Blogs by Lori

An Undivided Heart = Trust

Teach me your way, Lord that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.  Psalm 86: 11

Sometimes when we are trying to study scripture, it can get confusing.  We can get our head and heart so wrapped up in trying to understand it that we don’t seem to make much progress.  

I know that as I study, I like to bring in a lot of information to inform my study. Sometimes so much that it is overwhelming, and I make it harder than it has to be.

We can ask for God’s help to learn about Him. We can rely on Him to help us understand and trust Him even when understanding is out of our grasp. I believe that our God is too big, and powerful, and righteous and… for us to get our finite heads around, but He is as faithful as the scripture says and His greatest desire is for us to know Him. 

Not only does God want us to know Him, He wants us to be singularly devoted to our relationship with Him.  Look at that phrase from scripture – an undivided heart.  Stop for a minute and think about what that might look like, and what that means for you and for me. 

Additionally, let’s not trip over the word fear in this scripture. God is powerful, and righteous and deserves awe and respect. After all we are the creatures and He is our Creator. 

Psalm 8:3-When I consider your heavens,
    the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
    which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
    human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor.
You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
    you put everything under their feet.



Planting Seeds Of Faith In Kids

Children are participating in sports, in the arts, in education, and organized socialization at younger and younger ages.  There are infant enrichment classes, Toddler soccer leagues and more.  While there are lots of opinions on the value of these early introductions, it made me wonder what people think about the early faith development of our youngest children. 

In His book, Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions, George Barna did extensive research on the ages when people are most likely to accept Christ as Savior. His findings looked something like this: 

Probability of Accepting Christ at this age

Ages 5- 12 year olds = 32%

Ages 13-18 years old =4%

Ages 19 + years old = 6 %

Statistically, elementary children are much more likely to accept Christ as Savior than any other age. This statistic alone can give us much to talk about. But I want to lean in on the ages that are not represented in this survey. 

What about birth to 4 year olds? Where do they factor into the faith development stages?

Certainly society believes that starting early is an asset not only to a young child’s current stage of life, but helps lay some foundations for socialization, education, motor skill and sports development and more. Whatever your opinion, for the sake of argument let’s just look at the positive effects of early introduction. 

For many years the preschool/nursery section of churches were used primarily for child care purposes. These wonderful leaders, took care of our youngest attenders, while their parents and older siblings, and went to “real” church. 

It is time to look again at the value of early faith introduction. Some of the same value that we get from the early introduction to sports and socialization programs outside the church can be found in the church. With one huge added bonus… they get to hear about Jesus. Yes, our younger classes look different, they have to... Developmentally, these little ones do not have the skills or focus to learn well from the structure that most of our other classes have.  We can and should designs these classes to include learning through play, integrating God’s love, God’s ways and God’s word in their world. 

It reminds me of seed planting. You put the little seed inside the dirt and you water it, pull the weeds, make sure it is feed and get the sun shine. You protect it from the weather, and you prune it so that it can produce good fruit later. 

Can you see where I am going with this? Our little ones may not be able to conceptualize deep spiritual truths, but you can plant seeds of faith in them, that can have the opportunity to grow at a later date, when they are ready. You can water that seeds, repeat the story and lessons, and demonstrate God’s love, and live it out in your day-to-day life.  You can protect/prune it from weeds (harmful input that could confuse young minds) and regularly let it get “Sonshine” (pray and ask God to help you lead your children in their faith walk.) 

This will not only be helpful to our children, but to us as well. 

In George Barna survey, he does not address faith experiences of our youngest group for obvious reasons; 

  1. They would have trouble communicating what they know, believe, what they understand about God. 

  2. Developmentally they may have trouble differentiating between what mom and dad think about God and who God is to them personally, but they are great soil to begin planting those seeds of faith for future development.

Ask yourself, what is the benefit of planting seeds of faith in our children? Early advances in sports, socialization, and education can be helpful when they begin school, but what they believe about Jesus, can impact them through eternity.  Tell them a simple Bible story - tell them about Jesus and His amazing love for them.  Plant... Plant… Plant… 


Three Tips For Keeping That New Year's Resolution

Every year, millions of people make New Year’s resolutions to try to change their lives in some helpful way. This often takes the form of weight loss, exercise, or reading more. By and large, these attempts fail within weeks and almost never make it the whole year. While I’m sure you aim to be the exception and not the rule, here are some practical ways you can hold true to what you have promised yourself you will do.

#1: Add before you subtract.

Almost any nutritionist will tell you that a good diet isn’t necessarily about denying yourself the foods you love, but rather about adding first some healthy items before you indulge in those. For example, rather than snacking on chocolate and buttered popcorn (my favorites), you could reach first for sweet snap peas or a piece of good fruit and then maybe a smaller portion of that thing you love. That way you get what you want, but you eat less of it and are still satisfied and have enjoyed some healthy snacking along the way.

This concept of adding rather than subtracting is helpful in other areas of life, too. Rather than trying to subtract your Netflix habit down to zero, maybe try some active stretches before you let it roll to the next episode. Instead of cutting out screen time and social media entirely, maybe try reading your Bible some first and then letting yourself go to Instagram afterwards. That way, you’ll learn to enjoy these healthy habits and still indulge instead of denying yourself to your breaking point. No more battles of willpower; just healthy additions that make the reductions more bearable.

#2: Start small and gradually increase the goals.

Let’s say you want to jumpstart your prayer life, so you’ve set a goal to do a quiet time for a half hour each morning. That’s a great goal! But at first you’re going to find this goal next to impossible. Going from 0 minutes to 30 minutes will make you feel like you can never win, and you’ll probably find yourself falling asleep more than connecting with God.

Instead, try starting small. Let’s say start with 2 minutes every morning of solid prayer for the first week. Then, in the second week, increase to 4 minutes per day, and so on. By April, you’ll be doing your 30 minutes per day, but it won’t be a total shock to your system.

#3: Grace first, second, and third.

We’re humans. We’re going to fail in small and big ways, no matter how dedicated we are to our goals. When that happens, remember that perfection is not the goal. In fact, as I recently read and am trying to commit to my heart, perfection does not equal worthiness. Instead, practice the “unforced rhythms of grace” (Matthew 11:28-30, MSG) by forgiving yourself in the same way God has forgiven you. Remember what C.S. Lewis wrote: “[God] wants [us] to learn to walk and must therefore take away His hand; and if only the will to walk is really there He is pleased even with [our] stumbles (The Screwtape Letters).

And that’s the truth! God isn’t interested in our perfection because that has already been accomplished through Christ. God is instead interested in our faith, which turns our hearts toward Him and gives us the will to walk forward, even if only we hobble and fall down. God’s grace is there for every wobbly step, and we should be accepting of that grace, even when we disappoint ourselves.

I hope these practice steps help you begin accomplishing your goals well and faithfully, and here’s to a great new year!

Blessings,

Lori

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Lori Ferguson serves as Children's Director at NUMC, and has been at the church since 2015. When she's not planning or teaching, she enjoys spending time with her grandkids. Read more about Lori here.

Lone Ranger

God made us want and need one another. Beginning in Genesis, God created man and woman to need and complement one another. Numerous scriptures give us encouragement and instruction on caring loving and including one another, but this is not an easy task.

In America, we are marketed to be individualistic. 
We are told to: 

  • Just Do It
  • Have it Our Way
  • Go for the win even if the cost is great
  • That we deserve to have to do and to be individuals
  • We can do it on our own if we work hard enough and we are often pitted against one another for a prize. 

Sure most of these phrases are marketing campaigns meant to entice us to buy a product. However, they generate an idea. They generate the concept that we can and should make it on our own to succeed. This has become a significant part of our American culture. 

How often have you heard these phrases?

  • That is someone else’s problem
  • It doesn’t concern me
  • That is personal, no one else’s business but mine
  • To each his own 

All this to say we live in a culture that encourages individual ideas and work over a community. It is fostered, strengthened, and fortified by many of the events we attend, the products we buy and the choices that we make day in and day out.

The Bible is very clear about our need for one another. Remember how we started this talk, God not only made us for one another but to be with one another. 

As Christians, we are encouraged to:

These are just a few of the verses about how we are to care and love one another. So clearly, we are meant to do Christian life as a community. 

I don’t know about you, but as I look at the list of one another's, I am deeply convicted. I regularly play tug-of-war with the individualism ideology that has become a filter in my life. I want others to see that I am able and capable and usually on my own.

However, this is a lie and a recipe for burn out. We are always better together!

Now sometimes it won’t feel or look that way.  Initially, it is easier to manage many things when we only have to check-in with ourselves, but it is always more prosperous, and more loving, and broader reaching when we work together. 

The church is meant to be a community. The core of Christianity is about relationships. First with God and then with others. It is that simple. We were never meant to go it alone, to be a Lone Ranger, to be in or out of the spotlight on our own. 

The church is where we grow and learn, and serve and be. It is what Christ died to save. His church, not mine, not yours, but His and ours. 

Closing Considerations

  1. Count how many times today you filter your choices with the construct: how will this affect me? 
  2. Read the “One Another” in the New Testament this week. Then lean into at least one of them this week. 

Blessings, 

Lori

Lori Ferguson serves as Children's Director at NUMC, and has been at the church since 2015. When she's not planning or teaching, she enjoys spending time with her grandkids. Read more about Lori here.

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Tool Time

You know there are some really cool tools out there that can fix a lot of stuff. Truth is that almost anything is easier to fix, assemble, or configure with the "right" tools.  I stand amazed at the craftsmanship that some people have, and they can attest that using the "right" tools for the job, makes the work a lot easier.

Think about this with me for a moment. What if you had the “right” tools to fix some of life’s problems? Think about relationship problems, or money problems, or emotional scars, disappointment, depression, or other life issues. What if it was like going to the doctor and getting the right prescription, or the "right" tool to fix the problem?

Jesus promises to love us and care for us like no one else can. Check out some of these scriptures and see if they aren’t the "right" tool or for you?

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Lori Ferguson serves as Children's Director at NUMC, and has been at the church since 2015. When she's not planning or teaching, she enjoys spending time with her grandkids. Read more about Lori here.