Finding God's Goodness in Small Things- Olivia Jackson

Recently, I spent much of my morning sorting through the filing cabinet that holds the children’s curriculum for the church. I expected it to be somewhat mundane as filing isn’t usually my favorite activity. But today as I looked through about 5 years of documents I was surprised by what I found. There was evidence of God’s faithfulness throughout the cabinet.

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Our church formerly documented every new visiting family with children through a childcare form that was filed out when dropping a kid off at children’s ministry. As I read form after form of the families in the file, tears came to my eyes. I knew none of these families before 5 years ago and yet so many of them have become the very core and the leadership of our church.

Approaching our Sabbatical has done a few things in my heart. The first is that it has given me a desire for rest. Much of our perspective these past 8 years since planting Trinity Park has been about what’s next. What new obstacle is there to overcome? What vision needs to be pushed forward? What new ministries need to be started? But a call to rest is a call to stop, to look around and be amazed at what God has done. His faithfulness is sprinkled through the pages of the curriculum filing cabinet and throughout the church the He has built.


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Olivia Jackson has been at Trinity Park since 2010. She lives with her family in Cary.

Teaching at the East Asia School of Theology- Powing Tham

Powing’s post is the 5th of several posts throughout the month of March to mark Both Ends of the Rope: Stories from Missionaries and those who love Missions. Here are the last two posts. Some names are withheld or truncated for security.

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As an adjunct faculty member with East Asia School of Theology (EAST), I am sent several times a year to different locations in East Asia where they have set up branch campuses. Last year I was sent to India and China. This past January, I was sent to Chiang Mai, Thailand to teach a course on Advanced Bible Study Methods and Hermeneutics. CRU staff from China had a 3-week conference there. Together with family members, we had over a thousand attendees. My course had 63 students, which was the largest class since it’s one of the core classes that all EAST students must take. Most of the 63 students were taking this class for academic credit with EAST.

This was an unexpected opportunity to teach Chinese students outside of China. To worship the Lord with a thousand Chinese believers was a great experience. I received first-hand information about the on-going persecution of the church by the present government. Despite all this, I saw overseas CRU staff actively mentoring Chinese CRU staff members. The urgency for doing this is clear as the government could expel all foreign missionaries.

I am particularly impressed by the perseverance of some of my students. One couple has a 4-5 year-old child who has a severe physical handicap that requires constant attention. Yet they were willing to take that long journey out of China with their physically challenged child. Others have to struggle with support-raising and pressures from demanding ministry situations. I am humbled that I can play a small part in encouraging and developing CRU staff from China.

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Sending a Child to the Mission Field- Ann Erickson

Ann’s post is the 4th of several posts throughout the month of March to mark Both Ends of the Rope: Stories from Missionaries and those who love Missions. Here are the first, second and third posts. Some names are withheld or truncated for security.

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Missions week at our Birmingham church was the highlight of the year for us. Our family had personal interaction with many missionaries where we enjoyed lunches or dinners with them and as they spoke at numerous meetings, small groups and classes. They gave us cards to remind us to pray for them and their ministries after they left us.

During the year our daughter was in the fourth grade, she interacted (on her own) with a missionary from Asia who gave her a book entitled “The Little Woman”. It was the biography of Gladys Aylward who led 100 orphans over the mountains to safety during WWII. Unbeknownst to us, this story began a love in our daughter for the Chinese.

Fast forward to sophomore year of college where a friend challenged her to go for a short term summer project to China. This is when we learned how she felt about the Chinese people. We encouraged her, as it was only a couple of months and there was college to finish.

After she graduated, we wanted her to go to graduate school, as a Master’s degree was needed to get a decent job in her field. At the same time, she was being led by God to go back to Asia for a two year stint program. At the time, many in the USA were wary of Y2k .....(that is how turn of the century might affect the world). We wanted her in a “safe” place.

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There was a retreat for students interested in this project. She asked us to come to speak to the man in charge of the area she hoped to go to. He challenged us with this : “If God is calling her to go to Asia, he will move you out of the way.” After much prayer, God changed our hearts. She raised her support in timely fashion and reported to the field. For a long time, while she was gone, I couldn’t sing the fourth verse of “A Mighty Fortress is our God” which says: “Let goods and kindred go, This mortal life also: The body they may kill: God's truth abideth still, His kingdom is forever.”

We had to come to terms with the fact that the very safest place to be was in the palm of God’s hand, who not only loved her infinitely more than we could, but also had a clear purpose for her life that we could not imagine. Not freeing her to be His would have been the worst thing we could have done.

One never knows how a child’s heart might be softened by God’s Spirit. It is never too early to expose children to the need for sharing God’s love.

A Heart for North Korea- Annie Jung

Annie’s post is the third of several posts throughout the month of March to mark Both Ends of the Rope: Stories from Missionaries and those who love Missions. Here are the first and second posts. Some names are withheld or truncated for security.

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I have had a heart for North Korea since high school. It’s simply because I stood up when the pastor asked if anyone who would live for their life for North Korea to stand up. From that time North Korea stayed in my heart, whatever I did or wherever I went.

When I had a chance to study in China as a government scholarship student, I thought that God would finally start doing his work on me since the place I went to was very close to North Korea. However nothing happened. And when I went to Vietnam to work, I thought about it in the same way but nothing happened. Even when we had to move to Ireland out of nowhere I thought about it. I thought we would be missionary over there or something.

I try to evangelize my family, friends and neighbors in daily life. I believe I was a missionary, I am a missionary, I will be a missionary wherever I go and whatever I do.

I believe there will be a reason God made me be there to stand up for North Korea. Maybe one day I will be in North Korea helping kids there. I just have open mind to move there if God wants me to.

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Growing up on the Missions Field- Laurel

Laurel’s post is the second of several posts throughout the month of March to mark Both Ends of the Rope: Stories from Missionaries and those who love Missions. The first post can be found here. Some names are withheld or truncated for security.

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“What was growing up there like?” I hear this question often when I tell people that I grew up overseas. We moved to Russia when I was 10 so that my parents could respond to a clear calling from God to work as missionaries to a very unreached Muslim people group in a relatively rural area. When I hear that question, I usually respond with a diplomatic answer that simplifies things.

If you were to ask what my experience of God was, or how to support people overseas, so many thoughts and strong emotions come up. Our experience did not align with the expectations for missionary life. In the 6 ½ years that we lived in that small city before moving to Moscow, there was no visible “success.” No new believers, no progress in the Bible translation that we prayed for. My family strived to be faithful even when at the time, and even now, it’s hard to understand what God was doing during those years. In the midst of that time, when a team member had been hit continuously with chronic pain and illness, she said, “God’s whole purpose in bringing me here may just be to pray for this people group.”

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I think I learned in those years that people’s efforts, our efforts, couldn’t do much. My parents could learn language to fluency, memorize culturally appropriate ways to share God’s story, and build close relationships, and that does not ensure anything. Those we loved most and longed to see receive salvation died. We felt the heaviness of spiritual attack in our personal lives. It is tempting to see this as failure on our part, or lack of love on God’s.

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In the past eight years since leaving the area, I’ve been involved in a prayer network for the people groups in the area where we lived. We’ve prayed very specific prayers and have seen God work in specific and incredible ways. Near the city where we lived, a house church has started up, led by men of that people group. Bible translation projects that were put on hold for years suddenly received the right person on the team to move things forward. Individuals received dreams and sought answers that led to Jesus. The majority of the time, the people praying were not the people involved. The people group that has had some of the most astonishing Gospel breakthroughs has been prayed weekly for by a handful of people in a rural Baptist church for over a decade. There is still so much deep darkness in the area, but God’s work is also clear.

I come away from that time with a strong certainty that I do not understand God’s ways. I cry out to him with questions, and remind myself that he has revealed himself as loving, and that our heartbreak over the world and those who live without him pales in comparison to his.

I also believe that God has so much more power than humans have.  The formulas I have for effort turning to results have been refuted in so many ways.

Lord, let us turn to you and rely on your strength as you direct us. Do what we cannot do, and help us to see your work.


Legacy, rope holding and missions - Charity Starchenko

“Our undertaking to India really appeared at its beginning to me somewhat like a few men, who were deliberating about the importance of penetrating a deep mine, which had never before been explored. We had no one to guide us; and whilst we were thus deliberating, Carey, as it were, said, “Well, I will go down, if you will hold the rope.” But, before he descended, he, as it seemed to me, took an oath from each of us at the mouth of the pit, to this effect that “whilst we lived, we should never let go the rope.”

Andrew Fuller, Founder of the Baptist Missionary Society, to his friend Christopher Anderson

Missions month is one of the best times of the year for me in church life. I consider missions to be one the most remarkable church phenomenons: a group of people who are so outward facing that they send someone to bring the gospel to people they’ve never met or seen. I’ve loved this since I was a child, first for the adventure of it, but now as an adult where I sense the urgency of missions- and the support of them-as a vital part of the result of living a life transformed by the gospel.

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As a child, my one of my earliest memories of church is a world map that took up almost a whole wall at the church my grandfather pastored. Pins with strings attached to pictures of missionaries pierced every inhabited continent. When my grandfather retired from preaching, my grandmother told me that he never took a salary from the church he planted when I was 8. Instead, everything he would have made went to pay for the rent of the small community hall they rented each Sunday, and the rest went to missions. This one small church, made up of mostly retired senior citizens on fixed incomes generously supported dozens of missionaries to all parts of the world for many, many years.

My grandparents are both nearing the end of their long obedience. They still pray for the missionaries they supported, and pray for the unhindered spreading of the gospel. They’ve never let go of the rope they picked up many years ago. Their legacy to me is a love for the gospel, a love for missions, and an outward facing love for people of all nations. They are the rope holders that William Carey envisioned, making it possible for people to take the good news of Jesus’ incarnation, His life and death, His resurrection and His coming again to people and places who don’t have it. Part of why I serve on the missions team of because their example helped transform me into a stakeholder in the spread of the gospel.

With all their great grandchildren in Statesboro, Ga, 2012.

With all their great grandchildren in Statesboro, Ga, 2012.

As we head into Missions Month at Trinity Park, our theme this year is Both Ends of the Rope: Stories of Missionaries and those who love Missions. The missions team hopes that as a congregation we arrive at the end of this month with a better understanding of what it means to be a rope holding investor in the spread of the gospel and to better understand the personal cost and privilege of holding the end of the rope. The Lord is moving among the people of the world, and he calls us to go with Him as he moves. So which end of the rope do we hold?  

Hospitality: The Missing Ingredient- Mike Hall

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.

- Romans 12:12-16

 

Over the years, I have been involved in a number of different evangelism programs. All of these programs have increased my desire and skill for sharing my faith with others. Yet despite the value I have derived from these programs, I have found that alone they were insufficient to equip me to successfully share my faith. I felt as if something was missing. The missing ingredient that I was longing to find was the simple act of hospitality.

Photo by  rawpixel  on  Unsplash

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Practicing hospitality is encouraged in the Bible. Verses like 1st Timothy 3:2, 1st Timothy 5:10, Titus 1:8, Hebrews 13:2, and I Peter 4:9 combine with the verse from Romans 12 above to create a powerful picture for how believers should both order their lives and how they should connect with those who don't know Christ. Despite its practical importance, however, hospitality can easily get lost in the business of our everyday lives. I believe it is time for us as believers to re-appropriate this special grace God has put at our disposal.

If we are to effectively practice hospitality, we need to understand exactly what it is. Hospitality is not the same as fellowship. Fellowship is enjoying the company of like minded people such as those with whom we share a common faith bond. Hospitality, however, is opening our homes to people who are strangers to our faith. This means making sacrifices of time and treasure in order to make ourselves available to those who don't know Christ. This is the kind of evangelism we see Christ practicing throughout the gospels and this is the kind of evangelism that puts its money where its mouth is. Hospitality and fellowship are not always mutually exclusive but if we consistently forego hospitality in order to enjoy fellowship then we are going about it the wrong way. Fellowship is priceless and necessary but it should never come at the expense of hospitality.

Photo by  Antenna  on  Unsplash

Photo by Antenna on Unsplash

So where should we start? It could be something as simple as establishing a weekly community meal, or shared holiday experience. It could be hosting a game night or establishing a food train for a sick neighbor. It doesn't have to be fancy or fussy, it just has to be genuine. People will much more notice the warmth and openness of your home than its state of cleanliness. Don't let another week go by without earnestly asking the Lord to give you an opportunity to open your home to those outside the church and then act on the opportunities He gives. You might just find that the simple act of hospitality is the missing ingredient that you have been longing for.

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MIke Hall lives in Cary with his wife.

Reflections of a Pastor about his Church- Andy Ew

I love being a Pastor at Trinity Park! I often tell my friends from seminary how much I love serving here and that there’s no place I’d rather be. Sometimes I get this look of disbelief because, sadly, there are many pastors who struggle and are unhappy where they serve. However that hasn’t been the case for me. My family and I were so excited when I was called to be Assistant Pastor. Having served for almost 4 years in this church, my enthusiasm and excitement have not waned. There’s so much that I’m excited and grateful for in this church especially the identity and the values that we hold. This is what makes Trinity Park Church such a blessing to me and my family.

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We are a Gospel-centered, Bible believing church, preaching the Gospel faithfully regardless of what our culture dictates. I appreciate how sincere and committed we are to preaching the Word each Sunday in a world that tries to diminish and disregard it. At the same time in our preaching, we also try to teach people how to live out the Gospel in their homes, workplaces, and schools.

We are a church that genuinely loves having children in our worship service. Anyone who walks in to our auditorium will quickly notice that there’s a lot of children in our church. I love that children are welcome to worship with us on Sunday morning and while some go to children’s class, some will sit through the the service. This can get pretty noisy but our congregation understands that this noise is a genuine reflection of what a family looks like.

We are a church that reflects the diversity of our community. One of the reasons I loved Trinity Park Church was for its cultural diversity. I love working with people from different cultures so it was an easy choice for me to accept the call to pastor here. It’s a beautiful sight each Sunday to look out and see people from all over the world worshipping together.

We are a church that welcomes cultural diversity both in our congregation and our leadership. It’s not easy for a minority to be a pastor in a mostly white denomination. While many churches desire greater cultural diversity in their congregation, there’s often not much action to diversify leadership in the church, and it’s refreshing to see a church like ours breaking the norm to hire me. Not only that, we’re very intentional to consider and train every capable and gifted person in the church regardless of their color to serve in leadership roles.

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We are a compassionate, loving community who cares deeply for those in crisis. Shortly after I started working at Trinity Park Church, my wife and I experienced one of the greatest challenges our family has ever faced. Our oldest son was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). There were a lot of uncertainties and confusion as we considered his future and for us as parents. As I look back on this moment, I’m incredibly grateful to our church who walked with us and still walks with us through new challenges and victories. This beautiful church family is one of many provisions God has given us to supply the special needs of our family. As I can testify to this commitment of love and care from our church, I know many others have also experienced this special care in their own trials.


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Andy Ew is associate pastor of Trinity Park Church. He lives in Apex with his family.

So, the Winter Retreat, Eh? Drew Wilkins

Whether it was camping trips with a church group, traveling with a choir tour, going overseas with a mission trip, or joining up at the beach with several hundred other teenagers, youth trips have always been milestones in my walk with God.  On such trips I have been pushed physically through hikes, repels, and white-water rafting, mentally through study and memorization, relationally through skits, pranks, and late night fire-side conversations, and spiritually through prayer, reflection, discussion groups.  Really the setting wasn’t what mattered all that much, but rather the act of stepping out of my usual environment, hanging out with grounded people, and spend time exploring, playing, and having adventures in the context of God’s Word and Christian community.

Photo by  Ethan Hu  on  Unsplash

Photo by Ethan Hu on Unsplash

In fact, it was immediately after one such event filled retreat that I first thought about God’s call to ministry.  I had spent the week meeting new people, attempting to stay up all night, playing ultimate frisbee, singing my lungs out in worship, learning that I really can’t play the guitar, working on service projects, and considering why the “Imago Dei" mattered, and as I squatted on the bricks with my backpack and sleeping bag thinking it all over and waiting for my ride home I thought to myself, “Man, I wish I could do this kind of thing every year!”  Immediately at that point my youth pastor walked across my field of vision, and I thought, “ok, I’m listening Lord.”

 But whether you get called into ministry or not, and whether the thought of a long car ride with a dozen teenagers gets you pumped or makes you nauseous,  the fact remains that taking time away from your usual life and stepping back to consider God’s Word and your soul is always a good and fruitful thing. Coming up in a few weeks we’ve got Trinity Parks’ very first youth group Winter Retreat, and I would challenge you to come along or send your teenage daughters and sons.  We’ll be studying 1 Tim. 4:7-16 and considering the role of Spiritual Training in our lives, road-tripping, playing late night in-the-dark games, burning fires, having snowball fights (it could happen!), playing board games, and doing all the ridiculous things that happen on retreats!

 Don’t pass up this opportunity to step into the beauty of God’s creation, dig deeply into the gospel, have an awesome time with friends, and generally refresh your soul.

SIGN UP FOR THE WINTER RETREAT HERE!

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Drew Wilkins is the Pastor of Youth and Children. He lives in Morrisville with his family.

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Who’s Called to Be A Deacon? By Corey Jackson

2019 is a year of officer training at Trinity Park. If you are a member of our church you are invited to nominate men for the offices of elder and deacon during the month of January. Some of you may be wondering what character qualities to look for when nominating someone for the office. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions I’ve received over the years during the nomination process about the office of deacon.

Where do we find the office of deacon in Scripture?

In Acts 6:1-7 as elders were overwhelmed as they attempted to meet both the word and the deed needs of the church. So in Acts 6, seven men were chosen and ordained to be the first deacons. These men - importantly - were full of wisdom and of the Holy Spirit. They were called to lead the church’s deed ministries so the elders could keep their focus on teaching ministries.

What are the qualifications for the office of deacon?

Along with Acts 6 we have a more specific description of qualifications in I Tim 3:8-13:8 Deacons, likewise, are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. 9 They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons. 11 In the same way, their wives are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything. 12 A deacon must be the husband of but one wife and must manage his children and his household well. 13 Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus.

Similar to the office of elder, the vast majority of these qualifications have to do with godly character. But we also find another important qualification is in verse 9: “they must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience.” Like elders, the doctrine and faith deacons keep is vital.

One common misconception to avoid when considering who to nominate for the office of deacon:

Some people think if you are a responsible business man who’s able to manage the physical and financial resources of a corporation, then you’re qualified to be a deacon. But while being responsible with corporate resources certainly doesn’t disqualify you from being a deacon, it also doesn’t qualify you either. The Diaconate is not a committee of men dedicated to maintaining building and budget, they are a fellowship of spiritual leaders called to care for the physical needs of God’s people.


So, what questions should you ask yourself when you’re considering who to nominate for the office of deacon?

  1. Is this person able to care for the practical needs of the church through deed-oriented service?

  2. Can this person lead Trinity Park to make sure we are ALL serving one another well?

Would you send this person to represent God’s church by helping someone in a physical or financial crisis?


Photo by  Carolyn V  on  Unsplash

Photo by Carolyn V on Unsplash

Nominating Elders- Corey Jackson

2019 is a year of officer training at Trinity Park. If you are a member of our church, I invite you to nominate men for the offices of elder and deacon. Since nomination month began, you’ve asked great questions about how to think through your nominations. Here’s a few of them along with my answers.

What’s an elder?

An elder is someone who is called to serve a local church in the areas of shepherding, teaching and overall leadership. They’re primarily called to pay attention to the God’s Word (the Bible) and make sure the people of the church are growing in their knowledge of the Word and the practice of the Word. Elders in Presbyterian form of government serve the church together in a group called the Session.

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Where can I find the qualifications for the office of elder in the Bible?

I Timothy 3 and Titus 1 list seventeen qualifications for men who are qualified to serve in this office. You should take time to read those passages before you nominate someone for the office of elder or deacon.

Of the seventeen qualities listed, fifteen deal with character and two deal with theological understanding or teaching ability. As Timothy and Titus were planting the first churches, they were looking for men whose character was being shaped by the Gospel. This means character is EXTREMELY important as you consider who God may be raising up to be our next elders.

Also, look for men who understand the doctrines of the Bible well and who are capable of teaching others. Anyone who's nominated for the office of elder (or deacon) must study and be examined regarding their Christian Life, Bible and Theology so we can be sure they’ll shepherd us well in this vital area.

How many types of elders are there?

There are two types of elders in the New Testament: Teaching Elders and Ruling Elders.

In I Tim 5:18 we have the most clear reference to Teaching Elders. Here Paul says “those who give themselves to the work of preaching and teaching are worthy of ‘double honor.’” ‘Worthy of double honor’ is a reference to Teaching Elders, men who make their living by teaching God’s Word in the church. At Trinity Park Andy, Drew and I are your three Teaching Elders.

Ruling Elders are men who are called to shepherd God’s people in God’s Word alongside Teaching Elders. The qualifications and responsibilities of Ruling and Teaching Elders are the same. The main difference is that Ruling Elders serve the church - not as paid staff - but alongside other important vocational work God has called them to do.

Here’s one common misconception to avoid when nominating someone to be an elder: Some people think if you are a capable, successful businessman, then you’re qualified to be an elder. Being successful in business doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be an elder, but at the same time it also doesn’t mean you should be an elder. Don't look for someone who is successful in industry; look for men who love Jesus and who love to teach others about him.

Here are 3 questions to ask yourself when nominating someone for the office of elder:

  1. Is this person able to shepherd (spiritually care for) people well?

  2. Is this person called to teach God’s Word?

  3. Would you feel good about sending this person into a sensitive family or personal situation-to listen well to someone well and then speak God’s Word into their life?

If you would like to nominate a qualified man to be an elder at Trinity Park Church, send your nomination by email to Corey Jackson at Corey@trinityparkchurch.org

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Corey Jackson is the senior pastor of Trinity Park Church. He lives with his family in Cary.

Looking For God In The Little Things- Jessica Halpin

Spiderman shot his web on my ceiling. No lie. My son has an oversized Spiderman toy that propels silly string. The first time my husband loaded the web shooter, it sprayed our ceiling and left a lovely blue stain. I rolled my eyes and huffed dramatically about my beautiful new house receiving an imperfection. But after the dust of my initial frustration settled, I could let it go and laugh. Laugh at the mental snapshot of my husband's face as the web exploded. Laugh at my kids' delightful giggles watching Spiderman at work.

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Years ago, I read 1,000 Gifts by Ann Voskamp. Through this excellent book, I learned to look for God's gifts in the almost unseen details of the day. The ways He expresses His love for me, because He knows my heart. He formed it after all.  Ann encourages readers to keep a journal open on their counter, desk, or whatever surface they frequently pass, and jot down gifts as they're noticed. The key is to be looking for them. 

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My pages are filled. Once you start, it's easy to see how much He offers. Gifts like the emotion music brings, warm clothes from the dryer, crows feet on my husband's face when he laughs, the way the road reflects the sun after it rains. Looking for God in the little things helps bring my focus to the moment and appreciate the beautiful life He's given me, rather than see the overflow of dishes in the sink, or hear the stomping of my child's feet as he heads for the time out bench.

God wants us to look for Him throughout our entire day. He tells us in Isaiah,  "I would not have told the people of Israel to seek Me if I could not be found." (45:19b). He is here, in the details.

And so, Spiderman, no hard feelings.

How to Feel Deeper Through Literature- Kari West

“Good stories make us feel differently and more deeply about the things we’ve known all along,” said Dr. Jonathan Rogers at a recent guest lecture I attended at Southeastern Seminary. In light of his succinct summary of how great tales can enlarge our souls, I wanted to share quotes from five of my favorite novels. Each story can help you feel more deeply about something that perhaps you’ve known all along.


1. How to feel deeper about the hard right choice: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

“I will keep the law given by God; sanctioned by man…Laws and principles are not for times when there is no temptation: they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigour; stringent are they; inviolate they shall be. If at my individual convenience I might break them, what would be their worth?”

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2. How to feel deeper about loving your enemy: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him. I think it’s impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not love them the way they love themselves.”

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3. How to feel deeper about the world to come: Peace Like a River by Leif Enger

“I moved ever higher on the land, here entering an orchard of immense and archaic beauty. I say orchard: The trees were dense in one place, scattered in another, as though planted by random throw, but all were heavy trunked and capaciously limbed, and they were fruit trees, every one of them. Apples, gold-skinned apricots, immaculate pears. The leaves about them were thick and cool and stirred at my approach; touched with a finger, they imparted a palpable rhythm…

The place had a master! Realizing this, I knew he was already aware of me—comforting and fearful knowledge. Still I wanted to see him. The farther I went the more I seemed to know or remember about him—the way he’d planted this orchard, walking over the hills, casting seed from his hand.”

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4. How to feel deeper about ordinary, well-lived lives: Middlemarch by George Eliot

“…the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.”

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5. How to feel deeper about loving your neighbor: Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

“There is no justice in love, no proportion in it, and there need not be, because in any specific instance it is only a glimpse or parable of an embracing, incomprehensible reality. It makes no sense at all because it is the eternal breaking in on the temporal.”

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On Photography, Silent Contemplation, and the Image of God.

I’m a photographer. While I photograph weddings 99% of the time, I have a strong interest in capturing people and their stories, and an equally strong interest in street photography- basically photographing what’s happening on the street as I walk by- always with a focus on people. So in the spring, I went to the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke to see a small exhibit of street portraits taken in Italy just after WWII. Around the same time, a caravan of migrants was making its way through Mexico toward the US Border. There was a lot of strong emotions in the media about this caravan with equally strong opinions. I found it all rather upsetting and noisy- like white noise from an old TV and that background noise makes it hard for my restless soul to find rest with Jesus as Augustine says.

From my collection  Together but Alone, New York, 2018

From my collection Together but Alone, New York, 2018

It was silent in the museum, and I live with very little silence in my life. When I get a few moments of it, I make the most of it. As I moved through the exhibit I thought about how I would never meet these people in the images- I’m sure most of them have passed on by now. But I felt a certain sense of solidarity in the fact that we were probably a lot alike: they loved their families, they went to work, they struggled. Most of them had lived through bombings and food shortages- more than I might ever experience in my small suburban life.  

From my collection  Together but Alone, New York, 2018.

From my collection Together but Alone, New York, 2018.

The silence allowed me to visually get to know these people, and then, on the way home, to think through this time we live in where people just trying to survive have somehow become a threat, and how the voices opposing them became so loud and why God allows these things to occur. I think the answers might never come on earth, but I’ve come to the conclusion that perhaps the Lord honors the questioning and deep insecurity I feel about it all.

From my collection  Together but Alone, New York, 2018

From my collection Together but Alone, New York, 2018

For me, the power of photography is in its silence and stillness- that freezing of a fleeting moment in time. In the silence of a photograph, I’m forced to confront the beauty and tragedy of a shared humanity and our shared need to be known and loved and valued. When I see the faces of people in a photograph, whether or not I’ve taken it, and regardless of whether they’re part of a migrant caravan or a person of infamous note in the world, I’ve learned to see them as people created in and bearing the image of a holy God, searching for hope and for life and freedom, just like me. It’s been an experience in which God has been perfecting love and my faith to cast out fear of what a person might be and focus on who they truly are.

Photography has instilled in me compassion, the ability to lean into hard things, to ask difficult questions for which there might never be answers and to be ok with the possibility of that. The practice of photography as art and business has built my faith in a way that augments my experiences in church or community group. It gives me the ability to live in the world and hold onto Jesus in a way that I couldn’t have imagined for myself before I ever picked up a camera. I’m less fearful of most things and people and a little more bold when it comes to building relationships. I’m thankful for the eight years I had with my business, and I’m hopeful that the Lord will take me and my camera into new challenges of showing the gospel to people visually in the future.

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Charity Starchenko came to Trinity Park in 2018. She and her family live in Cary.

Serving in the Women's Ministry- Abi Spears

It’s so hard to believe that another year for Women’s Ministry is coming to an end! It has been my privilege to serve the women of Trinity Park again this past year. From our women’s retreat back in March to our bowling and winery nights, and with our spring bible study and triads this fall, there have been many precious moments among old and new friends. I’ve been so thankful for the opportunities with each event and bible study group to meet so many of you and to connect on different levels. God has truly blessed us with many wonderful ladies at Trinity Park!

The October Women’s Winery Night.

The October Women’s Winery Night.

The new year will bring many changes for the Women’s Ministry Team. Our group has always been a combined team of events, inreach/outreach, discipleship, and coordinator under 1 umbrella. But as our church grows, we strive to grow and change with the needs of the women.

We have 1 more event before this year is up: our Women’s Christmas Party on December 7! I hope many of you will join us to celebrate good food, fun games, and Christmas carols. This will be a great opportunity to engage deeply with other women at Trinity Park, to build friendships, and enjoy a fun holiday evening!

Our Annual Women’s retreat in March.

Our Annual Women’s retreat in March.

In 2019, there will be 2 umbrellas under Women’s Ministry: 1 for shepherding and 1 for events. These 2 teams will correspond with each other and serve the women together. But they will both focus on their individual tasks. The names of the women on these new teams will be posted soon. Please join me in prayer for these teams, that the Lord would give wisdom to both teams in these new roles, that our church leadership would be wise as they move forward with developing and changing ministry towards women, and that the Lord would be glorified in all these things.


I will miss my role in serving the women of Trinity Park as part of the Women’s Ministry Team. But I’m so thankful for the opportunities I’ve had the past few years. All praise to God!

Learning about Prayer from Eugene Peterson- Clay Shelor

On October 14, 2018, I read that pastor and writer, Eugene Peterson, had entered hospice care and was near the end of his journey on this earth. He entered into the presence of his Good Shepherd just a few days later on the 22nd. Though I had never met Peterson, I was deeply saddened to hear of his death and felt and enormous indebtedness for the things I learned from him.

Eugene Peterson and his wife Jan

Eugene Peterson and his wife Jan

Through his little book, “Answering God,” I learned the simplicity, beauty and joy of praying the Psalms. Why the Psalms?

“If we are willfully ignorant of the Psalms, we are not thereby excluded from praying, but we will have to hack our way through formidable country by trial and error and with inferior tools. If we dismiss the Psalms, preferring a more up-to-date and less demanding school of prayer, we will not be without grace, but we will miss the center where Christ worked in his praying. Christ prayed the Psalms—the Christian community was early convinced that he continues praying them through us as we pray them: "we recite this prayer of the Psalm in Him, and He recites it in us." (page 4 quoting Augustine)

From “Eat this Book,” I was stirred in fresh ways to read the Bible, not to accumulate facts and theological data, but for my very life itself.

“Christians don't simply learn or study or use Scripture; we assimilate it, take it into our lives in such a way that it gets metabolized into acts of love, cups of cold water, missions into all the world, healing and evangelism and justice in Jesus' name, hands raised in adoration of the Father, feet washed in company with the Son.”

As I am now reading his translation of the Bible, “The Message,” I am often startled and amazed at the big picture of creation, fall, rescue and new creation that Scripture tells. I am amazed yet again at God, who is "so good! His love never runs out” (Psalm 107:1, MSG), at the wonder of the gospel, that "The Word became flesh and blood,  and moved into the neighborhood” (John 1:14, MSG).

Some of his final words just before death were, “Let’s go.” 

So I thank God for the faithful life of Eugene Peterson and how he has brought me back again to the beauty of Scripture, the wonder of the gospel of Jesus, and the astounding promise and joy of praying Scripture. I’m forever grateful. 

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Clay Shelor is an elder at Trinity Park. He lives with his family in Cary.