Tag Archives: discipleship

A Lesson in Survival From Ollie the Owl

On a recent cold winter evening my husband David was delivered a wounded screech owl from our area of West Virginia. It had been hit by a car, and a 6.5 oz. owl verses a 4000 pound car survival story certainly speaks of the tenacity of this little creature. But when David brought it to the house I really thought he brought it home to bury. It was not in a good way. The first day it sat lifeless with an occasional opening of one eye. I guess to see if the humans taking care of it were still there. The second day he was more alert and obviously in pain, but by the third day it was apparent it was going to survive! But the quality of survival was still iffy. Probably the only one more shocked than we were about the survival was the owl. I named it Ollie, it just seemed like a good fit. We attempted a release but Ollie could only glide to the ground and then couldn’t take flight from there. We then called the WV Raptor Center to ask what we should do, because keeping an owl is a federal offence and wild creatures shouldn’t be caged anyway. That’s a no brainer. The center was very helpful and got in touch with raptor transporter who came in a few days to retrieve Ollie for assessment and owl therapy. Who knew! that owls could have therapy?

Our last few days with Ollie at our house were spent letting it perch on our hand, scratching its head and rubbing our fingers down its feathers. It made no attempt to bite us, it was gentle as a pet, but the better it felt, the less it encouraged us to touch it. I fed it raw hamburger (not the best diet) but I couldn’t do the frozen mice thing. According to the Raptor center raw liver would have been better. But Ollie loved the hamburger that I would spoon feed it. Needless to say, I grew quite fond of this little creature of God’s.

Historical Job’s Temple in Route 5, Gilmer County, WV

Karen, the raptor transporter assessed Ollie for a few days and then called to say it seemed apparent that it could fly and she invited us to take part in the release. The release had to be in the same area for which it was hit by the car, and that happened to be at a historical site in our neighboring county of Gilmer called “Job’s Temple.” A  Methodist Church building built between 1860 and 1866 and is constructed of poplar logs. It’s a beautiful location.  And too ironic not use for a correlation between Ollie’s rescue and faith.

Because of the condition of Ollie’s eyes it was apparent that it had a concussion. I feared that it couldn’t see at all. When our hand would pass by its eyes there was no reaction.

I Once was Blind but now I see…

A few days following his collision with the car.

I was in that same state of condition prior to my salvation in 1996. The walking dead. I was a part of the problem with religion. I professed but didn’t possess the Spirit of God. And that sad part is, I wasn’t even aware; I just knew something was missing. That missing piece was the Spirit of God! It caused me to soar in life… wait… I’m getting a head of Ollie’s story. Ollie didn’t know or care who David and I were, only that we were caring for it. Feeding it, nursing it back to health. Oh how very grateful I am for the church people that took me under their wings and discipled me when I finally was rescued through salvation. Please don’t ever underestimate the importance of helping a new convert find their way through Christian faith. Just like Ollie, if people hadn’t protected and spoon fed me for a while on the ways of Christianity I would have been devoured by the beast of Satan. I wouldn’t have been lost… but I could have very easily been discouraged from flying.

Your Grace Still Amazes me!

Salvation is amazing! But much like Ollie I fear the captivity. If we’d have gone against the law and kept Ollie caged, it would have continued to heal and had the ability to fly but its flight would have been constrained to the area for which it was kept. Sad. So many Christians are constrained to the walls of the church when it comes to experiencing the full power of God’s amazing grace!

Everyone is at risk if they don’t take risks.

Ollie trusted David and I for a few days as it was healing. I was under the direction of several people in our church for a time, until they were certain I could take flight on my own. It was then that I was encouraged to branch out into the ministry and take my spot on the branch. I began devouring the word of God until I felt I understood it enough to share it and then I began to teach. I began on the very elementary level, junior high and high school classes for which I needed. Slowly I progressed into the adult ministry. I came up through the ranks of every age class in our church. And with each one I learned more and more.

Ollie was a mature adult bird. It should have known better than to fly in front of a car. I was brought up in a Christian home, I should have known better than to be lost. But I did not. It doesn’t matter our age, it matters how we react to Rescuer. And it matters if you’re in the right place of rescuing.

I won’t say that anyone else couldn’t have done what we did for Ollie. But they couldn’t have possibly cared more. And that’s how I felt when I found my church family. I’d never been cared for in such a way. If you’re not in that church… find it. Find the one that will encourage and strengthen your soul until you fly!!!!

I’ll Fly Away

Ollie’s release was bitter sweet. It was the right thing to do, but I had so enjoyed the company of God’s precious critter.

I met Karen at Job’s temple and we trekked up the hill behind the church. She allowed Ollie to familiarize with the area again. It posed on her hand like it was waiting for us to get one final picture, and then within a few minutes, Ollie took flight! Oh my stars what a wonderful sight! I rejoiced to have been a part of the process.

If you’re a child of God, you too should rejoice in being a part of the process of seeing another child of God take flight.

Just like Ollie and the car, the world can hit us when we’re off guard or on guard. We need to encourage one another to stay strong in the faith. We all have times when we feel faith waning and that we’re not sure if the journey is going to end well. If you’re a child of God, it ends so much better than “well!” But the journey also can be amazing. Study and learn the word of God, learn to listen to the Holy Spirit, and when it’s time to take flight, soar like you’ve never flown before. God’s got a plan for you. Nothing just happens.

God sent Ollie to David and I because He knew the end of the story. He knew that He would be glorified. Will He not do the same for His children.

Luke 12:4-9

And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him. Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows. Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God: But he that denieth me before men shall be denied before the angels of God.

The Church Bones

A Facebook friend posted a question last night for speakers asking “If you had to speak for 45 minutes without preparation what would you speak on?” My response was “Church Bones.” Although the title is somewhat cryptic, it’s a subject that I feel I’m somewhat an expert on after 21 years of studying people. I’m somewhere between a friend and a non-creepy stalker with ministry people. I love watching to see what works and what doesn’t in a ministry. What floats my boat and draws me to Christ and what’s just “oooo that’s shiny” moments. I also like watching the congregation. Especially that in my own church because I’ve been there when many of them began their path in our church. It’s exciting stuff when you see God working in peoples lives.

What I don’t do is look around the church at those who “don’t do.” What could I possibly gain besides an ulcer?

The body of Christ is the bones of the church. And there’s a lot of bones that I won’t mention that are crucial joints in the church. But the ones in my illustration are the movers and shakers of the group. They’re what makes it work… or not. Depending upon the church. I could actually put names beside every bone in my illustration. God has been good to our people. So I’ll tell you in brevity about a just a few.

The Attitude Bones

Glory to God, that’s one of the most important ones! A smile seems so small, but when someone new has just walked in a church a smile goes a long way. When someone old walks in a church a smile goes a long way! We need to let people know that we’re glad they’ve arrived. I can tell you of way too many times I’ve walked in a church (to which I was invited to sing) only to be greeted (if you want to call it that) by people who look more like I’ve walked in on them in the bathroom. True story! Check your attitude when you get to church and make sure you’re a welcoming sight!

Shoulder the Load Bones

The spiritual load of the church is a heavy load for those who work in the ministry, especially the Pastor. We often times do not see the heaviness that someone carries because they’ve got the attitude bones in check. Their load would break the back of a normal person. But because God’s given them an added strength, they carry on. That doesn’t mean that we as the congregation of the Lord and friends shouldn’t try to shoulder any of the load we can to help out. We can make calls, we can bring supper for a busy family, we can tuck a dollar or two in the hand of someone for encouragement. The list is long of ways to shoulder the load.

Leadership Bones

The direction of church is turned on the leadership bones. I heard it once said that the church rises and falls on leadership. It also goes right or wrong. Leadership isn’t for the faint of heart and those in leadership will answer to a greater degree when they stand before the Lord.

Discipleship Bones

Countless people put their arm around me and steered me through the beginning of my walk with Jesus. It’s probably the greatest neglect of the church today. We see a soul saved and we’re so excited but we leave them in the deep water to drown. Sound dramatic? I usually am, but it’s the truth none the less. You wouldn’t leave a newborn beside the ocean unattended and you certainly shouldn’t leave a new convert to be attacked by every shark in the sea of Satan. It’s why they don’t stay and why they go astray in life. They need to be discipled just as the early church did.

Funny Bones

Oh my stars! A sense of humor is a necessity in a child of God! For the reason of stupid people (those who don’t have a filter and can cut you to the core) and to lighten the load that many of us carry in the door. I know Jesus laughed. I’m pretty sure I’m responsible for His laughter much of the time now when He sees me trying to make it on my own.

Back Bones

If you’ve been in church any length of time at all you know them by name. They are those who will stand flat footed and tell you like it is without wavering biblically. They’ve been there a while and have stayed standing through every storm.

Hug Bones

So, so very important. And also it’s important to know who’s a touch me not. But I’m a hugger because I’ve known many days when I just needed to know someone cared. Being cautious about folks who hurt and those who don’t like touched is important though because you can just as well run them off or physically hurt them. We often don’t know our strength and for someone with arthritis or fibromyalgia the lightest squeeze can send shock waves. So hug, but maybe with just your smile sometimes.

Work Bones

Most churches do not have an abundance of work bones. Another quote I heard was that 20% of the people do 80% of the work. I fear that a more realistic number would be 5/95. If you just show up at church on Sunday morning, get your message and go, you’re clueless on the background of your church. Hours and hours of preparation goes into a good service. Floors don’t clean themselves, dinners don’t get planned and materials don’t just show up un-ordered. We need more work bones!

Praise Bones

God desires it. You need to experience it and the folks behind you need the encouragement to join in! Raise them hands to the Lord all ye people!

Prayer Bones

Another neglected anatomy part. The altars of America are not well attended. Prayer is a formality at a few tables and an act of desperation when times are tough, but seldom relied upon for survival of everyday living.

Visitation Bones

What’s visitation? Exactly. It’s a lost art and it’s why churches are not growing.

Tail Bones

Every church has them. They’re pew sitters. And it’s not a bad thing unless that’s the only thing you do and you leave no better than when you came. But the very fact that people come to church is wonderful and shows that they have a heart for the things of God. Celebrate every single one, even if you sometimes have to check pulses.

That’s just a few of the many, many parts of a church. As my Facebook friend said last night, there’s some squishy parts too. They’re the kind hearted souls who come, worship and encourage us just by their presence. I love the body of Christ. Every one. Even the tails bones.

1 Corinthians 12:20

But now are they many members, yet but one body.

Little League Christianity

chick league

It’s Little League Baseball Season and my grandsons have our family right in the thick of it. It’s exciting stuff to watch the kids smack the ball and run the bases and it’s heart wrenching when they strike out or don’t play as well as they’d have liked to. Yes, I’m their “Noni” and I don’t view the game in quite the same manner as do the parents and coaches. For me it’s a cuteness factor, for them… it’s serious business.

Last night’s game had me thinking on the purpose of this stage in the game. They’re not pro ball players, although you’d never know it from a few of the parent’s reactions. You’d think there was a major league scout in the stands. If you’re one of them you’ll have to forgive me and this really isn’t about you, it’s about the church and Little League Christianity.

When I was saved in 1996 our church had one thing down to a fine art, and that was how to disciple young converts. We met as a group for breakfast at a local restaurant before I went to work. We met for lunch. It was an active time in the church, in that if we weren’t having a revival we’d find someone else who was and attend theirs. I couldn’t get enough of the word of God. This wasn’t a mandated thing for new Christians, it was our desire because we wanted what the old timers of the church had! Oh the Spirit of God is such an awesome thing when it’s on display in the saints of God. We were the little leaguers of the day. It was a training ground before we hit the big league of soul winning and serving on our own. We were not six and seven year olds, we were grown men and women from twenty to seventy who just happened to be in the growing years of faith. We were shown mercy when we made a mistake, and weren’t cast out of the game because we didn’t perform up to par.

This is where I see so many churches missing the mark for church growth. They leave the coaching to the Pastor who’s trying to keep up with a half dozen teams in the church, all at different stages in the game. If you’ve been a child of God for more than a year or two, and you’ve been serious about it, it’s your turn to step out and find you someone to disciple. It will not only encourage them it will encourage you.

John 10:10 (one of my favorite verses) says  

The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

Stolen Bases

They don’t steal bases in Little League, but I guess they still do in the older leagues. But the base stealer in the game of Christianity is Satan; he removes the base completely out of the game by getting our eyes off the intended purpose. The purpose of the game is to get home by running all the bases, but we get busy and want to skip a few. So Satan obliges by removing it from our site. If God’s only purpose was to get us home, when we got saved we’d just fall in the floor at the altar and our soul would go on to glory. But that’s not the case, the game is still being played out and God has a purpose for our lives.

First Base

Learning the game. It’s our time to sit under preaching and teaching and learn how to live and share the gospel.

Second Base

Take a new convert under your wing and begin teaching them what you’ve just been taught. It is then that you’ll know it deeper by having to prepare to share it with others.

Third Base

It’s at this stage in your Christian walk that you should be in full blown service for the Lord and reaping the abundant life! You should be helping to disciple new converts, serving in the local ministry and have a testimony in your community as a servant of God.

But what I see out of most people is that they’ve never left little league. If it were a real game we’d have sixty year old players. How ridiculous would that be? Almost as ridiculous as the child of God, who has never left the stands at all, yet expects a trophy at the end of season. There’s going to be some sad Christians at home plate.

Empty Bellied Sheep on the Road to Heaven

Matthew 9:37

King James Version (KJV)

 Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few;

Our church over the past few months have taken on discipling like we’d not in a very long time. It was indeed discipling that made the difference in my life as a new convert by having two or three people who took an interest in my life and encouraged me daily in my walk with Christ. They walked along beside me encouraging me daily; not necessarily by saying or doing, but simply “being.”

Being available

Every day someone would swing by my office just to say hello, or call to find out how I liked the church or how life was going. I’m sure they had other things they could have been doing. But one thing was certain, I felt loved!  They made themselves a part of my life and in so doing I learned servitude.

Being approachable

If I’m not the queen of dumb questions, I’m at least the princess. Getting saved puts a burning desire down within to read the Word of God and with reading comes wondering. While the Holy Spirit certainly poured an understanding into me that I had never known, I still didn’t understand many of the cultural aspects and theological terms. It was wonderful having people that I could unashamedly ask the “dumb” questions and who were grounded in the Word enough to know the answers and in so doing I learned study.

Being abased

Much of the time an outspoken church has a reputation of being haughty or holier than thou. Their focus is on appearance rather than attitude and the result is those around them feeling less, or so it was with me. A perfectly dressed saint did not inspire me so much as a saint (who though he or she may have been dressed to the nines or in jeans and a flannel) would make me feel as though I had just had my feet washed by the King. I cannot count the times my new friends not only took care of my spiritual needs but my physical needs as well – and in so doing I learned humility.

Our primary responsibility is leading souls to the saving grace of Jesus Christ, but that’s only the beginning; the actual work for the cause of Christ has just begun. If I had not had wonderful people encouraging me along my new found path, I’d have been back to the old path in no time flat. Our church had gotten away from that and was doing a great injustice to the service of the Lord. His sheep were walking around with empty bellies.

In John 21:15-17 the Lord asks Peter three time “Lovest thou me?” and Peter (to paraphrase) said – “You know I do Lord!” Christ answered once to feed the lambs, and twice to feed the sheep. The lambs (new converts, the sheep (those who are stable and unstable in church) ~ We all need fed, we all need encouragement. Some days the road to Heaven is long…

Call and encourage one of your peeps today!