Monthly Archives: January 2014

Confessions of a Recovering Spiritual Wimp

“Who wants to help Mommy make dinner?” I asked with as much gusto as I could muster this evening. “Me!” squealed Violet, running into the kitchen in her green sparkly crown and princess dress.As I pulled a chair up to the counter for Vi, I asked Evy if she’d like to help too. “No, I’m too tired from exercising,” she declared with an arabesque while dancing out of the room. unnamed

Violet is a two and a half year old master at ripping lettuce for salads and kale for soups. We enjoyed our time in the kitchen tonight and I was proud of my little helper. But what occupied the back burner of my thoughts tonight was an increasing conviction from the Holy Spirit.

Recently Pastor Brian had our church staff and leadership read the book Doing Church as a Team by Wayne Cordeiro. The following quote has haunted me since I read it, “The amount of influence we will have on our generation is up to us. And if we choose poorly, He will open the privilege of involvement to others who are more willing.” More willing? Now wait a minute, Wayne. I’m willing, aren’t I? Don’t I want to participate in God’s great plan of salvation? Don’t I want to take up the ministry of reconciliation, free the oppressed, go and make disciples, the whole nine yards? Or is this more realistic:

Me Okay, Lord, I’m working on my “to do” list for the week. My list is filling up pretty quickly. Anything You want me to add to my list with all the rest of this stuff I need to get done? Laundry,

groceries, dishes, cleaning, take kids here, go to this meeting … what’s that, Lord? Reach out to so and so? Um … okay, let’s see if I can squeeze that in …

God Our “to do” lists look pretty different, Daughter.

Me What’s on your list?

God A better question might be WHO is on My list? Would you like to know who is on My heart?

Me Um … (hesitantly, knowing it’s going to be just one more thing to add to my list of stuff to do) …Yeah, I guess so. Sure.

God You were on my list once. Remember that? Do you remember when I found you and brought you home?

Me Lord, I was so young, I don’t even remember praying “the prayer.”

God Well, I remember! Those words are precious to me. You are my child now and I have great plans for you!

Me I have to be honest, Lord, sometimes Your great plans for me feel more like a burden, like

another job to get done. I feel guilty saying that, Lord, because I know that’s the wrong attitude to

have. I know You want me to talk to that neighbor about You, but I just feel so awkward bringing it up

when we’re talking about the weeds in our lawns. And I know You want me to spend more time reading the Bible with my kids, but after dinner, diapers, dishes, and baths there just doesn’t seem to be time!

And I know You want me to invite that friend to church but I just don’t know if she’d feel comfortable because she had a bad experience at church. And I don’t even think she’d fit in at our church. Lord,

I’m sure Your plans are great, but they’re also inconvenient, awkward, and time consuming. No offense, God.

Sound familiar? Until recently, I was pretty entrenched in this mindset. I was a spiritual wimp, a bench sitter. I’m ashamed of it. I’m embarrassed of the fact that I lost sight of God’s heart for the lost. I lost sight of my purpose, the whole reason I’m still here. I can make excuses for it, justify it, dance around my lack of faithfulness to my calling, but a good tree bears good fruit (Matthew 7:17) and that wasn’t the case with me. Can you relate?

Let’s return to the scene tonight in the kitchen where I invited my daughters to help me cook. As Pastor Brian reminds me, you can only take an analogy so far, but let’s just briefly compare this situation to God’s “to do list.” One of my daughters, Violet, enthusiastically joined me and the other, Evy, nonchalantly rejected me. Evy’s behavior, though it was mildly annoying, didn’t change my love for her or her identity as my daughter. However, because Violet chose to come and work alongside me, we had a shared experience. We worked shoulder to shoulder, chatting, telling secrets, pretending that the kale stalks were a family. Since she was right beside me, she got to share in the tasting, and as dinner was served, she and I shared the compliments. I guess ultimately I wanted her to share in my work not because I needed her help but rather because I wanted her help, I wanted her to learn to do things the way I do them, I wanted to share my time with her, I wanted her presence, just as the Lord wants yours.

God’s not done with me, and He’s not done with you either, for that matter. The Holy Spirit is at work in me, giving me the desire and the power to do what pleases Him (Phil. 2:13). And because the Spirit has done such a work of grace in me, I am compelled to call you off the bench too, and back out on to the field. We have to stop making excuses. The Kingdom plans the Lord has laid out for us are not a burden! The Lord will equip us with everything we need to reach those on His heart. He has already given us the tools, and they’re called “gifts”- and the more we unwrap our spiritual gifts, the greater our joy will be in sharing the Giver’s work! Give ’em Heaven!

For the Kingdom, Crystal

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IMPRINTS

Furniture gets moved around at our house. We’re not the home where the sofa and the lamp and the coffee table are going to remain in the same place for years at a time. It’s only a problem for me if I walk through the room in the dark, forgetting the new location for a footstool; normally, I like the variety of rearranged rooms.

I’ve noticed, however, that when moving a piece of furniture even after a relatively short time, there are imprints left behind. An impression on the rug left by a table leg, a dent in the wall where the end table chafed it, or a dimple on the sofa where it pressed against the lamp’s plug in the wall.

imprint 1Some of those imprints will fade, and some stay. When we removed a living room area rug last summer, a color difference remained. Even into the hard tile floor, sunlight and foot traffic made a lasting imprint.

Our lives leave imprints too, for better or for worse. Throughout our lives, people come and go. It’s likely that you remember the praise or criticism of a parent or a teacher, leaving an imprint that affected us in some way. And because we are human, we have probably all done that to our own children, friends and loved ones as well.

Leaving a positive imprint needn’t be difficult, but it’s best when we are intentional about it. For example, sometimes I have to remind myself that in every conversation, in every encounter, I have the choice as to what kind of imprint I will leave.

Ephesians 4:29b says it like this, “Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” That’s leaving a worthy imprint with words.

This week our church family is grieving the sudden loss of a beloved senior church member, and I can already see that she has left a wonderful imprint on many people at our church, a positive impression that will last a very long time. Part of the comfort in grief is knowing her influence mattered to so many.

Next time you move a chair on carpet, take a moment to notice the impression on the floor. And maybe that can remind you to think about life imprints. I’m challenged today to think about the imprints my life is leaving. How can my words and my actions leave a greater God-honoring impression in the lives of others?

 Brian Wiebe- Lead Pastor

 

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MOVING

My family and I are moving.

Some of you already knew this was in the works, but for others this comes as a surprise.  As we slowly let this cat out of the bag (mind you, we have tried to buy or rent other places before and known the disappointment of rejection), a bevy of questions have come our way.  “Are you leaving Clovis?  Did you find a house to buy or is it another rental?  Does this mean you are leaving Bethany?”

Of all the questions we have been asked, my most favorite question has been, “Can we help you in any way?”  It is my favorite not because it means we have a bunch of free labor for a day of moving (okay, so that’s not such a bad thing).  The question is my favorite because it is one more sign of the care and commitment our brothers and sisters have to us.  The Spinellis can say we are part of a community that is willing to come alongside others in their time of need, whether it be moving a household, sitting with a mom forced into bedrest, or upholding weakened hands and hearts in deep sorrow.

We as a congregation are moving.  moving

We are entering a new phase of life and mission as a community.  Our pastor, Brian, is going to help us navigate a new and exciting time of reaching up and reaching out.  We all will have a new barrel of questions.  “Where are we going?  What does it look like?  Does this mean change?”  Among these questions, I am hoping to hear my favorite question, “How can we help?”

We are members one of another.  As Paul put it, “Now you (all) are the body of Christ and each one of you are members of it.”  (1 Corinthians 12:27)  No one person or small group of people can do the ministry of this congregation.  It takes all of us in some fashion to do what the Lord has called us to do.

As the choir director, I am blessed with a superb accompanist and excellent singers.  Take these people away, and I just beat the air.  Together, all of us seek to worship Jesus in a way that engages the heart of the congregation in the adoration of our Lord.  It takes us all working together, moving together, and acting together.  And so it is with the congregation as a whole.  What an opportunity we have to move and act as one for the glory of God.

So we are moving…the Spinellis that is.  We are moving about a mile north to a house we are renting from a generous couple who trust us to take care of their property as if it were ours.  We are staying in Clovis and will be worshiping and serving at Bethany.  We look forward to deepening our relationships and sharing in ministry with all of you.  As we do this, I believe Bethany will be moving as well.

Mike Spinelli- Choir Director

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Light Up…..

I love light. One of the reasons our family moved to Fresno in 2007 was to see more sunlight, as where we lived was often gray and gloomy. I enjoy interesting lighting in a room, a clever lamp or bright LED technology. I love light. I also love the metaphor of light. Have you noticed that light and darkness are always contrasted as what is good or bad? We may have some “dark secrets” or a “skeleton in the closet”. Star Wars fans know about the Dark Side of “the Force”. Those are all negative images. By contrast we talk about having a bright idea, or shedding some light on subject, or more subtly, being enlightened.

The Apostle Paul referred to sinful behaviors as the “deeds of darkness”, things that are hidden, covered up, and done after hours. My father-in-law used to tell his kids, “Get home by curfew because nothing good happens after midnight.” I have found in working with those struggling with sin and addiction that the destructive power of those behaviors begins to break when a person can humble themselves to bring things into the light. Somehow the craziness of sin looks less appealing when it is exposed for others to see.

As we move our way through John’s gospel this winter and spring, we’re going to bump into the metaphors of light and dark a few times. But as we learned on Sunday it is not a battle of two equal powers, light versus dark. The darkness cannot overcome the light (John 1:5), unless there is an absence of light. Once we turn on some lights, the darkness doesn’t stand a chance.

Light and Dark  Jesus said this about light and dark, “All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. But those who do what is right come to the light    so others can see that they are doing what God wants” (John 3:20-21).

My encouragement to us today is this: let’s turn on the Light in our lives. Jesus is the Light of the World (John 8:12), and the Light for our lives. Darkness is nothing more      than an absence of light, and we don’t need to be afraid of the dark if we know where the light switch is.

How can we turn on some lights today?

 Pastor Brian Wiebe

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