Tassels and theme cards

We remember what’s right in front of us. That’s why we put our grocery lists under refrigerator magnets, pictures on our nightstands and sticky notes on our dashboards. If I want to make it to an important appointment, I set an alarm on my phone, so when the time comes the reminder is right in my hand.

Even what’s most important to us can fade or be forgotten. God knew that with time, hearts can drift from His commands and His truth. In the midst of His loving care, we can start to believe that we are the masters of our own destinies, and that our efforts and strength got us to where we are. The Israelites had the same struggle. God’s set-apart people needed a constant visual reminder that God was in charge, and He had a plan for their lives. So, God commanded that on the four corners of their garments hang blue-corded tassels.

“These will serve as tassels for you to look at, so that you may remember all the Lord’s commands and obey them and not become unfaithful by following your own heart and your own eyes. This way you will remember and obey all My commands and be holy to your God. I am Yahweh your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God; I am Yahweh your God.”
‭‭- Numbers‬ ‭15:39-41‬

Every way they turned, those who wore the tassels would feel that God was with them and they were His, rescued and set apart. As they walked along the path, they would be reminded of God’s commands and respond in obedience. God’s calling was worn right next to their skin.

I need that kind of reminder of God’s calling. I want God’s heartbeat to be my constant playlist, compelling me to move forward in confidence to God’s commands. I desire for the Gospel to resonate so deeply in my life it spills out in Great Commission action.

God has given me the great privilege of serving as my area coordinator for Operation Christmas Child, a project that seeks to share God’s love with children in need around the world through simple shoebox gifts. This year, my team is seeking to filter everything we do through the lens of Matthew 28:19-20. This is our mission, our marching orders.

Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

God is calling us to center in on this theme: GO and GROW. The investment we have in ministry through Operation Christmas Child is because we seek to follow Jesus in His Great Commission. God is using us, literally, to make disciples of all nations by mobilizing people and multiplying shoebox gifts right here in our communities in Missouri. Because of God’s power and the movement of His Spirit, we are going around the world through shoeboxes to children who desperately need God’s love and salvation – and we are a part of their discipleship as they work through The Greatest Journey follow-up program. As a team, we are asking God to raise up more than 45,000 shoeboxes in our 18-county area for 2017. My dream goal is for us to reach 50,000 children this year, which means that up to half a million people in our world could be impacted by God’s love. ONLY GOD could accomplish that!!!

This is my Operation Christmas Child Team's theme card for this year. The Great Commission is the lens for our ministry efforts.

This is my Operation Christmas Child Team’s theme card for this year. The Great Commission is the lens for our ministry efforts. On the raft in this picture are several cartons full of shoebox gifts traveling to an outlying area in Fiji. If you’d like to be reminded of this calling, you are welcome to use this printable or electronic theme card. Please let me know if you are using it!

These theme cards will act as our tassels in the coming months as we follow God’s lead. We want the Great Commission ever before us, so we will post these cards on our refrigerators, bathroom mirrors, dashboards and screens. God’s Word does not return void, and we want Him to sow this seed deep within our hearts, where God has prepared soil to reap 30, 60 and even 100 times what is planted.

We have all been called by God. Called by God to be His arms of embrace and His feet to go where people need to know Jesus. Called by God to love in truth, to follow His commands, to serve together with the church to make disciples of all nations.

Is your calling ever before you? Consider this a reminder that God has a plan for your life. As one who has responded to God’s great grace, God has called you to join Him, to go and grow.

Hang tassels on your garments or put a theme card on your nightstand. Find a way today to honor God’s call and be reminded of His rescue and redemption that He intends for you to share.

The love of Jesus wrapped up in a shoebox

Lauren and Jackson sit under our Thankful Tree with the shoeboxes they packed for Operation Christmas Child.

What if we could send Jesus’ love directly to a child on the other side of the world who desperately needs to know God is real and He deeply cares for them? What if through one simple gift, we could be a part in introducing a young person to the life-changing Gospel?

Missions is personal, just like God’s grace. When God gave us the Great Commission, He didn’t intend for us to just give money and let other people do the work. God wants us to get our hands dirty, to be directly involved in sharing His message of hope with people all over the globe who Jesus died on the cross to save.

That’s why my family has wholeheartedly taken on the ministry of Operation Christmas Child.

OCC_logoThe world’s largest Christmas project of its kind, Operation Christmas Child, uses gift-filled shoeboxes to demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way to children in need around the world. Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child has delivered gift-filled shoeboxes to more than 124 million children affected by war, poverty, natural disasters, and other crises in more than 150 countries and territories. They then partner with local churches to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with those who receive shoebox gifts and help them understand what it means to follow the Lord and share their faith with others. This nondenominational ministry is part of Samaritan’s Purse, led by Franklin Graham. For more on this amazing mission endeavor, visit www.samaritanspurse.com/occ.

I remember packing shoeboxes when I was a kid with my family, but as an adult, I didn’t continue my participation in the ministry. I had been praying this fall about how my husband and I could do missions with our kids, when God arranged for me to reconnect with an amazing woman of God who really mentored me in ministry when Matt and I were first married. She is a regional coordinator for Operation Christmas Child (OCC), and invited me to revisit OCC’s vision. My heart beats for evangelism and international missions, and God swung the door open wide for me to join in and be a part of impacting children around the world. God brought together an amazing team from my church to serve alongside, and our church has refreshed our involvement in OCC and is a drop-off location for shoeboxes in our community, the first here in our town!

When I was reviewing promotional videos for OCC at home trying to decide which ones to show at church, my son Jackson began to watch with me. At one point, I turned around to see if he was still interested, and he was crying. God had touched his heart with the thought that our shoebox gifts could introduce these children to Jesus, and how the gifts could make a difference in their lives. He bought into the vision.

Lauren loved shopping for the gifts to fill our shoeboxes. She went with me several times to pick up items, and thought about what they would mean to the child who would receive them. In fact, over the course of the last few months as I have been involved in the organizational planning for OCC locally, she shared her excitement with her teacher at school, and her Kindergarten class is packing two special boxes.

I love this ministry because our family can be hands-on with missions. We can know our boxes will impact lives. That children somewhere else in the world, perhaps hurting, hungry, alone and in difficult situations, will know that there is a family out there who loves them and wanted to share a shoebox full of gifts with them. And if someone loved them enough to do that, maybe, just maybe, there is a God out there who loves them, too.

Operation Christmas Child is praying for 11 million boxes to send to children in need around the world in 2015. This morning, my church family came together and brought our boxes forward to dedicate them and pray over them. I just wanted to cry out in praise to see people of all ages, from young to old, bring their gifts to the altar asking God to use these boxes and to use them personally to bring God glory. Each box represents a life that we pray will be impacted for eternity.

National Collection Week for Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes is Nov. 16-23. It’s not too late to pack a box and drop it off at collection centers around the country (find one closest to you)!! You can also go online and build a shoebox – an easy way to be a part of this ministry.

We can bring good news and great joy to children around the world. As we join in the ministry of Operation Christmas Child, we are sending the love of Jesus wrapped up in a shoebox to a child who needs to experience Him.