Tuesday, April 29, 2008

In Honor of My Mentor

Tonight was our final event for the Pendergraph Women's Ministry on campus. I'm in charge of coordinating the food, and we decided to have a tea (to my delight!). The seminary graciously let us borrow this gorgeous tea service and glass teacups for 200. Along with a variety of tea sandwiches, cookies and scones (complete with clotted Devonshire cream and lemon curd) it made a lovely spread, as you can see by the pictures. I chose some of my favorite teas for the occasion -- PG Tips and Twinings -- and served them with cream, lemon, honey and sugar cubes.

The event was on women mentoring women, and each board member was in charge of decorating a table in honor of her mentor. I did mine in honor of DiAnne Humrichous, who was mentor in ministry to children. I've written about Miss DiAnne before -- she was wonderfully gifted. Her daughter Jill sent me these pictures to complement the layout. I put my Bible and a little lamp to highlight DiAnne's love for the Word. She memorized chapters and chapters of the Bible, and taught generations of children to do the same. I also put out a vase of roses -- her signature! My friend Jill even named her daughter Lauren Rose in honor of her mother, because DiAnne loved roses so much.

I was so blessed to be with so many godly women who love Christ supremely and serve Him with their lives. Here is a picture of my friend and helpe
r, Rhonda, who worked as my assistant on the board this year. This sister has been a surprise new friend for me this year. I'm always in awe of who God brings into our lives to encourage our walk with him. Who has influenced your life in Christ?

If you like tea, please check out Gracious Hospitality -- she is featuring a tea marathon on her blog, with links to many others.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Gospel and Children's Ministry

Here is a letter I recently sent to a friend in children's ministry back in Illinois, as they recently have been struggling with a large influx of uncooperative children and not enough staff to deal with them all. I print it here as an encouragement to my fellow-laborers in Christ, around the globe. May you all rejoice in the sufficiency of Christ!

Hey, Johanna,

I am writing to encourage you, Stacy, Janice and Amanda (and whoever else) about Wednesday Nights with the kids at church.

All I can do is encourage you in these 2 things:

First: your vision. What IS the vision for the children's ministry, and specifically, the Wed night crowd? Calvary's mission statement is a good place to start -- "Cooperating with God in turning spiritually dead people into fully-devoted followers of Jesus Christ". How does that look for the ministry on Wednesday nights? As I knew it, we were there to feed and get to the hearts of the children we knew well, the ones that were most likely already believers. Because the numbers were smaller than on Sunday morning, it was a time to really get to KNOW and invest in these kids -- bringing them along to being fully-devoted followers of Jesus Christ. I realize this is not the case any more. With MORE kids, and visiting kids and kids from unchurched backgrounds, you are dealing with unbelieving kids! BUT THAT'S GREAT! If anything, we probably made the mistake of assuming belief in a lot of those church kids, and should have shared the gospel with them more regularly and more clearly. NOW is the time for that. If there is anything I can encourage you in, it is the gospel. Of course kids are bad. They are sinners. We don't just want them to be good, we want them to BELIEVE.

Now you need to hash out how that will practically play out. Do you need to be more intentional about sharing the gospel EACH WEEK to all the kids gathered there -- especially in an un-canned, fresh way (not just repeating a bit about Jesus being a sort of ticket to heaven). People need to be convicted about their sin. It is good to specifically point out sin and call it sin (privately, if you are talking to a specific child -- more on that thought). Emphasizing sin and need for Christ bearing our punishment is incredibly important. Consider how you might be able to do that with the kids. During lesson? In small groups? Through songs/discussion? Maybe you need to see about recruiting more people so that you CAN take children aside one on one and talk to them when they are bad -- to show them their sin and need for a Savior! I'm not thinking that every single time a kid is bad they need to go pray a prayer, but the gospel is the ONLY ANSWER for their problem!!! We should be so encouraged because we KNOW THAT ANSWER! Perhaps there are people who could not teach a whole group of kids, but would be willing to join the team to play a role of that sort. Maybe you all should pray about that and seek to recruit people who might be able to do that. These people (and you guys) can plan to take kids who are really acting up out of the general gathering and confront them with their sin and tell them they are under God's judgment for that sin. Tell them they NEED a Savior and that they need to believe. Perhaps pray for them to be able to believe, but then stop there and watch to see if the Spirit is moving. If not, it wouldn't be best to push for a false conversion.

Second: Your encouragement. As a team, you must knit together. Having a common vision helps to do that, but you must be intentional about building one another up. After the kids are gone, your first inclination may be to discuss their behavior, but refrain from doing so, and instead turn to your fellow-laborers and encourage them! This is something I've learned from Ryan Townsend, my children's director here. When I'm finished teaching, he blows me away by blessing me: "Thank you, sister, for using your gifts here," he says. I can't believe it every time. He views our ministry as vital and precious and important and thriving, and communicates that to everyone who serves with him. It is more than just thinking positively, it is encouraging your brothers and sisters IN CHRIST and in the gospel. Everyone serving together with the children ought to be participating in this. You all can be thankful for the gospel. You all can be thankful for how Christ uses the believers in the body to minister. And you can all SAY SO. It is not just delivery, it is not just a smooth running program. It IS dirty hard work, and you ALL need to get down and dirty with one another and HELP one another by knitting your hearts together in brotherly love. A temptation can come to be knit together by sharing a common discouragement. You can all enjoy griping about the little sinners you are called to minister to, that's easy. But how is that different than gossip? Certainly, we bear one another's burdens, and it would be good to pray together, even briefly, before and/or after or at another time. But you cannot knit yourselves together to stress about how hard it is, you must not allow yourselves to do that. Embrace the children God has brought you to minister to. HE has done it. Take it from His hand with thanksgiving, and spur one another on to do the same.

Finally, I want to remind you that our joy comes in the gospel. WE ARE SINNERS. We are not so different from those wicked children. In fact, if we look at them, we see them just as God saw us, apart from His Son. You can show the children love and patience because Christ has shown YOU love and patience. I remember a few months ago, a family sitting behind me had a child misbehaving over and over during the service (it was a Lord's Supper morning, so even longer). I began to feel frustrated with the child because of how many times, over and over, he would begin to be bad, and his parents would patiently stop him. That child had no idea how loving and patient his parents were being. He kept sinning against them. Suddenly, my frustration washed away, as I sat there, remembering Christ's atonement for me. I WAS THAT CHILD. I presumed upon a patient and loving Lord who loved me and called me to be his own. I saw my own sinfulness and foolishness played out in this child's behavior.

Friend, I will pray for you, and seek to encourage you in any way I know how. Have confidence in God's Providence. He has not brought you to a place that He has not before ordained. His grace is sufficient.

Love, Gretchen

Fellow-workers, a book I'd recommend is Ted Tripp's Shepherding a Child's Heart. This book is for parents, but I found it extremely helpful thinking about what my task was in the children's lives in my care.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

T4G Sale

So we bought up the leftover books from Together for the Gospel, and now we're having a huge sale at the bookstore where I work. Great stuff. All kinds of books from Crossway, Banner of Truth, Christian Focus, P&R and Baker Academic. Here are a few I'm highlighting:

Seeing with New Eyes by David Powlison for $7.97. My friend Kathleen who is a counseling student here at Southern said about this book: "It made me peel away the layers of sin in my heart, layer by layer like an onion. It changed my life."

Morning & Evening by Charles Spurgeon, prices varied. We have these in pretty gift editions, which would be perfect graduation or Father's Day gifts. I like the skinny black leather-like one.

He Gave Us a Valley, Digging Ditches, Living Sacrifice, Living Faith by Dr. Helen Roseveare. JUST what I was looking for! I was wanting some new autobiograhies by a woman -- especially one who has served the Lord through trials and hardship. Perhaps you have read Noel Piper's Faithful Women and Their Extraordinary God which features Helen Roseveare. About these books, Noel says: "Each time I read one of her accounts, I want to be like her, I want to know God as she does."

But there's lots more, too. Stop by if you live in town, or you can find the phone # from Southern's website, or leave me a comment if you want anything shipped to you! Happy Reading!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Piper: "Become a Sage"

I had the blessing of tasting a bit of the Together for the Gospel conference this week, which was primarily for pastors, but open to anyone to attend. I was certainly in the minority of women present -- less than 100, I'd guess. I mentioned to a friend it was strange to see the line outside the men's room at a huge conference like this and then be able to walk right in the ladies' room!

Most of the direct exhortations were to the pastors in attendance -- which was fitting and appropriate, but this morning during the panel discussion, John Piper briefly addressed the women present with a word about the need for women who are "sages". By this he described women who walked with God, dug deep into theology, experienced the fellowship of Christ's suffering over the course of their lives as they experienced unbelieving husbands, wayward children, medical conditions, etc. and as a result have emerged into their 40s, 50s and 6os as profoundly wise women. It would be fitting for younger generations of men and women to go to these females sages and ask for their insight. Piper described women who on the exterior w
ere gentle, loving, sweet and kind but had a rod of steel down their back -- built in there by the experience of suffering for Christ's name sake. I automatically thought of women who fit this bill -- the "sages" of my life, if you will. Perhaps you can think of them as well. (Here is a picture of my favorite sage -- Elisabeth Elliot -- whose words have influenced and guided me more than any other woman's. I commend to you her books, especially The Path of Suffering. If you never again read a book I recommend, please read this one). Just being older does not make you a sage -- but clinging to the supremacy of Christ through all the battles that a Christian must endure, saturating yourself and your mind in the Word, will in time, make you just such a person.

I was challenged. I want to be a woman like this. I sat there, listening to Piper describing these honorable women, and feeling closer and closer to that age than ever. Thinking about all the silly things in my life that I have made more important than they are. What do those things matter -- at all -- in the light of the glorious reward awaiting us? Can I, by His unlimited grace, choose to endure suffering for His name's sake? Can I look at life with new eyes, not asking "why me?" but "Why NOT me?" when I see suffering taking place? Can I choose to take every cough, every late night with an ill family member, every rough day on the job, every misunderstanding with someone I love, every hurt, every slight, every death and disappointment, and lay them on the divine altar as a sacrifice of praise to the honor and glory of Christ? By His grace -- YES. And so can you.

Dear female reader: ask yourself what you are holding onto that keeps you from loving Christ supremely. He is Supremely Valuable. Do I see Him as such? He is Altogether Good. Do I question His goodness when I experience discomfort? Friends, though we live in a society that is always all about comfort, I know that many times your trials and pains are true and real. It is not their reality that keeps us from rejoicing in the midst of them. If the trials were all joy, no pain at all, then what would be glorious about rejoicing? No, it is in this real suffering that you will know the sweetest and closest fellowship with Christ -- the fellowship of His suffering! "Therefore, let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek a city that is to come."

Sister -- consider the reward! And count it all joy!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

I Get to Go!

Today through Thursday is the Together for the Gospel Conference here in Louisville. I just found out that a friend of ours, Shu Wong, cannot go, even though he paid for the registration, so he's letting me go in his place! WOW! A few weeks ago I was feeling really left out about missing everything, but it turns out I can go to the session tonight and tomorrow afternoon (I get off work early!).

It's been crazy around here. I've seen people from college (Ben Wright, various Wredbergs, Luke Akin) at chapel and in the bookstore, and I'm hoping to see some people from my Illinois past as well (Pastor Kim, Kirby, Scott Gunter). Plus my cousin Elizabeth's husband Paul! I wonder who else?

If you are reading this, will you be there?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The right place at the right time. . .

Josh and I have been in Washington D.C. for the last 4 days, just for a sightseeing getaway, and we were delighted to find out this was opening while we were there! We actually didn't know about it until the night before, when Josh bought a copy of the Post and saw an article about it. "Hey, Gret, here's an article about rare books you might like," he said. I couldn't believe it! I read about Jefferson's book collection last month when I read A Gentle Madness. Now it is reconstructed and open to the public for viewing!

The next discovery we made was the n
ext morning after breakfast. We consulted a map and headed off in the general direction of the Library of Congress from the house where we stayed (with the gracious Ingold's). A couple blocks into our jaunt, and there we were! We had no idea we were so close. There was a ceremony taking place on the Library steps where the Librarian of Congress along with a couple Representatives (sorry, can't remember who!) and good old Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin opened the 3 brass front doors to the Library. We were in line right away, and got to enjoy wandering around a rather empty Library of Congress.

Jefferson's library was set up the way he wanted it -- in the shape of a conch shell, so that as you walked into it, you were surrounded by books. He separated them into 3 classifications: Me
mory, Reason and Imagination. I was delighted to find his section of tragedies, and see which copies were originally his (they marked his original books with a green ribbon marker, the one's replaced with yellow ribbons).

After the Jefferson exhibit started filling up, we walked around reading the quotes on the around the walls when a kind elderly gentleman who worked as a guide encouraged us to visit the main reading room. "It's the crown beauty of the Library" he told us. And it was. Normally, the reading room is only open to those who have a pass, but on this special day it was open to all visitors. And they let us take pictures! We were just crazy about this place. Above us were huge larger than life statues of great writers of different genres -- religion: Moses and St. Paul, art: Shakespeare, etc. We were distanced from the books, of course, but the reading desks were lovely, and Josh and I happened to have our own books along with us!

Of all the places we went on our trip, this was my favorite.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Happy Birthday, Josh!

Well, I'm a day late in writing this, because Josh has been working on an exegesis paper until all hours, so I have not had access to our computer at all. This is not a complaint -- I'm proud of how smart Josh is and how hard he works.

So my husband is 29, like me. The longer we are married, and the more we are around one another, the more grateful I am that the Lord has given me this person to walk through life with. Here are some Josh-specific things that I have come to enjoy more than I thought possible back when we were celebrating his 20th birthday:

  • His love for the Word, and truth. It is amazing to watch someone grow in godliness before your very eyes; it is even more amazing when it is your husband. His growth is visible. He is far more patient, more humble, and more passionate about the gospel at 29 than ever before. I say those things to honor him. He was a great guy when I married him. But even after a sort of "Reformation" period in his life, I see his growth abounding and not plateauing at all. I cannot say what a blessing it is to have your chief spiritual adviser and accountability partner to share your home with.
  • His love for people. A few years ago, Josh might have noted this as a main struggle, spiritually. You could never guess that now by the way he invests in his friends, and kindly loves the unlovable around him. He reaches out to the nonbelievers at work, showing the greatest love for them by sharing the gospel with them at his own personal risk of incurring their judgment or dislike.
  • His adaptability. Being flexible and adaptable comes mainly from living your life not insisting on your own rights, and building up expectations. I have recently noticed Josh, who has always been rather easy-going, intentionally lay down his own preferences to adapt to what others would prefer. This is a quality that makes him a delight to live with. When Josh says he doesn't care what we have for supper, he really means it! He doesn't have an idol of food that must be satisfied every time he eats -- he is satisfied in Christ. What a blessing for a wife who is doing the best she can, and is always spread a bit thin in the homemaking department.
Happy Birthday, Josh! You are an example of the kind of husband a girl should hope and pray for, and I am so proud to be able to refer to you in that way.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Prizes and Packages

The March Reading Challenge is officially closed. I hear from many of you that you dove right in and appreciated the challenge to read more or certain things. We'll have to pull it out again next year! Here are the winners of the 2008 Challenge:

1st place -- Donette. She wins the C.S. Lewis mug -- top prize that fits her book choice well (Prince Caspian). Nett, send me an e-mail with your address, and I'll drop your prize in the mail. Or maybe you can promise to meet up with me the first of May when we go to MBBC for graduation!

2nd place -- J. A. Ingold. He wins the Booklover's Borrow Book. John, you only are getting second place because you admitted you "barely" finished. However, you win the bonus prize of having your prize hand delivered on your own doorstep in just a few days! Along with the prize you get a 4-day visit from Josh and Gretchen! (Confused readers, Josh and I are going to D.C. during spring break, and the kind Ingolds have graciously offered to host us!).

Finally, I wanted to shout out to the best mother-in-law in the world, Lennis, for this cute Personal Library Kit! My camera is not cooperating, so I'll have to load pictures, later, but the kit is quite charming. It makes me want to play library! Who wants to check something out? Stamp, stamp! Thanks, Lennis!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Aunt Diane

This is my Aunt Diane, one of my dad's 4 sisters (pictured here with my Grandma Benzing who passed away in December). She is the 3rd of 9 children, mother of 3, and grandmother of 12. Can you tell why I thought she looked like a movie star when I was a little girl? I always thought my glamorous aunt looked like Jackie Kennedy or Annette Funicello. She certainly has the poise and grace to match her spunk. Aunt Diane has the aptitude to make everyday life enjoyable -- reading on her deck, playing with the grandkids, or laughing hysterically over old Facebook pictures. "Celebrate life" she says, "Just like my mom did."

Diane has been married for 44 years to Bob Adrian. I just love this picture of her walking down the isle with my Grandpa. She fell in love with a man who has a pastor's heart, and so in her marriage, she has also been a ministry partner for 44 years. Since that is what I am training for right now, I asked her to share something to encourage young women whose husbands are in ministry. Here is what she said:

"I have been fortunate in all the churches we have served in that they have let me be who I am and serve where my heart is. Even though I do not play the piano, which is necessary in some churches for a pastor's wife, I have found other places to serve. My first responsibility is to my God, then my husband and children. The success in ministry is found the the changed lives of people who sit under our teaching & ministries-ESPECIALLY THOSE IN OUR OWN HOME."

I know Aunt Diane has tasted the fruit of years of ministry, both to those in her own home as well as in her church. When I asked her how she sees herself growing in godliness and love for the Savior, she wisely answered "Growing up in a Christian home or even being a Pastor's wife helps but does not assure one o
f this personal relationship with God." I appreciate her humility and teachable spirit -- she realized the importance of watching her walk in her 40's, and has enjoyed the journey of growing ever since. In addition to Bible studies at church, she also leads a small group of women who are giving themselves to prayer.

I'm so thankful for my Aunt Diane who is beautiful both inside and out!