Wind, bone chilling cold, rain, and green—both places have that in common. Despite having lived in Ireland before, there are many things here in Northern Ireland that are very different from the big city living of Dublin. Newcastle is a small seaside town, tucked in by the Irish Sea and the Mourne Mountains. Outside the small town is farmland as far as you can see. Big farms, small farms, sheep farms, cow farms, and crops. Things are done differently here. No one is in a hurry to do anything. You can stop and talk to just about anyone anywhere; shops close at 5:00, many aren’t even open on Sundays. Your eggs come from the farm down the road, and everyone is a cousin to someone else you know. It’s like a step back in time! It’s quite pleasant and I am in no rush to leave it. But the adaptations were intentional and took effort (3 months in and they still do).
What is the key to adapting? Renewing the mind. I remember when this concept really hit me and made sense. Fortunately I got it early on and it really unlocked an ease to the process so far. I was driving down a narrow road, heading to the grocery store, and I got stuck behind a large tractor. They’re everywhere here. It’s a rare day to not see one on the road. The tractors are massive, the wheels are the height of my car, they have bright flashing lights, and they are often pulling trailers (my favourite one was bringing his Christmas tree home in one!). They don’t drive fast and they take up the entire lane. On the rural roads there is no way around them, you just drive behind slowly, waiting for them to turn off the road. I was starting to get frustrated and some not-so-nice thoughts about the country started to creep in. But then I remembered that one of the things I love most about this country is the beautiful green rolling hills, dotted with sheep and cows. You don’t get farmland without tractors! Immediately I found a value in the tractors and the patience to drive slowly once again.
While there are many things here that don’t make sense to me (like why we still don’t have internet at our house), there are many things that are just different. I found myself resisting some things just because they were different than I am used to. But when I learned to stop and look for the value in the difference my perspective changed, and I was able to adapt to and appreciate the cultural differences. This is what renewing the mind is. It’s changing your thoughts, perspective, and belief on a matter.
Americans have a bad name in many countries because of the approach many take to new cultures. “If it’s different than I am used to, it’s wrong!" This has caused a lot of hurt on the mission field as well. We were strongly cautioned to be aware of this and not fall into this pattern. But Christians can fall into this anywhere. Why is there such a prevalent mind-set that we know everything we need to know about God, his Word, and the Church? Why does someone having a different revelation or understanding of something challenge us so much? Could it be that there is more to a topic than we know already? If God is infinite, is it possible that you don’t yet have full understanding?
Whether you know it or not, God is calling you to deeper revelation of him and his word every day. Your PhD in theology doesn’t impress him. Your learning disabilities don’t deter him. Your born-again age doesn’t matter. Our upbringing, experiences, teaching, even our own understanding of the scripture can lead us to conclusions on a matter that don’t align with God’s truth. There’s always more!
The culture of Heaven looks nothing like the cultures of the Earth. There is an adjustment period for everyone coming out of the world’s culture into Gods. Take the disciples for example. They were in the world, doing their thing, running their businesses, living their life how they had been taught and how their parents had lived for generations before them. Jesus called them out of their world into his. There were different rules, words, beliefs, and practices. It took some time for them to adapt. But look at them, they took the Gospel to the ends of the known world! They forever changed nations and cultures. What if they had been unwilling to renew their mind? They wouldn’t have sent a single demon fleeing, one fever running, or saved a single soul. What was the key? Jesus taught, corrected, instructed, and empowered them. They tried new things and failed. They tried again. Failed some more. Jesus didn’t give up on them. He immersed them in the culture of Heaven. Then he left the message of the Gospel in their hands. They continued until their death to seek the “more” that God had for them. They didn’t stop pressing in. They were humble and willing to learn.
Get used to Different!
So, what is your excuse? When something doesn’t work the way it is supposed to, God isn’t the problem. What are the mindsets still keeping you from your “more”? More freedom, more breakthrough, more healing, more peace, more joy, more wonders, more fruit? God wants to take you further out of the culture of this world and deeper into the culture of his Kingdom, where every thought is taken captive, every lofty argument against God is torn down, every lie is kicked out.
Look at the story in Matthew 17, starting at verse 14. A man had brought his son to the disciples to be healed of epilepsy. The disciples couldn’t do it. “It must not have been God’s will!” Nope, Jesus simply rebuked the demon and it fled. So, why couldn’t the disciples do it? Jesus told them (verse 20-21) that it was their unbelief, and the solution to their unbelief was prayer and fasting. Why? Because in prayer we commune with the Father who reveals his wisdom to us. If we are listening, He will teach us. In fasting, we are emptying ourselves, removing the clutter of our flesh. We don’t gain more power in fasting, but we gain a stronger connection to the One who empowers us. Jesus did what he saw the Father doing, and said what he heard the Father saying. Make sure your lines of communication are clear. If you believe something contrary to scripture, how you will be able to partner with God when he wants to do that thing? Much of the reason for our fruitlessness is that we just don’t believe what he said. We are still in bondage to lies and false teaching. Maybe God is ready to do something different!
"Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth;
shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the
wilderness and rivers in the desert." - Isaiah 43:19
Different isn’t bad. It’s like the slogan for The Chosen series “Get used to different.” What is God challenging you into? What different thing does God want to do that is making you uncomfortable? It’s time to value the shift to the new culture and leave the old one behind.
Don’t get caught up in the discomfort of culture change. Let God take you to new places, new heights, and new freedoms. Don’t fear getting stuck behind a tractor or having to do your shopping before 5:00. You will eventually appreciate it!
The Kingdom of God does not need your resolution!
New Year’s resolutions are becoming a thing of the past. “New Year, New You!” slogans were created to motivate people to join a gym and boost the bottom line of businesses, whose only motivation was to capitalise on people’s self-rejection and insecurities. It’s not 2005 anymore…or even 2022!
Welcome to 2023: God, the Church, even your family doesn’t need anymore insecure, self-centred resolutions. The Kingdom of God doesn’t need good intentions. It needs people who are transformational and revolutionary. If you want to be relevant, purposeful, useful, and powerful in 2023 then drop your “New Year’s Resolutions.”
A 91% fail rate
I get it, you don’t want to stay the way you are right now forever. You recognise weaknesses, have new goals, or maybe are bored with the status quo. But change is hard. Even well-intentioned change. Most people lose momentum before the change becomes permanent. According to this website, only 9% of people achieve their resolution. Those aren’t world-changing statistics!
For most, the desire to change is rooted in rejection (from self or others), insecurity, and/or pride. Be honest with yourself. If you really evaluated the reason behind the last personal resolution you made (eat less, read more, pray more, give up social media, etc), it was because you wanted to be “better” (slimmer, smarter, richer, prettier, etc) than you are right now.
Resolving in your mind to do something limits you to the power of your will. Resolutions come from your own strength, are based on your previous failures, and result in your own glory (or lack there-of).
Resolutions are OUT, Transformation is IN!
I am going to simplify this down to one simple, essential key to lasting change: a transformed mind. Transformation is really what you’re looking for. I said it was simple, I didn’t say it was easy!
Know who you are, forget who you are not!
As a son or daughter of God you possess every spiritual blessing, spiritual gifts, and the nature of Christ. You lack nothing. This is where that all-important key comes in for your lasting transformation: renew your mind about who you are, leaving behind who you are not.
Pay attention to the words used in scripture to describe you (italics added):
“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17
“For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.” Colossians 2:9-10
“…put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4:24
“ …since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him…” Colossians 3:9-10
“…as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” 2 Peter 1:3-4
Do you see it? It’s already been done! You have been made new already! It was the work of Christ on the cross that did all the work to make you everything you need to be. And do you know what else it makes you? Loved, accepted, adored, beautiful, and worthy. It’s not your works in this new year that will be make you more loved, more beautiful, or more significant. It is the work that He has already done. You must only meet one condition: to be in Christ. No other conditions apply to attain being made new, perfect, and lovely.
Steps for Success in 2023
A renewed mind comes through the Word of God; both logos and rhema words.
“And not to be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:2
Step 1: Take the old thoughts captive. You must search out with Holy Spirit to find the thoughts you have about yourself that the Father does not have about you. You cannot afford to think anything about yourself that He hasn’t first thought about you. This will be a life-long process, but He is so faithful, he will continue to reveal and work this out as you submit to him and meet with him in the secret place.
Step 2: Replace the thoughts (lies) with Truth.
“How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand;” Psalm 139:17-18
Here David is saying that the Father’s thoughts toward him cannot be counted they are so vast, but they are a treasure to be prized and cherished. Do you know what his thoughts towards you are? Spend time with Him and ask Him; read the Word and let it wash over you.
Step 3: Radiate the Glory of God. As you begin to renew the thoughts you have about yourself, the old man gets put to rest, and what comes to the surface is the reflection of the glory and image of Christ (see Romans 8:29). We are to live from this identity, not into it by trying to attain it through good or right works. You are the expected manifestation of the glory of God (sit on that for a while! Colossians 1:27). A son or daughter living from true identity will change the world. The lost, hurting, and sick of this world are waiting for an encounter with Jesus through you. This will bring more change to the world than any resolution ever can.
Happy Transformational Year!
So this year live from the perspective of you who are, not who you are not. Spend more time in the secret place with the Lord because you are a son or daughter, not to become one. Better your physical health because you already are the temple of the Holy Spirit, you don’t have to make yourself worthy of it. Pursue the passions the Lord has given you because he has already favoured you to be successful, you don’t have to earn it. God has already secured your finances, you can live from financial peace, not for it.
May this new year be the year that you live from your new self, already perfected in Christ. Let the striving for perfection end, and the confidence of your acceptance, power, and authority in Christ begin.
Last week was a brisk one for Northern Ireland with unseasonably cold temperatures of -2 degrees Celsius (or 28 for our Fahrenheit friends), heavy frosts and dustings of snow. I felt quite at home since we were watching all the Facebook posts from our friends getting beautiful blankets of snow in Western Washington. But it was my last chance to get flower bulbs in the ground before spring so I donned my warm Carhart bibs, oversized barn coat, and some gardening gloves. As I am not yet familiar with the garden at our new house, I had to try a few locations before finding suitable places for the bulbs to go. Fortunately I was at the early side of the frosty temperatures so I didn’t have to dig far to get below the frost. I do not garden a lot, but enough that I often find myself thinking of Biblical parallels or the parables that Jesus taught while I am working the ground. Humanity started in a garden and all throughout scripture we see God use gardens, trees, and plants as imagery for his Kingdom.
I began thinking about several things while I was planting these lovely bulbs of tulips, daffodils, ranunculus, and a few others. The thing about planting bulbs is that they are not very exciting to plant. One of the things I enjoy most about gardening is the instant gratification of seeing beautiful flowering plants tucked into their new homes, cheering up a once vacant and boring place. But bulbs are different, they have to winter over in the cold ground before they bloom. They are not like seeds that germinate in a matter of days. You plant bulbs and then can not even tell where you put them! The soil settles back into its place and there’s nothing to show for your cold, hard digging. But this is the required process for a beautiful spring bounty of flowers. And I began to think about a word that was shared with us prior to our move. A trusted leader told us that we would be coming to Northern Ireland in a (spiritual) winter season and it would be some time before we began to see the fruits of our labor; so we were not to get discouraged but to settle in to do the work because the harvest will come. The process of planting the bulbs so beautifully illustrated this word for me. Here I was digging into cold, hard soil, toiling against rocks and old roots from bigger shrubs for a “harvest” that wouldn’t be seen for months.
I started to reflect on the church that we left in Washington and the amazing ways God is moving and working in and through the leaders of that church. I guess there was a part of me that felt like I was missing out. Since moving here, life has been slower, and had a completely different focus than before moving. But immediately the Lord spoke to me about this. He said, “They [the leaders of the church] have had their winter season. They toiled for years with seemingly little fruit to show. Their winter was cold and hard, this is now their season of growth and harvest. Celebrate their harvest time, yours will come in time” And just like it is winter in the northern hemisphere, it is Summer in the southern hemisphere! We are all in a season, but not everyone is in the same season. For a time, we shared in the growing and harvesting season with our Apostles and friends, but it was time to move to a different hemisphere and enter a new season.
No two seasons can be compared or competed with. A farmer in Australia could not tell a farmer in Northern Ireland what to be doing with his fields right now because the seasons are not aligned. But even winter is critical for the planting and growing process. Winter is when the ground rests, or a cover crop is planted to enrich the soil in the spring. Bulbs winter over to be activated at the right time. In some cases, the cold kills off bacteria and insects in the soil that can wipe out entire crops. Winter is also an important pruning time for fruit trees. Because the trees go into a deep sleep, so to speak, they are not putting forth the energy into growing, so pruning can be done more effectively; and pruning is essential for keeping a fruit-bearing tree healthy and productive.
So what does this have to do with you or me? Every person will go through seasons throughout their life. Some seasons will be these cold hard winters where it feels like every thrust of the shovel is fighting against ice and rocks. It might seem as though you have nothing to show for your hard work. Everything might look dark and barren. You might not even be able to do much work. But don’t waste this time. If you are in the winter season, don’t despair. This is an essential time in your life to allow the Lord to prune you, enrich you, and prepare you for the blossom of spring. When we read about the parable of the Sower in Matthew 13 it’s tempting to think, “Of course I am the good soil!” and we may even find ourselves judging others as the rocky, or shallow soils. But you know what is amazing about soil? Every soil type that is described in this parable can be amended. Rocks can be removed, hard soil can be watered and worked, weeds can be pulled. And do you know when a farmer is going to be preparing this soil for planting? In the winter, before planting season starts. We can be all of those soil types in different areas of our hearts. Some areas we are soft, rich, deep soil ready for whatever God wants to plant in us. But other areas can be rocky, shallow, thorny, and dry. It takes a season with the Lord to allow him to work out those things so that what was once inhospitable soil to seeds can become good soil for His word.
Do not judge others for the season they are in. It might look like there’s nothing happening, but deep under the ground a beautiful flower is waiting to blossom. Celebrate others who are in lush summer pastures, or bountiful fall harvests. Your time will come if you are faithful to sow and allow the Lord to work in your heart.
This winter season has felt slow and not very productive in ministry terms. But this is the season we are in right now. Thank you to everyone who is continuing to sow into us and into this land. We are learning more and more that Northern Ireland has a deep heritage of Christianity. And while religion has thrown its rocks and thorns to the earth, the water runs deep, and the soil is good. We will see this land amended and it will be a mighty harvest that will spill over into the rest of Europe. Thank you for joining us in this sowing. The harvest is coming!
Oh! And Merry Christmas!
Our international move was nothing short of a move of God. There have been a lot of people who have commented to me that they didn’t think they could ever do it; that it would be overwhelming, or way too difficult. I agree. If you were to try to do it on your own, it would be a ton of work, stress, and you would probably encounter a lot of problems along the way. But when God sends you, he equips you. He began preparing me for this move about a year ahead of time.
It started with questions to the American missionaries we met in Northern Ireland. I picked up on some tips that helped us tremendously. We decided to pack in storage bins rather than suitcases (suitcases are really expensive and don't hold much). I started buying a few at a time for $8-$10 a piece every time I went to Costco. They were also great for putting things in storage, so I didn’t worry about having too many. I checked how many pieces of luggage each person was allowed on the plane- 3. I then made a list of what each bin would hold. It was going to be a stretch, so when John and Jo traveled to Northern Ireland in April, I sent a few bins with them containing things we would want but didn’t need in the interim. It ended up being Christmas stuff, some art supplies, winter clothes, and two of John’s guitars. But even deciding on that was a family project.
Moving with kids made this move different from the time that I moved to Ireland in 2006. As an adult I could decide what I could and couldn’t do without. But this was a big deal for our kids and involving them in the decision-making was critical for them feeling like they were participants in the call, not bystanders. We decided that Christmas decorations were a big priority since we love to decorate for Christmas and our ornaments all have stories and memories of home attached to them. Also, my kids really enjoy art so packing up our art supplies (even though we can buy them here) demonstrated to my kids that their interests were important. After these things it was deciding mostly with John what needed to go for us to be able to do the ministry that God has called us to. For John, that is worship and videography. So, we designated bins for his camera gear (some came early as well) and his musical instruments. For me, it was the amazing books and training resources that I have gathered from SOZO trainings, as well as the school of ministry. Books are heavy though, so I focused on buying as many as I could on Kindle so I could have them but not take up any more space. We also homeschool so it was a challenge to buy curriculum but not so much as to exceed the weight limits for the plane! After that it was mainly clothes and personal items. I am certain that the kids packed more than they will ever actually use, but they pared their stuff down a lot over the year. Christmas and birthday presents were bought with the move in mind. Nothing too big or breakable.
Once we had pretty well settled on what would go, we began deciding what to do with everything else. There were two categories: Keep and store or sell. We sold or gave away probably 80% of what we owned. The rest was stored or taken with us. We built a 10x12 foot storage shed on my mom’s property to be able to store our stuff without paying a huge monthly bill. This was a huge help! The shed was built in December, and slowly over the next several months we began to sort the stuff that was left over from the first move, and began to move things around; sorting, purging, and tossing stuff. Every item we owned had to be touched and decided upon. Once Summer hit, this process really amped up. The kids went through their clothes and personal items, seeing what would fit, what would be sold, and what would be stored. I was really proud of the kids for being willing to go through this process, it wasn’t always easy!
Over the summer I worked on going through every cupboard, drawer, and closet to purge and organize. It was a lot of work, but never overwhelming. This is where the leading of the Holy Spirit was so real and helpful. I would get an idea of something that needed to be done, and I would go do it. When all was said and done, I was so grateful that I had listened to those promptings because it allowed us to get out on time. As renters, we had to be ready for the move out cleaning, so over the last several weeks in the house I worked on those deep cleaning tasks.
We also had the added task of preparing and bringing the dog with us. Valentine is our eight-year-old golden retriever whom the kids would not let us leave behind. This wasn’t too bad though. We found an excellent veterinarian who did all of the research to find out the requirements for flying a dog into the country. We planned months ahead, made sure she had all of her required shots and treatments. There were a few things that had to be done within days of our departure, but they were fantastic at fitting us in. We had to make sure we had the proper size crate and booked the dog her ticket. On the day we departed, she was dropped off with the shipping company that worked with the airlines.
We sold our cars within the last few days before leaving. We were generously given the use of our friend’s beach house to stay in as a transition from our rental before flying out. This was another inspired idea from the Holy Spirit. We were able to complete our move out and cleaning, and still have a few days to say good-bye to friends and family in peace.
Preparation wasn’t just physical though. It was emotional and spiritual as John and I learned how to navigate our own feelings, as well as walk the kids through the process of saying good-bye and being ready to welcome new friends into our hearts. With a move like this, “good-bye” isn’t the only hard part. Keeping our hearts open to new people and relationships is critical for us to have an effective ministry, as well as staying emotionally healthy. We don’t know where God will lead us in three years. Will it be another good-bye? Will we stay? The tendency when thinking that something is temporary is to pull back just a little to keep yourself from getting “attached.” But love requires a full commitment, regardless of the outcome. Jesus knew his time with the disciples was limited, and instead of only giving a portion of himself, he loved so fully that he even gave John the honor of becoming a son to his own mother. That is family.
John and I also experienced a lot of healing and renewing of the mind as we wrestled with what to keep, bring, store, or sell. It challenged our faith and understanding of God’s provision and goodness. God told me when I was struggling through a few things, “If I provided it once, I will provide it again.” After that I didn’t have any more concerns about whether or not I would have everything I needed. I packed what I had peace to pack. I am grateful that we got to learn this as a family; it will serve us well in the years to come!
The day of our departure was busy, but not stressful. We took care of a few last-minute errands and tasks so as to not leave them for others to take care of. We also stopped for a few more good-bye hugs before leaving town. One thing that I have learned over the past few years is that when you are about to embark on a mission for God (big or small, short or long) there WILL be things that come up. I was wisely told the day before we left that not every “bad” thing is from the enemy. So when we got the notice that our flight was delayed, I was totally at peace. That peace was challenged a little when we were told that the dog still had to arrive at the original check-in time, which meant she was in her crate for two more hours and we had to leave earlier than needed for our new departure time. But when I remembered those words, I regained my peace and realized God was just giving US more time to check in with our 18 pieces of checked luggage! Because of this delay there was no rushing. Our airline was at the end of the terminal on a quiet day. We actually parked our cars at the drop off curb, unloaded all the luggage, organized, and moved it inside, and we were never rushed or told to move. We got to say goodbye to my mom and stepdad without the rush of being pushed out. It took some muscle on John’s part, but even moving the bins around wasn’t stressful. There was room exactly where we needed room. There was even a really kind Irish farmer who helped us move them to the checkout counter. I’m pretty sure we made history for the attendant checking us in. She wasn’t thrilled with the amount and weight of our bins, but when I showed her that everything was purchased online ahead of time, and with the proper weights, she didn’t argue. She didn’t even charge us for extra weight on the oversized bag! Ironically, the largest piece was the cheapest one. It took a good hour or more for us to get all checked in, but it was hassle-free and simple. We moved through the airport quickly and easily. The kids were blessed by a few donors who gave them money for the airport, so they all shopped for over-priced gum and candy; something we have never had the opportunity to let them do before! We played chase with Eowyn, but otherwise everyone was laid-back and had no complaints.
Our flight was not full, we found our seats with ease and had no challenge finding room for all our carry-ons. John did a great job entertaining Eowyn and getting her to sleep on the plane. Everyone else was content with snacks, movies, and naps. It was a 9-hour flight, but it passed quickly and peacefully.
Once on the ground and through immigration (no issues) we faced the challenge of having to collect all of our bins and carry them out without assistance from anyone else. There were small push carts, but it would take more than we were able to push by ourselves. But what did God provide? A huge, flat-bed cart just sitting off to the side! We loaded that up (again with the assistance of this freakishly strong Irish farmer), two small carts, and with Eowyn in a baby carrier on my back we were off to customs. This was a joke. There were three pillars with descriptions of what each line was for…and yet they all led to the same unmanned door. We literally just walked right on out! No declarations, searches, or questions. Yay, Dublin! Once out the door, we found Aaron and Neil waiting for us. We made our way to the vans where God supernaturally fit every piece of luggage with room to spare for the dog. We collected the dog after a little wait and were finally on our way home.
There’s nothing quite like the warm hospitality of the Irish. The house was warm, food was cooked, and the kitchen was stocked with food. We ate a delicious meal of chicken curry and rice, KFC chicken, and garlic bread. And it felt like home.
God was in every detail from the planning to the execution. There was a moment at the SeaTac airport where I sat at the terminal and realized that for the first time in about 18 months, there was nothing left to prepare. Every bag was packed, every need was met, every paper and document were in hand. And while there were a few delays, challenges, and changes, it was all done to perfection. Only a move of God can move a family across continents not only without striving, but WITH joy. Looking back at it, I realized how simple and easy God had made it. This is the inheritance of the sons of God. Nothing He calls you to requires you to strive. Just follow. He will inspire, educate, strengthen, and prepare you in every way.
If you want God to move you, begin to prepare--clean out your cupboards and pantries. If he is moving you, let him lead. I can confidently say that when it is your turn to participate in a move of God, you too will see the miracles abound and every need met.
The Kingdom of God is built on an exchange system. Our rags for his riches, our sins for his forgiveness, our hurt for his healing. This is the message of the Gospel! The life, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus makes a way to replace everything sin has brought upon us. But the exchange doesn't stop with our salvation and healing. The exchange is life-long process for those committed to the Kingdom of God.
Jesus will ask you for e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g in your life; it's the process of our sanctification--setting us apart for Him. Upon salvation and surrendering to Jesus, we are giving Jesus permission to rule and reign in our lives. It means our lives are no longer our own. Our finances, plans, job, kids, marriage, even our hobbies and entertainment are to be given to the lordship of Jesus. This sounds controlling and manipulative to those outside of the Kingdom, even to some Christians. Many want to have both the salvation of Jesus and the freedom to do what they want. But Scripture calls that a double-minded man, and has a lot to say about that--none of it good (go take a look). To be truly surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus is to let him tell you what needs to be given to him.
God is a very gracious and patient Father. He doesn't expect us to be perfected in a day. He takes us through the process over our life-time. But many people don't understand that when God is asking you to give him something, it is in exchange for something greater. When he asks you to give him your free time, to give up watching TV or certain shows, it's not to deprive you of fun. When God asks you to give a generous amount of money to a ministry or a person, it's not to deprive you of your needs. When surrendering your job or business to pursue what he has called you to, it's not to make you miserable. Every "ask" from the Good Father comes with an exchange for something greater from His Kingdom.
If someone were to say to you, "I have a brand new version of your car, with all the upgrades; it has that new car smell, and comes with a life-time warranty for all parts. You just have to give me the keys to your old car and it's yours" I am pretty sure you would take it. Right? Who wouldn't take a free upgrade? But our perception of God is stained by experiences with imperfect people. We often have a wounded view of our Heavenly Father so we doubt, don't trust, or just don't even hear him when he talks to us. In the extreme case, some think God is just trying to control, manipulate, and deprive them. And yet if you examine the entirety of Scripture, you won't find one example of God taking something away just to cause hurt, loss, or depravity. Without turning this into a book about the goodness of God, every example of "taking" something away has resulted in greater peace, riches, provision, protection, healing, wholeness, joy, and fulfillment of promise. But we have to be willing to hand over the old keys to get the new ones. Sometimes the reward of our surrender isn't fully seen here in this lifetime. Some riches will be eternal in nature. But think about it--would you rather have a reward that lasts 50-60 years, or one that you have for eternity?
There is no such thing as "loss" in the Kingdom of Heaven. There is surrender unto victory, provision, healing, and empowerment. It is a big thing to give up our businesses, friends, family, familiarity of home, and most of our possessions to answer God's call. But it's not a loss. If we didn't give up our house here, we could never receive the house in Newcastle. If we weren't willing to say good-bye to our friends and family here, we couldn't gain the friendship and family of Centre 61. If we were not willing to leave the perceived security of stable jobs and businesses, we would never gain the faith to trust in God's complete provision. Every ask comes with an even greater reward. To receive it we have to go through a continual process of renewing our mind, allowing Jesus to heal our wounds, and even get delivered of strongholds and demonic oppression keeping us from experiencing the fullness of God's Kingdom.
This past Sunday at Sozo Church we were commissioned to go. This commissioning cost us the surrender of our lives. That is all that some people see. "I could never leave the security of my job!" "I love my life here. My family...my house...my friends..." The excuse for not being willing to hear God's call is the very thing he is trying to upgrade. He wants to exchange the world's poor imitation of life for the real thing.
You can love your life unto death, or you can love your death unto life. Because only in the kingdom of God does death produce life. The world and God's Kingdom are opposite in every way. The world says you have to earn your reward and riches. But God says, "Die to yourself and I will give you the inheritance of Heaven." It has already been earned, but not by you. Jesus has already won the prize. The only way to share in it is to share in his death.
So what is God asking you to lay down and why don't you want to do it? I pray that the Holy Spirit will reveal to you what is holding you back from the next level of surrender, that you would experience the riches of Heaven in your life. What could he have waiting for you?
We go on October 17th. We say good-bye to a lot, but we aren't losing anything. We are gaining an inheritance that we can't earn any other way. Will you join us? You can partner financially and share in the reward of the harvest. Every person that has partnered with us already has said yes to what God has in exchange for them. Will you be next?
Click here to join us!
We are not the first people to enter the mission field. Many greats have gone before us, and I loved reading about them as a kid. Amy Carmichael, Hudson Taylor, Don and Carol Richardson (If you haven't read Peace Child, it's a must read!), Elisabeth and Jim Elliot--just to name a few that I read about and studied. Their stories are both heart-breaking and inspirational. Every one of their stories began with a call. Every one of them had to say, "yes" and leave everything they knew and loved behind. This is the process for every person who is called to go. There are sermons, books, talks, and lectures about the cost of going, the price that missionaries pay to go into the mission field. It's not wrong, there is a cost. We have laid down businesses, goals, plans, friends, home, family, church, and nearly all of our possessions to say yes. I read all the stories of the missionaries I listed above and remember the cost they all paid in the same areas. But reading those stores didn't prepare me for the place we are in now.
This place is somewhere in the in-between.
Over the past few weeks I have been sorting, packing, cleaning, selling, re-sorting, paring down, and cleaning some more. Our clothes and a limited number of our possessions are in black storage bins from Costco that will go on the plane with us. We have minimal furniture in the house. The kids' room is actually clean because they have very little left to actually make a mess with. Although, Judah has rediscovered the joy of shooting everything and everyone with his nerf guns, so there are little blue and orange nerf bullets in every room, even outside in the driveway. I think the next residents of our house will find some in very strange places. But if you have ever moved you are familiar with this process. Living out of boxes, not fully in the house anymore, but not yet in the new one. We have started to say good-bye to friends and family; we have left our businesses and jobs. Our start to the school year was not like others. Things are just different. We are not yet "there," but every day brings us a little farther from "here." It's not just a physical transition though. The process of letting go of items we have had for many years was just a reminder that we are no longer in that time. This transition from "here" to "there" isn't just a geographical one. It marks a new chapter in our life.
I lived in Dublin for just under a year and it so radically impacted me that I wasn't the same coming back. It's a large part of my call to this island today. Three years is going to forever change our family and regardless of wether we return to the US, stay In Ireland, or go to a different country. We will not be returning the same as we were. I am keenly aware that these last few weeks here in Washington are the last days of life as we have known it. It's a strange place to be in. New routines have already started, but like any new routine, it gets interrupted, challenged, and tweaked.
Nothing is as it was, but it also isn't yet as it will be.
I have never heard a missionary speak about this time. But this time is critical; it's part of the process. The Israelites spent 40 years in the in-between. It was here that God showed himself to his people so they could know his ways. God set them up. He brought them into barren desserts, dry lands, and through dangerous kingdoms specifically so He could show himself as provider, healer, and defender. The people hadn't settled in their promised land yet, but they were no longer in Egypt. They weren't yet the rulers of their land, but they were no longer slaves. The wilderness was their training ground, it was in that place that they received invitation from God to all be Priests unto Him; they received instruction, training, guidance, and direction. Without this time in the wilderness, they would have not survived a day in the Promise Land. As it was, they still failed in so many ways. Psalm 95 says that they hardened their hearts and as a result did not know the ways of God. They saw his works, but it did not translate in their hearts to who God is. There were the faithful few, like Joshua and Caleb, who demonstrated what it means to come through the "in-between" in victory. They knew God's promises and held to them when everything looked hopeless to others. They could hear God, trusted his voice, and followed his laws. This is our example for these in-between times.
If you are somewhere in the in-between like we are, take heart, it's not forever (hopefully won't be 40 years). It might feel a little unsettling, confusing, and tiring. But God has given his instruction for making it through this. Learn His ways from what He has done in your life up to this point. Live and work from rest; continue in the last direction He sent you in until He tells you to turn. You might encounter a barren dessert, thirsty land, or intimidating opposition. But it is here in the in-between that God shows up in miraculous and mighty ways. "For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him." 2 Chronicles 16:9
We ask that you continue to pray for us as we learn to walk through this time, not just for ourselves, but with our kids. We haven't done this before, we are learning as we go how to parent and disciple our kids in this time of transition. To be honest, it has been a bit messy at times; challenging, tiring, and frustrating. We haven't been perfect at it. But we are grateful to the Lord and our friends and family who have been walking with us. We are looking forward to sharing with you what comes after being somewhere in the in-between.
Sweet little Eowyn does not like to be left behind when I go anywhere. "Mii-mee! Mii-mee!" (with me) and the sweetest little puppy dog eyes usually begin the moment she realizes I am leaving. Today it was just for a few ingredients at the store for dinner so I took her with me. When we go to QFC she loves the little kid shopping carts (you know, the cute little ones that adults are too tall to steer, but are sized just right for running into ankles and shins). So she gets her cart and I do my best to keep her from running over every store display;giving the wine aisle a big berth.
We made it through the store today with her little cart and minimal display casualties. As usual, she insisted on throwing every item in the cart at full strength (I don't buy eggs with her). When we were ready to pay she watched the cashier carefully to make sure he rang everything up correctly. On the way out to the car my hands were full and I wanted to keep her with me in the parking lot, so I asked her to "help me" carry the milk that was in my right hand. She agreed for a few seconds, holding onto the handle with me, walking at the same pace. Then she decided that she could carry the milk all by herself. And that is where forward progress ended. She grunted and shuffled as she struggled to hold the milk up off the ground AND walk forward.
There are so many moments in parenting that I feel Father God watching me saying, "Uh huh, do you see yourself in this? Isn't this familiar? You're no different with me than that little child is sometimes!" Ooops. Yeah, you're right. I convince myself that I am somehow more mature or better than the two year old, but in some ways I am worse!
As Eowyn took the milk from my hand today I had one of those moments with God. He said, "Sometimes you take the milk from my hands and struggle, instead of doing it with me and letting me carry the weight." We like to think we are so big and strong until we take from God what is meant for only him to carry and we find out how small and weak we really are.
God invites us to join him in the work of his Kingdom. He gives us jobs, positions, authority, power, strength, and keys to get the work done. He gives us what we are ready to carry as we grow. But some things are never ours to carry, while others are to be carried hand-in-hand with God. Eowyn wanted to be big and significant today; I love her heart. And God feels the same way about us. He looks at us grunting and shuffling under the weight of his burden that we took with all the right intentions and motivations, and he smiles. But we need to learn to recognize when God is holding out his hand to us so he can carry the weight. He doesn't intend for any work to be done on our own. It's easy to feel this on our bad days when we feel unworthy of doing ministry or incapable of having any good outcome. In these moments we might be more inclined to acknowledge our dependence on God. But the truth is even our best days don't qualify us. It is Christ in us that is our hope of glory (Col 1:27).
Throughout the entire process of pursuing our call to Northern Ireland, I have tried to "carry the milk" so many times, thinking I was doing God such a big favor by working so hard. But it was him the whole time.
I spent 3-4 months emailing churches and ministries to find someone we could work with. God did it through one person at a conference.
I spent months looking at houses on rental websites, but God said I wouldn't find it on there. We didn't, it came through one person listening to God and willing to trust him.
In one week, through one person, our visas were fully funded. I didn't even have a chance to carry that one!
I fumbled our visa paperwork, struggled through the application process, messed up John and Judah's middle names...and the visas still came back in less than 2 weeks (average is 6). We are still waiting on Judah's. I have communicated with the right people but I know that God will ultimately be the one to bring it through. I won't be caught trying to fix this on my own!
But this last piece is the hardest one to not try to take out of God's hands: our funding. God says in Matthew chapter 6 that our provision is HIS burden, not ours. The birds don't even sow seeds to reap from them! They do what they are designed to do and God takes care of the rest. My personal challenge is to not try to do God's job for him. I will just have to "help" by holding on and walking with him.
With just weeks left before our move it is time to begin the sorting. As the kids go through their bins of toys and prized possessions, I see the years and stages that the various items remind me of. The years that I now know were the years of buried seed. "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain." (John 12:24) These were years of growing as a family, in number as well as maturity. They were good years of struggle; dreaming but never hoping. The dream had died. We didn't know. We didn't know what the Lord had planned. As I watch the kids go through this process I see a picture of tiny shoots of green that are the first signs of the life from the seed that was dead and buried.
It's a slow process. Jo is methodical and organized. Judah got about half-way through his bin before just dumping the entire contents on the floor, and getting reunited with a long lost sticky hand that he claims "will always be sticky!" His exclamations are followed by demonstrations of said stickiness all over the walls and furniture. Annabeth is somewhere in the midst of a disorganized pile of everything she owns. Eowyn is brandishing a plastic dagger and insisting that she be allowed to play with all of Jo's toys. There's some bargaining over discarded toys, who wants to keep what; a few squabbles, a few exclamations of joy over finding something once lost.
But the sound of what I don't hear is the most amazing.
Not one complaint. (Ok, Judah is complaining about how much stuff he has to haul downstairs...But not about the "why" of the job).
Somehow over the past year and a half of us planning and praying into this call, the kids have joined us in their hearts. There will be challenges, moments of frustration and grief--and that is all to be expected. But they are partnering with us and shouldering their part of the burden. And so they too will inherit the promises: "And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life." (Matthew 19:29)
This time period for us is like a bridge from the old into the new. We have to be able to put away the old and make room for the new that Jesus has for us. The Israelites were given food from heaven, but instructed not to collect more than they needed for one day. Why? Because God wanted them to trust him for each day, not relying on yesterday's provision. What was provided yesterday was sufficient and miraculous for that day. But in hoarding yesterday's miracle, we lose the expectation and space for today's. All of our "stuff" is a reminder of yesterday's provision and encourages us for today, but in getting rid of the left-overs we make room for the miraculous. Out with the old, in with the new!