Tag Archives: Serving

A role I wasn’t expecting to play

We got there early and endured a hot sun to have primo spots up front, but it was worth it. A parade at Disney World is nothing short of spectacular; the characters, the music, the excitement.

We enjoyed visiting with the folks next to us who were from Canada and we guzzled some drinks to stave off the heat, but the parade was the big attraction.

As the familiar characters walked, danced or rode by on floats I took it all in and got some great pictures. Watching a Disney parade is great fun but then it happened.

I was standing there minding my own business like every other spectator along the parade route when I suddenly and unexpectedly became part of the festivities.

The wolf from Pinocchio was walking by and along with others close by I stuck my arm out to high-five him on the hand… uh, paw. But he wouldn’t do it.

He stopped, turned to face me and placed his hands on his hips. Motioning for me to lean in towards him he took his cape and used it to wipe the sweat off my bald head.

After everyone had a good laugh he gave me a high-five and continued down the street. No one in my family thought to take a picture but we all had fun joking about it afterwards.

Disney wants you to be more than a spectator, they want you to be a part of all that’s going on; and so does God. 

Christianity, in America at least, has become largely an event for spectators. We show up on Sunday and take it all in then go about our week as usual. But that’s not God’s design.

God intends for each of us to be fully engaged with His kingdom purposes and plans every single day. Some days are spectacular, but most are more mundane. But even our mundane Lower Story moments help to advance God’s Upper Story agenda.

A little, unknown boy was there to supply his fish and bread for Jesus to use in feeding thousands of hungry followers.

Some unknown person was there to provide the animal for Jesus to ride in on for His triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

Someone was there to hold the rope used to lower Paul from a window in Damascus for his middle-of-the-night escape.

Sure it’s just another mundane day with nothing spectacular on the horizon. But that doesn’t mean God won’t pull you in or use you to touch a life in some special way today.

Are you ready?
If you’re following along in The Story read chapter(s) 14 this week. To learn more about The Story check out the tab above.

© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.


Filed under Christianity, God's Will, involvement with the church, Kingdom of God, Serving, The Story

Investing in people, growing as a faith community

I don’t know how it works everywhere around the globe, but here in the American midwest the seasons of the year are noticeably different. This plays a major role in the process of growing a garden.

Well-groomed gardens require different activities according to the season, and those activities occur daily.

This very same principle of ongoing growth is also very evident and necessary in any faith community in which God is actively working to grow and change lives.

So we must continue to invest in the people around us, serving them, receiving from them, and letting God use those experiences to grow us into communities that create results and change lives for the better. We must recognize that significance occurs within the day-in, day-out process of interacting with others.

Just as we make changes in our gardens according to the seasons of the year, so we must adapt to changes within our communities as they struggle, grow, get pruned, grow some more, and flourish. When the harsh circumstances of winter come, for instance, we must huddle together (like the penguins!) in order to sustain one another.

When the spring and summer months provide us the opportunities, we must share in the work of planting and nourishing. And when it’s time for the harvest, we must be willing to serve and celebrate all that God has done and is doing.
~ Excerpted from A Significant Life by Jim Graff

Before we just assume that this is happening within the faith community we are a part of, let me pose a few questions to consider:

Do you see evidence of God working to grow people in your church family?

What season of the growth cycle is your faith community experiencing?

In what ways are you involved with others in sharing the journey of following hard after Jesus?

Are you praying for your church family, inviting God’s Spirit to work in the lives of others?

In what ways are you personally investing in the lives of others to encourage their growth in Christ?

Are you surrendered to what God is wanting to do in and through you?

© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.


Filed under Church, Commitment, Discipleship, God, Holy Spirit, involvement with the church, Loving others, Morphing, Prayer, Serving, Spiritual formation, Spiritual growth, Surrender

Why all the facial hair?

My good friend Jeff is one of the nicest guys you could ever hope to meet, but if you saw him right now coming down the street you would likely duck into a store or make your way to the other side of the street. Why?

His beard is menacing!

Here, in his own words, is why he is growing it out.

“Rick, I am growing my beard after one of the most humbling experiences of my life at Kid’s Kamp (our version of VBS) 2011. Last year our children and youth ministries were raising money for Dave and Jen Bell, missionaries our fellowship supports in Kenya. In a moment of craziness I agreed to have PART of my head shaved if the kids were able to meet the financial goal we set for them at Kid’s Kamp. We set the goal high, or should I say, I set the goal high. Not surprisingly, the kids and their families far exceeded the goal that had been set for them.”

“After that experience “the Holy Spirit” gave birth to an idea in my heart. There is one thing I do in my life that receives more unsolicited comments than any other thing that I do: that is growing a beard. My unscientific research suggests that 95% of people that comment are strongly opposed to the beard while the remaining 5% are tight-lipped about their opposition. Needless to say, I thought I could use the beard for the cause of Christ.”

“So Sunday, August 7, 2011 is the last time I shaved or trimmed my beard with the exception of my mustache. My much publicized (among our fellowship) intention is to leverage my beard as a means to raise financial support for some very dear friends of mine, Gianni and Stephany Bruno, missionaries with Italy for Christ (click to learn more). The Bruno family will be the missionaries we highlight this summer during our week of Kid’s Kamp and 100% of the financial support raised that week will go to support their ministry.”

“In a typical beard growing year, I never make it past six months of growth, in fact, only one time has that happened. I made it a few days past 6 months and my wife informed me that if I didn’t shave I wouldn’t be present for the delivery of our 2nd child, Hannah. That was all I needed to hear to shave the beard. I’m glad I did since Hannah was born a week later.”

“Thankfully, my wife isn’t pregnant this time around, so I am pretty sure I will be able to make it to the day the beard will be sheared, Friday, July 13, 2012. In fact, in a rare show of affirmation for the beard, my wife recently said, “The beard is growing on me.” To which I replied, “Me too.” Now I am convinced that with God all things are possible.”

We can’t all grow a beard of epic proportions to support those taking the good news of God’s grace and truth to people all around the world. But we can all do something!

Are you making yourself available to God?

© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.


Filed under Christianity, Compassion, Determination, Holy Spirit, influence with the world, Inspiration, involvement with the church, Loving others, Missions, Serving

Trying to use God is always a bad idea!

It has to be one of the most blatant and offensive acts of selfishness ever! It occurred toward the end of the period of the Judges but prior to Israel’s first king. It was a time described like this:

“In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” ~ Judges 21:25

The army of God went out to battle the Philistines… and lost! As they regrouped and tried to figure out why God hadn’t given them victory they struck upon what they thought was a great idea.

Every have a “great” idea flop badly only to be followed by an even worse idea? Multiply it by 1000 and you get the idea. Here’s how it reads:

When the soldiers returned to camp, the elders of Israel asked, “Why did the LORD bring defeat upon us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the LORD’s covenant from Shiloh, so that it may go with us and save us from the hand of our enemies.” ~ 1 Samuel 4:3

First time out the Israelites lost about 4000 men. On their second time out they lost 30,000 men!

Was this a black eye on God’s reputation? Hardly! It was a terribly self-centered move on the part of the Israelites.

God certainly did His share of punishing the surrounding people groups because of their wickedness but there is no indication here that God sent them out to battle the Philistines. And no indication that God led them to take the ark of the covenant.

Not only did the Israelites get badly defeated, but they lost the ark to the Philistines!

The root issue: Rather than wanting intimacy with God, they merely wanted His power to carry out their own agenda.

As a representation of God’s presence the ark was there when some amazing things happened. But it was God Himself that provided the power to accomplish those things; and God is not inclined to be used like some sort of magical talisman.

But before we get too self-righteous, let’s be honest; we tend to do the same thing. We may not use something physical like the ark but we do our fair share of approaching God to secure His favor on our plans.

Life is His story, not ours. When we presume to invite God into our plans we not only mock Him but make fools of ourselves. And then when God doesn’t come through for us we get angry.

We need to enter every day and every situation with the same attitude and response that we see in young Samuel when God called out to him in the middle of the night.

“Speak, for your servant is listening.”

Read chapter(s) 11 in The Story this week or click on the page tab above to learn more.

© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.


Filed under Christianity, God, intimacy with the Lord, Serving, Surrender, The Story

This is where the Church belongs!

Like most of us, Thomas Keinath felt the need to spend some time away from the office. In Keinath’s case, the “office” is Calvary Temple, a “mega-church” with a 2,000-plus seat sanctuary in an affluent suburb, in Wayne, New Jersey.

Instead of a personal retreat or a fun-filled vacation, Keinath spent that week living with the homeless in nearby Paterson, New Jersey.

During the day, he wandered through the streets dressed like everyone else. At night, he joined the homeless as they built fires to keep warm from temperatures that dropped into the teens.

He wrote mini biographies about the people he met and their life story. Why would he do all of this?

According to Keinath, “I needed to understand what they were experiencing, and I needed to feel their pain; how could I bring help or healing to the streets if I did not know what their needs are?”

To put it bluntly, people in Wayne tend to avoid Paterson like the plague. But not Pastor Keinath and the folks at Calvary Temple.

This church is reaching out to their neighbors in some vital and tangible ways. They are not only taking basic supplies to the homeless but they are bringing them to services at the church on Sundays.

This is just the beginning of what Keinath calls “a long-term solution” that includes building a center that will “shelter the homeless while helping them recover from problems including substance abuse.”

Loving our neighbor as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:39) is being the church as God intended. It’s living out the gospel like the Christians of Caesarea did centuries ago.

In the early fourth century, the city was hit by a plague. While everyone was fleeing the city, the Christians stayed to minister to the sick and dying.

As the church historian Eusebius wrote, “All day long some of [the Christians] tended to the dying and to their burial, countless numbers with no one to care for them.” Other Christians took it upon themselves to feed the rest.

This is how Christianity prevailed over Rome and spread like wildfire. And the same is still possible today.

Hitting the streets to meet peoples’ needs. This is where the Church belongs!

© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.


Filed under Christianity, Church, Compassion, Generosity, Grace, influence with the world, Inspiration, involvement with the church, Kingdom of God, Loving others, Serving

Time to put the saints into circulation

During the darkest hours of World War II, Britain faced a critical shortage of silver for the war industries. Informed of the crisis, Winston Churchill asked if there were any possible sources of silver, however remote.

The answer came back: Yes, the churches, cathedrals, and abbeys held beautiful, sterling silver statues of the saints. From Churchill came the now-famous reply…

“Well, it’s time to put the saints into circulation!”

They did, and the rest is history.

This is a great reminder that everything we own belongs to God and should be available to be used to bless others. I can almost hear your head gently nodding in agreement.

But let me get a bit more personal.

It’s Saturday. It’s the weekend. It’s your chance to relax and have some fun. It’s your day to do as you please. Or is it?

Could this day be more than just another Saturday? Could this be the day that God uses you or something you own to bless a fellow human being?

Are you available to God to be put into circulation today?


Filed under influence with the world, Loving others, Serving, Surrender

The best of 2011 and a “Thank You”

There goes another year! Mom was right, “the older you get the faster time flies.” As my second year of blogging wraps up I’m grateful for everyone who has shared the journey and humbled that my audience has nearly tripled.

The adventure of blogging is still a bit strange and mysterious to me. For example, of the Top Ten blogs from 2011, listed below, the number one blog is actually from last year! Go figure! Anyway, here they are in case you missed them the first time around.

1. My issue with Christmas cards – click here

2. Hannah’s socks – click here

3. Neighbors sign peace deal to end feud – click here

4. Friday Funny! 😉 – click here

5. What does your billboard say? – click here

6. Don’t give in to shallow praise! – click here

7. Black Friday advice from Maxine – click here

8. The Real Jesus – click here

9. Uniquely You – click here

10. Why is it called “Good Friday?” – click here

Thanks for sharing the journey and Happy New Year!



Filed under Best of, Blogging, Christmas, Good Friday, Gratitude, Humor, Jesus, Just for fun, Loving others, Peace, Praise, Serving

Making $320,000 look like chump change!

There was an article a while back delving into the true value of a good kindergarten teacher. Anyone have fond memories of kindergarten or the impact your teacher had on you?

This article described that the average kindergarten teacher makes about $30,000 a year. Research, however, has estimated that when you take into account the additional money earned by adults who had a good kindergarten teacher, those teachers are actually worth about $320,000 a year!

That’s no typo! Good kindergarten teachers are making 10x the impact their salary indicates. This does not mean that if you happen to be underpaid in your current occupation you can blame it on your teacher. But it does demonstrate that what we earn can’t define our worth. Salaries, big or small, do not necessarily correspond to our real value.

There are many occupations today in which people pour themselves out for the good of others or the Kingdom of God but don’t get heavily or adequately compensated. You need to understand that you are of more value than the number on a paycheck. What you’re doing and the impact you’re making is significant, even if your salary package is not.

  • Teachers
  • Civil Servants
  • Military Personnel
  • Mothers
  • Nurses
  • Social Workers
  • Church volunteers
  • I’m sure you could add to this list…

I doubt that any of us are getting a $320,000 raise any time soon. But perhaps we could give our perspectives a $320,000 raise and understand that the value of what we’re doing is far greater than the money that we’re making.

Your worth is determined by the God who is in you and the impact He’s making through you. And believe me, it actually makes the $320,000 look like chump change.


Filed under Children of God, influence with the world, Kingdom of God, Life in General, Loving others, Parenting, Serving, Work

What’s in it for me?

Oops! Did I say that out loud? Well, OK then. Might as well own it. I have a strong propensity to be self-absorbed.

I would love to tell you that it only rears its ugly head every once in a blue moon, but it tends to be more frequent than that.

To be fair, there are times when, “What’s in it for me?” is an appropriate question. But many more times when it is not.

One of those times when it is not appropriate is when it comes to participation with the church – the body of Christ.

Jesus said that we would find true life by giving ourselves away for His kingdom purposes. When we start measuring everything that goes on at church with “What’s in it for me?” we head down a slippery slope that takes us nowhere good.

Obviously, we need to feel feed and challenged and nurtured by our involvement with the church family; but that happens when we enter into it asking things like:

  • What can I give?
  • How can I help?
  • Where can I serve?
  • Who can I bless?

When we involve ourselves with the church in an attitude of putting God and others first it’s a win-win for everyone!

From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” ~ Ephesians 4:16

The church body is built up in love when each person does their part to contribute. That only happens when we set aside the question, “What’s in it for me?” and look for ways to contribute.

When we gather with our church family this weekend, may we be a blessing to those who gather alongside us!



Filed under involvement with the church, Loving others, Serving

No limit to what God can use

An unlikely duo in East Tennessee has teamed up to help people in need. West Towne Christian Church in Knoxville is working with Ole Smoky Mountain Moonshine in Gatlinburg to donate buckets to Haiti.

West Towne member Stephen Chen came up with the idea after a recent ministry project at the church. Members were building walls to build a church in Haiti, when ministry coordinators explained another need for the country.

“The biggest need they have right now are 5 gallon buckets with handles,” said Chen.

Luckily, Chen knew where to find a large amount of those buckets. His son, Stephen Chen, works for Ole Smoky Mountain Moonshine. The distillery gets more than one hundred 5 gallon buckets each week with their maraschino cherry shipments.

Of the distilleries seven types of alcohol, moonshine-soaked cherries is a favorite among customers.

“We typically like to let them soak for 2 to 3 weeks and after that we like to call it a party in a jar. Its, pretty good stuff,” joked the younger Chen, Jamie.

Between the church and the distillery, both father and son recognized an opportunity to help.

So far, West Towne has made three trips to Gatlinburg. Members use the church van to haul buckets and tubs from the distillery. However Stephen said an easier haul is in the works.

“We’ve gotten some donations from some people at church,” he said. “We’re going to be buying a box truck very shortly, and hopefully that will be more user-friendly.”

The arrangement has caused more than a few giggles. Stephen, a non-drinker, also sees the irony.

“It sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, you know? What does a Tennessee distillery, a church, and Haiti have in common? And you’re just waiting for the punch line,” he said.

West Towne will store the buckets at the church until they have enough to fill a large shipping container. Then, missionaries with Northwest Haiti Christian Mission will arrange to have the supplies shipped to Haiti.

If there is a punch line, says Chen, it has a more serious undertone.

“I think God can use everything for the good and I think he’s really done that in this case.”

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Filed under influence with the world, Loving others, Serving, Teamwork