A Well Timed Word

3 years ago I woke up on a Sunday morning with anticipation in my heart for a week at camp as the camp speaker. I laid in bed for just a minute to think of all I had to get done before I was on my way and then I got out of bed, or attempted to get out of bed. Somewhere in the normal every day getting out of bed process my back gave out. With a weird pull and a muscle contracting all normal movement ceased. I managed to hobble to the bathroom and when I bent over to try to turn the shower on the tears started as I realized I couldn’t bend to reach the faucet.

The story goes on to involve a whole church praying, a dear doctor friend paying a house call, 6 shots, 2 major prescriptions, and a lot of stubborn perseverance. At the end of the day with my 16 year old assistant by my side I was at camp. I wasn’t standing upright but I was there. I knew I was supposed to be there and so there I was. Despite opinions to the contrary it never occurred to me not to be there.

They story would be so great if I had stood on that stage that night and been healed while telling kids about Jesus. Amazing story, right? Yeah, that didn’t happen. Instead, the back spasmed and I tried to decide if I could speak while laying flat on the floor. I was quite sure I could but after a couple deep breathes I was able to keep going. The whole week was like that. A lot of deep breaths and a lot of keep goings. and in it there was beauty.

I alternated between the recliner and limping. People brought me food and ice. Staff came and talked with me. Kids waved at me from afar with strict instructions not to touch and I kept going. In the middle of one afternoon when I was feeling quite sorry for myself someone left this note on my door. Little did they know what beauty there would be in this simple anonymous note.

545090_10151052091593488_980623293_nTears ran down my face as I read through that scripture. Over and over again I read through it and over and over again I found my resolve strengthening, I found my heart healing, I found hope. I kept going and while the pain was still there (it would take months to fully recover) my purpose was redefined from me to Him.

Those verses have been my defining verses for the last 3 years. I have preached more sermons from 2 Corinthians than I can count. I have passed on these verses to people on almost a weekly basis. I turn to them repeatedly. I turned to them yesterday as the cold I picked up at camp in Alabama this week had me in bed for the day. I opened my Bible and there was that 3 year old note speaking to me yet again.

I wondered….

I still have no idea who left me the note but I know it was from one of the young staff members. Their boldness and obedience still blesses me. I’m sure they felt inadequate and maybe a little silly giving scripture to the speaker, and yet they did. I’m sure they wondered if it would mean anything and yet they gave without expecting to know. I’m sure they doubted the timeliness and didn’t want offend with such a simply “Christian” note, and yet they gave it just in time. I’m sure they had no idea that their obedience to the prompting of the Holy Spirit would significantly impact my life.

And I wonder…

How often I have been too scared, felt too silly, been too busy, believed I was too inadequate, doubted, ignored, run away, etc and missed the moments the Holy Spirit has desired to use me to bless someone. I have no doubt there have been many.

I look at this timeworn tiny note and resolve to be bolder and more obedient. I don’t want to miss moments like this, for me or for someone else.

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Timely advice is lovely, like golden apples in a silver basket. Proverbs 25:11

The Power of Listen, Love, and Be

I believe most of ministry is about relationships. It’s not about a certain age group, or a certain church, or even a certain “niche”. Ministry is about loving people where they are at and building relationships with them.

I’m a recovering task-oriented minister. I spend a lot of years thinking ministry was about the spreadsheets I could make. I thought ministry was about the yearly calendar I had marked up (color coded!). I thought ministry was about schedules, and ratios, and words and checklists. I look back and shake my head realizing no impact was made on a person’s life through my checklists. Yes, it may have been a tool to reach people but I was much more concerned with said tool than I was with people. There’s a place for task but even more so there’s a place for us task-oriented people to put aside the calendar and simply listen and love and be.

The Power of Listen, Love, and Be

I can’t remember the exact moment or process that began to shake my idea of what ministry was. Maybe it was that time at camp when I stopped talking long enough to listen to that camp counselor who was sharing about how God was challenging him. Maybe it was that time at the hospital when words failed and I cried and listened and hugged.

Most likely the turning point was when I entered into a 3 day session of counseling and my counselors looked at me with genuine interest and compassion and said, “tell us your story”. The power of someone listening to my story astounded me. For the first time I understood the healing power of listening.

Along with being task-oriented I like to fix things. So I began listening but in my listening I was half-eared. While they were talking I was solving their problem. That’s not really listening. I went through a tough period and realized I didn’t want to be around the people who tried to fix me, I wanted to be around the people who just listened and loved me.

And so I adjusted again.

Now I’ve reached the point where I’m striving to just be. To just listen. To just love.

It’s kinda crazy, the quieter I am, the more they actually say and the more He breaks in.

And because I’m still a fixer at heart I’ve been taking them to the Great Fixer. I’ve prayed with more people lately because I’m being quiet more. Look what God can do?

So I challenge you my friends, how about this summer you spend a little less time using label makers, and sharpies, and lists and spend a little more time intentionally being relational. Intentionally listening instead of speaking. Intentionally being instead of doing. Why intentional? Because if you’re like me you have to do it intentionally until it becomes a habit.

And I won’t tell if you add “be intentionally relational” on your to do list. 😉

The Alliance

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I have the privilege of being the National Children’s Disciplemaking Specialist for The Christian and Missionary Alliance. I mean for real, it’s like the greatest honor ever. I’ve been in a version of this role for about 4 years. We had our General Council just a couple of weeks ago in California and it brought immense joy to my heart to see kids noticed, recognized, promoted, and loved from the main stage. Over 4000 church leaders heard that we at The Alliance believe that kids are some of God’s most precious people.

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We have a newly revamped website you should check out. The story of why I left Council early is in the blog over there. www.cmalliancekids.com. God is on the move and I’m in awe of his kindness.

And in case you’re wondering, this is what we believe….

 

Hope for the Hard

Through the last number of years I have been learning  the art of pressing on through adversity. I really shouldn’t call it “art” because so often it has been a teeth grinding, hand over hand, pressing onward that has looked far from inspiring. Most times it has been simply putting one foot in front of the other and walking forward when everything within me wanted to quit.

Nearly 2 years ago I was told I was dying. That is a story for a whole different post…or book. Needless to say it was shocking. I knew I was sick, even really sick, but I did not feel like I was dying. The truth is life in my world physically had been hard for a number of years. Unexplained illnesses and surgeries and pain have always been my world. Never easy but in a weird way, normal. In the pushing and the walking and even the crawling I’ve come to learn a few things about journeying through the difficult.

I think many of us have believed the lie that tells us the hard stuff is all about getting through it. We long and even ache for the other side where life isn’t so tough, where the journey doesn’t hurt quite so much. The reality is life was never meant to be easy. Living in a fallen sinful world means that the majority of the time life will be hard. And there is beauty in that. 1 Corinthians 4:8-9 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

What we do with the hard is entirely up to us. I could ask the cliché question, “will you allow it to make you or break you?”. What will you do with the hard? It’s easy to stop, turn, even give up. As Christians we’re especially good at doing those things while wrapping our excuses in good “Christian language”. “We feel called a different way”. “I’m just needing a break right now”. “The Lord is calling me elsewhere”. We wrap it neatly in a bow and feel good. And yet I wonder, I wonder if we don’t most often take the easy way out?

What if we began to walk through the hard. What if we grabbed on and didn’t let go. What if we didn’t stop when it got hard? What if we began to journey for the journey, not just with the outcome in sight? What if?

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What if we looked different than this world and walked forward with grace and authenticity? Admitting it’s not easy and still going forwards speaks loudly in our world. What if?

What if we looked different than the typical Christian and loved out loud in the midst of the hard. What if we, instead of shaking our fist at God and drawing inward, turned and gave him praise because he is good? What if?

Psalm 23:4 Even though I walk  through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Your journey may not mirror my own but that doesn’t make it any more or less hard. You may need to walk through heart ache, job struggles, personal hidden issues, ministry, marriage, etc. Your journey is valid and you never walk through it alone. As you push forward, on the days when you want to give up may you hear the whisper of the One who created you saying, “I have called you back from the ends of the earth, saying, ‘You are my servant.’ For I have chosen you and will not throw you away.” Isaiah 41:9. Keep going.

Missing Reviews

Since the publishing of Missing I have been blown away by the response it has received. Publishing is such a vulnerable thing. The “baby” you’ve been slaving away on for over a year is finally out and strangers can read it (gasp!) and pass judgement. Who would have known it would feel so insecure. I also love it. From the e-mails I’ve received, to the people I met at CPC, to the pictures of the book on Instagram, I am blessed. Below are a few reviews off Amazon. If you’ve read it, I’d love for you to add your own voice to the reviews. Haven’t bought it yet? Get on over here and buy it!

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“Fantastic book, equal parts candid, sobering, anecdotal, factual, and funny. The challenges we are facing with Millennials and their faith is not something that developed quickly nor will it be something that is adequately corrected quickly. The roots of that sobering reality stem back to the formational years of faith and Melissa provides key stats, stories, and big picture solutions to seeing that tide change. Particularly appreciated the call to facilitate kids learning to hear the voice of God, makes me think of Samuel as a young kid. If you have kids, work with kids, or find yourself in a local church, read this book! It will encourage you, challenge you and give you practical ways to see lifelong faith developed in the tender hearts of kids when they are most open to the gospel.”

 

“Finished the book in one sitting and closed it feeling convicted and wanting to act. I am a youth ministry major, and I see myself using this book not only at camp, where I also work, but also in whatever I end up doing. There is nothing more important than the next generation, including youth and children. Don’t underestimate your kids, they go through more and know more than you expect. I say everyone should read this; it will open your eyes to our problems and start you down the road to a solution (aka: Jesus). It’s not long, so just pick it up and read it, it’s worth your time.”

 

“As a pastor in a local church, I would highly recommend this book to everyone involved in any type of ministry. To be honest, it took me by surprise. Some of Melissa’s ideas were to say the least…eye-opening! It has caused me to rethink the way that we do church. Children are not the church of the future. They are the church of today! let’s allow them to be a part of it.”

 

“I first met Mel when she interned at our church about 10 years ago. She stayed with my wife and I for a period during her internship and she now stays with us a few days every year while she’s in Florida. I’ve known from the beginning that Mel was gifted from The Gift Giver and her first book MISSING is profound evidence of that giftedness. Therefore…I encourage…although I’d really like to command…”every” Jesus follower to read over and over again this gift (delivered through Mel), from The Gift Giver…for it has many treasures His people have been searching for and are in desperate need of! After all…it’s a gift…receive it!!!”
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