Posted in Adults | By Meghan Roper | Posted on Wed May 3, 2017
Editor's Note: Through the loss of her daughter, Ellanie Beth, God has faithfully mended Maegan Roper's broken heart to encourage other families dealing with loss as well. Maegan facilitates infant loss retreats to help women find healing in Christ. In addition to her book, 30 Days of Hope for Restoration in Infant Loss, she's also written for digital and print publications such as Pregnancy After Loss Magazine, Engaging Motherhood, MinistryMatters, The Better Mom, Missions Mosaic and more. She resides in McCalla, AL with her husband, Jeremy and children Emmalyn and Harrison.
When moving forward seems impossible…
“I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; Wait on the Lord.” Psalm 27:13-14 (NASB)
Infant loss is unique. It has many faces and forms, and while each of them are different, no one can prepare you for how to handle the sorrow. You can rejoice in the relief of knowing that you are fully understood by the Lord. Others will not understand what you’re going through. They’ll try to answer the unanswerable. And while they mean well, most of what they say will probably frustrate you.
And that’s okay. God gets your struggles. Your feelings of inadequacy. Your hurt. And your hesitancy to move forward with a “normal” life.
I vividly remember having a come apart in my parent’s living room one week after we lost our daughter to a rare birth defect called anencephaly. We did not find out until I was 20 weeks pregnant with her. She was born and went to heaven all in the same breath. It was the month of December, and it just didn’t feel like Christmas time. We hadn’t participated in any of the usual traditions and festivities, and I hadn’t bought a single gift. Not one. It suddenly seemed to all come crashing down on me, and I found myself loathing “normal.”
I didn’t want to get out and go shopping. I didn’t want to attend Christmas parties or send out Christmas cards. What is usually so exciting and anticipated seemed unnecessary and daunting. And it wasn’t, really. It was just my perspective at the time. And instead of approaching this grieving process one day at a time as it slowly merged with my once normal life, I felt that I was supposed to shut off what had just happened and dive back into normal life.
That’s not what God expects of you at all. The reality is that you’ll have a new normal from here on out. It’s almost as if your life becomes divided -- before loss and after loss. And after loss, you do your best to get back to what you were doing before loss, but it just isn’t the same and that’s okay.
He has promised that we will see His goodness in the land of the living and give us courage to approach our new normal if we wait on Him. I think for the longest time I feared for taking any steps into a new normal because I felt I was leaving my baby girl behind. But sometimes sorrow and hope must mingle in the present, as we take one step at a time.
Those steps forward do not mean you love less. They do not mean you stop grieving or missing. They do not mean you forget. They do not mean letting go. Moving forward is about learning, growing, and trusting. You just learn to live in a world that keeps turning, even though yours stopped for a bit.
When others would say “It’ll be okay; you’ll move on...” it didn’t feel right. I know our natural human reaction is to leave a bad situation in the past, but part of me wanted to keep it in front of me AS I moved forward, a reminder of God’s grace in my pain and the promise of future glory.
There is no rulebook for the pace at which you should move. Don’t rush, but don’t be afraid either. Moving forward means turning toward hope and believing God is greater than it all.
In my journey toward restoration, the Lord led me to write a 30 day devotional, encouraging others through infant loss. It is called 30 Days of Hope for Restoration in Infant Loss. I am truly humbled by how the Lord has chosen to use our daughter’s story to bring healing hope to others.
There are other resources that have helped me understand God’s purpose and have pointed me to Scripture that I would recommend. I pray that you find them helpful as well:
- Safe in the Arms of God by John MacArthur
- Mended by Angie Smith
- Your Pain is Changing You by David Crosby
If you’re walking through infant loss right now and would like to be a part of a community encouraging one another, then please check out Engaging Motherhood. As co-editor of the infant loss section, we are offering an email series to parents who need encouraging in this area. You may sign up to receive the emails here.
Posted in From the Pastor | By Danny Wood | Posted on Thu Mar 16, 2017
The Global Impact Celebration is now three weeks behind us and we are still getting great feedback from the missionaries and church planters! We are lining up short term mission trips for our people to be boots on the ground resources to assist them in their work. For a listing and description of mission projects, go to http://www.shades.org/ministries/mission-projects.
Praying and going are important and so is giving. It is your giving to Make Jesus Known that provides the financial support for these ministries that helps them continue to do their work of advancing the Kingdom of God. If you have not completed a pledge card, I encourage you to do that sometime these next couple of Sundays. We are attempting the largest goal ever ($1.2 million) for MJK and it will take all of us to make this a reality. Pray about it and make a commitment knowing that you have nine months to complete it. Thousands of missionaries and church planters are depending on us.
On the topic of giving, a number of our members support The Big Oak Ranch and its founder, John Croyle, and now his son, Brody. We have had John come and speak numerous times to Sunday School classes and most recently to Man Church. The Dave Belcher Scholarship Fund at Big Oak Ranch was established several months ago by his friends in the Businessmen’s Bible Class at SMBC. The Fund will provide a $2,500.00 (initially) scholarship each year to a young man or woman to be selected by Big Oak from their class of graduating high school seniors. Dave cared deeply for the young people at Big Oak, and this annual scholarship will be a continuing tribute to him. If you are a regular contributor to this ministry or want to begin, I encourage you to support this scholarship fund.
This week through April 15, Scott Heath, our Executive Pastor, will be taking a well-deserved four-week sabbatical. Our Employee Handbook provides for ministerial staff to receive sabbaticals at 5-year intervals once an employee reaches ten years of service. Scott celebrated his 15th year of service with Shades back in November. I know many of you are shocked that Scott has been here 15 years because he does not look to be over 30 years of age but I can assure you that we did not hire him when he was 14 years old!
This Sunday I will begin a new sermon series Transformed and continue it until April 23. Our mission statement is “Sending transformed people to influence their world for Christ.” We have focused a great deal on “sending” and now I want us to look at what it means to be “transformed.” Bottom line is transformation is an ‘outward reality of an inner work.’ This is a great time to invite your friends, neighbors and coworkers to join you at church as we lead up to Easter Sunday. Over the next few weeks we will be sharing a number of tools to assist you in making the invitations.
I believe Sunday will be a glorious day as we kick-off the new sermon series and learn more about the transforming power of a relationship with Jesus Christ!
Posted in Children | By Stephanie Hartsell | Posted on Mon Mar 6, 2017
In an “all about me” world, we long to teach our kids what it means to put others first, to have a servant’s heart, and to be selfless. Serving together as a family can be a catalyst for a kid’s growing faith and character, producing these things.
Before you tune me out and think, “We can’t add one more thing to our busy schedules!” I’m not saying you have to plan a three-hour yard cleaning for the widow down the street. Instead, make service a part of your family’s DNA by keeping an eye out for things that need to be done and the people around you who are in need. It may be that the widow’s yard does need to be cleaned. But it may also be that Jimmy, the kid next door, broke his arm and just needs a batch of chocolate chip cookies,& which your children can help you make (or help you pick out the Walmart iced sugar cookies and put them on a plate with a card your kids make and deliver … whichever one you have time for).
Serving together as a family can become a way of life when we change how we look at our sphere of influence. Listen and be aware. Find a need, great or small, and work as a family to meet it. Talk it over, pray about it, involve your children in thinking of ways to meet a need and then do it.
Once you have completed the act of service, take a few moments to talk about the experience and how everyone felt about it. Take time to pray for the people you helped or your community and ask God to help your family to have eyes to see the needs around you.
Serving together grows our kids’ faith and produces character because it:
- requires them to look outside themselves
- helps them to feel empathy for others
- helps them to learn about gifts and talents God has given them
- helps them understand that they can accomplish significant things TOGETHER
Doing service together as a family is an experience you and your children can have and can make wonderful memories for your family.
How can your family be “LIVE SENT” by serving someone this week?
Posted in From the Pastor | By Danny Wood | Posted on Tue Jan 24, 2017
Last Sunday I was able to share “Our Next Chapter” vision ... a focus and direction for Shades for the next five to 10 years. It was multi-faceted in its approach and God-sized in its challenge. It was formed over a year and a half of studying, praying, and receiving input from our congregation and from outside sources. We are excited about all the opportunities that are before us and what our church family will look like as we “live sent” each day of our lives. These are amazing days as we move forward and become effective laborers in the harvest in our community, our city, our country, and our world!
Also if you missed the service, you can go to this link and watch the sermon. I encourage you to watch the service and pray to God and ask Him to direct you to the area(s) in which He desires to use you to advance His Kingdom. Take up the challenge of the “Live Sent” life and see what a difference God will make and how He will use you in ways you never imagined!
This Sunday I will begin a four-week sermon series entitled “Here/After." We will be looking at eternity, heaven, and hell. This Sunday the focus will be on “Eternity: What Happens When I Die?” On February 5, I will be preaching on “Hell” and then the next two weeks on “Heaven”. Everyone has questions about eternity and the Bible has some very clear answers. So take the opportunity and invite a friend to join you for this practical and life-changing sermon series.
I am as excited today as I have ever been about the potential for Shades to engage our community and impact our nation and our world with the Gospel. I am praying for you that you will “live sent” and be so in tune with God that you are ready whenever He calls and wherever He sends.
Posted in From the Pastor | By Danny Wood | Posted on Mon Jan 9, 2017
This has been quite an interesting couple of weeks. On Christmas Eve our worship center was filled with the largest attendance ever and we had a wonderful evening of worship. The next morning on Christmas day we had about 1000 in worship which blew me away! With the next Sunday being New Year’s Day, I had pretty low expectations but again we had about 1000 in worship and another great day of worship.
And then there was last Sunday, January 8. With high hopes and lots of preparation, I was excited anticipating a large crowd of eager worshippers anxious to hear about the State of the Church and to join in the Celebration of the conclusion of Chapters. And then came the ice. As most of Birmingham was stirring around and getting out of the house, Shades sat atop an ice filled mountain surrounded by icy streets and we had to cancel all Sunday activities. However, in the midst of that disappointment, I was reminded that Shades Mountain Baptist Church is not the physical structure on 2017 Columbiana Road…it is the people, the body of Christ.
So in an effort to gather the body of Christ and hear a word from God’s Word, four of us put together a worship service to livestream to our church body. I preached; Ryan Maynard handled the sound; Ethan Milner the video; and Chad Cossiboom sat in the worship center about half way back in my eyesight and played the part of a soul in need of restoration (and he played the part very well…in the words of the old Buck Owens Song and later performed by the Beatles “and all I gotta do is act naturally”!).
I preached a different sermon than planned and visually to a lot smaller audience than anticipated. But when the service was over our tracking showed that 1001 I.P. addresses from 21 states and 2 countries outside the US had huddled around their computer screens, cell phones or iPads and listened to the Word of God and had a worship experience. Realizing that each I.P. address could have 2 or more people, we might have reached more people than I had originally anticipated! God is good and His Word will not return void!
The weather for this Sunday will be lots different…in the 70s! This Sunday I will preach on the “State of the Church” and we will celebrate Chapters and some of the amazing victories the Lord accomplished through your faithfulness in giving and going.
Then on January 22, I will be sharing a vision for the next chapter in the life of Shades. Make every effort to be here and join in the blessings of being together, sharing life, and worshipping our Lord in music and message.
P.S. – With our budget needs and missions commitments we need 52 weeks of Sunday giving to meet those challenges. We missed last Sunday so please make sure you get caught up! Click here to give online. Thanks!
Also, go to this link to catch up on all the news of major happenings at Shades.
Posted in From the Pastor | By Danny Wood | Posted on Sat Jan 7, 2017
One of the "blessings" of being located on a mountain ... a "shady" mountain at that ... is that when ice and snow come, we are the first to receive it and the last to get rid of it! And we find ourselves in that position leading into Sunday.
With the recommendation of the Vestavia Hills Police Department to avoid travel, and most of our church building entryways covered in ice, it is in the best interest of safety that we cancel our Sunday morning worship service and Sunday School classes. Have a great weekend, be safe, and enjoy time with your family.
Photo courtesy of Chris Adler
Posted in Children, Students, Adults, Worship, Caring, Community Life | By Jacob Simmons | Posted on Mon Dec 19, 2016
You guys, Christmas is great.
What’s not to love?! It gets a little cold, but not too cold (I see you, January.) so you have a chance to pull out your best jacket and drink warm drinks. There are lots of parties, so you get all caught up on the happenings and the goings-on. There are some great things on TV. It’s a season with it’s own music that you already know the words to. It’s a perfect opportunity to take a tree that normally goes outside, and put it inside! Seriously, what’s not to love about Christmas?
I’m writing a bit tongue-in-cheek, of course, but these parts of Christmas truly are fun and something to look forward to. But without the Christ-child, they’re meaningless. They’re window dressing. They’re liquid butter without the popcorn. They’re a parade without purpose. They’re an appetizer without a main course.
The Christmas season is a season of anticipation and remembrance. If the object of our anticipation is wrong, our celebration will be misguided. And if our remembering is weak or fuzzy, our worship is miscalibrated.
It’s tempting to only anticipate the “season” of Christmas instead of the event. And it’s tempting to remember the Christmases of years past and their memories instead of the original Christmas and the hope that comes with it.
But succumbing to those temptations leads us down a road of misguided praise and misplaced worship. We become the misinformed child who becomes enamored with the cardboard box and unaware of the treasure inside.
So this Christmas season, practice ways in which the coming of Christ (and his coming again!) is more anticipated than the coming of Santa.
Read the Christmas story together as a family. Talk about who the Biblical characters were and what they would have felt like. Name out loud how your life would be different in the Christ-child hadn’t come.
If the Christmas season is about the presence of God with us, practice presence with your family. If the Christmas season is about God’s greatest gift, consider making a gift to someone in need.
Find a baby, hold him, and think about him as the savior of the world. Consider putting that baby in the dog bowl and ponder the humility of Christ.
Whatever you need to do to focus your soul on Jesus, strive hard to do that thing. You were created by the Almighty God to worship Him and know Him.
Let Christmas be the season for you to do what you were created to do.
Posted in Students, Adults, Community Life | By Kevin Naylor | Posted on Mon Dec 12, 2016
Most of us run so hard during the semester that by the time we get to winter break we don’t know what to do with "free time” – whatever that is. We think that simply having free time will mean that we will rest. But we have all had breaks where we had all the free time we could want and yet end up more restless at the end of the break than when it began. Simply having time off from homework and class does not ensure that you will be able to rest. We do not rest by simply not having anything to do. That can actually make us rest less. In order to rest we cease doing things that drain us and focus on things that refresh us. So here are some suggestions on how to have a restful and not a restless winter break.
1. Receive Grace.
Jesus is our rest. He frees us from our constant and exhausting striving to prove ourselves to God. He says to us, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) We can have rest through Christ because he bore the greatest restlessness on the cross – separation from the Father and the punishment for sin that he did not commit. This is the good news of Christ. And it is news that our souls need every day.
How do we rest in the rest Christ provides? We do this largely through what the church has called “means of grace.” These are avenues by which God assures us of his loving disposition towards us in Christ, allowing us to know him in a deep and real way – and subsequently to rest. Among other things the means of grace include: baptism, the Lord’s Supper, community, hearing Scripture read and explained, and personal Scripture reading and prayer.
The devotional acts of reading, meditating, journaling, and praying through Scripture are some of the key ways the Spirit reveals God’s true heart for us in Christ. Grab a bible, a pen, a journal, set an alarm to go off in 30 minutes so you’re not constantly checking the time, and see what God might do. There’s no wrong place to start.
2. Worship Corporately.
As Western Christians we tend to focus almost exclusively on private ways of growing in love for God and others. We focus a lot on reading Scripture and praying by ourselves (“devotions” or “quiet times”) – which we should. But we often neglect corporate means of grace such as weekly worship services and community groups.
What does is it look like to engage in corporate worship? It involves more than showing up and sitting in a pew. It is easy to get into the habit of attending church services just because that is what you do in the South on Sundays. Even if you don’t always like the preaching or always connect with the music it means attending a worship service with a sense of expectation that God himself will speak to you as the gospel unfolds through the service.
What if you prayed before the service that your heart would be prepared to receive? What if you prayed for the pastor preaching? What if you prayed for the people you would talk to before and after the service, that you would be able to find ways to encourage and comfort them with the good news of Jesus Christ? What if you finished the service by praying that the church as a whole would respond in repentance and belief to the Word preached?
Engaging in corporate worship can do wonders for our souls. Whether you choose to attend your home church or a different church in your hometown, don’t miss the benefit of the Sundays between the fall and the spring semesters.
3. Expect Temptation.
If Jesus is the source of our rest, then sin is the key cause of our restlessness. Breaks provide unique opportunities for the enemy to whisper his subtle lies in our ears. Be aware that being back home with a lot of free time will remind your heart of old temptations and stir up new ones. Sin tempts us with the promise of satisfaction, fulfillment, and deliverance. But take hope because we have a better satisfaction, lasting fulfilment, and truer deliverance that are ours perfectly in Christ.
The beautiful thing about the gospel is that it provides us safety to be honest with ourselves (and others) about the true state of our souls without feeling condemned. The reality is that we are all five minutes away from destroying our lives. So let’s look to Jesus in the moment of temptation, thank him in the moment of victory, and cling to him in the moment of failure.
4. Stop Scrolling.
Nothing gives the illusion of rest like scrolling through social media. We think we are resting because we are on the couch, free from work with phone in hand. But the constant scrolling keeps our minds hyper-stimulated with a stream of disconnected tweets, blogs, statuses, and images. Our attention is diverted every two seconds with a new post. This constant stimulation makes us restless even as we image it to be restful.
When we look to social media to give us rest we fail to realize that rest takes work. I’ll say that again: rest takes work. We don’t accidently rest. Rest necessitates focused attention to that which energizes us. Social media scrolling acts as a pacifier for the restless. It distracts for a little while but it doesn’t solve the problem. Always scrolling; never resting.
Often our phones are the main hindrance to our rest. So what if you shut down your phone for an hour each day of the break to put energy towards something that actually refreshed you? Or what if you took a fast from social media for a week? What kind of rest would be available to us if we disconnected for even a little while?
5. Engage Family.
While you’re disconnected from your phone, connect with your family. Ask them questions. Tell them you love them. Share with them what you are learning. Consider their needs and serve them. We can easily slip back into “kid mode” when going home for breaks during college. Kid mode is characterized by taking, not giving. Don’t be alarmed by this, but: you’re an adult. You have the privilege and responsibility to serve your family by giving and not simply taking.
What does this have to do with not being restless? As our Lord said, “It is better to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35) By taking initiative to be more present and engaged with your family you will be blessed and find rest.
I recognize that this is easier for some than others. Some of you have a wonderful family that you can’t wait to see and spend time with. But some of you might have a painful relationship with your family and you are dreading going home. If you find yourself with a difficult family, I encourage you to focus on prayerfully taking small steps in this direction. We can do this because our Lord Jesus made us his family members when we were his enemies.
Posted in Adults | By Steve Browning | Posted on Mon Dec 5, 2016
“We don’t go anywhere.”
These were the words of the young man buying our old air hockey/pool table combo. He saw the table for sale on Facebook and had come by to haul it off. As we prepped the table to be moved, I asked him for his story. He grew up “Over The Mountain,” graduated from a local high school, and served in the military. Afterward, he returned to the area to raise his family.
When we lifted the table onto the trailer, he asked what I did for a living. I told him that I was one of the pastors at Shades Mountain Baptist Church.
“Oh, yeah. I’ve driven by there many times before," he said. "On Columbiana right?”
“That’s the one,” I told him.
“Where do you go to church?” The question was in the natural flow of conversation. It didn’t catch him off guard or offend him that I asked.
He matter-of-factly responded, “We don’t go anywhere.”
Here is someone that has driven past our church many times. He knows the location, has seen banners advertising our events, and has never stepped in the door. The days of people coming to church simply because there is a church to go to are long gone. In fact, statistics tell us that nearly half of people who live Over The Mountain “don’t go anywhere.”
This breaks the heart of God. He has created people for a thriving, meaningful relationship with Himself. Jesus gave His life so that people would enter into a relationship with God and become part of the movement known as His Church. We cannot sit on the sidelines and watch our community trickle away from God. So what do we do?
It is time for us to engage our community. Shades Mountain Baptist Church is launching a new initiative aimed at making a difference Over The Mountain for the Gospel. Community Engagement is about three things:
- Serving our Institutions
- Sharing with Individuals
- Starting New Endeavors
Serving Our Institutions: Our schools and first responders need our support. In the coming months we will make a significant investment to bless our community institutions Over The Mountain. We will adopt schools in our own neighborhoods. We will tangibly bless our first responders through building relationships, bringing meals, and training chaplains from our own congregation. We will expand our partnerships so that our community institutions know that Shades cares.
Sharing with Individuals: God has uniquely positioned our church membership through the community. In many neighborhoods and businesses, there are people from Shades who can share the Gospel with people who are in desperate need of it. In the days ahead, we will equip hundreds of Shades members with effective ways to share their faith and help others begin a relationship with Jesus.
Starting New Endeavors: Across our community, there are pockets of people in neighborhoods without a strong, gospel-preaching local church. Perhaps it is because some of the churches in that area are in decline and getting ready to close their doors. Perhaps it is because there is no church at all to be a witness in that part of the community. Shades will begin new endeavors in church planting, church revitalization, and/or starting campuses Over The Mountain to meet the need.
Our hope in Community Engagement is not to get everyone in the community in the doors of our church, but to get our church into the community. We see a day coming when Shades is more than a church that someone drives by on Columbiana Road. We imagine a day when Shades will bring life and light to every road in the community Over The Mountain.
I hope that you will join us in this new and exciting vision. May God use every effort of Shades in Community Engagement to bring people into a life-giving relationship with Jesus Christ!
If you are interesting in joining and leading within this effort, please email Steve Browning at firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted in Worship | By Michael Adler | Posted on Mon Nov 28, 2016
All of my adult life I have loved the mission of helping to creatively set the stage to tell the Gospel story.
On many occasions I’ve gotten to work with brilliant, highly gifted people; artists whose virtuosity was heads above the rest.
I’ve worked with those who aspired to be great, giving their all and working at every opportunity to refine and develop their gifts.
I’ve worked with folks who were just hard working, devoted saints without a lot of flourish or flair. They could swing a hammer or paint a flat or sew a tunic.
But collectively, when this group comes together and -- shoulder-to-shoulder -- they lean into their one big thing, something wonderful is about to bloom and flourish and find its place in one whose heart is ready to hear.
Telling the Gospel story has been a part of the life and calling of believers since Jesus gave us the definitive “go” in Matthew 28. But Jesus didn’t just hang this centuries old command around our necks without an instruction manual.
His methods for explaining this new life to the people of His time were simple. He could take something as common as a seed, or a pearl, or some yeast, or even a child to stimulate the mind and the imaginations of His listeners. He knew his audience, and He knew how to creatively use tools that were familiar to them in order to bring clarity to his message. He used every prop that was available to Him whether it was a fisherman’s net or a stick etching a compelling message in the sand.
His storytelling, and the visuals He added to them, drew audiences from miles around. More often than not, He left those audiences with transformative questions and new tools for living life based on His Kingdom perspective.
Time moved on, and His story was not only the subject of the preacher in the city square.
His story was the subject of oratorios and dance, of painting and sculpture. Stories written to deftly intertwine Christian themes began to populate the landscape of both literature and entertainment. Writers such as Tolkein and C.S. Lewis brought God’s redemptive story to the populace through brilliant allegories and captivating storytelling.
And today a new generation of believers rises up to bring light to this world and life to those who will listen. Today, our calling remains the same.
The ultimate Creator has called us, His creation, to declare His greatness to all the nations. While a bullhorn and soapbox might create the most volume, the creative gifts found within the body of Christ have proven far more effective in finding their way to a listening heart. Our message remains the same, and we are compelled to craft new ways to repeat the sounding joy.
Joy to the World! The Lord is Come!