What’s In The Box?- by Tom & Jayne

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On Sunday, April 23rd, Journey Church staff baptized a bunch of people.  Yes, the water was a bit uncomfortable, but the sun was out and folks could change out of their wet clothes pretty easily.  We have held these occasions in motels, lakes, pools and watering troughs. As always, our intent is to celebrate a time of new beginning, new chapter or fresh start.  At other venues, we collected tiny pebbles from the beach and placed them in clear jars with a scripture and date.  These little gifts were mementos of this special event, marking a long term commitment. This year, we mixed things up a bit.

Seriously, what’s in the box?
Before the event, we knew we would have a few moments to visit briefly with the candidates preparing to make this public proclamation to commit.  They were going to say in front of God and everybody, “YES!”  They would enter the water one way and come out another!  Really?  Yes!  They were going for a washing, cleansing, bench marking, or time to create a new person.

So how does that connect to the box?
The box had a few dozen assorted rocks, each pretty unique, each with character, lots of symmetry and lots of randomness but totally different from the one next to it.  Some had scars, perceived imperfections and irregularities. Just like we all gather together and find as many differences as we do similarities.  We are just like everybody else but we are an individual, all at the same time.  Hence the Rock.  Participants all picked out a rock.  These rocks represented their lives with all the character, uniqueness, individuality, scars, imperfections and personality, just like us!  The rocks are all different and we are all different.

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Here’s a glimpse inside that mysterious box.  Nothing too special, till they became something extraordinary.

But, here’s the twist…
Each rock had a graceful little ribbon, wrapped and tied in a bow. Contrasting the rugged and scarred surface of the rock, the ribbon nearly sparkled, drawing attention to the color and changing the piece substantially.  It is this same contrast that sets us apart as we begin the process and event of getting better, turning around and learning to walk the walk.  God looks at the rocks and sees the ribbon, the beauty, the special grace, finesse and compassion that covers us like the blood of His Son.  Does he recognize we have sinned?  Yes.  Does he count that against us?  No.  Does He love us regardless?  Yes.  It’s sort of like He lets us fellowship with him because of the ribbon, the grace, the humility or the work of his Son on the Cross that acts as our cleansing agent.

That’s it.
The box had a bunch of random rocks tied with different little bows all represented the individuals.  It’s the dynamic and varied backstory that makes the new story so beautiful.  Well done, those of you that have taken this next step.  Is it over now? No.  It’s only the beginning, of a great big audacious adventure.  Hang on.

Tom & Jayne McCracken

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Thank You- by Tim

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I want to extend a huge THANK YOU to my church family at Journey.

I remember my first Sunday at Journey Church like it was yesterday.  I was scared to death to walk through the doors because of the pain I related to ‘the church.’  I sat in the back left-hand side of Bonfils Auditorium in Troy, MO almost 8 years ago wondering why I was there; not knowing what God was going to do in my heart.

The decision to go started a softening process. This process is still going even today. I was hurt. Hurt people like to sit in their pain. That was me; but that one decision to come to church  (based off an invitation from two kids) has changed my life.

On Sunday, March 26th, in recognition of my five years of full-time service at Journey, I was blessed and honored in front of a church family, who 8 years ago did not even know me.  Today I am proud to say thank you for your prayers, thank you to those two boys for your invitation, and thank you to everyone who saw worth in me when I couldn’t see it in myself. To God be all the glory, the honor, and all of our praises.

Thank You, Family!

Tim

Friend Tim on Facebook or follow him on twitter @timoverstreet1
Follow Journey Church on Twitter @Journey_MO

Planting Seeds & Springtime Gardening- by Tom

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Note the blurry flowers up close. Here, we focus on the big picture and all that is around us.

After three weeks of invitations, commitments and decisions, a metaphor we often use became even more clear to me while discussing the life stories of individuals.  Visiting with each of them, I realized this point in their lives represented more than just a persuasive speech, sermon or alter call.  This moment in time marked the beginning of process based on an event. Jesus and Paul both use the garden metaphor to help understand these abstract internal process with concrete examples from daily life.  This gardening illustration takes on even more meaning as we examine the features of the soil, the seed and the species.

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But here, we focus on the beauty right next to us!

As we enter the spring here in planting Zone 6, we have to still beware of the last freeze.  Putting plants in the ground too soon leads to their demise. Tender seedlings just can’t survive the frozen moisture inside and they die. For instance, if the soil is too cold, the roots will not develop.  Other variables such as loamy soil, clay content and ambient temperatures also influence the tender development.  Likewise, we struggle in our lives to reach a place where the thought of a God willing and able to connect with us.  Too early, and a cynical attitude prevents us from allowing the seed to take hold.  Additionally, our hurts and pains prevent us from valuing any possible connection with the sort of God that allows such struggle.  Finally, a false or mistaken idea of who and what God is bars the way for many people when presented with the idea of a changed life.  Matthew 13 records the parable of the sower and the soil.  It seems like each of us must prepare our heart to get to the next level.  Likewise, seed will be sown.
Sowing seed takes many forms.  Peas benefit when soaked ahead of time.  Tomatoes enjoy a breeze.  Peppers like to touch each other and carrots are pretty sensitive.  Maybe people also need a unique touch to maximize and reach their potential?  The story of the Gospel or the Seed, reaches each of us, individually. Based on our own personal prior experiences, with each of us representing a Garden, ready for planting, ready to receive the seed, and ready to begin growing.
Of the four types of soil, one can imagine some change in topography and condition.  One can ponder the thought that each of us can be hard as a rock, not wanting any part of spiritual matters.  Then after some struggle, a hearer may listen with curiosity and receptiveness, but fails to fully incorporate the Love of God into his life for lack of complete understanding.  After more time and struggle and maybe even exploration, a listener might once again, ponder the deeper spiritual truths but try and balance the worldly life and spiritual life together, only getting frustrated and quit.  Finally, however, after much soil preparation, fertilization, digging, and irrigation through prayer and exposure to other Believers, the Seed, the Word, the Gospel, the Truth sticks! A person receives the Seed and starts a new life.

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This corpse flower has its own growth cycle, as well; blooming after years of dormancy. This picture was taken during one of those rare, nocturnal occurrences in our own St. Louis Botanical Garden!

This new life is the seed, growing into a new plant.  We can easily count the seeds inside an apple but it is impossible to ascertain the apples hidden deep in a single seed!  So, on the moment of conversion, when a person gives up fighting, begins to follow Jesus and is “born again,” he becomes a new creation.  He becomes a believer, growing in the garden, developing new attributes and characteristics, and even changing shape and size. Can he go back?  It doesn’t look like it!  Once a person meets Jesus, he can’t unmeet him.  Once introduced, you can’t go back and un-know someone. Struggle, weeds and obstacles will arise to test, harden, mature and develop the seed of faith along the way but once a believer, you are a believer.  Paul even calls us “God’s field” in 1 Corinthians 3:9.
Then, once the seed starts, the gifts start to mature and develop into the true person God has in mind for him.  Just as many seeds look the same as they begin to sprout, with often a green shoot is the only indication of success, a believer’s life begins with the foundation, building on what was laid, then developing the believers’ unique gifts and talents. God foresees our fullest potential. As a flower blooms best without any help or assistance unfolding the petals, God grows us through struggles and battles so we might develop into a thing of beauty and understanding.
Yes, we are God’s field, for him to prepare our Soil (hearts) to receive his Seed (Gospel of Grace) so we might develop into our unique Species (with Gifts and Talents).  Is it a perfect metaphor?  Does it hold doctrinal truth?  Is it an accurate, although limited description of God?  I pray so.
Tom

You can friend Tom on Facebook or follow him on Twitter @McCraken63
You can also follow Journey Church on Instagram @journeychurch_mo

Drifting Dreamers- by Deanna

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January 1st…as we entered into a New Year, almost all of us had dreams and goals in mind to make 2017 GREAT! As we approach the end of January, I have found myself at times wondering how I am going to execute on the vision that God has given me. On top of it, Satan has already tried to set up camp in my mind to make me believe that my current progress (or lack there of in some areas) is evidence that I might as well just forget about them…there’s always next year.

But then I came across Jeremiah 33:3 which says, “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” What an amazing feeling to know that we serve a God that PROMISES an answer…all we have to do is call out to Him!

When it comes to seeking direction on our next steps or maybe searching for connections to be within our network of accountability, it’s so easy to get overwhelmed and caught up in trying to figure things out on our own. As we get sucked up into a world of distraction, our dreams begin to drift into a heaping pile that quickly gets lost and maybe even forgot about. If expecting to receive comfort, we must obtain it through QUICK and CONTINUOUS prayer.

I love how this verse tells us that God will not only answer our prayer, but He will also show us GREAT and MIGHTY things that we did not know. In reading other translations, great and mighty things is also written as UNSEARCHABLE things, HIDDEN things, and REMARKABLE SECRETS which continues to point out to us that we can’t find the answers we are seeking on our own. A true testimony can only give GOD the glory! Unlike the homeless man on the corner requesting help from bystanders that may or may not throw a piece his way, God multiplies our request with an answer much greater than our prayer.

As you spend time with God, don’t think of your prayers as random messages being sent, because God is intimately concerned with EVERY aspect of our lives. Psalm 56:8 says, “You keep track of ALL my sorrows. You have collected ALL my tears in your bottle. You have recorded EACH one in your book.” Instead, let’s stand firm in the truth that God promised in Jeremiah and be thankful to Him in advance for the reply back!

Deanna

You can friend Deanna on Facebook and follow Journey Church on Instagram @journeychurch_mo.

The Last Time- by Angel

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I have had the absolute joy of being the mom to two phenomenal girls.  This year, our family will experience some more milestones. Our first baby girl, Ashlee, will graduate and move on to college and turn 18 in just a few months. Our baby girl, Emalee, will turn 16 and get her drivers license.  Of course, I have the typical ‘where did time go, how are they growing up so fast?!’ However, I also have the greatest memories and reflections of the last times.

I like to look back at life and remember the good, the bad, the ugly, the sweet, and everything in between.  As I think back over things concerning my girls, I find myself recalling the last times that I do not remember.  When was the last time they needed me to help them take a bath, brush their hair, cross the street, or fix their lunch? When was the last time they needed me to tie their shoes or teach them a new task? I can recall doing all these things but I do not remember the exact moment that it was the last time.

Appreciating moments has always been important to me. I like to soak it in and take a step back to look around. Make a mental note of the smells, sounds, who is present, and what exactly we are doing. As the saying goes ‘time flies when you are having fun.’ This statement is so true. However, I have also found that looking back can show us how far we have come and that too should be appreciated.  I am so thankful I had the chance to teach my girls many things but am equally thankful I no longer have to tie their shoes every day.

I think our relationship with God is sometimes the same way. Think of your walk with Christ. You had to learn how to pray, learn how to tithe, learn how to fully trust on God for everything. At some point, we all learn these thing but we do not always realize it in the moment. I like to think God enjoys these teaching moments but also appreciates when we ‘get it.’ Do not get me wrong, we should ALWAYS rely on God for everything. However, if we take a moment and look back at specific areas, for example when you first began praying (or if you just began) compared to a year later (newbies, hang tight, you will get there.) Another thought would be tithing. Most people who are new to church just give when they are at church. As you grow in your Christianity though, you learn God commands we tithe faithfully and sacrificially. God also uses people in our life to teach us lessons. When we finally listen to him and make a mistake for the last time, I have to believe it makes Him smile.

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I am so thankful I have had the last time moments with my girls, even if I did not realize in the moment that it would be the last time. I am also so grateful to have experienced last time moments in my relationship with God.  I hope this encourages you to look back and appreciate the last time moments in your life.

Smiles,
Angel

You can friend Angel on FaceBook or follow her on Instagram @angelmoonbeam.
You can also ‘Like’ our page @JourneyMO on FaceBook and follow us on Instagram @journeychurch_mo.

FIX YOU- by Danny

Chess king, chess pawn, contrast, reflection,

Don’t you wish it was that easy? I wish I could just say, “Alright, I am no longer going to eat junk. I am no longer going to act selfish. I am going to fix me” and it became so. That’s just not how it works, is it? Habits, addictions, and tendencies are giants that do not fall with words alone. One of the biggest problems with bad habits, addictions, and frequent tendencies is that it becomes our identity. That becomes the only thing we see when we look in the mirror. Others begin to label us as this or that, and that perception starts to overtake our personality. We begin to allow our “needs” to morph us into someone else. Someone we do not want to be. We begin to believe we are going to be trapped in this vicious circle forever.

So … we give in.

We take the road of least resistance and settle into our future.  We accept future of loss and depression.  We saw the potential we once had and now realize that we will never see it become reality so why try.  We say things like, “If that’s who you expect me to be then, that’s what I will give you.” “Nobody is going to give me a chance anyway.” “This is what I deserve.”

Checkmate.

Actions have consequences, but consequences do not have to last a lifetime. First, we need to learn how to find our identity through Christ. That means that I’m not going to live my life or have expectations according to man and what they want. I find my restoration and future in the way Christ sees me. The enemy would have us believe we are just a pawn, but Christ sees us as kings and queens. To have the strength to overcome these hindrances, we first must believe that WE CAN overcome.  We need to see ourselves as Christ see us.  We need restore our self-worth. We need to understand that maybe not everyone is ready to believe in the “new you” and that we can’t let that put doubt in our mind.

One of the most important, if not THE most important thing, is to find accountability. Find a friend, a group, a pastor, or counselor who has your best interest in mind. We give up way too easy on ourselves, especially the older we get. We can achieve greatness at any stage of life, even if we hit a couple speed bumps or get turned around completely. It won’t always be easy, but it will always be worth it to fix you.

Danny

Friend Danny on Facebook or follow him on Twitter @00brooksy
Follow Journey Church on Twitter @Journey_MO

Happy Anniversary To Us! -by Missy

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Little did I know the adventure my life would be when I married Jesse Quiroz 20 years ago today.  You may or may not know that Jesse and I met when I was 15 and he was 14 years old.  I wouldn’t say it was love at first sight but he captured my attention with his witty humor and his bigger than life stories!  I soon fell head over heels in love with this man!  I couldn’t wait to marry him and spend everyday of my life with him.  He definitely hasn’t disappointed; we’ve lived in different states and traveled to many different places.  Always doing what we could to serve others as we both felt from the beginning that we were called to do.  Now, three kids later, surrounded by family and serving our community with a staff and church family that we are in love with, I just couldn’t be more blessed! So in honor of today I thought it would be fun to list…

20 Reasons Why I LOVE Jesse A. Quiroz:

1. Follows God no matter what
2. Love’s Me  🙂
3. Best Dad Ever
4. A Selfless Leader
5. Loves people
6. Family is priority
7. He still makes me laugh everyday!
8. A good looking guy!
9. Loves to have fun
10. Is a Dreamer
11. A laid back guy, unless he’s hungry!
12. Leaves me letters to read
13. Sees the best in people
14. Fearless
15. Passionate
16. He keeps me grounded
17. Good at anything He tries
18. Admits when he’s wrong
19. Doesn’t worry what people think
20. My Superman

As I look back on all that we have done together it only excites me for what we have ahead!  I can’t wait to see where God leads us, leads our family, and this church as we continue to follow Him!  Happy Anniversary to US!

Missy