Posted in Character, Faith

Take a Stroll Through Memory Lane

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Eighteen years ago this month, my husband and I loaded our five young children into our van and made our first visit to Grandview, Washington. We had been invited to preach at the Assembly of God church and meet with the Board as part of the pastoral selection process. We had sensed for some time that the Lord was transitioning us from our current church to a new location. We had prayed together as a family for a place where we could raise our kids, lead people in a growing relationship with Jesus, and minister to the community. Would Grandview be that place?

Two months later my husband and I loaded up our five young children again, this time with all our earthly possessions. We had been invited to serve as pastors at Grandview Assembly of God. The Lord had indeed called us to Grandview and opened the doors of opportunity to be examples of Jesus Christ. The excitement and expectation were tangible, swelling with every mile like a giant ocean wave.

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Last weekend ended the 18 year chapter of our lives, as we again loaded up our belongings to move to Yakima, Washington, a city 45 miles away. This move feels quite different from the last. Our five kids are grown, and only our youngest daughter lives with us. Two sons and their wives, along with some friends, came to help us relocate. Last time our hearts were filled with anticipation for the new adventure ahead. We dreamed of a growing, thriving church and being actively engaged in people experiencing the love of Jesus throughout the community. Passion and vision surged through our veins. This time there is a wider array of emotions—excitement, expectation, gratitude, disappointment, and a sense of loss and grief.

On one hand, I am thankful to relocate to a place where the Lord has called me to serve as the Executive Director of the local pregnancy center. After two and a half years of commuting almost an hour each way, I am eager to be closer to work and to become more connected with the community. I believe God has plans to expand the influence of this non-profit ministry.

On the other hand, I am sad to say goodbye to the place that has been my world. I raised my family there and was involved in the lives of their friends. Two of my kids met and married their spouses there. My husband and I dedicated ourselves to serve the dear people of our congregation and community. Hundreds of people prayed to trust Christ as Savior and Lord. We were there for baptisms, weddings, and funerals. We worked hand in hand with some very dedicated believers to reach out with the love of Jesus. We enjoyed deep friendships and were together for birthdays, holidays, and just to hang out.

I also acknowledge the heartache of unfulfilled dreams. Like most people in church ministry, we trusted the Lord for a growing, healthy congregation. In our second year there, my husband took on another job (career, really) as a school teacher when it became apparent that church income was unstable. Our family needed a steady income. We were committed to do whatever it took to stay and minister in Grandview. Thus, bi-vocational ministry began. In our congregation, we faced the moral failure of leaders, misunderstanding, betrayal, and false accusations that required outside intervention. In our tenth year, we initiated a major restructuring effort to stave off some signs of decline. It was successful for a few good years. Sadly burnout began to take a toll, and we resigned hoping that new leadership would revitalize the ministry. Less than a year later, the doors were closed. We continued to live three blocks away with the constant, painful reminder of “the death of a dream.” Until last weekend.

Looking back at our move to Grandview, I see a younger, more idealistic version of me. It has been healing to take a stroll through Memory Lane, because I can clearly see the unyielding faithfulness of God. I see Him there in both the good times and the bad times. His love is steadfast. His presence goes before me, follows behind me, and surrounds me. He rejoices over me with singing; He is near when I am brokenhearted. Come what may, His strength carries me; His comfort and joy fill me. In this new season of life and ministry, I trust that God’s Spirit will empower me to thrive.

My prayer for you is that as you take a stroll through Memory Lane, you too can see the Lord actively and intimately involved in your life.

Lord, through all the generations
you have been our home!
Before the mountains were born,
before you gave birth to the earth and the world,
from beginning to end, you are God.
Psalm 90:1-2, NLT

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank You for Your faithfulness in my life. As I reflect on where I have been and where I am today, help me see Your loving hand. Guard me from discouragement. Help me to be confident that You equip me with everything I need to do Your will in every stage and season. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Posted in Faith, Servant Leadership

Wait for the Slow Work of God

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We sat in a prayer circle, each of us sharing one request that was close to our heart. The elderly couple next to me took no pause to mention theirs.

“Our sons—all three of them—are not serving the Lord. We saw other family members come to Christ last year. We’re waiting and trusting the Lord for our sons.”

As we prayed together, my heart was moved with compassion for this couple. They had poured their lives into church ministry and had taught their children the ways of the Lord. Now in their mid-seventies, they continued to be faithful examples of Jesus. And they continued to trust Him to work in their sons’ lives. In that moment, I could sense His loving kindness toward them as they waited.

Ministry to people requires a great deal of patience and grace. It’s hard to wait. We do all that we can to point others to Jesus. We pray. We speak the truth in love. We encourage them to get back up when they stumble. We share the powerful promises of God’s Word. We pray more. We catch ourselves worrying, and then we turn it over to Jesus. With our entire being we yearn for people to experience the fullness of Christ. We just want it to happen quickly.

Gregory Boyle (the founder and Executive Director of Homeboy Industries, a gang intervention program in Los Angeles) refers to the slow work of God. Our Heavenly Father, who so loves His children, never stops His work of drawing them to Himself. Through people, circumstances, and inner promptings, He ceaselessly seeks their attention. He is eager for their fellowship and surrender, but He is patient.

“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Loving people is so much more than following a formula that leads to a specific outcome. Our human nature wants there to be a guarantee. We think, “If I pray and do and say the right things for the right amount of time, I should see people making the right choices.”

Sometimes I forget that only the Holy Spirit can change someone else’s life. He waits for permission, and it’s not my permission He needs. I find myself trusting in my own righteousness, which doesn’t change anything. I need to say “yes” to the Lord for change to happen in myself. Yet, I expect Him to operate differently with other people.

In the words of Boyle, “Ours is a God who waits. Who are we not to? It takes what it takes for the great turnaround. Wait for it.”1

As we wait, we are not doing nothing. We are still actively engaged. We shine the light of Jesus in the darkness. We love others, and speak to them with grace and truth. We trust God to use us to make a difference in this world, even when we may not see it. We don’t give up. We wait for the slow work of God.

“May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance” (2 Thessalonians 3:5).

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, You have given me a heart to serve people. Help me not to rely on my own strength and abilities, but rather trust You to work in their lives. May I cooperate with Your Holy Spirit and be Your representative in this world. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 
1 Gregory Boyle, Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion (New York: Free Press, 2010), 109-128.