“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)  

Expectation vs. Reality

You know how you expect things….you know they’re coming, or you think they’re coming…but the way you expect to feel when they come isn’t at all how they feel once it becomes reality? It’s like your expectations meant nothing because nothing prepared you for this. And no matter how long you’d been expecting it…it just wasn’t what it really was when reality hit? Hm.

It’s like if you play a scene in your head…you know that Thing A will be happening…so you process all the possibilities & probabilities of what will be the effect of Thing A, that causes Thing B. You convince yourself that Thing B will be great, that it’ll be grand, that it will work out. But when Thing A comes along, you react, turning into motion Thing XYZ and not even close to B….and then you freeze.

It happened tonight. As I’m wrapping presents, alone in my parents house. I’m wrapping all of my families presents. The door bell rings, from someone unexpected. Then here on the door is a friend, bringing care packages to my family, because he knows that this Christmas will be different. Yes it will. I knew it would be….I prepared for it. But as I took the packages, thanking him for his prayers & care, I placed them gently on the chair and started to cry. How is it that someone ELSE knew how hard a different kind of Christmas this would be….but to me, I had no idea! I get that this isn’t going to be like this every Christmas from here on out….but this one, THIS one….it’s just hard & it sucks. And everyone around me knew it….but I didn’t. I thought it’d be fine, it’d be an adventure. Hm.

As I’m writing this, two verses come to mind. Philippians 4:7, which says that “…the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will guard your hearts & minds in Christ Jesus.” ….So I know that He is guarding me, and will put peace in my heart that I may not understand. And I also know that “The Lord is my Rock my Fortress and my deliverer, my God is my Rock in whom I take refuge.” (Psalm 18:2) Therefore I know that He will be the one to bring me through….to bring US through. I may not be prepared for what’s next….but I know that when my expectations meet reality, God will be the one who will comfort, provide, protect & reveal all that it is I am to know and do.

Purpose

You know, I’ve been told to grow where you’re planted….find out why God has you wherever you are…just go with it. And I’m trying, I really am. It’s hard though, when some days you yearn for so much more. You see a window opening, and when you try to go through, you find out it’s just REALLY clean glass…it’s not open for you. Sorry. Finding purpose in where you are, is so difficult. Why am I here, and not there. Why is this person my friend instead of someone else? Where can I feel so needed in some place, and such a good fit, and then not be allowed in?

I know that God’s purposes are so much greater & better than any that I could come up with….but greater & better also might suggest that they’re more complicated & intricate, meaning they have more possibilities of being not just GOOD but also DIFFICULT. Interweaving desires, gifts, locations, social community & situations….they all come together in some great purpose that I don’t understand. It probably won’t make sense to me either….until it’s done.

But sometimes, it’s like…you pray for something, and then when that prayer is answered, but not the way you wanted it to be, it’s like DARN! I didn’t want THAT. …like when in NY I prayed for humility….and left in a really bad way, that made me say…. “yep, I don’t always know what’s right.” And now, I’m praying for God to use me….and then get a door shut in one area, and realize that He probably saying… “I want to use you HERE, not THERE.” Sick. It makes me sad, …and I think that’s okay. I can be sad for a bit, as long as I hold on to the understanding that I can’t give up. Now, it just means that I need to renew my focus of trying to bless people in every situation….whether the circumstances are happy or sad. Nothing can be better than what God has for us…yet there are probably some things that would be more fun. Until then…I’ll just keep trusting that I’m here for a purpose….

To wrap up, here’s a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”

Expectation-2

A while ago, I wrote about expectations, the ones that people have for us, the ones we have for ourselves and ones we have about other people. But what about those expectations that you fight yourself not to have, the ones that you know better than to have, but yet somewhere inside you, when the expectation isn’t filled, you realize that it was still there….though you tried to deny it.

It’s like no matter what you do, there’s always some expectation as to what will happen….either good or bad. Justified or not, your expectations are there, and get you excited or nervous or anxious or hesitant or whatever it is that you feel about an upcoming event or situation, and it just is what it is. So what do you try and do? Not get excited, or nervous, or anxious, or hesitant. You try really hard to tell yourself it’s not a big deal, just calm down, take a breath…it’s just whatever. But it seems to have an opposite effect. It’s like if you tell yourself it’s not a big deal, it really becomes one. You tell yourself not to get anxious, but then you do. If it’s something not to worry about, somehow it worries you.

Then it happens. The day comes, the moment comes, and it’s here. No more expectations, because what is IS, anticipation becomes anti-climactic. You find yourself rolling with the twists of the day, and pretty soon it’s over. Done. All cleared up & you’re through. And what of your expectations? Nothing. Except that somehow you feel like nothing really happened, and so then it comes to the surface that you really DID have expectations…yep, those you kept telling yourself you didn’t have. Well, la-di-dah, they were there, and now you feel a little let down that you had those expectations and nothing really changed. Nothing for the worse, nothing for the better…just okay. And you’re okay with that, honestly okay. But just okay. Not thrilled, not angry, just okay.

The next question is, how do you get past those feelings of expectation that you had, denied, felt, accepted & now are trying analyze? I guess that’s where faith comes in…trying to see that the faith in Christ that you have, will come through again, taking those expectations & doing SOMETHING with them. Putting my expectations in my neat little packing boxes, under the shelf, and waiting to see what God has in store for the next day, or month, or year. Waiting to see what will develop, what wont, where he’ll take you, where you’ll stay, what you’ll learn, what you’ll wonder about, who you are and who you’ll be. Expect something, expect nothing, but whatever you expect, expect that God will be there, when the expectations that you don’t expect, leave you expecting something more….