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!

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Engaging Sunday Sermons

I came across this quote the other day from the late and great preacher Charles Spurgeon:

Satan will be glad if you begin to blame the preacher when you ought to have blamed yourself.

Eek. Those are strong words. I don’t think they need much elaboration, do you?

It reminded me of a post on Nancy Leigh DeMoss’s website, regarding Sunday morning sermons. In it she writes:

If we’re not benefitting from the ministry of the Word as it is publicly proclaimed in our local churches, the fault may not lie in the one proclaiming the Word. It may lie in our readiness to hear, receive, and respond to the Word.

Finding yourself daydreaming about sandy beaches, cute pets and the feel good movie from last night on Sunday mornings? dogs_7413cnIn Nancy’s article, she lists several ideas to prepare for and engage in Sunday sermons before, during and after the service. If you find yourself from time to time engaging in unrelated thoughts or motives, check out her article here. There are also some great personal application questions at the end, to keep our hearts humble and receptive towards the Word and as well as towards the ones who teach us.

Many thanks to those who minister the Word of God to us each week! I pray that the Spirit of God moves powerfully among us each Sunday morning, to make us women who are teachable, humble, and eager for transforming truth.

PS – Aren’t those doggies cute?? Love ’em.

Keeping Christ the Center of the Holidays: Links for Encouragement

This week I have already begun to get caught up in the business of the holiday season. Making, finding, thinking, planning, creating, cooking, giving, spending…I found myself this week needing to remind myself to be diligent to keep my focus on the One who enables me to do all of this – Christ Jesus, my Lord and Savior.

I started remembering today how often I have heard others and myself make comments (and, uh-hem, excuses, perhaps?) like these at this time of year:

There is so much to do!

During the holidays my routines that keep me “in check” with the Lord just aren’t there.

It’s just for a couple of months…

I’ll try better this year to read the Word during Christmas.

I have so many trips to Walmart this week…I didn’t have time to even think upon the Lord much today.

I hate how easy it is to get sidetracked!

As I had my daughter work on her “Christmas gifts” last night, I found myself getting impatient with her. Having an agenda. Snappy. Short. Abrupt. And, just not really thinking about her at all.

What sin abounds when I start focusing on things! The unthawed turkey, the lumpy mashed potatoes, the soupy stuffing…the fake & sparse-looking Christmas tree, the imperfections of homemade gifts, the 1,000 errands to run…

But where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that…grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:20-21)

Oh my, I need this reminder right now. Every day, in fact. As I saw my sin this week, I realized, I need to start these holidays off right…in grace.

Noël Piper says that God is the One Perfect Homemaker: he is the example we follow as those of us who are “homemakers” now, work to make our home. I don’t want my home during the holidays to be run and identified by my sin. I want my home to be a reflection of the perfect home that is now being prepared for me in heaven. I want to be a reflection of the perfect homemaker. “I want Jesus to be the center of my home.”

As we women go forth and celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas with our families, may we hear these encouraging words from wise women who walk among us and spur us on to keep Christ the focus of our hearts and our minds during the holidays. May we stay rooted in abounding grace as we begin this holiday season!

Kathleen Nielson, 5 Aims for Holiday Family Gatherings

Noël Piper, Treasuring Christ in Our Tradition