While trying to write this post, I tried to find something to inspire me. I turned to my Bible and opened it to
1 Thessalonians 5:18. Inside I saw I had put a bus pass there. But this isn’t any ordinary bus pass: it has a special place in my heart.
During the summer, I got an awesome opportunity to go to this 2-week almost-seminary-type camp, where I got to live in an intentional Christian community and learn about my faith in new ways. While I was there I got to experience really cool mission trips, which really impacted my faith-journey. The last one I went on was one of my favorites.
We started off by talking about all the people that are under the poverty line in America; even though they get benefits from the government, it still isn’t enough for them on a day-to-day basis, especially when the families have children under 5. They get a set amount of money that is supposed to help them a lot, but sometimes, life just happens.
Then we started our activity. We - 8 kids and 2 adults - were split up into groups pretending to be a family of 4 with 2 children under the age of 5. We were given the task of getting groceries for “our family.” We were expected to spend 30% of our SNAP benefits (what the government provides us), which amounted to around $130. But since life happens, we first had to spend $50 of it for an urgent care bill because one of our kids broke their arm on the playground, leaving only $80 to spend on food.
Next we were given a map and a bus ticket and were told that we had to go to an HEB. Also, as a roadblock, our adults could not help us; in fact they were pretending to be our kids under the age of 5! None of us knew where any bus stops were or even what they looked like. On top of that, we had to make sure our “kids” didn’t run off and get lost.
Eventually, after walking around for almost 20 minutes, we found the right stop and got on the bus. I didn’t even know how to put my ticket in the machine because there were so many different holes and buttons that the bus driver just had to do it for me. Once we were on the bus, we had to figure out when to get off. We also decided the bus ride would be a good time to discuss our budget and what we had to buy.
It was hard at first because no one had really budgeted before and we didn’t have a clue what anything costs. We had a variety of items on our list and hoped for the best. While we were on the bus, one of the adults pulled out a piece of paper with more roadblocks that we had to deal with in order to do the challenge correctly: we had to buy dog food; one of our kids’ birthday was that week, so we had to buy a cake of some sort; and finally our other child broke their flip flops, so we had to pay $7 to buy a new pair. We had to factor all of those things in when we went into the store.
By the time we got to the HEB, we were almost out of time. A lot of us argued about what would be the best to buy, and we were so crunched for time that we were all stressed out. We had less than 20 items, were almost at $65, and barely had everything we needed for the week. If it had been real life, we would have failed.
On our way back to the bus stop, we realized that if this was real we would have had to carry everything with us back onto the bus - maybe even carry a child - so we couldn’t have gotten everything on our list anyway because it is not like your two kids under 5 years old can help you carry much.
That experience was eye-opening and made me feel really grateful for everything I have. It made me thankful that I have a car so I don’t have to take the bus to get places. It made me thankful that my parents are able to provide for our family so we don’t have to worry about having enough groceries for that week. Also, it made me feel that I take way too much for granted and that I should be able to appreciate what I have and be thankful for what my family provides me with.
Written by Sarah
Ask what I am thankful for during a normally busy moment and I will tell you (in no order of importance): my parents, sister, wife, kids, distant family (both by blood and marriage), my job, house, and working vehicle…
However, in silence - just a few moments of peace - I am thankful that, according to Jeremiah (the prophet, not the bullfrog), God knew me before He began to knit me in my mother’s womb in 19(cough, cough). He didn’t bring me into existence in the 2nd century, the 1500s, nor the 1800s. God knew me, my very essence, and determined I would be born to those two parents of mine at the exact time it happened because He already knew me.
I grew up a child of the 19(cough, cough)s because He knew it was the right time for me. I am thankful for His faithfulness; even when I am not, He is! I am thankful God crafted a life and a path that is just right for me to walk if I so choose.
Has my life been perfect? Nope. My parents perfect? Nope. When I was young I was pretty sure I’d be the perfect parent…NOPE! I am thankful God has given me (and you) His inspired words so that I can understand why my life has not been perfect, even down-right difficult at times, why my parents were not perfect and I am not the perfect dad…HE is the perfect dad.! His way leads to the perfect life everlasting!
I am also thankful for the First United Methodist Church of Katy. My children were baptized here, but more importantly I came to know the real Jesus because here I came to know Gerry, a real teacher of The Holy Bible. To find someone who is thoroughly well versed in Scripture, unashamed of it, and unafraid to share it is priceless, and for that I am forever grateful.
Thanks be to God as He will use things in our lives for good to shape us into those who will be worthy of eternity with Him in Heaven. I believe it with all my heart, have seen it with my own two eyes, and experienced it with my very being.
God is loving and faithful. Aside from creation itself, the very act of love that Jesus did is beyond our imaginations. He was tempted, yet without sin: the perfect atonement. Thank you, Jesus.
To show His awesomeness and great power He spoke millions of stars into existence and even more planets.
And with all of that all He wants from us is our heart.
Keeping this in mind, I remain in a thankful posture towards Him throughout the day, in good times and in rough ones.
Mostly I am thankful that God so loved the world - the cosmos - that He gave His most unique, His one and only begotten Son, Jesus, so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
Written by Harry
Truth is...I never meant to be here.
If you would’ve told this Arkansas “home-er” that he was going to be living in Texas serving in a traditional Methodist church 4 years ago, I would have thought you were crazy. That wasn’t really in my plans. And yet, now that I’m here I know it was by no mistake or accident. So how did this happen? It all goes back to a few nights of stress and a few key steps of faithfulness.
A few years ago God began to drastically change my life. The first 25 years of my life were spent in Northwest Arkansas. In high school, often people would say things like - “I can’t wait to get out of here.” They wanted something different, bigger, better I guess, but that wasn’t me. I loved my hometown and didn’t want to leave.
One night around Thanksgiving of 2011, I was feeling stressed out. In fact, I couldn’t sleep at all. Whenever something starts rolling around in my mind at night, I have a hard time letting it go. On this particular night I was having a hard time figuring out what was causing my stress. It felt heavy. Something about this stress felt different than other stressful moments. I knew God was doing something.
Often God has shown up in my life in all the ways I don’t expect - in the small and simple, the mundane or even in the stress and anxiety of life. In retrospect, I call this stress I was feeling that night “holy anxiety.”
I know... it’s kind of a cheesy way of putting it, but there truly was something sacred in the stress. I knew God was telling me to move. To take the next step. To begin a new adventure. And I was scared.
I didn’t want to leave home. I didn’t want to move. I didn’t want to go wherever it was God was wanting me to go. Perhaps that’s what was causing the anxiety, or perhaps God was creating the right tension in me to make a change. I needed the stress to push me out of my comfort zone and into a place of dependance on God.
So my wife and I moved for the first time ever to a new state in a new time zone in a large metropolitan area - Atlanta, Georgia. You see, there was something in that stress and anxiety that I knew God was working in. Today I look back and know that it began a journey I never dreamed would happen. One that led me to another new state and to another new town - Katy, Texas.
Now, I’m learning to not run from God’s calling, but to run to it. Get in the mess, dig down, and wrestle through the tension because God's in there. It seems the more I do this, the more I begin to experience God. I begin to understand that God is pulling me out of my comfort zone into a greater story. It’s how I’ve ended up in Texas - following a calling I never knew would be happening.
So, while I may have never meant to be here, it seems God certainly did.
Written by Mark
I fought church for a long time.
As a young girl, I dreaded church because I equated it with wearing a dress, something that, at 30 years old, I am still not a fan of. I would “volunteer” to sit with my baby sister in the nursery just so I could turn off the speaker broadcasting the sermon and play.
When my family moved to Texas, we never found a church to attend regularly, so we became that family that might show up at Easter. That was fine with me - I was perfectly content to eat my Cadbury Creme Eggs and not give the day any more thought.
But once I reached high school, something started to change. On those infrequent, random times I would go to a church service, I would cry silently in the pew, my tears spurred on by a hymn, verse, or message. It wasn’t until many years later that I realized I cried not out of sadness, but out of conviction.
Crying in church caused a conflict of emotions. On the one hand, I felt a strange sense of relief on those Sundays. But on the other, I felt plain strange - no one else around me ever cried; what was wrong with me? I was hesitant to go back to church, not being able to predict or control the waterworks.
Finally, after years of saying to myself I should give this church thing a try for real, I convinced myself to go. For a few weeks I found myself in that familiar situation, only this time I was in an unfamiliar church pew. I slipped in every Sunday alone and sat in the back so that whenever the waterworks decided to turn on I wouldn’t have to worry about anyone taking notice of me.
Then one Sunday morning, quite unexpectedly, I experienced God in a life-changing way. I was sitting alone in my back pew. The service was coming to an end, and the pastor invited anyone who felt called to join the church to come forward. This was not an unusual occurrence; he ended his sermon that way every week. But that particular Sunday, as the invitation hung in the air, a voice inside me told me to go, not to miss this opportunity. Somehow I comprehended the significance of that unfamiliar voice, and it propelled me forward to the front of the sanctuary where, at the age of 27, I was baptized.
After the service I stood with the pastor outside the sanctuary and was welcomed to FUMC Katy by well-wishing members. Though that morning was a blur, I distinctly remember one member who was around my age, blond, clean-cut. He shook my hand and said, “Congratulations.” Something inside me noted that this was significant.
Our paths didn’t cross again until seven months later when I walked into my Sunday school class for the first time since returning home from a summer job. There he was, this guy I had been searching for in the sanctuary every Sunday since we shook hands, in my class! About a month after that second meeting we started dating, and now two years later we are married.
Written by Whitney
The 12:12 Project is sponsored by Katy First United Methodist Church.