Redemption.

redemption

Life looks much different today than it did a few short weeks ago, and as with any change and transition, there is so much hope and excitement in that, but not without cost.  In January, my husband took the position of Worship Pastor at a brand new Acts29 church plant here in Edmond, Oklahoma called Redemption Church. The only way to describe the events of the weeks leading up to our ultimate decision is… “whirlwindy”. hehe.

Allow me to explain.

We had been a part of the same church here in Oklahoma since the moment our feet hit this beautiful red soil, and we had remained there for 8 wonderful years.  These were the happiest, most grounding, solidifying, faith-building, eye-opening, preciously community-driven years of our lives, and we would not trade even one millisecond of our time at Bridgeway for anything in the world.  Every week we were poured into so richly – seeing the gifts of the Spirit operating right alongside Biblically sound teaching and theology… a rare thing to get to experience in this world!  Every week I would leave, amazed that I got to sit alongside such beautiful people and receive such stellar training that was also so graciously interruptible… The Holy Spirit truly led our meetings and ministry times, and amazing things resulted from that.

When Chris was first approached with this ministry opportunity at the new church plant, Redemption, we were not initially open to it.  Why would we leave such a beautiful place like the one we’d been serving at for so long?  Why would we ever want to go anywhere else? The thought of leaving was just too unsettling to consider for me.  I was so happy at my church, and I felt so blessed every time I went.

We remained mostly closed to the idea of taking the job up until around Christmas time.  I had been studying the book of Matthew for a few months in my bible study and there was one passage in particular that really started to wriggle open my eyes and my heart to what God may be calling us to.  In Matthew 10, Jesus is sending His disciples out into the world for the first time to proclaim that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. He tells them to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, and cast out demons – letting the lost and broken and hurting people of the world see that God was truly reaching down to His people and setting them free.  In Matthew 10:8, Jesus says, “Freely you have received, now freely give.”

Jesus was calling the disciples to take the amazing things that had been poured into them, and pour them back out onto the world.  I’m sure that the disciples would have been much more comfortable staying right where they were by Jesus’ side, watching Him perform all the miracles and signs and wonders, and never having to step up to the mantle Jesus was calling them to.  I’m sure that on that day when Jesus sent them all away, there was a hefty measure of discomfort – walking away from what they knew and loved and turning around to somehow multiply it.  It’s the same concept as Peter stepping out of the boat, just a few chapters later in the book of Matthew.  At some point, our faith has to have feet – feet that are willing to get up and go when God calls you step out onto the water.  At some point, we have to take the training we have received, and train others.  It’s how the Kingdom works! Receive, give. Receive, give. It’s how disciples are made and the Kingdom of God comes to earth.

God was slowly opening our hearts to the idea of taking what we had been given, and, by His grace and Spirit, multiplying it out.

By the time we packed up our car to haul our family out to visit my parents’ in Utah for Christmas, we were both more open to the idea than ever, but still so torn over leaving the church body that we loved dearly.  Everything I knew about God told me that He is always & forever in the business of expanding. It’s just who He is. And it’s what He always called His disciples to. You can hear the bittersweetness of it all in the words of the writers of the New Testament- it was hard for them to leave the churches they loved dearly.  But if they hadn’t, where would we be? I think at this point, we both knew He was calling us to a new place. The question for us now was, were we going to put our feet out on the water? Or stay in the boat?

Over Christmas, we spent hours talking to my sweet family about the decision we needed to make.  Redemption was set to launch in January, and that date was rapidly approaching.  As we talked it over and my family asked us questions and helped us really see all sides of the thing, something amazing happened.  A JOY and a peace and an excitement settled over our hearts like a warm blanket. God knew that we needed that time away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life to clear our minds and really process this decision. It was so beautiful to see how God was working separately in my heart and my husbands heart to soften us and warm us to His plan over all those weeks, so that a couple of days after Christmas, we were able to look into each other’s eyes and discover that we were both on the exact same page.  God was calling, and we would most definitely go.

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We were sent out and blessed by Bridgeway to join the new church plant just two short weeks after we had decided to take the job. It happened so quickly and it was hard to get the whole and complete story out to everyone before the announcement was made, but God’s timing was evident throughout the whole process.  My husband and I have been leading worship side by side at Redemption Church for almost 8 weeks now, and the confirmation and blessings and joy have been undeniable.  And now, more than ever, I am so blown away and grateful for the fact that Redemption Church and Bridgeway Church and churches all over America and around the globe and in the remotest of villages are all worshipping ONE God- the same God, and we are all united in Him as one body, the Church.  No matter where we go in this great big world, we are all still connected under one great King, and I find so much peace in that.

Redemption Church has been such a soft place to land.  The people are phenomenal, and we have been so outrageously blessed by this body of believers already. I can not WAIT to see what God has in store through these people for North Edmond.  Looking back, it is so evident now why we were brought to this house waaaaaay North of the city.  We moved out here with great joy, but have always had a lingering sense of ‘why’? Why did you bring us to this house that is so very far North, God?  Little did we know, He was moving us to our new mission field, before we ever even knew we’d be helping plant a church up here. The Sovereignty of God is a beautiful thing.

It is a new season, a new day. The passions and giftings that have long been deep within my husband’s heart are exploding and blossoming and it has been nothing short of incredible to watch. I have been growing as well, and getting to lead worship regularly with my husband is a dream come true.

My encouragement to you-  If you are feeling God call you somewhere new, don’t be afraid to follow! He is a Good Shepherd and worthy of all of your trust, even when it is hard and you don’t understand. The very best place you can ever be is right by His side. He will lead you and keep you, and your very HEART will come to life.

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The Old Rickety Barn.

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This old rickety barn has been such an unsuspected and surprising blessing.  When we bought this house, I never thought of the possibilities it could hold.  The extent of its usefulness in my head was a place to put all of Chris’ bajillionty-one tools.

It floods when it rains too much.  It has a half-finished bathroom & office in the corner that might never becoming a functioning space.  There appears to be… old washer & dryer hook ups? Right next to the giant heavy door that fell off its track and hardly opens any more. The support beams appear to be old telephone poles from some other time and place.  It is dusty and it’s home to maaany bugs.

From all outward appearances, it is just a pieced together old barn.  But it has become oh-so-much-more to us over the last 16 months.

It is a place for loud and wonderful worship practice.

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A place for men to gather and be men.

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A place for s’mores and hot dogs and friends.

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A place for college group bonfires.

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A place for great, inspiring music to be played.

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A place for imaginations.

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A place for solitude and quiet date nights while the thunder and rain roll in from the west.

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A place for epic dance parties.

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A place for work.

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A place to celebrate thankfulness.

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And life.

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I am forever grateful for God leading us to this special place.  We hold it loosely in our hands, as we do with all things, knowing that He could call us away at any time. But our time so far out here in the country has been nothing short of magical.

A year or two ago, we had been looking to move to the mountains… thinking crisp air and snowy winters would remind us more of where we came from.  I basically wanted to be anywhere but Oklahoma. ha. But God sometimes leads us to (or calls us to stay in) surprising places if we will just trust and follow Him. Whether it be a remote village in Africa or a small country house in Oklahoma or The White House itself in Washington DC… no matter where it is or what it looks like, our deepest longings for HOME are ultimately met in Him who also promises to be with us every step of the way.

Where He leads you, He will be!

What a promise worth trusting and following, a promise worth stepping out in faith to find.

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The Land of Deep Darkness.

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It’s embarrassing to say it, but it really is quite easy for me to forget all about the deep darkness that covers this earth we live on.  The poverty and injustice and abhorrent evil that characterizes the lives of so many is not something I live in as my daily reality, but rather something I have to go out of my way to find.  I live comfortably, and the people who I interact with most consistently from day-to-day are people who love Jesus and are quick to encourage me and lift me up and pray for me when I am down.

I do not watch the nightly news.  It is a conscious choice I made years ago after I realized it was not producing informed awareness in me, but rather, fear.  The fear produced in me after I would feed on what the media was serving up that day would then fill my mind and my heart and my speech.  It was bad news. (Pun!)  And so, I turned it off.

I don’t believe we should be completely unaware of what is happening in the world, safe in our bubbles (as I tend to be), but I believe it is totally unnecessary to know every single shocking, jaw-dropping, and sensational thing happening on the face of the earth at all times. I try to inform myself of important issues in other ways, without all the sensationalism, but it is hard to do in this day and age, yes?  I often wonder what it would have been like to live in a time where the news was conveyed solely by the mouth of a nearby friend or neighbor, rather than a never-ending, raucous, impersonal “News Feed” scrolling constant past my eyes or across the bottom of a screen.  The way news was conveyed back then seemed… somehow closer to home.  Did people feel more empowered or responsible to right the wrongs of the world in that context?  Instead of being overwhelmed and bombarded by every bit of news from every corner of the earth, paralyzed to do anything by the sheer volume of wrong, were they more apt to act?  Were there more heroes? Simply because the call to stand and fight hit closer to the marrow and was not lost in the noise of the WHOLE WIDE WORLD?

I have no answers to these questions, but these are just the things that I think about from time to time.

I have been reading this week about Jesus beginning His ministry.  There is a prophecy from the book of Isaiah (chapter 9) that was fulfilled by Him starting out that ministry in the area of Galilee.  It says of the people living there:

2 The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.

It struck me as I read of the deep darkness in the world even way back then, before there was twitter or facebook or talking heads on screens in everyone’s living rooms- the darkness people were living in then was the very same darkness that people who don’t see Jesus are living in now.  The darkness is not darker now, just because we see more of the consequences of it.  The lack of the light of Jesus is the same eternal blackness, no matter how it culturally manifests itself or how many people in the world can see its effects.

But on the other side of the token- the great LIGHT that has dawned on the hearts of those who see Jesus and believe that He is who He says he is… it is the very same light that burst forth all those ages ago when Jesus himself had his human toes in the dust of this earth, proclaiming that the kingdom of God was at hand!  That light has not dimmed a single iota since that day, because that light was The Gospel and it is just as powerful & bright now as it ever was then.

So… why is the world still so dark, even after all these thousands of years since God himself dawned on that Galilee town?

I heard a preacher say it best the other day- there is a lot of soap in the world, but not everyone is clean.  You have to reach out a GRAB the soap with your hands and apply it to yourself to be clean.  And for many millions in this world, the light HAS dawned in their hearts because of their hope in Jesus.  And it is still the job of those who have seen that great light to take it and shine it boldly from the mountaintops and hilltops and rooftops, into the very darkest places they can find.

So, I guess the thing I have realized in all these rabbit trails of thoughts is that, yes, things are very, very dark today.  But on the other hand, has anything really changed since that day that He started preaching in that small town by the Sea of Galilee?  “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness, a light has dawned.”  Dark vs. Light, Death vs. Life.  We have the exact same choice set before us today as they did back then.

Same dark… and same dark-quenching LIGHT.  Will we choose to see?

Because of this great truth, PRASIE GOD, I don’t have to be afraid of the dark any longer.  I can push it back wherever the Lord leads me.  I am like a flashlight in His hands!  No matter what the news screams at me through the televisions or computers of the world, the light has dawned, it is shining out from inside me, and I am forever and eternally illuminated.  Lord, help me to not forget this or take this truth for granted. Open my eyes to see those right beside me who are still living in a land of deep shadows.  Help me to remember who I am in You, and cause me to burn brightly right where I am by your grace and for Your glory.

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Well-Worn Boots & Coffee Pots.

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I am currently halfway through one of my all time favorite (yet commonly neglected) household tasks known as “cleaning the coffee maker.”  There are few things as satisfying in life as seeing all the flaky gunk that gets drawn out of the insides of this machine when I run the coffee pot cleaning solution through its hidden elements.  I find myself eagerly lifting the lid after each cleaning cycle, anxious to see how much gunk I dredged out this time, like a dusty old miner crouching by a stream sifting through dirt to find shiny nuggets during the Gold Rush.  I am probably the only human on the planet earth who gets *so* excited over old bits of crusty coffee and minerals.  I also… might need to get out more.

The reason I am cleaning it this time is less about maintenance and more of a last-ditch effort to save the poor thing.  It has faithfully (and magically!) turned ordinary water into liquid gold for us for the last 10 years.  We got it as a wedding present one decade ago.  That is one thing you never realize when you are a blushing bride, freshly married and opening all those wonderful gifts alongside your groom… all of those lovely & shiny appliances will age, as your marriage does, and 10 years down the road, each appliance will seem to conspire with the others to kick the bucket at the exact same time.  It’s a fact!  I am convinced that every small electronic THING known to man has a programmable clock inside of it to self destruct when it turns 10.  Vacuum cleaners, blenders, crock pots, fondue pots, mixers, and toasters… they will all throw up their hands at the same time and you will contemplate renewing your vows just so you can register at bed, bath & beyond all over again.  You begin to hear yourself say things like, “I can’t believe we’ve had this coffee pot for TEN WHOLE YEARS!”  Then, you realize that you have also been married for TEN WHOLE YEARS and things are suddenly brought into sharp perspective.  Ten years in the span of a life are not completely daunting, but when measured by the life of a coffee pot?  Eternity!!  That’s 3,650 pots of coffee.

We’ve been married for almost 3,650 pots of coffee.

Technically our anniversary isn’t until November 1st, but this whole year has felt like a mile stone.

Chris will be 32 years old tomorrow.  I am 31.

And I swear it was just yesterday when the two of us would limp and stagger to the living rooms of older and wiser couples to receive help and counsel and prayer and guidance through the upside-down backwards maze that was our dating relationship.  We would have gotten lost and never made it out if it hadn’t been for those older, wiser couples who took us under their wings and helped us turn things right ways again.  And do you know how old those older, wiser couples were who were reaching out to rescue an upside-down love-sick couple like us?  They were 32.  33.  31. 35.  They were where we are now. Their kids would toddle through the room as we cried and fell apart.  I would ride in my dear friend Lee Ann’s minivan to the grocery store and back while she listened to me and prayed for me, picking up dropped sippy cups and passing me kleenex at the same time.

Oh Lord, I feel SO unprepared.  I feel so inadequate to step into the well-worn boots of the generation before me. The same well-worn boots that they stepped into before that.  And the generation before them stepped into before them.  And on and on and on since the beginning of time.  There is a definite choice involved here.  A definite fight against what’s comfortable and more suited to MY liking.  I mean, after all, why bother? Right?  I can go on watching my Frasier re-runs at night and snuggling into my couch and pretending like there isn’t an ENTIRE GENERATION floundering in the water all around me-  just wondering where all the rescue boats have disappeared to.  If I turn the volume up and numb myself down enough, I can completely forget that there is anyone else even OUT there in the world in need of help!  How very convenient.

But where would I be if the people around me during that time of my life had chosen to ignore?  I shudder to even think of it.  I’ve got to step in at some point and start reaching out, reaching down.  No matter what our story is or how long we’ve been married or if we’re married at all or if we’ve got ten kids or none, there are ALWAYS younger people who are looking up.  And I can’t keep leaving it up to the older and older generations to fill the gap until I feel like I’ve got things “figured out”, because, when exactly is THAT going to be?  That’s going to be exactly NEVER, that’s when that is going to be.  The need is now.

I am feeling the call.  The call to step up and grab the torch being handed down to me.  The call to open my eyes and my doors and my heart to those who are where I have been.  SO much has changed in me since then.  And, inadequate as I may feel, I know I have more than enough to give:  A listening ear, a sympathetic heart, a loosened grip on my oh-so-sacred “me time”, an old coffee pot that chugs out warm comfort to offer, and a mouth that can stumble over prayers to a God who HEARS and asks us to lift each other’s burdens up to Him.  Ten years ago, I couldn’t lift the burden by myself.  I needed help and I found it.  And now, it’s my generation’s time to step up to that yoke.  But will we?  Will I?  It feels so daunting… so heavy.

But the yoke is not heavy, because it is God’s!  It is always light when it is a yoke that God himself has set before you.  HE bears the weight.  HE receives the glory.  He chooses to use the weak and broken things of the world (two thumbs right at ME!) to confound the strong.

So… even as I am shaking in these well-worn boots, and I don’t understand all of the details, I tie them on.  I tie them on and I say, “Here am I, Lord… Send me.”

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