Kris Mares

Just a woman trying to love Jesus and others a little bit more…

A Collection of 12 Stones May 18, 2016

Filed under: Ministry — Kris @ 8:09 am
Tags: , , , , ,

I have  a small stone collection. Nothing fancy. They aren’t gemstones or even pretty polished stones, but each one means something to me. Each one has a story. Stones from streets in foreign countries. Stones from youth retreats. Stones from a class. Each stone reminds me of an important time and lesson in my life.

Those twelve stones which they had taken from the Jordan, Joshua set up at Gilgal. He said to the sons of Israel, “When your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, ‘What are these stones?’ then you shall inform your children, saying, ‘Israel crossed this Jordan on dry ground.’ Joshua 4:20-22

Joshua had a rock collection too. Well really, it was the Hebrew people. But it was so much more than just a rock collection.

The back story: The first generation of Hebrew people brought out of slavery had died. Their rebellion had a consequence. Moses didn’t get to see the fulfillment of the promise he was given by God. So the next generation, who had been born in the wilderness and knew nothing of slavery, was getting the chance to cross the River Jordan and see the land promised to their ancestors. That generation would receive blessing of God’s faithfulness to their parents and grandparents. Not because they were great – they were rebellious people too – but because it was God’s faithfulness that brought them to that point.

Yes, they would have to fight for the land. Yes they would have to continue to seek God’s direction in the midst of hardship and battle and chaos. They had their own faith to live out now. But I wonder if that is why God instructed Joshua (the leader that followed Moses), to have the leaders of the tribes to get a stone and build an altar. If you read the story closely (Joshua 4), it looks like Joshua also built an altar, right in the middle of the River Jordan, one that would be covered by water, but ever-present. God knew that when times got tough again, the people would falter, would doubt their God, would find it easier to place their trust in the ways of the culture than the ways of God. And yes, when times were so bad, that even the rushing waters of the river seemed dried up, there would be a deeply revealed reminder of God’s deep love.

You see, the 12 bank stones and the 12 stones at the bottom of the river are a reminder that God’s faithfulness began long before us and is a part of our story, our faith. God knew that when we are in the midst of the battles of today, we need a reminder that God has provided for us, protected us, guided us and remained ever faithful to us.

We need reminders of God’s work in our own life and in the lives of our family. As new generations of family grow in faithfulness to God we must tell the stories of how God worked in our life and in the midst of our family.

FullSizeRender (11)You see, one day, my kids will ask me what my stones are all about and I will tell them the stories. Joshua explained the same thing. He told the Hebrew people who one day their children would ask what the pile of stones meant and we are to tell the stories.

We need to tell the stories of our doubts, our struggles, our rebellion and God’s faithfulness. We are to tell the stories to others, not because we’ll get some kind of accolade, but because those stories give others hope that if God could be that for us, maybe God would do that for them. We need to leave visual reminders for ourselves and for others so that in the midst of the hard battles of life, we are reminded that God is faithful and God loves us, even in the midst of our rebellion, our doubts and our life chaos.

So today, leave a stone in your life. Think about the times God has been faithful and leave a stone reminder. Tell those stories to you children, to your friends, and yes, maybe even on social media.

And take the time to ask your parents and your parents’ parents about their stories.

May God’s faithfulness and goodness abound.

 

How I Messed Up Mother’s Day May 10, 2016

FullSizeRender (8)I got breakfast in bed (and it was good). My coffee was made for me. The church pews were full (my heart feels really happy about that). Lunch was prepared. They gave me space for a nap. I was given a gift certificate for time at a local spa.

So why in the world was I such a crab about it all?

Seriously, I messed up Mother’s Day. I ranted. I railed. I cried. I was sad. I was mad.

And I didn’t want it to be like that.

Saturday night, I had even prayed about Mother’s Day. I had asked God to help me be grateful. To help me be kind. To help me not mess it up.

And then I went and did the thing I did not want to do.

As Paul puts it in his letter to the Romans (and maybe also to me?):

For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. (Romans 7:19-21, NASB)

Or as Eugene Peterson translates it:

But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’treally do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. (Romans 7:17-23, The Message)

I wanted to be a grateful mother. I wanted to be an appreciative wife. I wanted to be good and do good. I even asked God for help. And then, I went and screwed it all up.

Or did I?

Perhaps it was the sin that is within me that screwed it up. Perhaps the force of evil at work in the world tried to win.

Perhaps you’ve been there. Maybe it wasn’t Mother’s Day you messed up. Maybe it was Christmas or your birthday or a kid’s birthday or just a special family day. You wanted to make it special. You wanted to feel loved. You wanted to receive the gestures of love and appreciation those around you shared.

But somehow, even though your desire was there, sin crept in. Sin took over. Sin seemed to win.

But shhh… I want to let you in on a little something.

Sin doesn’t win.

Jesus already did.

Jesus conquered sin and death on the cross and Jesus still reigns on the throne, sitting at the right hand of God the Father, redeeming those moments, those days, those times when you know what you ought to do. Redeeming those moments, those days, those times when you want to do good. Redeeming those moments, those days those times when sin seems to win.

Jesus wins.

So as I curled under the covers in my bed, crying and pleading and confessing to God (and let’s be real, texting my best friend about it all), I knew what I had to do. I had to apologize.

I hate it when that happens.

So just before Racer put the younger boys to bed, I called them all in and I apologized. I said I was sorry for being unappreciative, for being grouchy and for not being loving.

You know what happened.

Jesus’ victory came.

I got hugs and kisses. One child said “You know, we should have a Mother’s Day do over.”

Yes, baby, we should.

Today, one child said it was his Mother’s Day do over and he was going to be nice to me.

Yes, baby, I’ll be nice too.

Grace.

Jesus wins.

Love wins.

 

A Digging Place May 4, 2016

Filed under: Ministry — Kris @ 7:19 am
Tags: , , , ,

There is this little spot on the church grounds that I love. It is right next to the entrance to the Fellowship Hall. It’s a little space, where at the end of winter, signs of new life begin to emerge. Daffodils begin to poke through the ground, reminding me that New Life always comes. A couple of years ago, a kind person took the time to make that area lovely for the summer. Weed tarp went down, mulch went down, stepping-stones and new plants went in. The daffodils were covered and while I was grateful for the kind-hearted generosity, I was sad about the daffodils.

Next spring though, the daffodils came back up! I was so happy and it was a small grace of God, a reminder that sometimes people try to cover over signs of New Life, but New Life always wins!

After a couple of years though, the work of the kind person and the tenacious daffodils have continued to battle and we had to change the area. It just didn’t look good and so it was time to dig.

The space is now a real mess and the work was sweaty. I used a good shovel, dug deep and salvaged the bulbs. The weed tarp was pulled up and the space will be ready for something new. We’ll be transforming that little space into the entrance of a small prayer garden.

You see, sometimes, in order to make room for the new thing God is doing, we have to dig deep. We have to dig deep into what we thought we knew about God. We have to dig deep into what we think we see in scripture. We have to dig deep into the traditions we hold so dearly close. We have to dig up what seems good in order to make room for God.

But that doesn’t mean the good has to go. Sometimes, it just needs worked over and replanted in a new place at the right time. Those daffodils will still be a sign of new life each spring. In the fall (at the right time) they will be replanted in the prayer garden as a reminder of the deep traditions of the congregation. Each year, as they break forth from the cold winter soil, the daffodils will remind those that come to pray that New Life does indeed break forth from the long, cold, dark nights of the soul.

“I am the Lord, that is My name;
I will not give My glory to another,
Nor My praise to graven images.
“Behold, the former things have come to pass,
Now I declare new things;
Before they spring forth I proclaim them to you.”

Sing to the Lord a new song,
Sing His praise from the end of the earth!
You who go down to the sea, and all that is in it.
You islands, and those who dwell on them. -Isaiah 42:8-10 (NASB)

Sometimes, the work of ministry is allowing the Holy Spirit to do some digging up. Digging up unhealthy notions of self. Digging up judgemental attitudes about others. Digging up ungraceful images of God. Digging up the “former things” to make room for the “new things” that are to come.
Maybe you are in a digging place right now. If so, I know the digging part is really hard. It hurts. It seems lonely. It leaves you all a mess, not sure if anything good will actually come and frustrated that nothing looks like it’s supposed to.
Take comfort friend. Even though you are in a digging place, New Life will spring forth.
And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” -Revelation 21:5 (NASB)
It may be sometime before it happens. That New Thing has to be planted in the right place at the right time. And even then, there may be a wait before the promise comes. But it will come. Until then, perhaps a small comfort can be found in the strength you are gaining through the digging.
If you are in a digging place and would like prayer, please comment below. It would be my honor to pray for you.
 

Do More of What Makes You Happy April 15, 2016

Filed under: Me — Kris @ 7:05 pm
Tags: , ,

FullSizeRender (2)That’s what is written on a small paperweight gift that I was given a few weeks ago. Do more of what makes you happy. At the time I though it was a kind gesture, but not anything profound for me at that moment.

But today, I did something that makes me happy. I hung clothes on the line to dry. It’s an odd chore that makes me insanely happy. As I was hanging sheets on the line, listening to the birds, feeling the sun, I remembered this small gift from a few weeks ago.

Nothing much, just a reminder for me to have fun. To enjoy the world, the home, the family, the friends and yes, even the body God created. We can’t think that we will be happy 100% of the time in this life. Hurts happen. Sadness happens. Grief, disappointment, loss – they all happen. But what if we did one small thing each day that made us happy.

Perhaps it’s talking to a friend. Maybe it’s drinking a cup of coffee while watching the sunrise/sunset. Or maybe it’s hanging clothes out on the line to dry. God gives us small gifts in the day to remind us of God’s great love for us. Today, for me, it was a pause in a productive morning to be mindful of my family and of the space around me.

So what is your one thing? What makes you happy?

Do more of what makes you happy.

And take a moment to comment below with one small thing that makes you happy!

 

Bookends of Life April 13, 2016

Filed under: Ministry — Kris @ 1:05 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

In the era of e-books and e-readers, I wonder how many of us remember bookends. You know, they are the items used at either side of a row of books to hold the books up and keep them from falling/sliding down. You can have really fancy ones that are sculptural or plain-Jane ones that are nothing more that a piece of plastic in a L-shape. Whichever the case – fancy, plain or somewhere in between – they serve the same purpose. Bookends tell us where the start and the stop of the row of books are, defining that section and keeping what’s in the middle from falling down.

13015462_468607336661551_1518488740345887161_nYesterday, I got to see the bookends of life. I snuggled an infant and hugged an elderly woman. Each person, fully formed and unique and valuable and worthy of love and needing grace. Each person, in very different seasons of life, to be celebrated and loved.

You see, babies remind us of life that is still yet to be lived. Of hope that goodness and love and redemption is still out there. Babies remind us that even though we will one day die, we can leave a legacy behind in the ones that we love.

But the elderly, they remind us that life on earth is not the end. That there is something more to what we are doing here on earth than simply accumulating stuff and punching the clock and going through the motions. The elderly remind us that even though we will one day die, we still have the chance to leave a legacy behind in the ones that we love.

Babies. Elderly. The bookends of life, holding us up to a greater standard. Holding together the chapters of our lives, reminding us that there is more to life than the beginning and the end. There is purpose beyond flesh and earth. There is something eternal, that lives before us, through us and beyond us.

And that Eternal calls us into life together, with others and with our Creator.  That Eternal gives us purpose beyond doing good unto others. The bookends of life remind us that the chapters in between birth and death tell a story that is greater than any one of us alone and we get to be a part of that story, living it and preserving it and telling it to future generations.

Today, I invite you to live into that eternal story.

I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “the one who is and was and is coming, the Almighty. Revelation 1:8

 

The Funny Thing About God October 21, 2015

Filed under: Ministry — Kris @ 1:02 pm
Tags: , , , ,

When God calls you to something, a funny thing happens. Not funny haha, more like funny interesting/odd. You see, for sometime, I have felt God’s nudging in a particular ministry area. Since I’m not really sure how to go about it, I’m not doing anything about it. Yet time and time again I feel God’s nudging in this particular area. Recently I was at a leadership development training and I felt the nudge again.

As a part of the training, we were to list what we felt God calling us to do, the things that stand in the way of us doing it, and then a few small steps that we could take to move forward. So I did. One of those steps was to lessen the times I spend with like-minded friends and to increase the times I spend with people who are different from me. So, I committed to joining my like-minded clergy group lunch twice a month and to try to meet with people – some who are clergy – who are different from me. They may be different because of their religious association, because of their income level, because of their skin color, because of their sexual orientation, because of their _______ (you fill in the blank). In an effort to build relationships, listen to experiences and be present in the world, I need to spend time with the “other,” those different from me.

So, this was my first week to try to schedule that. Last week, I made some contacts and nothing came to fruition. Instead of meeting with the “other,” I visited some church folk and went to the library to catch up on some note writing and study reading.

And then a funny thing happened.

I had conversations with two people who are different from me. Both were African-American men – one older, one younger. They came up to me separately and for different reasons. At first, I’ll admit, I was annoyed that my “work” was being interrupted. But we chatted about school, about fast food work, about how rude people can be, about God’s goodness and doing everything in service to the Lord.

As I left the library, it hit me. As I got in my car, I realized what had just happened during that time slot I had planned for “other” conversations but didn’t get anything scheduled so I tried to do some other work instead.

That’s the funny thing about God. When God calls us to something, God will help us make it happen. Even when our efforts fail, if it is God ordained, God will provide a way.

So that thing you feel you need to do but don’t know how? That change you need to make but it seems too scary? That leap you need to make but you don’t want to fail? Say yes, do your part and see how all things work together for the Glory of God.

And pray. I will be in prayer for this thing God is calling me into. I will be in prayer for the men I met. Will you pray for them too? Mr. V’s education and Mr. J’s employment.

And will you pray for me? God may just be up to something funny and I want you to be a part of it too.

 

God is Faithful August 5, 2015

Filed under: Ministry — Kris @ 7:01 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Have you ever been driving down the road, with your jams going, thinking you’re obeying the laws of the land and then seen those flashing lights and hear a “whoop whoop” behind you? When the officer approaches the car, you’re baffled! You thought you were going the speed limit (ok, actually had your cruise set just a couple of miles over), only to find out the speed limit was 45 and not 55? And then, when you find out what the law was, you’re hoping, praying, for no ticket? When you got off with a warning, you are grateful for the grace shown by the officer. Grateful for the opportunity to correct your ways and obey the law. Grateful that a punishment wasn’t served.

In that moment, you didn’t even know you needed grace. Before you knew you needed saved from the consequences of transgressing the law, you had to know that you had transgressed the law. You had to be convicted of your transgression.

It’s that way with sin too.

Many understand grace as God’s assistance or comfort in times of trial or need. But salvation requires more than a warm smile from the Divine. A basic prerequisite is the necessity for a person to realize that one stands in need as a sinner before God. Unless a person recognizes that condition, there is no real hope for salvation. When we don’t recognize sin as a basic reality in our lives, the message of God’s salvation falls on deaf ears. (NRSV Wesley Study Bible, notes on Lamentations 3, “Wesleyan Core Term: Convincing Grace,” pg. 978)

It was that way for the ancient Jewish people. God’s message through the prophets had fallen on deaf ears. They were reminded of their covenant as God’s people. They were reminded of God’s ways of living. They were boldly told to stop committing spiritual adultery and to admit their guilt and to return to faithful worship of the one true God. (Read Jeremiah sometime.) The speed limit signs were up, they flashing electronic sign was put up that showed their actual speed but they still didn’t heed the call.

It wasn’t until they were conquered and destroyed that the ancient Jewish people really realized their need for repentance. Their need to turn from their own way of doing things to God’s way of doing things. Lamentations is an emotional record of the crying out after the destruction. It’s a poem. In Lamentations 3, the writer has been totally devastated and blames God for the destruction. He was warned. His people were warned. But God still got the blame.

And yet, in the deep of the destruction, in the length of the lament, the writer remembers.

My soul continually thinks of it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope; (Lamentations 3:20-21, NRSV)

Perhaps he learned it as a young boy in temple school. Perhaps he remembered a conversation with a friend. Perhaps he recalled the words of the nagging preacher.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” (Lamentations 3:22-24, NRSV)

I wonder if too often we’re like the early Jewish people. We see and hear warning signs all around us. We hear the Word of the Lord and brush it off if it doesn’t fit into what we think is a good way of doing things. We don’t take heed and instead, we ask God to bless us and our way of doing things and to change other people. What might happen though, if we allowed the work of the Holy Spirit to really open us up to the power of the Word of the Lord? Maybe we’ve heard those words from a Sunday School class. Maybe we’ve heard those words from a friend. Maybe we’ve heard those words from a nagging preacher.

I wonder sometimes, if we’re more like the person who goes to the doctor for a check up and hears “eat healthy, get some exercise and lose some weight.” We say “I know doctor, I know. Thanks for the reminder. I’ll do better.” But it’s not until we have a health crisis that we get scared straight right? And even then, we pray and want God to make it immediately better without the dedication and faithfulness to healthy eating and regular exercise that must also come with good health. Yep, sounds a little like the early Jewish people. I wonder how much that sounds like us? We hear the words, we brush them off and then when destruction comes we cry out “Why God?” and get angry and blame God for whatever has come.

Instead of needing a great event to shake us into faithfulness to God, what if we allowed the Holy Spirit to show us on a daily basis our need for God? What if we went to be each night, asking to be shown our sin and then resting in God’s faithfulness to us, despite that sin? What if we woke up each morning, asking for God to help us remember that we – and every person around us – is created in the image of God and then live accordingly?

What if we remembered that God will have compassion according to the abundance of God’s steadfast love? (v. 32)

What if we remembered that God does not willingly afflict or grieve anyone? (v. 33)

What if we remembered to examine our ways and return to the Lord? (v. 40)

What if we remembered to lift up our hearts as well as our hands to God in heaven? (v. 41)

What if we remembered that God comes near when we call on God, telling us “Do not fear?” (v. 57)

It took the depth of destruction for the writer of Lamentations to be convinced of God’s faithfulness.

How will you be convinced of God’s faithfulness?

 

 
%d bloggers like this: