Thursday, June 19, 2014

Pine Ridge Reservation Mission Trip

As we prepare our hearts, our finances, and our minds for our mission trip to Pine Ridge, South Dakota, I asked Shira Hedgepeth, who introduced us to Pine Ridge, to share a few thoughts.  When asked about Pine Ridge, Shira wrote:

There are events in your life that you will remember as life changing.  Often these events are weddings, graduations, births, or celebrations.  However, visiting Pine Ridge, SD and meeting the people was one event that I will always remember.
My husband’s grandfather was from Pine Ridge.  As we learned more about him we wanted our children to learn and understand the culture our family had lost with his passing.  Thus, we went on a mission trip to work on the reservation.    We blindly believed that we would go and help the people.  However, what we learned was that the help needed was far beyond our single visit and that even though the people of the reservation faced challenges, I could not even imagine, they impacted my family’s life more than we could impact theirs.
Upon entering South Dakota, I told my children that they may be looked at differently because they had dark hair and skin, so be prepared.  I never imagined the power of my words.  While on the reservation, our family was accepted and treated as residents.  One day my son and I were walking down the highway and several cars stopped to give us a ride.  Even though the residents had little to give, it was offered and we were treated as family.    Things that I believed were true problems in my life seemed trite.   When we left the reservation the world turned.  We went to a dinner and a movie and realized a fraction of the challenges the people of the reservation faced.  No one wanted to wait on us in the restaurant and when we went to the movie they would not wait on my husband until everyone in line had been served.  It was difficult to understand.
As we returned home, the world looked different and every member of my family longed for the next trip.    Pine Ridge is a place that many do not believe exists in the United States.  It is like going to a third world country where hunger and severe living conditions are common place.  However, the spirit of the people cannot be forgotten. 
Shira also shared some pictures.  When the group from Project:Re3 travels to Pine Ridge, we will be working on homes like the ones below.  Sadly, these homes are typical of the homes there.  Imagine spending 11 degree nights in these homes.   

Despite the soaring unemployment rate, the poor healthcare that is provided, and the lack of accessibility to many conveniences, the people are beautiful.  When I see the faces of the children and the beautiful people, I know that they deserve so much more.

If you want to help, there are many ways to assist.  As you know, we are hosting a golf tournament to raise money for our mission trip to the Pine Ridge Reservation.  If you are interested in helping, you can read about the tournament here.  We are in desperate need of door prizes and items to fill goody bags.  You can also be a hole sponsor or play in the tournament.  Another way to help would be to consider sponsoring one of the 37 people that will be traveling to Pine Ridge to work this summer.  
Feel free to message me if you have questions.  Please be in prayer for our group as we prepare to travel and do the home repairs that are needed.  Pray that we will be a blessing to each person that we meet and that through us, the people of Pine Ridge will experience the amazing love of Christ.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Reflection - Your Words

This weekend, Mike officiated the wedding of one of my dear college friends.  During the ceremony, the couple pledged their love to one another.  The bride and groom swore to love one another in sickness and in health, in happiness and sadness, through good times and bad times.  The groom became emotional when he promised to love his bride, the woman that made him a better man.  

During the ceremony, I was emotional.  I was happy for my friend, and I reflected on how blessed I am to have a life partner that has been with me through incredibly difficult times as well as happy times.  I felt my heart swell with love and pride for my husband.  But I didn't tell him this.  Like so many other times, the moment passed, and I began to chat with friends and participate in wedding festivities.

I made the mistake of assuming that my husband somehow knew, through ESP or osmosis, how I felt about him.  Maybe I also thought that if I have been with him for sixteen years, he must know that I love him.  I assumed that if I "think it", others must know it.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  

Proverbs 18: 20-21 says:
Words satisfy the mind as much as fruit does the stomach;
    good talk is as gratifying as a good harvest. 
Words kill, words give life;
    they’re either poison or fruit—you choose.

Our words have the power to give life or to destroy like poison.  Our words can satisfy the mind and gratify the heart.  We can speak words of love and life - reminding the people that we encounter that they are God's masterpiece, that they are loved; or we can poison their souls with destructive words of hate.  

Think of how different our relationships could be if we simply took the time to speak our love and gratitude.  I know the difference words have made in my life.  I don't remember every word my parents spoke to me, but I remember being told EVERY DAY, "I love you".  I remember being told often that I could do anything I wanted to do if I worked hard and had faith in God. My parents said these words so often that I am surprised I didn't try to build a rocket ship to the moon - no task has ever seemed beyond the realm of possibility.  All of this is because of the words that were quietly and consistently spoken to me - I love you; you are special; God loves you; you are intelligent; you are strong.  

My challenge to you today is to speak aloud the kind words that you think.  Tell your spouse that you would marry them again tomorrow, tell your kids that they are miraculous gifts from God, tell your coworkers that you see their hard work and you value their contribution - let the people in your life know how much you care.

Our words are free - they cost nothing - but they mean more than all the money in the world to the people that need to hear them.  Be careful not to sit quietly with words of affirmation - do not try to preserve such words for your wedding day or other days of significance - instead, use each day as an opportunity to give life freely and often.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Project:Re3 Golf Tournament

Project:Re3 Golf Tournament

If you have read this post, you know that a group of 37 people from Project:Re3 will be traveling to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota to repair homes and build relationships with the people there.  One way you can help is by playing in our golf tournament or by being a hole sponsor.  The information is below.  Feel free to contact us for more information!

WHEN:          Saturday, June 28th, 2014; Shotgun Start @ 1:00pm
                        Lunch will be served at 1:00pm with the shotgun start beginning at                                                 2pm.

WHERE:        River Landing Golf Course, Colfax, NC

DEADLINE:  Sunday, June 22nd (space is limited to the first 13 teams)

FORMAT:      Four-person captain’s choice ( Entrants build your own team )
                        There will be two 9-hole tournaments

PRIZES:        1st  & 2nd place teams per 9-holes. Each player on the winning teams will all receive great prize packages including golf packages, gift certificates to local restaurants, and more. Also, closest to the pin, longest drive will be awarded.

COST:           $50.00 per golfer ( $200.00 per team ) Includes green fee, cart fee,  entry fee, lunch, door prize, and a goodie bag.

You can also be a hole sponsor.  The cost is $50 for a half sign and $100 for a whole sign.  This is a great opportunity to advertise for a business or simply tell someone you love them. :)

Saturday, June 7, 2014

ReFuel - Pressure cooker

This week, I have been under a lot of pressure.  I have noticed the warning signs, but I was not able to stop the pressure from building, and eventually, exploding.  Unfortunately, I took my anger and frustration out on the people that I love the most - my kids.

This week was just hard.  I had a breast MRI which stressed me out, Mike was out of town (so I was working, getting all three kids to school, and keeping up with things around the house), work has been stressful (we are downsizing, and it is emotionally and mentally taxing to witness people lose their job), and there is even stress at church as we plan for the transition to our new building (while much of the church stress is "good" stress, it is still stress).  On top of a rough week, this morning two of the kids and I had a piano recital.  As I tried to get all three kids and myself ready, one of the kids was in a foul mood.  We started the morning bickering.  Then, as I tried to find an appropriate outfit for another of the kids, I found a huge pile of clean laundry hidden under blankets in the closet.  As I pulled the laundry out, I became angrier and angrier as I saw the wrinkles, and thought of the times that my child had promised that he/she had put their cloths away.  I blew a gasket (let's just say that this is not the FIRST time that I have found cloths stuffed under beds, inside toys, etc).  I yelled and had a temper tantrum.  Then I started to feel sorry for myself - you know how it goes - no one appreciates me, I work so hard and no one cares, I have failed as a mother, my kids don't love me or respect me, maybe I should just run away .......

When Mike finally got home, I was a mess.  I told him that I had cried more today than I had in the past year.  Mike told me to get out of the house and go to Salem Lake to ride my bike.

Now - before you think my husband is terrible, he was actually giving me the best gift that he could give me. Since I grew up in the country, I feel most at peace when I am in nature and connected to God.  I got on my bike, and as soon as I started to ride, I felt peace.  As I rode, I reflected on the need for each of us to take time to "refuel".  For me, Salem Lake is one of my happy places.

I encourage each of you to take a little time to center yourself and connect with God daily.  I will share some of the ways that I "refuel" in the posts on this blog.    

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Stop Hunger Now 5k

Thanks to everyone that helped at the Stop Hunger Now 5k and Fun Run!  Project:Re3 had a number of volunteers and five runners.  If you are still interested in this ministry, feel free to contact Project:Re3 for more information.

Project:Re3 Shirts!

Pine Ridge, South Dakota 2014: Allen, SD has been called “the poorest city in the United States”. Located in the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation just south of the Badlands, Allen is a town time forgot. Join us as we help bring hope to a community in desperate need. On August 2nd, a mission team of 37 people will spend a week in Allen doing small home repairs, weatherizing homes, and restore broken relationships. One way you can help is to purchase a Project:Re3 shirt.  You can learn more about this trip here.  

Go ahead - buy one - you know you want to!

Renovated Lives - Kathy Grant

Project:Re3 is a movement of people, unified in our belief that God's grace, Christ's love, and the Holy Spirit's guidance empowers us to rebuild a firm foundation from the rubble of the past, and through obedience, hard work, and prayer, we will restore, rebuild and renovate our hearts, our city, our nation and the world.  As a movement of people, one way to gain insight into Project:Re3 is to get to know the individuals that comprise Project:Re3.  Each week, our "Renovated Lives" post will allow someone from Project:Re3 to share how God has renovated their life. 

When I was considering who to feature in our Renovated Lives post, the first person that God laid on my heart was Kathy Grant. Anyone that knows Kathy would describe her as friendly, sensitive, sweet and caring.  Kathy has an amazing heart, and I hope you will enjoy getting to know her.

BG:  Where did you grow up and what do you do now? 
KG:  I spent my life in Summerfield, NC.  I attended Summerfield Elementary School, then Northwest Junior and Senior High School.  During my last two years of high school, I attended Kerwin Christian School in Walkertown/Kernersville.   In some ways, attending Kerwin was a great decision because it made me question everything I knew about Christianity.  However, it was also a bad decision because I felt judged all the time.  I graduated with a class of 8 others and I think being part of a small school helped me come out of my shell.  I graduated from High Point University with an English degree specializing in Communications.  

I worked at Channel 8 for 5 years doing everything from writing to producing and reporting.   I helped produce the community affairs morning show so I would get to meet celebrities like Minnie Pearl, Eddie Fisher and others at 5 AM.  I loved sitting on the assignment desk and listening to the police scanner and trying to scoop the other stations.  I now work for United Healthcare using Word or html to write policy documents.

BG:  Tell us about your family.  
KG:  I have been married to Bob for 30 years.   We met on September 9 and married on January 7.  We have one son, Jason, who is 29 and lives with us.  He is engaged and planning a 5/15/15 wedding.  My mom lived with us and passed away in 2012.   I still am getting over losing her.

BG:  What are your favorite books, television shows, movies, websites, blogs, etc?
KG:  There are three books that I keep going back and reading again and again - The ShackChoosing to See, and 1000 Gifts.  Ann Voskamp, who wrote 1000 Gifts, also has a great blog that always touches my heart. I also love to read Rob Bell, and I recently discovered Malcolm Gladwell.   I love books that make me think outside the box.   I am currently reading The Same Kind of Different as Me.   As far as television, How I Met Your Mother was my favorite show but I did not like the series finale.  I am excited about the return of Newsroom! That show makes me feel like I am back in the newsroom again.   I also love Under the Dome.
BG:  What music are you listening to?  
KG:  I love fun music.  I honestly like everything from Katy Perry to Justin Timberlake to Band Perry.  As far as Christian artists go, Steven Curtis Chapman and Third Day are at the top of my list.

BG:  Do you believe in big foot? 
KG:  NO!!

BG:  What ministries are you most passionate about at Project:Re3?  
KG:  I am passionate about the food pantry.   I really want to be able to put together a family ministry.   Strong families are important and I want to be able to offer help so families can learn and be able to stand on their own feet.   If they need help with searching for a job, managing their money, or keeping their home from being foreclosed, I want to help them. Helping these families may involve working with them at Project:Re3 or may require a referral to an agency that Project:Re3 has developed a relationship with.  The goal would be to make the families self-sufficient.   As far as international needs, my heart is in Guatemala.   I love the children and people of Guatemala.  From my visit to Guatemala, I know just $150 will buy a child a wheelchair.  This knowledge makes me consider every purchase I make.   I guess that also leads to one of my struggles - I am working on balance and understanding that I can’t save the world. 

BG:  How did you end up at Project:Re3?
KG:  About ten years ago, my son talked Bob & me into visiting a church that met in a movie theater in Kernersville (this was Mike & Beth's first church).  We went and loved it.  On our second or third visit, Mike mentioned in a sermon, "We are all God's Masterpiece."  I audibly gasped out loud.  This was the first time that anyone had told me that I was God's masterpiece. That sermon stayed with me.  I also think Mike is the best speaker I have ever heard in all my years in church.  I feel like the Holy Spirit uses Mike's sermons in a powerful way.  You may think you know everything about a verse, but Mike challenges you to look at it in a different way. He also has an awesome wife.
BG:  I will pay you later for saying that Kathy :)
KG:  Overall, I would have to say, I feel at home at Project:Re3, and I feel God is working in my life through the sermons.  I always say Project:Re3 is the only church in the area I would ever attend.

BG:  You have mentioned a number of times that you spent your entire life in church. What is your life story? 
KG:  I received a New Testament from the Gideons when I was in 3rd grade.   I came home, asked mom to pray with me, and accepted Christ in the corner of my bedroom.   In my early years, we attended a Methodist Church.  When I was 16, my dad decided the Methodist church was too liberal and we attended an independent Baptist Church.   We changed Churches again when I was about 18 (we went to another independent Baptist Church). So between these Churches and my Christian high school, I had lots of exposure to legalism.  Instead of feeling that I was drawn near to God, I felt pushed away from God even though I was a Christian.  I felt that the sermons and communication at church and school was that our motivation for salvation was to escape Hell - there was no emphasis on having a relationship with Jesus.  Being in those kinds of services made me question my salvation.  This doubt led me to pray the sinner’s prayer over and over.  It has taken years, and my mom's death, to help me experience grace and grow as a Christian.  I still have a long way to go, but I fell like I am on a good path.  

BG:  I know losing your mom has been very difficult for you.  Is that your biggest struggle right now?  
KG:  It’s hard to think about memories of mom and not be sad.   I also struggle with pondering theology - Armenian vs. Calvinism - I am struggling to simply claim Isaiah 55.  I have to remind myself that God’s ways are not our ways and we will never be able to comprehend many things in life.  

BG:  What is your favorite Bible verse or story and why?  
KG:  Jeremiah 29:11 and Isaiah 55: 8 – 9.  My favorite verse for years was Romans 8:28   I would say all of those verses bring comfort and make me feel safe and hopeful.
BG:  If you were 80 years old, what advice would you give your grand kids? 
KG:  Don’t worry about the small things.  Most things work out so don’t waste time worrying.  Be happy and live your life.  

BG:  In reflecting on your life, what life experiences have been difficult, but made you stronger?
KG:  I watched my dad struggle with dementia.  Those years were incredibly hard becuase he spent his last years remembering the difficult life he had as a child.  It was incredibly hard to watch him suffer.  Also, I struggled with my mom's death.  I have learned that you either move closer to God and try to work through it or you give up.  I have chosen to become stronger.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Small Things Big Difference - Renovated Thoughts

I recently had a friend comment that he wishes he could be as happy as me.  This made me reflect on the person I am now, as well as the person I used to be.

Most people that know me now would probably describe me as joyful, happy, bubbly, excitable.  People probably assume that I was born happy, or that I naturally have an optimistic and sunny disposition.  Little would these people know that I was once clinically depressed.  My depression plunged me into a deep pit of despair that left me feeling empty, hopeless, and utterly alone.  I tried to hide my depression, and I would often have to duck into a restroom to weep before putting on a fake smile to face the world.  My transition from depression to joy was not easy, and it was not rapid. Shedding my cloak of despair and choosing joy took years of therapy, prayer, hard work, and painful self discovery.  

When Mike spoke on Sunday, he discussed how our thoughts form our words and our words form our actions.  The focus of his sermon series has been on making small changes that often lead to a big difference. In our society, this is not welcome advice.  We tend to want to make one big sweeping change (or at the most, follow a five step plan), that immediately yields results.  We forget that our brain, like our muscles, must be exercised.  No weight lifter goes into the gym one day and expects to win a weight lifting competition the following day.  We know that to tone and condition our muscles, we have to do repetitive weight lifting consistently for a long period of time before we see the "big" results.  Why would we think our thoughts are different?  If we have "trained" our brains to think a certain way for years, why would we think that we can simply change the way we think over night?

During the course of my journey, I have learned some tips for capturing the negative thoughts and focusing on the positive.  Romans 12:2 gives us hope that we have the power to transform our minds, when it says, "be transformed by the renewing of your mind."  The path to spiritual transformation, which sets us apart,  begins with the renewing of our mind.

In considering how to renew our minds and transform our thoughts, I must make the disclaimer that this post is not meant to be a cure for severe clinical depression or mental illness.  For severe depression and mental illness, a physician's care, and a good therapist are necessary.  Sometimes medication is necessary.  I would never tell a diabetic to suck it up and get better without insulin, and I would give the same advice to someone struggling with mental illness - if a physician says you have a chemical imbalance requiring medication, you should follow your doctor's advice.  However, if you are struggling to gain control over some of your negative and destructive thoughts, these tips may be helpful.

1.  Recognize thoughts are just thoughts.  We cannot control every negative thought that pops into our head, but we can control how we react to those thoughts.  We can ruminate on negative thoughts and lies such as, "I am not good enough", "I am a failure", "I can't do anything right."  Or, we can take power from the scripture.  2 Corinthians 10:5 instructs us to "take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."  Negative thoughts can lose their power if we do not fear the thoughts and understand that thoughts do not define who we are and they do not control us.  We can be in control of our thoughts and our actions.

2.  Take negative thoughts captive.  How does one take negative thoughts captive?  There is no easy answer.  You have to try a number of techniques to see what works for you. One way to respond to negative thoughts is to choose not to focus on the negative thoughts by distracting yourself - read a book, listen to an uplifting song, or call a friend that makes you smile.  If you are struggling with worry, an effective technique can be to delay your worry.  Tell yourself that you will allow yourself to worry for for five minutes about an issue, but you have to worry on your lunch break.  Keep trying to delay your "worry time."  When you do make time to worry, set a timer and allow yourself to worry for a full five minutes.  Over time, this allows you to better cope with worry and to delay worrying for longer and longer periods of time.  One other approach that can be helpful is to try to analyze your thoughts as a third party observer.  Ask yourself, "Is this thought true?  Is this thought helpful?"      

3.  Replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts.  When we remove negative thoughts, we need to replace those thoughts with positive thoughts.  Find a scripture that encourages you, memorize it, and remind yourself of that scripture when you are having destructive thoughts.  Look to the Bible and study God's word for truth.

4.  Find a friend that can speak positive truth to you.  People often worry that they are the only person that has negative thoughts or fears.  This leads to shame and isolation.  Healing is often found when you find a trusted confidant that will listen to you and speak truth in your life.  Find someone who is positive and trustworthy.  Seek them out for encouragement when you need it.

5.  Get out of your head.  Many negative thoughts and worries occur because we are either worrying about the future or reliving the past.  Spend time daily focusing on the moment that you are in.

6.  Serve others.  You will not have to look far to find someone that is suffering or in pain.  Serving others helps take the focus off of your negative thoughts and redirects your energy to positive thoughts and actions. God has promised that if you "feed the hungry and help those in trouble, then your light will shine out from the darkness and the darkness around you will be as bright as the noon." (Isa. 58:9-10)

Our church is built on God's promise in Isaiah 58, that we can use the old rubble of past lives to build anew, that we will restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate our community.  God can use our thoughts to build us anew, and God can restore, rebuild and renovate our minds.  

If you have other suggestions for renovating our thoughts, feel free to share them in the comments.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Ministry Spotlight: Pine Ridge Reservation Mission Trip

              A group of 37 people from Project:Re3 will be traveling to Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.  As many of you know, we are involved in continued support of this reservation.  We sponsored 32 children this December by providing Christmas gifts (clothing, toys, and other necessities) along with the purchase of fuel for the winter.  We have also participated in a blanket drive as blankets and quilts are needed for the harsh winters.  This August, a group plans to travel to the reservation to meet many of the Lakota Indians that live there and to help with home repairs. 
                The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is an Oglala Lakota Native American reservation located in South Dakota.  This reservation is the eighth largest reservation in the United States, and according to my research, Pine Ridge is the poorest reservation in the US.  The residents of Pine Ridge suffer health conditions commonly found in third world countries, including high mortality rates, depression, alcoholism, drug abuse, malnutrition, and diabetes.  Access to healthcare on the reservation is limited and insufficient.  Unemployment on the reservation hovers between 80 and 85%, and 49% of the population lives below the federal poverty level.  Many of the families have no electricity, telephone, running water or sewage systems.  Additionally, the natural habitat is harsh.  In the winter, the average low temperature is 8 degrees.  By contrast, the average high temperature in the summer is 88 degrees.  The reservation is also isolated. The nearest urban center is Rapid City, South Dakota, which is 120 miles from the center of the reservation. 

                A member of our church community is Lakota and has a number of contacts on the reservation.  Through partnership with these contacts, we have identified a number of homes in a neighborhood that are in need of basic home repairs (for example, patching holes in roofs, painting, building wheelchair ramps, etc.).  Because the Reservation is very isolated, we must raise money not only for our travel, but also to fund materials and supplies for the house repairs, and to rent a vehicle to transport the tools and supplies such as lumber and paint. 

                If you are interested in helping with our efforts, please feel free to contact Project:Re3.  As you can imagine, we need prayers, supplies, and financial support.  If you are willing to make a tax deductible donation to our effort, you can make checks payable to ProjectRe3.