Sunday, October 10, 2010

It's Been An Honor to Serve You...

Today is the official last day of my service as leader of Heart 2 Heart Women's Ministry.  I have been so pleased and honored to have been the Lord's servant for these past ten years.  I want to thank all of you who have supported and encouraged me over the years, and I especially want to thank those in leadership (both of the church and of the women's ministry) who have trusted me to lead this important ministry.  I appreciate the assistance of the women who have served with me in leadership, and know that none of what we've accomplished would have been possible without you. 

As you may or may not know, I am being called into full-time employment in public education.  I begin classes this week that will enable me to earn a teaching certificate in special education. I will begin substitute teaching in the local school district in a few weeks, so I will be unable to devote as much time as Heart 2 Heart deserves.  I feel confident that God is calling a woman to leadership even now, and that the good work that has been going on in women's ministry at FBC The Colony will continue. 

If you are a follower of this blog, rest assured that it will continue.  I will be looking for team members to post articles and information here, and I will never be too far away. I will be sharing things from time to time, as well.  In the meantime, I will be chronicling my journey as I enter a new season of life at my new blog  Already, God has provided the set up for an exciting adventure.  I'll be sharing more about that soon in my new blog. 

Thank you, again, for your support and encouragement, and may God's richest blessings flow over you,


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Why Women's Ministry Is Important

Very soon, I will be stepping down as women's ministry leader.  I have been chronicling my return to full-time work in previous posts, so hopefully this will not come as a shock.  As my tenure as leader comes to an end, I would like to post my speech to the ladies of FBC of The Colony.  I gave this speech in January of this year, and call it my "Women's Ministry Manifesto."


Why Women’s Ministry Is Important

By Jennifer Cottle

Ministry to women, just like any other ministry work, has its challenges. One of the most difficult aspects of ministry to women involves the misconceptions of those on the outside of women’s ministry. Oftentimes, those not involved in this type of ministry view women’s ministry as the ‘party planning committee’ or the ‘kitchen crew’. While fellowship and hospitality are often key aspects of ministry to women, these are not the only roles that women are limited to. No matter what area of ministry that you serve in, your service touches the lives of women. It is for this reason that I would like to share with you three reasons that women’s ministry is important in the life of the church.

First of all, Jesus ministered to women, and we should do as Jesus did. Remember that in Jesus’ time, it was unseemly for a rabbi to be seen with a woman. Women were to not to be taught God’s Word in the same way that men were. Boys went to school and studied the Torah, and girls stayed at home and learned to care for the home and the children. Jesus permitted women to not only serve Him in ministry, but to sit at His feet and learn the Scriptures! We are all familiar with the story of Mary and Martha in the Gospels. We know that Mary is praised for her desire to learn the Word of God. We also see that Martha is gently admonished for her worry and distractions. Martha is a model to women all over the world in that she heeds Jesus’ admonishment and later confesses His deity and her faith in Him as recorded in John 11:27. For me personally, I appreciate the story of the woman at the well in John 4. I like that Jesus took time to speak to a woman who was an outcast and who others looked down upon. He took the time to minister to her where she was, in her culture. He showed her the truth gently and without condemnation. By revealing Himself to be the Messiah to her, He allowed her to receive salvation. By showing her the sin in her life, He gave her the opportunity to repent. In turn, she ran—not walked—to the other people in her town in freedom and in victory declaring the coming of Christ. What a beautiful picture of how ministry works: We take a moment to relate to someone, we listen for their needs, and we share the Truth of the Gospel with them. The Gospel message frees and liberates those who receive it.

The second reason that women’s ministry is important is that in our culture, children exist within the context of women. When I was called at nineteen by God, I was called to work with children. It may surprise you to know this, as I have been serving in women’s ministry for ten years now. The realization that Bible study made me a better wife and mother came only shortly before I realized that I should share this realization with other women. That other women needed to be liberated from the same worries and fears that I had: Fears for the health, safety, and well-being of my husband and children. Just as Bible study gave me the wisdom to raise my children in the fear and admonition of the Lord, and it enabled me to give my husband good counsel, it could raise other women up no matter what their age, role, or cultural background. The truths found in God’s Word are timeless and priceless and are capable of helping us in whatever role that we may find ourselves in, and –better still—whatever predicament we may find ourselves in.

My professional career was spent in Early Childhood Intervention. What I found pretty quickly was that there is no better—or earlier—intervention than women’s ministry. Think about it: Children are born of women, raised by women, and taught by women, in general. We know that men are both necessary and integral in the lives of well-rounded children. However, practically speaking, men are not involved as often as women are in the daily lives of children. Whether a child is raised by his stay-at-home mother or grandmother or is cared for daily by a nanny or a child care worker, most likely the role of primary, day-to-day caregiver is being filled by a woman. When a child enters school, he will most likely be taught by a woman. Yes, there are male teachers. Yes, there are male administrators and coaches. But, the field of education is mostly filled by women. In essence, ministry to women makes for stronger children. This is why women’s ministry, preschool ministry, children’s ministry, and youth ministry should work together. Together, we make stronger families. We help to prevent divorce. When catastrophic things happen, we can help to empower moms and dads to manage them.

In the culture in which Jesus lived, the man was primarily responsible for the care and education of the child once he was weaned. Daughters stayed with their mothers, and the little boys learned the Scriptures from the rabbi and their vocation from their dads. In our time, boys and girls learn together in school. A boy learns to be a man under the watchful eye of a woman, and in the evenings and weekends with their dad—if he is able. Far too many homes are led by single moms. This means that women must fill in the gap for absent dads. When the world has not provided a father figure, the Lord has. As women in ministry to single parent homes, we can direct single moms to Jesus and can show them how God desires for men to be through His Word.

In no way am I suggesting that men’s ministry is not as important as women’s ministry. I am not saying that women are superior to men, either. I am simply acknowledging the reality of the world in which we live and am encouraging us to remember that we can make a difference in the lives of families.

The third reason that women’s ministry matters is that the world gives unrest to the hearts of women. Jesus said in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” The peace of Jesus gives peace to us. The world gives us unrest and discord.

A month or so ago, I was visiting with one of the teachers at preschool. She was sharing with me that she was not going to go to a women’s business club anymore. She related an unpleasant experience that she’d had at one of the meetings. As a stay-at-home mom, she was made to feel bad about her choice because she was not working full-time outside of the home. I cautioned her that she could not go to a worldly event and expect to receive validation there. The world does not give peace to us. Look around while you are at the mall or the grocery store. Look at the visuals as they are related to women: Thin, busty women with heavy make-up and revealing clothes. The magazine covers are gossipy and devalue the women that they sell to. Women’s pictures are airbrushed into impossible proportions and appear to be ageless. It is all lies, meant to steal our satisfaction, contentment, and joy. Television is no better. Satisfaction comes from career or sex. Commercials vacillate between food and weight loss ads. Women dance in bikinis on beer commercials, or they are seen dancing around their kitchen with a mop. News shows reveal a dark and scary world in which children are preyed upon—certainly this takes away our peace. But remember that Jesus said that we should not let our hearts be troubled and that we should not be afraid! How can a woman experience peace when there is so much unrest around her? By staying grounded in the Word of God. I receive so much comfort from God’s Word. The truth found there gives me hope and keeps me sane. My desires are put in their place when measured against the Bible. I can face the uncertainty of daily life when I am connected to God through prayer and His Word. You know what else keeps me grounded? The fellowship of other women! As a younger mom, I sought out the perspective of mature, godly women. They helped me to see that the trials with my children were only temporary. They gave me a sense of peace with their godly counsel and wise words.

If we are wise as women in ministry, we will bring hope to the hopeless. We will bind up the brokenhearted and set the captives free. Becky is bringing hope and freedom to the real-life captives through prison ministry. Celebrate Recovery seeks to bring hope to the hopeless. Divorce Care desires to bind up the brokenhearted. By the same token, for women in bondage to worry, fear, financial stress, past abuse, or simply to sin can be released from their shackles and can walk in victory through the blood of Jesus Christ.

Feminism has done a number on the hearts of women. Practically speaking, it has taught women that sexuality can be used casually or to get what we want. It has taught us that men and women are no different, or that women are superior to men. It has devalued our ability to bear children in a thousand different ways. It has taught women in our society that mothering has very little intrinsic value. Now, I realize that the rights to vote, for women to be able to work, and for women to have equal rights to men were won by the diligence and perseverance of women—many of them Christian women. However, I do not think that our foremothers ever intended for us to devalue the beautiful gift of femininity. Women’s ministry must also be about challenging the worldview of secular humanism and feminism. It must be about teaching women the truth, and showing them how that truth is practically applied to their lives. It must be about challenging the philosophies and ideologies of secular education, and it must be about revealing false prophets in the church. God’s Word is our Sword of the Spirit, and we must do battle.

We have a responsibility to the generations that are coming up behind us to teach them godly principles and to model for them virtue and truth. We must overcome our own strongholds and come alongside the girls who are in our church and community to teach them to be strong—strong in their faith and strong in their chastity. We must be unflinchingly honest about self-discipline, about character, and about true beauty. The pitfalls that lie before the girls in our church are many. The temptations that we faced as young women are nothing compared to the snares that are set for our daughters. However, if we work together, we can raise women who are like the Proverbs 31 wife. We can raise them up to be women of valor—women who can face adversity and can be discerning.

May God's richest blessings flow over you,


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Fall Retreat Preview Part 2

In my last post, I gave you a sneak peek at Lakeview Conference Center, specifically the areas that we will be staying in.  Earlier this year, I held a women's ministry leadership conference where I received some excellent feedback regarding the fall retreat.  I was pleased to hear from some of the ladies who attended last year that they wanted to have more opportunities for strenuous activities at the retreat, as well as quiet, restful places to stay.  In keeping with this, our retreat this year will feature opportunities for those of you who are more, um, adventurous.  Interested?  Check out the climbing wall in the activity center:

Do you see the running/walking track that goes around the perimeter of the gym?  How about a closer view:

Perhaps you'd like to do a little cardio with the girls on Saturday.  Jennifer Nelson is planning to lead us in a work-out designed to get the heart rate up.  We'll be taking classes in the room across the hall:

There's more:  Friday night will feature a hayride down to the campfire across from the lake, after our introductory Bible lesson.  We'll do our usual songs and roasted marshmallows by the light of the fire.  I promised everyone that we would do the Bedtime Blessing again this year. 

On Saturday, we'll have breakfast at 8:00, then head over to our conference room for worship and our first session, Trust and Friendship, led by Monica Richardson.  We'll take a break and come back for our second session, Healthy Relationships & Expectations, led by Chelli Morrison.

For our afternoon free time, you'll have lots of options:  A crafts workshop led by Kassy Alexander, a workout led by Jennifer Nelson, rock wall climbing (by reservation only), or swimming at the indoor pool from 2-4.  Of course, you are always welcome to play games, read, or take a nap. : )

After dinner on Saturday, we'll have our third session, Unity in the Church & Friendship, led by ME!  : )  We'll be trying something new for our ministry afterwards:  A time of confession and renouncing, led by Monica.  I'm looking forward to seeing how the Spirit moves this year!

Spaces are filling up, so I encourage you to sign up soon. We've had a lot of fun the past few years, and friendships have developed as a result of the time spent with one another at past retreats.  This year's focus will be on friendship specifically, so I know that we will all be blessed by strengthened friendships and new friendships.

May God's richest blessings flow over you,

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A Sneak Peek at the Fall Retreat!

Yesterday, Jennifer Nelson, Allison Perry, and me and three of my children went down to Lakeview Conference Center in Waxahachie.  This is the site of our Heart 2 Heart Women's Ministry fall retreat.  For the past three years, we have gone to Prothro Center in Pottsboro, but I found this facility a couple of years ago and had wanted to try it out. We went to check out our rooms and the amenities of the facility, and we were not disappointed.  One of the comments that we heard from the ladies in the past is that they wanted more outdoor/physical activities.  I am pleased to report that we will have lots of activities for those of you who want more physical challenges.  For those of you who want to relax and take a nap--well, those rooms are pretty nice, too!

Let's start our tour, shall we?
This is McDonnell Lodge, where we will be staying.  We will also be having our lessons in the Lone Star room on the second floor.  You'll register here, in the common room directly across from those main doors you see under the porte cochere'.

Here is one view of the common room.  You'll notice a kitchen to the right of the television, in case you'd like a little snack. 

Jesse and Lily have graciously offered to model in one of the rooms, to show you the comfort of the beds.  As you can see, the rooms have queen size beds, so if you plan to share with more than one friend, make sure you're ok with sharing a bed. : )

Hungry?  This is Bridges Dining Hall, where we will be enjoying our meals together. 

And here is the inside of Bridges Dining Hall.  They've re-done this space, and as you can see, the buffet line is generous.  I hear the food's good, too!

Want more?  In my next post, I'll preview some of the outdoor areas and the activity center.  I'll also give you a little more information on what we'll have going on at the retreat.  Don't forget to register!  We are over half full already.  The retreat will be October 8-10, so the weather should be nice.  Even if it isn't, we'll still have lots of options.  To register, simply sign up at the women's ministry bulletin board in the main hallway near the restrooms.  You can also pick up a registration form at the welcome center.  Or, contact me and I will send you the forms you need.  Don't miss it!

May God's richest blessings flow over you,


Friday, July 23, 2010

Serving With Love--and a Smile

"If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing."  1 Corinthians 13:3.

I was just blessed.  Not in the usual way--not by someone giving me a gift or telling me something encouraging.  I saw something that blessed me greatly, because it blessed the Lord.  Today, the kids came back from youth camp, and I went to the church to pick them up and to participate in the parent meeting that always occurs after the kids return.  After the meeting, my children and I left to go get some lunch.  On the way out, I passed by Becky Boydston, who was bringing in the food and supplies for the church breakfast this Sunday morning.  Some of the young men were helping her unload the things to take into the kitchen, and as I sat in my car to prepare to leave, I saw the most extraordinary thing:  She was beaming--smiling radiantly--as she unloaded the eggs and fresh fruit. She had obviously just been to a warehouse store and had bought blueberries, strawberries, and cantaloupe, and the biggest box of eggs I've seen, among other things. And yet, I could tell that she was so happy to be serving the Lord.  She was happy to be shopping and preparing for our breakfast!  Love was all over Becky as she was working, and her countenance conveyed it.

Now, why did this bless me?  Because I have seen--too often--folks serving in the church with an unhappy, unloving attitude.  It is clear from their words, actions, and countenance that their service to the church is a chore.  1 Corinthians 13:3 tells us that if we give away everything that we have to feed the hungry and surrender our bodies to death for any other reason but for love, that we gain nothing.  All of our service, all of our surrender, means nothing if we don't have love.  Unfortunately, the people that we serve see when we don't love them, and that is a dire thing, indeed.

As wives and mothers, our mission fields are often our homes.  How many of us can honestly say that we shop for necessities and prepare meals with a loving attitude and a radiant countenance?  Well, Becky's attitude is convicting to me, as well as a blessing to me.  I should always be a smiling, shining example of God's love--most especially to the people who are most precious to me, my family.  I pray that when I am shopping and when I am preparing, that I will radiate God's love.  I pray that when I am serving, others will see the love of God all over me and will feel it from me, as well.

If you haven't heard, this Sunday, July 25, we will be having breakfast from 8:30 to 8:50.  Please come and have fellowship with us, and bring a friend.  Becky is working hard on the breakfast, so be sure and give her a word of encouragement when you see her.  Smile when you say your good word.  I guarantee she'll smile back.

May God's richest blessings flow over you,


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The reason for my absence...

It's been over a month since I posted on this blog, and I've been thinking about why.  Because a blog is public, I have to be cautious about what I post.  For the past few months, our family has been going through a significant amount of stress.  I know that God is using all of the circumstances to bring us closer to the likeness of Jesus.  I often meditate on God's goodness and His Word as these relate to what we have been experiencing.  It would be wonderful to share the lessons that God is teaching me, but sometimes the circumstances of our situation are too personal to share.  I live my life as an open book--hopefully, leading others to Christ.  Unfortunately, there are some things that can't be shared publicly.

I am prepared to say in this blog that God is moving me in a new direction.  Presently, I am studying for a test that I will be taking for admission to a teacher certification program.  I hope to work in Special Education for the public school system.  This will help out our family in a number of ways, most notably, the added source of income.  I have been out of the professional working world for over fourteen years.  I am looking forward to this new adventure and to the things that God will be showing me in the months to come.

What does this mean for Heart 2 Heart Women's Ministry?  Well, the good news is that there are several ladies who are committed to seeing the ministry continue.  We have Bible studies ongoing this summer, and our fall retreat plans are underway.  (This year's retreat is October 8-10 at Lakeview Conference Center in Waxahachie.) I will not be unavailable, but I will be less able to direct the affairs of the ministry.  Pray for God to raise up a woman to take over the reigns of the ministry so that I can concentrate on the needs of my family and the new career.

May God's richest blessings pour over you,


Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day!

I have been blessed with a wonderful mother.  She is a godly, Christian woman who taught me the true meaning of perseverance and love.  She was always willing to go to bat for my brother and I, and I love that it taught me that I was worth fighting for.  She has always been a hard worker, and has modelled for me the noble wife of Proverbs 31.  Now that I am grown, I am proud to call her my friend.

Mom broke her wrist two days ago, so I am sending her extra special prayers and wishes for a quick recovery.  I spoke with her this afternoon, and she didn't sound like she was hurting too much.  Pray that she will have her wrist set without too much trouble.

I have also been blessed with godly grandmothers.  My paternal grandmother went home to be with the Lord in November, 2005.  I still miss her, but am grateful for all her love and good counsel.  She was a wonderful lady, and I am grateful for her encouragement throughout my life.  I wish she were here to know her great-granddaughter!

My maternal grandmother is 98, and she taught me to sew.  I thank God for her everytime I sew, because she taught me something that has brought me so much joy.  I have to also give my mom credit for teaching me to read patterns and to cut out fabric, too.  I have definitely been blessed by the creativity of my mom and grandmothers.  They taught me so much, and now I am teaching my own children.  The legacy continues.

I love you, Mom and Mamaw, and thank God for you!

"Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:  Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all."  Proverbs 31:28-29.

May God's richest blessings flow over you,