Another Piece of the Puzzle

Often times, when I read the Bible, I find myself wishing that I could walk in the shoes of that specific person, whoever it might be at the time.

What would it have been like to be a disciple? To walk with Jesus, to listen to Him speak, to eat meals together? Or what about Paul and the blinding come-to-Jesus moment? I would love to know what Noah felt like, shouldering the continuation of humanity. But lately, I’ve wanted to be Moses. He had this moment, much like Paul, where it was perfectly clear God was speaking to him. The man encountered a bush…on fire and not burning! And then he heard the audible voice of God.

I mean…seriously!?!  Can I get a burning bush moment??  Something so obvious I can’t deny it was Him?

Those words came out of my mouth during staff devotion time yesterday morning.  And by the end of the day, I was shaking like a leaf, taking my shoes off and standing in awe because I was on holy ground, in His presence, hearing Him speak into my life.

I’m not sure how much I can share at this point.  But I’m not sure our lives will ever be the same after yesterday.  I still don’t know exactly what He is doing but He’s got our attention and we don’t want to take a single step without Him.

At the beginning of the day I received a message from a friend sending us a link from a contact we had yet to be in touch with.  I didn’t get the chance to read it before I headed into work.

Work comes and goes (insert burning bush comment and dialogue here).

Justin gets home and we have a discussion about how God’s vision seems to change.  I don’t think the vision changes, rather, it grows.  I’ve heard it compared to a seed in some places.  But last night I thought of it like a puzzle.  I think God gives us the grander vision piece by piece.  If He gave it all at once I don’t think our finite minds could handle it.  So He gives us a piece or two to start.  The funny thing is, we think we have the whole vision and so we rush in without giving it a second thought.  And, often times, we have to back track a bit.  But as we grow, as our faith grows, as our dependency on Him grows, He gives us a bit more of that vision, piece by piece by piece.  And the puzzle fills in a bit more.  We finally realize, ‘oh wait, I guess that doesn’t look exactly how I thought.’  I’m not sure we will ever have all of the pieces.  He only gives us what we need as we need it.  Why?  He wants us to live in complete dependence upon Him and how He moves.

The point of that being – sometimes, down the road, the vision doesn’t look like what we originally thought.  I think God gets a chuckle out of that.

Within minutes of finishing our dinner conversation, Justin received a message from a couple who we have met with less than a handful of times.  A couple we have shared our heart and our vision with.  In just a few sentences, they turned our world upside down.  In a good way.

It was then I remembered the link from that morning.  Uncannily, it was a video dealing with the exact scenario we had just found ourselves in.  I started laughing….was this the burning bush I had asked for?

I was on holy ground and I didn’t even know it.  God had given us another piece of the puzzle.

Puzzle 3

I have yet to figure out what exactly He is doing.  I keep trying to create these hypothetical futures in a thousand different directions.  But I know it is futile.  I know whatever He has up His sleeve is bigger than I could ever ask or imagine.

So we wait.  And pray.  Our devotion tonight was on seeds becoming trees and the years and years it takes for that to happen.  We don’t want to rush into what we think is the vision.  For all we know, we’ll get another piece of the puzzle tomorrow.  And it could change every single assumption we have today.  We are praying like it depends on Him and acting like it depends on us.  He’ll change the trajectory of our path if He needs to.  We just have to keep seeking Him.

Puzzle, God, Mystery, Vision, Moses, Paul, Disciples, Jesus, Change, Growth, Journey, Voyage, Burning Bush, Voice of God

(For the beginning of this crazy journey head here.)

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Along the Way

When I started this blog it was because God has set a vision before us.  And He had done so in big ways, ways that I didn’t want to ever forget.  So as we started on our voyage, I wanted to keep track of all that was happening.  So much was happening!  These unmistakable God moments seemed to be a weekly occurrence.  You can catch up by starting here.

I have been writing more recently because we’ve been learning more recently.  But, I know I haven’t written an update on where our vision stands.  There’s a reason for that.  I truly believe that God has us on pause.  Though I keep praying, it seems the answers never come.  I should clarify that I know the answer isn’t “no.”  God has given us a vision to start an intentional community outside of the walls of a church building.  Of that I am sure.  But, I believe at this point, His answer is “wait.”  And that frustrates me.  A lot.

Especially when trials and troubles seem to have replaced the God moments we were thriving from!

But then come the moments of conviction.  In relatively odd places.

On Facebook while I’m talking to my Mom-in-Law on the couch.

Driving from place to place.

In a work meeting when we’re discussing the opening of a maternity home.

God stops me in my tracks in those moments.  I have found myself in tears.  Not because I was sad or even overly happy, but because I remembered I was in His presence.  I was standing on holy ground.

He has a plan.  He has given me a vision.  He has given us a vision.  And He will bring that vision to pass, so long as we are obedient to His promptings.  And, I believe, that as long as we remain in prayer and in His word, we’ll recognize those promptings.

That doesn’t mean the vision will come to pass tomorrow or in the next few years.  For Moses, it was 40 years.  40 years!!  And that’s just one of many instances I could refer to.  I know it will happen.  I know that we will be a part of making a difference in the community we are in by starting intentional community.

I *think* I know what that looks like (can you say ‘coffee shop?’).  But I also know that as a vision grows, it may start to look a bit different from the original view point.  The end goal remains the same.  The purpose remains the same.  But God is moving.  And sometimes that means that I change.  Because, after all, change is growth, without change there can be no growth.  If a seed remains a seed, it will never become a tree.

Growth, Change, Vision, Tree, Seed, Waiting, God, Moses, Patience, Faith

And I want to be a tree, a tree that bears fruit.

I want to make a difference for the kingdom.  And I won’t settle for anything less.  Not now.  Not tomorrow.  Not 40 years from now.

When I reach those pearly gates, I long to hear the words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”  And I truly believe the only way those words will be spoken is if I have a whole crowd of people with me.  I want to make my Abba Father, my Daddy, proud.

So we march on toward the vision, working diligently along the way.

 

When God Gives a Vision…

I always have a plan for the way things are supposed to go.  And more often than not, God tends to throw a wrench into those plans.  A lot of the time, I don’t even understand what’s happening or why there was a shift.  But sometimes God grants us a peek at what He has in store, sometimes He allows us to see a glimpse of what is to be.  Those are moments of vision.  Sometimes God gives us a vision of how He wants us to move forward in furthering His kingdom.

Glimpse, Clouds Part, Vision, Dream, God Sized, Hope, Future, Nehemiah, Furthering the Kingdom, Goal

Now, I’m not necessarily speaking of something supernatural like a dream where we see the future and know for certain exactly what it all looks like (though, with God, all things are possible).  One of the ways Merriam-Webster defines ‘vision’ is “the mode of seeing or conceiving; unusual discernment or foresight.”  God often gives us an unusual foresight to conceive what the future might hold.  For instance, God has given Justin and I a vision for our church of young adult ministry, specifically for those outside the church.  That vision certainly wasn’t expected.  And since that moment of foresight, we haven’t heard much, I believe, because God is saying ‘not yet.’  I can see as I reflect upon this past year and our current situation that He is preparing us now for something in the future (However, about half way through writing this post…that ‘wait’ became a ‘ready, set, GO!’).  He has given us a vision, of that I am certain.

So what should our response be when God does give us a vision?  Nehemiah was a man of vision.  Before there was ever a vision, he spent a lot of time in prayer (more on that here).  Prayer is vital to any vision God gives us, both before and during the implementation of that vision.  We can’t carry out God’s plans if we aren’t in daily, constant communication with Him.  If we aren’t communicating with Him then we are doing nothing more than making the plans of God the plans of man.  Prayer is essential.

Once Nehemiah is sure of God’s vision, he sets himself to plan for the task.  He has to evaluate the situation, see the reality of what needs to be done.  In the second chapter of Nehemiah, verses 12-16, he mentions twice that he doesn’t tell anyone what God has put in his mind to do.  When God gives you a vision, it isn’t to bring glory and fame to your name.  When God gives you a vision, it is still HIS vision.  If we ever use that to bring attention to ourselves, we have missed the point.  So Nehemiah quietly moved forward without attracting any attention.

In the midst of that planning and preparation, the vision or the problems that arise within the vision, may seem insurmountable.  Nehemiah was surrounded by ruins and disappointment (quite literally).  He was given a vision for a problem no one else seemed to want to fix.  And in the middle of the night, as he was planning, he literally came to an impasse: “Then I passed on to the Fountain Gate and the King’s Pool, but there was no place for my mount to pass” (vs. 14).  So what did he do?  He found another way!  Nehemiah didn’t give up at the first sign of difficulty.  The vision seemed impossible from the start, but he didn’t let that stop him.  And even when it became even more difficult, Nehemiah kept moving forward.  Why?  Because this wasn’t a vision of man.  This was a God sized vision.  And only with the power of God could it be accomplished.

Finally, Nehemiah feels it is time to cast the vision (vs. 17-18).  He explains to the Jews the situation they are in, the why.  Then he gives them a solution to fix it and says, let us fix the issue, together.  He doesn’t cast the vision and say, ‘Okay, God gave me this vision, I’ll be over here working on that.  Can you guys pray for me?’  No, a God-sized vision requires that His people come together in unity to accomplish the task.  And He also explains how God has been in the mix.  It’s one thing to cast a vision of how we see things.  It is another when we are able to point to God in the process.  I love how Matthew Henry  looks at Nehemiah casting the vision: “By stirring up ourselves and one another to that which is good, we strengthen ourselves and one another for it; for the great reason we are weak in our duty is because we are cold to it, indifferent, and unresolved.”   If we are weak it is because we have become indifferent.  When God gives us a vision, it is our responsibility to stir ourselves and others up.  And no matter how crazy or impossible the task, we can’t take the time to worry about what other’s think, “The man who is in dead earnest has no time to be self-conscious, he does not indulge in sickly reflection on the effect of what he says on other people’s opinions about himself, he will not care what they think about him so long as he moves them to do the thing it is laid on his soul to urge upon them” (Expositor’s).

And lastly, when faced with opposition, Nehemiah doesn’t give up on the vision God has given him.  Instead, he clings more tightly.  We will face opposition.  When God gives us a vision, it is usually something that can’t be done by the hands of man.  In order for that vision to succeed, God will have to be in the mix or it will fail.  That way we can’t take the credit.  Because of that impossibility, there will always be naysayers.  And there will always be obstacles to overcome.  Nehemiah’s response to that opposition is this: “The God of heaven will give us success; therefore we His servants will arise and build…” (vs. 20).  In other words, we are determined to make this happen, we will not give up because God Himself will grant us success.  When you know you have a vision from the Lord, there is no need for doubt or discouragement, there is only moving forward.  If He has given you a vision, He will provide the means.  All He requires from you is faith.  I have been reading through Draw the Circle by Mark Batterson (I highly recommend it).  He notes at one point that it is “Our job is to hear [God’s] voice.  His job is to establish our steps.  And if we do our job, God will do His” (pg.25)!

our-job

So stand firm.  Push forward.  And never forget to pray – “We need to work like it depends on us and pray like it depends on God” (Batterson, Draw the Circle).

The voyage continues here.

When the Waiting Ends…

Waiting is a funny thing.  You wait and wait and it drives you crazy. Why aren’t things happening??  Why can’t we move forward yet?  It feels like someone hit the pause button on life.  And so you wait some more.

And you wait….

And you wait…

And you get comfortable waiting.

And then all the sudden, something happens, and you’re not waiting anymore.  You’re like an arrow shot straight from a bow.  No stopping, no slowing down, headed straight toward the target you’ve been waiting for.

But, wait, I’m comfortable waiting.  This…this not waiting thing, I don’t like it.  Why is this all happening so fast?  Nope, go back.  I’m okay with waiting some more.  I’m not ready yet.  Please make it stop.

God is funny like that.  His timing doesn’t always coincide with ours.  And we’ve been waiting for awhile.  And we’ve gotten comfortable again.  The first fire that started this voyage has died back quite a bit.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s still there, embers glowing, sparks flying….but the flames aren’t roaring like they were.  We got too comfortable with the way things are.

embers

So God woke us up with a free fall back into our vision.  So much of a free fall, that I’m not sure I’m ready.  Things went from 0 to 180 in two seconds flat.  And I’m still stuck against the seat back trying to catch my breath.  I don’t know what tomorrow holds.  But, like Nehemiah, I am praying day and night.  If this is His vision come to fruition, than my feeble soul will catch up eventually.  And if this is just a way to wake us up, then so be it, let’s shake up those embers and fan the flames – I want the fire to roar again!

fire-roar

Please be holding us in prayer as we aim for our target and flesh out this vision.  Thanks all!

Update, April 2017: This didn’t unfold quite the way we expected.  But God is still moving.  And, I’m excited to say that the fire is burning, steadily.  Continue the voyage here.

As Family We Go

Have you ever had one of those moments where God completely knocks your socks off?  A moment where He completely blows you away?

We have had a few of those lately.  I often stop and wonder, sometimes, why we continue to be shocked and surprised.  God is bigger than anything we can imagine, so it should come as no surprise when He shows up in a big way, or when things coincide in a way they never could have without His hand at work.  But as a sweet friend mentioned lately, “I hope He never stops surprising me.”  I couldn’t have said it better myself.

So let’s talk about one of those moments, shall we?

At the end of December, Justin and I started planning our anniversary trip for sometime in March (5 years!!).  We decided to take an extended weekend and go to a Rend Collective concert in Maryland.  Little did we know at the time, God would open a door on that trip that we never expected for a voyage we didn’t even know we were on (that voyage begins here).

Fast forward to March.  We now realize God is calling us to “young” adult ministry (think age 20-40) – specifically those outside the church.  But February and March were extremely difficult months for us for a few different reasons.  Our trip was April 1st and we couldn’t wait to get away.  As parents of a toddler, we were desperate for a few nights of uninterrupted sleep and the ability to sleep in.  Anybody else out there a living example of The Walking Dead??  Ha!

Road Trip, Getaway, Kid Free, Adventure, Family, Unknown

When we hit the road – cheesy faces and all. 😀

The weekend, from start to finish, was pretty fantastic – not much of a schedule, the ability to sleep in, being able to get out the door without packing the diaper bag, strapping an octopus into a car seat, realizing you forgot the sippy cup, going back in, returning to the car, noticing said octopus is missing a shoe, retracing steps….  Yeah.  We just walked out the hotel door.  No problem.  😉

The concert was Sunday night and we had VIP tickets for the Q&A with the band beforehand.  Because who doesn’t enjoy listening to a bunch of Irishmen (and a woman) conversate?!?

During that Q&A we had a chance to learn about the history of the band.   Get this – they started as a gathering for young adults because there was a missing age gap in the church.  I kept looking at Justin – “are you hearing this?”  I’m not sure if he understood all of that through my wide eyes and gaping jaw.  But I was floored.  Seriously??  What a resource.  So, like a die-hard fan (because, let’s be honest, I am) – I raised my hand to ask a question.  But instead of the cheesy questions I had thought through on the road-trip there, I asked one thing, “How did you make that work?”  Because that is the question we were left with.  We had a calling but no clue as to how to move forward.  And, unbeknownst to us, our favorite band potentially held the answers.

With limited time, Gareth and Chris gave us a brief explanation but promised that there would be a little bit more detail during the concert because they had started a ministry for this exact purpose.  Um, what?  Again, I look to Justin, bulging eye balls and gaping jaw.  Is he getting this?  Can he tell that I am freaking out excited?  Or do I just look like a lunatic?  I don’t care.  God is awesome.  The Q&A ends and we have almost an hour before the concert starts.  Justin did interpret all of my craziness because I didn’t even have to say a word before he jumped in and said everything I had been holding in.  At this point, all I wanted to do was find the band and sit down and have a friendly chat – no longer because I was a fan, but because I desperately craved their ministry insight.

Family, Christian, Community, Faith, Young Adults, Outreach, Unchurched

– Photo courtesy of Zao Church Facebook Page

In the midst of a beautiful worship experience, the route pastor, Dustin, came out and talked about “As Family We Go” – basically a movement to mentor intentional communities with a mission to grow in faith and love with Jesus Christ.  We knew we had to talk with these people.  So we did.  And the conversation went something like this – “This is what we’re called to do but we have no idea what that looks like.  We are stuck.”  After some brief discussion, we discovered that Dustin and his wife only lived a couple hours away from us (definitely not as far as Ireland).  AND, the tour was going to be stopping in Pittsburgh just two days later for their off day.  They offered to meet up with us and we knew that it had been God ordained.

 

 

I remember calling my dad the next day and saying, “You are never going to believe what happened…”

Though it was entirely out of our comfort zone to drive an hour to meet with two perfect strangers, we made the arrangements to meet them and I am so glad we did.  That short meeting in a college Starbucks left us reeling.  So much information, so much to process, so much encouragement.  And the best part?  The knowledge that our “family” had grown ten fold in just a few days.

But really, the family had been there all along.  Faith is thicker than blood, folks.  And God allowed us to meet some of our “extended family” and form a bond this side of eternity, a blessing we will never take for granted.

For now, it is as family we go.  Into the great unknown….

The voyage continues here.

 

 

 

 

The Unknown

Sometimes God whispers and sometimes He shouts.

The first time we noticed God really nudging us in the direction of the unchurched small group idea, it started as a whisper (to catch up on how this all began go here).  We knew we needed a spot outside of the church to make this work.  Unfortunately, the only “hang out” spots in our very rural neck of the woods are bars.  I just kept wishing we had a coffee shop, just a single coffee shop, or….something. Curious as to how rural we really are?  Drive out to Amish country and then backtrack a couple of miles, you will find us there.  🙂

Farm Town, Farming, Amish, Unchurched, Reach, Unknown, Learn, God, No Answer, Prayer, Trust, Seek, Find

Life in a farming community – a little dull, but always breathtaking.

 

Anyways, my mind came to an empty space in the tiny plaza with our ice cream shop and pizza place.  But I knew we couldn’t afford to rent it full time and wasn’t sure if we could work anything out.  So I let it go.

Well, again, during my prayer time I felt like I needed to talk to the owner (we’ll call him Tim).  Waaaaaay out of my comfort zone.  But God doesn’t know what a comfort zone is – does He??  😉  Despite His whispers, I wasn’t feelin’ it.  I would just wait and see what else turned up.  In the back of my head, I thought, if Tim is at the bank when I go today, then I’ll talk to him (side-note, Tim does not work at the bank).  And as quick as I thought it, I forgot it.

Running my errands, last on the list for the day – the bank.  The bank that I have been to less than a handful of times.  I have a quick meeting in the office and as I’m leaving I glance back over my shoulder. “What?”  Take a couple of steps.  Stop for a second.  “That wasn’t him.”  Take a couple of steps.  Stop for a second.  “Okay, so it was.”  The door shuts behind me.  “God, I hear you loud and clear.”  The owner of the aforementioned space, Tim, was standing at the counter!!  I thought about going back inside the bank, but realized it wasn’t the right time.  The purpose of Tim being at the bank wasn’t so that I would talk to him right then and there.  Rather, it was God SHOUTING.  Keep going, keep moving forward.  We are on the right path.

In the end, that space won’t work for what we need.  It doesn’t even have utilities yet.  But he may have another space and we are waiting to hear.  However, it seems a bit like a dead end.

I think sometimes God does things for reasons we don’t understand.  Maybe He just wanted to give us an affirmation that we are moving in the right direction.  Maybe He was is testing our commitment to the  cause.  Maybe He just wanted to get a good laugh out of me tripping over myself at the bank because I could hardly believe my eyes.

And maybe someday I’ll understand it all.  Because, right now, I don’t.  But living in the unknown is where our faith grows.  The unknown is where we learn to trust and where we learn to seek.

Unknown, Trust, Seek, Faith, God, Journey, Voyage, Adventure, Unchurched, Outreach

 

What more does God long for?  For us to trust His name and seek His face!  We find Him in the unknown!

The story continues here.

The Unexpected Voyage Begins

 

Faith, adventure, curve ball, follow, journey, voyage

– Extreme Days, 2001

This year, though we are only one quarter of the way through, has been quite the wild ride.  And I can’t say that we expected any of it.  Part of the reason that I started this blog is because we feel something big brewing and I wanted to make sure we had a record of all of those “God moments” that, somehow, we so easily forget.

But let me start at the beginning.  A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….  Oh wait, um, that’s not our story.  Hmmmm…  I honestly don’t even know where the beginning is.

At the beginning of the year we were struggling.  Burnt out from doing a lot at the church, feeling alone since there are so few young(ish) adults, trying to balance the care of a toddler at church while still serving on the worship team, – the result was us not “feeling” fed.  So we made a commitment to buckle down and keep moving forward.  We decided to put in a little extra devotional time at home, both individually and as a couple.

Around the same time, after a few discussions on a couple of different committees, our church decided to make a few changes in pursuit of growth.  We are still in the midst of that.  However, these two things together – our personal commitment to growth and the church as well as the church’s commitment to growth, apparently created the perfect storm.  God showed up.

Or rather, God made Himself known.  Because God is always here, of that I am certain.

Faith, Following, Adventure, Journey, Voyage, Unseen

I can’t say the road from there on out has been as easy one.  In fact, I’ve spent many nights in tears (not of joy).  Justin and I still don’t see eye to eye on everything.   And life, outside of our hearts, continues as usual – screaming toddler, work demands, exhaustion, etc.

But back to the story of where we are and how we got here…

I had been doing a lot of reading and thinking, processing and studying.  And I was continuing to go through my usual routine.  One day as I was working, a thought crossed my mind – a small group for the unchurched, outside of the church building.  I scribbled down a couple of thoughts and left it at that, meaning to talk to Justin when he got home.  But I forgot.  Two days later as I read through Scripture and had my prayer time, the thought just kept coming back to me.  Okay, I guess I need to talk to Justin.

So I called him, knowing he was still driving into work.  I explained the rough idea of thoughts in my head and his response was,“Okay.  Let’s do it.”  

“What?”

“Okay, let’s do it.  I think we’re supposed to do this because I have a really weird peace about it.”

You see, Justin hasn’t exactly been comfortable with talking about his faith outside of church.  And leading anything isn’t something he would sign up for.  So I was a bit blown away by his response.  As we talked, we both grew more excited.  This might actually work.  For us to be so excited about something so far outside of our comfort zones was a clear indication that God was nudging us forward.

And the voyage began….

(Continue the journey here.)