Happy campers and happy wanderers.

We love God for sure. And we also love camping. Camping has been a favorite pastime for the Crowe family. When my brother Greg and I were little, our parents took us camping in one of those pop up campers. And throughout our childhood, we both attended various camps—bible camp, sports camps, YMCA camp, girl scout and boy scout camps, and more.

Camps can instill excellent values and feelings in children and adults alike. Campers learn new skills and gain confidence, how to share, and how to live with groups of people. And the beautiful nature that normally surrounds camps—lakes, woods, green fields, birds, and animals—all create a space that allows for peaceful meditation and great exercise to boot.

The New Life Bible Camp in Buffalo Mills, PA, is a special place that my nieces and nephews have enjoyed for years. My brother Greg also loved this place. He saw what the camp did for his children and made good friends with the camp directors. The camp’s mission is “to establish, maintain, operate and conduct a Christ centered camp to the glory of God; to proclaim the Word of God in its entirety, that sinners may come to repentance and be born again through faith in Christ; that Christians may be edified through the teaching of God’s Word and made useful for His service; to promote Christian activity in harmony with God’s Word.”

And of course the kids love the waterslides, hikes, rope swings, and the beautiful surroundings. Once when I was talking to Greg about New Life, he mentioned how he liked to go up for visits when the kids were there. He said his daughter was a different person there. I asked him, “In what way is she different?” Greg replied after a moment, “Well, she’s nice.” Okay, I guess for a teenage girl that’s a pretty good thing!

The Masterpiece Fund was established to provide funds for organizations that help people and who spread the good news of the Kingdom. As a place close to our hearts, the Masterpiece Fund is happy to announce the New Life Bible Camp is the most recent recipient of our support. We pray that children in need of funds to go to camp will have the opportunity to enjoy nature and get love and encouragement along with the message of Christ this summer through the staff and directors of New Life Bible Camp.

We encourage all of you with children to consider sending them to this amazing place and see how “nice” they are when they return to you!

Mathew 18: 3-5

“Then he said to them, “I can guarantee this truth: Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes like this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  And whoever welcomes a child like this in my name welcomes me.”

This is a fun song my mom taught us (and sung on more than one occasion) as we wandered through the woods on vacations and trips.

He’s Ha-Ruach, the Wild Goose, or the Holy Spirit, but not the third wheel.

I’ve been having a little pity party lately—in a funk and wondering what I should be doing with my life. If you’re like me, maybe you are grateful for a job but not really working your passion. Do you sometimes question whether you’re on the right path or if you’re fulfilling a purpose? I’m also one of those people who like to be recognized for good and hard work and desire fairness in the world. That often leads to disappointment which leads back to being bummed out.

Recently, after some passionate prayer, God in His wonderful and wise way gave me guidance and comfort. Our new sermon series at church is all about the Holy Spirit. I was struck by how much He (yes, He, not it) is present in our lives. Without the Holy Spirit, we would be dust. He pumps our hearts and breathes life into us.

Our Pastor Mark said this morning that the Holy Spirit was like a humming bird, hovering over us at all times. I thought that was very prophetic because lately my niece and I have been spotting humming birds flying around. Something I haven’t noticed before. Gotta love those Godly coincidences.

The Holy Spirit fights for us—He contends for us—He helps us see the truth and fills the voids in our lives. And yet He gets treated like the third wheel instead of an equal part of the Holy Trinity. God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are all important. I felt bad for the Holy Spirit, thinking about how much I don’t like my efforts to be ignored or taken advantage of. But on He goes, acting as our champion and guide, and not expecting anything in return.

So I’m going to start my days from now on thanking the Spirit and asking Him to fill me with his fruits. Love, joy, kindness, peace, patience, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

And I’m going to be thankful that the Spirit is given to all of us to complete God’s work, whatever that may be. After all, in Exodus, we are told that God filled Bezalel with the Spirit so that he could create the ark just as God wanted it done. Bezalel wasn’t a preacher or missionary, he was an artist and we are all God’s masterpieces so we can do good works here on earth.

I may not understand what God wants me to do with my gifts, I’m just an average business person, but they are His gifts to me and I’ll keep praying that somehow I’m doing my part in His perfect plan. Even if that means a few frustrating tears once in awhile.

Romans 8:26-27

“And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.”

Do you have junk in your trunk?

Sometimes when sitting in church, I wander a bit during the sermon. My mind goes to all sorts of places—some spiritual and some secular. And sometimes during those moments  I get brought back with a proverbial slap and think, “WHAT?” The pastor said something huge that convicted me or recalled a memory that elicits an emotional response. And sometimes he says something that I never thought would come from the mouth of a spiritual leader.

Today our pastor was talking about how it’s okay not to be okay. That church should be a place where you feel God’s grace. Not a place for saints to pat each other on the back, but an emergency room of sorts for sinners. He then says, “Everyone’s got junk in their trunk.”

My immediate reaction was, “Did he just say that? I wonder if he even knows what that means.” He’s a pretty savvy guy who is very connected and aware of trends and current events and knows how to communicate with both young and mature audiences. Hmmm. After a minute (of what I’m sure was some silence after some awkward laughing) he said to take that literally. Okay, yes, if that’s the case, I have an enormous amount of trash, laundry, dog food, bags, soda, wood, and empty bags of chick-fil-a all strewn about my car. A little like my life, so okay, I’ll use that analogy and not take it personally that my pastor thinks I have a huge backside. Which I do, but that’s irrelevant. God loves all of me.

Anyway, fun aside, the message is clear and comforting to those of us who don’t quite make the grade of perfection. But that’s the point. Jesus was perfect and he gave himself up for us. That is what makes the gift worthy. We are not perfect. And no matter what your sin, don’t give up. God forgives everyone. Even Cain, the first murderer, got a break. God forgave him and protected him from the angry mobs, and Cain went on to have a productive life—a family, career, and a life worth living.

Do yourself a favor. Don’t compare your life to anyone else’s. It’s a losing battle. There are 7 billion people on this planet. Almost all of them are much poorer than you are. And there are people who seem better off. But you don’t know what is going on in their life, in their hearts, in their heads, or in their relationships. The only thing you should be concerned with is your relationship with God. He really doesn’t ask much of us if you think about it. Accept His gift and love Him. Then just try to be good. You can’t be perfect so don’t condemn yourself or give up. Just clean some of the junk out of your trunk and keep moving.

John Crowe on a road trip circa 1960s. John went on to lead a monastic life, with very few possessions and a strong commitment to God.

John Crowe on a road trip circa 1960s. John went on to lead a monastic life, with very few possessions and a strong commitment to God.

In memory of Greg Crowe.

The Masterpiece Fund was created to honor Greg Crowe, wonderful father, son, brother, and friend, who passed away on March 12, 2012. The purpose of the Fund is to help people in dire need and spread the good news of the Kingdom. Please visit www.masterpiecefund.org for more information or to make a donation. Please also pray for the fund to succeed and to be used for God’s will. Finally, I ask you to “share” with all of your friends. Post the link on your accounts (facebook, twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, blogs, websites, etc.) and send emails to your friends so that others can be blessed by the resources offered. If you have suggestions for resources (books, websites, etc.) please share them with us.

Greg had a powerful impact on a lot of people. And he surrounded himself with some pretty awesome friends who have been incredibly kind to our family, especially his children. We are grateful for the men and women who are acting as Christ-like role models for the kids so that Greg’s lessons and dreams for them will remain at the forefront of their thoughts. It was very important to Greg that his children know the love and grace of God.

On this second anniversary of Greg’s homeward journey, the family composed their thoughts about Greg. If you have stories, or want to share something about Greg, please make a comment below so his memory will continue in our hearts.

Carol (Greg’s Mom)
Greg was always ready for adventure. From his childhood throughout his life, his adventurous spirit took him to places such as the wilderness of Wyoming with some high school friends on a National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) trip to the mountains of New York with his kids to missions near and far. He learned some serious survival skills that helped him when he lived in poor conditions during Campus Crusade missions in Communist-ruled Moldova, Romania, and Yugoslavia, where he helped people come to Christ and encouraged the Christians there.greg and H on the boat

I remember when Greg was just a young boy, we were climbing a skinny path to base of the Matterhorn in Switzerland, and he ran out to the end of a jetting escarpment overlooking a drop of a thousand feet or more. In my semi- terrorized state he says to me, “Hey mom, take my picture!” Later on, he dropped the camera full of pictures into the hole of a rustic privy high up on the mountain, then came out and said, “I think I can retrieve the camera, do you have a flashlight?” I remember hearing the bouncing camera fall down for quite awhile before thinking, “So much for those pictures.”

He loved playing sports with friends and with his kids, coaching their teams in soccer. He loved driving boats and pulling the kids on tubes and taking them to the sandbar in Walloon Lake, Michigan with the dog to play. And at night when he built a bonfire, it was always big and we feasted on s’mores.

His spirit showed in his humbleness and gentleness more often than not and his nature matured in his solid foundation of Christ abiding with him. His adventurous spirit lives on in his family and our memories.

Zenia (Greg’s daughter)
In movies, it seems like the dad is always telling the daughter to put something appropriate on. My dad did in fact tell Julia, Harmon, and Tyler to change on numerous occasions, like telling Harmon it was okay to wear different clothes after three days. Well my dad let me wear anything—sweat pants to church, flip flops in the winter—pretty much anything. Except the swishy coat. One time, when we went to a meeting and I had that coat on, you could tell it annoyed him. Before we went to the next meeting he looked me straight in the eye and said, “You need to change.” Sweat pants, okay. Ripped jeans, okay. Swishy coat, not okay. And then the only other time I happened to be wearing it, was when I went to his church. I had to get up in the middle of the service and while I was in the bathroom, he texted me and said I was never to wear that coat again. Those movie dads were lucky they didn’t have kids with loud swishy coats.

I want others to remember my dad by the fact that he often put others first.greg-and-kids-beach

Tyler (Greg’s son)
Tyler’s favorite memory of papa was driving with him to Michigan and the beach because he always made boring things fun. Tyler says, “Papa was not a selfish man and always put others first.”

Julia (Greg’s’ daughter)
Julia’s favorite memory of papa was when he would do funny imitations of mom and Tyler at the dinner table. “Papa cared more about his kids than himself,” she says.

Author’s note: As a side note to Tyler’s and Julia’s comments, I can agree that those trips in the car and dinner conversations were super fun. There was a lot of laughing and singing and quoting of movie lines. 

Dawn (Greg’s sister)
For many years I followed my big brother in everything he did. Why, I don’t know. He used to wrestle me to the ground and pick on me and leave me to catch the heat for “all the noise that was going on.” When Greg moved away to college I was thrilled to have the house to myself and even semi-moved into his room and enjoyed sleeping on his water bed. Yes, Greg had one of those cool, 80’s water beds. My peaceful domain was shattered when he returned for the holidays and ate all the food in the house, making me count the minutes until his departure. Years later I regret wasting those moments.

But God gave us some wonderful years together as adults. Time to become close friends and time for me to see the light in Greg shine through. His character was such that he accepted and loved others regardless of their relationship with God. I saw that kindness and how much he loved his family and loved playing with his kids and I knew I wanted that, too. So I followed him again. This time becoming a fan and follower of Jesus. One of the things I miss about Greg is his giggle. It’s contagious. I’ve embeded two videos Greg took of Julia and Zenia as kids and at the end you can hear Greg’s giggle. Glad to have that forever to listen to until we meet again in heaven.


John 11:25-26
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

I can see Him in all the little things.

God loves our praise for all of His graces and blessings, regardless of how large or small they seem to us. Sometimes we only really see or give thanks for the big ones—saving a life, landing a great job, or finding love. But to me, it’s the constant small things that make Him shine and keep me happy and secure in His light. So here are a few things God has blessed me or others around me with lately.

  • My alarm didn’t go off this morning and He woke me just at the right time so I wouldn’t be late.
  • We got a snow day last week. I love the snow and we usually don’t get enough to have off work, so it was a nice break for a few hours.
  • My neighbors are some of the kindest and fun people I know. They stop in to check on my pets when I’m away so I don’t have to worry and I know my house and loved ones are safe.
  • My niece was walking along the beach last weekend thinking how she never has found a conch shell. A minute later she saw not one but a dozen or so on the beach. I’ve been walking that beach for 30 plus years and never saw that. This is a beautiful example of how God delivers WAY bigger than our hearts’ desires or even what we can imagine.
  • I left my keys in my door last night. God protected us by keeping potential bad guys away.
  • I have cats and I feel calmer when they are around and I can pet them. Lately, they have been running away and keeping to themselves, but over the last several mornings, just when I was thinking it would be nice to get a hug, they’ve popped up on my bed to say hello.
  • My small group friends always have great insight and give me things to ponder each week that help me become a better person and a happier one. My small group for the Spring just started up again at a time when I was starting to feel a bit down. It’s His perfect timing, delivering the comfort of good friends.

This is a lovely poem that inspired me to write this post. I found it on another blog and my apologies to the blog owner, since I can’t remember what the site was. But, the author of the poem is Helen Steiner Rice and is entitled “I’ve Never Seen God.”

I’ve never seen God but I know How I feel,
It’s people like you who make Him “So Real”…

My God is no stranger, He’s friendly and gay
And He doesn’t ask me to weep when I pray…

It seems that I pass Him so often each day
In the faces of people I meet on my way…

He’s the stars in the heaven, a smile on some face,
A leaf on a tree or a rose in a vase…

He’s winter and autumn and summer and spring…

In short, God is Every Real, Wonderful Thing…

I wish I might meet Him much more than I do,
I would if there were More People Like You.

Zephaniah 3:17

The LORD your God is in your midst, A victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.

 

Grendel the dog loves the snow as well. Praise God for its beauty.
Grendel and snow

Render unto God your heart.

The theme of National Community Church’s recent sermon series is I Like Giving. One of my favorite guest pastors, Dick Foth, gave a sermon last week about giving. It wasn’t the typical speech about the importance of tithing; this was something so much greater. It reflected the greatness of giving in the way God wants us to give.

Foth read a familiar scripture to us, but the way he read it—with non-verbal communication that included in a new reflection of how I’ve heard this scripture before—gave it completely new meaning to me. Foth was describing how Jesus most likely delivered the words He said in Mathew 21-21. When the scholars were trying to trick Jesus by asking Him if they should pay Roman taxes, Foth said he imagined Jesus saying, “Let me see one of those coins… then after looking at it and holding it out to the scholars, Jesus said, “Whose is this image and superscription? 21 They say unto him, Caesar’s.” Then Foth imagines Jesus tossing the penny on to the ground as if it didn’t mean anything, saying, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s,” and Foth then imagines Jesus pointing to each person and saying slowly and deliberately as if looking into their hearts, “and unto God the things that are God’s.”

You see, that coin was made in the image of Caesar—just a coin, nothing that really means anything—and it was all Caesar could claim. But God—He made you and me in His image. We and the universe are all God’s and He loves us. God wants us—our hearts—not money that we collect.

When I truly thought about that it was very powerful. I write checks to help people but God wants more of us. He wants our hearts to be in it. It’s easy to give what you have extra of. It’s harder to give what you really value and don’t have as much of. To me, that is my time. Lately I’ve been living in a situation where I’ve been giving up more of my private free time to help family, friends, foster dogs, and those who need some comfort and help of others. It doesn’t come easy to me. I’m used to owning my time and loving my privacy, but giving more of me is what God wants. And the more I give up my tight hold on my time for myself, the more I get out of myself and become a better person. A more loving and caring person. Someone that would make Jesus smile. Someone who brightens other people’s lives instead of sucking the light in for me. I’m still working on it (one small step at a time), but God has been blessing me lately with opportunities to help loved ones and friends.

Jesus gave us a gift not to be surpassed. He gave us His life. We cannot out give God but we can strive to give more of ourselves.

John 15:13
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

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Creative worship and storytelling.

Today my pastor (National Community Church’s Mark Batterson) went through our annual report. There were a lot of impressive numbers and any organization would be proud of the growth, the giving, the numerous missions throughout the world, and the number of people who have been positively affected by the volunteers, members, and staff of NCC.

That’s all really great, but pastor Mark reminded us several times that every number is a person and every person has a story and it’s the stories that are important. We should be sharing our stories and praising God for our blessings.

At NCC we have three core convictions. The first is that the church ought to be the most creative place on the planet. I was smiling as Mark quoted Ephesians 2:10 (the scripture that inspired the Masterpiece Fund). God is infinitely creative (if you question that, take a look out the window at how beautiful our world is). And each of us is unique and special. No one can praise God the way you can—in your own unique and creative way. At NCC our beliefs are orthodox—our methods (meeting in movie theaters) are not.

Another conviction is that the church belongs in the middle of the marketplace. Wherever we are, there goes the church. We need live our lives out in the world and spread hope and love at every intersection and with every encounter.

A third core conviction is our belief that God will bless our church in proportion to how we give to missions and care of the poor in our city. As my family decides on the recipients of donations from the Masterpiece Fund, we pray. We ask for your prayers for us and the Fund as well. Mark preached that unless God builds the house, we labor in vain. We can promote the Masterpiece Fund and ask people to contribute, but unless we keep praying and following God’s plan, we won’t grow or prosper.

As we’ve mentioned on our web site, our hope is that we can feed thousands with small donations from people such as you. We believe God will bless the contributions so we can help more people. The more contributions come in, the more we can give away. The more we give away, the more we are blessed. We may not start off with lots of readers, or facebook likes, or big donations, but that’s okay, as long as it’s blessed by God and we start somewhere doing something.

But as I said earlier, it’s all about the stories. We want to hear your story. Whether it’s about a unique person you met this week or an inspirational message about an answered prayer, share your story!

Zechariah 4:10
“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.”
Creativity begins when we are children. Hold on to that throughout your life and bring joy to those around you.
Harmon painting at Grandma's house

In the beginning.

Welcome to the first post for the Masterpiece Fund! Let’s talk for a minute about what the Masterpiece Fund is and how it relates to you and the gifts and blessings you’ve been given.

Everyone has gifts. Some use their gifts to fight injustice, others can talk to anyone anywhere and become a trusted friend with a shoulder to cry on, some quietly add up numbers or create schedules, some inspire through sermons, blogs and speeches, and others write checks. I’ve always been one of those “write checks” kind of people. But I know God wants more from me. He wants me to be more involved, sacrifice some of my time that I so greatly value and be part of the larger community—take an active role in the life of others.

So, I started using my gifts by setting up the Masterpiece Fund. Yes, I wrote a check. And now comes the more. What my gifts are and how they can be used, I’m still working out, but for now I’m going to write this blog and hopefully provide inspiration, stories, resources, laughs, and things to think about for you and all the friends you share this with. And I’ve started volunteering a little more here and there. This “keep-options-open-introverted-girl” is making some commitments and loving it.

I started the Masterpiece Fund because I wanted to honor my brother’s memory. My big brother Greg passed away in 2012 and took a chunk of my heart with him. Greg was a father of four beautiful children, a great son to parents who outlived him and a wonderful friend to many, including his little sister who hung around all the time getting fixes of family life and laughs with him and the kids. Greg was a wonderful role model. He loved the Lord and wanted more than anything else to spend eternity with his family. He taught his children faithfully and loved and cared about people whether or not they were in a relationship with Jesus. Through his faith and love, and just how he conducted his life, he showed me the kind of life I wanted to live. Yes, Christians can have fun and they can have problems and they are normal people. I saw that through him and was able to open my heart to Jesus. So I want everyone to remember my brother not only because he was such a big part of my life but also because his principles are worth sharing and praising. If Greg were here today he would turn the limelight off him and turn it toward God. That is exactly what we are going to do through the Masterpiece Fund. Praise God and glorify Him through his blessings.

It is with humble prayer that I ask God to bless the Masterpiece Fund. Through this fund, we can do God’s work on His earth. We will seek the poor and abused of this world—not turning away because it’s too hard to witness the sad brutality of their lives or because we feel we can’t save the world. We will face them head on with love in our hearts and prayers for their healing and hopefully some hard cash for resources that will lift up their lives with food, shelter, safety, advocates, education, enlightenment, counseling, and more.

Please help us do what Jesus did for the crowds. Let’s have faith and pray that He will turn a few loaves of bread and fish into enough to feed thousands. Let’s have faith and prayer that He will use the Masterpiece Fund to provide resources both monetary and spiritual that will heal and lead to salvation for His children. Let’s have faith and prayer that word will get out and others will feel inspired by the Holy Spirit to use their gifts to help others.

If you have resources to share, want to use your gifts to help us, want to write a blog post, share your experiences and testimonies, tell stories about God’s work you’ve witnessed, have prayer requests or answered prayers to share, please write to the Masterpiece Fund at donations@masterpiecefund.org.

Please share this with all your friends and family, co-workers, church members and leaders, and anyone you want to inspire.

2 Corinthians 9:10-11 
Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.