Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Memories of Oregon

This is the first chance I have had to sit down and blog about my trip to Eugene. What a week! Christ Fellowship, the church we partnered with during the week, was absolutely incredible. I think Highland is one of the best, most Spirit-led churches I have ever attended and I mean that in all sinerity, but this small congregation possessed a fervency and vitality that touched my soul. These precious ones of God longed to passionately make the name of the Lord renowned. I was totally humbled, and convicted by the simplicity of the lifestyles of the ministry team which included several couples from Highland. Matt and Sarah Lynn Grubb, Corey and Stephanie Jackson, and Mindy Cecil Mendenhall left Abilene in May of 2001 to join Tony and Elizabeth Denn and their five children to plant a church in Eugene, which happens to be in the most unchurched county in the country. The couples that make up this amazing team long and yearn to glorify God in all they do. I will never be the same as a result of the week I spent in Eugene.

To those of you who know me well, it is no surprise that most of the memories I will take with me forever from our time in Eugene will be the relationships I established. I was blessed to spend one night in Matt and Sarah Lynn's home, there I got to spend some quality time with them and their two kids, Enoch and Indie. Matt and Sarah Lynn were cherished to me while they were in school at ACU and it was so good to reconnect with them. They are truly in pursuit of the heart of God and their lives are full of beautiful fruit. I love you both so much!

Another precious family I had the pleasure to meet were the Denns. Tony and Elizabeth were two of the most generous, most authentic, and most humble people I have ever met. This couple gives of themselves tirelessly as they serve and live for the Lord. Liz, TJ, Annelisse, Wynter, and Adeline, the five Denn kids, were so much fun to get to know and love. I was absolutely humbled when we were invited into their home for TJ's 12th birthday where I witnessed something very special. After opening his gifts which consisted of a bow and arrow set and a dart board from his parents and an arrowhead, a book, and a worm made out of clay at the Art Camp from his sisters, TJ went to each of them and threw his arms around his mom and dad and thanked them perfusely. He then went to each of his sisters and hugged them so warmly to thank them for the gifts they had sacrificially and generously given. As a gift of thanks, the Highland team gave him twenty five dollars to spend and you would have thought he had won the lottery. These illustrations of generosity and such incredible love for one another moved me to tears. I have never seen a group of siblings have such respect and genuine love for one another. Tony and Elizabeth have done an incredible job to raise five children who first of all love the Lord, and secondly, who love one another.

Thank you Lord for allowing us to minister to the Christ Fellowship family, but more than that, thank you for allowing them to lavish us with gifts of love. I am always amazed to be sent out to bless and edify a group of people and to come back changed as a result of where I had been and what you had done. You are so good. Please continue to anoint Christ Fellowship with the presence of your Holy Spirit. These are servants who want to make you known. I praise God daily for them. I will never be the same! I will be going back as soon as possible. Christ Fellowship, Grubbs, Denns, Jacksons, and Mendenhalls, I love you.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

My Daddy: A Man After God's Own Heart

It is already early Saturday morning and I am just getting a chance to sit down to compose this for my daddy. I thought that since we will be in Eugene on Father's Day, I would go ahead and make this my gift to him. I cannot even begin to express the immeasurable blessing my daddy has been in my life. There are too many blessings that I have received from him to even begin to recount in the space given in this blog, however, I will share the three things about the most special man in my life, besides Jesus. These are the things I cherish most about the man I am honored to call my father.

The first and most beautiful thing about this man I love is the way that he loves the Lord. This love is by no means fake, it is 100% authentic and it is an all-encompassing force that seeps into every single aspect of his character and the way that he lives out his daily journey. Throughout Scripture, Jesus calls all of his disciples into relationship-- with him and especially with one another. It is the quality of these relationships that shows the world and other servants the degree of our commitment to the call of Christ. My daddy is a person who follows call for quality relationships very passionately. Second to investing himself in quality relationships, my daddy is a servant. He is a man who doesn't enjoy being in the limelight or in the center of attention in any way. I absolutely love the way that he uses humility to define every part of who he is. He is very often the one who would much rather wash dirty feet than to have his feet washed. My dad is a man who literally lives by the towel. I have been incredibly blessed to watch as my dad has lived out his faith, by word and deed. Daddy is a man of fervent prayer, mercy, grace, surrender, peace, and most of all love. The love he shares with others is a love that is abundant and very unconditional. It is a love that looks past station, race, and color. He proclaims a love that nourishes and revitalizes the soul. He is a man who the Lord knows intimately. My daddy is the most gentle, compassionate, merciful, humble, generous man I have known in all my life. He exemplifies the life of a favored disciple to me everyday, and for that I will never be the same.

The second most cherished thing about my daddy is the way he loves his church and the people who make up its Body. In addition to being an elder at Highland, my dad is a Huddle Leader for the sophomores in the fall and winter and he teaches in the sixth and seventh grade boys class in the summer. This is a man who is absolutely invested in people's lives. Kids flock to my dad. Age doesn't matter, I think one of the reasons is because he is genuinely interested in their lives and they know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he cares what is going on. A Sunday doesn't pass that my dad isn't inendated with hugs, high-fives, and bright smiles. One run in with his firm, very warm, and very welcoming handshake and the gentle light in his eyes, and people are hooked, they know that he will never ever forget them. It is such an immense honor for me to be a part of a church that loves the leader of our family as lavishly as they love my daddy.

Finally, the third thing I cherish most about my dad is the way he leads our family. Beginning in the formative years of my faith and continuing to this day, my dad has made a point to allow the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit to be the central focal point of the home that he has established. He has provided for our family a haven of unwavering support, affirmation, gentleness, peace, spiritual richness, and grace, and prayer. The presence of the Holy Spirit has always been invited and embraced in our home. Evidence of my parents faith is around every corner of our house, through the form of scriptures, pictures, crosses, and reminders that this is not our home. The Cunningham family is one whose citizenship is in Heaven. The thing I am most thankful for about my dad is the fact that he has taught and encouraged Grant and I to place our confidence in the One who loves and knows us even better than him. My foundation is firm and it is unswervingly strong because it has been built upon a faith, hope, joy, and peace that cannot and will not ever be shaken. My parents have both tirelessly invested their lives to instill in me a pursuit of the Lord that will never be quenched. I pray that I will never get enough. Wearing the Cunningham name is such an honor and blessing. My daddy is what Isaiah describes as an oak of righteousness, a firm planting for the display of His splendor. Thank you Lord for choosing me as one of the witnesses to the life of this man, my dad. I love him more and more everyday that I grow older and wiser. He is yours now and always.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Off to Eugene

In just a few short days, my family and I will be traveling to Eugene, Oregon as a part of Into All the World 2005. This trip is part of a summer mission effort that Highland is sponsoring. I am really looking forward to it! I have heard nothing but wonderful things about Christ Fellowship, the newly planted congregation that will be partnering with us this next week. My two favorite worship leaders, Matt and Sarah Lynn Grubb, left Highland about two years ago to be a part of the church planting team in Eugene. It will be so great to see them again and to meet their two children, Enoch and Indi. The small congregation meets in an elementary school cafeteria, so it will be quite laid back and comfortable. Boy, am I getting excited about the worship times. There is one inner-city ministry that I have heard incredible things about called Hosea that serves homeless teens in the city. I pray that I will get to spend some quality time down there lending my hands and my heart because I know that this is where Jesus would be spending a lot of his time if he were to visit the city. Eugene is home to the University of Oregon, one of the most unchurched, God-starved campuses in the country. I am looking forward to walking the campus and praying that the Spirit would permiate everything that happens on its grounds. In preparation for our trip, our team has been warned that there are a lot of ungodly things that go on in Eugene and my prayer is that God will use each one of us to shed some much needed salt and light in this special city. God loves every citizen of Eugene, Oregon and I hope to be a bearer of his grace, humility, light, and love. I know that there will also be some great people waiting to greet us as we ready ourselves to be servants, I can't wait to forge new relationships! Lord, let the games begin. Please be glorified through us, may our harvest be abundant!

Monday, June 13, 2005

Family...What a Blessing

God is incredibly good! He knew that when he called us as disciples, we would need a special place to be nurtured, cultivated, stretched, unconditionally loved and infinitely valued. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, that God has lavishly blessed me with an incredible, Christ-centered home. I have been challenged and edified by my preciocus parents, Rob and Cheryl, indelibly. I have also been blessed to share my life with my brother, Grant, who is growing to be an incredible man of God. My mom and daddy are two people not only loved by Grant and I, but our Highland family as well. They have taught me grace, mercy, humility, and hospitality like no other two people in my life. There are no words adequate to thank them rightfully. My mom and dad are two people that I esteem very highly and I am very thankful that the Lord deemed me the daughter they needed and desired. Being raised by them has been such a wonderful experience. I am so honored to have them as the foremost guides, mentors, and disciples of my life. I pray that my family can be as fun and as spiritually rich as the one I have shared with mom, dad, and Grant. Thank you so much Father, for inventing the institution of family. This institution has given me so many invaluable gifts, such as confidence, an unshakable self-esteem, a love for Christ, and a place to be myself and to grow into a woman of hope, abiding faith, steadfast prayer, and unending joy. I love you mom and daddy. Thank you most importantly, for the gift of your journey together in marriage. You have taught me that marriage is not a place to find my identity, but it is a place to learn holiness. Thank you for instilling in me a yearning to know God in a way that my spirit will always be grown and pursued by the Lover of my soul. You are cherished and loved beyond words.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

For Everything a Season

The last couple of weeks God has really shown me that this experience we call life is a series of seasons, some wonderful, some gut-wrenching. This conviction is nothing new to me as I have viewed life in this way for quite some time. About three weeks ago now, my great-grandma Lillie died, and now I am rejoicing with people such as Brandon Scott and Sheryl Thomas for the much anticipated and prayed over arrival of Sam. I am also reminded of the fagility of life as I read of the struggles and daily praises of further healing of such vital servants as Jonathan Shaub. As a fellow daughter on the journey, I realize that these seasons, however full of wonder and majesty or sorrow and heartfelt grief, are a divine gift, teaching all of us disciples that it is only Christ Jesus, an all-knowing Father and Sustainer, and the assurance of the Holy Spirit, that can see us through any tragedy or triumph. I personally cannot even put my mind around life without the hope of a resurrected, present King, Friend, and Savior. I am given holy confidence and reigning peace as I hold fast to the promise that Christ has and will continue to walk with me in past, present, and future times of doubt, celebration, thanksgiving, fear, and uncertainty. How incredibly wonderful to know that I do not have to have all of the answers of my life analyzed and figured out to the tee! I believe more strongly everyday that I serve an ever-faithful, ever-present, all-sustaining One that has my life in the palm of his hand. Thank you Father for knowing my life's path, thank you for being intricately involved in the formation of my character and my journey into womanhood. I praise you for this season of good things. You and you alone deserve all honor, glory, and praise. May I never ever lose the firm foundation of my faith heritage, may I never lose the sweetness and certainty of your agape love, may I never fail to hear your whispers of pursuit. You, sweet Lord give my life its hope, its pulse, and its meaning. Please continue to sew and cultivate my soul so that I may be formed into an image of glory, humility, mercy, spiritual depth, and continued growth.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Summer Job

Last night my family was invited to have dinner with another small group from Highland, it is actually one that was formed when our group split into five different smaller groups in the hopes of reaching out to new families at Highland to become plugged in. In the middle of the delicious meal, made up of smoked ribs and brisket, I mentioned the fact that I was looking for summer employment. The couple that was hosting the group happens to own Friendze, Inc. which is an import store that specializes in jewelery and other accessories much like Sam Moon in the Dallas area. I was flabbergasted when Ronda asked me what I might be interested in and then told me she just might have a place for me! This opportunity, much like that of last summer, just fell into my lap! Talk about God's orchestration and control! Please pray that this works out. I would love to work for and with this godly couple this summer. Thankfully, if I get the position, I will not be in the front of the store. I hate being in the center of things. God is so good and he is incredibly faithful! Be blessed.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

FCA All Star Week

Beginning last night, our family became hosts to 6 young men that just graduated that are participating in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes All Star Football Classic. You must understand that to my dad, the black and gold blooded football fanatic, this week is great. It gives him a chance to reconnect with kids that he absolutely adores. This week always gets him salivating for the football pads to come out in early August. We always serve as hosts to the Abilene High guys and this year we have an awesome group of young men which include Ryan Kennedy, Matt Adams, Lane Miller, Derrick Bibb, Travis Walding, and Robert Bebe. Grant played with several of these guys his senior year and fell in love with them. I always enjoy this week because at the end of the week you know that you have served them in a way that brings a smile to the Lord's face. Young men that are invited to participate in this game do not have to profess Christ, but by the end of the week, many of the young men who do not know Jesus make a decision to follow him and it is nice to know that we as a host home could of had a part in that. Most of the Abilene High guys are planning on attending ACU in the fall to play football and it will be so much fun to watch them suit up again and go out on that field. There is nothing like high school football in West Texas and I am thankful for another opportunity to watch these great young men shine once again.