Tarrying Grief (Poem)

Painting for dad

It’s only been a few months since I saw you last.
Seems like it’s been longer since the day you passed.

I’m trying to remember your last words before departing from this place.
I didn’t realize it would be the last time that I would see your face.

I want to pick up the phone and call you for one of our little talks.
Then I realize you won’t answer and my heart wants to stop.

My eyes look for signs of you and sometimes feel you near.
Then I realize you’re with God and not actually here.

Sometimes I gasp for air in moments of tears and grief
Then our family receives a painting and their love brings relief.

I wonder how the reunion is going up in heaven above.
Do you see all the others who believed in Jesus’ love?

Are you busy praising God like the scriptures say?
What’s it like to be there in His presence on this very day?

My view from here is skewed but my perspective hasn’t changed.
I will tell others, if only a few, about eternity set for days.

Jesus came to save our soul; no other gospel is true.
God’s redemptive love poured out upon the likes of me and you.

Kim Thomas
June, 2018

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will no longer exist; grief, crying, and pain will exist no longer, because the previous things have passed away. Revelation 21:4

Our Lord and God, you are worthy to receive glory and honor and power, because you have created all things, and by your will they exist and were created. Revelation 4:11

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Power of Influence

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Have you ever considered the power of influence or ever thought about how much influence you have over people?

While researching a few women in the Bible, I noticed the amount of influence they had on the people around them, particularly their husband and community. Here’s one example I found in 1 Kings regarding Jezebel.

No one else so completely sold himself to what was evil in the Lord’s sight as Ahab did under the influence of his wife Jezebel. His worst outrage was worshipping idols just as the Amorites had done-the people whom the Lord had driven out from the land ahead of the Israelites. 1 Kings 21:25-26 NLT

Other translations read; urged on by his wife (NIV), pushed by his wife (The Message), his wife incited him (ESV/NASB/HCSB). 

Jezebel influenced her husband into idol worship. I think Ahab knew better but allowed his wife to influence him. He should have seen it coming since Jezebel was all about Baal worship, the false god that her father worshipped. However, King Ahab allowed the influence of his wife and devoted himself to do what was evil in the Lord’s sight. Later in 1 Kings 21:29, we see Ahab humble himself before God in true repentance.

Have you ever noticed that influencing begins in small forms and increases? You are either heading toward God with a godly influence or heading away from God with a worldly influence. Because the direction of the influence is a gradual process, you could be in way over your head before you realize it and heading in the wrong direction. Attitudes and addictions don’t happen overnight, it’s a process.

I recall a time in my life when I did not follow God. I followed the ways of this world and suffered the consequences of my bad decisions. Amazingly, God provided more grace than I deserved during that time since I made all my decisions based on worldly influences around me. I had accepted Christ as a teenager, but had gone my own way in my 20’s. Looking back, I can see where I suppressed the Holy Spirit and chose not to follow God.

This broke my mother’s heart. I found out after her death that she and my sister prayed for me during those years and I had no idea. Prayer is such a powerful tool so be encouraged to continue praying for those who need God in their lives.

I came back to God after 25 years and now my decisions are based on God’s leading and his Word. If you are a Christ follower, then you understand that we are here to further God’s kingdom and to be influencers for Christ.

Consider these three things with me regarding influence:

1. We have a great amount of influence. Influence over our households, children, work, church, and community. We need to be careful how we use our influence.

2. We are always influencing someone. Jezebel not only influenced her husband into idol worship she also raised a daughter, Athaliah, to be just like her.

3. Becoming a godly person is a process of allowing God to influence us. That’s why it’s so important to read your Bible and spend time with God daily so He can influence you and in turn you can influence others for God.

Spending time with God in the morning to start your day will have great influence on you for the rest of your day…and life.

In the morning Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I please my case to you and watch expectantly. Psalm 5:3

He Is Your Life

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So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective. Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life—even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life. When Christ (your real life, remember) shows up again on this earth, you’ll show up, too—the real you, the glorious you. Meanwhile, be content with obscurity, like Christ. Colossians 3:1-4 (The Message)

When I consider the passage above, I am reminded that we are to die to our old self and live in the newness of Jesus Christ. This is a choice, even though the Holy Spirit guides us, because we can choose to grieve the Holy Spirit and live in the old self. I find that sometimes I want to put on the old self. Anyone else? Our nature is to satisfy self and live in our desires. This is how the world lives and we see it everywhere every day.

I love how the Message translation reads “so if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it”. So true….actions say a lot don’t they? Pursue the things over which Christ presides is a perfect way of telling us to pursue godly things. I don’t always feel like reaching for my bible first thing but when I do, I am the one who is blessed. I am the one who benefits from spending time with God. Then I find like the next verse that I am not self-absorbed when I do spend time with God. I think about others and I seek to help others just like God would do. I am able to be a vessel for Him and be used in ways that only God can use a person.

If I am dead to my old life and my new life is real, then Christ is my life. Of course, this is not referring to physical death it’s referring to spiritual death. However, I want to share something about physical death. In my position at the church, I am the Director of Congregational Care and Adult Discipleship. In the role of congregational care, I help to care for people who are sick and hurting and some of the sick die. Being with those who are believers when they die, those are holy moments. You feel an assurance and presence of God in those times. I was at the bedside of my mother when she went to be with God. It was beautiful and something I will always cherish. She had fought a long battle with cancer and it was time to go be with God.

On May 15, 2015, my husband and I were driving home from dinner and we took another route home instead of our usual. This two-lane road did not have shoulders and it is a road with a few hills. It’s a pretty drive and it was a nice evening, still daylight around 7:30 pm. We came over a small hill to see two cars in front of us and it was evident they had just collided. There was a car in front of us and we stopped. We jumped from our cars to see it was a horrible accident, a head-on collision. Pieces of the cars and items from the cars were strewn everywhere. One of the drivers was coming in and out of consciousness and the other was unresponsive. We could not get them out of the cars because the cars were too mangled. All we could do was call 911 and try to put out a small fire under the hood of one of the cars. You can imagine our relief when the fire trucks showed up to make sure this situation didn’t get worse. That accident didn’t end well for one of the victims and a 28 year old woman was pronounced dead at the scene. This has affected me and like most traumatic experiences and I am changed.

My perspective is fresh and my purpose is clear—we do not have time to waste. There are people out there who do not have a relationship with God through Jesus. I know that I cannot and do not save people, that is God’s job alone and I am not judging this young woman’s salvation because only God knows a person’s heart. But I will tell you that following the accident, I could not find evidence of God in her life when looking at social media and family comments. A memorial service was held at a Universalism Unitarian Church and this tells me there is confusion among her family regarding Jesus. All roads do not lead to heaven only the path through Jesus Christ. I am praying for her family as they grieve and for a real saving knowledge of how to receive eternal life.

So what are some ways we can share Jesus with people we barely know? May I suggest putting on Christ every day and living out the Christian life by putting on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, accepting one another and forgiving one another. Above all, the scriptures tell us to put on love—the perfect bond of unity (Colossians 3:12-14).

Pray for opportunities to share Jesus with others and God will give them to you. And if you chicken out at the time of opportunity, pray for another opportunity. I have found God to be faithful to give second chances and third chances and so on and so on.

Here’s a thought, next time you are at the store, notice the person who is at the register. Make time to have a one to two minute conversation about them. I have found that some are quiet and don’t want to talk but many are eager for someone to ask them something about them. They have to say things like, “did you find everything ok today?” and if you respond with a question about them such as “how’s your day going” or “how are you today”, I’m always amazed at how people want to share. We just don’t take the time in our busy all about me world to ask a simple question. So think about making yourself available at an inconvenient time to listen to someone else by acknowledging them. Nothing makes a person feel more valued that someone spending time with them and often times, it only takes a minute or two. This is just one small way to show God’s love to people and you never know the impact it could have on a person. You may just be the only person who seems to care that day.

So don’t shuffle around with your eyes to the ground
Absorbed with the things in front of you
Look up, be alert and make yourself found
Be the person God can use.

By the Door

Old Rivers Family Photo (2)

If you asked my mom who is in heaven above.
Who was the first man I ever did love.

Mom would share a little story of when I was young.
How I would wait by the door; looking for him to come.

With my face against the glass; waiting to see him arrive.
Then get excited and giggle as he pulled in the drive.

Daddy’s home from his service in the Air Force that day. Dad collage (3)
His arrival meant a greeting; toss me up in the air and play.

I loved my Daddy coming home to me.
This little girl grew up loved by her daddy you see.

Many years and memories have all since passed.
The love of my dad will always last.

And now dad is arriving to a new kind of home.
Where Jesus said I’ve prepared a new place to roam.

A house with many rooms as far as the eye can see.
That’s what is waiting for those who believe.

Not to mention the people who have all gone before.
They will be there waiting by the door.

This time I won’t be by the door waiting for dad.
But Jesus will, He will be there and for that I am glad.

I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture. John 10:9

In Memory of my dad Terry Rivers

Dad collage (4)
October 29, 1941 – March 27, 2018

Kim Thomas
March 2018

 

 

The Rest of My Story…New Church Home

Blue Mound UMC

I am so excited!! We made a commitment to join as members of Blue Mound United Methodist Church on Sunday, November 19, 2017.

Blue Mound pic with Jacob Fields

Pastor Jacob Fields, Kim and Doug Thomas

We’ve been seeking a new church to call home and we finally found it. Funny thing is, we actually found it a year ago and didn’t know it. A year ago, I was still employed at another Methodist church where we were active members. However, we attended a wedding at this quaint little church last October and fell in love with it then. When my employment ended earlier this year, we started seeking and visiting churches. There are many good churches out there, but it’s sort of like looking for a home and you know it when you find it. Our new church reminds us of a small church we once attended.

Now keep in mind I’m not one of those who loves only small churches. There are many benefits to small churches. However, I love all that comes with a growing church. It’s very exciting to see a church congregation grow and to see people use their spiritual gifts and talents to further God’s work and kingdom.

In today’s reading of God’s Word, I came across 1 Corinthians 9:1-27. There were a few verses that really jumped off the page to me such as verse 14, In the same way, the Lord ordered that those who preach the Good News should be supported by those who benefit from it. Let me ask you something. Are you supporting your Pastor? I know for a fact that the congregation I just joined is doing so. They completely love him and will make sure that he and his family are taken care of. How do I know this? I can tell by the way he preaches. In verses 16-19, Paul explains that preaching is not something he can boast about, he is compelled to do it, and says how terrible of him if he doesn’t. Paul goes on to say that even though he is a free man, he has become a slave to all people to bring many to Christ.

My new pastor has the heart of a preacher like Paul. I barely know him. But what I do know after having a meal with him, having coffee with him, hearing him preach a dozen or so times, is that he is called to share and preach Jesus Christ and does so beautifully. I am praying for his zeal to continue to share the gospel each week and for many to come into a relationship with Jesus Christ.

I’m super excited to see what God does in this little congregation as I’m expecting an abundance of unprecedented growth. I believe it to be true that wherever Jesus is preached, people will come, and the church will receive more.

This message is not new.

People are drawn to the gospel.

They come to church seeking.

There’s nothing more powerful and life-changing than the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

All are welcome to join us Sunday mornings at 10:45am.

I do everything I can to spread the Good News and share in it’s blessings.
1 Corinthians 9:23

 

 

 

Church Work is the Hardest Work

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My husband’s grandpa served as pastor for approximately 45 years. Grandpa Thomas knew adversity and had overcome several obstacles during his life. He was a strong yet tender man and he had a saying that I remember him saying several times; “church work is the hardest work”.

I didn’t understand what he meant at that time, but I certainly do now. You see I worked on church staff for six years as the Director of Congregational Care and Adult Discipleship in the Methodist Church. I came on staff after being a member of my church for five years. I don’t have a seminary degree, I just have a heart to serve Jesus. I’ve led Bible studies for many years and do my best to be a faithful and obedient servant and apply the Word of God. I have a wonderful husband and family and they support me in whatever I want to do and wherever God is calling me.

I have contemplated and prayed carefully over this post. I have sought God to be sure this honors Him. The purpose of this writing is to help others who either work in the church or care about the behind-the-scenes activities in the church.

I want to express love and respect for those I served and those I served with on staff. I believe there are many who are serving on church staff who feel isolated and alone on their journey. My hope is this will help those who are currently working in the church to feel understood. I also hope that this will help those who love the church and want to support their church staff.

From my experience on staff, I found that not many are willing to publicly share their journey of working on staff in the church. It seems taboo to speak of the happenings inside the church and quite frankly, I’ve heard church members express that they don’t want to know what is going on behind the Sunday morning experience. They don’t want to know the politics of running a church or the business aspect of making it happen from week to week. Some don’t want it to interrupt their spiritual experience. If that’s the case, don’t read this post and I completely love you anyway.

This is primarily written for the men and women who show up and do the work of a church staff person. They are not ordained or appointed ministers. They are quiet servants who may or may not have their pictures published in the church bulletin, newsletter, or website. However, they are the ones who make the work of the church happen. They care, they pray, they tithe to their workplace, they live ministry every day and often feel no one cares, no one sees, and no one notices. They know that ultimately, they do the work for God. This gives them fuel for a while.

Until…

One day they start to realize they are tired and their energy is depleted and they start to wonder if it’s all worth it.

They want to continue but they are tired.

This is where I found myself.

And there’s a name for it…ministry burnout.

My journal entry dated February 1, 2017 ~

I am thinking about leaving the church. No, not the church in general, but the church staff position in which I serve.

I have had it.

I am burned out.

I am done.

I have given nearly six years of my life and it feels like 60.

So, what happened to the excitement and passion I felt at the beginning of this journey? Let’s go back and see how it began.

~ The Beginning ~

I started working in the United Methodist Church as Congregational Care Coordinator. I remember so vividly the excitement of my first Sunday on staff and thinking how cool it was to get paid to love on these people. I even told those closest to me, “I get to talk to people for four to five hours on Sunday morning and someone pays me to do this.” I thought, what gives? This is awesome! I love listening to people, caring for them, and hearing about what is going on in their lives. This is the greatest job ever!!

~ One month later ~

I was asked to take on the role of Adult Discipleship. You know how it goes when a church staff person leaves and someone must fill the job because there isn’t enough money to hire someone specifically for that role. I said “yes” with one condition, that I would not allow myself to become so overworked that I would neglect myself spiritually or physically. I saw what happened to other staff persons. I recall very specifically persons who did not take care of themselves as they worked themselves to death caring for others. I did not want that to happen to me so I expressed that I would not neglect these areas of my life. I did not feel God was calling me to be a martyr in this way.

Now as I look back, I see such wisdom in those words.

If only I would have applied them.

~ Over the years ~

I don’t know many times I sat with loved ones who were grieving.

I don’t know how many funerals I organized/attended.

I don’t know how many people I helped in the way of benevolence.

I don’t know how many Bible studies/classes I led.

I don’t know how many people were affected by the ministries entrusted to me.

What I do know is that I found myself right here in this place of being completely done.

Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30

~ 2017 ~

I want to share my journal with you to show you some of the crazy roller coaster of emotions I was dealing with in trying to make it work. One minute I was thinking I can do this and felt inspired and the next minute, I felt defeated and done. During this time, I was praying, spending time with God, reading my Bible, and meeting with a prayer partner.

My journal entry dated January 1, 2017

I reposted something from Facebook today that resonated with how I am feeling.
Look, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Isaiah 43:19

My journal entry dated February 6, 2017

Today, I feel like…I can persevere through this tough season. I am just so overwhelmed with leading three classes and having trust issues with certain people. I find myself thinking that change is coming.

My journal entry dated February 12, 2017

This Sunday morning before going to work, I had a conversation with my father-in-law and told him that I may be experiencing ministry burnout. He is a very wise man who loves God and the church. He told me that if my joy is gone, then it’s time to leave. He is right and so I’m praying and asking God if my joy is gone to the point of being time for me to leave. This is where I will spend time seeking God and see where it leads.

~ The Rest of the Story ~

I’ve been praying and seeking God about what to do. After a time, away with some of the staff at a conference, it is becoming clearer to me. I feel a pull toward leaving. One staff person gave me permission to do what is best for me. In some ways, this is liberating.

A few weeks later as a new organizational chart is being put in place. I want to say “yes” and I try to say “yes” but as soon as I do, I feel sick to my stomach.

The Holy Spirit is telling me “no”.

I don’t want it to be no, so I thought I’ll just “fake it till I make it”.

It didn’t happen.

My yes on Friday turned into a no on Monday. A few things that spoke to me during that time; God’s Word in Matthew 5:37, But let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes,’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no’, a daily inspirational message, my devotional, and wonderful Christian friends.

 

Devo 2.27

Sometimes it just comes down to that deeper whisper within that says, “Uh-huh yes.” Or a simple, “No, not that.” God has woven into us the ability to discern what is best.

A friend reminded me that my calling is bigger than any workplace. My calling comes from God and He will use me no matter where I go. This was a good reminder and one that I knew, but it takes good friends to remind us during these times. The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense. Proverbs 27:9

 

I gave my notice and it was not really received that day, but I had settled the matter with God and in my heart. After a few more days, it became official and my last day was March 31, 2017.

Some of the things I learned along the way was just how much God was moving and acting on my behalf. A series of events took place in order for me to leave and there is not one person to blame for my leaving. Honestly, I was just stubborn and didn’t want to leave. I loved the congregation and I loved my job, but I was tired and it was time. I recall thinking about those stubborn Israelites who didn’t want to move when God said move and I was no different. The staff and congregation were wonderful to me and gave me a very nice good-bye.

In looking back, I have often thought about what I could have done to prevent burnout. Here’s my list of recommendations:

  • Take a sabbatical.
    • I believe taking a sabbatical would have made a huge difference for me. If you are in a position of caring for people, it doesn’t matter if you are ordained in ministry or not, you must take time to be away and rest. Even Jesus did this and we read about it in Mark 6. Jesus had to get away in the boat to a remote place and rest.
  • Don’t say “yes” to everything.
    • I could have said no and kept better boundaries. Responsibilities in the church can multiply especially when members/volunteers come and go. The ministries continue and often staff is expected to continue what a member/volunteer started.
  • Take your days off.
    • Don’t work on your days off unless it’s an emergency. Put an on-call schedule in place and really take your day(s) off. Unplug and don’t check your email on your phone on your days off. This is hard because our smartphones are killing us by the way we can never unplug. We are meant to unplug.
  • God, Family, Work.
    • This was meant to be the priority for all and even for those who work in the church. We preach it to people and church staff are the first ones to break the rule. If you see your family life start to suffer, take steps to change it right away. For me working too many evenings and weekends took too much time away from my family. They never complained, but I can see where they made sacrifices over the years. Keep the priority of God, Family, Work. I know God didn’t call me to sacrifice my family, if anything, it’s my first ministry above any other ministry entrusted to me.

Commit your actions to the LORD, and your plans will succeed. Proverbs 16:3

Some of you my fear losing your job if you put some of the above recommendations in place. Let me remind you what Proverbs 29:25 says, Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but trusting in the LORD means safety.

Looking back I can see the hand of God moving me to a place of rest and I’m grateful that I am able to rest. I miss the people I served but I love how God is moving and stirring. In some ways, God has brought me full circle and if I had not had this experience on staff, I would have missed it.

My calling has not changed, just the vehicle in which it happens. I am called to help people move from a place of religion and tradition to a relationship with Jesus Christ. I have a special place in my heart to help women in their relationship with Jesus so I am going back to work on the book I started, Spiritual Makeup Bag, Beauty from the Inside Out. Who knows where it will go or if it will go anywhere. The only thing I do know is that I feel God calling me back to this book project of helping women find time each day with Him and learn how to care for their soul while caring for their skin and applying makeup.

Jesus said in John 10:10b, I have come that they may have life and have it in abundance. Jesus came to give us life and not just life eternal, but abundant life here on earth. We are meant to thrive! Thrive is the word God has given me for this time in my life and it is exactly what I plan to do in this next season.

I’m praying you will thrive too!

This post is being released on August 9, 2017 in honor of Reverend Doyle “Bob” R. Thomas who gave his life to church work. Bob was born on August 9, 1923 and entered into rest on October 1, 2000. His last sermon was based on Isaiah 41:10, Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with My righteous right hand.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Christmas Prayer

He came that beautiful night in the form of a babe;

He lives today in the hearts that obey.

He knows your name and every little thought;

He loves you in a way that cannot be bought.

This gift of grace and love that lingers

Came wrapped in cloth with tiny fingers.

His presence that night brought far away men—

What a story it is and a way to begin!

It doesn’t stop there; it goes on, you see,

For Christ came and died just for you and me.

May your eyes be open to see the wondrous love

Of the Savior who was sent from heaven above.

May your ears be in tune to the beautiful sound

Of the voice of the Savior whose love abounds.

May your hearts receive hope that your Healer is here;

He has never left you and His presence is near.

May you know you are loved beyond any measure,

For Christ came that night because you are His treasure.

Good news and great joy, as the angels proclaimed,

The birth of the Christ child, in a manger he laid.

My hope and my prayer for you on this day—

May you see God’s love in a whole new way.

Kim Thomas

For the angel said to them, “Don’t’ be afraid, for look I proclaim to you the good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David”. Luke 2:10-11

Mornings with God

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 O Lord, hear me as I pray; pay attention to my groaning. Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for I pray to no one but you. Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly. Psalm 5:1-3

 

Like the Psalmist David, have you ever found yourself groaning and crying out to the Lord first thing in the morning? If you have, you remember exactly the time and place in which it happened. To wake up and already feel so desperate for God that you start with groaning and crying is a tough place to be. I recall a time when something was so heavy on my heart that I woke up each day burdened by it. I would give it to God before going to bed, only to wake and have it heavy on my heart again. I learned very quickly to survive the day, I had to give it to God first thing in the morning.

My son struggled in school during his first grade year. He was tested and the outcome was unknown for his future. I was desperate for God. I needed his guidance, discernment, and peace to survive each day. I sought God and prayed hard all during my son’s school days. I was in a Moms in Prayer group where I learned how to pray and pray is what I did all through the years. My son graduated high school and those days are now gone. He has grown up and turned out to be a fine young man. However, his future is still somewhat uncertain and I still get up each morning and pray.

This situation created a pattern of seeking God first thing in the morning and it is vital to my soul. Without my morning time with God, my day isn’t the same and rarely goes well. Some days I have time to sit and read for a long time and some days are a few moments in a devotional. I give all that I can give in the morning and pray for all that burdens my heart each day. Sometimes things work out well and sometimes they are not so well, but I’m well because of time spent with God in prayer.

macy-levi

I started writing this devotion few years ago when our family had a moment of grieving together. We had to put our family dog of 12 years down. I had never heard my son groan and cry with such emotion. I can’t tell you how many times I prayed for my son to have the same life experiences as his peers. This may not make sense to you if you’ve not experienced having a child who has struggled in these areas. However, I’m a happy mom because my son knows how to love well and grieve well. What more could a mother ask…well maybe for him to take his requests to God each morning then wait expectantly like the verse says so I’ll keep praying for that each morning.

But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them sing joyful praises forever. Spread your protection over them, that all who love your name may be filled with joy. For you bless the godly, O Lord; you surround them with your shield of love. Psalm 5:11-12