails, voicemail messages, and all forms of social media support from friends and family across the country telling me they were praying for my dad’s salvation. One friend said her mother-in-law was praying, too. Hospice workers came daily to tend to him, to support us and to pray. My college roommate spent Halloween with us and we handed out candy to three angels, took selfies, and willed him to live through the night.

Early on in the week, I cried out to the Lord with every fiber of my being and I begged to know that my dad would be with Him; I said I didn’t think I could go on for decades of my life not knowing if he were going to be there when I got there; I pleaded with Him to give me something so I could be sure. “I do believe! Help my unbelief.”

I was asking for Hope. The very thing that separates our Christian faith from all other world religions. It is to trust in, wait for, look for, or desire something or someone; or to expect something beneficial in the future. God gave me much hope that week as everything else fell away and I did nothing more than live out my faith. He gave it to me in the form of a hospice chaplain who had played basketball in college just like my dad. As the chaplain prayed over him the prayer of salvation, my dad, who was in a non-responsive state, reached out and grabbed his hand and held it tight. Just moments after he died, hope came in a family of three deer that stood at our back door, just like our family of three. And after a day of grey skies and rain, it came in the form of a glorious sunset to usher my dad home.

“Why do you complain? Why do you say, ‘My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God’? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40)

On November 2, 2015, Lt. Col. Leon K. Wolfe, Jr. soared on wings like the eagle; he will forevermore run and not grow weary, walk and not be faint. He will be laid to rest with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery on May 2, 2016. “And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in you.” (Psalm 39:7)

January 2016: SELF-CONTROL

My dad died unexpectedly in November, thus my absence from your inbox. Self-control has been at the forefront of my mind ever since.

I am an only child and just for sheer lack of numbers, we are a very close-knit family. I don’t want to sugarcoat – it wasn’t always sunshine and roses – but when there are so few, it is hard to escape notice, make other plans, fix something different to eat, or catch a ride with the later group, thus you end up tightly woven.

And so grief descends upon us and grips us firmly, tighter than I ever imagined it could and it hits us in waves, each of us coming to the surface gasping for air at different intervals but barely long enough to sustain ourselves, utterly unable to buoy one another. Finally, the relentless tide recedes and we are drifting, some further out to sea than others, and thankfully we are tethered – still woven together by our shared experiences, and familial bond, and by love.

But now the real work begins. How long is it acceptable to cry when friends ask how I’m doing? “God give me the power to control my tears.” How long can I put off getting together with someone who just wants to support me? “God give me the words to explain how I’m feeling.” How do I find the time and energy to deal with my mother’s affairs and my father’s estate on the east coast? “God let my will be Yours and help me to pause and gather my thoughts before I make decisions.” How do I not worry about my 85-year-old mother living alone? “God guide my thoughts and turn my worry into prayer.” How do I stop grieving and get back to being the person my family and co-workers need me to be? “Lord, bless me and comfort me.”

The hymn “It Is Well With My Soul” was written by Horatio Spafford in 1873 shortly after his four children, all daughters, died when their ship sank in a collision with another ship during an Atlantic crossing. Prior to that, Spafford had lost his fortune in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 and the economic downtown of 1873. As he traveled by boat to meet his grieving wife in Europe, he penned these words:

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to know,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Like so many among us, I am limping into the new year. But that’s the awesome thing about being part of a church community – we can limp along together with joy in our suffering because we are certain of this: It is well, it is well, with my soul.

September 2015: INITIATIVE

He’s got spunk! That kid’s going places! Most likely to succeed! Get up and go!

These are all things that come to mind when we recognize initiative in someone.  Initiative can be a difficult concept to explain to young children.  Sometimes it feels like they’ve either got it or they don’t.  It’s the ability to assess situations and environments then act independently to effect positive change.  It’s a fresh approach to something.  Being the first to step up.

Okay, let’s be real.  That’s difficult for lots of adults to grasp.  You may disagree with me, but I believe initiative is a virtue that is caught, not taught.  When you find a kid with initiative, generally the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

On the last Sunday of August, we host our annual kickoff event for ministry volunteers – Pour Into!  It’s a sizeable crowd with all the small group leaders from Promiseland, Kingdom Kids, SonTown, Quest, Sr. High, and Community Groups present.  Way up front listening attentively, I spot a freshman guy I know and love through my own kids.  I don’t remember seeing his name on anyone’s roster, so I’m super curious as to which ministry snagged him in the eleventh hour!!  So I proceed to whisper around to each ministry leader to find out:

“I wish!”

“Nope.”

“Uh-uh.”

“No.”

Wow! Maybe I’ve still got a shot at this!  His mom is at a table in the back near me, so I beeline it over to her to find out why he’s here.

“Oh, he just came for the food before he goes to band practice!”

Band practice?!?  God, why are You so good to me?!?

As we head into our breakout sessions by ministry group, I sidle up next to him and make my pitch:  “We are starting a new Student Band to kick-off large group time in SonTown.  Do you have time to help us get that off that ground?”

“Sure, I could do that.”

YES!!  “Great!  I’ll be in touch to figure out the details. Thanks so much!!”

Now I’m off to run my breakout session and announce to my small group leaders that after a year of discussion and prayer, this band thing looks like it might actually happen… at least for Kickoff Sunday!  As everyone is getting settled and I’m handing out the calendar and roster, in he walks saying that it turns out band practice isn’t starting for a few more minutes, so he thought he’d join our session.  I ask for introductions: “Please share your name and what group you’ll be leading.”

When his turn comes, he says, “I’m Will Grubbs and I will be leading the Student Band for SonTown.”

I swallow the lump in my throat and think, “There’s my article for this month!”

VBS at MVPC

From June 22-26, 2015, we had 340 kids join us for the adventure of a lifetime at MVPC each day from 9am to Noon for Son Mountain High Adventures Vacation Bible School. We put on our climbing gear for an exciting adventure exploring God’s power and promises. On our trek we discovered glacier games, carabiner crafts and mountain top treats! At the Ranger Station we met Ima Llama and Search & Rescue dogs and personnel, and we rocked out to the live band! This base camp was way cool! Don’t miss the epic reunion coming this fall! Check out all the photos on our VBS Blog!

We also look forward to welcoming you and your child to VBS at MVPC next summer June 20-24, 2016! Mark your calendars now and don’t miss it! Your friendly counselors will be back and they’ll be looking for you! Registration will open for staff and staff children in March and open registration will begin in April 2016.  Contact Shelly Guinn with questions.

Summer 2015: CONVICTION

Does anyone else religiously read the Scary Mommy blog? Those gals are funny! And, boy, are they convicted about whatever it is that’s given them a bee in their bonnet. It might be the bedtime routine or breakfast cereals or road trips or box tops or food allergies or bringing back 1970’s summers. Conviction is a powerful thing. It’s standing for what’s right, even when others don’t. There are lots of things worthy of our conviction, but how often do we have the energy or courage or fortitude to stand up for what we believe in? After all, it’s not the popular thing to do.

In 2008, my daughter was invited to a 10-year-old birthday party at the movie theatre to watch Mamma Mia, the story of a young girl trying to figure out who fathered her. Yes, it’s upbeat with catchy ABBA tunes and fun dance routines and its rating is PG-13… but my daughter was ten. I didn’t think it was an appropriate movie for her at that age. She was mortified that I wouldn’t let her go and more so that I told the hosting mom why. As it turned out, they chose to throw two separate birthday parties for their daughter that year because four other moms were just as mean as me. Lucky birthday girl! Lucky us!

Take video games. The “discussion” over which are appropriate is ongoing in our home. First person shooter games like Call of Duty and other games with the “Mature” rating like Grand Theft Auto, which has no redeeming qualities whatsoever, have no place in my home. The men in my life vehemently disagree. I’m the mom so I win on this one because I’m passionate about my dislike of these games, I’m good at internet research, and I have time to seek out the statistics proving they are a menace to society, or at the very least, won’t help improve your GPA or SAT/ACT scores. My compromise is that they can play them at the home of their friends who have somehow convinced their mothers these games are child’s play. Turns out after all the years of fuss, my kid isn’t really that into gaming so I’m glad I held fast to my beliefs.

Though I could go on and on, I will leave you with one final conviction that we’ve had since the get-go and that is no sports on Sunday. In this community, I don’t need to go into what we missed out on by making that a hard and fast rule for our family. Maybe my daughter could have been an Olympic swimmer, but I doubt it. Maybe my son could have played Wimbledon. Or more realistically, maybe they could have gotten sports scholarships for college. We will never know. But my husband’s commute is brutal and he did not want to spend his weekends in the car driving to Reno and Citrus Heights and Manteca and Clovis to watch kids run around on fields. So we went to the farmers’ market and cooked and gardened and hiked and shopped and played board games and entertained friends, and began most every Sunday with church. Because showing conviction and standing up for what’s right isn’t always easy and the best place to find out how to do it is among God’s people and in God’s Word. When you know what God says, it makes it easier to figure out when and how you should stand for what’s right.

It says in 2 Thessalonians 3:13, “Don’t ever get tired of doing the right thing.” I have no regrets over putting my foot down on certain issues. I’m not out to win any popularity contests. That’s not why God gave these kids to me. He entrusted them to me to raise them up to know Him, so I strive to keep walking in the path He has laid out for us, reading His road signs along the way and adjusting course whenever we hit a roadblock. I guess you could say I’m convicted.

May 2015: PEACE

This month’s memory verse, Romans 14:19, says: “Let us do all we can to live in peace. And let us work hard to build each other up.” That verse challenges us to do ALL we can to live in peace, to do everything in our power to build a bridge to fix what is broken between us and someone else. There are times when we are bothered by something someone has done but we choose to ignore it, and then another something happens, and pretty soon we could write a country song about the rift between us. Often we can’t even remember what the original sin was that set us on this path in the first place.

But you and I need to remember that we are set apart because of our faith and we prove it by showing we care more about the relationship than we do about winning an argument, being right or holding a grudge. We aren’t going to be friends with everyone, but in our relatively small community, it would be nice if we could all co-exist peaceably, working together on school committees, cheering on the kids at sporting events, scooting in and making room for each other at music concerts and dance recitals, and taking our rightful turn in the carpool.

Peace almost always requires some type of sacrifice. It’s practically a guarantee that in every relationship there will be a time when you will have to give up something you care about to make peace. Pride is often the biggest thing. When we feel wronged, it takes courage and humility to set aside our pride and confront someone. In writing this article, I felt convicted in doing just that, so I asked to meet with someone with whom I’ve had a difficult relationship for the past couple years. I opened with, “I can’t be better in the future if you don’t tell me what I’ve done in the past that is making you treat me in this way,” then I pointed out the specific behavior that was bothering me. It was a difficult conversation…for both of us. Some of the things were unintentional on his part and he had no idea they were hurtful to me. So often when we are holding a grudge or are unforgiving of someone, we are only causing ourselves unnecessary stress and angst because the person we’re angry with has no idea of our feelings! He was truly sorry and even embarrassed by some of the things he had done. In the end, we hugged it out and I think we both feel good about the new path we’re on.

It’s true that peace will cost you something, but keep in your heart that Jesus has already paid the price. Then do all you can to live in peace and work hard to build each other up.