Fearless

5_AshleighCloseUp (2)

Ashleigh Bryan, KidzWorld Staff

 

 

I have a confession to make: I am terrified of mice. I did not know this about myself until I saw once recently and fully understood what it meant to be “frozen in fear”. My heart was beating fast and I was light-headed and all I wanted to do was get. out. of. that. room. but I couldn’t move! I was stuck.

 

Fear. It’s amazing how that one tiny, four-letter word is responsible for nightmares and sleepless nights and worry and, let’s be honest, probably a lot of avoidable injuries. Fear is why chances aren’t taken, goals aren’t reached, and lives aren’t lived to their full potential. Fear is often an incomparably adversary because, more often than not, safety is our biggest motivator.

I live in the world of preschoolers where imagination and possibility are never in short supply and where safety reigns supreme. These kids want to know they are safe. It’s why they cry when Mom or Dad leaves them. It’s why they are scared of thunderstorms and the dark. It’s why they hide behind their parents when they meet someone new. Their (very) active imagination gives them endless ideas on where Mommy and Daddy went without them that might be better than being with them. It makes the monsters in the dark very real because that chair really could be a monster in disguise waiting for the lights to go out to hurt them. You say it’s thunder but what if it’s not? What if it’s a giant living in the sky? The people that you are smiling at while trying to pry them away from your legs could be aliens from another planet, waiting to take them away.

(I spend a lot of time in imagination-land.)

As adults, we see their fears as trivial. We love them and want to help them, but we know there really is nothing to be afraid of. We don’t understand because we know that nothing’s hiding in the dark and that the thunder is really just the sound of lightning. But they don’t know that. They are too small, too wrapped up in the worlds they’ve created to understand that.

But here’s what is so cool about these little humans—they face their fears anyway. The kids I get the pleasure of working with are some of the bravest. They face that scary dark every night. (Granted they might need a night light or end up in Mom and Dad’s bed every once in a while, but they still do it.) They reach their hand out and make friends with that new person. They decide to have fun while Mommy and Daddy are gone, despite the fact that they may never come back. Every day, these kids are choosing bravery over fear. Why? Because they know the outcome and reward—the fun, the sweet dreams, the new friends—far outweigh any momentary fear they might feel. They choose risk over safety because they refuse to let fear hold them back. They might not articulate it like that, but we can see it in their actions: they jump off high places just for the chance they might fly; they say hello to complete strangers; they run faster, they push harder, they swing higher because once they push past the fear there is adventure and fun and joy. They are decorated with scraped knees and bruised heads and war stories that prove boldness won out. Ask any kid about their Bandaids and they will not tell you how scared they were but about how much fun they had getting those bumps and bruises! What they’re really saying?

 It was worth it.

 Our fears are a little bit bigger though, aren’t they? Fear of failure. Fear of rejection. Fear of being wrong. Those are some big fears. When we’re in the middle of them, facing them, having to deal with them, it can seem overwhelming. But just like we know children have nothing to be afraid of, God whispers to us the same thing—even our biggest fears seem small to God. He already knows what He wants to do in our lives. He already knows how it’s all going to turn out. God knows that we don’t have to be afraid of failure or of rejection or being wrong or, really, of anything! 2 Timothy 1:7 says,

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”

Whoa. Let’s take a minute and just let that sink in. God did not give us a spirit of fear. So that fear that you’re feeling? It’s just Satan trying to steal your joy, steal your hope, and steal the purpose that God has placed in your heart. That’s all fear is—it’s nothing more than a scheme to keep us from doing what God has asked us to do.

So what is it you’re afraid of?

Maybe it’s a dream that has long been forgotten that God wants you to pick up again.

Maybe it’s a relationship that needs to be restored.

Maybe it’s a stranger you need to reach out to.

Let’s take a tip from our kids and push past the fear. Maybe the safest place we can be is out in the unknown where God has called us. Because when we realize that we are so incredibly loved by the God of the universe who created us and who wants great things for us, who has made a plan for our lives and will carry it out until it is finished, when we realize that He will never leave us or abandon us and He is more faithful than we could ever understand, when we realize that with God anything is possible and He can do much more than we can think or imagine, we are left with only one question: What do we have to lose?

 That’s what we here at NewSpring are teaching our preschoolers: You can be brave because God will never leave you. God loves you. God made you. Jesus wants to be your friend forever. God has a plan for you. God can do the impossible. We tell these things to the kids over and over again because when they start believing them, fear no longer has any control. They can be exactly who God made them to be because they trust Him. They can do anything God asks them to do because they believe Him. They can step out in faith in even the scariest circumstances because they know that, even in the deepest waters, God is right there with them.

When we push past our fears, we experience the same things kids do: Adventure. Fun. Joy. We experience the kind of life God always intended us to have. I don’t know about you, but I want to live a life outside my comfort zone, outside of the boundaries of “safety” I have created for myself. I want to live a life where my faith is stretched and limits are pressed and I see God do things that only He can do.

There is always something to be afraid of—a big decision, a life-altering change, the unknown. But when we understand and begin believing that God made us and loves us and wants great things for us, when we begin to understand that perfect love casts out all fear then what else do we have to be afraid of?

 If you’re quiet, and let yourself be still, you’ll hear the answer:

Nothing.

Contentment

This month in Route 252 kids are learning about the Big Idea of Contentment. Pay close attention to this definition: DECIDING to be happy with what you’ve got. Have you ever thought, “If I just had this or that, I would be happy,” or “If this person was in my life (or out of my life), I would be happy,” or “If I didn’t have to deal with this situation, I would be happy.”?

Our definition says that being content is a decision. It doesn’t just happen when all the right circumstances come into place. It happens when our attitude about our circumstances changes and we make a conscious choice to believe that is in control.

Paul writes about the secret of contentment in Philippians 4:12b: I have learned the secret of being content no matter what happens. I am content whether I am well fed or hungry. I am content whether I have more than enough or not enough. (BTW, that’s our memory verse for the month.) So, what is the SECRET? It’s just this, Paul had learned that he could trust God NO MATTER WHAT. Have you learned that secret? God has got you–whatever you are facing, He knows and cares. Trust Him and let contentment fill your life.

Monday is Coming!

This past week, some of the KidzWorld staff was able to attend The Orange Conference which is hosted by the people who write the First Look and 252 Basics curriculum that we use in KidzWorld environments. The challenge for the conference was for us to think about the fact that after we have done everything we can to engage and inspire a child on the weekend, we must realize that Monday is Coming when they go out and face their world.

We heard so many great speakers who shared different perspectives on how our weekend influence can impact kids’ lives throughout the week. Here are just a few select nuggets of truth from some great leaders.

Following Jesus will make your life better and make you better at life.–Andy Stanley

On Sunday, grace is expected. On Monday, it’s a surprise.–Jon Acuff

What a kid does affects what a kids believes.–Reggie Joiner

Students need an appetite for service.–Doug Fields

Regret stings more than failure.–Pete Wilson

How you’re loved will always impact how you live. How you live will never impact how you’re loved.–Kara Powell

The world would be fixed of all it’s problems if every child knew the necessity of their existence.–Gerald Fadayomi

When we begin to see the greatness of God, we will be fearless in our decisions.–Perry Noble

Think on those statements and let them really sink in. I wish you could all have been at the conference with me to hear the entire messages. Let’s just say that KidzWorld is ready to keep moving forward and make sure that we never forget: Monday is Coming!

The Most Important Decision of Your Child’s Life

This past weekend in KidzWorld, we celebrated that fact that Jesus did not stay in the grave! Jesus conquered sin and because of that, we can have a relationship with Him. In Route 252 for elementary age students, our bottom line says: Whatever happens,remember that God loves you!

JumpStart

If your child is interested in knowing more about God’s love and beginning a relationship with Him, JumpStart is a great tool. JumpStart is a 30 minute session designed for elementary students and their parents. We talk in very simple terms about what it means to have Jesus as your best friend. We also give some “homework” that will help families follow up on the session at home.

Interested? Just sign up at newspring.org/jumpstart. Hope to see you there!

Earthly Rewards

2016-03-14 18.14.58Children are a gift from the Lord;
    they are a reward from him. Psalm 127:3 (NLT)

As I welcomed my fourth grandchild, August Joseph Mahannah, into the world yesterday, I was reminded of this verse. It’s true that when we think about treasures or rewards from God, we most often think about what is waiting for us in heaven. It’s going to be amazing! But there is a reward that we can enjoy here on earth and that reward is our children. They are a GIFT from God–a REWARD from Him!! Spend some time right now thanking God for your gifts. Let them know how much you love them. Enjoy every minute God gives you with them.

Free Ticket to Church

Do you ever get intimidated by the thought of talking to someone about Jesus? Check this out…IMG_0537This “free ticket to church” was made by an elementary age kid in Route 252 at NewSpring this past weekend. This ticket represents the thoughts and heart of a young child who wants to make sure that his friend gets a chance to hear about Jesus. Is it fancy? No. There are even a few spelling errors (maybe you noticed).

This ticket reminds me of the Bible story we talked about in Route 252 this weekend. Four friends were concerned about their paralyzed friend. They knew that Jesus could heal him. They got together and brought him to the house where Jesus was speaking. But the crowd was immense. They couldn’t get through it with their paralyzed friend and his mat. They didn’t settle though. They overcame the obstacles. They thought outside the box. They hauled their friend up to the roof of the house, made a hole, and lowered him right down in front of Jesus. That’s where the man found healing–spiritual first and then physical. Read it for yourself in Luke 5:17-26.

The church is a great place for your friends to find healing. Jesus is there–shining through the lives of believers who lead and serve at your church. You don’t have to have all the answers. You just need to care enough to give them a chance to meet Jesus.

The Next Generation

Written by Hannah Stinson, KidzWorld Assistant

IMG_2477 (2)I have attended NewSpring church since I was two years old. It has been like a second home to me. Looking back, I can still remember the toddler classroom I went to, the same playhouse is still in there today, the animal printed changing room, and the volunteers who watched me. I also remember my first time going to G-force (now Route 252). Some of my best friends were found in elementary school. I remember when the changes came, and the area then became known as KidzWorld. It made me nervous when my parents informed me that the church had decided to change its name from Messiah Baptist to NewSpring. I thought it meant all of my friends were leaving and everything was changing. I wanted things to stay the same because I didn’t like change. I read a verse, Philippians 4:6-7 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, 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.” My parents explained that the changes taking place were a good thing. It was happening so we could grow as a church and bring other people the news of God’s love. I still didn’t quite know what they meant, but I continued to attend KidzWorld, make new friends, invite other kids, and grow closer with God.

When it came time for me to move into middle school, the nerves were real. This was junior high! Everyone said that these were the years when you discover who you are, what you were meant to do, things you’re interested in and when you discover new friends. I honestly don’t think I would have made it through middle school in one piece if it weren’t for my amazing small group leaders. They were the people I was most excited about seeing every weekend! I could tell them anything and they would know just the right thing to say to me. They prayed with me about everything, big or small. Even today, if I feel nervous about something, I will call them and ask them to pray for me or just talk for a bit. They encouraged me to start volunteering with the younger kids, to be a role model in their lives. I don’t think anyone can comprehend what an impact small group leaders can have on kids. They were a huge help in my life.

Now, it’s my turn to make a difference in students’ lives. Currently, I am finishing up my senior year of high school. I found my place working with elementary kids in Route 252. Interacting with the younger kids at church has helped me lean towards majoring in elementary education one day. I can’t believe how lucky I am to be able to work in the place I enjoy the most. Being around the kids every weekend has reminded me of how important it is to be an example of Jesus. I want His love to shine through me to others. The best part of my week is seeing kids love other kids and encourage each other because they want to live like Jesus did. They are excited to come to church and invite their friends and learn about how God died for each and every one of them so they could all have a place in heaven with Him. They are the next generation and I am so blessed to be able to invest in them, just like my small group leaders did for me.

My “Get Fit” Story

Written by Kody Page, Assistant to the Elementary School Pastor

I have a confession to make: I love the beginning of a New Year! I love dreaming of what things will be like a year from now. I also enjoy looking back at how marvelous the last year was everything that was accomplished. One thing that I can’t help but think about is that this time last year, I was 55 pounds heavier than I am right now.

That’s right, in the last year, I have lost 55 pounds! A lot of times I will get asked, “How did you do it?” and I’ve never really had a great answer. I stopped eating food that I knew was terrible for me and I started going to the gym to run 3-4 times a week. I didn’t struggle so much with the “eating right” side of things, but when it came to the gym, that was a whole different can of worms.

I have never been super athletic (or in shape for that matter). I can remember when I was a kid I used to run kind of funny (like I had a cape and I was flying) and other people let me know about it. When I was in high school, I went on a weightlifting machine that could be confused with a torture device. I had no clue how to use it so I thought, “I’ll just stack a bunch of weight on it and go to town!” Nothing could go wrong with that right? I ended up getting stuck in the most awkward pseudo-squat position with no hope of being able to push myself back up! A couple of big, burly, muscular manly-men saw me in distress and rushed to lift up the weights so I could once again stand. When I was free, I was so embarrassed that I picked up my bag and walked right out.

So all that to say, in May of 2015 when I stepped into a gym for the first time in years, I had all of these failures replaying in my mind. I started to ask the “what if’s.” What if everyone notices I am out of shape? What if I don’t have the right clothes on? What if I don’t know how to use the machine properly and I make myself look fool once again?

And you know what? At one point all of those things happened. I was out of shape. I didn’t have the best clothes for the job. I used a machine incorrectly. But, none of that mattered. It didn’t matter because I realized I was surrounded by people who were asking the same questions and struggling with the same issues. Sure, there were people there who were farther along the journey. But everybody that was there was working towards a similar goal-to become more fit.

Then I realized this simple truth-a gym is for people who are out of shape; for people who are overweight; for people who get winded doing simple tasks during the day; for people who ate like the world was ending; for people who felt like they had no hope. That is who the gym is for!

When I work out now, I am literally surrounded by people who are cheering me on to meet my next goal. They challenge me to do things I’ve never done before. They support me when I fail, they call me out when they see me slipping on my plan, and they correct me when my form is wrong.

And then it hit me. The church should be the same way. Just as a gym isn’t a show room of bodybuilders, the church isn’t a museum of saints. Trying to get your life straightened out before going to church is like trying to get fit before going to the gym. The church is for people who are struggling to make sense of life-people who are far from God, people who have never prayed before or even heard the name of Jesus, people who are lost and wandering.

Imagine if the church welcomed everybody, no matter what shape they were in spiritually. Imagine if the church cared about what was going on in somebody’s heart and not what clothes they were wearing. Imagine if the church challenged people to take their next step in faith. Imagine if the church was focused on bringing more people to God, and less on trying to come across as “in shape.”

I think of the story of Zacchaeus from Luke chapter 19. Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector, or the IRS of his time. He was considered the scummiest of the scum. He had stolen and cheated people out of their money. Zacchaeus was spiritually unfit. But Jesus saw him and went to his house. After Zacchaeus had an encounter with Jesus, his life was totally different. He gave half of what he had to the poor. And to anybody he cheated out of money, he paid them back four times the amount!

Luke 19:9-10 says: Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

One thing I can’t help but notice is that Jesus went to Zacchaeus when he was still a sinner. He didn’t say, “Go get your life right then come back and see me.” He met him where he was.

So with all that said, I am thrilled to be starting off this year 55 pounds lighter than I was last year and more physically fit than I have ever been. But I am challenged too. Just as I get excited when somebody who is out of shape comes to the gym for the first time, I get so excited meeting somebody who is far from God! Why? Because “The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost,” and that is who I am learning to care about.

Finding My Path to God

Arias, CristinaWritten by Cristina Arias, KidzWorld Media Team

 

When I think about how my faith journey really got started, I think about my amazing family. I have two hard-working parents and two brothers. I come from a large family that was raised Catholic way back as far as our family tree can go, so of course I was as well. I was able to attend a Catholic school all the way until I graduated high school.

Today I can say that I’m very thankful for the way I was raised, but at the time I just couldn’t grasp it. I couldn’t connect with what I was learning, so I eventually took the backseat approach. I watched as other kids prayed better than I did, behaved better than I did, worshiped better than I did, knew Jesus better than I did, and talked about God better than I did. I began to wonder: How could God use someone like me? I have nothing to offer Him. God doesn’t need me. God seemed so unreachable to me and for years I just kept pushing Him further and further away.

I continued on this path for a while, still unsure about how I fit into God’s plans or if I even did at all. While I never completely gave up on God, I eventually pushed Him so far away that He became this soft whisper straining to be heard over all the noise and chaos of this world. At times I could hear Him, but I often pushed back with fear of unworthiness and doubt that I could ever be a part of His big plan. So I chose to take my own path, which I immediately found was meaningless, dark, and desolate. I found myself in a situation where God was practically yelling at me and I still ignored Him. I had chosen the wrong path and I was thrown into the turmoil of my decision. I was left alone, more broken than ever, and I was tired of making the same mistakes over and over again. I had finally hit my breaking point and decided I wanted God in my life – in fact I needed Him.

The very next day I decided to attend a service at NewSpring where Pastor Mark was speaking. It was as though God told Mark that I was there and told him exactly what I needed to hear – Isn’t it amazing how God does that? I instantly knew I was in the right place, so I attended NewSpring every weekend after that. NewSpring gave me a whole new experience on what a relationship with God can look like. From the moment I walked in, I felt welcomed and loved. Music has always been like therapy for me, so worship allowed me to connect with God in an entirely different way. Both Mark and Jonathan have a gift for making the Bible less complicated and more relational to each of our personal stories. All these things brought me closer to God, but once I was home I still felt alone. I loved my experiences at NewSpring, but something was still missing. I needed something more.

I felt a need to connect with people and talk about God more, so I decided to volunteer. I had seen a promotion about try-outs for the Tech Ministry at NewSpring. I was excited because I thought it would be a great way to meet people. It was something I enjoyed and it fit perfectly with my media major in college. My excitement vanished when I pulled into the parking lot, and my old fears came rushing back. What if I’m not good enough? What if I fail? Do I even have skills that God can use? I sat in my car fighting with myself – Go in, you’re already here! – No I’ll fail. Go home. – I need this! I need God! If anyone saw me in my car that night, they must’ve thought I was crazy. Eventually, I ended up going inside. It turns out the try-outs were for KidzWorld and not the auditorium team like I had originally thought. And there wasn’t really a “try-out” for the tech position. I filled out an application, signed my name on a piece of paper and went home. It turned out to be the hardest, yet the best decision I could have ever made. I became a KidzWorld tech team volunteer and soon a member of the KidzWorld staff. My experience in KidzWorld and the people I’ve met through this ministry have blessed me in more ways than I could have ever thought possible. I will forever be grateful for them. God knew exactly where I needed to be, and it all happened because I stopped pushing God away and started listening. I let Him lead me.

It’s been a couple years since then and here’s what I learned from this journey:

  • We are ALWAYS enough for God. We could never stray too far from God and when we decide to come back, He is right there waiting with love and open arms. Even when we mess up, He is there. God doesn’t ask us to be perfect because He knows that’s impossible. He just asks us to take the first step towards Him. Don’t let fear and doubt hold you back from God’s great wonders.
  • We are given unique gifts to serve God AND one another. It doesn’t have to be something grand like speaking as well as Pastor Mark, or being funny like Jesse Mahannah, or even singing like Ryan Morris. God can use us right where we are with whatever we have. We can use our gifts as mothers or fathers, friends or neighbors, or we may have great compassion or generosity. Whatever it may be, we can ask God to reveal to us our gifts and how we can use them for His purpose because even in the vastness of God’s great plan, no role is too small.
  • God has a path set out for each and everyone one of us. Isn’t that amazing? Can you imagine if God told us our entire life plan? Our own understanding could never handle all of God’s knowledge, so He saves us the trouble and confusion. He simply says, Trust me. It may push you out of your comfort zone, but like Sammi O’Neal wrote a few weeks ago, “God does incredible things in the Land of Uncomfortable.” All we have to do is fix our eyes on God and trust in Him with our entire hearts.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. – Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT)

Worry Less

Written by Lindsey Hargraves, KidzWorld Assistant

LindseyI’m not one to typically make a New Year’s resolution. Looking over the past year, however, I feel like God’s been showing me an area in my life I need to work on…worry. I tend to worry about a lot of things in my life – especially when they aren’t a part of “my plan.” I’ve never been a fan of life’s curveballs (I assume not many people are). But, looking back over my life, those are the times when I’ve had some of the most significant turning points in my life – where I’ve seen God show up and really show me who He is. Here are a couple examples:

I was in a job where I was working full time. I liked what I was doing, and, as an office manager, I was able to do work that utilized my degree. So, I figured I was in the right place. After a couple of years, I felt unsettled and couldn’t figure out why. One day, I was asked to join the KidzWorld team…in a part time position. I was beyond excited because I loved the time I spent each weekend volunteering in KidzWorld and could feel it was the right move. But how could we afford it? I didn’t know how we could make it work. Luckily, I have an amazing & supportive husband who was behind this change (and who wasn’t worried by the way). After much prayer, I made the change. And you know what–God showed up. Everything worked out fine, and I saw that when you follow God’s plan – He will take care of the rest. Lesson learned, right? Wrong.

After a couple years of marriage, my husband and I decided to try and start a family. It didn’t happen right away, but I had read that it can take about a year for a couple to get pregnant. Well, one year passed, then two, and soon it had been about 4 years. I decided to talk to my doctor about it. She put me on fertility medication to try to help with the process and after the first month, we were pregnant! Unfortunately, we had a miscarriage at about 7 weeks along. So, we continued on the medication (along with some other testing). I was at the point where I thought it wasn’t in the plan for us to have our own children – again, defeated that things hadn’t gone according to “my plan.” In December of 2013, we found out we were pregnant again. This time, we were blessed with Easton who was born in September 2014. Looking back, if God had allowed us to begin our family when we thought it was the right time, we would not have been in such an ideal place as we are now – both financially & spiritually. Our situation right now is so much better than it was back then and I can see that God’s timing was perfect.

In both of these times in my life, God showed me that I didn’t need to worry, just trust in Him. But, you know, it’s not always a curveball – sometimes, it feels like a strike…right? in. the. face. A week after Easton was born, I was in the ER and the hospital. After multiple tests & being scared for my life (literally) – it was discovered that I had postpartum pre-eclampsia. With that and a couple of other medical issues, I didn’t really feel great for the first 6 months of my son’s life! Not long after finally feeling better, I discovered I was pregnant, again. I thought, how is this going to work in our small house. Can we afford it? What if I have a lot of medical problems again?

All that being said, when I look at 2015 – it has been the greatest year of my life. I’ve watched Easton, our biggest blessing thus far, learn so many new things in his first 1+ year. He brings constant joy to my life and I can’t think of anything better than being a mommy. I have the most amazing husband who I could not be more grateful for (and what an awesome daddy he is!). He has had to “step up to the plate” on many of these occasions, and he does it without complaint. I have an awesome job where I get to see kids impacted each weekend by our awesome God! Finally, I have a remarkable group of family, friends, and co-workers that have been such a blessing of support & encouragement for me. And last, but certainly not least, I can’t wait to meet our newest blessing in just a couple of weeks.

So, why have I wasted any time worrying? Everything has turned out better than I could have thought. It has become very clear to me that God’s got my life under control as long as I let Him have control. His plan far exceeds any of my own expectations for my life. So, when life throws me a curveball or strike in the face, I’ve decided to just take it to Him in prayer & then worry less.

Don’t worry about anything. No matter what happens, tell God about everything. Ask and pray, and give thanks to him.  Then God’s peace will watch over your hearts and your minds. He will do this because you belong to Christ Jesus. God’s peace can never be completely understood. Philippians 4:6-7 (NIrV)