The gift of a small church family

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And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25 (ESV)

Dear Hazelwood Church,

Almost 6 years ago (16 June 2013) Mike and I walked into Hazelwood PCA in Waynesville, North Carolina and sat down for Sunday School.  You all greeted us with warm smiles and interest.  Starting that Sunday morning, God thrust us into your midst and you drew us into your lives.

Now as we head on to the next God-adventure, we are filled with gratitude toward God and to you, this tiny but vibrant outpost of saints in the beautiful Smoky Mountains.

Looking back, I clearly see how a small church family is uniquely structured both to love and to sanctify its members, provided each allows himself to be stitched into the fabric of the family. Hovering on the periphery is NOT conducive to receiving the Father’s purifying love.

Here are several ways you loved ME well, working symbiotically with the Father to sanctify me.  (Mike, too, received your love, trust, and support in many ways!)

  • You trusted me by welcoming my experiences and passions. I like to teach, to read and to pray.  Patrick, our pastor, allowed me to offer two workshops (one on contentment and one on prayer) to the women of the church.  My monthly submissions from different on-line ministries were always included in the monthly church newsletters.  You, the body, supported initiatives to publicize weekly prayers for church-funded missionaries, for Muslims during Ramadan and for God to open the hearts of the French during several spring campaigns.
  • You challenged me to move a bit more OUT of my selfish inclinations (I’m an Enneagram 5!). Sometimes I felt ‘guilted’ to attend a function, like the monthly potlucks. In keeping with transparency, I don’t like to go out at night once I’m home from work.  I went to my first women’s circle one night about 15-16 months after our arrival.  It went on TOO long, in my opinion.J The next meeting was the annual December supper meeting.  Thanks to God’s sense of humor, I found myself volunteering to take on the ministry of facilitating those monthly evening circle meetings.
  • You then allowed me to move the focus of our small group of gals to a book study and prayer time. Yes, some of you ‘grumbled’ a bit about having to READ something else, but all in love.
  • You corrected, challenged, and (when you felt led by God) rebuked me for my good. You also cried with me and prayed with and for me.
  • You allowed me to get to know the ‘real you’ by sharing your pain and your needs. Inviting me to pray for you gave me a sense of participating in your lives. Then when God DID come through by answering our prayers, my faith thickened and deepened.  I saw MORE of God and how good He is.
  • Just as these past 6 years of teaching in a school with colleagues of diverse beliefs broadened me and grew my compassion, so did living in your midst. Getting to know ‘small town’ folk with roots and older believers grew my appreciation and understanding of God’s love of variety. God exposed me to courageous men and women who suffer ill health and aging issues with dignity, faith in God and cheery smiles.
  • Finally, but not less significant, those of you whom I found a bit annoying at times were intentional GOOD gifts from God for my sanctification. I’ve known for a while that just as in the friction of marriage, the differences between friends, close neighbors and colleagues (ministry or job) are meant for our growth toward being like Jesus.  They are part of our Father’s individualized, curated, and planned course in His ‘School of Sanctification’.  Here’s a humbling supposition:  maybe ‘Aggravating Andy’ will remain a nuisance until I, Maria, have learned from my unholy reactions and thoughts how displeasing I have acted and how sinful/displeasing my responses have been.  If the Father’s will for my life is growth in holiness to be like His Son, then He will repeat the necessary lesson until I pass that section.  And it might be at the expense of ‘Aggravating Andy’. (disclaimer – I have no one in mind when I use that sobriquet!)

So, dear church family, thank you for embracing me and drawing me into the local body.  Thank you for earnestly wanting to know me, even the annoying parts!  Thank you for your love.

Mike and I have never before been prayed for and ‘commissioned’, sent off to be ‘missionaries’ to any people group.  But that is what you did this morning by means of Patrick’s prayer and the reception you gave us after the service.  You are sending us out from little but power-filled Hazelwood PCA, nestled right up against the Smoky Mountains in Waynesville, North Carolina to go and serve the people of northern Alabama in Huntsville.  God has equipped us well in these past six years to take the Good News of His Grace and make it known far and wide, yet up close and personal with our presence.  We will pray to discern His leading in selecting a new church family.  We don’t want to disappoint you or our good God.  So, continue to pray primarily for our ‘obedience in faith’, by grace.  We will pray for you as well.

With much love and affection,

Maria & Mike Cochrane

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

1 John 3:2

What are you holding on to?

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cell-phone

“Go ahead, cancel it!” I decided, after hesitating somewhat.

On the phone with Verizon, I took the plunge and dropped the insurance on my iPhone.

My husband once read to me from a book on risk assessment how the mind works counter-intuitively.  Because our cars come with airbags and we buckle safety belts before releasing the brake, we take more risks as drivers.  If a knife were imbedded in our steering wheel with its sharp point aimed at our chests, we would drive more cautiously.

So it is with owning a cell phone without insurance.  Wherever I am or go, my eyes swivel, or my hand reaches for my pocket.  I make every effort to keep track of that trusty companion.

Hebrews 10:23  Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.

If my iPhone, which is designed to become obsolete and wear out, calls forth such intentional care and surveillance on my part, what about my blood-bought faith and inheritance from God?

  • Does how I cling to Jesus provide even a bit of evidence to the world about what I really value?
  • Am I AS vigilantly committed to protecting my faith as I am to protecting that electronic device?
  • How does my love for Jesus and desire to live daily in union with Him translate into behavior?
  • Do I strive to stay alert to catch His signals and please Him?
  • Am I as quick to turn to the Bible to search for His promises when I have a problem, as I am to Google a solution for a sticky situation involving my cell phone?

Sometimes it’s the questions that motivate me more than my certainty about something.

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