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Usually the drive to Annapolis takes an hour and fifteen minutes. On this particular morning I had the unfortunate experience of having to leave at 8 a.m. As you might imagine, I was in traffic for two hours. Normally that would frustrate me, but because I promised to connect with God more intentionally, I used it as an opportunity to listen to Christian radio. I listened to my favorite stations: 89.9, 91.9 and The Message on satellite radio. Of course, God didn't let me down and I heard some of my old favorites, some of my new favorites and some really encouraging words.

SidewalkProphets-273x300One song in particular,Help Me Find Itby Sidewalk Prophets (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CsjZ94K7UQs), really spoke to me. I am in the "sandwich generation"; on the one hand, my oldest just completed her freshman year in college and my youngest will begin her senior year this fall. On the other, my mom is dealing with dementia. Meanwhile, I am looking ahead wondering what the second half of my life will look like. There are many days when I feel like I've been placed in a foreign land and I have no map.

It is nice to have songs remind me that I don't have to have all the answers; that I just need to quiet myself, listen and watch for God to guide and direct me. If I listen and I am still, then I will "find it". If you don't already listen, consider turning your radio to a Christian station. You might find, like I did, encouragement and comfort, and even a suggestion or two about how to navigate life.

-Cynthia Lopynski

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Teamwork and Roof Removal: Sandy Relief Mission Team Update

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Team-sign-300x199Our New Jersey trip started off on Sunday evening as we all arrived at Lacey UMC in Forked River, New Jersey. Many arrived early (or at least on time) and had a chance to enjoy their first meal together as a team, followed by the first team meeting led by our fearless leader Tim Wells. After some administrative items and a briefing by our construction team, Tim led us in an inspirational devotion about being a good neighbor and the story of the Good Samaritan. It helped set the perfect tone for the next day, as we headed to Atlantic City for our assignment. Monday morning came bright and early, and after a full breakfast from our hosts at Lacey, we headed down to Connecticut Ave in Atlantic City ready to spend the week completing an intense dry wall job. However, upon arrival it became clear that God had a very different plan in store for the our team. We were no longer scheduled to complete a dry wall assignment.

Sandy-Day-1-Pic-2-e1375886429845-680x1024We were now assigned to removing a heavily damaged roof, and the demolition of a damaged and unsafe garage that had taken in over 3 feet of water. The homeowner Elise, and her son Tru have been in urgent need of a new roof since Sandy struck almost a year ago. While the team had very little expertise in the area of roof removal and rebuilding, what we lacked in skill we made up for in willingness and a heart for helping get Elise and Tru the roof they needed to be able to move forward with the additional repairs that need to be completed on the home.

We quickly divided into two teams, those willing to get up on the roof, and those who preferred to have two feet firmly planted on the ground! As the roof team geared up with harnesses, the other team headed to the garage. For the rest of the day, the roof team worked to remove the shingles from the damaged roof, while the garage team cleared out the garage, and started tearing down the building. By the afternoon, the garage had been leveled, and about one-quarter of the roof had been cleared of all shingles. A large rotted section had been replaced with new plywood to help alleviate some of the leaking the homeowner was experiencing. With 5 p.m. quickly approaching, efforts shifted from the garage area, to clean up of the old roof shingles. The roof team worked to get a tarp covering the exposed roof boards in the event there was rain overnight. Finally at about 6 p.m., tired, dirty but accomplished the team returned to Lacey for dinner and another team meeting.

Sandy-Day-1-Pic-1-1024x680Monday evening dinner was pasta, pasta and more pasta – just what we needed to recover from the challenging and demanding work of the day. After our meal, we joined for our evening team meeting to reflect on the day, and plan for day two. Lee led us in the evening devotion, and asked the team where they saw God or Jesus that day. Several people shared their experiences of the day, and we all could feel God working with us to create something special for this family. Ten was lights out, but most of the team was fast asleep well before that time.

Sandy-Day-1-Pic-3-e1375886479768-680x1024Day two started out much the same as day one, with another great meal provided by Lacey! Following our meal we again headed out to Atlantic City for day two. The teams quickly divided again, with the garage team focusing on the remainder of the garage demo, while the roof team continued removing the damaged shingles and replacing rotten sections. By lunchtime, the garage was done with the tear down and removal, and moved on to a new project of creating a new driveway for the homeowners. The roof team made significant progress, and by the end of the day the first half of the roof was cleared just in time for the rain to start! As the teams joined forces to quickly clean up the space, and replace the tarp to prevent any additional rain damage to the home. The team returned from day two, much dirtier than day one, but also much more inspired and eager to move on to day three. The team meeting tonight came early, with Tracy, Jecen and Reagan offering the devotion. The "trio" (mom and two teens) was on their first mission trip with Floris, and each shared what they were experiencing on the trip. A reminder to trust in God, the realization of how great teamwork can be, and a first experience of feeling the peace and joy of doing work for and with others were shared. Many others also talked about how God was continuing to provide for the team, and most importantly for the homeowners. With tired muscles and exhausted bodies the team headed to bed, exhausted from the day, but filled with the power and strength only God can provide as we head to the third day!

– Submitted by the Floris Sandy Relief Team

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Soil Searching

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Recentlyin a sermon, Tom suggested we look for stones and clods in our lives that were keeping us from growing with Christ. I don't really have any big rocks or clods, I proudly said to myself. Wait a minuteHow about that pride you just felt? How about that driving thing? Yeah I've got them. Judgment is a great big clod I've discovered. It is usually masked as many little stones. I believe that Jesus has been at work in my life don't get me wrong. What's that they say? "If this is how far you've come, you must have been pretty far away." Seriously, during my spiritual journey that judgment clod has been hit several times with big hammers as God has been at work in me. I've even been able to throw some of those out. But I'm left with lots of little pieces that show up quite frequently during my day.

SoilSearching2So I'm driving in one morning and traveling on Route 28 in the middle lane. I'm the good guy who lets a car come into my lane. The driver used a blinker which I thought was impressive (more on that later), then quickly got into the left hand lane. Very quickly the cars in my lane accelerated and I was side by side with the driver who had just gotten all the way over in the next lane. He was going a few miles an hourunderthe speed limit. I sped past him going about 65 shaking my head and thought, "What a jerk. Doesn't the guy know the left lane is a passing lane?" Just as I had that thought, I quickly remembered my mother-in-law who when challenged with angry drivers riding her bumper would say, "The speed limit is xxMPH and I have just as much right to be in this lane as anyone."

I do the same thing with blinkers. What is it with northern Virginia drivers? I witnessed yet another person not using a blinker and I thought "so doesn't that expensive new Audi come with blinkers?" Ouch! There's the judgment and some envy for good measure. I even caught myself saying something about someone making a right hand turn, as I was, and not using their blinker. I looked down and sure enough neither was I! "How much more conviction do you need?" I asked myself. This is difficult.

As I continue to reflect on this rather large plank in my own eye, I find that my judgment may in fact be merited. I call it my Captain Justice Cape. I put it on and point out things that clearly may be against the law: "You see how fast that guy was going? He flipped me off as he passed, and I'm already going 70 on the access road. I hope he gets a ticket." But it appears that I am really just as guilty. So many times I don that cape and as I'm taking it back off, I've been convicted that perhaps I've got my own things I need to concentrate on, like not having to be right all the time. My judgment isn't really coming from a place that is concerned about the other individual(s). Rather, it is me needing to be right, superior or just altogether a much better person. Why is that? Why do I feel like I have to win or be better? I think it is that same struggle I have with acceptance of God's grace. How can God love everybody the same no matter what we've done or not done?

I struggle with that grace and forgiveness. Maybe it is the belief that I'm unworthy. Maybe it is because I can't wrap my head around the equality concept. After all, life is a game right? You win or you lose. I either have been a good person or a bad person. "Certainly God can't love Hitler" many skeptics say as the ultimate test of where God's grace ends and damnation begins. Actions merit judgment after all! At least that is what I've been raised to believe.

Just maybe the action that merits the judgment is mine. How I choose to react or believe is the only "judgment" necessary. I need to look at the speck in my own eye. Funny how Jesus uses aplankin the other guy's eye and aspeckin mine. It is just like thatthe other guy's actions, behaviors, thoughts, beliefs, and so on, are always much more egregious than mine. Maybe Jesus is saying that totally tongue in cheek, such as, "Bill, you know that speck–like not using your blinker? Maybe you should be looking at that and not worrying about that guy who was just texting while speeding past you." Maybe disobeying traffic laws all together isn't a good analogy since we shouldn't be doing either of those things, but you get my point. It isn't the size difference of the speck or plank; it is the fact that I've got something in my own eye. I'm just as guilty; I'm just as human. It is our shared condition.

There's the saying, "It's not the destination, it's the journey." How many times have I heard that? Someone recently said, "It's not the destination, it isn't the journey either. It's about who you are traveling with." Now THAT I like. Really there is no end to this spiritual journey. It is a circle of self-examination, honest "soil searching," grace and acceptance and action to do the next right thing through the strength of Jesus Christ living in me. When I am doing this with others on the journey? Well that's when divine space is opened and shared. There is beauty in the honest sharing of the vulnerability and hypocrisy that lives in each and every one of us. That truly is sacred space. Humility is tangible in this space. That's where I begin to become a better Christ follower and in the process just maybe a better driver?

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Jeremiah Project Updates

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image-17These past three days have been a blast! I think everyone can agree that the work we've done for other people has beenlife changing. Even though the mornings are cold, the working hours warm our hearts knowing that our hard work and perseverance gets the job done. Meeting new people from other churches allows us to create new friendships while growing in our faith. Every night the director leads us in songs, a program and prayer. It's a perfect way to end a busy day.

-Megan Connell

Today at our work site we had an awesome time. A little girl, Penelope, was there with her little brother, LJ. They were so excited to help and that we were there. They were helping us take pictures and watching us. I am really glad we got to meet them and got to be a part of their lives.

-Kaitlin Bracewell

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Today at JP my group went to the Patomic Center. The Patomic Center is where people under 18 with tough lives go to stay. We started the day by raking leaves and cutting plants. I really liked cutting the plants because we got to swing the tool like a golf club. At lunch we had a really good devotional. We talked about things that are broken in our world and how they will be fixed in heaven with God. Next, we started to clear a pipe to let the water run through. It was hard because the pipe was really long and had lots of leaves. It took a bit of work and my long arms to get the job done. We had to leave the site early because there were so many bees, and it was dangerous. I was really sad because I wanted to finish the job.

We went to Dairy Queen and got back to camp early. It was nice because the girls in my group and I all talked about stuff going on in our lives. I feel like I've known them forever now. For our message tonight we talked about things that separate us from God, which really spoke to us all. We wrote things that separate us on shards of tile. Putting that on the table was such a relief, like a weight lifted off of my shoulders. After that I played a game on the swings with Farren and Sally. I love JP!

-Sarah Williams

I saw God today all over the camp. I saw God in my work team. Katie is funny, courageous and hard working. Amber is cool, brave and hard working. Jacob is shy but very hard working. I hope to help him come out of his shell. Sally is persistent, hard working and very funny. My leaders are great and are very inspiring and cool. I also saw God when I fell off the carousel and busted up my knee. I saw God whenRachel (after specifically stating that she, "Does not do blood") cleaned my wound and put on my Band-Aid.

-Graham Horvath

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First Day at Jeremiah Project

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JPWV5Today was Monday and the first day of work at Jeremiah Project. At first, I was really nervous about my work group. Though in the past I have had grand experiences with my group, I tend to be nervous when meeting new people. There was only one person in my group that was from my church, and I didn't even remember the names of the others. However, as soon as we got into our van, I could tell we all had chemistry.

Our work assignment today involved washing the outside of a trailer and digging post holes. I was wearing the jeans that I wore last year, which were covered in silver seal. It was a reminder of last year, and I was thrilled for today. The day got even better when we noticed a five-year-old girl named Penelope who was more than willing to help.

We ended the day with a Blizzard from Dairy Queen and dinner. Dwayne gave an amazing message. It was relatable and obviously well rehearsed.

Quentin wrapped up with music, and you could hear that even the shyest person was singing.

– Emily Tillet

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