About Jo

Jo is the Women's Ministry Director at First Free Church.

Learning to Love God’s Rules

bible_6796cnpI’ll have to admit that when I first hear the word “rules” I have a somewhat adverse reaction. Yes, I appreciate walking through the halls of an elementary school and seeing their poster of the school rules. It gives me confidence that someone is in charge and there are expectations of the students. And yes, I certainly want our teen drivers, and anyone else for that matter, to follow the rules of the road. And no doubt society functions best when its members follow the rules to hopefully guarantee that everything is done with order and civility. But I admit that “rules” in the context of God’s kingdom evokes thoughts of limits and restrictions, and leaves me wondering what happened to grace and freedom and those others words that sound better than “rules.”

A few weeks ago I was reading Psalm 119 and the psalmist’s use of the word “rules” in the ESV jumped out at me. Three times in the first 20 verses the psalmist mentions God’s rules. Listen to his attitude:

I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous rules. (v.7)

With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth. (v.13)

My soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times. (v. 20)

Verse 20 put me over the top. The writer is consumed with longing for God’s rules at all times. Really? It would seem that my attitude toward God’s rules needed an overhaul. “Rules” can also be translated “just decrees.” Don Carson in “For the Love of God” defines God’s decrees as “the decisions of the supreme and all-wise Judge.” These rules of God are not just an arbitrary list to follow because God decided we should, but these are rules to be followed because our gracious God has given them to us because they are His wise choice for us – for our good and for His glory.

Seventeen times the word “rules” is used in Psalm 119. When you have a minute, take a look at this psalm and instead of feeling limited and constrained by God’s rules, take comfort that God’s rules are for our good – to help us and comfort us – to make us into the women God has planned for us to be.

The last use of “rules” is in the next to last verse, verse 175:

Let my soul live and praise you, and let your rules help me.

I’m beginning to understand. God’s rules truly are rules to live by!


A Sweet Saturday of Service

First Free women and girls are invited to gather on Saturday, April 6, 9:30 – 11:30 in our church gym for a sweet way to connect with one another as we work together on a variety of projects. We’ll be busy preparing 500 encouragement/treat bags for cancer patients through Victory in the Valley, helping the Lady Bugg House to prepare for their upcoming fundraising dinner for 300, as well as preparing a treat for the staff at Jackson Elementary School. The Union Rescue Mission is in need of canned goods, so we invite you to bring a canned good(s) as your “admission price.”

Here’s some info about each of these ministries we will be serving this weekend:

Victory in the Valley:

Victory in the Valley’s mission statement is:

To encourage cancer patients & families on their journey by offering HOPE through emotional and spiritual support, while providing practical services to improve the quality of their lives.

First Free’s own Diana Thomi is the executive director of Victory in the Valley. When Diana’s mother Lois was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of breast cancer in 1982, Lois was greatly encouraged by a former cancer patient. Prompted by this friend’s act of caring in a dark time, Lois, with the help of Diana, founded Victory in the Valley a year later. Today Victory in the Valley provides a variety of programs and events that help raise awareness and support for cancer patients, such as support groups, quilting classes, prayer support, transportation, pet therapy programs, and more. It will be our joy to help Victory in the Valley continue to spread encouragement to cancer patients through these sweet encouragement bags. We still need a few more items donated to fill these bags. Stop by the Women’s Ministry Table to see how you can help. You can find out more about this valuable ministry by visiting their website at www.victoryinthevalley.com.

Lady Bugg House:

Lady Bugg House states on their ministry website that they are:

Dedicated to mentoring young mothers and their children who are committed to change and spiritual growth.

Founder and executive director, Michelle Pitman, and the staff at Lady Bugg House serve young mothers and their children through their resident and non-resident programs. The Lady Bugg House provides a host of services: helping with educational, employment, and health needs, nurturing social, emotional, and spiritual development, and sharing parenting and life skills – to name a few. Many of you have already served as volunteers to this ministry in a variety of ways and now we’ll have the joy to help them prepare for their celebration and fundraising dinner. You’ll have the fun of wrapping plastic ware in napkins and decorating water bottles for this dinner of over 300!

You can find out more about the ministry of the Lady Bugg House by visiting their website at ladybugghouse.com.

Jackson Elementary School:

Several years ago First Free decided to “adopt” Jackson Elementary School as a way to become more involved in our community here at 1825 N. Woodlawn. We have had the joy of interacting with the administration and staff at Jackson and helping them meet some of the needs of their students and parents. Furnishing lunch buddies for students, organizing the coat drive at Christmas, and providing lunch for their Career Day presenters are a few ways we have purposed to be a good neighbors to Jackson. From time to time we’ve slipped a fun treat in the staff mailboxes to encourage these teachers and administrators as they work hard to teach our younger generation. Our plan on the 6th is to prepare a special treat for these special friends at Jackson.

Union Rescue Mission:

The Union Rescue Mission is an evangelical Christian ministry committed to sharing the gospel and meeting the spiritual, physical, and emotional needs of the homeless and poor in our community.

Our neighbors on North Hydraulic Street not only are committed to feeding the spiritual needs of the poor but also feeding them….real food! One of their slogans says: Where Hunger Ends & Hope Begins. Bring a canned good or two or three with you to our Sweet Saturday of Service and we’ll make sure it gets to the homeless and hungry through the Union Rescue Mission.

We look forward to seeing you on this special Saturday. With lots of projects we’ll need lots of help. Moms, your daughters, elementary school aged and older, would be of great help, too! Bring them with you for a fun and worthwhile morning of sweet service!

Missionary Thank Yous

Here are several more “Thank yous” for the card packages sent at the last Women’s Retreat, and a few prayer requests from our sweet missionaries:

From Marta Klein:

Dear Friends at First Evangelical Free,

Thank you so much for the gift of Thank You Cards and the words of encouragement. I am hoping to send you a video of photos of my journey so far. It has been a difficult year of transitions and learning languages. I am so thankful to be a part of what is happening here. I pray that I will continue to be teachable. Can you please join me in that prayer? I would appreciate it.

Thank you for your love, prayers, and support. I hope to visit when I get back to the States in April 2013.

Nzambe apambola na bino! God bless to you!

Marta Klein

Short Term Missionary to Dem. Rep. of Congo with the Evang. Covenant Church

From Debbie Shoberg:

Dear Women at First Free,

Thank you for your packet of stationary, and your encouraging notes, letting me know that you had prayed for me at your spring meetings. Wow! Not only are your prayers an encouragement to me, but God heard them and He has acted as a result. This year has been tough in that our team mate in church-planting returned to the U.S. But God has been present when Jim and I felt alone, and He has continued to work in our French friends’ hearts.

I was able to lead 2 Bible studies with 4 women total, studying with me and I saw spiritual growth through their interaction with the Word. Yahoo! 🙂 I hope the studies continue and that more women will join.

This fall brings family changes – we take our oldest, Amber, to boarding school in Germany (6 hr. drive away), for 10th grade. I knw we will miss her, while being happy for her, too. And I’ll teach Keisha 5th grade at home. We saw she needed to switch to schooling in English. So I need wisdom to teach her well, and have a good teacher/mom relationship in it all!

May you see God as sufficient for you in family and reaching others, too!


Debbie Shoberg




Welcome! Come on in! So glad you’re here!

The other day I had the fun opportunity to greet parents as they came in the doors of our church for “Meet Your Teachers Day” in preparation for the start of First Friends – our kids day-in/parents day-out ministry. Just as I said “welcome” to those parents and kids, I say “welcome” to each of you! Welcome to our new First Free Women’s Blog. How exciting! I am delighted that you are here.

At my home as I greet guests, I’ll tell them, “Make yourself comfortable!” Aren’t we all about comfort in our world today? I come home after a day at church and the first thing I do is put on my comfortable pair of shorts and a t-shirt. (Trust me. You will NOT see me at Wal-Mart or Target in this outfit!) After dinner, I am anxious to plop down in my comfy chair and put my feet up for a few minutes. And in the early morning, I look forward to opening my Bible and getting comfortable with a steaming cup of coffee in front of me. Ahhhhh comfort….

Author, speaker, and counselor, Elyse Fitzpatrick, has written a devotional book titled Comforts from the Cross: Celebrating the Gospel One Day at a Time. Comforts from the Cross. Isn’t that an oxymoron or something? (Don’t you love oxymoron’s btw? You know – jumbo shrimp, act naturally, and pretty ugly – but I digress.) Let’s think about it. Wouldn’t you agree that the cross is the opposite of comfortable? The cross – that horrendous, torturous means of execution that the Beautiful Savior hung upon, dying an excruciating death for the sins of the world. Come on – comfort? But that is exactly where the comfort comes from – knowing our sins have been forgiven and that we’ve been redeemed by the sinless Christ. Knowing our sin and guilt have been dealt with because Jesus took God’s wrath upon Himself for us for all eternity. There is no greater comfort than that.

Because of the cross, I don’t have to squirm and wonder with fear what death holds for me. I know. I possess eternal life now.

Because of the comfort of the cross, I don’t have to wonder how I will ever learn to love and obey my Savior. I know. He has provided the indwelling Holy Spirit who gives me power to live a life worthy of His calling.

Because of His comfort, I don’t have to wonder if I will one day wake up to discover that God has changed His mind about me because of something I did the day before to anger Him. No, I know because of the comfort of the cross that His mercies are new every morning and His grace abounds to me each and every day. I know that I am His. Ahhhhh comfort…

We pray that this new blog will help First Free Women and anyone else who happens to stop by, a place to find help and hope, a place to find encouragement and enlightenment through God’s Word, and a place to derive true comfort as we reflect on the cross of Christ and the good news of the Gospel.

Welcome. Come on in. Make yourself comfortable.

Jo Coltrain, Director of Women’s Ministry