Friday, October 21, 2016

Lesson Learned

I spent this last weekend with 54 middle-schoolers at Camp Tapawingo on the middle school retreat. Unfortunately, one of my 6th grade girls got sick and by Saturday morning she was down for the count with the stomach flu. She was so bummed to have to go home and miss out on the retreat she had been looking forward to for so long!
While we were waiting together for her dad to come get her, she was laying down on the bed and telling me how bummed she was to miss out and go home. She kept asking if her mom could bring her some medicine, and thought maybe she would feel better then. In between throwing up, she asked me if I knew what the next lesson was on, and what we would be talking about. She wanted to know what we would be learning. It was almost like she was desperate to hear, like she had only gotten a taste the night prior during the lesson and she wanted more. I found her desire for God's Word so encouraging. Most kids would likely talk about missing out on playing GaGa Ball, or the night game, or hanging out with friends during free time, and I wouldn't have thought twice about it. Instead, her desire was to sit and listen to the teaching of God's Word and that completely surprised me in the best possible way. It made me wonder, am I that eager to hear God's word? To be taught from it and to learn and grow?
We have been talking a lot on Wednesdays in Fusion about 1 Timothy 4:12 “Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.” This isn't some cutesy thing we tell middle-schoolers to get them to behave, or to remind them that they have others looking up to them. This is God's Word, this is truth, and we believe it! And my sweet 6th grade student showed me that she is living this out, in such a genuine way.
It was an incredible weekend filled with lessons about the Gospel and how it impacts our salvation and beyond. In fact, 5 kids put their faith in Christ and we praise Him for moving in such a mighty way. The students weren’t the only ones learning lessons though. I learned to not write off this age group. Don't say they just need to get through this phase or in High School they will be better and more enjoyable and possibly wear deodorant. No, right now they have the ability to change the world, and right now they can impact lives for Jesus. We sincerely believe that and it's one of the biggest joys in my life to get a front row seat. If you believe it too, don't hesitate to tell them - I promise that they can't be reminded too much.

--Siriana Frost, 6th Grade Girls Small Group Leader

Friday, October 14, 2016

To Grow...Get Smaller

I once heard a pastor say that as a church, in order to grow we must get smaller.  He was referring to the importance of being connected to one or more small groups in the body for fellowship and care. 

I recently got to witness this firsthand in the hand bell choir.  Last spring one of our members noticed that another bell choir member still had winter studded tires on her car.  Apparently, her regular tires were pretty worn and she was procrastinating making the change over.  This special lady had been going through some tough times in the past couple of years and new tires were just not in the budget.

Our first member brought this situation to the entire bell choir (in member #2's absence) and after committing the situation to prayer, the choir members decided to do what we could to get new tires on her car. We set up a date to bring in donations and then contacted the Deacons Fund to see if they would be willing to help if bell choir members funds ran short.  Wayne Bernard, after consulting with the deacons, told us they would help if needed. 

Then God began to answer our prayers.  When we told our special ringer what we were doing we came to find out her brother was a service manager for a large car dealership in Salem.  We contacted him and discovered we could get a terrific set of tires for half the cost we had estimated.  We were able to pay for the new tires without going back to the Deacons Fund for assistance. 

Our special ringer was overwhelmed with gratitude and in a couple of days the new tires were installed.  After rehearsal one evening we all went out and "kicked the tires" in celebration. She recently told me how much this has meant to her and is now looking ahead to someday being able to pay this kindness forward.  Little did she know that this  was a way of helping my wife and I pay forward our gratitude to the bell choir who had helped us out financially several years earlier when I was unemployed for over a year.

Small groups are so much more than social gatherings.  They are a way to connect and care for our brothers and sisters in the body.  We are blessed to be a part of this terrific group.

--Jim and Joy Umstead and the entire hand bell choir.

Friday, October 7, 2016


It was a Monday morning and I was busy getting four kids ready for school and myself ready for work.  Looking back now, it seems like the smallest, inconsequential issues, but for whatever reason I lashed out harshly at my kids.  Not once, but twice.  I stopped to confess and apologize after the first time.  But not even 10 minutes later, I failed again.  As you can imagine, the self-talk started up immediately.  “They’re going to remember this forever”; “No one else I know lashes out at their kids like I just did”;  “I am a horrible mother”;  “How could I have just finished my time in the Word and not 1 hour later already have failed so miserably?”  “I am not worthy to work at a church, in children’s ministries of all things.”   Even after apologizing for a second time I could feel the weight of my sin, the guilt, the shame, the regret.  We loaded up into the car and as I turned the car on, the song ‘Grace Wins’, by Matthew West started playing.   This song is one that my girls have been learning for Joy Kids choir, but in this moment, this song was for me.    
“There's a war between guilt and grace
And they're fighting for a sacred space
But I'm living proof
Grace wins every time”

God blessed me by reminding me that through His transforming power, Grace wins every time.  I am a work in progress, ever-changing and growing in my relationship with Him.  God also allowed me to use this opportunity to provide a very practical example to my children, bringing to life the lyrics of a song that they have been learning to sing.  Though I wish I had behaved differently on this morning, I am so thankful for the way God redeemed this situation.  My kids are going to sin, fail, and royally mess up at times, but because of God’s love for us and His grace, they don’t have to carry around the weight of that guilt and shame.  And hopefully, after the morning’s events, they understand that more than ever.  They are made new in Christ, redeemed and set free. 
Stephanie Thorp

Pastor's Book Recommendation:
Heaven, by Randy Alcorn    
The best book on heaven I have ever read.  It is biblically grounded, fascinating to ponder and as with all Alcorn books wonderfully written.