Psalm 139:23

"Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way of the everlasting."

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Catch & Release

I'm trying to blog at least once a week so that I can keep everyone some what updated on the Children's Ministry at Contact. Even if what I say is not the least bit intelligent or insightful, I promise it will be real :). There are several amazing things that are taking place in ministry right now, but what I want to address is a shift in perspective...

 I am beyond blessed! Not many children's ministers, missionaries, rent a christian, (whatever title you label me with) get to say that their family doesn't only support them, but does ministry alongside them. Everyone in my family is an active member at Contact. My parents, Grandma, Aunt & Uncle, brother, & cousins all attend. My Mom & I were discussing ministry this past weekend & what it should look like. She spoke of the book "Same kind of different as me." I will be entirely honest, I have not read the book... I have skimmed it & stolen quotes for illustrations, but I haven't really read it. Unfortunately this thing called college dictates what I have time to read. However I have 2 points based on a quote she shared below...

"I heard that when white folks go fishin they do somethin called 'catch and release.' 
Catch and release? I nodded solemnly, suddenly nervous and curious at the same time. 
'That really bothers me', Denver went on. 'I just can't figure it out. 'Cause when colored folks go fishin, we really proud of what we catch, and we take it and show it off to everybody that'll look. Then we eat what we other words, we use it to SUSTAIN us. So it really bothers me that white folks would go to all the trouble to catch a fish, when when they done caught it, just throw it back in the water.' 
He paused again, and the silence between us stretched a full minute. Then: 'Did you hear what I said?' 
I nodded, afraid to speak, afraid to offend. 
Denver looked away, searching the blue autumn sky, then locked onto me again with that drill-bit start. 'So, Mr. Ron, it occurred to me: If you is fishin for a friend you just gon' catch and release, then I ain't got no desire to be your friend.' 
I returned Denver's gaze with what I hoped was a receptive expression and hung on. 
Suddenly his eyes gentled and he spoke more softly than before: 'But if you is lookin for a REAL friend, then I'll be one. Forever." 
- Ron Hall, "Same kind of different as me" 

This past Sunday my Mom visited with another Mom. She had asked that we talk with her five year old daughter, who would soon bury her Grandma. This is a family we have known for the past nine years. We are absolutely in love with the beautiful children in this family! They are each precious gifts from HIM. Finishing up the conversation my mom stated, "You know we love you & we are here to do whatever you need." As my Mom walked away the other Mom said, "Hey Mrs. Shelly... I love you!" and hugged her. For those of you who do not know this family the story doesn't mean much to you, but for those of us who know them this story means everything! It has taken nine years for this woman to let down her guard and allow us to love her! This moment was monumental! 

Events like last Sunday don't happen unless we are intentional about our love for other people. Sometimes ministry becomes like the quote... "catch & release." I wonder where the other Mom would be if Contact had moved on eight years ago? Would there have ever been a moment where she received love from a christian & reciprocated it? I don't know! What I do know is that when ministry begins to look like "fishing" we are viewing people as projects. Projects are for jobs... ministry isn't a job... people aren't a job! Loving people every day is a gift! I have yet to "work" a day at Contact. That being said, for ministry to ever be effective in someone's life we cannot look at people like I did this book. I don't get to just skim over people & pick out the good parts. Real relationships involve real problems. Real ministry involves walking through real life with people, not skimming over them and deciding who has enough good parts and who doesn't. 

In children's worship I gave the kids stickers. We used the stickers to say 3 separate prayers. The first prayer was individual & they prayed about the marvelous things God would do through them throughout their lives. The second prayer they were asked to pray for someone in the room & give them a sticker. No one in my class prayed for just one person. I ran out of stickers because every child prayed for more than just one other friend! Lastly, we prayed as a class... that God would do things through our class, our part of the body. I asked them why I used stickers? One of my girls replied, "Cause you want us to know God loves all of us." Another replied, "Cause you love us." And another said, "Cause you want us to pray." All of their answers are 100% correct! I explained that furthermore our prayers stick with God. He doesn't forget what we ask of HIM. This idea of STICK is such a huge deal to me. I want to build relationships that STICK eternally. Catching & Releasing is not good enough! People aren't able to be thrown away. Every person I come in contact with is worth sticking with because JESUS died for them too. 

I haven't mastered this level of patience & humility and by no means am I stating that I have. However, just because I am not there yet does not mean that God's standard is anything else. When Jesus was asked what the greatest command is HE answered 2-fold, Love the Lord your God with all of your heart & love your neighbor as yourself. HIS expectations are no different today.  My prayer is that HE will teach us how to love the way HE loves; wholly & completely.

Psalm 72:18, "Praise be to the Lord God, for He alone does marvelous deeds. 

LORD, I ask that you continue to bless Contact. Be with YOUR children. Protect their hearts & guide them in the way they should go. Give us the tools to assist them in their walk with you. Above all help us to love you more completely so that our love for you will spill onto others. Help us to see others value because of who they are in YOU. Thank you for the cross. Thank you for the opportunity for a relationship with you. Help us to never forget what you did.
In Jesus Name,

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