My church life…in a small community…


The other day, I was up in the balcony preparing the sound system and the morning songs on the overhead projector…once I had things set up (well, a few hitches during the service), I felt content.  Like I had finally found the place to worship God and learn more about Him.

 

Sort of how I felt when I attended this one really big church and would greet people as they came through the doors…excited to be part of a great ministry…and to see people gathering to worship the almighty and merciful God…

 

Though the church is small, there is approximately fifty people on an average Sunday morning; although it may seem small, the people have big hearts and the messages are usually powerful.  Most recently, I attended another church where they had a congregational sing-along with other churches in the community…what a great opportunity to meet others.  Of course, me, was shy and went into my little shell…but I’m slowly coming out…as I acquaint my self with a new community and church.

 

This church was initially discovered by my parents a few years ago so they have described its wonderful atmosphere and people, who are just as my parents described.  Then, when I moved here, I checked out one church that really didn’t seem like home…it probably feels fine to others but I wanted a close knit church…like a family atmosphere…after losing my husband…it was as if God was telling me to become part of a family again after listening to several messages the topic of family.  Which does feel like family especially by those who helped with the move like the pastor and a few others before I even met them…

 

Then, I paid a visit on a Wednesday evening after cleaning out a storage unit…the atmosphere was warm and welcoming as I felt myself drawn to the point of driving over an hour each way to attend its services.  Now, that I’m here, it feels strange to have the church only ten minutes away so that took a few days to adjust to not getting up at 5:30 on a Sunday morning…though the trip was worth it especially now that I have fallen for its many valleys and the community itself.

 

Now I can be more involved like recently helping with a yard sale, going to prayer meeting (something I’ve missed doing over the years), helping with the sound system (which has its own trials as I learn) and other areas as needed…I’m even practicing to eventually sing a solo (Yikes…I don’t do good in front of people).

 

Anyway, though my pastoral license is delayed, I can still do what my heart desires…helping at a church (since part of my spiritual gifts is serving), something I have loved doing since I was a kid in a church that feels like being with family…

 

So, what is your church like?  Have you found a church to call home?  If not, I pray you find one…after all, God is about community and a church is like a community where people learn about Him while being supported during the rough times…so come home to a place of family and fellow believers tow worship Abba Father…

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Community of Support and Encouragement


I do apologize for not writing in a while…its been hectic.  Starting with the first day of my new class, life started out with landing in the emergency room one day due to a lot of pain.  This visit will lead to several tests in the coming months and perhaps major surgery.  Nothing serious…I pray.  Yet the people who I expected to say something have been quiet; however, I have been getting support from strangers, good friends, and relatives…who I appreciate and feel blessed to have in my life.

Then, our community was hit was a tragedy called a school shooting.  Three young people tragically passed including the shooter himself.  The community is reeling.  People around the community have reached out in support of the families of all including the young man who chose to commit such a terrible crime.

In the midst of this, as I wonder if I will be diagnosed with the big C (not yet, more tests will determine if so), I’ve also wondered – why do people stay so busy and then show up at funerals?  Why don’t we stay in touch before a person passes or even is diagnosed with a terrible disease?  Why does it take a tragedy before we realize that someone was facing issues in their life?  This is not meant to judge anyone…but just a curious thought.

Yet, we need to support each other during both the good and not just the bad stuff…after all, God made us to be part of a community.  Humans thrive when they have a support system, surrounded by loved ones.  Perhaps if people knew they had this support, maybe there would be one less tragedy in this world?

I know it may not stop all tragedies like the one my communities and others have experienced in recent years in this country…but even if it was just one or maybe even two, that would be few less tears shed.

So think about it…who haven’t you spoken to a while that may need to hear from you even if they are going through a good time?  Maybe inside they are facing turmoil too afraid to say something in fear that they will be judged.  So, perhaps just a few words of encouragement will help them through that turmoil.

The encouragement can be a simple hello, how are you to even praying with them.

Maybe write a real letter or card sent through the postal system called snail mail.

So, in conclusion, I leave you with a verse that was preached in church yesterday to encourage those facing struggles now as they read this blog:

John 16:33 (NIV) “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcame the world!”

And, remember, even if you feel alone during a health crisis, loss of everything dear to you, or even something as simple as not passing a test at school that you needed to pass, God is with you and He does love you.

Finally, if you do need encouragement or even just prayer, please contact us so both my husband and I can pray for you…

Coming home to a new church


Well, one of the changes we had to make when moved to our new town is finding a new church.

Initially, we thought this process would be tough and we would not find a church that would meet our needs as well be too cliquish in such a small town.

First, we went to one local church and discovered it was crowded as we packed in like sardines; however, only a few people said hi to us – the greeter and the person(s) sitting next to us.  I tried to reach out and say hi first yet even then we felt snubbed so it was just sit back and enjoy the service.  The pastor did come and visit us which was nice yet it was interesting that he taught a message about loving people and his congregation was too cliquish to welcome new people.  Worse, it was barely wheelchair friendly…

The next Sunday we attended a larger church and were immediately greeted by an older woman who made us feel warm and welcome as if we had come home.  As we sat, waiting for the service to begin, other people came up and greeted us.

I felt at especially since it was the same type of church I had grown up in – Assembly of God!

Interestingly, when we lived in our old town, we both decided that the AG was not for us yet we did not have many choices in this new town except Baptist, Catholic, and Lutheran.  Dene grew up Lutheran but I never felt comfortable in one and we were not into Baptist church nor was catholic church for us even though we know some great Catholics and Baptists.

This AG church had its usually speaking in tongues, older women dancing and swaying to the worship, and a young couple who I found myself chatting with as we shook hands during the greeting time.  I even found an Evangel – an AG magazine that I loved to read as a kid.   Definitely at home!

The next week, we attended again with my in-laws and again, we were warmly greeted.  We found ourselves wanting to get involved and that week I had the pleasure of attending a women’s kick off event where a woman shared about being attacked and yet she was still alive and praising God.  Reminded me that even though I had been attacked by two different people as a kid, I am still alive and God continues to use me as I yearn to eventually reach out to other women who have been attacked and/or abused.

Another event was attending the women’s bible study on Girls with Swords about women overcoming being oppressed and standing up by using God’s word to overcome adversity and the attacks the “enemy” will throw at women.  A great study and I highly recommend it.

Finally, we attended a prayer session where two great women prayed over my husband for healing.  We left feeling at peace and ready for the healing.

Tonight, we went back to the bible study and even had dinner of stew and dessert with other believers for just a dollar. a person.  Can’t beat that!

Yes, we did find a new home town and we found a “family” in a church of believers who believe in loving people and Jesus.  I cannot wait to become more involved through more fellowship, worshiping God, and praying together.

So, how do you greet new people or even those who have been coming for some time at church?  Do you snub them or do you warmly greet them?  I used to greet people and found that service to be a great service to those who need to be warmly welcomed to church; after all, how you greet people makes a world of difference so go out and warmly welcome everyone to your church just like Jesus would.

Connecting with yourself, God, and people in a community


So, in preparation for our move, we went through the pantry and cleaned that up today.  We did have a few extra boxes of food that we figured we would not use up before the move nor do we want to haul a ton of food down to Nevada.  After talking to management, we discovered that there are people in our own building that always need food!  Wow!  What a wakeup call!  So we put the food out and walked away.

Later, as I went to bless someone with a clock, a couple of my neighbors were going through the food as if their life depended on it.  They were excited about the blessing and wanted me to take some of it.  I had to politely decline the offer but walked away with a gladness in my heart – that people were overjoyed at the blessing – and saddened that people are so desperate for food and other supplies like the school supplies we left out for the parents with kids.

It’s about helping people within the community…

After all, we are told to love our neighbors – friend or foe – as much as ourselves and to do this, we need to love the Lord thy God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Matthew 22:36-40).

My latest class The Spiritual Journey:  The Integrated Approach of Henri Nouwen has been about reaching out to other people (outward) while focusing on strengthening the core of who we are (inward) and being able to connect with God through prayer and reading scripture (Upward).

One of the focuses of this journey is reaching out to people within a community, which is anyone that we touch on a daily basis rather it be the neighbor who needs food or the daughter who needs a hug from her parents.  We are all connected and we can build “a home and create space for God and for the Children of God…within this discipline are the disciplines of forgiveness and celebration” within the community (Nouwen 1995; Moving from solitude to community to ministry).

Finally, the food and other supplies that we put out are almost gone.  Though it was a simple gesture of providing for the needs of our neighbors by giving what we don’t need, there was a sense of community with these neighbors as they took what they needed and sounded as if they were celebrating a blessed gift.

And, that is what community is all about…

So, what can you do to strengthen the community around you? 

Though we may not always have what they need, we can still create an atmosphere of community service with each other by reaching out to your neighbor by seeing if they need something even if it is just a smile or words of encouragement (Nouwen 1995; Moving from solitude to community to ministry).

After all, we are connected with each other and we do live in a world that needs a bit more encouragement…

Knocked on my Noggin to get Focused


Well, we have approximately 7 weeks before we make the move and it is coming up quick. Today was spent organizing some stuff we have stored at my in-law’s garage, where during this process I managed to bang my head on a ladder. Ouch! That hurt but I’ll live.

After bumping my head, I realized we need to slow down a bit even in the midst of this rush to get things ready, we still need to remember what the mission is all about. Recently, I wrote the following for the vision that has been cast on our hearts.

Introductory

My name is Ann Cole. We – my husband Dene and I – share the vision of opening up a community-style coffee shop called Vision 63. We are being called to open this place because we want to make a change in society by reaching out to the lost and those who are considered misfits in this world. These people are hurting, lonely, and they are searching for a safe place to know and be known and to find Jesus.

 When did this vision start?

For me, this dream started when I was a kid watching my dad preach at a local church. My heart and soul has always been to minister to the lost within the community. After all, I was the kid who made friends with the least popular kids, was somewhat respected by the popular kids and enjoyed nurturing animals. Therefore, it was no surprise when I spent a weekend in a neighborhood that was known for its daily shootings during a mission trip in the mid 90s.

This trip would include cleaning up a community center house, evangelizing, and interacting with the kids. I even spoke at a local church and was given the nickname of evangelist as the dream for a community center began to take hold.

The journey towards fulfilling this calling started about seven years ago. During that time, God took me on an interesting journey when I visited the church that sponsored that ministry. As I stood in the lobby, I was reminded of my calling to minister to people within a community. Even more amazing was this church “grandfathered” the church where I was commissioned as a leader, called an evangelist once again while developing the faith to start my educational journey towards ministry.

Currently, I am pursuing a Master in Pastoral Care as it prepares me to reach out to those who are hurting in both the church and the community. I have also been involved with volunteer, and ministry opportunities for different organizations.

Finally, I am highly skilled in technology, administration, supervision, accounting, and analyzing data that will be valuable in setting up a community style coffee shop that will have the following services and programs:

• Coffee and Fellowship for people who may not go to church or anyone else who wants to be involved with the ministry

• Community-style classes such as art, writing, computer, Bible, skill training, etc.

• Meeting the needs of the community through giving of resources such as providing food, training, clothing, and possibly shelter

We are learning that Nevada is one of the least religious states in this country. They need people like my husband and I to reach out to them.

Therefore, with this in mind, what is our next step? Well, stay tuned as we fill in more information with our statements, how we plan to fill in this gap, and more stories behind the mission.

So, what is your vision or purpose for life? Are you rushing to get it done but not looking at the picture of what needs to be done? Maybe slowing down and remember that God is in control of the vision and He will help you get what needs to be done finished.

ANNOUNCEMENT COMING UP – My husband will be releasing his own blog called PrayingMan63 so stay tuned for its launch.

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Rejoicing over a Lost Battery…and Souls


Have you ever lost something important or valuable?  Do you remember the feeling of fear or panic?  Not too long ago, I had that feeling while on vacation when I realized I was missing part of my camera. 

Before going on vacation, I prepared my camera for the trip on to discover that we were missing the battery charger – probably misplaced in our last move.  As a result, I ordered a new one and charged the battery.  On the way out of the state, I stopped to take pictures and could not find my battery.  After frantically searching my bags, I could not find It; however, I was so thankful for phone cameras so I could get pictures of the first leg of our trip.

After arriving in Reno, after more searching, we discovered that the battery was indeed missing so my hubby bought me a new camera with his birthday gift card.  What a sweetheart! 

Throughout the Bible, there are parables about people who went in search of something that was lost.  For instance, there is the woman who lost a valuable coin in Luke 15:8-10.  When she realized she lost this coin, she went on a frantic search until she found it.  When she found it, she asked her neighbors to rejoice with her.

The person who spoke these parables in the Bible was a man called Jesus, who cares for the lost.  The lost could be those who have wondered from the church or have never accepted Jesus as their personal savior.  When they are found, Jesus rejoices with them even though they have violated His will and have committed sin because He still loves and cares for them. 

Over the years, I have learned to pray when something is lost and listen for that still small voice that tells me where to find the lost item.  It is usually where the still small voice told me to look just like it told me where to find the battery once we arrived home.  However, I went to the spot yet still no battery so a new one was ordered.

So what happened to the battery?  Well, a month later, just today, we found someone to take our couch set and as the couch was removed, there was the battery, right under the couch! 

Yes, we rejoiced just as we will rejoice when someone finds something that is valuable to them.  However, above material things, the most valuable of all is their soul as we reach out to the lost through the coffee shop by listening and ministering to their needs.

So, what do you do when you lose something?  What are you seeking?

Happy Father’s Day Tribute


Father…Dad…Papa…Pops…when you hear those words, what do you think of?  Do you think of a father who is respectfully intimate with you and loves you? On the other hand, do you think of a man who is hard working, loving, or kind?  Perhaps, your image of your earthly father has never been so favorable or you do not have memories of a father.

Over the years, I have had a mix of both good and bad with my own father.  He had his rough moments and yet he had his good moments with my mother, me and my four siblings.  However, over the last few years, he has become a great dad as he enjoys retirement with my mom.  Once a pastor turned carpenter, my “retired” dad spend his days helping at the church and tackling his “honey do” list of projects around their house.  When he is not busy, he spends time spoiling his grandchildren. 

Because my father was once a pastor, I have always had the desire and calling to serve within a church.  I would love to pastor a church either by starting the vision of a community coffee shop or even a community center that teaches about Jesus and who He is.

Furthermore, there are fathers like my father-in-law who work hard all their lives while managing the health care of his oldest son, my husband.  Along with his day job and caring for my husband, while growing up, my FIL managed two other kids with my mother-in-law.  Today, my “retired” FIL continues to spend time with his kids and taking care of my husband and me.  In addition to his family life and helping us, he spends time helping a local food bank and other needs of the community.

This father is the essence of serving the community as my husband and I dream of serving the community as a way of honoring him.

Another father is my heavenly Father who I call Abba and love with all my heart, soul, and strength.  At times, I may disappoint Him with my earthly ways; however, no matter what happens, He is there with a warm embrace and a warm welcome as I ask for forgiveness of my earthly sins.  He has been my source of strength and He constantly has my back.  He is a Father who will never retire from His job…

For the longest time, I was afraid of fathers until I was taught about this caring Father and I have learned to respect and honor my own father in the process. 

This Abba Father is the one who has given my husband and I the vision to serve Him through a community type coffee shop. Though we love our earthly fathers, we want to serve this Father and hear His voice as we step out in faith…

Though many of you may not have warm and fuzzy thoughts about your own father or may not know your father, do remember that on this day – Father’s Day – there is a Father who loves you today and every other day.

Happy Father’s Day