Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Just get in the stinking water!

I claim that I want to hear from God.

I pray to know him more, to know his will for my life and for every part of my day.

I think about how much easier my life would be if I woke up each morning with clear instructions on what to do and where to go.

And yet, I back-talk God like a certain 12 year old who lives at my house......

I see myself in the story of Naaman, a soldier with leprosy who goes to God with the request of being healed.  God answers him, and Naaman throws a hissy fit like a 12 year old girl:








Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.” 11But Naaman went away angry and said, “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. 12Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” So he turned and went off in a rage.
How many times have I missed the healing, missed the blessing, because I wanted my own way? How many times have I told God I needed him, said I trusted him with the solution, yet when he told me what to do, stomped off to my room in a huff because it wasn't the answer I wanted?

The question is: Do I trust God or not? Do I believe he's the God of the universe, or do I think I have a better plan.

Maybe it's time to stop talking back, and just get in the stinking water!















Monday, July 21, 2014

Parenting Adolescents

A few weeks ago I was working with a Youth Ministry in Lima, Peru, and they asked me to teach a workshop for people in their community called "Parenting Adolescents".

As the mother of 3 of them, ages 11, 13, and 15, they thought I'd be an expert.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

This stage of parenting has me baffled.  And exhausted.  And fearful on occasion.  And I started the workshop by making the disclaimer that I am NOT an expert, and that if anyone tells you they ARE an expert on parenting adolescents, they're probably lying.   Most of parents stayed anyway.

Our 3 girls are totally different.   One is an emotional "gusher".....she gushes her love and need for her parents one minute, and then gushes frustration and distain for us the next.   One of our girls is the steady....she rarely shares emotion, likes to talk about things logically and rationally, but holds things close to the vest.    The other daughter is a firecracker...irrational...happy...sad...loving...rebellious...you never know what you'll get.

One thing I have learned in this season of parenting is that it's going quickly.   Our oldest is going to be a Junior in High School this Fall, so I know I only have 2 more years of her living in my house (hopefully?).  So we're kicking it in to high gear as we try to pour all of the important discipling lessons into her before we have to let her loose.

Moses gives instructions to the people in Deuteronomy 6:5-7:
Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Love him with all your strength. The commandments I give you today must be in your hearts.  Make sure your children learn them. Talk about them when you are at home. Talk about them when you walk along the road. Speak about them when you go to bed. And speak about them when you get up.

The difficulty, you parents of teens know, is that life seems to be moving too fast to make this a reality in our homes on a consistent basis.  Kids are in and out of the house at crazy hours, "busy" on their computers, in their own worlds with the earbuds that seem to be a permanent fixture on their heads.

How do we connect with teenagers long enough to keep teaching the important lessons they need to learn before they leave home?

1.  Meals at the table
I know, I know....it's hard.   But one regular meal at the table every day, or at least a few times a week, gives us an opportunity to ask some open-ended questions like....
  • What was the best thing that happened at school today?
  • What did you guys talk about in Sunday School class this morning?
  • If you could change one thing about your schedule this week, what would it be?
  • What's something you wish you had more time for?
2.  Chores.  Together.
Even though our kids are busy, they still need to learn about responsibility.  They need to know how to finish a job you ask them to do, how to do their very best instead of just enough to get by.   They need to know how to keep an animal alive (okay, this one is optional, but it's been good for us).    As the parent voted "Most Likely To Be a Drill-Sergeant" in our home, it's easy for me to assign tasks to my kids to try to regain some sort of order at our house.    But when I do that, I often miss out on time shoulder-to-shoulder with my kids where they may be more likely to open up about life and friends and questions they've been having.      Assign your kid the chore of doing dishes, but offer to help them with the drying.   Weeding the garden is always more fun with a buddy (okay, it may never be fun.  Less miserable, maybe).

3.  Daily Routines
Find something to do regularly with your kid....something built in to your life that doesn't require a special invitation where their parent alarm goes off.    I started walking the dogs with one of my daughters recently.  Every morning at the same time we agreed to get up and walk the dogs - they need the exercise and so do I!    I mentioned that I had been wanting to do some scripture memorization, and asked if she could help me with that while we walk.     Sometimes we just walk.  Mostly I try to be quiet so I can hear what she's been thinking about.    Maybe you have a kid who needs to practice pitching, or one who wants to learn to cook.  Create some regular routines with your kids to be shoulder-to-shoulder with them.

I'm not sure how this is all going to turn out.   But I'm gonna keep trying, because these 3 beauties are the most important job God has given me.  I don't want to blow it.




Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Dark Side of Mother's Day

What kinds of expectations do men have for Father's Day?

Is it the same kind of crazy that women struggle with?   The Dark Side of Mother's Day that we don't ever talk about?

That side that has you moping with disappointment and hurt even before you make it to church in the morning or feeling deep resentment and bitterness towards your spouse while smiling politely and opening the 4 bottles of anti-bacterial hand soap your children bought you....

Do they have the irrational belief that the rest of the world should stop on this particular day and their children should be singing their praises everywhere they go?  (Really.....I'd like them to be literally singing......)

I'm so thankful for my easy-to-please husband.

Me: "Any special requests for Father's Day?"
Todd:  "Oreo Ice Cream Cake (a family recipe).....and meat."

Easy.   AND he did the dishes after lunch.  Are there men who experience the crazy?  Not my man.


My spiritual guide/decorating consultant, Natalie, once told me that you should always make Mother's Day about YOUR mom....otherwise, you'll always be disappointed.   Expect nothing, and be happy when your kids offer to set the table while you slave over the Mother's Day brunch you're hosting.

Sounds like good advice.  Maybe I can eliminate the crazy and try that next year.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

5 Ways Your Church Can Encourage Missionaries

Being a missionary can be lonely sometimes.   Whether you're a campus minister at a local University or you serve in the African Bush, you can feel a little bit like the eccentric single uncle of the Church - you've got some cool stories at Thanksgiving, but you still get seated at the kid table.

In our campus ministry, we're lucky to be surrounded by many generous churches and individuals who are super-intentional about supporting and encouraging our staff and students.  Maybe you're on a church staff or part of a missions committee looking for ways to connect with the ministries your church supports...here are some ways our partners have loved and encouraged us!

1.  Let Them Know You're Praying For Them

One pastor friend of ours prays for us every Tuesday and posts his prayers on Facebook.  Not only do we appreciate the prayers, it also communicates the value of campus ministry to his congregation.  Another church will send us notes from their kids when their Sunday school classes have spent some intentionally praying for us.   I love knowing different people are praying for me and for the ministry every day.

2.  Be Generous With Office Supplies  

What you take for granted in your supply closet, we see as luxury.   Post-it notes, big writing pads of paper, software, and "the good pens" are mostly out of our budget or are paid for out of pocket by staff.  When we mentioned this need to one of our supporting churches, a church secretary said, "It wouldn't be hard at all to pick some things up for CSF when I buy our church supplies!".   They blessed us with a basket full of stuff as the new semester started. 

3. Share Staff Training Opportunities   

Is your church staff going to a ministry leadership conference?  For some of our churches, the cost of bringing a missionary along would be minimal (in the big scheme of things), and the impact it would have on their ministry would be huge.  Or maybe someone at your church is an expert on technology or productivity or something else that would be useful to a campus ministry staff....offer to do training for your missionary and their staff if they're closeby.   Or, maybe a team from your church would even be willing to travel to their mission field to do the training.  We've been blessed by someone from a local church staff who used their expertise to take our staff through a strategic planning process during a difficult transition.  

4.  Adopt Their Family  

A small group from our church has adopted my family and intentionally remembers and blesses us throughout the year with treats like a Family Movie Night basket, flowers, encouragement cards, or the occasional meal.  I know they are praying for us, and if I need help getting my doorbell fixed or need last-minute cooks for our college students, I know I can count on them.

5.  Come to their stuff
If they have a fundraiser, come.  If you can visit them on their turf, on the mission field, do it.  It shows you're interested beyond just sending a check and gives you an opportunity to really be part of what they're doing.  It's sometimes hard for us to "brag" on the great things happening in the ministry, so come and see for yourself.   I guarantee you'll be amazed at what God is doing, and the staff will be encouraged by your interest.

These partnerships between the local Church and missionaries or para-church organizations can be a little tricky sometimes.  Here are some practical ways the local church has blessed us and encouraged us as we work together for the gospel.  I'd love to hear YOUR ideas about partnering with church workers outside the church walls!


Thursday, April 17, 2014

When God says "Go"

UPDATE:  We're so excited about how God has provided for this trip!!  As of June 1st, Sarah is only $60 away from her goal, and I am about $400 away.  Thanks to all of you who are partnering with us!

This Spring we've been studying the book of Acts with our college students with the theme: Do Big Things.   We've been challenging them to all kinds of things - talk to their roommates about spiritual things, fast from food for a day, fast from excess and consumption and give the money they save away....and we also challenged them to go on one of the CSF Mission Trips.

As I stood in front of them and pitched our Spring Break and Summer mission trips, I challenged them to ask God the question, "Is there any reason why I shouldn't go?"   I think we often do the opposite and expect God to give us a big sign if we should do something, even though he's already told us to go in his Word:

"Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
Matthew 28:19-20

God's given me an opportunity to lead a team of students on a trip to Lima, Peru this summer to work with a youth ministry, teach in the public schools, support the local church, and help encourage a new college ministry there.  We'll be working with native Peruvian missionaries and partnering with New Mission Systems, International.   I'm so excited to be able to share what we know about campus ministry with these young students and youth workers, and learn from what they're already doing.   In addition, our oldest daughter, Sarah, will be joining us on the trip.

Quite honestly, I can think of a long list of reasons why I shouldn't go - the biggest of which is that there is no money in our budget for a trip like this.   But we know that isn't a big deal to God!  We will spend 9 days in Peru (July 5-14) and the cost is $1,600.    I know God's called us to Do Big Things, and trusting him to provide this money for both Sarah and I is a BIG THING!

Please pray for us as we prepare for this trip.  Pray for our team of college students, for the ministry in Lima, for the funds to be raised quickly (plane tickets must be purchased in just a matter of days!), and that disciples would be made in all nations.

If you would like to give financially to the trip, you can do that directly through the NMSI website and search for my name.   Or you can write a check with "Peru - Gretchen Magruder" in the memo line and send it to: 
NMSI
2701 CLEVELAND AVE SUITE 200
FORT MYERS, FL 33901

Thanks for partnering with us to DO BIG THINGS!!





Saturday, March 08, 2014

Big Things

Doing big things is scary.

Asking people to JOIN you in doing Big Things is even scarier.

2 months ago, our staff felt like God was moving us to challenge our faith community to something MORE.....more than attending....more than a good feeling....more than a campus club....and so we started a study on the Book of Acts.    We wanted to be inspired by the amazing things that happened in the Early Church, and start looking for God to do amazing things in our community.

As God began forming the vision for this, we knew we needed to give students a way to see this in action.  Students needed to do something BIG.  They needed to step out of their comfort zone.  Stretch.  Sacrifice.  Face failure. Lose control.  See something only God could do.

We talked about all kinds of Big Things we could do.....but in the back of my mind, there was this nagging voice that asked, "what if we fail?".

What if we teach students that God moves powerfully and that same power is in us, and if we issue a challenge to do something that allows God to show up in a big way......and God doesn't do it?

***********
2 weeks ago our students started a 2 Weeks of Nothing fast.   For 2 weeks we would fast from purchasing anything that wasn't essential...no Starbucks, no movies or meals out, no Polar Pops or car washes.  The challenge was to collect that money and to bless our ministry partners in Peru.  Our goal was $2,500 to help purchase a laptop and projector for them.    We ended the 2 weeks with a DAY of Nothing, a 24 hour food fast.  We met together and prayed for the Peru ministry and talked about how hungry we were.

Then last night, as we broke the fast together, one by one students got up and shared testimonies about what God taught them during these past 2 weeks. They talked about excess and self control, about using money to fill insecurities and voids.  And they gave.  Sacrificially.  At last count, they've raised over $1800.

As I drove home last night, I could barely contain myself.   God did it.  He showed up.  His Holy Spirit is working in our community.  Students are being changed and are on mission.  Thank you, God!!

Monday, February 24, 2014

2 Weeks of Nothing

Nothing.
Nada.
Niets.

2 Weeks of Nothing doesn't sound like a big deal for someone who doesn't do much shopping....but I've been surprised to see how quick I am to spend money on the "little things".  

Today's tally of things I DIDN'T buy:
  • .85 Polar Pop - Side note: the gas station that carries my favorite ice got a new machine.  NO PELLET ICE.  
  • $7 brush - We went out of town this weekend and I somehow lost my brush.
  • $3.50 - Lunch (I found some trail mix instead....need to get better at packing lunch!)
  • $8 - Car Wash - After our road trip to Wisconsin, the mini-van is filthy...it'll have to be dirty a little longer.
__________________________________________
Today's Total:  $19.50

What was YOUR total today?



*This weekend we started 2 Weeks of Nothing, a time of prayer and fasting for a ministry in Peru we'll be working with this Summer.  2 Weeks of Nothing means no extras:  no lattes, no movies, no eating out for 2 weeks.  Each day we keep a tally of the things we've given up, and on March 7th, students will give that money towards purchasing some special things for the ministry in Peru!




Thursday, January 09, 2014

Bearing

Galatians 6:2

Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ


I'm not always great at the long-term.  I have alot of enthusiasm about the start-up and the launching of initiatives....it's the sustained, ongoing work that isn't so exciting to me.   Seriously, I think Jesus and my marriage are the only 2 things I've successfully continued to be committed to (and there are some seasons where use of the word "successfully" might be a stretch...).

Several years ago at a conference, my friend, Dean, asked about a former student.  "I wanted to know how Kacy is doing.  I've been praying for her for about 2 years now".   Dean met Kacy at a workshop he taught.  He met her once.  Truth be told, I'm sure he had prayed for my former student more than I had in those 2 years.  

Our family has a New Year's Tradition of reflecting on the past year and looking ahead....and looking back on old reflections, I notice for the last 3 years, my goal has been "become a prayer warrior".
I think of a prayer warrior as someone like Dean, who is faithful to prayer for people over the long haul, not forgetting after a week or month, but sustaining people in prayer, bearing with them.

There is a small group at our church that is teaching me alot about bearing.    Back in November, a member of their group called and just wanted to let me know that their group had decided to "adopt" our family - - to pray for us, encourage, and bless us.  Some consider November to be "Pastor Appreciation Month", and we often receive extra love from people in our church.  But our family was so touched and humbled by this group's commitment to us.  Sure enough, a few days later someone showed up with a casserole.  A week or so later, an encouraging card.  Each week a different member of the group cared for us in some way.    

But here's the thing.  

It didn't stop.

Pastor Appreciation Month came and went.  In December we received notes and gifts and requests for specific ways they could be praying for us. Already in January we've heard from group members.   It has been so generous, so loving, that a couple of our kids started to get a little concerned.  
"Are we poor?    Do people feel sorry for us?"    "Dad's not dying, is he?"

No, they're just bearing with us.

Due to health reasons, in July my husband transitioned out of his campus minister role of 20 years, and we are still trying to understand what that means for the future.   Some days are sad.  Many are frustrating.  There are moments that are scary.  But dishes still have to be washed, tests studied for, and life goes on.  Seasons are sometimes long, and it requires bearing things for more than a day or a few weeks.  What has blown me away is the faithfulness of our friends and family.  This small group has not forgotten.  We have wonderful friends who love and encourage us.  Family who reach out to us even when we're terrible at reaching out to them.  People who are walking alongside us.  

Bearing our burdens.  

I still want to be a prayer warrior.  That's part of bearing someone's burdens.  But there are people dealing with things much harder than mine....loss of a spouse, or a friend, or a child.   This morning I'm reminded of the people in my life who simply need me to remember the things they're carrying. 

Who can you bear with today? 



Friday, September 20, 2013

He's got the whole world in his hands

This morning I heard the most beautiful prayer from my daughter.  And, since I want to remember this, and I don't want to embarrass her by posting it on FB, and I'm pretty sure only spammers read my blog anymore, I'm putting it here:

On Fridays our family prays for the WORLD.  Yep, the whole thing.  Well, it's different every week...we pray for people we know in different countries, we pray for conflicts in the middle east and missionaries in Southeast Asia, and for Selah's birth family in Ethiopia....As we went around the table, my oldest prayed for the country of Japan - that God would move there to open their hearts, and that He would one day use her to be a part of it.


Monday, May 13, 2013

I'm trying to learn how to celebrate better.

I don't know if it's my first-born, practical child syndrome....or laziness....or a desire to not make a mess or create extra chaos.....but I have to admit, I'm not great at extravagant fun.  You know, those big, complicated, fun occasions that require extra time, work, and organizing.

I see it in my uncomfortability with the craziness of Children's Ministry and my generally tidy house.  I rarely send birthday cards.  Or if I do, they're usually late.  And if I'm honest, one of the most important things I want my children to learn, after loving God, is to clear the table, load the dishwasher, and clean the kitchen after a big family meal.

Which is why I think Romans 12:15 is so interesting.  Paul is describing what love looks like, and  instructs us to "rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn."

Rejoicing with someone who is rejoicing means entering into their joy.  It's not a momentary congratulations, but it's a party....it's busting out the tablecloths and chocolate fountain (even though it's a bear to clean)...it's putting everything else on hold, even if only for a few minutes to acknowledge God's goodness.   And honestly, sometimes I need to see God's goodness in someone else's life in order to help recognize it in my own.

In the same way, mourning takes time.

I was studying this passage with some friends right after the Boston Marathon bombing, and we talked about how easy it is to say, "oh, how awful", and then go on with our day.   But mourning with those who mourn means pausing to enter in to the pain and sadness of someone else.  It means asking ourselves, "I wonder what it would feel like if I had been the one to lose my son?" or "I wonder what kinds of guilt or regret or anger they must be experiencing?".   It means walking with people for longer than a day or a week; it means reminding them they're not alone, being "joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer".

I want to be a person who feels deeper and celebrates bigger.   Because that's what love does.


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

I hate my tears.

I hate my tears.

I can feel completely rational and clear-headed, and then start talking and almost immediately feel them welling up in my eyes...my lips start to quiver as I talk and I'm distracted from my own words long enough to whisper to myself, "just hold it together".

I hate feeling out of control.


But for some reason, this is how God made me.   And I have known seasons so dark, so difficult, that tears would not come.

And so I smile through my tears and thank the Lord I'm not in control.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

My One Word

I know, I know... for the 3 of you who forgot you subscribed to the little blog I used to write, it's been awhile :)    But it's a new year and though blogging still isn't a priority, I do miss the accountability it can provide.  Even if no one reads my words, the act of thinking them through and writing them down seems to cement them more in my head and heart.

I love the idea of just picking One Word for the new year.   One word to describe who God desires me to be.  It's not the only word, but it's one that the Holy Spirit keeps confirming as I've thought and prayed.

My One Word for 2013 is Gentle.

gen·tle  (jntl)
adj. gen·tlergen·tlest
1. Considerate or kindly in disposition; amiable and tender.
2. Not harsh or severe; mild and soft: a gentle scolding; a gentle tapping at the window.
3. Easily managed or handled; docile: a gentle horse.
4. Not steep or sudden; gradual: a gentle incline.

More gentle in my parenting, as a wife, a more gentle friend and mentor.  Gentle words, gentle correction and discipline.  That gentleness would characterize the atmosphere I create in my home and in my interactions.  

So, at least for these first few days of 2013, I'm shooting to be more gentle.   And if, 3 months from now, I've forgotten all about this, I may stumble across this little blog while googling myself, and be reminded of a more tender, gentler Gretchen.

Friday, August 24, 2012

August is National Breastfeeding Month

I got a box of Similac Infant Formula in the mail yesterday.

I haven't been pregnant for over 11 years, don't subscribe to baby magazines, and haven't purchased anything at a maternity store recently, so I'm not sure whose list I'm on.   One thing is sure, though.   They sent the formula to the wrong person.

I am offended by formula companies and they way the undermine the confidence of women, and  profit on our failure to successfully breastfeed.  

As a woman, I'm not sure I can think of a time I was MORE insecure than when we first brought Sarah home from the hospital.  Wanting to be a great mom, not wanting to drop her or starve her or cut the ends of her fingers off when her nails had to be trimmed....there were SO many things to be paranoid about.   What I needed, more than anything, was someone to come alongside me and be a cheerleader...to tell me I could do it, that my body was made both to give birth and to feed my child, that even though there was a learning curve to this mothering thing, it was exactly what my body was made for.

What the formula companies do instead, is to send a steady stream of messages that tell us,  "it might be too hard", "you probably can't do it", "it might not work", "you better have back-up".   And it works.    Data show that the distribution of free formula to mothers of newborns is consistently tied to lower exclusive breastfeeding rates, and earlier weaning.  Lower breastfeeding rates are tied to greater health risks - respiratory infections, asthma, allergies, diabetes, and lower IQs.

I want to stand up for women and the thing that makes us unique.  To defend our right to be successful at breastfeeding (even the formula labels state that breast milk is recommended) without subversive messages from formula companies or the implied endorsement of a hospital that gives a "gift" of a formula-filled diaper bag.

If making milk is my super-power as a woman, free infant formula samples is the Kryptonite. 




*August is National Breastfeeding Month
**Though I support breastfeeding, I do not support the "guilting" of mothers who choose not to breastfeed.  For many of them, the decision is beyond their control.  I am partially inspired, however, by my own breastfeeding regrets and by the many mothers who tell me they wish they would have known more about breastfeeding or had help before they gave up.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

A Life of Leadership

Leadership is a tricky thing.   We all love to be chosen, and being acknowledged as a leader can be an honor and privilege.   Getting to take a front seat in a ministry that advances the Kingdom can give us an incredible rush, and can give real purpose to a college student's life.  But sometimes once we begin serving in that role, we realize what a heavy responsibility it brings.   It requires surrendering our schedules and our wills; It calls for long days and nights, for difficult conversations and awkward interactions.  Leadership means disappointing and being disappointed by others.

But then you hear stories of lives changed.   You have a late-night conversation with a student who is beginning to understand how much God loves them.  You are reminded of alumni who are serving God with their lives all over the world.  And you realize what an incredible gift it is to be able to be part of something bigger than yourself.  Something that flips the world upside-down through college students!

Our Student Leadership Team, The HUB, has been reading J. Oswald Sanders' book, Spiritual Leadership, this summer in preparation for a new school year.  The chapter on "Responsibilities of a Leader" shares both the seriousness and the joys of leadership. In 1882, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Edward White Benson, wrote his rules for a life of leadership.   We should take note of the relevance still today:
  • Eagerly start the day's main work
  • Do not murmur at your busyness or the shortness of time, but by up the time all around
  • Never murmur when correspondence is brought in
  • Never exaggerate duties by seeming to suffer under the load, but treat all responsibilities as liberty and gladness
  • Never call attention to crowded work or trivial experieinces
  • Before confrontation or censure, obtain from God a real love for the one at fault.  Know the facts; be generous is your judgement.  Otherwise,  how ineffective, how unintelligible or perhaps provocative your well-intentioned censure may be
  • Do not believe everything you hear; do not spread gossip
  • Do not seek praise, gratitude, respect, or regard for past service
  • Avoid complaining when your advice or opinion is not consulted, or having been consulted, set aside
  • Never allow yourself to be placed in favorable contrast with anyone
  • Do not press conversation to your own needs and concerns
  • Seek no favors, not sympathies, do not ask for tenderness, but receive what comes
  • Bear the blame; do not share or transfer it
  • Give thanks when credit for your own work or ideas is given to another
Which of Benson's rules get you excited?   Which ones seem more difficult?