Forgive

Written by Lana Lamkin, Executive Director – The Closet Ministry Inc.

Ephesians 4: 26-28, 31-32Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Let’s be honest, we all have, or have had, someone in our lives that we just aren’t sure we can continue to forgive. You know the ones: co-workers who manipulate, friends who lie and family members who steal and have less-than-stellar reputations. Continually forgiving these people can wear us out. Anger and frustration begins to build and we come to a point where “I’m sorry” just isn’t enough anymore.

When you are to the end of your rope and you don’t think you can take another indiscretion, there’s only one thing you can do. Forgive again. That’s right. Forgive. Forgiveness is not easy but we are told we must forgive many times over. How many times should we forgive the same person for the same thing? Jesus answers this question when asked by Peter.

Matthew 18:21-22Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.

I don’t think Jesus meant exactly 490 times and that 491 is one too many. I think he was telling us to forgive as many times as it takes. Hear me – we must FORGIVE. That does not mean we must continue to allow people to manipulate or take advantage of us. But for the times they have, forgive them.

When your forgiveness meter is about to explode and you think you just can’t forgive one more time, I would ask you to stop and consider how many times God has forgiven you. I know my numbers are high on the Heavenly Forgiveness Meter and I’m thankful God continues to accept my “I’m sorry” when “I’m sorry” just isn’t enough anymore.

Dear Lord,
Soften my heart and give me understanding and compassion toward those people in my life who aren’t so easy to forgive. Give
me the grace and strength to forgive them. Thank you for the many times you have forgiven me. May your forgiveness be a
reminder to me to continue to forgive even when it’s not easy.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Constant Change, Constant God

Written by Lana Lamkin, Executive Director – The Closet Ministry Inc.

From the moment we enter this world, we are set on a course of change. Our bodies and minds grow, old friends move away and new friends are made, technology progresses, seasons pass. The list goes on and on. Change is constant. Sometimes it is good change and sometimes it can be painful.

Over the past few months, The Closet Ministry has been through several exciting changes. It has become a federally recognized nonprofit organization. Its board of directors was established and they began work on the business side of the ministry. Five Stones Church in Waxhaw, NC was welcomed as our fifth location. Many new leadership members and positions have been added. The website has been updated. The time I spend on the nonprofit side of the ministry increased which led to my decision to pass the role of Church Coordinator for The Closet at Southbrook to Michelle and Michael Simpson. I’m excited about the changes that have come to this ministry and I’m looking forward to the many more God has planned.

As I think about change, I am reminded that as everything in our lives continues to transform, God never changes. He is the same today as He was yesterday and as He will be in the future (Hebrews 13:8). In our ever-changing world, He is the One we can trust to be the same. Yes, change in the world is constant but we can hold fast to the fact that our Heavenly Father is also constant. He is constantly compassionate, constantly loving, constantly forgiving, and constantly waiting for us to come to Him. He is constantly God.

When the storms in life come and your world continues to change around you, may you be comforted in knowing that the never-changing God of this universe is in complete control.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. James 1:17

Good

Written by Carol Taylor, Prayer Coordinator – The Closet Ministry, Southbrook

“Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.” Psalm 34:8 (NIV)
“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.” Psalm 118:1 (NIV)

‘Good’ is a good word we use all the time.

We say that we’ve had a good meal or a good sleep. We’ve seen a good movie or heard a good song. We tell people that we heard a good message at Church on Sunday!

So does ‘GOOD’ mean

Not bad, better than O.K. but not ‘Wow’
It’s not great but just good!

The Bible is sometimes called the ‘Good Book’

Psalm 34 verse 8 asks us to
TASTE AND SEE THAT THE LORD IS GOOD

So, does that mean that God is just better than OK and not bad?

GOOD is used lots in the Bible and Psalm 118 starts and finishes with
‘GIVE THANKS TO THE LORD FOR HE IS GOOD, HIS LOVE ENDURES FOREVER’

Read Psalm 118 and you will quickly realize that David was in a tough place. The Message version tells us that he was hemmed in with no way out; ‘pushed to the wall’ his enemies surrounded him on every side and they swarmed around him like bees. He was on the cliff edge ready to fall.

Did he fall? Did he die? No, verse 17 says He lived! And he is telling the world how God saved him. David goes from sinking to singing praises to his GOOD GOD!

The Message finishes Psalm 118 with
Thank God – he’s so good, His love never quits!

Now that’s GOOD!

Going back to Psalm 34 verse 8
Taste and see that the Lord is good.

When we are asked by someone to taste how good something is and we close our eyes and begin to enjoy the flavor, Oh!! how the taste seems to explode in our mouths and sets our juices flowing and we smack our lips. Then we open our eyes and take a deep breath and say, ‘Oh! Now that was good’ (as we get a napkin to wipe up our dribbles)!!

So, how good is God?

Close your eyes and enjoy the taste of God. Allow the fullness of the flavor of His Holy Spirit to fill you and then open your eyes and see the beauty, Glory and wonder of our good God around you.
Oh!! Now that’s how ‘GOOD’ our God is!

Oh!! And finally
The word ‘GOOD’
Is GOD with an extra ‘O(h)!

Enjoy lots of Oh moments with our GOOD GOD whose love for us endures forever.

True Beauty

Written by Lana Lamkin, Director – The Closet Ministry

As I’ve been preparing for this year’s Prom Project, I’ve been thinking a lot about beauty. I know how the world sees beauty just by looking at the magazine covers in the grocery store check-out line. As a Christian, I also know how God wants us to see beauty. I’m quick to say things like, “Beauty comes from the inside” and “It’s the reflection of Jesus in our hearts”. Both of these statements are true but I’ve been wondering about more than the definition of beauty. I’ve been thinking about what true beauty looks like.

Over the past two weeks, I’ve watched as a dear friend sits by her son’s hospital bed and helplessly waits and prays for God to work miracles. Her grace and strength through this very difficult time has been amazing. The love she has for her son is that which only a mother can feel. Her faith has been unshakable. She has found the strength to step away from her son’s bed to spend time with her two daughters and her husband. I have witnessed her take in information about what is to come with amazing courage. She has shared with those around her about how God is working miracles with a smile of her face. And through all of this, she has taken the time to love on and encourage those who have been so concerned for her son, her and her family. And though her heart aches as she prays for complete healing, she has made the decision to trust what God’s plan is for her son and she continues to reflect the love of Jesus even while her heart is heavy. I am amazed at her grace and courage.

I’m no longer wondering what true beauty looks like. I have seen it in my precious friend, Nancy Janes.

1 Peter 3:3-4
Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

Written by Lana Lamkin, Director – The Closet Ministry

The Closet @ Southbrook has been helping someone who is facing a difficult time. He’s dealing with things that most of us will never have to face. It’s a wonderful blessing to be involved in supporting and encouraging him but it’s difficult to know exactly what and how much to do. I was asked to help with something that, quite honestly, I was avoiding a bit because, well, it was just not in my comfort zone. It was very important to this man – a necessity – and I knew I couldn’t let it go. I was going to be sure it was taken care of. Yep, that’s right. I was going to ask someone else to do it. I called that “someone” who I was quite certain would be willing to help. He pointed out that we needed to do this as a team. He was absolutely right! If I had let him go alone, it could have put him in an uncomfortable situation. As God often does, He sent the encouragement I needed through this volunteer. This friend said, “This is where the rubber meets the road. These are the times when we are expected to roll our sleeves up and just do the work.” What a powerful statement! So, I took a deep breath, rolled up my sleeves and made the arrangements to complete the work God had called us to. In the end, we were given the opportunity to be witness of God’s love to others who are also hurting in this situation. I know God will continue to grow the seeds that were planted.

The Closet Ministry is becoming so much more than we could have ever imagined. Each Closet location has at least one testimony of how this ministry has touched a life. And to think that it began with the vision of simply giving away clothes to those facing financial burdens. God saw so much more for us! He has created a place of comfort, friendship, support, direction and salvation. I believe He will this grow this ministry immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine as long as we are willing to roll up our sleeves and do the work. This is where the rubber meets the road.

Ephesians 3:20-21 – 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, for ever and ever! Amen.

Glorious Father,
Thank you for calling us to this ministry. Thank you for putting us in the midst of part of this world that we may have only seen from the outside. Thank you for the past trials that gave us understanding of hurt and loneliness. Thank you for The Closet volunteers who already have their sleeves rolled up and who are faithfully serving you. And thank you, God, for the many more you are preparing to share your love with those in need. Father, let us be the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ that shines through the darkness. Amen.

2 Corinthians 4: 3-6 – And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Superhero

Written by Lana Lamkin, Director – The Closet Ministry

Armed with a smart phone recently synced with an extraordinarily colorful calendar. Able to connect to friends, co-workers and business associates with a touch of button. Blue tooth activated for emergency communication. Fuel tank full, nerves of steel in tact and a desire to help all mankind. The power to conquer the world with one word: YES. Yes, in addition to a full time job, I will be a Sunday school teacher, an Awana leader and be on the PTA sponsorship committee. Yes, I will host a jewelry party, sell that same jewelry and come to your “tasty treats” party. Yes, I will take my children to every school function, club meeting and birthday party they want to go to. Yes, I will pick up the cup cakes for the class end-of-year celebration AND be the GS cookie mom. I am a Superhero!!

Most of the time my Superhero status ends up being more like Get Smart than Superman – stumbling through instead of leaping tall buildings in a single bound. Sometimes, there are so many things on the calendar it’s impossible to completely focus on any one of those things. And often, at the end of the day, there is nothing left to give to my family and no time to spend working on what God truly wants me to be doing.

There are many reasons we say yes to the things others ask us to do but “yes” isn’t always the right answer. Sometimes, by saying yes, we overcommit ourselves and we take away precious time that God had planned to use for a different purpose. Time He set aside to be used for a date with our spouse, for playing with our children or for coffee with a friend. Time He wanted us to give to someone in need. Time He planned to have our undivided attention. Time He was going to use to assign a special project meant for no one else.

Recently, a good friend told me she had made the decision to say no to some of the requests being made of her. I believe she is going to find that to be one of her strongest pieces of equipment.

Sometimes saying yes is the right thing to do but I encourage you to let go of the burden of being everything to everyone. God created you for a special purpose and He wants you to focus on being the best at who He made you to be. Don’t be fooled into thinking that He called you to save the world. He already did that.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. ~ Jeremiah 29:11

Steve…

Written by Lana Lamkin, Director – The Closet Ministry

Most of you probably don’t know Steve. Steve is a worker. He pours his heart into his work yet his work goes mostly unnoticed. Steve has a servant’s heart. He is willing to do whatever is asked of him yet he is rarely asked. Steve is a quiet man. He speaks to few people yet, given the opportunity, he has much to say. Steve is a giver. He has little earthly possessions yet he is willing to give his time and talents. Steve is a man of his word. He fulfills he commitments yet, until people get to know him, some doubt he will. Steve is a very special man.

I met Steve on Tuesday, September 7, 2010. I was working at The Closet at Southbrook Church when my phone rang. I had received several calls about the upcoming Free Shopping Day so I was prepared to give the caller a quick explanation of how The Closet works, hear their needs, thank them for calling and move on with my day. After a few minutes of speaking with Steve, I knew this call was different. It began like several other calls. Steve told me his name and said he would like to volunteer on Saturday for the shopping day. GREAT! Another volunteer! Steve then explained he read about The Closet on the flier taped to the window of the church as he road by on his bike and asked if he would have an opportunity to shop for a suit for church and a pair of pants. That grabbed my attention. Steve must live in the area because he was on his bike and he obviously doesn’t attend Southbrook because we don’t wear suits. I told Steve we would love to have the extra help and asked him if he had a few minutes to come over to do his shopping then instead of on Saturday. Sure enough, he jumped on his bike and was at The Closet within 20 minutes. Steve spent about an hour with us that day. In that short time, I learned a lot about him. He cleans offices for a local business in the evenings, he had some medical issues over the past year, he has a brother, his girlfriend of four years has never seen him in a suit and he would do whatever job we gave him to do on Saturday. God supplied Steve with a shirt, a sport jacket and a tie, a pair of socks, a pair of shoes, a pair of dress pants and a pair of jeans. We talked for a few more minutes, he told me he would be at the church early to volunteer and then Steve went on his way.

I thought of Steve often over the next few days. As I was preparing the schedule for the Free Shopping Day volunteers, I assigned Steve to the very tedious job of sorting hangers. I wasn’t completely convinced he would show up but I knew if he did, he would work diligently and be the best hanger sorter he could be.

Volunteers were asked to arrive at the church by 9:00 am on Saturday to prepare for the day. Steve was there when my family and I arrived at 8:30 am. Early, as he said he would be. I didn’t have much time to spend with Steve during the event but at the end of the day, the hangers were the neatest I’ve ever seen them. In the past, our volunteers couldn’t keep up with the hangers coming back from the check-out area. Steve made it seem easy. That was not all Steve did that day. After the long line of shoppers had dwindled, he cleaned up all the trash that was left behind. Most of us noticed it had been cleaned but few of us knew who did it. And when the shopping was over and as our day came to an end, Steve was one of the last people to leave.

I met a very special friend on Tuesday, September 7, 2010 and had the honor of serving with him on Saturday, September 11, 2010. I don’t know Steve’s last name and I’m not sure if I’ll ever see him again but I thank God for giving me the opportunity to meet him. I pray my friend, Steve, has been blessed by The Closet as much as I have been blessed by him.

“I don’t have much to give but I can give my time. Most people don’t give their time. But I do.” ~ Steve

Bits and Pieces

Written by Lana Lamkin, Director – The Closet Ministry

This morning, through a series of mouse clicks, I landed on Perry Noble’s blog titled “13 Things I Believe About You”. (You just never know where God’s going to lead you through your Facebook friends.)

About a year and a half ago, God set my heart on fire for The Closet Ministry. It began as a spark and quickly grew. Over that year and a half, the fire has spread through the hearts of many others as they have spent time serving at The Closet.

In Perry’s blog, he shares how we should handle the fire that God sets in our hearts.

#13 – I believe when God sets your heart on fire with a desire that is from Him…you should not leave Him alone until you see that desire accomplished. (See Isaiah 62:6-7)

The Closet leadership team has the desire to take this ministry as far as God wants. We will not rest and should not leave God alone until that is accomplished. Our team continually seeks God wisdom and His blessing on those we serve and those serving. Prayers for the needs of the ministry are ongoing.

Another point that jumped off Perry’s blog was belief #2.

#2 – I believe He has a plan for your life…one that He is revealing in steps because IF He revealed it all at once our minds would explode. (See I Corinthians 2:9)

I’ve told several people as I’ve shared about how The Closet started that God usually only gives me bits and pieces of His plans because He knows that I can only handle small amounts at a time. I’ve also shared that I believe this time He gave me the whole picture. I laugh as I think this whole picture that I see could just be the bits and pieces. How much more does God have in store for The Closet? The plan is too big to be known all at once. What He has shown me for the future of The Closet Ministry is bigger than I can wrap my mind around, and I can’t wait to see where He’ll take us next.

In closing, I’d like to add something I believe to the list:

#14 – I believe that if God is for you, no one can stand against you. (See Romans 8:28-31)

I am confident God has called us into this ministry. I have no doubt that He is for us. As long as we stay focused on His direction, NO ONE can stand against The Closet Ministry.

My Disconnected Weekend

Written by Lana Lamkin, Director – The Closet Ministry

This past weekend my husband and I took a trip to the mountains. We have both been extremely busy working and haven’t had much time to relax. It was time for a break. I made the decision that I was going to disconnect during this time. Easy enough, right?

Here’s how the process of disconnecting went. I started by disconnecting from my job. Done. No working. That was easy. If I was going to disconnect from work, then I needed to disconnect from The Closet for a few days too. That wasn’t too hard either. I have a great team who are more than capable of handling things. Next on the list – do not take phone calls unless it is from family. Ok. No problem. They can still reach me in emergencies on my wonderful iPhone. Wait… iPhone! That means text messages and emails. Hmmm, I don’t want to be overwhelmed with emails when I return so I better just keep an eye on them. I won’t read them completely. Just a glance to keep ‘em cleaned up. As for text messages, I’ll just send a text to my daughters to let them know we arrived safely. The computer! I should take it with me. I might want to read the newspaper or play my favorite Internet game, Bejeweled. I know, I know. Bejeweled is in Facebook. I won’t check everyone’s statuses. I’ll just go straight to the game. Now, what will I do in all this down time I’m going to have by unplugging? I’ll read a book. Grab the Kindle. I don’t really like the book I’ve been reading so I’ll just go to Amazon when I get there and find a new one to download. There, now I’m all disconnected. Got my iPhone for emergency phone calls, to text safety statuses to family and to keep emails under control. Got my computer to read up on the world news and play a few games of Bejeweled. Got my Kindle to download a new book.

As you can probably imagine, disconnecting didn’t really work as I had planned. I think I looked at every single email that arrived on my iPhone. I searched for restaurants on the way up the mountain and I believe I even researched something my husband and I were talking about just to be sure we were on track with our thoughts. Do you even know how many times there is no cell service between Charlotte and Highlands? I do! I had to keep looking at my phone to see how many bars I had. I did not want to miss any calls from the kids if something tragic happened. I can’t remember ONE time our family has had a tragedy while I took a few days off. I’m not sure why I thought this could be the time it would happen. I know you’re aware the way to Bejeweled on Facebook is through the home page where everyone posts his or her status updates. Well, I must confess, I didn’t miss much of what was happening in North Carolina or Illinois. I won’t mention the effects the rest of Internet had. And still… I felt disconnected and relaxed.

This relaxing, disconnected weekend leaves me asking myself some questions. What if I were connected to God as much as I’m connected with the rest of the world? Would it be more difficult to disconnect from Him? Are these things keeping me from connecting more to Him? How much clearer would I hear his direction and desires for my life?

After examining all the ways I’m connected to the world, I know I must make a focused effort to disconnect a bit in order to connect more to God. If you happen to see me less on Facebook or if it takes me a little longer to reply to your emails and phone calls, you can be sure I’m getting connected. What about you? Are you connected where you should be?

Hebrews 12:1-4 
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.

S-T-R-E-T-C-H

Written by Lana Lamkin, Director – The Closet Ministry

When I was a little girl, Kenner Products made an action figure called Stretch Armstrong. Stretch Armstrong was a well-muscled body builder and its most notable feature was that its arms and legs could stretch without breaking.

The Closet Ministry has just passed its first anniversary and God is stretching this ministry in many areas. I must admit, it feels GREAT!

Here are few ways we’ve been stretched over the past year.
- Recently, we added several support positions. At our Southbrook location, Lynn Mabe has taken on the role of Sorting Coordinator, Nancy Janes has become our Emergency Needs Coordinator and Carol Taylor is communicating prayer requests as our Prayer Coordinator. Adding support roles has enabled us to be more organized, help those in need of clothing between Free Shopping Days and support others through prayer.

- Deb Morecroft has been appointed as the Prayer Coordinator for First Baptist Church in Vandalia. Deb will communicate prayer requests received through our website to FBC’s pastor and Closet volunteers.

- The Closet at Southbrook has held four Free Shopping Days. The most recent was held on June 5 in a larger, donated space and was a great success. In faith, we have asked the mall manager to donate this space on a long-term basis. We feel that having the additional space will give us the ability to offer more Free Shopping Days throughout the year and it will definitely help with much needed storage space.

- The third Free Shopping Day at FBC Vandalia is just around the corner and we are expecting a great turn out. It’s so exciting to be able to provide quality clothes to those who need them.

- In addition to all of this wonderful growth, our website has been viewed in 22 states and 13 countries! And that’s only in the first 6 weeks!

We are amazed at how God is working with and through this ministry. The growth and changes to The Closet are very exciting and we are looking forward to the plans God has for us in the future. He continues to surprise us daily. We will continue to build muscle in prayer so as God stretches us we will not break.

Let’s S-T-R-E-T-C-H!


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