Thursday, June 9, 2016

Community - Behind the Scenes

Photo Credit:  Kandis Spurling Photography

“Standby lights. Standby curtain. Standby camera. Standby stage performers.” The director’s voice buzzed my headphones. Excitement escalated behind the curtain, as the well-rehearsed production was ready to take stage. We were finally at the opening act, anticipating the reward of our labors. Not able to be in the “bake off” scene as originally planned, I settled in nicely to my new role as mic coordinator.

Calvary’s Spring Tea brings more talent than I can ever begin to boast about. An artist who can take a blank canvas and turn it into a masterpiece in 20 minutes, to signing for the hearing impaired and so much more, this church blooms with flair. Many of the youth with singing, dancing and rapping abilities, not to mention a lady who dropped the beat box better than I could ever dream of! What fun! What excitement!

Performing in front of an audience can be nerve racking, exhilarating and exhausting. Behind the scenes I saw delight as preschoolers, kindergartners and elementary age girls played out their role to their best of their ability. I saw teenagers and adults come to life as they had the opportunity to act, dance and sing. One woman came with the determination to overcome a loss, since the last time she sang was at her child’s funeral.

We carry a lot of life’s difficulties with us when we simulate for others. We put on stage makeup to cover up our flaws, all the while choking back tears, pushing down fears and struggling with daily stress. On the other side of the drapes we try to laugh or cry our worries away, only to find they are still there on platform with us. I saw the pain of loss in a mother’s eyes as she brushed the tear-stains from her cheeks, waiting to sing a song that resonated to the core of her being – her daughter laid to rest last November. Her courage to sing despite the sorrow, gave me a new perspective on grief – it may cause sadness, but the story continues.   I passed my assistant a Kleenex, while I waited for the singer to exit stage and take hold of her mic. The exchange came and I moved toward the center of the platform equipping the next scene already in motion. Yes, the show must go on, but the healing and hugging continued stage left. (Assistants are a great support system!) I later learned that was only part of the story. Her determination to sing was based on the reconciliation with her God. A former prodigal daughter, she welcomed an outlet in which she could voice her story of what Jesus had done in her life, in the deepest and most passionate way possible.

ealing is challenging and uncomfortable and I cannot pretend to understand the loss of a child, but I sympathize with tears. I’m blessed to be a part of this church body, because they have prayed and shown me compassion in my time of need.  A former prodigal myself, I shied away from church for a while, trying to cope with my own issues. God is the unsurpassed at re-casting castaways.

As we write our daily scenes at the store, work, home, or with family and friends, it eventually overflows into our show business. Weeks, months and years of hiding our careworn lifecycle will overtake us. We can step into the spotlight and embrace life’s challenges, or we can hide behind the scenes and rehearse our pain and hardships. We need community like a director needs stagehands. Finding the right crew to accomplish the work of God is crucial to the outcome of the script. The church was created by God to achieve this. We need each other to fulfill Christ’s playbill. He chooses who will act out our life’s story by becoming our spiritual stagehands, directors and co-actors. We need to be open to this part in our lives. God has already performed The Greatest Story Ever Told, and it continues with us. 

What’s your backstory? All actors have one. Hurt? Addiction? Complacency? Stress? Do you have wounds that need to be healed? Have you been traumatized by someone or an ill-starred event?

“The heart of God seems to beat especially close to the victim of trauma:
‘He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted’ (Isaiah 61:1).
God desires the wounds of the traumatized to be bound up by loving people.”
(from the book Boundaries, by Henry Cloud & John Townsend)

Will you be a part of God’s casting call on your life? Will you step out in faith so that God can bring healing, hope and joy to your life? Even if you can’t see yourself on stage (opening up to others), God can. His plans will never harm you (Jeremiah 29:11). You may have stage fright at first, but as Pastor Ray communicated one Sunday, “Do it scared.”

 Yvonne has been involved at Calvary since 2015 and co-leads Celebrate Recovery’s The Landing, a place for teens to heal from hurts, habits and hang-ups.

Ways to get connected at Calvary Community Church:

Celebrate Recovery – This faith based support group is all about helping to get through hurts, habits and hang-ups. Much more than the stigma of helping with just chemical dependency and drug addiction, Celebrate Recovery helps people with co-dependency, food addictions, sexual addictions, love & relationship addiction, and anything that hinders our walk with Christ.
C.R. meets Monday nights at 7 p.m. for adults, teens with child care available. For more information about Celebrate Recovery, please go to

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Favor Unexpected

"When I answered the call to be His daughter and chose to walk the roads He marked out for me, I chose Him and in that choosing I received grace, charis, the favor of His presence; favor that comes from His imprints upon me that allow me to go wherever He calls and do whatever He asks." Sara Guilfoyle

Last week at Thursday bible study, Lauren spoke to us about the virgin, Mary; the woman we imagine her to be, and the life and legacy she left imprinted in the WORD. As I sat there listening, God began to unfold in me new insight regarding prayers I have been praying on and off over the last few years. You see, I have been praying for years for God to give our family favor on our long adoption journey and journey to conceive; a  journey that He called us to and a journey that has bore no visible fruit.

My prayers have been as such “Lord, please open the door of favor and fulfill what you have spoken.” That and about 2000 additional words on the topic. But then on Thursday I heard, and read...

“But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.” Luke 1:30

Favor. Perhaps all these years I have had it wrong. Perhaps my limited, wordly understanding of favor, wasn’t the same as God's.  Thus began a study of the word favor as it is found in scripture. I’m still in the midst of study but I wanted to make sure I wrote to you while Mary was relatively fresh in your mind. Please feel free to study it on your own, to gain a more full understanding as well as personal insight. Here is where I am...

From what I understood, and based on the requests I was making to God, favor meant ease from the struggle, laughter instead of tears, provisions where it was lacking, comfort in the discomfort, and a time of rest from battle.  However, if Mary found favor with God, and her life was as I read, something just wasn’t lining up.

Mary, upon receiving the word spoken to her from the angel Gabriel, opened a pandoras box.  In that box was struggle, strife, heartache, disunity, uncertainty, rejection, ridicule ... you name it.  Being an unwed, pregnant teenager who believed to be pregnant after a miraculous encounter with an angel, she started her journey in thick mud.  We haven’t even addressed her watching that very son grow up to defy all things normal, and natural, then be brutally murdered before her eyes.  Yet, Mary was considered by God to be highly favored.

Twice in Mary’s short intro in the book of Luke chapters 1 and 2 favor is used in describing Mary. But it isn’t about who SHE is but rather WHOSE she is. His eyes roamed the earth looking for a woman with a heart set apart for Him and there His favor fell.  The favor that He gave was Himself. Don’t get me wrong, God DOES provide ‘favor’ in tangible ways like providing provisions, comfort and ease but the idea of favor isn’t necessarily about what the HAND of God is doing as much as it is about the PRESENCE of God Himself.

The word favor in Luke 1:30 is the Greek word transliterated charis, most often meaning grace but in this context favor.  “Favor of the merciful kindness by which God, exerting His holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues." This kind of favor bestowed upon or found in Mary (also seen in v. 28) was the gift of His presence. She was favored and by that favor she was ushered into the presence of the most holy God and gifted with His power and sealed to do His work.

So, what did I learn from this new insight into favor ... I sit here and ask myself that very question.  Because at times I struggle with my perspective on the lower story and see no tangible evidence of fulfillment that does not negate my favor. Favor is my gift from Him.  When I answered the call to be His daughter and chose to walk the roads He marked out for me, I chose Him and in that choosing I received grace, charis, the favor of His presence; favor that comes from His imprints upon me that allow me to go wherever He calls and do whatever He asks.  With that, the certain knowledge that He will never leave me, nor forsake me.  That is favor. Mary was highly favored as she was lavished in the presence and power of God.  He poured out all over her and gifted her with a part of Himself.  He was her portion and He is mine, and that makes me favored.

You too are highly favored.  Remember Mary. Remember the road marked out for her. Remember favor is not a companion to comfort. Favor is His lavish love poured out upon you in the gift of His presence. A hard life, circumstances that seem to bear no fruit, pain and heartache DO NOT equate to a lack of favor. Favor is a given when God steps on the scene, comfort and ease is not. Love and encouragement to you…

Contributed by:  Sara Guilfoyle
JAM Steering Team, Mentor Mom's Coordinator
and Women's Small Group Leader

Friday, April 29, 2016

Mommy Judging (For Grandmothers Too)!

Several weeks ago, the JAM team invited me to speak on the topic of “Mommy Judging.”  Needless to say, I discovered from my research, personal experience (yes, I am a mom and a grandmother), and the response of the ladies present, this is a “hot topic.”

When I say “hot” I mean, powerful.  A topic that moves women to tears and a topic that has the power to create community and acceptance.   For example, right now stop and ask yourself these two questions:  

First, when has your actions, as a mother or grandmother, been judged by another mom, or grandmother, bringing you to tears?   

I remember right after my first grandchild was born, being judged for how much involvement I had in my grandchild’s life.  As a matter of fact, I was told by another mom, “Obviously, I wanted to replace my daughter as his mother.”   Now that’s crazy talk!  Been there done that and no desire to do it again.  I walked away from this interaction between two grown, grandmotherly women, feeling very hurt, emotional, and misunderstood.  How about you?  When have you left a conversation, or situation, feeling judged?  

Second question, how powerful was it, when someone put their arm around you and accepted you just as you were – a mom, or grandmother, doing their best?

I also remember deciding to “homeschool” my children (when homeschooling was a fairly new concept) and feeling a community and acceptance from a group of women who were also struggling with the judgment of teaching their children from home.  A powerful community was birthed and support was offered to a large number of moms and kids.  No judgment, just acceptance and community!  How about you?  Where do you find acceptance and community without fear of being judged?

The Urban Dictionary describes judgment as the “act of looking down upon, to regard with contempt or disdain; to regard as inferior.”   That’s exactly what my research uncovered.  Statistically, 90 percent of moms, and grandmothers, have judged another mom, or grandmother. 

We cast judgment when we see a kid being a “brat.”  We cast judgment when we see a child “throwing a fit in the store.”  We cast judgment when we see a woman breastfeeding in public.  We cast judgment when we see a child watching (our definition of) too much TV or playing too many video games.  Working moms cast judgment on stay at home moms and stay at home moms cast judgment on working moms.  We cast judgment on “attachment parenting” where children sleep in their parents’ beds.   If a child is overweight, we cast judgment on how the mother or grandmother feeds the child.   On and on it goes …

So, this brings me to another question:  How should we respond to others who judge us?
In the Bible, the Book of Luke, Chapter 6 and Verses 31 through 36, we are told to “do to others as we would have them do to us, love those who are our enemies (which is what it feels like when we are judged by another mom), do good to those who harm us, be merciful, as our Father is merciful to us.”  Quite honestly, these are not my first responses to being judged but nonetheless they should be my second.  How about you?

Here's where we have to look into the mirror!  Let’s keep in mind, there are times in which we are the ones judging another mom or grandmother.  Don’t deny it!  Be brave and be real!  It’s part of our fallen nature.  It can also be an automatic response when we see something happen we would never let happen! 

My first child threw one fit and I immediately did what I had been taught.  I picked her up, swatted her little bottom and told her this was not appropriate behavior!  She never threw another fit.  Yes, I wore it like a badge of honor and yes, I judged other moms when their children threw themselves down, time after time after time. 

Then I had my second child.  Trying the same form of discipline and failing miserably, I was humbled; this form of discipline just ignited a fire storm.   I immediately had compassion for other moms with children having a temper tantrum.  I immediately longed for other moms to understand and not shake their heads in disappointment when my child threw themselves down on the grocery store isle because I said no to candy.

Judgment is a two-way street.  In the Bible, the Book of Matthew, Chapter 7, Verses 1 through 5, we are told to “not judge one another, lest we too are judged, we will receive the same degree of judgment as we give out to others, and why do we judge someone else for something when we have our own areas of weakness and areas found lacking.”

This leads me to ask one last question:  How do we get off the “judging treadmill?”   Seven basic thoughts, or points, to remember and practice.

       1.  Be wise – IT’S OK TO ASK FOR HELP - Recognize your own doubt and seek a friendship   with an older mom where you can solicit wise counsel- Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him. Ps. 127:3
a.      Not a mistake that you have the children that you do
b.    Ps. 139 God knows them and saw them being formed – ask him for guidance

2.      Be confident – YOU ARE DOING YOUR BEST you know what’s best for your child and –
3.     Be rooted in the belief that you know what’s best for your child and your family.  YOU ARE THE EXPERT WHEN IT COMES TO YOUR FAMILY
a.     You will choose what is best for them at any given moment or any given situation.
b.     You know your family dynamic best and will do what’s best for your family.
4.      Be guarded – NOT EVERYTHING NEEDS TO BE SHARED - be careful what you post on social media, someone will judge you and if you can’t handle it, it will send you spiraling down and your confidence level will plummet. 
5.     Be ready to cut the cord – IT’S NOT ABOUT ME IT’S ALWAYS ABOUT THEM - judgment has nothing to do with you, there’s something lacking in the other mom, or grandmother.
6.     Be a community –  I NEED YOU AND YOU NEED ME
a.     May not be what you would do, but that’s ok!
b.     Nobody is perfect
c.     Real dialogue leads to real friendships
d.     All kids throw fits in public at some time in their lives
e.     Every mom needs support because they are doing their best.
f.      Allow moms to share their failures but remind them “they showed up”
                                               i.     Kids are going to survive
                                             ii.     They need to be seen, safe, secure, and celebrated
g.      Find rest in knowing LOVE WINS
7.      Be assured your kids will be fine – LOVE WINS

JAM (Just Among Moms) is a place where you can find community, support, mentorship, love, acceptance, and other women doing their best.  I encourage you to try it out.  Get more info at
Find a women’s group to belong to and start building a community that allows you to be real, while sharing your struggles, and growing a real faith; that’s what you will find at Calvary. 
Feel free to share your thoughts with us by posting your comments!
Let’s stop judging one another moms, and grandmothers, and let’s start supporting and encouraging one another!