August 31, 2022

A Word from Walker

  
Last week Gina and I had the joy of having our oldest granddaughter Hadleigh and her mom Molly with us. They currently live in California, so beyond the brief chats we’ve had using FaceTime on Facebook, we had not physically been with them in almost three months. When you haven’t seen your kids or grandkids for a while you want to squeeze as much time in with them as you can. From day one in their visit they were at the top of our priority list. For example, if someone asked us if we were available we would say, “Molly and Hadleigh are in town, so we have to check and get back to you.” We had meals together, did a sleepover, went to a park, and just hung out, catching up with all the adventures they had while we were apart. As any grandparent can attest, the time went with Molly and Hadleigh passed by all-too-quickly.
 
If you don’t already know, we are blessed with four beautiful and brilliant granddaughters. Each of them is unique, and they provide us with a myriad of delights. Hadleigh is our actress, fashionista and dog trainer. She is highly extroverted and requires your full attention. This means that not only do you have to listen to her, but you also have to enter into her world. Gina has pictures on her phone of me dressed up in all types of outfits where I was either role playing or just a living mannequin for Hads. I hope these never see the light of day. Maybe my family can put them out there on Social Media after I go to heaven. Regardless, they represent breaks from the duties of life. There is a catch: To enjoy these playtimes, you have to let go of your current worries or preoccupations. At times this might seem like a little hassle if you have “important adult stuff” to do. But if you fully give yourself into this activity you reap a bountiful reward of sweet communion.
 
This reminds me of the occasion when Jesus was busy ministering and his disciples were trying to keep children from interrupting him. When he found this out the Scripture says he became “indignant.” In other words, Jesus got mad with his disciples because he loved children and took great pleasure in being in their presence. In that same instance he told them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them” (Mark 10:14-15). Jesus was reminding the disciples and us that we have to possess child-like faith in him in order to receive the blessings of heaven. I think this obviously means the kind of simple trust children have when we tell them things. This is so true with our granddaughters that I have to remind them that many of Papa’s stories are pretend so as they don’t go tell their friends that I traveled to Mars with my best dog Beau. Young children really do believe what you tell them. In the same way Jesus wants us to believe in what he says.
 
But I think it also means a simple desire to enjoy his presence. Children give you real smiles and real laughter when you get down on the ground and get down at their level. Jesus wants to be with us in a similar manner. By means of the fellowship of the Holy Spirit we can enjoy Jesus and he can enjoy us. Using the truths of God’s Word as a launching pad, we can experience the risen Christ in a life-giving manner. It is a form of sanctified imagination. But many don’t enter into that blessing. Too often we are guilty of relegating our walk with God to just adhering to his trustworthy sayings. While this is essential, it is not exhaustive. Real faith believes what God says and benefits from his presence. Do you believe this is possible? Do you long for it? Try speaking to God not only as the rightful ruler of the Universe, but also as one who sticks by you through thick-and-thin in the toughest of times. He is the best friend, counselor and leader you can ever have. Be like Hadleigh. Request the attention and engagement of your God and you might be surprised at the answer.
 
Your fellow servant in Christ,
Walker
 
  

August 2, 2022

 

Craig's Comments

  
When I came to the city of Troas to preach the Good News of Christ, the Lord opened a door of opportunity for me. 2 Cor. 2:12
 
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We often celebrate doors that open for the gospel, but for every door that opens there are doors that also close. Life is full of opportunities that come and go as the Spirit blows among us and moves where He will. We often do not comprehend the movement of God but we know that he is faithful and trustworthy in all seasons and situations.
  
As Walker mentioned in his article my time of service at the PMBA is coming to a close. My tenure at the PMBA as your Community Missions Catalyst has been much more brief than I would have hoped or anticipated. But just because it wasn’t my plan, doesn’t mean that God will not continue to move in new and exciting ways among PMBA churches and also through my life/ministry in another context.
  
I have truly enjoyed my time with the PMBA. I have been amazed and impressed by the tenacity of PMBA churches to fight their way through a global pandemic by faith and work together as the body of Christ. I have connected with so many of you as we served in the trenches together feeding hundreds of people, distributing masks to churches in the community, seeing churches planted, experiencing a revitalization among the Hispanic churches in this region, advocating for growth among the toy stores, and in many other ways that have radiated the warmth of God’s Spirit.
  
I know that this was not an easy decision for Walker and the Leadership Team to make. Giving has been down for a while and they decided that now was a better time to enact the decision to downsize my position. Because of the timing they were able to offer me a kind and generous severance package for which I am very grateful. I plan to use this time to not only investigate new opportunities but prepare myself for my next steps in ministry and in life.
  
While I do grieve my departure, I am thankful for those who have stood by my side through some extremely challenging days and demonstrated tangible love for me. I have learned a lot and appreciate all that was invested in me during my time here. These experiences have not only buoyed me during difficult times, they also serve as a launching point from which I move into a new chapter of my life. I may not know my next steps currently, but God is faithful to guide and place me exactly where He wants me. Please keep me in prayer as I have several important decisions to make as I will continue to pray for God’s blessings upon the PMBA.
 
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With gratitude,
Craig Clayton