Category Archives: Church

DCA to SAP

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One non-refundable ticket purchased. Washington Reagan (DCA) to San Pedro Sula (SAP).
I’m going. I’m going! I AM GOING!!!

This fall, I am traveling to Honduras with a small group from my church! We will serve at Heart to Heart Children’s Village (www.h2hcv.org), a home and school to about 90 children and youth, ages 2-20. The children come from the streets, undernourished, abused, and unloved; H2H changes their lives by raising them in a Christ-centered family atmosphere. It is my heart’s desire to spend time with these children, serve them tirelessly, and pour love upon them, though I have been warned it will be me who receives from their abundant goodness.

Christ called us to go into the world and share His love. I believe that when we serve and care for the “fatherless and the widow” as He commanded us, He is able to minister to us in our own brokenness. You already know I feel called to go. I want you, also, to be present and active in this work if you desire, so I plan to share the journey here, on my blog.

Please join my friends and me in praying for our group as we prepare for and embark on this trip. Let me know if you want to join my prayer team so I can count on you and pray for you, also.

Current/ongoing prayer needs:
– complete healing for my shoulder and knee to be prepared for the physical demands.
– that I am able to raise the balance of the $1,600 financial requirement for the trip. (If you want to participate financially, let me know. It would help tremendously!)
– for one more person to feel called and empowered to join our group. (Is it you?)

I am thankful to all those who will take this journey with me. I truly believe that through this experience of blessing others, God will bless us in ways we never expected!

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My Sermon

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I preached it, Sister! I brought it! Okay, really, I just shared the message at my church’s services while our pastoral staff was away. This was no fire-and-brimstone, but a responsibility to share with my church family what was on my heart. Given the spirit-filled pastors I have known in my life, this was a big role to fill. What I shared is far more humble. The opportunity was a treat for me, combining two things I love: writing and public speaking. (Kudos to my high school English and Speech teachers for the gift of both.)

Since preparing for the sermons consumed most of my recent blog-writing time, it seems only fair for me to post it here. My sermon notes, if you will. (Heeheehee – I still can’t believe I got to be the preacher.) Although this was initially for my church family, I humbly submit it to you, my blog family…

Sincerity of Faith

Good morning! My name is Leslie Vorndran. I am one of your lay leaders. I’m a mother of two, a wife. I’m currently a stay-at-home-mother. I’m an avid book reader, an art lover, an amateur cook, a dog owner, a terrible gardener, a blogger. Oh yeah … I’m a Christian.

Recently, I was making plans with a friend of many years. We met long ago during college, ended up on beach vacations and at late night parties together. As life moved on, we celebrated at one another’s weddings, baby showers, and housewarmings. But on a recent weekend, she mentioned our plans might be interrupted because she would be at church. Church? All these years, we have been “friends” through life’s biggest events, never suspecting we shared the same faith, the same core values, the same belief in our redeeming Savior. But why didn’t we know this crucial detail about one another? I suspect that’s because neither of us had been brave enough to name-drop the very Name of God. Without realizing, we had not been sincere to our friendship or ourselves.

Looking around, and in the mirror, I see people who are very, very blessed. We live in beautiful homes in close-knit communities. We cheer loudly for our local sports icons, from the Little League to the professional baseball team.
Don’t even get us started on our favored political groups. Left vs. right, red states vs. blue states, the elephant vs. a donkey (?). We love to speak out, argue vehemently, and cast votes for our sides.
We are so passionate about our careers that discussing what we “do” becomes what we talk about, how we introduce ourselves. If someone asks a prodding question, we happily delve deep, talking on and on about the work we do and who we know.
Talk and talk and talk. We create opportunities for talking: get togethers for coffee, girls’ night out, book clubs, conference calls, networking events. When the spoken word fails us, we email, text, tweet, status-update and, in the all too rare case, write letters. We love to communicate, to talk about issues, resolve conflicts, catch up, encourage one another, complain.

I’m right there with you. But what are we talking about? How much of ourselves are we actually sharing with one another?

This blog is just another opportunity to “talk” more if you will, though I started it to get some thoughts out of my head and challenge myself to be more forthright. One of my blog posts ended up touching a chord with a lot of folks. I shared a personal story of a new friend I met at the pool. She and I have spent the past few summers exchanging pleasantries, chatting without ever really talking. This year, when I was stuck in a sling following shoulder surgery, she shared the truth behind some health issues she was facing. It wasn’t until she and I broke down the nice-to-meet-you barrier of our homes, jobs, and children’s activities that we found a deeper connection. A sincerity of friendship.

The response to that posting got me thinking more about it. I have found that what we don’t usually talk about in our community is our faith. The very part of us that brings us hope, that which carries us through the hardest times and binds us together in the good. Like the old children’s song, we hide our little light under a bush. Those who enter our homes, who have a place in our hearts, may get to learn about our spiritual selves, but how many of our neighbors know upon Whom we built our faith? They see us leaving the house Sunday mornings, so we assume they know where we’re headed. We certainly don’t discuss God at work, where we might lose hard-earned respect, position, even the opportunity for upward mobility. Then there’s the social networking. Do we use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, the blog-osphere, even Email to promote the Kingdom of God? For me, Facebook is a tool for connecting with others, be it my family, friends from grade school, or even the new friend I met last week. I used it to plan my high school reunion, announce the birth of our daughter, and RSVP to a wedding. I share pictures of my kids via Instagram; my husband filters his news through Twitter. Social networking. More talking. And another place to talk about everything, except our faith.

A couple of years ago, I went out on a limb and mentioned on Facebook something about my faith. This was a big deal to me, since many of my “friends” were work colleagues from whom I hid my faith, connections from a time of my life I had very little faith, and new friends who I knew held very different views from me. I risked ruining a lot of relationships in making myself known. But the opposite happened. Once I shared a little, I was encouraged by others holding the same beliefs, other followers of Christ. With this new confidence, I shared a little more and more over time. Here’s what happened. I didn’t lose out on any relationships, but rather I was given new relationships, deeper relationships. People I had known for years now felt comfortable expressing their faith with me. I have been blessed to watch their faith journeys, to grow along with them, to be challenged by their walks with Christ. Built on the sincerity of our faith, on our unity in Christ, my relationships have grown from acquaintances and social connections to friendships of the heart, a family with whom I pray.

In Galatians 3:23-28, Paul talks about this unity in Christ, calling us “children of God.” We no longer need to identify that which separates us from one another: religious background, social status, or gender. We are one in our faith. We need only to reach out and talk about it. But here’s the cool part. It wasn’t only Paul who spoke of our unity. The night before His crucifixion, Jesus actually prayed for us, for all believers, that we would be unified. And through that unity, that the world would know His Love.

Paraphrasing John 17:20-23 a bit, we are told Jesus said, “My prayer is not for the disciples alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as You are in me and I am in You … so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that You sent me and have loved them even as You have loved me.”

So, let me ask you a question: How do you define your community? In and around our town, across the country, on social networks, at work, in Honduras or Ethiopia, in your own home, or is your community in this church sanctuary? When you are surrounded by your community, do you catch yourself being reserved, hiding your faith “under a bush,” or do you speak out, share with others what God has done in your life, offer encouragement or prayer, and share His love so that others might see Christ in you? I am the first to say, I do not do this enough. Not even in my own family. I privately pray for extended family members, that they may come to know Christ, that He will soften their hearts to the freedom and joy that comes from knowing Him, but I choke with fear and timidity before I can talk of spiritual matters with them. And these are people I love; imagine how terrified I am of sharing my heart with colleagues or strangers!

But how can we ever be unified if we don’t know one another, truly know one another?

I challenge you, me, all of us in this together. Let’s speak out. Be unified in God’s love, His amazing grace. Let’s call on His strength and boldness to share His love, His name with our community: our town, our mission field (wherever that may be), our families, and one another right here in this church. Let’s pray with one another, encourage each other in Christ, and live our faith so others might see and believe the gift we have already recieved. My guess is that as you – as we – begin to live faith more boldly, more sincerely, we will find our relationships are unified in a Love deeper than we ever imagined.

Celebration on the Horizon

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Some folks turn forty without a second thought. My husband will likely try to get away with such craziness. Not one for public acknowledgement or parties in his honor, he’d rather allow his day to pass quietly, like any other day. I learned years ago that if I want my day celebrated, I need to “manage up” and give him ideas. Which begs the question… What DO I want for my fortieth birthday? How do I want this next year to go down in my personal history?

I’ve thought about the usual suspects: a weekend getaway with my mom and sisters, a cruise with my family, maybe even a return trip to Paris. I’ve explored options outside of my comfort zone like inviting my mom and sisters on a three-day walk for breast cancer. Noble, yes, but not quite “me.” In fact, for all the fun celebrations I dreamed up, none of the ideas felt inspired.

When my oldest sister first tipped “over the hill,” we girls celebrated together with a weekend of shopping, wine, and pampering at the Ritz. It was a time to honor the coming of age for all the women in our family: the birthday girl, our sister and myself, as well as our beloved mother who raised us so gracefully. We four take every opportunity to weave our bond as tightly as possible; being together for this milestone was no exception.

My middle sister marked the occasion more solemnly. She had recently faced a health scare and was as thrilled to celebrate life itself as the four decades behind her. The four of us gathered at a friend’s vacation home for time together, a few tears, and a lot of laughter. The birthday girl then returned home and hosted a joy-filled autumn harvest party with dozens of her family’s closest friends.

Just before my 39th birthday, my mind was preoccupied with what I would do during the coming year to make it special. Something to make me feel more mature, like I found my place in this world, like I was finally a grown-up. That’s when God spoke to me, directly to my heart.

Missions. Go.

At the age of 16, I heard God ask me to serve Him through missions. I felt a tug (pull, yank) on my heart and I answered Him. Yes, I’ll go. When the time is right. But first I needed to finish high school and start college. Then I didn’t want to miss a semester, so my commitment would have to wait. After I graduated from college, I was too busy proving myself to the world to bother with God, much less missionary work. When I finally settled down and found a church home with my new husband, the topic of international missions seemed as foreign to our relationship as the languages I had never learned.

For twenty years, I watched friends go on short- and long-term trips all over the world. Surely they were better prepared than me, holier and more righteous. And perhaps I was mistaken all along. Maybe I had been a sappy, heartsick teenager who just imagined the “still, small voice.”

This time there is no mistaking. Missions. Go.

For my fortieth birthday, I will ask my family to give me the gift of the opportunity, to care for my children, to support my husband as I go. I’ll ask my friends for the gift of prayer as I seek God’s direction for the place and time (please, Lord, not much longer than a week away from my daughters). I will finally fulfill the commitment I made decades ago and admit that forty-year-old me will never feel like a grown-up, I’ll never find my place in this world until I take that first step: Go.

Visiting My Sunroom

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I hate meeting new people. There, I said it. Meeting people terrifies me. Networking is my husband’s idea of a good time; the very mention of it gives me a headache! He actually signs up for this stuff, gets all giddy at the opportunity to meet-n-greet. (Shudder) Sometimes, he takes me along to meet his connections and friends. Just the idea of going is usually enough to start me whining, complaining (loudly), and bickering (louder). It’s rather embarrassing, really, the level of discord I create when my inner self is screaming “I don’t wanna go!” Grow up, Leslie.

Ironically, I actually love getting to know people. I thrive on finding connections and building relationships. It just takes me a while. But when I do, watch out! If I make a friend at any given event, I can chat with that one person – and not have to meet anyone else, hooray! – all evening. I’m looking for Real. Someone who is willing to set aside their plastic networking smile, squint their eyes just so, and crack the door to their soul, where Real lives.

One of my favorite rooms in a person’s Real self is the space they reserve for church. In most of us, church usually isn’t front and center. More like a sunroom, a pretty little room tucked in the back. Guests don’t get to see it upon arrival, but only after visiting other spaces: the family room, the homey kitchen, perhaps even the messy playroom. Then they see Church. What a delightful addition to an already beautiful space.

Where the fun lies isn’t just in discovering we both attend church, and where, and how long. Real gets real when we open the cabinet and display WHY we go to church. No, I don’t actually ask that of anyone. Honestly, I’ve not really asked it of myself much, until a recent hiatus from my own church left me feeling down, isolated, and without direction. Several weeks passed before I recognized my feelings and, subsequently, the source. To be honest, I rather enjoyed those first few weekends of productivity and long, luxurious mornings with my family. But as I began longing to return to our Sunday morning routine, I examined my motivation for attending church.

God: The most obvious. If I am going to follow His commands, I cannot pick and choose which I will follow. I will share His message of love, I will raise my children to know and respect Him, I will offer Him my gifts, I will keep His day holy by reserving time for worship.

Community: Christ said where two or more are gathered in His name, He would be present with us. He prayed for all future believers, that we would be unified in His name. In other words, God gave us to each other. Time and again, I am blessed and encouraged after spending time in fellowship with other believers.

Free childcare: Nursery, Sunday School, other adults guiding our children to think about others, to be quiet and respectful, to love one another. My oldest daughter cried when children’s choir ended for the year. “It’s my favorite activity all week,” she lamented. Not because she socializes and eats dinner with her friends, but because she loves singing about God. Her soul has found freedom and joy in learning words to praise her creator. I pray our children always have such a strong desire to be embraced by the church.

Quiet: If we allow it, a peaceful sanctuary can be just that to our bodies, our souls. Like Jesus calming the storm, His house can quiet the everpresent noises of our lives and calm even the busiest hamster-on-the-wheel. Sometimes, I sit in the pew, look at the pastel-colored windows, and simply breathe in His presence. It is in that space He restores my soul.

Family: For better or worse, we are assigned our biological families. We have a little more choice in our church family, but the members often serve similar roles, for better or worse. And, like with our relations, we can choose to grow in love despite our imperfections. We can also bless one another abundantly in that love. The ties that bind us together are strengthened when a fellow church member voluntarily steps into a supportive role typically reserved for related-family. A meal when we are ill, a ride when we cannot drive, a baby shower when no family lives close, a simple hug when our mother is not near. Family cannot be replaced, but the holes can be filled to overflowing by the love of a church family.

Service: I love to be needed; I need it. To that end, the world has needs! One of Christ’s last commands while He walked the earth was to go out into all the world, sharing His love. No simple task for an individual. But standing side by side with our church family, we are able to further His kingdom here on earth. Make meals for the homeless, teach the children, provide supplies for the needy, build homes for orphans. What blessing we receive when we give of ourselves to bless others!

So, why do I go to church? Sure, my husband gets to meet new people and I get to build relationships. But that isn’t what gets us out the door Sunday morning or to committee meetings and events throughout the week. Initially, my husband and I wanted to be with God, to walk with Him in our lives and our marriage. We sought a place of quiet refuge from our busy lives. We had children who we chose to raise in the Christian faith. We became part of a family who never lets us go. We started to serve and found joy came from the work of it. We discovered that the more we learned of God, the more real He became in our lives. The more we gave of ourselves, the more freedom we had to truly live. The more we spoke of His love, the more we loved all of those around us.

Church. That small room kept off to the side of our Real, visiting only on Sundays, at best. Perhaps it’s time to renovate, to rearrange it, or even move it to the front room of our Real selves.