A Special Day, A Special Man

Six years ago today, Keith left his tired, sick, earthly body and traded it for a new one in Glory.

As I look over the past year, I see mostly joy.  We miss him, of course, and always will.  But, I see mostly joy.

For those of you who are in our lives now but did not know him (and that is quite a few people), let me tell you what we miss about him:

  • his love and commitment to his Lord, which was evident in all he did and said
  • his love of family, especially his kids
  • his wry sense of humor, which always stood out since he was usually rather reserved
  • his graciousness as a host in our home and to all he came in contact with
  • and, his devotion to service:   in our home, at church, and on the job

And, in memory of Keith, I think it rather fitting that we spent the day serving others…the little boys and I at a family funeral, and the big boys at the teen service weekend at our church.

I think Keith would be pleased.

keith 6-14-03

Budding Boldness

The wicked flee when no one is pursuing, But the righteous are bold as a lion. – Proverbs 28:1

Being third in the line of boys…and the quietest of my bunch…sometimes Jackson gets lost in the mix.

He is just not the total extrovert that the rest of us are.  He needs time to rejuvenate and refresh…alone…before tackling people again.

This is not to say that he isn’t friendly.  I get comments all the time about how good he is with new kids, including them easily in whatever he is doing.  He showed this trait on the missions trip.

He is also a ham.  He is the one to tell the jokes, albeit often corny.  He loves to be clever with his words.

He showed something else, a budding strength that I think will get him far in this world.

When the situation calls for it, he can be bold.

Now, since he was a little guy, Jackson has been the monologue king.  He would be sitting on the floor, playing with a toy, reciting the lines from some show he had seen.  He could remember long passages, even at a very early age.

I have asked him about trying community theater.  We have a couple Christian children’s theater groups here in the area, and I told him he could take a class.

So far, he has refused, saying he doesn’t like that kind of thing.

Enter the missions trip.  He and one of the other boys on the trip really hit it off.  He and Ethan hung out a lot, talking 90 miles a minute, planning things for the future.

They also planned to be part of our team talent show.

They chose to do a skit.  In fact, as people backed out on them and changed things several times, they still were determined to do something in the talent show.

The skit they did was just about what you would expect a couple 8-year olds to do.  It was silly.  They messed up, but kept going.  They had a ton of fun doing it.

And, silly as the skit was, my heart swelled.

Now, I have no illusions that I have a budding Olivier…I am not even sure I would want one of my boys to fight the Babylon of Hollywood.  But I am convinced that the boldness he is learning to display…both in getting up in front of everyone, and sticking to his guns about participating even when others dropped out…will be used by God in mighty ways.

My little guy is growing and changing into what I pray is a budding man-after-God’s-own-heart.

And I glory in it.

Using His Gifts

And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. – 1 Corinthians 12:5-7

My sweet Matthew is often in Alex’s shadow.  Part of it is probably my fault.  As an oldest myself, I have a similar personality and outlook as Alex and I often turn to him first, whether Matthew is capable of accomplishing the same task or not.

On the missions trip, Matthew had an opportunity to shine in a new way…one that brought tears to my eyes.

My husband Keith was a kid-person.  He was the one they asked to work in the nursery at church, the one to whom they would give the crying child.  He was a gentle giant who was perpetually patient with little ones.

My boys have a lot of their dad in them.  I get lots of compliments about how they treat younger kids, how they greet visitors, and how they pitch in to act as good friends.  And I praise God for it!

Matthew has always had a sense about people.  We call him the little emotional barometer.  He can walk into a room and know who needs a friend, who needs a word of encouragement, or a word of prayer.  It is joyous to watch as he looks for the person with whom he is supposed to connect…and then makes that contact.

On the missions trip, Matthew really got to use this gift.

We were at the Vacation Bible School at the Boys and Girls Club, and there was a little boy named Cal.  He was barefoot, with a shock of blonde hair, and wearing glasses.  And he took a shine to Matthew.  Matthew, in turn, began to lavish on him the love of the Lord.

m & calcifer

Matthew sat next to Cal at the morning worship activities at VBS and stayed with him at the game time following.  Before long, he was carrying him around piggy-back.  They ate lunch together, Matthew tenderly watching him and engaging him in conversation.  When it was time to leave, I had a hard time getting Matthew to the car.  “I just want to give Cal one more hug, Mom.”

Eleven year old boys are not the most “aware” lot on the planet.  Too much going on mentally, I think:  puberty encroaching and affecting hormones, learning to manage the ever-changing body, seeking to find a place in the “cool” scale of peers.  So, to see my guy come outside of himself and give to this little boy made me teary.

Even more wonderful was how God used this beautiful friendship the next week.

We had Vacation Bible School at our church, and there was a family with an autistic son.  Matthew easily reached out to this little boy as well, helping to make him feel comfortable.  I got several compliments over the way he pitched right in, and how good he was at reading little Thomas.

Double blessings!

I am not sure if Matthew has found his calling for life, but I do know that God is glorified by the things he learned…and applied…from our missions trip.

Humble Worship

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
    Worship the Lord with gladness;
    come before him with joyful songs.

– Psalm 100:1-2

There are times when you see God doing cool things in your kids that just bless your socks off.  I had many moments on the missions trip of this, some for each of the boys.

My sons all do much to make me proud of them, but there are few moments in my life that I have been more proud than when Alex is leading me in worship.

Alex has been involved in the teen worship band at church for the better part of three years.  Our church is blessed to have a host of talented teens and a gifted director of their worship.  They truly do most of the lead worshiping for the congregation on Sunday mornings.  It is truly a joy to see.

When we went on the missions trip, none of us Wrights thought about bringing instruments for worship.  Alex left his guitar at home, and Matthew left the bongos.  I did not even think about how worship would be accomplished.

After arriving in Tennessee, Alex volunteered to help with the worship team that was assembling.  We had several singers, a keyboard (donated while we were there, but that is another story), and a guitarist Alex’s age.

Now, I didn’t have a real worry about Alex “fitting in” with a different group of worshipers.  He has proven himself to be flexible and mature.  But still…as his momma, I said a prayer.  Maybe two.

And things worked beautifully!  Alex and his new friend Joshua shared the duties of playing guitar, working together, helping each other.

The worship was…in a word…AWESOME!  God was so there with us…different as we were, as short a practice time as they had.

And in the midst of it was my little boy.  You know, moms always look at their kids that way, at least to an extent.  He was following well, going with the flow, and worshiping God.  No attitude, no showing off.

My great friend TJ who leads the teen worship bands works hard to make sure these young people understand that they are merely the lead worshipers…not there to put on a show but to help the congregation worship.  By Alex’s behavior, he obviously gets it…and is joyfully applying what he has learned.

And it makes me realize that my little boy is growing to be a man…a man in the image of his father Keith…and his Father God.

And that makes my heart sing.

S-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. – I Corinthians 12:4-6

Our team leads on the trip talked about us constantly working to stretch ourselves in our walks as we worked on the trip…and in our lives in general.

And I saw a lot of stretching going on!

Even in my own family.

Even in…me!

God took me to places in an area I thought I was “good” in…the area of prayer.

Now, I have been involved in prayer ministry for many years.  It is something I can do despite my schedule and little ones, wherever I am, and all the time.  It also uses words, and you all know that I am pretty familiar with words.  OK – I have a big mouth.

What God clued me into on this trip was praying with my hands.

Jesus did a lot of His ministry by touching people…physically and emotionally.  He made physical contact as he prayed over them, healed them, and ministered to them.  There is no telling how many people He touched physically.

Now, I have had hands laid on me in prayer before…and have laid hands on others.  But this prayer lesson was slightly different.

I was laying hands on things.

As I have already shared, we arrived early to the week of ministry.  After we had gotten everything ready for the rest of the team to arrive, I felt compelled to pray over the chairs.

copelled to pray over the chairs

Well, not really the chairs per se, but the people who would be occupying them.  I walked through the room and touched all 60 chairs and prayed over each occupant…safe arrival, safety during the work, touching the lives of others, being touched themselves,  And I felt blessed from being able to pray such prayers over individuals I had not even met yet.

The next morning, I was up early, before most of the team, and again, I walked around the room and prayed for every person while touching their chair.  I felt compelled each work day were were there to do the same.  It was not a ritual or a talisman, but a grateful heart adding my prayers to all the others over our week and our team.

When we went to M.A.T.S., the homeless shelter I have already mentioned in another blog entry, I did the same over the names of the individuals living in the shelter which were on a board in the office.  I did not meet all of them, but I prayer over all of them by name before the Lord.

It really was a beautiful and humbling experience for me.

I have a friend in the medical profession who told me years ago that as she lays her hands on a patient, examining them, she prays over them.  Every single one of them.

Now I get the power of touch as a part of prayer in a new and more complete way than I previously did.

And it has made me more bold in my prayers.  Praise God!

When our Children’s Director was stressing this week about the start of VBS, I quietly lay my hands on her shoulders and silently prayed.  When one of my boys had a hurt arm, I silently prayed as I held his arm and examined it.

Sometimes little things are needed to energize us for the Lord.  This was one I needed…new life into this old wineskin.

Praise God that He saw it and taught me something!

Watching Him Work

In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. – Philippians 1:4-6

vbs team day 1-2

We returned from our first day of work on our missions trip and met up with the other groups back at the ranch.  From the time they walked it, it was evident that one of the groups had not had a good day.

They were beaten down, battle-weary, discouraged.

The first day at the Boys and Girls Club where we were doing VBS had not gone well.  The kids were not listening well; the staff was not encouraging; the battle seemed uphill all the way.

We wrapped our arms around this team as best we could that night.  We listened while they vented; we hugged them.

And we prayed.

We were determined as a group to use the opportunity we had been given to further the kingdom and not to give over ground to the enemy.  Their stress was our stress.  Their success was our success; their failure, ours as well.

So we kept praying.

Before returning to our assignments the next day, we laid hands on the team and prayed as part of our morning worship.

We kept praying for them throughout the day.

As the teams returned that evening, we all waited with expectation to see how the day had gone.

And God had done a mighty work!

The team returned…smiling, peaceful, restored.

The day went beautifully!  The changes the team made to the day’s structure had a positive effect!  The staff warmed up!  The kids listened better!

What a difference a day makes!

More importantly, what a difference a prayer makes!

Our team had the opportunity to go to the Boys and Girls Club the day after that.  I spent much of the time elated and teary because of the work I saw being done.

I watched kids saying Bible verses, singing and dancing to Bible songs, and loving on our team members.

kim teaching at vbs #2

vbs music

It was beautiful.

The power of love and prayer had done a mighty work in our hearts…and I think in the kids’ as well.

As we left for the day–the last day we would be there–the kids begged even our team, the new team, to stay…just as they begged the team who had been there all week.

By perseverance and prayer, God gained ground…and we got to be part of it.

It is something that I will not forget.  Praise Him!  Praise Him!

Open Hearts and Baseball

At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. – Matthew 11:25

On our trip, our family was paired with a wonderful group from Ohio.  What a blessing to meet these Godly friends and be able to really get close to them!  Included in the group were Tim and Trish and their boys Emanuel and Ethan, Terry, Ruth, Jessica, and Brittany.  Salt of the earth!  People we will be friends with forever!

DSC07827

Our first day of work, we went to M.A.T.S. (Ministerial Association Temporary Shelter) to complete various jobs.  This shelter is for women, men, and families who have fallen on hard times and have no place to live.  Wonderful organization!

As we pulled up, a few of the residents were sitting outside at picnic tables.  We said, “hello,” and got a response…but not much of one.  My first thought was that they either were concerned about being judged by us, or were concerned about how we were going to act there (how preachy were we going to be, etc.).

We started working with happy hearts.  We painted rocks, built furniture, and cleaned.  We talked and laughed and made God connections that were beautiful.  Our hearts were full to overflowing.  We kept asking what more we could do, driving poor Melanie crazy, I think.

DSC07789DSC07815

DSC07867

DSC07873

The kids helped everywhere they could, Alex doing a man’s work (he is, after all, the size of a man and strong!).  They enjoyed getting to know each other, and were well-behaved and sweet.

They did have some down time, though, when they were unable to help out.  Being resourceful…and active…they found a plastic ball and bat and started a mini game of baseball.

DSC07865

And God used this for His glory as well.

The residents sitting at the picnic tables were treated to a baseball game!

Inevitably, the ball was hit “foul” near them, and these residents graciously threw the ball back.  Then, the boys asked them to join in!  I looked over to see a couple of the gentlemen pitching and hitting, all of them…men and boys alike…having a great time.

God used some active, loud kiddos to help soften some hearts uncertain about interaction with us.  Praise Him for that!

When we left at the end of the first day, I thanked one of the gentlemen for being sweet with the boys, and he thanked me for getting to play ball with them.  Connections made!

We were blessed to come back a second day.

When we arrived, we were greeted not by small, tentative smiles. but by full-blown ones.

And we were greeted by hearts that were more open to the things of the Lord.

We ate lunch with a couple of the residents and learned their stories…and shared with them.  One of the gentlemen told us stories about his time in Vietnam, and his grandchildren in Nebraska.  He was thrilled to watch children at play.  He knew the Lord and joined our prayer circle at the end of the day.  We met a young woman who was trying to get her life back together and get out of some bondage of her past, and were able to pray with her, leading her to the Lord.

I cannot be certain how conversations would have gone on Day 2 of our time at M.A.T.S. had the boys not jumped in as they did.  God is awesome and would have accomplished His purposes regardless.

But to me, it was a good reminder that He can use the little things in life to accomplish His good works..

I am thankful not only for the work we were able to do…but also for the lesson learned.  God can use our kiddos to do big things for Him, just by being who they are.

And He can use me in the same way.  Praise Him!  Praise Him!  Praise Him!

Team Building

If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. – I Corinthians 12:17-18

The rest of the group started arriving.

We Wrights, already seeing God’s hand in our timely arrival, were not nervous…just excited.  We knew He had it.

And He did.

Each group arrived, as eager as we were.  As open as we were.  As full of God’s spirit as we were.

We started becoming friends in the first minutes, the first hours.

It was a glorious thing!

God took 60 people…from 8 different states…and made us a cohesive, loving family and team.

We laughed together, cried together, worked together.

A body of believers, separate from our own bodies of believers at home.

A body using its different pieces and skills and talents to make the work go well, the planning go well, the worship go well, the fellowship go well.

None of us, except our leaders, had been on an AIM trip before.  Yet, by the end of the week, we were talking about coming again next year, visiting each other in our respective states, and keeping in touch via Facebook, email, and letters.

They say that tragedy can bring people together, and I know from my own widows’ ministry work that it is true.

But so can work for the Lord!

Perhaps our trip is not unique in the way we bonded.  Perhaps others have been blessed, as we were, to walk away not as individuals any longer, but as a group.

But I glory in the fact that we were together.  I know I have made friends for life…for eternity.

As we were leaving the area, my little boys said, “Go back, Mom.  Go back to the ranch!”

I answered, “It wouldn’t be the same.  Everyone has gone home.”

And, while that makes me sad for the now, I know I will keep in touch with these people for the rest of the time we have here on earth.

And then starts our heavenly work in eternity!

How sweet it will be to get the team together there!

mountain lake ranch our home away from home pix

Not Too Early for God

He has made everything beautiful in its time. – Ecclesiastes 3:11a

Uh…what do you mean you are here?…we did not expect you…until tomorrow.

My first thought was disbelief; my second, embarrassment…acute embarrassment.

We had arrived at our family missions trip in Appalachia…the five of us…a full day early.

But…God had a plan, and it was soon revealed to us.

We had never done anything like this as a family.  We were excited…and just a bit nervous…about our week.

Now we were here…and here a day early.

A thousand things flitted through my mind:

  • Did I make a mistake on the date or did they?
  • Where were we staying that night?
  • Had I gotten other things wrong in my planning for the trip?
  • What did this mean for the rest of our week?

The lovely couple who were care-taking were not stressed by our early arrival.  They assured us that it would work out, that God had a plan for our early arrival.  That took some of the stress from my mind.  They called the owners of the ranch and secured a place for us to stay for the evening.  Problem #1 solved.

Now, what were we going to do since we were here early?

God quickly answered that question for us.

You see, our team leads, Dave and Sheila, needed us.  When we called them to inform them of our arrival, they were at the store, purchasing food for the 60 of us for the week.  They came back to the ranch, loaded to the roof with stuff…just as we arrived back from dinner.  We were able to jump right in and assist them.  Praise God!  And we continued to assist them…filling in for other advance team members who were forced to cancel for this trip.

God, in His providence, had provided extra hands for Dave and Sheila’s work, hands they would normally have had, but did not in this case.  He knew of the cancellations…and put right on my calendar to arrive a day early.  And we Wrights gloried in the opportunity to assist.

By the time the rest of the missions team arrived, we had “moved in,” become comfortable, shared some of our story with Dave and Sheila, and fallen in love with them.  We all recognized God’s hand in our early arrival

We Wrights were able to greet all who arrived, help carry luggage, and help set the tone for a week of ministry.  God was using gifts He had already worked on with us for His glory.

My embarrassment and confusion over how we arrived early was replaced by joy in the fact that we had.  God was in control of the week; that was highly evident.  He had set us there, early, to help get the ball rolling in the right direction.  Praise Him!  Praise Him!  Praise Him!

And this was just the beginning!  Please stay tuned for blogs the rest of this week, illustrating what He did in us…through us…it was truly a glorious week in the Lord.

AIM Appalachia July 2013

Confessions of a Lego-Sucking Momma

I must admit I do it from time to time.  And it’s not always an accident.  Sometimes it is frustration…I just can’t bend down one. more. time.

Sometimes it is pure glee and (gulp!) malice.

The boys have left their Legos on the floor again…and I have sucked them right up into the vacuum.

Now, on the one hand, it seems really silly to do this.  Yes, they should not have left them out.  Yes, I am a busy momma and don’t always have time to pick up after them.  And, yes, those silly little pieces of plastic are expensive (often $50 for a set they really only want the special “guy” from).

But, dang it, how else can I teach them about stewardship??

Don’t get me wrong; I give plenty of warnings.

Boys, you need to pick up your rooms; I am vacuuming today.

Here I come…get the stuff off the floor!

Get. this. stuff. off. the. floor. NOW!

I am sure it works about the same in your house if you have boys (maybe girls, too…no experience with them here).

The people who live here have the nerve to look surprised…even irate when I cheerfully suck up heads, bodies, and (horror of horrors) light sabers and other weapons.

I try to be philosophical, but they just don’t care.  They have had their stuff eaten in good ole Mr. Dyson, and they feel violated.

I just feel frustrated.

Just pick up your stuff, I tell them.  Take good care of what God has blessed you with.

But they are not having any of it.  They storm off, muttering things I would prefer not to hear under their breath.

Deep sigh.

Dealing with these sweet, albeit messy, people gives me a bit of insight into just how awesome God’s grace is.

I wonder how many times I have just totally neglected any number of gifts the Lord has given me, leaving them lying around when He so carefully made sure they were given to me.

I wonder how many times I neglected that still, small voice that was lovingly bringing me back into the proper attitude and relationship with Him.

I wonder how many times I have neglected the huge, warning shout from my Lord and Savior and gone merrily on my way into sin…or into doubt.

And I wonder at the patience of a God who does not suck me into oblivion rather than deal with my sorry, ungrateful self any longer.

Another deep sigh.

Thank You, Lord, for loving me regardless of what a rotten steward I am with my life, and for being patient enough to continue to work to mold me into something useful!

My Lego problem may not be solved, but I hope I can be more philosophical about it, next time approaching it not with anger and malice but with love and patience.

Just like God does with me.

But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. – Psalm 86:15