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More than we could ask or imagine

Morning, everybody. I'd like to start this morning, just sharing a couple of words about UMW... I know I've talked about this group in the past, and I kind of feel like I say the same thing every year, but I just can't seem to say enough great things about the United Methodist Women, they help with and coordinate so many different things, not only inside Aldersgate but outside as well, they're behind the scenes, making sure that everything runs smoothly, and sometimes they're front and center, these women are dedicated and faithful servants of the Lord, time after time again, they are the hands and feet of Jesus. If you aren't a member of a UMW circle now and you're interested in learning more, there's information in the bulletin about each of the different groups, or better yet, grab some lady that's wearing one of these white things, one of these white things right here, and ask them for more information, I'm sure that they can show you and tell you how to get involved.

So I'd like to just take a quick minute and have everybody that's a member of UMW, go ahead and stand so they could be recognized.

Thank you. Can we please bow our heads for prayer.

Father God, I just thank you for this opportunity to share your words to this group of wonderful friends.Thank you to Pastor Tom for entrusting this task to me. God, I pray that not only your peace, but the Holy Spirit will fill me as I stand before you today, may the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Amen.

So I'm wondering if any of you have a favorite Bible verse, a Bible verse, it just kinda jumps out at you, you see it at different times, you see it in different applications... Well, I have one and I wanna share some stories about my favorite verse with you. So it sort of starts out with a funny story... I like funny stories, I like to laugh. So when Pastor Tom asked me if I wanted to speak today. My answer was, Are you kidding me? But I kept that right in between my ears. So I said, Sure, gosh, I'd love to... That's what I'd love to do is stand up in front of the congregation for 15 or 20 minutes... I mean, I can talk, I'm a pretty good talker, but something about standing up here with a microphone that is way different than just chit, chatty talk, so anyway, so as soon as I said yes, then I immediately started scrambling around like, Oh my gosh, what am I gonna talk about... Seriously, this is a long time.

So I have this verse that kinda kept coming to my mind and I thought, Well, I'm just gonna somehow see if I can incorporate this verse into my conversation this morning with the congregation. So then I said to Pastor Tom, so how do you pick the Bible verses for the day? Is there like some master book or something like... All the pastors get. And there is... So he forwarded the email to me with all the verses in it, and guess what... My verse is Ephesians 3: 20 and 21. And guess what? One of the readings was today, you got it. I read that email, I just started laughing. I'm standing at my desk and I'm just chuckling and my co-workers are looking at me and like, I gotta go call my pastor, not something that... I made her laugh, so I called Pastor Tom. I'm like, You're not gonna believe this. My go-to verse is one of the verses that was for July 25th. Okay, so I have been approved by the top dog. I know what I'm preaching on today.

So the particular version of the verse that I really like the best, I'm gonna read to you because it was all part of that long thing that Beth read this morning. So the version I like says, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” And might even has an exclamation point. And after forever and ever, those are the best kind of Bible verses. Don't you guys think like I love when there's exclamation points in the Bible, it just makes me smile.

So anyway, I don't know about you guys, but that gives me goosebumps every time I read it. If you really listen, God can do immeasurably more than not only what we can ask, but are... Imagine, I'm pretty much thinking I could just read this about five times and sit down and call it a day, but I'm gonna talk more than that, 'cause remember I like to talk. I also like to tell stories, so here's one of my stories that I'm gonna share, what I kind of thought was a random thing, now you look back over your life and you see how things maybe aren't so random.

So about eight or nine years ago, a good friend of mine asked me if I wanted to go to a women's conference with her in Indianapolis. It was a total last minute thing, the friend that was supposed to go with her, I ended up cancelling at the last minute, and as a busy woman, I'm sure a lot of you can relate, three kids working full-time, it was very rare that I would actually have a free weekend, and oddly enough, that weekend was free... Well, that's kind of weird. So I cleared it with Mike, I'm good to go. I left for the weekend to go to this Women's Conference, randomly... On the way there, I was sharing with my friend that we were having a really hard time in our life, there were just some circumstances going on that we're making life really difficult, and so I shared my struggles with my girlfriend and before we attended the conference, we prayed together. So the next morning, we went to this conference and one of the speakers... I don't know if any of you guys have ever heard of her. Her name is Priscilla Shire. Has anybody ever heard of her... She is an actress and author, she's a dynamic speaker. She's just an amazing woman. So her speech that morning was on this book that she had written called God is Able, and the entire book was based on those two verses from Ephesians, Now to him, who was able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine. So she gave this amazing, amazing speech, and I'm gonna...

I'm gonna just walk around for a second because this was so cool, so she started out and she would stand all the way over on the side of the stage. Now, if any of you guys know who Priscilla Shire is, she's like that tall, and she takes up way more space than I do, so this was super, way more cool when she did it, but anyway, so she would stand here and she'd say, Now to him, and then she would talk about who him is, and Him is God, right? So she would talk to God for a minute, and then she'd go Now to Him, who is able, and then she would talk about all the ways that God is able and all the ways that he is just the most amazing God.

And then she'd go back over here and she'd say Now to Him, who is able to answer all of our prayers more than we could ever ask or imagine. And so she did this entire speech where she would just keep walking across the stage now to Him, who is able to answer our prayers more than when we could ever ask or imagine, and this took her a long time, and she was really big and tall, it was super cool, and I just... That was the first time I'd ever really heard those verses, it just made such an amazing impact on me.

I felt like her entire speech that day, she was talking just to me, I mean, there were a billion people in this center in Indianapolis, but I felt like she was talking just to me, that was the first time that I had never really thought about God being able. And I know that God had orchestrated that whole weekend, this was not some random thing, this was just what I needed, this was what I needed in a crappy hard time.

This was God like throwing down a lifeline, and I will tell you what, I grabbed it. I held on, I wasn't sure how we were gonna survive, this was hard stuff in our life, but I knew that after listening to Perscilla speak and hearing the hope and the reminder, how God is able, that we would come through intact and well. And Priscilla reminded me not to sell God short, he can exceed our prayers, he does and he can... She shared with everybody that God is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine, and that was just what I needed to hear at that time in my life, and in this particular instance, God did answer our prayers, he provided more than we could have ever asked or imagined, but I'm gonna tell you what, this was not one of those short-term deals, this was like a four or five-year time in our lives. It was not like one of those 30 minutes, it comes or 60 minutes on the TV show where there's a conflict. There was a resolution. There's a happy ending. Bottom boom, everybody goes home happy. This was four or five years of just continuing to pray and continuing to be faithful to God, and God continuing to be faithful to us.

One of the things that I've noticed in life is when a Bible verse, any Bible verse takes hold of you, you see it everywhere, talking specifically about these verses, it's just... It's so amazing to look back over your life and watch the way that God has answered your prayers, and sometimes an answered prayer isn't necessarily the way you think of prayer is gonna be answered, but God always answers our prayers and his plan is always better and bigger than our plan.

Okay, so this hard time that I was talking about earlier was a hard time in my daughter's life. So both of my sons have also had difficulties in their life... Right, because people do. Life isn't always easy, but what I realize now and I recognize is it, looking back over how God answered our prayers with Maggie was so good... I don't even know, you say a good feeling of faith knowing that he answered our prayers with her, and he was gonna answer my prayers for Michael, and he was gonna answer my prayers for Thomas because he had already come through... I've said this, I know many times to both my mom and Mike, when you're down and out and you're having a really hard time, and you're just praying and praying to be reminded of how God... God is able and how God has answered your prayer is just such a blessing.

So I have another favorite story, 'cause you know I'm not gonna just end on my story or to another favorite God is able story, and it's about our lake house. So my husband's family has had a cottage at waac since the 1920s. And Mike and I and her kids had spent lots of weekends there, enjoying time with family, times at the lake, just doing what you do at a lake, which is a lot of nothing. And so about five years ago, they decided, Mike's family decided that it was gonna be time to sell the cottage, and we were super sad. We were like, What are we gonna do? What do you do if you don't go to the lake. Anyway, they decided that they were going to sell their cottage, and so we immediately like... Immediately thought, Okay, what are we gonna do next year? So some solutions came up, we prayed, we actually ended up spending more time at the lake that following summer then we even had before and we thought, Wow, yeah. God, thank you. Way to go. We answer those prayers. You've got this. But we also knew that those were all short-term solutions that was not gonna be like our end game.

So we started praying and we thought, Okay, you know what we found... We found the solution, prayer answered, We're gonna rent this cottage for the month of July. We were so excited. Gonna be great. So it's about January now, and we have this plans in place, but they're not all the way firm up yet, so I'm saying to my husband, Hey, why don't you call that guy, but let's get this firmed up, and he's like, Oh yeah, yeah, I will. A couple of days later, You wanna call that guy like... Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. So finally, one day he was sick of me reminding him... See, I say reminding. He says nagging. Totally, totally, two different things. But anyway, so I reminded him and finally he acted, he jumped, he's like, I'm gonna do this. So he called the guy and I'm sitting in the room and he says, You know, hi, this is Mike, just wanted to confirm about our rental for July, and then all of a sudden he's like, Oh, oh gosh, I'm so sorry. Okay. Yep. Okay, oh, I'm so sorry. And he hangs up.

Okay, well, it doesn't take a rocket scientist. That was bad. That was not good. So he just sits there and I'm like, What? He's composing himself calmly like he does, and I don't... And I'm like, What a what? And he said, So Wilma died, and they're gonna sell the cottage and they're not gonna rent it anymore. They can't do that. So we both just sit there, I was actually quiet for a minute and we sat there and I'm like, Well... I don't know, I mean, let's look at it. Maybe we can figure this out. And so we both were like, Okay, let's do it. So he calls the guy back, we go look at the cottage. We placed an offer on the cottage or somehow scrape together just enough pennies, we put an offer on the cottage and we hadn't told her kids the great news yet, so I concoct this elaborate scheme, because I love to surprise people and I'm like, Let's have the kids over, and we'll take them to the lake and we'll tell them there.

So I call my three kids and I said, Okay, Block out four hours next Saturday. And they're like, what, four hours? I'm like, family meeting. They're like, What is a four or family meeting. What is wrong with you? If you guys remember this. Yeah, and they were like, Seriously, mom individually. They all called me like, What is going on? I don't have four hours. And trust me on this one, dude, so they came over kicking and screaming and begrudgingly, I pulled on your mom card and I don't care. So they showed up. So he said, Hey guys, change a plan, we're gonna jump in the car and we're gonna drive up to the lake, you know that cottage we're gonna rent. We're gonna show it to you guys. It's a lot of money. I wanna make sure everybody likes it. They're like, Oh okay, good, good, good, good, good. And they all said to me, We've figured this had something to do with the lake, I'm like, Yep. Okay, get in the car.

So we go to the way, we look at this little cottage, it's winter, it's cold, it's the lake's frozen, the sun shining, the kids all look at their rooms. They're like, Oh, this is gonna be great, this is gonna be great. We love it. So we're standing... None of us will ever forget this. We're standing in the dining area with this beautiful view of the lake, sun shining, and Mike and I said, Okay guys, guess what, we're not just gonna rent, we bought it, and it was like... I was like total pandemonium, everybody was crying, everybody was screaming, every was hugging. I think that's the longest Thomas has ever hugged me in his whole life. He wouldn't let go. It was so amazing. And look at that, so we pray to rent... And look what God provided me with a lot of money and a lot of sweat equity. But look, I mean, we own a cottage now, what an amazing God is able story. So I just... You look back over your life and you see these times when you pray, and then God answers, but He answers like this, you prayed like this.

I don't want any of you guys to think that life is just so charmed and so easy, and there's a problem, and in my life, and I pray and God answers, and boom. It's all over. A lot of this stuff was hard and rotten and not fun to live through and not fast answers, like God doesn't always answer our prayers quickly... Right, His timing is perfect, but I will tell you what that guy can be slow. But his time... He's perfect, and that's what I'm going with and that's what I'm sticking to.

The bottom line is, you know, there were a lot of times I wasn't even sure God was listening, I was just praying and I'm praying and I'm praying some more. And I never gave up on God, and God has never given up on me. And I think that's the amazing part, he never gives up on us, even when we were total jerks sometimes are we ignore him or we forget about him, he never gives up. I've also found that answered prayers aren't always... They don't always come to what you think an answer for you might be, like sometimes an answer in prayer is no, or wait, or not now, or let's regroup later. So these just happen to be some of those examples that were big and powerful. And what I found is in life, you just... You just keep praying, you just look back over your life and you are reminded of all the ways that God is able and that God has far exceeded your wild dreams and you just keep praying because God's timing and God's plan are always perfect.

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