“Research proves marriage is still the best means of happiness, financial stability, and raising children.” —Sheila Weber, Let’s Strengthen Marriage
For the past number of years, we have been blessed to observe “National Marriage Week,” which started in 2010. Today, it is sponsored by the Let’s Strengthen Marriage organization. This annual observance, which begins on February 7th and continues through February 14th every year, seeks to provide a heightened awareness of the importance of healthy, strong marriages and families and to initiate new efforts to reduce the divorce rate and build a stronger marriage culture which, in turn, helps curtail poverty as it provides benefits to children.
According to research on the breakdown of marriages, there are far-reaching effects, including life expectancy and negative national economic impact to taxpayers, not to mention the emotional devastation on children of divorced parents, as well as the toll it takes on the couples themselves. Chuck Stetson, chairman of Let’s Strengthen Marriage, was quoted as saying, “The marriage breakdown costs taxpayers at minimum of $112 billion a year. The nation needs to pay attention.” While this is absolutely a compelling reason to take notice, there are also undeniable reasons based on what we believe is God’s heart for and love of His people as it relates to marriages and families.
“Research shows that marriage makes people happier, live longer, and build more financial security. Children who live with their married parents do vastly better by almost every measurement,” says Let’s Strengthen Marriage executive director Sheila Weber. “There are proven ways to repair and restore marriages–but most folks don’t know where to get the help they need.” One of the goals of this initiative, as stated by the parent organization, Let’s Strengthen Marriage, is to elevate national attention on a year-round basis about the need to strengthen marriage and ways to do it, and initiate new efforts to reduce the divorce rate and build a stronger marriage culture.
Once again, this year, Windwood embraces the opportunity to stand for healthy marriages – and, as a ministry that was formed, inspired and continues to operate on what we perceive as God’s intent for marriages and families, A Future and a Hope Ministries welcomes the observance of National Marriage Week and are pleased to cooperate and support the efforts and initiatives being planned for the membership and surrounding communities of Windwood Presbyterian Church.
God is honoring our joint ministries’ efforts and plans to positively impact the decline of healthy, Godly and intact marriages and families. We observe that one of the greatest contributing factors to marital discord is based on financial struggles. Recently, through the efforts of one of our counseling team members, we have seen one of the blessings God has provided, in that the Dave Ramsey organization has generously and graciously provided a significant discount of the Financial Peace University kit to those clients of A Future and a Hope Ministries. For those who desire to take the class Ramsey started decades ago, this is a blessing. In order to “help people manage money God’s way,” who may be struggling enough financially that make even the purchase of a kit cost-prohibitive, this discount provides hope and solutions. Financial Peace University provides guidance and sound advice on turning the tide for those who experience the discouraging issues of financial hardship and the ways that they contribute to the struggles of this life. We are blessed to be able to help and reach many more for the sake of happy, healthy and intact marriages and families in our community through the generosity of the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University organization.
As God continues to bless our efforts to do His will in A Future and a Hope Ministries, we remain committed to seeking His face for guidance and direction, as He encourages us through the victories in Christ we are honored to witness, as the Holy Spirit heals and strengthens those He leads to us for counseling and care. Part of the Mission Statement of A Future and a Hope Ministries, declares, “Our counseling team believes that with God at the center of our families and relationships, hope and healing is still possible – a future filled with all that God has intended for us.”
We are excited to be equipped and involved in the calling to serve God and His people through this ministry – and as February begins, we joyfully engage and participate in the celebration of loving relationships, Godly marriages and intact families. . .
To His honor and by His grace,
I realize that it’s been two months since you’ve heard from us. Well, it has not been for lack of news to report. Rather, it has been because there have been LOTS of things going on as we have been “heads-down busy” working at getting this ministry of God up and running. I realize that’s not an excuse, but it is the truth of our existence over the last few months. So, where do I start to share? Because, make no mistake, we want to share the good news of how God has been at work in this ministry. . .
The first bit of good news that comes to mind is the most recent news. A number of months ago, I was sharing with some friends about the ministry, and how they might join God as He is at work in the healing of His people through this Kingdom work at A Future and a Hope Ministries. They shared with me some information about a program at their work that offered a counseling-type employee benefit. Well, one thing led to another, and it became clear that God wanted us to pursue this, when recently one of our donors, who contributes to the ministry, asked me to consider putting together a program for her company that happened to sound a lot like the program my other friend described months ago!
The bottom line and “God-sighting” good news, is that a proposal was drafted, presented to the company owner and donor last week. She accepted our proposal, and we are now busy getting this program up and functioning! What a blessing! Praise God for His encouragement and provision! Stay tuned for updates, as we work on this opportunity God has put before us, and realize what the company owner refers to as a “win/win/win,” in that the ministry is blessed by the financial and prayer support, she is blessed in being able to provide an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for her employees, and the employees of her company receive good Christian counseling services at a nominal copay that makes it affordable for them.
The next good news to report is that we have recently been blessed to hire a part time ministry assistant! Lyle Hurst is now helping with the many and varied administrative and marketing needs of the ministry – and he is doing a good job – and we are blessed with his energy and enthusiasm! If you don’t already know Lyle, I encourage you to stop by and meet him. You’ll be glad you did!
The next good news to report is that, as we have been busy organizing and getting things in line with “best practices” protocols, we have just about completed getting an accounting system set up, purchased liability insurance, have joined the Tomball and Northwest Houston Chambers of Commerce and are in the process of getting to meet and form connections to leadership at local churches.
This last blessing of getting to know the leadership of local churches has been an important step to forming alliances with others who are answering the call to assist in the care and healing of God’s people through the struggles of this life. One of the things that we have learned as we have served in this work, is that there is no competition amongst Christian counselors. Sadly, there are not enough of us to meet the needs of our community.
As we meet and get to know those also serving the spiritual and emotional needs of the many communities of faith in the northwest Houston area, we have discovered many ways to work together, cooperating with the work God is already doing in and through these churches and para-church organizations.
God has been so good to us! We interpret this as more than blessing. We accept this as His way of letting us know that we are where He wants us and are doing what He wants us to do!
Stay tuned, as we continue on this path and report highlights of the journey along the way! It is a joy to serve alongside Him, and you, our partners. Thank you for your faithful love and support!
To Him be the glory!
In this life, we seldom are able to see what God is up to until the glory of His love is actually before us. It would seem that the Lord enjoys “surprising and delighting” us. It seems that we serve a God Who is so deeply in love with us, that He is continually blessing us every minute of every day, and if we will just look around us, we will see the beauty of His blessings for us.
I write this newsletter today from a vantage point in Tucson, Arizona, where I sit on a balcony outside my room, overlooking mountains with all forms of wildlife that are just awakening to the new day. It’s 5:30 in the morning and the sun is up enough that I do not need any artificial light to see and experience the blessings of nature in this setting God has prepared for me this morning. Clearly God has gone before me and has given me another day – to know Him, to love Him and to serve Him.
Our work at A Future and a Hope Ministries is much like that, too. We walk into situations, often not aware of what we may face in the brokenness of the lives that have invited us into their deepest secrets. At times we are deeply saddened at what we discover – and as we walk with them, we clearly experience the hand of God, as He goes before us. We are honored to be used to help remind those who may have forgotten, that God loves them and has plans that include joy, peace, harmony and love in their circumstances. And how easily we can forget – how easily we tend to blame God when things in our lives are less than joyful, or even catastrophic. In truth, the brokenness of sin, death and disease in this life are a result of the Fall from grace that occurred in the Garden of Eden.
As we watch families and couples heal and re-connect, we are often surprised and delighted at the ways God works for our good and for our blessing. We are amazed at God’s ability to intercede and heal in circumstances that, but for His love and grace, would be hopeless.
One such story is of a couple we worked with who live in another state, using the blessing of Skype to connect in weekly counseling sessions. They contacted us after the devastation of infidelity. Both were willing to work on restoring trust. Both were feeling hopeless, but for their faith in God. Both agreed to apply biblical principles to their life and their marriage – and both agreed to pray – together and individually – that the healing power of the Holy Spirit would heal them. This is fertile ground for our God! – Our willingness to yield and expose ourselves to His healing touch is the beginning of the peace and joy – the love and connection – God has intended for us in our marriages and in our families. This story happily ended in God’s intention fulfilled for them, too!
As we enjoy the gift of the season of spring, with it promise of new life, new starts, and new beginnings, I pray that you will take some time to acknowledge the gifts and blessings that God has in store for you each day. I pray that you will take notice of the beauty all around you this very day, as He has gone before you, providing blessing and delight.
Among the many blessings God has given us is the blessing of our mothers. The month of May has been set aside to honor and thank God for this blessing, as we honor and thank our mothers for her role in raising us, loving us, giving us new life as she worked alongside God in the miracle of the Creation story. And all of this was ordained and ordered by God, as once again, He went before us, providing for our lives of peace, love and connection to Him.
In His love and by His plans for our delight, I pray your season of spring is filled with great hope for the joys and blessings God will surprise you with – and that you will notice and receive His love!
With God’s love and blessings in our wishes for a Happy Spring,
As the A Future and Hope Ministries team continues the journey in obedience to God’s call, I am reminded of a story that has been with me since I first heard it over five years ago. It is actually more of a metaphor of something called the “Michelangelo Method” than a story. It seems that, in a nutshell, the Michelangelo Method is a process by which one discovers the ‘masterpiece’ that God has placed within each one of us, in order to be able to create a life that glorifies God and releases the greatness and wholeness God has planned for us in this life. Michelangelo had a penchant for being able to see in even a damaged and rough block of marble greatness and beauty, such as in his famous statue of David. When asked how he could create such a magnificent piece of art, his reply was that is was simple: God gave him a gift of being able to see within the block of marble, the perfect image he was called to sculpt. All he had to do was chip away and remove everything that was not part of that beautiful image that he could see in the stone! — The result was many beautiful images of sculpted masterpieces!
This, it has been said, is a perfect metaphor of what God had in mind for us in marriage. We are drawn to one another because of the beauty we see of the “made in the image of God” quality of the other person. Often, through the struggles of this life and the battle scars many of us endure, we come to our marriages with “baggage” that masks the beauty of who God created us to be. The role of a spouse is to aid and assist one another in “chipping away” at all that is attached to us that is not part of that beautiful person God created in us – in His image!
The metaphor continues that, once we get to glory – and meet the person God gave us to journey with us in this life – and see them perfected in faith and body, we will, at last, be overwhelmed by the beauty of what God had created in our spouse. We may even remark, “That is the beautiful person I saw in you all along – the person made in the image of God!”
Each and every one of us need to chip away at whatever within us is blocking us from accessing that greatness God has placed in us. This is a task we are all called to – whether within the covenant of a marriage, in the continual quest for individual wholeness in this life, or as we serve and care for one another in the Body of Christ. It is a part of God’s command that we are to “love one another as I have loved you” that encourages us all to help ourselves and others to discover the masterpiece God has created as He created us in His image.
You may ask yourself, do we all have a masterpiece in us? The answer is found in defining “masterpiece.” It is said that, “Masterpiece is an extraordinary example for excellence.” We are all extraordinary in that, by God’s design, deep down we are infinitely varied one from another. Through the power generated by uncovering what is best in ourselves, we can find strength and encouragement to help others to discover this about themselves.
Again, in a nutshell, that is a large part of what we, as ministers of hope and peace do. In our callings as counselors in the ministry God has ordered and established at Windwood we call A Future and a Hope Ministries, we are charged with the call to work with God’s own. We operate within the covenant relationships of marriage, as well as working with individuals and families to help them to realize the masterpiece God created them to be.
As we enter the Lenten Season, preparing our hearts to receive the blessings of eternal life given to us by the Crucifixion and resurrection of our Lord, Jesus, it is fitting that we would reflect on the many ways we are called to “Love one another, as I have loved you,” and celebrate the fullness of life – now and for all eternity!
– Praying for you to have a blessed and joyful Easter!
Dr. Pat Ryan,
On behalf of the ‘A Future and a Hope Ministries’ Counseling Team
Well! – I probably don’t need to even say a word about the fact that there have been some rather significant changes in the counseling ministry God has ordained, do I? It’s pretty obvious that something is definitely “up!” So, allow me to tell you exactly what’s up . . .
As previously mentioned, the counseling team, after a lot of prayer, discussion and consideration, made the decision that we needed to begin the tedious task of applying for our own non-profit status. We also shared that this decision was, in no way indicative that we would not continue our partnership with the Hope for the Hurting Home ministry that George Kenworthy founded. In fact, as mentioned, we are grateful for all that George has done to help and encourage us over the years that we have worked together – and that we will continue to work together. [Read more…] about February 2017 Newsletter