Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Just Between You, Me, & God 11/19/2012

I picked a bad time to start a diet.  This is not the best time of year to start a diet with Thanksgiving this week and Christmas and all the trimmings right behind it.  My timing has not always been the best.  This is a time of reflection and giving God thanks for all He has done for us in the past year.  Growing up, Thanksgiving was generally just our immediate family.  I don’t remember any trips over the river or through the woods to Grandmother’s house.  With three boys sitting around the table a two legged turkey was a little inadequate.   Somehow a wing just doesn’t balance out with a turkey leg.  The best dishes and silver ware would come out and there was more food than even three growing boys and their Dad could put away in one meal.  Everything was homemade, nothing came from the freezer or out of the microwave (nonexistent at that time, yes there were phones and electricity and indoor plumbing).  After I got married and we had kids we would make those trips from Houston to Atlanta, Texas for a big family gathering.  Everyone would get up Thanksgiving morning and check the “chores list” to find out what they were supposed to do.  Bo would deep fry a turkey and have a pork loin smoking on the grill.  Nana and the girls would be busy in the kitchen making a huge tub of the best ever dressing and all the fixings to go with it.  The guys made last minute runs to the store and discussed the games that would be on that day and sneaked taste anywhere they could.  When it was all said and done the blessing was offered, usually with tears of appreciation, and the stuffing began, and I’m not talking about the turkey.  If you went away hungry it was your own fault.  After the meal was done, the living room looked like a battle field with bodies lying everywhere and moans and groans reflecting the pain of overeating.  The guys dozed while the games blared on the TV and the girls would take a walk to work off the meal.  No one could understand how they could eat that much but by the time the evening rolled around we were at it again.  This year I will once again reflect on God’s amazing grace in my life.  He has given me a 5 year experience with Living Hope Fellowship that just a few years before I could have never imagined.  He took a broken vessel, remolded it, and used it to pour out His Gospel to others who were broken.  God truly does use the weak to prove his strength.  Lord I give you thanks for reminding me that I am nothing without you and that you believe that I can do anything that you want me too.  Not to me, but to you goes the glory this year.  Pastor Dean

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Artist Interview: Lawanda "Precious" Jones

In Austin, Texas, there are many worthy causes,, amazing praise groups, and no shortage of fine musicians. I recently had the privilege of interviewing one of them, Lawanda "Precious" Jones, from Pflugerville.

1. Tell us a little about your musical style. Who is your musical inspiration?

These types of questions are always so funny to me, because I never really know how to answer them.  I write a little of everything.  I grew up listening to blues, Motown, r&b, rap, jazz, country, classical, rock, and even opera.  So, I find myself listening to contemporary and alternative Christian & Gospel, urban Gospel including rap, and every once in a while blue grass Christian.  The people that stand out in my head that I listen to would be Lisa McClendon, Debra Killings, V. Rose, Canton Jones, Mr. Del, The Anointed Pace Sisters, The Arrows (a South African group), Flame, Mark Schultz, Salvador, Sheri Jones-Moffett, and Jennifer Strickland.  I know that is a mouthful, but I like music that is ministering not just praise and worship.  If I had to put myself in a box, then I would say that I am a lyrical urban gospel singer.  I enjoy the rhythms of gospel and write more lyrically like Christian music.

2. What led you to your ministry?

It had to be God, because I didn't choose my ministry from the beginning to sing for God.  I always wanted to be a doctor until I realized that you needed to be good with science.  My mom made me do choir in middle school.  From there, I wanted to be a choir director with a Doctorate Degree until God changed my path with becoming married and having children which interrupted my college education at the time.  I always wrote music, but I never thought or wanted to share it.  I basically kind of stumbled into realizing that I felt fulfilled when singing for God and it seemed to minister to people.  Since, I have been singing the songs that God has given me, God has shown me that others experience the same thing.  The songs were meant to help people through their transitions in life.  My ministry isn't so much about praise and worshipping God as it is about God is there to get people through their situations.  The music is ministering to people and that is praise and worship to God!

3. Tell us about your home church. What makes it awesome?

My family goes to Bridge Community Church in Pflugerville, TX.  It is a quaint little church with a lot of friendly and loving people who cares for their community.  The part we enjoy the most of BCC is when the pastor gives the Word, you know that it is the Word that God has put on his heart.  Our family needed a pastor that wasn't put on such a high pedestal that he couldn't share his testimonies of fear of the thoughts of man.  The pastor at BCC is a real man that goes through real situations and cares for people (not all in the church) who have real issues, and he is not scared to share his testimony with people.  I think that at the Bridge Community Church people have room to be themselves.

4. Having lived in the Austin/Pflugerville/Round Rock area before myself, I know what a fertile ground there is for ministry. How do you look for and find daily opportunities to "be the church?"

I knew that God had called me to minister, but a long time ago I would run from it.  I thought "ministering to people" amounted to those who called people out on their sins and told people that they were going to go to hell if they didn't change right now.  However, God had to teach me who I was and to embrace who He made me to be so that I could minister the way He wanted me to minister.  Well, I am capable of talking openly and lovingly to anyone.  People joke on me for being able to talk a lot and about nothing at all.  However, God has shown me that I am capable of making people comfortable in communicating with them; they drop their guards and tell me things that is on their minds and hearts.  God tends to give me opportunities like these often to minister to people of all forms.  People like neighbors, my children's friends and family, people I go to school with, people that are looked at as different, or even workers that come to serve my home.  I am more comfortable knowing that God calls me to minister to people in my everyday life through my conversations and my walk than being fiery and telling people all the things that they have done wrong.  There are times that He has me step out of my boundaries like lately going to my neighbors that I don't know and asking them if they want prayer.  In everything I do, I let God lead me through my time that I spend with Him, and if I don't hear Him, I will catch myself seizing an opportunity that I didn't even realize as one.  (Colossians 3: 23-24)

5. What is your favorite Scripture?

I don't have a great memory, so memorizing scriptures has been really hard for me to do.  I know the Word is hidden in my heart to be used at necessary times, but in my past, I have felt condemned because I have a hard time remembering word for word and the address of scriptures and other things as well.  I prayed to God one time about my memory, and the Holy Spirit led me to Luke 12:12 "For the Holy Spirit will teach you at that very hour what you ought to say."  This scripture is one of the first scriptures that I have been able to remember no matter what time of day it is.  It gives me comfort if I begin to compare myself to others who seem "to know scriptures".  I may not know their relationship with God, but I do know my application of the Bible and my relationship with God.  He is my foundation!  And this scripture has been proven true for me in many situations that I have faced.

6. With whom do you identify most from the Bible?

Wow, getting personal... In the past, I have identified myself with the servant who received money from his master and buried it out of fear, but I believe that God has been dealing with the fear within me and transforming me into someone more like Joshua or Jonathon.  Someone who trusts God to be God and be willing to attack situations and not wait for them to attack me.  For example, I wrote songs for over ten years and never shared the music that God had given me out of fear of being rejected.  I still face those types of fears, but now I refuse to let those fears dictate what God is going to do in my life.

7. Android or iPhone (or something else)?

I have an Android, but I also have an iPod Touch that I like to use as well.  My favorite part of either is that I can have a bible on it.  Because of my Android/ iPod Touch and the encouragement from God, I have been able to read all the way through the bible this year!

8. What are your hobbies/interests outside of your ministry?

I like to swim, hang-out with friends, watch movies, travel, go on adventures with my family, and most of all TALK.  I still sing or hum no matter what I do.

9. Tell us about your family (spouse, children, pets, houseplants lol).

My husband's name is James.  We became high school sweethearts and married at a young age.  My husband loves to coach football and track, and I love music.  Together we now have five kids (17, 16, 12, 10, and 6 years old).  Each one of them are different as can be and keeps us on our feet.  They have interests from simply serving people to planning to be a top U.S.A. Track Olympian.   If that isn't enough, we have a Yorkie pup named Prince.

10. What empassions you in the world? That is to say, what causes/charities/social justice issues drive you?

There are causes and issues that drive me due to the things that I have observed in my lifetime.  For instance, I want to donate money towards the Epilepsy Foundation to help find cures or better medicine for people who have epilepsy.  My mom has it and it was a focal point in my life that introduced me to miracles for my family when I was growing up.  I know the stigmas that people have about it, and I would love to be a part of changing the stigmas to the point that people can be seen as people and not the medical issue.
My heart cries out for children and people that have been sexually abused.  I want to be able to support an organization that is willing to help children to see that they are worth more than what was done to them.  This sad situation tends to happen pretty often, but it is very hard trying to find an organization that serves this area in creative ways.
We believe we should be serving our homeless in whatever ways that we can.  That is a mission in itself!

11. Anything else you'd like us to know?

We love mission trips...near and far.  Everything that we do in state and out of state should be considered a mission trip.  My family and I have served the homeless, supported single parents, gave rides to those that walk, funded missionaries, supplied children for school, prayed for others, and so many other things.  We want to go on a mission trip out of the country as a family to serve children and families that are less fortunate like we have done here.  We have looked at going to Tanzania, Africa or El Salvador.  However, since we have such a big family, we have talked about going to Mexico, but don't know any ministry or organizations to help there.  I am sure in time, God will send us.

Why do I change my hair styles so often?
I like to change my hair styles.  After God set me free from fearing other people's thoughts of my appearance, I have been free to do my hair however I like to do it.  I have even had a blue streak in it.  My motto for my hair is... It's just hair, it will grow back.  The funny thing is, I have gotten to talk and pray with people of all ages that have approached me about my hair.  Who knows...maybe it is a ministry tool!  LOL

Why do I go by "Precious"?
When I was younger, I would go to the churches and want prayer from the big evangelists and pastors who were known as prophets.  Of course, I would be back towards the end of the line, and as they prayed the things the people that they prayed over were told big things like:  "You're going to be teacher that touches many children. You're going to be a known political body.  The Lord is going to bless you financially.  You will be a millionaire..."  When they would get to me the excitement would be so high.  They would place their hands on me and then immediately quite the room and look confusingly at me to say, "You're Precious" and walk away.  I remember being so angry, because I didn't get some BIG prophetic thing prayed over me.  It always happened.  When I was getting ready to graduate from high school, my Great Grandmother died, and I even received a golden necklace that was one of her necklaces that she wore all of the time.  By that time, I realized that God was calling me "Precious" like He called Abram Abraham.  Since then I have researched why He would call me that... To make it short, we look at Him as our treasure, but He really looks at us as His.  Even when we are dirty, He is willing to clean us up.  We are still worth much to Him because He knows everything about us.  Psalm 139 best explains how He created us, knows us, and sees our worth.

You can find Lawanda online ait her website, Facebook, and YouTube.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Day

LHF would like to say three things regarding the US Election Day:

1. Vote--"'Well then,' he said, 'give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.'” (Luke 20:25 NLT). While this Scripture is referring directly to taxes, it also applies to our vote, which is our contribution to our governing. Voting is not just a right and a priviledge; it is our duty as citizens to exercise our part in the process…to "hold up our end if the deal." We are a Republic, and our votes, both for officials and on law changes, is how we express our needs and desires. It is the "You're hired" call to new officials, the satisfactory review to those serving, and the "pink slip" to those not doing their jobs. Whichever party you prefer, get out and vote!

2. Pray--Whether your candidates win or not, pray for your leaders. Despite your feelings for them, they are the persons elected to make decisions on your behalf, so pray they are making the "right" ones--the safe ones, ones with our best interests in mind, ones that embrace freedom and build up our nation. "Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God." (Romans 13:1 NLT)

3. Show Respect--"Respect everyone, and love your Christian brothers and sisters. Fear God, and respect the king." (1 Peter 2:17 NLT) Few things are sadder than folks professing to follow Jesus disrespect, belittle, and degrade each other for having different opinions. Nasty accusations, insults, and bullying show a lack of respect, desperation, and inability to cope with something different, none of which speaks well of anyone, especially those who claim to follow Jesus, the embodiment of love, respect, and the Great Commission. You don't have to like your leaders, you don't have to agree with everyone. People often say "Respect is earned," and they are right in that full authoritative respect, the brand of respect that brings influence, is earned, but basic human respect should be given freely. Make the choice to do so.

Vote. Pray. Respect.

Lord, bless us this day, watch over us as we in the US cast our votes today to choose our next leaders. Be with us and protect us in the days to come, no matter the outcome. Amen.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Just Between You, Me, & God 11/5/2012

As a kid I loved going to Six Flags Over Texas. They had a great variety of rides, from things that went round and round and then the bottom fell out, to river rides where you never knew what was around the next bend, to roller coasters that went fast and slow and up and down while taking hair pin corners. There was also rides like the carousel that went around and around but nothing exciting ever happened or the Spelunker Cave that lazily floated along a relaxing stream in cool comfort with no surprises. I was thinking about my Christian walk over my lifetime the other day and couldn't help but notice the similarity at different times between that and the rides at an amusement park. There have been times when it seemed like I was in a whirl wind being swept around in circles and the ground was falling away from under my feet. That was when I felt far from God and there seemed to be no answer to my prayers and pleas. There were times of excitement when I couldn't wait to see what God was going to do next in my life. There are times when I seem to be struggling just to get up the hill and then God makes things move so quickly and change direction in an instant and you get so excited you can't catch your breath. Sometimes I feel kind of stuck, just going around and around in a circle, not making any real progress and I know that I need to spend more study time with God in His Word. Then there is always worship time when I feel so relaxed and open. It is a time of comfort, like being held by my Savior as I tell Him how much I love Him and appreciate everything He has done for me. No matter what is going on, how long it last, or how up or down I feel, I know that I am not alone and that whatever happens, it is God’s perfect will that counts and not my own finite expectations. Philippians 4:4-7 tells it like it should be, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” What is your walk like and are you willing to let go and let God?
God bless, Dean Hanssen

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Just Between You, Me, and God: 10-21-12

*We apologize that this was not published last week, when it was originally written, as we focuesed on posts about bullying.*

When I was in college all of the business courses I took would talk about how computers were going to revolutionize the work place, change the pace of things. There would be no need for mounds of paper work to do because it would all be done on the computer, no paper. In fact, they said that because of computers, in the future we would spend fewer hours at work and have more leisure time than we would know what to do with. I’ve got news for you guys, I’m in that future now and it doesn’t look like that. Microwaves were going to shorten our time in the kitchen but we get frustrated waiting two minutes or less while our food warms up (around the outside, it’s still cold in the middle). We are an unsatisfiable, complaining bunch of ungrateful consumers. Imagine just how long God has been putting up with us. He delivered Israel from Egypt by parting the Red Sea and then drowning those who would bring them back to slavery. He didn’t just send them on their way; He traveled with them day and night. He fed them, they complained, He made it where their clothes and shoes wouldn’t wear out, they complained, He brought them to the door of the promised land, showed them what He would give them, assured them of victory, and they complained. So, He let them walk around the desert for 40 years until the complainers were gone. When He sent His own Son to free them from sin, they complained and killed Him. When He rose from the grave and His followers picked up where He left off spreading the Good News of salvation, they complained and attacked and killed many of them. We are consumers of God’s mercy, grace, and loving forgiveness. And yet we are turning our backs on Him and His precepts like we were standing in the return line after Christmas saying, “That’s not what I wanted! The instructions are too hard to follow! It doesn’t fit my lifestyle, my wants, my needs!” Romans 2:5-8 warns us, “But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God “will give to each person according to what he has done.” To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.” We would do good to start saying “America, bless God” as well as “God bless America.” Pastor Dean

Pastor Dean Hanssen is the Ministries & Outreach Pastor for LHF.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

One Mommy's Confession: Joy, Failure, and Forgiveness

This Sunday morning, during service, since there were few kids in class, we stayed in "big church" for Worship before going to our classroom for our lesson, which we sometimes do (we're a small church and can be flexible that way). As I stood with my daughter, who is five (for one more week), above the music, the Worship Team, the congregation, and my own hardly-tiny alto voice, I heard my daughter, clearly and distinctly, singing along to "Heart of Worship"...a song I didn't even realize she knew the words to. She sang it in her little slightly off-key childish soprano, and occasionally twirled on the spot with her hands up. 

Suddenly, I found myself moved on a level completely unconnected with the words to the song. I thought about this week, which had been chaotic and had held several disappointments and irritations for me. I thought of the rough mornings when I lost my temper getting ready for school, every time I raised my voice or said something unkind to my daughter (or to my spouse while she was present). I considered each time I reacted instead of acted out of love, and I was heartily ashamed. I found myself, though still singing the words to the song, crying out to God for forgiveness and thanking Him that despite it all, despite my failings and shortcomings as a parent and a person, that my daughter still knew God's Love and His Joy and still had a reason to sing about it, raise her hands, and dance.

I am so thankful that even when I fail, God has placed people like our church family and her school friends and teacher, and positive, Godly influence like our local radio station (KVNE Encouragement FM--which is probably where she learned the words to the song) around her, like backup warriors in the battleground, to guide her when I am a poor example. And I am thankful that like my daughter (who informed me this morning that I am "the best mommy in the world"), I have a God who forgives me every time I mess up.

Thank you, God, for giving me "the best daughter in the world."

Melissa McGinnis is the Children's Ministry Director for LHF.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Just Between You, Me, & God 10/29/2012

TRICK OR TREAT!!! It’s that time of year already. In our neck of the woods (Northeast Texas) Halloween usually ushers in some of our first cooler weather, it signals the change from day light savings time, and marks the start of the Christmas selling season. I know the decorations have been up in some places since July but most people don’t really get serious about Christmas shopping until after Halloween. We usually buy enough candy for 200 kids and when we hit that number the porch light goes out and we go in even though there are still kids coming. What I enjoy are the little kids and the imagination that goes into their costumes. There are pirates and princesses, baseball players and ballerinas, ghost and gangsters, devils and dinosaurs. I know a lot of people get real legalistic and say that we’re supporting pagan holidays but for the kids it’s a chance to dress up and pretend to be someone they’re not, have some fun, see a lot of other neat costumes, and, oh yea, get some real good candy, if Dad doesn’t eat it all before they get home. As in watching TV, movies, video games, and other activities, it is the parent’s responsibility to teach their children through the experiences they are involved in. Every event is a teaching opportunity. As far as the mask go, why do adults get so upset about those. As adults, we change mask all day long, just ask your kids. If the phone rings while you’re upset with them, your voice changes dramatically as you pleasantly answer the phone. You’ve been in a foul mood all day but when you run into a friend at the store everything is great. You hate going to work in the morning but you’re not happy coming home either. You tell the pastor how much you enjoyed his sermon and complain about it all the way home. We teach our kids well. We tend to have a whole collection of mask and often wear ourselves out changing them all the time. It is a form of deception and lies but we had an expert teacher. 2 Cor. 11:14 tells us, “…Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” Jesus describes Satan in John 8:44, “… When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is the father of lies.” So don’t just put on a happy face, change your attitude by taking on a new role model, Jesus Christ. No trick, just my treat, Pastor Dean.