Friday, July 23
I wrote this post for two reasons: To share how God's hand has worked in my life and to encourage you to look back on your story and see the hand of God. When we share how God has moved in our lives he is glorified.
I recently interviewed for a youth ministry position in Texas. In preparation for the interview, the head of the search committee asked me to prepare to tell my story in ten to fifteen minutes. His intention was to give the committee a chance to get to know me on a personal level, but the fortunate byproduct was that in preparation for the interview, I had the chance to look back on my life and see how God has blessed me over the years. It left me with a sense of gratefulness and awe- his hand in my life can be clearly seen and has made all the difference.
In college God revealed to me my passion for ministry. Through mentors, experiences and divine appointments, he hammered out some of my kinks and forced me to adapt and mature. Mission trips and youth internships were a tool he used to break down false ideas I held about what life in Christ should look like. All the while, he was uniquely gifting me for service in his kingdom.
Also in college I met my wife, built perfectly for me as sure as Eve was made for Adam. There are billions of women in the world, but none better suited for me, who shares my passions and whose personality is just the type to keep me on track. Kris is especially blessed with an ear for the Spirit and a compulsion to follow where it leads. I wish that I had the connection with the Spirit that she has, but at least I can be married to someone with this gift. Our union is the work of God.
Tim Frizzell invited me to Crieve Hall church right out of college. This, again, was the work of God. Nowhere else could our young marriage have grown so well. God used Tim as a mentor to show me, who grew up fatherless, what it meant to be a minister and a Christian man. Also in Nashville, Kris and I saw our relationship pass through the fire. In our first year of marriage, Kris suffered from intense depression that rocked our relationship. There was a time that was very dark and difficult for both of us. At 21/22 years of age, we had to grow up fast. In hindsight, this crucible was a blessing from God. We emerged from that time of darkness knowing that our marriage would last a lifetime. After a year of marriage, we had been through more together than many marriages face in ten years. I'm convinced that this was a time of preparation that strengthened us for the future.
Another divine appointment occurred when I was introduced to Church Planting Movements in 2008. Until then, I didn't understand what true discipleship was about. Until then, I didn't understand what it meant to be radically obedient to God. Through CPM, God convicted me of things in his Word that I had never seen before. It fundamentally changed my life. If it hadn't been for my exposure to CPM, I would be a completely different man, and a much less obedient man. I also wouldn't have gone to China.
The Spirit tugged at Kris more than it tugged at me to go to China. If it hadn't been for her, I think we would have stayed in Memphis. But the Spirit wouldn't let her stay in the States. God wanted us there for a specific purpose, and he overcame impossible odds to get us jobs teaching in Hangzhou.
Our experience in China proved to be another time of training for me and Kris. Through our experience, God taught us what missional living looks like. He continued to teach us how to be a husband and a wife. He showed us that reaching the lost is his mission, and all we need to do is show up. We learned the value of community, fellowship, accountability, and complete obedience to God. In the midst of our schooling, God used us to draw the lost out of darkness into light.
Now in Texas, God has revealed another way in which he has been pushing our raft down the river of life. When we were in Memphis, Kris really struggled with finding a meaningful job. In her first two years out of college, she had worked at a clothing store, a sweet shop, and a bank, contributing little to society and scorning her seemingly worthless college degree. We were devastated when she applied and interviewed for her dream job in Memphis but was rejected. How could God deny her what she wanted to do for his glory? Now, two years later and maybe ten years more mature, Kris has been hired for the same dream job she was denied in Memphis. God's response to our prayers two years ago was not "No," but, "Not now." If Kris had gotten that job, we would never have gone to China.
So here I sit, post-interview, waiting to hear back from the search committee. I don't know if I'll get the job. Will this be the one, or will I continue the search? With joy in my heart, I can honestly say I don't care, as long as his will is done. How could I look back on my life and not trust that God will choose the very best future? With or without this job, I will rejoice, because he who crafted my past already has the future mapped out. Praise God for that.
How has God blessed your journey? Take the time to look back on your life with an eye for the hand of God. Then share your story with someone for the praise of his glory.
Monday, July 5
Well, we're back. And things couldn't be weirder.
Evidently culture shock is a two-way street. We've been in America for a week now and every day we have encountered things that make us feel like we got stuck somewhere between the Twilight Zone and the Bermuda Triangle. I thought I'd share some of those vertigo moments.
1. When we first got home, Kris' mom made me a sandwich. That sandwich had more meat on it than I would've eaten in a full week in China. She asked if I wanted milk to drink. I said, "Yes, thank you. Just a small glass." When I saw my glass of milk on the table a moment later, it was huge. I wasn't sure I could lift it to my mouth. I thought Debbie had surely given me her biggest glass, but I looked in the cabinet later and saw that she had indeed given me the small glass. It only seemed enormous because all of our vessels in China resembles glass thimbles.
2. When Kris thought of home, she thought of Annie. When I thought of home, I thought about food. Buffalo Wild Wings, Las Palmas, Lasagna, Fajitas, etc. The irony is that for the first five days or so back in the States, I couldn't eat a thing! My stomach was in knots all day every day and when my fleeting appetite appeared, I was only able to eat a small child's portion.
3. After my tumtum healed, we made it to Rosa's, a very fine Mexican restaurant in North Richland Hills. After forking out 20 bucks (140 yuan?!) for two dinners, I set down my fajita nachos on the table and went to the fixins counter for salsa and pico. I was amazed when I saw a huge vat of sour cream and an unlimited supply of individual Ranch dressing packets. My immediate instinct was to fill my pockets with Ranch dressing. In China, this was gold! Here, you just ask and they'll pour it directly in your pie hole.
4. Free refills on milk at IHOP.
5. Our worship in Hangzhou involved a very intimate number of eight to ten people who knew each other very well. This was not the case at Legacy church this morning. In a room of 800+, I felt like one of those chickens in a coop struggling to get the corn on the conveyor belt. This church culture is going to take some getting used to.
The moral of the story is that God did just what I asked him to do while we were in China. He changed me. Though there are friends and family members who will expect me to be the same person I was ten months ago, I am not that guy. Time has changed me, China and its people have changed me, God has changed me. I'll never see the world the same way again. I praise God for that.