Thursday, April 17, 2014

When God says "Go"

This Spring we've been studying the book of Acts with our college students with the theme: Do Big Things.   We've been challenging them to all kinds of things - talk to their roommates about spiritual things, fast from food for a day, fast from excess and consumption and give the money they save away....and we also challenged them to go on one of the CSF Mission Trips.

As I stood in front of them and pitched our Spring Break and Summer mission trips, I challenged them to ask God the question, "Is there any reason why I shouldn't go?"   I think we often do the opposite and expect God to give us a big sign if we should do something, even though he's already told us to go in his Word:

"Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
Matthew 28:19-20

God's given me an opportunity to lead a team of students on a trip to Lima, Peru this summer to work with a youth ministry, teach in the public schools, support the local church, and help encourage a new college ministry there.  We'll be working with native Peruvian missionaries and partnering with New Mission Systems, International.   I'm so excited to be able to share what we know about campus ministry with these young students and youth workers, and learn from what they're already doing.   In addition, our oldest daughter, Sarah, will be joining us on the trip.

Quite honestly, I can think of a long list of reasons why I shouldn't go - the biggest of which is that there is no money in our budget for a trip like this.   But we know that isn't a big deal to God!  We will spend 9 days in Peru (July 5-14) and the cost is $1,600.    I know God's called us to Do Big Things, and trusting him to provide this money for both Sarah and I is a BIG THING!

Please pray for us as we prepare for this trip.  Pray for our team of college students, for the ministry in Lima, for the funds to be raised quickly (plane tickets must be purchased in just a matter of days!), and that disciples would be made in all nations.

If you would like to give financially to the trip, you can do that directly through the NMSI website and search for my name.   Or you can write a check with "Peru - Gretchen Magruder" in the memo line and send it to: 

Thanks for partnering with us to DO BIG THINGS!!

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Big Things

Doing big things is scary.

Asking people to JOIN you in doing Big Things is even scarier.

2 months ago, our staff felt like God was moving us to challenge our faith community to something MORE.....more than attending....more than a good feeling....more than a campus club....and so we started a study on the Book of Acts.    We wanted to be inspired by the amazing things that happened in the Early Church, and start looking for God to do amazing things in our community.

As God began forming the vision for this, we knew we needed to give students a way to see this in action.  Students needed to do something BIG.  They needed to step out of their comfort zone.  Stretch.  Sacrifice.  Face failure. Lose control.  See something only God could do.

We talked about all kinds of Big Things we could do.....but in the back of my mind, there was this nagging voice that asked, "what if we fail?".

What if we teach students that God moves powerfully and that same power is in us, and if we issue a challenge to do something that allows God to show up in a big way......and God doesn't do it?

2 weeks ago our students started a 2 Weeks of Nothing fast.   For 2 weeks we would fast from purchasing anything that wasn't Starbucks, no movies or meals out, no Polar Pops or car washes.  The challenge was to collect that money and to bless our ministry partners in Peru.  Our goal was $2,500 to help purchase a laptop and projector for them.    We ended the 2 weeks with a DAY of Nothing, a 24 hour food fast.  We met together and prayed for the Peru ministry and talked about how hungry we were.

Then last night, as we broke the fast together, one by one students got up and shared testimonies about what God taught them during these past 2 weeks. They talked about excess and self control, about using money to fill insecurities and voids.  And they gave.  Sacrificially.  At last count, they've raised over $1800.

As I drove home last night, I could barely contain myself.   God did it.  He showed up.  His Holy Spirit is working in our community.  Students are being changed and are on mission.  Thank you, God!!

Monday, February 24, 2014

2 Weeks of Nothing


2 Weeks of Nothing doesn't sound like a big deal for someone who doesn't do much shopping....but I've been surprised to see how quick I am to spend money on the "little things".  

Today's tally of things I DIDN'T buy:
  • .85 Polar Pop - Side note: the gas station that carries my favorite ice got a new machine.  NO PELLET ICE.  
  • $7 brush - We went out of town this weekend and I somehow lost my brush.
  • $3.50 - Lunch (I found some trail mix instead....need to get better at packing lunch!)
  • $8 - Car Wash - After our road trip to Wisconsin, the mini-van is'll have to be dirty a little longer.
Today's Total:  $19.50

What was YOUR total today?

*This weekend we started 2 Weeks of Nothing, a time of prayer and fasting for a ministry in Peru we'll be working with this Summer.  2 Weeks of Nothing means no extras:  no lattes, no movies, no eating out for 2 weeks.  Each day we keep a tally of the things we've given up, and on March 7th, students will give that money towards purchasing some special things for the ministry in Peru!

Thursday, January 09, 2014


Galatians 6:2

Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ

I'm not always great at the long-term.  I have alot of enthusiasm about the start-up and the launching of's the sustained, ongoing work that isn't so exciting to me.   Seriously, I think Jesus and my marriage are the only 2 things I've successfully continued to be committed to (and there are some seasons where use of the word "successfully" might be a stretch...).

Several years ago at a conference, my friend, Dean, asked about a former student.  "I wanted to know how Kacy is doing.  I've been praying for her for about 2 years now".   Dean met Kacy at a workshop he taught.  He met her once.  Truth be told, I'm sure he had prayed for my former student more than I had in those 2 years.  

Our family has a New Year's Tradition of reflecting on the past year and looking ahead....and looking back on old reflections, I notice for the last 3 years, my goal has been "become a prayer warrior".
I think of a prayer warrior as someone like Dean, who is faithful to prayer for people over the long haul, not forgetting after a week or month, but sustaining people in prayer, bearing with them.

There is a small group at our church that is teaching me alot about bearing.    Back in November, a member of their group called and just wanted to let me know that their group had decided to "adopt" our family - - to pray for us, encourage, and bless us.  Some consider November to be "Pastor Appreciation Month", and we often receive extra love from people in our church.  But our family was so touched and humbled by this group's commitment to us.  Sure enough, a few days later someone showed up with a casserole.  A week or so later, an encouraging card.  Each week a different member of the group cared for us in some way.    

But here's the thing.  

It didn't stop.

Pastor Appreciation Month came and went.  In December we received notes and gifts and requests for specific ways they could be praying for us. Already in January we've heard from group members.   It has been so generous, so loving, that a couple of our kids started to get a little concerned.  
"Are we poor?    Do people feel sorry for us?"    "Dad's not dying, is he?"

No, they're just bearing with us.

Due to health reasons, in July my husband transitioned out of his campus minister role of 20 years, and we are still trying to understand what that means for the future.   Some days are sad.  Many are frustrating.  There are moments that are scary.  But dishes still have to be washed, tests studied for, and life goes on.  Seasons are sometimes long, and it requires bearing things for more than a day or a few weeks.  What has blown me away is the faithfulness of our friends and family.  This small group has not forgotten.  We have wonderful friends who love and encourage us.  Family who reach out to us even when we're terrible at reaching out to them.  People who are walking alongside us.  

Bearing our burdens.  

I still want to be a prayer warrior.  That's part of bearing someone's burdens.  But there are people dealing with things much harder than mine....loss of a spouse, or a friend, or a child.   This morning I'm reminded of the people in my life who simply need me to remember the things they're carrying. 

Who can you bear with today? 

Friday, September 20, 2013

He's got the whole world in his hands

This morning I heard the most beautiful prayer from my daughter.  And, since I want to remember this, and I don't want to embarrass her by posting it on FB, and I'm pretty sure only spammers read my blog anymore, I'm putting it here:

On Fridays our family prays for the WORLD.  Yep, the whole thing.  Well, it's different every week...we pray for people we know in different countries, we pray for conflicts in the middle east and missionaries in Southeast Asia, and for Selah's birth family in Ethiopia....As we went around the table, my oldest prayed for the country of Japan - that God would move there to open their hearts, and that He would one day use her to be a part of it.

Monday, May 13, 2013

I'm trying to learn how to celebrate better.

I don't know if it's my first-born, practical child syndrome....or laziness....or a desire to not make a mess or create extra chaos.....but I have to admit, I'm not great at extravagant fun.  You know, those big, complicated, fun occasions that require extra time, work, and organizing.

I see it in my uncomfortability with the craziness of Children's Ministry and my generally tidy house.  I rarely send birthday cards.  Or if I do, they're usually late.  And if I'm honest, one of the most important things I want my children to learn, after loving God, is to clear the table, load the dishwasher, and clean the kitchen after a big family meal.

Which is why I think Romans 12:15 is so interesting.  Paul is describing what love looks like, and  instructs us to "rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn."

Rejoicing with someone who is rejoicing means entering into their joy.  It's not a momentary congratulations, but it's a's busting out the tablecloths and chocolate fountain (even though it's a bear to clean)'s putting everything else on hold, even if only for a few minutes to acknowledge God's goodness.   And honestly, sometimes I need to see God's goodness in someone else's life in order to help recognize it in my own.

In the same way, mourning takes time.

I was studying this passage with some friends right after the Boston Marathon bombing, and we talked about how easy it is to say, "oh, how awful", and then go on with our day.   But mourning with those who mourn means pausing to enter in to the pain and sadness of someone else.  It means asking ourselves, "I wonder what it would feel like if I had been the one to lose my son?" or "I wonder what kinds of guilt or regret or anger they must be experiencing?".   It means walking with people for longer than a day or a week; it means reminding them they're not alone, being "joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer".

I want to be a person who feels deeper and celebrates bigger.   Because that's what love does.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

I hate my tears.

I hate my tears.

I can feel completely rational and clear-headed, and then start talking and almost immediately feel them welling up in my lips start to quiver as I talk and I'm distracted from my own words long enough to whisper to myself, "just hold it together".

I hate feeling out of control.

But for some reason, this is how God made me.   And I have known seasons so dark, so difficult, that tears would not come.

And so I smile through my tears and thank the Lord I'm not in control.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

My One Word

I know, I know... for the 3 of you who forgot you subscribed to the little blog I used to write, it's been awhile :)    But it's a new year and though blogging still isn't a priority, I do miss the accountability it can provide.  Even if no one reads my words, the act of thinking them through and writing them down seems to cement them more in my head and heart.

I love the idea of just picking One Word for the new year.   One word to describe who God desires me to be.  It's not the only word, but it's one that the Holy Spirit keeps confirming as I've thought and prayed.

My One Word for 2013 is Gentle.

gen·tle  (jntl)
adj. gen·tlergen·tlest
1. Considerate or kindly in disposition; amiable and tender.
2. Not harsh or severe; mild and soft: a gentle scolding; a gentle tapping at the window.
3. Easily managed or handled; docile: a gentle horse.
4. Not steep or sudden; gradual: a gentle incline.

More gentle in my parenting, as a wife, a more gentle friend and mentor.  Gentle words, gentle correction and discipline.  That gentleness would characterize the atmosphere I create in my home and in my interactions.  

So, at least for these first few days of 2013, I'm shooting to be more gentle.   And if, 3 months from now, I've forgotten all about this, I may stumble across this little blog while googling myself, and be reminded of a more tender, gentler Gretchen.

Friday, August 24, 2012

August is National Breastfeeding Month

I got a box of Similac Infant Formula in the mail yesterday.

I haven't been pregnant for over 11 years, don't subscribe to baby magazines, and haven't purchased anything at a maternity store recently, so I'm not sure whose list I'm on.   One thing is sure, though.   They sent the formula to the wrong person.

I am offended by formula companies and they way the undermine the confidence of women, and  profit on our failure to successfully breastfeed.  

As a woman, I'm not sure I can think of a time I was MORE insecure than when we first brought Sarah home from the hospital.  Wanting to be a great mom, not wanting to drop her or starve her or cut the ends of her fingers off when her nails had to be trimmed....there were SO many things to be paranoid about.   What I needed, more than anything, was someone to come alongside me and be a tell me I could do it, that my body was made both to give birth and to feed my child, that even though there was a learning curve to this mothering thing, it was exactly what my body was made for.

What the formula companies do instead, is to send a steady stream of messages that tell us,  "it might be too hard", "you probably can't do it", "it might not work", "you better have back-up".   And it works.    Data show that the distribution of free formula to mothers of newborns is consistently tied to lower exclusive breastfeeding rates, and earlier weaning.  Lower breastfeeding rates are tied to greater health risks - respiratory infections, asthma, allergies, diabetes, and lower IQs.

I want to stand up for women and the thing that makes us unique.  To defend our right to be successful at breastfeeding (even the formula labels state that breast milk is recommended) without subversive messages from formula companies or the implied endorsement of a hospital that gives a "gift" of a formula-filled diaper bag.

If making milk is my super-power as a woman, free infant formula samples is the Kryptonite. 

*August is National Breastfeeding Month
**Though I support breastfeeding, I do not support the "guilting" of mothers who choose not to breastfeed.  For many of them, the decision is beyond their control.  I am partially inspired, however, by my own breastfeeding regrets and by the many mothers who tell me they wish they would have known more about breastfeeding or had help before they gave up.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

A Life of Leadership

Leadership is a tricky thing.   We all love to be chosen, and being acknowledged as a leader can be an honor and privilege.   Getting to take a front seat in a ministry that advances the Kingdom can give us an incredible rush, and can give real purpose to a college student's life.  But sometimes once we begin serving in that role, we realize what a heavy responsibility it brings.   It requires surrendering our schedules and our wills; It calls for long days and nights, for difficult conversations and awkward interactions.  Leadership means disappointing and being disappointed by others.

But then you hear stories of lives changed.   You have a late-night conversation with a student who is beginning to understand how much God loves them.  You are reminded of alumni who are serving God with their lives all over the world.  And you realize what an incredible gift it is to be able to be part of something bigger than yourself.  Something that flips the world upside-down through college students!

Our Student Leadership Team, The HUB, has been reading J. Oswald Sanders' book, Spiritual Leadership, this summer in preparation for a new school year.  The chapter on "Responsibilities of a Leader" shares both the seriousness and the joys of leadership. In 1882, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Edward White Benson, wrote his rules for a life of leadership.   We should take note of the relevance still today:
  • Eagerly start the day's main work
  • Do not murmur at your busyness or the shortness of time, but by up the time all around
  • Never murmur when correspondence is brought in
  • Never exaggerate duties by seeming to suffer under the load, but treat all responsibilities as liberty and gladness
  • Never call attention to crowded work or trivial experieinces
  • Before confrontation or censure, obtain from God a real love for the one at fault.  Know the facts; be generous is your judgement.  Otherwise,  how ineffective, how unintelligible or perhaps provocative your well-intentioned censure may be
  • Do not believe everything you hear; do not spread gossip
  • Do not seek praise, gratitude, respect, or regard for past service
  • Avoid complaining when your advice or opinion is not consulted, or having been consulted, set aside
  • Never allow yourself to be placed in favorable contrast with anyone
  • Do not press conversation to your own needs and concerns
  • Seek no favors, not sympathies, do not ask for tenderness, but receive what comes
  • Bear the blame; do not share or transfer it
  • Give thanks when credit for your own work or ideas is given to another
Which of Benson's rules get you excited?   Which ones seem more difficult?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

So, now it's not possible to have a different opinion without being anti-something or someone? 

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Value of an Older Woman

I was 18 or 19 years old when my mother's long-time friend, Evelyn, came to visit.   I had grown up in church with her kids, our families going on summer canoe trips together through the years and doing life together.  I was home after my first semester in college, and happened to walk through the kitchen as she was catching up with my mom.   I was getting a drink from the fridge when she cut right to the chase and  asked whether or not the boy I was dating loved Jesus.  I remember stumbling and stammering over my words as I tried to convince her (and myself). 

Had my mother been the one to ask the question, I would have gone straight to some old mother-daughter argument, becoming too angry to think reflectively.   I probably would have become defensive and held firm to my right to live my own life.  But coming from this older, Godly woman, it was a question that stuck with me. 

Last weekend, our family stopped to visit some good friends who now live 6 hours from us.  When we lived in the same town, they babysat and changed the girls' diapers, celebrated holidays with us, and they know us better than most.  After a few minutes of vacation stories, my friend, Natalie, went right to the point and asked, "Tell me one thing God's been showing you this summer".    My girls didn't even blink as they shared things they had learned at camp or had been processing this summer.   No sermon.  No scripture quoting.  Just asking some good questions.

I'm so thankful that my daughters have some pretty amazing Jesus-loving women in their lives.   Who are you the "older woman" to?   How might God want to use you in the life of a younger woman?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Prayer Map Completion!

I have a problem with follow-through. 

I admit it.  I am the queen of big ideas and unfinished projects.   Sometimes I'm in over my head...sometimes after I get started with a project, I realize I'm not going to be able to get the results in my mind and just give up.

So I'm celebrating a 6-month long project that was completed!

A Prayer Map is something our family has come to love to help us pray for important friends, family, and ministries all over the world.  I loved the IKEA my mother-in-law has in her dining room, and decided to find a more economical way to recreate that. 

I found a vintage wall map online (about $15).  When it arrived, I realized how thin the paper was, and that we would need to find a way to mount it on something.    In my normal procrastinating fashion, the map then sat in the corner of the dining room for about 5 months until I got up the courage to do something with it.   I couldn't imagine finding a canvas the size of my map (55x39), so we decided to cut it into smaller pieces.  After 30 minutes standing in Michael's with my calculator, I figured out how to fit the map on several canvases.

The girls and I started by painting the edges of the canvases with an antiquey color.   Cutting the map was the scariest part.  Using an exacto knive, I simply cut around the size of the wasn't perfect, but we didn't have any horrible accidents!   I had read on some other blogs that using mod podge might actually be too wet for this thin poster paper, so I used spray adhesive instead.    This seemed to work great!  Well, until the next morning, when I saw that air bubbles had popped up on all of the canvases.  Ugh.   I decided to go over the map with mod podge anyway and see if it would help smooth out the bubbles....instead, it seemed to magnify them.   We've just decided to enjoy it as a topographical map :)

Project Completed!   And it only took 6 months!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Happy Easter from the Magruders!

Loved being with our college students for an early Easter service on campus...

Then with our family at Rochester Christian Church later that morning...