>> Monday, January 24, 2011

"Thank you for the opportunities of this day," has been a prayer I've been saying at the beginning of each day lately.

I've been seeing the moments of each day filled with opportunities to encourage, to challenge and to walk with people. It's a cool way to live and I hope that many others will see their life as an adventure of opportunity!

Today, I had the opportunity to be with our staff in our bi-weekly staff meeting where we celebrated Tobias Timothy Walsten, the new baby of Tim and Shelby. We also awarded paddles to our recently hired staff people: Tara, Sheila, Nikki, Kaity and Kaytlyn. It was fun to watch the staff affirm these new people.

I also got to meet with a couple who are trying to decide whether or not to make Orchard their home church, visit with two moms who have sons who will be having surgery, and visit with a friend who wants to start a new ministry.

I've been reflecting upon a story that someone told me last week. (I'm sorry that I cannot remember who told me this story). It goes like this:

I'm being chased by a huge lion who is very hungry and sees me as a possible lunch. The lion may represent a stress or a problem or a struggle that is after me. I'm running hard and staying one step in front and out of reach when I come to a high cliff with no place to run. However, I see a rope and I grab the rope and go over the cliff to avoid the lion.

Now I find myself hanging over the cliff at the end of a 10 foot rope and begin to evaluate my situation. The lion is at the edge of cliff waiting for me to climb up as I will make a great lunch. I look below and see that a couple hundred feet down is ragged sharp rocks. No escape. I pray for help and notice a juicy ripe strawberry hanging near my rope. I hear God whisper, "enjoy the moment and have a strawberry!"

I don't know why this story strikes me so. I think because I need to take more moments of enjoying God's presence and His gifts. So today, I'm looking for strawberries. Hope you'll join me!


Top Ten Stories of 2010!

>> Saturday, January 8, 2011

I read so many lists of Top Ten Stories as a review of what happened in 2010 that I decided to try to write and share Orchard's Top Ten Stories of 2010. Actually, this is a list of God at work through the ministry of Orchard during this past year.

One of our themes is the song title Not To Us which includes the line Not to us, but to His name be the glory. That's the heart with which I share what I believe might be some of our top stories of God at work.

1. Changed Lives
We see changed live everywhere. People who were far from God are moving toward him by attending church, reading his Word and praying. Families are putting Christ at the center.

2. New Faith in Christ
First-time commitments to Jesus took place with our children, teenagers and new members. Forty-two of 83 new members were first-time commitments or reaffirmations after being far from God.

3. Passing the Baton to Next Generations
Sixty babies were welcomed into church family. Forty-one weddings done by Core Staff. Children and Student Ministries are bulging at the seams. "Often, when I'm doing a wedding somewhere a young person comes up to me and tells me the great impact that Orchard had on their life during their college years."

4. Focus on Five Communities
This Big Hairy Audacious Goal: Changing lives for Christ within and between five communities brought huge focus and clarity to our mission. Those communites are: the Cedar Valley, Grundy County, Walnut Neighborhood (in East Waterloo), Pignon, Haiti, and the Gorongosa region of Mozambique.

5. Marathon Team and Mozambique School
135 runners participated at the Des Monies Marathon & 1/2 Marathon. Together with our farmers (Food Resource Bank) they provided $105,00 to build a school by enlisting 1,000+ donors. This was a day more about spiritual training than physical training.

6. Christmas Store and Craft Fair
Under-resourced parents were blessed to put quality gifts under their trees for their children. Gifts which they purchased and provided with help from us! 230 enthusiastic volunteers and 1470 gifts. Money from the purchase of gifts was given to many schools.

7. Global Leadership Summit
God surprised us and exceeded all expectations with this one. More than 300 leaders attended our first Premiere Site within the Cedar Valley. Both the number of attendees and the impact of the sessions were surprising.

8. Focus on 6th Community
We introduced the concept now of a 6th Community which is that place in our individual lives where we already have influence with friends, teamates, co-workers and family. Many people are working to be "salt and light" within their 6th Community.

9. Route 55
This is a new brand for our Senior Ministry and so much more. This is a ministry of people who are 55 years of age and better and it is making a huge difference in the lives of people across our five communities. The passion for this is even spreading to other churches.

10. Generous Financial Support
Our congregation again gave generously so that we ended our budget year in the black with some carry-over funds to propel us into 2011. We thank God for the generosity of our people and recognize our responsibility to carefully manage God's money in strategic ways.

If I missed your most important story (and for many of our congregation, I know I did) I apologize. God is doing so much in so many ways places with so many people that I simply wanted to lift up some of what He is doing.


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