Welcome to my blog...

Green trees, cool water, a gentle breeze...the perfect place to sit at the feet of the Master and learn. Jesus taught so often on the shoreline, and He's still speaking today.

This is where I share the lessons He teaches me, often during the time I spend on the shores of a local lake. I don't have all the answers...and some days I don't have any. But I go here when I need to draw near to Him in a tangible way. Come with me...

Friday, July 27, 2012

Adventures in Community Outreach - The Event

In this last installment of the Free Market series, it's time to show the results! To recap, Part 1 explained the whole Free Market concept,and  Part 2 covered some of the nuts and bolts needed to create such a large-scale outreach.

We were in so deep, so far beyond anything we'd tried before, it was obvious from the beginning that God was in control every step of the way.  We trusted Him for the volunteers, for the donations and for the attendees.  We trusted through three days of 90 degree temps and the torrential downpours that lasted into the wee hours of the morning before the event.  By the time we arrived on site, there were no puddles of mud or water, the humidity was broken, the skies were blue and the grass was no more damp than if there had been a heavy dew.

Beginning at 6 am, we unloaded the pods and garage and 'pre-sorted' the items into departments in the parking lot. 

The tent had been set up and tables put out on Wednesday, so it was necessary to wipe it all down.  Still, having set up done ahead of time was very helpful.

Smaller items were placed under the tent, furniture and larger baby items were out in the field.

We thanked God for all He had brought together and for all those in attendance to be blessed.

Cold water and cookies were served to those who patiently waited in line over an hour for our doors to open.

In Part 2, I mentioned that items were marked with a ticket value between 1-8.  Upon entering the welcome tent, each attendee was given 10 tickets to 'spend' as they wished.  They could also help themselves to information on the church and an NIV Bible.

Several smaller pop up tents were set up over the stage (our praise team provided live music), a face painting station, and the food area.  A number of tables and chairs provided a place for attendees to sit, relax, eat and enjoy the entertainment or wait while the children took advantage of the bounce house and big slide.

Some of our guests were happy to pose for pictures with friends and their finds!

Once everyone had time to shop, the Free Market was open to church members and the general public (many of whom had stopped by out of curiousity!)  With about half an hour to go, all ticket values were lifted and people were able to go through a second time to pick up anything else they needed.   We donated anything still left to the Vietnam Vets.

The stories that came out of the day were heartwarming and encouraging.  One man was excited to pick up a computer  for his college-bound daughter.  A woman who also picked up a computer said "you can't tell me Jesus isn't real!"  A grandfather lovingly spent all his tickets on toys and games so when his grandchildren visited, he could be the "fun grandpa."  Tears of joy flowed and laughter filled the air.  One person was overheard saying "I didn't know they'd have NICE stuff!"    At least one family decided to return on Sunday to attend a service. 

When all was said and done, approximately 300 children and adults were served that Saturday in June.  Needs were met and the love of Christ was shared.  Just as importantly, those who served learned that we don't need nearly as much as we possess.  That it is a joy to bless others.  And that when we are faithful with what God places in our hands, He is faithful to multiply it and use it for His Glory.
If your church is interested in planning a Free Market or other community outreach event I would be happy to provide you with more information.  Contact me through this blog or by writing to cc@cbcnj.org.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

A Year of Lessons

July 9th is my one year 'blogoversary' and I am amazed.  Amazed at what's transpired in a year, amazed at the thoughts and stories God has given to me to share with all of you, and amazed at 'all of you'.  When I started this blog, I invited my circle of friends to take a look.  Never would I have thought that 12 months later I would have written 70 posts garnering nearly 3,000 views from 20 or more countries.   I know that compared to some, that's small potatoes.  But I never set out to become a voice to the world.  I just wanted an outlet to share some life lessons.  A place to laugh and cry with friends.  Somewhere I could express my wonder and joy at what God has done in my life and maybe save a person or two from the heartache of making the same mistakes I've made.

When I get comments to the effect that what's been written is 'exactly what you needed to hear', or see that you've been moved enough to share a post on your Facebook page, I am humbled and thankful that God has used me to speak to your heart.  It's a privilege to have this voice.

I have a couple of posts I'm working on, but for this one year mark, I'm resurrecting the link to my very first  post entitled "Majesty" based on Psalm 8.  Much has changed in a year, but much has stayed the same.  As I re-read the post I find I still love reading the truths in 'Jesus Calling', I still love watching sunsets at the lake, and God's majesty is still a wonderment.

So thank you for coming along on this journey so far.  Blessings to each of you, and I hope you enjoy reading Majesty!

~ Toni

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Cat in the Hat vs The God in the Bible

My feet are firmly planted...so much so, I've begun to grow roots.

It's not because I'm standing my ground or bravely taking an injustice on.  Nothing that valiant.
                   I'm frozen from confusion.


I'm thinking about everything I need to do, should do, want to do...and I have no idea where to begin. 

I'm reminded of a quote from that childhood staple, "The Cat in the Hat"...'And this mess is so big, and so deep and so tall, we cannot pick it up.  There is no way at all!'

My mess is not a pile of physical things.  Well, maybe part of it is.  Having just finished a major community outreach project, I'm playing catch up.

Clothes are somewhere between needing to go downstairs to be washed and needing to go upstairs to be folded and put away; the dining room table resembles a messy desk; kitchen counter tops are cluttered and there are dishes in the sink.  That alone can slow me down.

But there's more.  There are things that need a more concentrated thought process than housework.  I need to do some writing and research for an upcoming writer's conference, there's the third installment of my blog series on the Free Market I need to tackle, books to read, emails to send, calls to make.  And I'm not even at work this week.

And then there's that tug in my spirit to relax.  I want to take these 5 days away from the office and put my toes in the sand, maybe catch a movie, have lunch with a friend.  But I feel guilty because of the more 'important' things that need my attention.

And so I stand in the middle of the living room, looking around, uncertain of where or how to begin.  Sound at all familiar?

In frustration I sit down on the couch.  It would be so easy to flip on the TV, push everything from my mind, and veg out. 

Instead, my eye catches my Bible.  I open it to Philippians 4:6-7

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

A few lines later, I have underlined verse 13 as well:  "I can do everything through him who gives me strength."

And so I  remember what that first step should have been.  To lay it all down at His feet.  Are laundry, and bills, and research assignments earth-shattering issues?  No, of course not.  I should be grateful that's all I have to deal with today.  But still, He wants it all.  The big and the small.  Like the verse says..."in everything...present your requests to God."

Because when I do that, then "I can do everything through him who gives me strength."

He can give me the clarity to prioritize, the strength to tackle it bit by bit, and the peace that relaxes my spirit and restores my soul.

When the 'mess is so big, and so deep and so tall, we cannot pick it up.  There is no way at all' it's true...we can't in our strength.  But He can.  And He will.  We just have to ask.