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Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Bohemian Vacation

As a teenager, I read a book once about a group of friends that traveled the U.S. exploring the country and discovering themselves along the way. I always thought that would be a really cool thing to do, but marrying young and starting a family sort of brought responsibility into my life a littler earlier than most. I love to travel, I love to explore. I enjoy the adventure of seeing new places and meeting new friends. We a lways take a summer vacation, but they are typically very planned events as we travel with four children.

When we started talking summer vacation plans, we drew a blank. We can't afford to do the typical big family vacation this year - take everybody to Disney World or Sea World and spend a week in a nice hotel. When we broached the subject with the kids in the car, the response was immediate - they all voted to go camping.

Now you have to understand that camping for us is always in a tent, and always filled with wild, crazy adventures. Crazy things happen to us like our campfire exploding and raining coals and ashes on our site, bobcats sniffing us at night, losing the rainfly in a large, gusty storm, and, well, let's just say we are NEVER bored.

The funny thing is that most people's response would be, "I'm never doing that again." But no, we don't scare easy. We continue to go back for more. We love the quiet and the solitude in the wilderness. We enjoy playing board games with the kids at night, roasting smores, telling ghost stories, watching the stars come out, exploring hiking paths, and going for the occasional unexpected swim. Although last summer I did realize the painful way that if you don't have sunscreen with you, you should not remove your clothes to jump in the river on a crazy impulse.

As we talked, we hatched a crazy plan for a Bohemian Vacation. I suggested that we load up the camping gear, pack a few changes of clothes and just go. Anywhere. Wherever the mood strikes. Maybe go see Yellowstone or maybe go to the coast, or who knows? We could take nearly two weeks and just explore and have fun and spend time with each other with no plans. Our main expense would be the gas to get where we're going. Campsite fees are typically reasonable, and we would be eating groceries at home anyway.

This is a little out of my husband's comfort zone. He finds it strange that I would suggest that we just go on an adventure without any planning, but I think he is starting to like the idea the more he thinks about it. We'll see how it all turns out in the end, but it sounds like fun to me. And a guarantee for more great Kemp family vacation stories.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

5 year plan

Recently in conversations with other women in their thirties a similar phrase keeps arising. "In my five year plan...." "Within the next five years...." "My goal in five years is....." So I started asking. They really do all have 1, 3, 5, and 10 year plans for their lives. Their ducks are in a row, and they have goals and are taking steps to achieve those goals.

I was totally taken aback. I have no 5 year plan. I have not even contemplated life five years from now. Thinking about it, I guess my son will be a senior, we might be looking at colleges? In fact, I don't even have a 1 year plan. Actually thinking about my plans for the future - tomorrow is mostly planned out.... and Saturday I'm taking Grace to a concert.... and well, I'll be at church on Sunday, and that's as planned as my life gets. Oh - and I will probably teach summer school this year.

Hearing all the other women talk, I am wondering if I should have a plan rather than just living in the moment. I feel weird that it's never even crossed my mind to have a five year plan. I guess I just really have no clue where God wants me to be in five years, so I have felt there is no point in trying to plan. But then again I wonder if this is yet another part of the female gene that I'm missing - maybe it's the same gene that loves to shop and enjoys women only events and cheesy romance movies.

So now I feel peer pressure to create a five year plan. Here it is in a nutshell. I want to be seeking God more and loving Him deeper in 5 years than I am now. That's it. Bottom line. All the other stuff - well, it's just stuff.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Pruning fruit

Sunday morning, I was checking Facebook and ran across a post by a good friend, Joe Argo. Joe was our worship/associate pastor 10 years ago in Fort Worth. A great guy, he's moved on to bigger and better things back in South Carolina. His post read something along the lines of his fruit trees are finally producing, but the books all say to prune off the first year's fruit because the branches are too weak to sustain the crop, and he didn't know that he had the heart to do it.

This really made me stop and think. In the New Testament, Jesus often talks about bearing fruit, about knowing believers by their fruit, and about pruning off branches, etc. - all illustrations that would be readily understood in a country of vineyards.

I thought about baby believers - after all The Crossroads is full of them. They often jump in really hard and fast into ministry. This is a great thing, but it can lead to burn out if they are not carefully mentored. I thought about needing to prune the fruit off the baby trees and thought about how often I advise new believers to pick one or two ministries to be involved with in the beginning and to go slow about committing to big things long term until they have tried a variety of ministries and have discovered how God has gifted them. It seems that pruning back on too many activities leads to better maturity and more depth. But it is very hard to tell new believers to slow down. I don't ever want to dampen their enthusiasm. I'm guessing those are similar emotions to what Joe felt about pruning the fruit off his trees.

I also thought back to having to occasionally support an overloaded branch on a fruit tree as a kid. We would have to put a forked stick under a branch sometimes to keep them from breaking under the weight of too much fruit. I think that in the Christian life there is a great need for the forked sticks. Believers who are producing lots of fruit, and are leading very busy, active lives in the ministry need people to help them bear the weight of their life. The weight of a fruit bearing ministry is exciting - a good harvest, WooHoo! But even an exciting and positive great weight can become too heavy for one person to carry. A good helper can alleviate the stress and the burden that the minister may be under.

I don't know that this is an "aha" moment for anybody else, but it seemed to make sense to me. So careful what you post on Facebook - you never know when you will become a blog.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

MOnday Morning Update 4/25/10

I am not excited that another weekend is coming to a close. I am definitely not ready to face Monday morning. I feel that my weekend is just beginning, but in actuality it is ending. The Sunday night blues are setting in, so I decided to sit down and reflect on the day and enjoy what God is doing at The Crossroads.

We had another great day at The Crossroads. The morning started off a little rough. Shawn is sick with a cold, and that is tough for a guy that has to rely on his voice to share God's message. The cold meds he's taking make his clarity a little questionable as well. For example, we got to Anna missing several items we needed for services. Fortunately, a friend was able to run by the house and get the things that we had forgotten.

Set up was a little crazier than usual, with several new items that had to be hooked up and tested. We made it on time, with just a few minutes to spare.

Shawn's sermon was the first in a series, "God on Your IPOD, Classic Rock." We set up the Playstation and had audience members play the song of the week, "Living on a Prayer." It was fun to have the audience involved. Shawn used the song as the starting point to discuss the importance of prayer in our lives. It was a great sermon, and he was able to keep his thoughts focused to share clearly with the audience.

I enjoyed the music today, although I was a little scattered during the main set. I have a hard time on crazy mornings gathering myself back together again to focus on worship. Unfortunately, time constraints keep us limited to about 3 songs (10-15 minutes) on Sunday morning. I have discovered through my own personal worship time that I am generally not deeply connected with God until at least 20-30 minutes of worship....whether that is music or meditative scripture reading or just time focused on thinking about God and His love. So if that internal clock starts at 10:35, then I am simply a musician on a stage playing a piano. Performing. I tell my friends that I am a crock pot, not a microwave when it comes to worship. It has taken me years to realize that there is no shame in that, it is simply how God created me.

Normally I try hard to spend some time in prayer and listening to worship music before I get to church so that I am ready to deeply connect with God while I am on stage. But today with all the hectic craziness of my morning, I was not ready to worship until the closing song, "Grace Like Rain." Some weeks are just like that for me. I try hard not to feel guilty about not connecting intimately with God in every church service. I know that there will be opportunities this week as I run to spend some time in worship. If Shawn had not been too sick to leave alone with the kids, I might have been tempted to head down to Fellowship Church, or somewhere else in the Metroplex to just sit in the audience, slow down, and worship. Heading into Monday morning without having deeply and intimately connected with God leaves me a little dissatisfied.

This afternoon the children's workers got together to talk about the "what's next" of children's ministry. I was excited about the vision for children's ministry. I love that God is talking to our Children's Director about precisely the same vision that Shawn and I have had from the beginning. Our greatest need, of course, is more workers for the small groups. We will have to find ways to communicate that working with children is a privilege - a special way to see God's heart, rather than a burden or an inconvenience.

I confess that I have done more than my fair share of whining about working with children. I work with children all week as a teacher, and my heart is in music ministry, and I don't especially want to be with kids again on the weekend. However, the more I look through the New Testament, the more I see that Jesus had a heart for children. Being a part of the children's ministry validates their importance. If I am willing to occasionally give up my favorite part of church (music) to minister to the kids, then it affirms to them that they are indeed very valuable to God. It is in valuing our kids that we are able to lead them to following Christ. And that is certainly worth me sacrificing sitting in big church a few Sundays a year.

One last thing on my mind tonight. I was looking across the new faces in our services today and remembering the lives that The Crossroads has connected with in the last 18 months. Many of our first members have moved away with jobs and family. We are soon losing another family to a new and better job in another part of the state. It reminds me that I need to enjoy each relationship while it is available, because circumstances change quickly. I am grateful that God has allowed me to have the opportunity to meet so many incredible people and be a part of their lives, whatever that time frame may be. I was once again reminded to be thankful for where God has placed me in ministry. It has been, and continues to be a beautiful adventure to be a part of The Crossroads.