“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’s moving! ….and so am I!

Sometimes in life, God doesn’t always answer your prayers…..but sometimes He does! For the last twenty years, God has been lining things up that cause my heart to break for orphans, particularly in Romania…wanting to love on them, share with them the experience of being in a family, teach them about their worth in Christ and see them have experiences that orphans don’t normally get to have. Well my big news is that this next year, I am planning to move to Romania and become a house-Mom for six orphaned kids! There is so much joy in my heart as I type. I’m excited and nervous too. There will be much more information to come, but right now, I wanted to ask you to pray for the kids I will be loving on and pray for me as I prepare to go. 🙂

In preparing to leave on this new adventure, there are so many feelings rising to the top inside of my heart….excitement, anticipation, wonder, thankfulness, anxiousness, curiosity, sorrow, joy, and many more. It’s tough to be so excited about the promise of what could be, and yet hold the pain of leaving what is. I hope that each of my friends and family understand how much they are loved and will be missed, how much I value each of them and how much I hope to hear from them and share in this journey with them. I hope that I will leave you with good memories of our relationship, and that we can continue those relationships even if there are thousands of miles in between.
But….more than all the things “I” hope for this time, it is what GOD wants for this time that I’m most curious about. He has been doing so much in my heart, showing me that He is enough, that He is powerful and that He can use me right here, right now, in North Minneapolis each and every day…..He can also use me in a place that I’m not familiar with, that is new, that is far away and some place that only HE is my anchor.
This transition won’t be easy, and however long I’m in Romania I’m sure will bring many joys and hard times as well, but as I go with God into what He is doing in these kids’ lives already, I’m excited to see what will be the fruit.

I’m going to keep blogging, as many of you have been following throughout the past few years, and want to keep you updated on what is happening on the other side of the globe. I’m also going to need support…..prayer, encouragement, financial, letters, etc. It would be great to have you along with me in the ride. It’s going to be a great journey, that is for sure. 🙂

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)  

A life of Waiting

In a world that waits for nothing, God has given us a few great examples of how to live a patient life, waiting fully on Him.
Think about your definition of waiting, what does it mean to you to wait?  Many times we see waiting purely as a means to an end.  But there is also a type of waiting has more to do with Presence & Service. It’s not just something we do for a time, but it’s a type of waiting that permeates who we are and how we respond.
If someone wants to be a good server or waiter at a restaurant, what are the two main things you are required to do? Be present and be of service.  Now this order is important, because if you’re not present to the person at the table, how will you ever be able to be of service to them?  In order to be a good waiter, or server, you need to practice the Presence of waiting…..making a connection with the person and listening to them well. 

As we look throughout the Old Testament you’ll see many examples of God’s people waiting, waiting, and waiting.  Some people in the Old Testament like Abraham & Sarah didn’t want to wait for God’s promise to them any longer, so they went ahead with their own plan.  Others, like with Moses & the Israelites, instead of waiting for God’s timing, they turned to idols & let fear take over which in turn they were told to wait longer…40 years longer.
There was one man though that waited an extraordinarily long time for God—and that man is Noah.  Noah grew up in a time where the people on earth, similar to today, were becoming more & more rebellious against God, turning to their own desires & plans.  Noah’s heritage however, was laced with strong & faithful men.  Enoch, Noah’s great grandfather was a man who walked so closely with God that eventually God just “took” him from the earth.  Noah’s grandfather was Methuselah, whose name meant “when he dies, it will be sent.”  And even Noah’s name meant “rest,” which at his birth his father stated that he would bring rest from the toil & work of the ground that was cursed.  I don’t know how these names were chosen, but as we’ll soon see, they were both very meaningful & prophetic.
For over 400 years, there’s no mention really of Noah’s life, except that he had found favor in the eyes of the Lord & that Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God.” (Genesis 6:8-9)  When Noah was given the task “Build an Ark,” it probably wasn’t because he was a great boat builder, or that he knew just how to do the task, but he responded because he walked with God and KNEW Him.  Noah was able to fulfill this request not because he was so skilled in making boats, or even building for that matter. What made him qualified for this enormous project was that he was in constant communication with God, and was consistently present to Him.  Over the 400 years of Noah’s life before this point, he had learned to discern God’s voice and knew when to respond.  In the game we played earlier, you needed to know what your teammate’s voice sounded like & discern their voice from all the rest of the yelling voices.  In the same way, Noah, in 400 years on earth had learned to hear God’s voice above all the others & pay attention to HIS voice as the one to direct him.
If Noah had any doubts about if it was truly God telling him to build an ark, he probably would have just dismissed the request & gone about his business. Maybe God would have chosen someone else for the project, or maybe he would have just kept speaking…..we don’t know, but what we DO know, is that Noah wasn’t confused about if it was God’s voice. He understood the request, and set about fulfilling it immediately.  He knew it was God because he had been waiting on God for 400+ years. Now hopefully it won’t take US 400 years to get this down, but Noah was constantly going to God’s table, getting to know Him and His desires. 

This is where it gets tough for me…many times, I get into a habit of praying to God about…. “God, give me this, or that, tell me the answer here, or can you direct this to happen?” But truly, honestly waiting on God like Noah did, should be more about listening for what God’s list for US is, not what OUR list for HIM is.  And Noah had quite the list from God…..the ark he was told to build was about half the size of the Titanic, he had to build with certain wood, to certain specifications, all while having people mock & criticize his efforts. 
Yet he waited and endured. Because of Noah’s certainty that it was God who called him to build the ark, he disregarded the people’s jeers and continued diligently in the directly God had set him.  The estimate is that it took Noah 120 years to build the ark….and I don’t know about you, but I’m almost sure that I would have given up before then.  But he just kept going because that’s what God requested of Him.  He didn’t jump ahead of God’s plans either, he patiently waited on God’s timing, while continuing to walk with God & listen for his leading.
“Barbara Brown Taylor, an outstanding Bible teacher & preacher, tells the story of a friend who traveled to visit her shortly after she moved from Atlanta to the small township of Clarkesville in the north Georgia foothills. Without a cell phone or a reliable map, the friend became hopelessly lost, increasingly frantic, and somewhat faster on the roads. Finally, she glanced in her rearview mirror and saw those ominous flashing blue lights. She pulled over, and as the police officer approached her driver’s side window, she handed him her license and registration. “I am so sorry,” she said. “I know I was speeding, but I’ve been lost from the last forty minutes, and I cannot find Tower Terrace anywhere on this map.” “Well, I’m sorry about that, too, ma’am,” he said, writing up her citation, “but what made you think that hurrying would help you find your way?'” ….like this lady, how can we ever find our destination if we don’t first slow down to really get to know the map, or the Father?  We can’t rush ahead if we aren’t first present to the One who should be giving us directions.
Noah didn’t get distracted by the project, but kept his focus on the Lord throughout the 120 years that he built the ark.  Even when it didn’t rain for years & years, and there was no “reasonable reason” why he should be building an ark, He kept going.  And during this time, he kept waiting on God’s perfect timing. Interesting to me, is that his grandfather, whose name meant something like “when he dies, it will be sent,” passed away shortly before the rains & floods came!  Wow. And Noah, whose name meant “rest” was able to play a critical role in God renewing the rest on the earth from corruption & evil.
After the flood, God honored Noah and promised that never again would He flood the whole earth. 
If we are to have the same perseverance & waiting ability that Noah had, it won’t come from a strong will but a strong walk with the Lord.  We shouldn’t just follow God when we see results, we should follow Him because He is trustworthy and will tell us what we need, when we need it. By establishing a solid waiting relationship through PRESENCE, we can then be good SERVERS.

Dressed in Striped Pajamas

Tonight I was sick….slightly, but feeling not quite myself just the same.  I knew I wanted to blog tonight, since much has been floating around my mind, but it wasn’t until just this moment that I really knew what I wanted to say.


This month I’m going on a journey of prayer journaling….and before I began writing tonight, I wanted to “relax” and watch a movie. Well I chose the movie “Boy in Striped Pajama’s”.  If you’ve seen it, you know that it leaves you feeling very sad, sad for the world, for the boy, for the times when we just don’t know any better…. and it makes me want to pray.


“Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.” (Psalm 62:8) If you know anything about the holocaust, you know that there were many, many people who cried out to God, seeking His help, protection, wisdom & mercy. God wants us to do this, to pour out our hearts to him when we are scared, ashamed, unsure & hurting.  He will protect us, though sometimes He protects our hearts & souls over our earthly bodies.

We know this is true, that God desires to hold us in his Hands, and that He will answer us and come to us because of what Christ testified by his mouth…”‘Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.  So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.  Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”’

And yet, sometimes we have to walk through horrendous situations.  The people of the holocaust were thrust into something they had little to no control over, they were tortured, beaten, starved, mocked and killed for just daring to live as people that Christ created them to be.  Many of them lost hope, feeling abandoned….but still there were some, like Corrie Ten Boom who saw her situation in the prison camps, as a time that she could tell others about God & his mercy. She understood what is written about in 2 Corinthians 2:14 where it says “But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere.”  She, being lead as a captive into a place shrouded by death, held to her faith and overcame the smell of flesh with the fragrance of everlasting life.  ….. A faith like that deserves pause. ….. A faith like that, is one to make you wonder about the God who calls a witness like her out…He is a mighty God, a faithful God, an everlasting God.

Finally, as we seek him, praise him, confess our fears and hopes to him, we will see…maybe not today, but one day we will see…what His glorious plans for our lives will be.  It is then and on our journey to that end, that we can joyfully sing with David through Psalms 30:11-12, “You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. LORD my God, I will praise you forever.” Amen.