“Looking back to move forward”

 

This morning with my church family we talked about the closing of this year and the beginning of next year! We wrote down some things that we were grateful for, what we mourned over, how we saw God moving, and what we’d like to leave behind in 2017. After writing these things down, we celebrated communion, being humbled before Christ, remembering His sacrifice for our sins and the redemption of life that He gives through His death. We then placed our notes on 2017 in a suitcase (which was then closed) as a symbol of closing the door on the past year. Not taking for granted the ways those things changed us, but as a closing of a passage and entering a new chapter.

Looking back at this time last year until now, SO much has changed. This time last year, I thought I knew where I was “headed” or what would be happening in the new year. But little did I know how much things would change….how much I would learn about my identity in Christ…how I would be awakened to the persecuted church…how I would mourn for things and people being stripped away…how I would be blessed with new opportunities….how God would confirm answers to prayer…It’s been quite an amazing year.

“But now, this is what the Lord, your Creator says, O Jacob,
And He who formed you, O Israel,
‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you [from captivity];
I have called you by name; you are Mine!

‘When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you.
When you walk through fire, you will not be scorched,
Nor will the flame burn you.'”

Isaiah 43:1-2

Honestly, even though the year began with some very deep valleys, as I look over the whole year, the blessings and surprises that God brought far outweigh whatever depths I thought were going to define 2017. It wasn’t even possible for me to dream of the ways in which God surprised me this past year and I am so thankful for what & how He brought me out from those valleys.

“Listen carefully, I am about to do a new thing,
Now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it?
I will even put a road in the wilderness,
Rivers in the desert….”

Isaiah 43:19

So as I look towards 2018, I hope to have more confidence and courage to follow where God leads, to live out my faith and share about Christ in a way that draws others to Him, to learn more about the people around me and about Christ and to trust Him in this crazy journey because who knows what kind of adventures He may be taking me on this year. I may not know what is up ahead, but with all my heart I intend to seek after Christ and ask Him to open my eyes to see how He sees and to love like He does.

Coming & Going

Here were the questions we looked at this morning & some of my reflections on the past year and the upcoming year!

2017

  • When did you feel close to God this year?
  • When in this year did you feel like God was absent?
  • What were some moments of joy and some moments of sorrow?
  • What disappointed you or frustrated you this year?
  • What surprised you this year?
  • Is there anything in this year you want to leave behind and not take with you into next year?

Feeling close to God in doubt and pain. Forgiveness between myself and ministry partners. Reconnecting with kids I love. Making new ministry friends in Egypt. Sorrow for leaving family. Sorrow for “ideas” changing. Surprised by a settled peace in where Christ has taken me. Many new relationships & community. Positive visible answers to prayer. Vikings kicking butt. These are a few of my favorite things.

 

2018

  • What do you think God is inviting you into in this next year?
  • What areas of growth might you pursue in your life next year?
  • What experiments might you try in 2018?
  • Are there questions or topics you’d like to explore in the new year?
  • What are you apprehensive about as you look towards next year?
  • What are you excited about?

New ministry beginnings. Greater depth of relationships with others & with God. “How does God love the orphan?” Growth in and experiments in rhythms of reading, evangelism, study & journaling. Courage to follow God where He directs. Pursuit.

 

God Size

The last few months here have been crazy.  Literally speaking, they’ve been such a whirlwind, that every time I’ve even thought of writing, I’ll forget about 10 minutes later because I’m on to something different.  But tonight, I felt like I had to write….there’s too much to say all in one post, but this message keeps coming through different ways, and so it must be something that is important.  So here goes.

Have you ever been faced with something where you thought, “how am I supposed to pray for this!?”…you battle within yourself whether you should pray for a miracle, or not, because you “know” that it won’t happen probably and that whatever it is in front of you will just turn out the way things “normally” turn out, whether that be good or bad, but either way you pray it’s not really going to be different.  Have you been there?  I have, and I’m sure some of you have too.  You’re like….you trust in God, but really when the odds look so grim you just don’t know if you should pray that God will perform a miracle or if you should just accept the fate & pray for God to give peace.

Well…..here’s a question for you: How well do you know God?

Really, how well do you KNOW Him?  The earth is finite, right?  Meaning there’s only limited outcomes, options, possibilities, etc.  But God is NOT.  He created the earth, so He doesn’t live within the confines of our existence, He lives in the freedom of His!  So when we pray, are we underestimating the power of God by not even asking for something bigger than we could even imagine?

This spring, things were going along just “normal” until one day I went to work & they told me that I was being laid off.  Oddly enough, I wasn’t devastated.  Honestly I’d been having a conversation with God about what was next….I wasn’t sure that where I was then was where He would always want me to be…so when I heard that I would be leaving in a month, it was a little bit of an “okay God, now what…” moment.  Financially I was okay for a little while, so I decided that since I had so many things planned for the summer, I would wait on God for just the right thing, and not pursue another position until the middle of August.

At the beginning of July, I visited my dad in TX, and finished a book called “Sacred Waiting” by David Timms.  It seemed that book was perfectly timed, by hitting on my period of waiting that had just been semi-imposed upon me by getting laid off.  I went back to MN to prepare for an art show before heading out on another vacation with some friends (which is another story all in itself) and two days before I left I got a strange call.  It was one of my old supervisors, from the job I had just left.  He said that his wife had met a guy at a concert, and that through random conversation, he mentioned they were looking for someone like me and so she mentioned my name and now that guy was trying to get in touch with me about a job.  That morning, I researched the organization, called & left a message and two hours later got a call back. They wanted me to come in for an interview 2 hours later.  Here’s the scenario: I’m in my PJ’s at 1pm, I don’t have a current resume, don’t have a printer if I DID have a current resume, wasn’t sure that I had any clean business clothes to wear and was then living an hour away from the office….so naturally I said “of course I can make it by 3pm”. lol.  I stood in line behind three 10 year old girls at the public library to print off my resume, and barely made it in.

To make the rest of the story short, I was offered the job the next day.  It was outstanding.  I feel so blessed, and I know that this kind of thing does NOT happen that often, but it was like….God was reminding me that He does things in HIS timing and way, not necessarily ours.  So this weekend, we’re hosting an event, hoping to draw in 5,500 people! We’ll be sharing the gospel and feature some great musicians!  And through the planning, I’ve been nervous, wondering how it’ll all turn out, what will happen, who will come, etc.  And sitting here tonight, being reminded of God’s miraculous power through the book of John, I’m finding peace knowing that God’s got it.

He’s greater than anything we can imagine, and so He’s capable of doing more than we can imagine.  We just need to stop underestimating Him and closing doors where He wants to show us His miracles!  Where does God want to do a miracle in your life, or challenge you to trust in Him more?  As you think on that, also remember us this Saturday in prayer.  Pray that people will pack the house, pray that people will respond to the gospel, pray that the Lord would do something that we could have never imagined!  Hallelujah!

(If you want to watch our concert streaming live, tune in Saturday at 7pm Central at: http://livestre.am/16gGw)  

Branches & Vines

This past weekend I did a lot of cleaning.  Inside my house as well as some inside my soul.  While emptying out a book closet, I came across an old journal that my great grandmother had written, telling a bit of her story of marriage, grief, hardships & the faithfulness of God throughout each moment.  It was a precious reminder of how the Lord is faithful throughout the generations.  How blessed I felt to know that He was working so many years ago, while forming the foundation that I would grow into through this family.

On Sunday, I visited the church that I had read about in her writing, that my family had been diligent to help begin.  The worship felt new this time.  Knowing a part of the history of how these settlers, new & shocked by the un-true tellings of the reality that would face them on the land that awaited them.  Their hearts were on giving the next generation a hope & future….even if that meant really hard work & struggles.  Even if that meant starting your own church because faith in God was that important.  Even if that meant losing many dreams you had for yourself so that dreams your children dreamt could come true.

At the church though, the sermon was about the Vine & Branches section of John 15.  I normally really appreciate this verse, but as I had been going through a lot of things that were left after my mother passed away, I was saddened because it was like….well, I understand that God would cut off branches that weren’t producing fruit, but what about those that WERE producing fruit?  Why would he cut those off early?  Thankfully, when these thoughts were mumbling through my little brain, they were caught by the next phrase the pastor spoke….about God pruning the branches that were producing fruit because by doing that sometimes the fruit other branches produce will grow larger & that the quality of the fruit might become better.

This made me wonder about my life right now, and those lives of my siblings & friends.  People who we’ve known, outstanding characters & faithful to the Lord, those people who were cut off from life seemingly too early to understand.  It hurt, and still does many days, but it seems like this verse would flow with this course of pruning.  Somethings that I’ve done this year, never would have been done had my mother been around.  Other things I’ve seen my friends/siblings do would never have happened if their friends or family had been around….it doesn’t make it feel better that they’re not here to see these amazing things forming in us, but knowing that somehow their leaving earth spurred a new life inside of us is inspiring.

I don’t know what my whole thought here really comes to, but maybe just knowing that God prunes fruitful branches sometimes to bear bigger fruits on the branches that are left, makes me wonder….what kind of fruit does he see as possible out of our lives?  What will be coming through the pruning?  It doesn’t always feel good to be pruned, but then again who are we as branches to tell the Gardener which branches He should prune?  He knows best, for “…He who promised is faithful.” (Romans 10:23)

Parties & Prayer

Last night, I stood still, amidst hundreds of students all proclaiming their praise & confession to the Lord.  We prayed for those who are lost, seeking & struggling.  For those who do not yet know Truth.  Outside the building where we gathered, a deep pounding surged through to our ears, just across the street were parties, with probably the same amount of students, but not gathered for the same purpose.  They were there, doing whatever felt right to satisfy them for the moment.  But at the end of the night, where would they end up?  I met a few who wandered through our doors after the evening had ended.  They were looking for something…..it didn’t matter what, they just wanted to be a part of something.  While talking with them, my heart ached for them to be a part of our family…of God’s family.  If only they could understand that they mattered, that God loved them, that we loved them, and that there was purpose for their life.

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

The seeking, searching, aching and dizzying path of these students compels me to pray that someday soon they can understand fully the grace of God that has been extended towards them, and that there is a way of peace & joy, found only in the Lord.  Will you join me in this prayer?

http://www.pulsemovement.com

Not what it seems….

“How am I going to be able to grow up without a mom to tell secrets to?” ….this is just one of many quotes that have made me tear up today…. I’ve been put in a lot of tough situations recently, that are forcing me to make decisions that right now I feel I cannot make.  It’s like life is asking me to become a new person, one that I don’t know about, and one that I don’t necessarily want to be.  I guess it’s all part of growing up, but wow…growing pains have never burned so much.

To a large degree, our family & friends that we have relationships with make up a large part of our identity.  When we lose them, we lose a part of our identity too….I’ve recently heard this termed like an amputation of the familiar self.  Who we were with them, is not going to be who we are without them. It’s like….a normal life loss of something like…adolescence, or a job, or moving away…the loss is like a broken arm that takes a while to heal and the pain real but it will eventually heal.  However, catastrophic loss….death of a parent, sibling, friend, child, whoever…is like an amputation…not just a broken arm.  It will never come back or be completely healed, and you’ll always have phantom feelings of the limb that once was there but no longer remains.

I guess this is all part of growing up and growing into who I will be…though it feels different than I thought it would.  You never imagine these things to come, and you’d never imagine the consequences that would follow…everyone is different and we’re all trying to become a new different together, yet still individually.  Some people make choices for themselves that affect just them, and other make choices that lead to more and more choices for other people.  It’s all very difficult, and hard…..

Wishing that I had some verses right now to write about, but I’m too empty to seek them out today.  If you’re reading this…what are some verses that have helped you grow into who you are today?  I’m curious…..because I just feel like I have no idea where my life is going, and it’s hard to really go day to day when you don’t have a direction. 🙂