Transformation Part 5 – Revealing the Heart of the Father

Thank you for walking with me these past few weeks as I process my thoughts on transformation.  I know this series is in no way an exhaustive look at transformation, I have merely been sharing some of the things I have seen and experienced in my own journey.  I needed to chronicle my thoughts because I was feeling a bit of self pity due to the length and heaviness of the process.  God began opening my eyes to things I had never paid attention to before; things that had always been there, but I hadn’t acknowledged or thought about.

I would say the majority of believers would agree our ultimate transformation will be when we get to Heaven.  In December I saw the story of Jesus as transformation in reverse.  Why on earth would God robe Himself in flesh and leave Heaven, the place we’re all longing to get to?  Why would Jesus subject Himself to depending on the care of broken, human parents as an infant, the painful awkward pre-teen/teen years, the tedious hard work of a carpenter, and the humiliation of crucifixion all to end up back in Heaven where He began anyway?  I contend He did it to show us how to live a transforming life, all the while revealing the heart of the Father.

The heart of God has always been mercy and love.  Go back through the Old Testament where many say God has an iron fist and is all about judgment, and read it through the lens of love and mercy.  I did that this last year and, wow, I was amazed at how many times God had been extending love and mercy over and over where all I had previously seen was punishment.  Yes, there were and still are consequences to our behavior and to sin, but God’s first response is to extend grace and call us to repentance and a closer relationship with Him.  Judgement is His very last resort and, as you can see in the OT, even then He is still asking us to turn back to Him.

When we live out transformation here on earth people are able to watch as God forms us into His image, they are able to see Him at work, even if they don’t understand it is Him.  As I mentioned in previous posts, people might not know how to respond to your transformation.  They might get angry, or take a step back from your life; they might embrace it full on and desire the same level of transformation in their life.  Your job isn’t to manage how people respond, your job is to allow God to be seen through the process.  So often we say our goal is to be like Jesus.  Here are a few verses to give insight into who Jesus was, what He did and what He tells us to do:

  • “The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command…”  Hebrews 1:3
  • “If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is. From now on, you do know him and have seen him!”  John 14:7
  • “I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.”  John 17:23
  • Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”  John 8:12
  • “But while I am here in the world, I am the light of the world.”  John 9:5
  • “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden…In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”  Matthew 5:14,16  

Again, I realize this is not an exhaustive list, I don’t think any human could make an exhaustive list of the character of God, how Jesus reflected it, and how we’re supposed to reflect it, but it does give us a good start.

Don’t be afraid of transformation.  He is with us through every phase: hurt, confusion, struggle, growth and triumph, we are able to shine the love of our Father.  Jesus already lived it out for us so we know it is possible.  No matter what phase you are in, keep your eyes on God, your source of hope (Romans 15:13).  I don’t know how it’s possible, but somehow even in the bleakest of circumstances, God is reflected in our lives and the people that encounter us are able to feel that hope and through it His love.

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Transformation Part 4 – Collateral Damage

Over twelve years ago Aaron had a health wake up call.  He went in for a check up and the doctor told him his blood pressure was out of control.  So out of control in fact that if he didn’t do something about it immediately he would have a stroke by the time he was 35.  The doctor wanted to get him on blood pressure meds right away.  Aaron had zero desire to be on medication and asked if he could have a trial period of watching his food and working out.  The doctor said “yes” and gave him six months.  During that time Aaron was very diligent with eating clean and going to the gym at least three times a week.  When he went back in for his follow up appointment the doctor saw significant change.  Aaron was told that if he could keep up this new lifestyle he would not need meds and there would be no fear of a stroke at 35.

Everyone around Aaron saw the change in him and were affected by it in some way.  He wasn’t so careless with his food choices anymore.  When offered foods he would previously have eaten he would decline and choose a healthier option.  If we were going to be out somewhere he would either make sure he went to the gym before we left or make sure we left on time to get to the gym before it closed.  Then people started changing around him.  They started making excuses for their poor food choices or lack of exercise.  He would never say anything, they would pipe up to justify why they were eating whatever it is they were eating or share how they were trying to eat better.  People began to come to him for workout advice and tell him about how much time they had spent at the gym and what programs they were currently following.  These confessions weren’t anything he started or encouraged.  He simply lived healthy because he needed the change in his own life.

Transformation doesn’t only shake the transformee – spell check is telling me that isn’t a word; well, it is now – it shakes those that were around pre-transformation and those that hear the story mid/post-transformation.  Transformation shines a light and opens people’s eyes to see where transformation is available or needed in their own lives.

Peter’s words pierced their hearts, and they said to him and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” Acts 2:37 

When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them.  Acts 5:33 

In both of these verses people were being told the story of the Gospel.  Same story, two completely different reactions.

When we moved to Tennessee our intent was not to create a stir or have a fabulous story to tell.  We moved because we felt like God was calling us to deeper faith in Him.  Leaving behind everything that was safe and predictable was the method He chose for us.  Since moving our life has taken turns we never anticipated and God has changed our hearts and minds in places we didn’t know were in need of changing.

All this change has caused varying reactions from people and not all of them were pleasant.  At first the negative reactions really hurt us.  We were very self focused and often reflected on the “betrayal” and questioned how people could know us for so long and then turn on us so quickly.  We met with one of our pastors to talk over our journey, desperate for wisdom and wanting to make sure we weren’t totally insane.  During that conversation he said something we won’t ever forget; “Your story causes tremors.  There is a shaking that happens when people see your life or hear your story.  They are left with this conundrum on how to respond to it.”  Basically, if they accept it, they have to acknowledge that God could cause an upheaval in their lives to grow their faith.  If they’re not ready for that they need to reject it and in so doing reject us as well.

That ended the self pity.  We are now able to understand and sympathize with people’s reactions to our transformation.  This crazy story isn’t only messing with our spiritual boxes we’ve built, it’s messing with the boxes of the people we’ve known for years and the people that are just now hearing our story.  They have to grapple with the underlying question of “What does God require of me?” and that can be scary.

If you are in the middle of a transformation process and the people you thought would always be there are gone or aloof, ask God to show them to you through His eyes.  Take your hurt and turn it into earnest prayer for them.  They have been shaken.  What was predictable is now a wild card and they’re not sure what to do.  Ask God to speak to them and show them the way He has for them, and pray for them to have strength to follow.

 

 

Transformation Part 3 – The Cost of Personal Relationships

“If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life.  Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple.  And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple.  But don’t begin until you count the cost.”  Luke 14:26-28

Truthfully, this passage used to bother me.  My personal aim in life is to love every person like Jesus loves them.  I want people to feel a love from me that cannot be explained, because it comes from the Father.  So for me to read “hate everyone” was really hard.  I knew it didn’t mean to literally hate them, but I couldn’t get my heart and mind to agree on what “hate everyone” meant.  These last few years have shown me the “cost” this verse is talking about.  It isn’t about literally hating or loving them; it’s about me and my heart and what I’m willing to sacrifice.

Laying down my life doesn’t bother me because it’s something I can do.  I can look at the time, comforts and possessions I’ve sacrificed and have an account of what I’ve done for God and for His kingdom.  What I’ve struggled with is the things that have been sacrificed unwittingly; specifically relationships.  This is where the “hate everyone” has become real.  This is a cost I didn’t even know to count.

We will be the first to admit our faith journey, since leaving Wisconsin, has been crazy.  Most of it has made no sense and we look like we’ve lost our ever lovin’ minds.  We have. We didn’t leave behind all the “great” we had (job, house, friends, family, church) because we were angry, setting out to prove something or seeking a new thrill.  We left it all behind because we were desperate for greater faith, for a deeper walk with God.  We want to see the God of the Bible alive and well and active in our modern age; to experience and witness miracles, signs and wonders.  In our naiveté we thought leaving everything behind was the greatest sacrifice, (sell all you have and give to the poor) but we found that was just the beginning.  We had to lose ourselves.  And in losing ourselves, we lost others.

Our “cost” focus tends to be on the things we can change and let go of ourselves: changing our environments, the things we listen to and watch, the way we speak and act.  These are all needed and are all great visual, tangible examples of sacrifice and transformation.  But what about the sacrifice after the transformation?  There is collateral damage to transformation.  Suddenly people don’t know what to do with you anymore, they don’t know how to act or speak around you.  All your previous anticipated responses have changed and they don’t know how to navigate the relationship anymore.

In my mind I assumed all relationships that change or end are ones that were toxic.  That isn’t the case.  Sometimes the relationships that change are the ones you thought were there for a lifetime.  They were the people that were there for you at any moment and they walked through life with you: through marriage, babies, houses, questions, loss, gain, etc.  Then you begin this transformation and you’re in a place they’re not familiar with, nor are they ready to explore.

Now we’re faced with the decision: Do we continue on this walk with God that seems crazy and unpredictable?  This walk that is making us question our sanity?  Or do we stay with what is comfortable and predictable?  Here is where it is important to know the sound of God’s voice in your life.  Sometimes the words He speaks completely contradict human logic and common sense.  Actually, quite often they do.  Are we willing to walk away from relationships where you have found comfort and experienced joy to follow an unknown path that God is calling you to?  This is where we need to examine: is He truly the source of our joy and strength, or are we relying on our relationships with people?

Here is the great cost, not only for you but for them.  God has called you to a path you can’t really see and you don’t know if you have the strength to walk, but you’re willing to give it a go.  Sometimes in order to grow you have to leave things and relationships behind.  You have to “hate” them.  Remember, these were the closest of relationships so you’re not the only one feeling the pain, but you are the one being called and you are the one that will stand before God someday and answer for your own life.  Are you willing to leave all behind to follow Him?  He won’t lead you down a path of what appears to be loss and destruction without a purpose, but you need to trust His purposes.  He loves your friends and family even more than you do so, of course, He is going to take care of them in this journey as well.

 

 

 

Orphan or Adopted?

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Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God

John 1:12

John gives us a quick overview of who Jesus is and what his intentions were, in the first chapter of his book. Prior to verse 12 he details that no one recognized Jesus. His own people, who studied the scriptures intentionally looking for the Messiah, missed him. That is when John says, “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the RIGHT to BECOME children of God.” I would like to focus on the concept of “becoming” children of God.

The opportunity to become children of God, indicates that we are not naturally children of God. According to John, we need to “receive him” and “believe in his name”, then we have the right, or choice, to become children of God. It appears that we can receive him and believe in him, but still choose not to become his children. As a result we default to the status of orphan.

According to what I have read, an orphan has a fierce sense of independence. They know that if they don’t take care of themselves, no one else will. They are aware that there are good, kind, loving people in the world, but they feel that they are not good enough to deserve that kind of love. They often exhibit a need to prove their worth, through hard work and determination, and are very proud of their ability to do things for themselves.

If I combine John’s insight, with what I know about being an orphan, I come to the following conclusion: I have spent the majority of my Christian life as an orphan. I received Jesus and believed in Jesus, but I have never chosen to become his child. I exhibited all of the characteristics of an orphan. I was fiercely independent and knew that if I did not take care of myself no one else would. I read the Bible my entire life and was aware that God was good and kind, but somehow felt that I did not have access to his bountiful riches and kindness. As a result, I was left to fend for myself. I started a family, got a good job and continued to receive and believe in Jesus, but never fully accepted the opportunity to become his Child.

As I look back over the last four years, I see that my family and I have been reluctantly choosing to become children of God. As strange as this may sound, giving up our orphan status was very difficult. Our culture and religious training reinforced our orphan mind set at every turn. God would say, “listen to my voice, and I will take care of you” and our orphan mind would respond with plans and ways to take care of ourselves. We would read in Matthew 6 where Jesus tells his followers that they are not to worry about where they live, what they eat or what they wear and that those concerns are for the pagan people who reject God, yet we still wanted to take care of ourselves. Because we were well versed in scripture, we attempted to use the Proverbs to talk ourselves out of allowing God to be our father and take care of us. We would point to Proverbs 6 and attempt to explain that we can take care of ourselves and that we really didn’t need him to provide for us.

As you can read in our story, it has taken us a long time to accept the love of a father. We still have overwhelming moments where we think like an orphan and begin to plan to meet our own needs, but we are at least aware that there is an alternative now. We are also diligent about listening for our father’s voice and obeying his directions for each day. After all, that is what seeking first the kingdom is – listening and obeying. Our father promises to take care of all of our needs, if we will seek his kingdom first.

Trusting An Illogical Logic

The last 4 years has been a wild ride for the Sanders family. As detailed in the post “No More PR”, we Initially felt challenged to stop being “PR” people for God. We realized that for some reason we felt an obligation to put a spin on things that always made God look good (from our perspective). It was not a conscious thing, it was more of an involuntary response that had developed over time and it resulted in us counting the “good” things God did, or said, and ignoring the “bad/strange” things.

The problem with this was that it is completely contrary to the revealed character of God. We see from a cursory reading of the Bible that God asks his followers to do ridiculous things. Things that are completely illogical and down right foolish. Even though he clearly says, in Isaiah 55:8, that his ways are not like our ways, we still behaved like he has a specific formula that makes perfect sense when applied. That is why churches build leadership structures based on accepted leadership gurus and apply “tried and true” formulas to their gatherings. It all makes perfect sense, if Isaiah 55:8 and all of the examples of an illogical God doing crazy things, were not included in the Bible.

As you can see from reading the book that details the first 4 years of life in Tennessee, re-training our brain to accept and trust the illogical nature of God was extremely challenging for our family. It is one thing to mentally acknowledge God’s illogical nature, it is another to trust your family’s life and well-being to it. That is what we had to do when we were challenged by the passage in Matthew 6:19-34. Surely this illogical God did not expect a family of 6 to sell everything, quit their jobs, move 1,000 miles away and not worry about where they would live or what they would eat! He simply does not do that, or so our completely logical Christian religion told us.

4 years later, we know that our illogical God really did mean for a family of 6 to trust him completely. The un-learning was the most challenging part, but once we accepted that he could be trusted, completely, we were able to relax into his unorthodox plan. Now we find ourselves happily settled in a beautiful home, with no debt, never needing governmental assistance and having more than enough finances to live a full life. All because we trusted an illogical God who asked us to do a crazy thing.

Now you might be asking yourself what are Aaron and Jenny going to do next? The book of Proverbs, Dave Ramsey and my many years in the financial services business has prepared me well for what to do next. We are debt free, living rent free and have a steady stream of income so, obviously, we should be living frugally and saving every penny to be prepared for October, when our living situation will need to change. The problem is that God is still illogical. Instead, we feel that God has invited us to test his word again. This time it is 2 Corinthians 9. In a time that we should logically be focused on saving and being prepared, we feel that we are being asked to give abundantly and without care for our own needs.

A couple of months ago, we had a family meeting and unanimously (my kids are AMAZING!) agreed that we will continue to trust God and follow his “illogical” logic. As a result, we have been actively looking for opportunities to give our time, our money and our talents away to whomever has a need.

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 3:18

Home At Last-Now, Where Are My Feet?

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Finally, after over 4 months, I am sitting my tushie down and writing. I have had many, many thoughts and things I have wanted to share, but I have not been able to gather them together to form any kind of coherent sentence let alone blog post. I have been trying to find my way. I had very definite ideas about what living in a house again would look like and how I would respond to it. None of them were even close to what happened. It did not really surprise me that the house coming together was different than I imagined. I am very familiar with Isaiah 55:8 “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.” I have repeated that over and over throughout my life to remind myself that God has everything in control. What surprised me was my response.

Late summer/early fall of last year I felt like I needed to go on an extended fast. Specifically, a 49 day fast. I had been reading through the Old Testament and was intrigued with the Year of Jubilee. For 49 years the Israelites could sell their land, houses, even offer themselves as slaves, to pay off debts, but in the 50th year, the Year of Jubilee, all land and possessions would be given back to their original owners and slaves would be set free. I felt like the Sanders family needed a jubliee, that it was time for restoration. During that time I attended a ladies Bible study at our church. Our study was on the power of our words and making sure we are speaking life over our lives, our children, families, etc. So I became the crazy praying momma, declaring restoration, life, direction, any good thing I could think of over our family. Toward the end of the fast Aaron received a letter from the company he had worked for in MN. He was informed he now had access to almost $30,000 from a retirement plan that had previously been unavailable. Believe me, had we had access to that puppy in November of 2013 we would have used it!!! Now, for whatever reason, it was available to cash out. Our rule as a family is that whatever seems like a no-brainer to our human minds probably needs to be seriously prayed about. This definitely seemed like a no-brainer, so we prayed. We told the kiddos about it and asked them what they thought. They all thought we should cash it out, but no one had the same thoughts about what to do with it. One thought for sure we should rent a house, one thought that maybe we were supposed to use it to help other people, one thought we should get a new vehicle and one was undecided. Since we were not in unanimous agreement, we agreed that we would cash out the money but hold onto it until we could agree on what we should do.

The kiddos had fall break at the beginning of October. Aaron and the kiddos stayed with his parents in Illinois and Amanda (the bestie) and I traveled up to Minnesota to see our families. We left Minnesota and went back to Illinois on a Sunday, which happened to be our “day of jubliee” (end of my fast). Nothing happened. Monday we left to go back to Tennessee. After we got Amanda home we contemplated our next move. We always needed to decide how long we were going to stay at a particular hotel. I had found multiple hotels while we were gone where we could stay for 3 weeks, but I wasn’t with the family to discuss it. Now that we were back, in Tennessee, there was not one single hotel, that we could afford, that had anything available for that long. We decided to find one to book until Friday. Isabella had a favorite hotel because of their continental breakfast so we stayed there. I suppose that is a good reason to choose a place. Haha! As we were getting ready for bed that evening we were all talking about what we should do with the money. We decided that we should just look to see if there was even anything we were interested in that was in our price range. Finding a rental house in this area is a miracle in itself. Anything that is remotely affordable is snatched up immediately. Even high-end rentals go fast. I did a search online and found 3 houses that we could afford. Two of them were set up so that a person could go and look at them without waiting for an agent. For the other one I sent in a request. We prayed together before we went to bed and asked God to make it abundantly clear if we are to move into one of these houses and to make the process smooth without us coniving to make things happen.

Tuesday morning the agent of the first house called me. I explained to her that on paper Aaron does not make enough to cover the rent of the house but that we had just gotten $24,000 (ouch on the taxes) and we could pay for six months or the whole year if that worked for them. She let me know that the company did not do that so we did not bother to go look at that house. Tuesday evening we went to look at the other two houses. They had the same monthly rent. One was in one of the neighborhoods we wanted to be in the other one was bigger, but not in a bus route for the kids’ schools. We went to look at the bigger one first and as soon as we walked in the door the kids said, “This is the house.” We went ahead and looked at the other one (in the neighborhood we liked), but knew that it was the first one we needed to go with. We contacted the rental company Wednesday morning and told them the same thing we told the first rental company; we were interested in renting the house, that Aaron does not make enough to cover the monthly rent, but that we had money set aside and could pay six months to a year in advance. They said yes, we could do that and asked when we wanted to move in. We told them we were living in a hotel and wanted to move in as soon as possible. They sent us the rental agreement to sign that night and gave us a move in date of Friday. The same Friday that we would be checking out of the hotel and would have been needing to look for another one to stay. So many more things happened after this, but I’m going to save those for another post because they are so fun and amazing and I do not want them to get lost in this one.

I was a giddy mess on Thursday morning. We had coffee dates with two of our friends and we were going to surprise them by showing them pictures of the house and then telling them we would be moving in the next day. I loved it!!! I had the giggles all day and was no doubt rather annoying. Their reactions were everything I hoped and, being the awesome people they are, were excited and giddy right along with me.

Friday morning we met the rental agent at the house to get the keys and go over leasing rules and what not. I was still a giddy mess at that point. Then the agent handed us the keys and left and that is when I did not know what to do with myself anymore. It was real. This was not hoping for something to change, this was not a short reprieve from van or hotel living by staying in someone else’s house, this was our place, to move all of our things into, not just our suitcases. This was those stupid storage units finally being emptied. No more standing in the rain to find and swap out clothes, no more tearing through boxes to find the items the kids need for school the next day, and having no idea where it is. No more days planned around the hours of the Rec. Center, so we could make sure we are all able to shower, no more looking for free things to do and places to go on the weekends because we did not have our own place to go back to. It all hit me and I laid my head on Aaron’s shoulder and cried. And cried, and cried. That evening we packed up the first stupid storage unit into a truck. Our boys are big tough guys now so we had that thing emptied and in the truck in less than 2 hours. Whoop! Our amazing friends came over to help us unload everything. I stood in the house and occasionally bossed people around, but was mostly quiet. Mulitple times I caught the bestie staring at me. Finally she said, “I keep waiting for you to freak out! You’re so quiet!!!” Haha! I must be pretty predictable! Lol! I don’t know what was going on, I think I must have still been processing everything.

We moved into the house in the midst of theatre madness. Alex had a role in “Arsenic and Old Lace” at his high school. Aaron and I love volunteering for the theatre productions so we unpacked the essentials and continued on with the theatre madness. As soon as the play was over I had 3 opportunities to be a vendor at holiday craft shows and markets. I was making caramels every spare moment. I happen to make ridiculously amazing caramels and they sold like mad. I think I made around 3,000 of them from the end of October to the beginning of December. Then we had another theatre production (a smaller one), visiting family for Christmas break, back to rehearsing and prepping for another theatre production, helping friends in their very successful business venture and, of course, the everyday crazy that is the Sanders family.

I completely understand that most people have very busy, eventful lives so there is nothing special or spectacular in what we were doing, but I have not been able to find where I am supposed to be. I have been busy, but I feel like it is running in circles busy, not productive busy. As I said, I have not been able to find the words to write (I think I’m making up for it though). The best way to describe it is if you could see my brain, all the words are busy dancing around in there instead of making any kind of formation. Rather fitting for me, really. I have expressed my frustrations about this with friends and with Aaron and recently he said something that really helped me. He told me I had been on “war footing” and now I have to find what to do with myself in a new place. He has used that phrase for himself frequently throughout this faith journey, but I have never applied it to myself. He is right, I was on war footing. I didn’t recognize it because his war footing is very intense and serious and almost angry. My war footing looks like ensuring everyone is safe, fed, comfortable (as much as possible), encouraged and happy. I had a daily routine for this war footing and suddenly my footing shifted. I knew the day would come, but I didn’t embrace it like I thought I would. Like a sailor that longs for land after months and months at sea; so happy to finally be on that land, but needing time to find “land legs”.

This post marks the point where I find my new footing and begin running, with all my strength, into this next season of the adventure that God has for us.

What is Next?

What is next

I have been reflecting on the last 4 years of our adventure and am overwhelmed by the things we had to un-learn. So many of the things we thought we understood about who God is and how he behaves had to be re-framed. I now know how Paul could say that he counts all of his former knowledge as rubbish in light of gaining Christ. Paul’s dedication to the scriptures was not bad, it was just framed incorrectly. He allowed the truth of the scriptures to be interpreted through the lens of anger and fear. As a result, Paul was willing to kill in the name of the god he served. I do not believe that Paul was saying that his dedication to the scriptures, and his pursuit of God were of no benefit. He was indicating that once he had experienced God, first-hand, he could clearly see how his former knowledge was based on human reasoning, not on Spiritual revelation.

With this in mind, I looked back at my early blog posts. I saw that as I began to realize that my truth was skewed, my writings became very bold in pointing it out. I became a crusader, burdened with what I saw as the responsibility to reveal the skewed truth to everyone that would listen. I often threw tact and diplomacy to the wind in favor of a direct approach. I now see that I was probably pretty annoying…sorry about that. I was seeing the goodness of God like never before and that revelation allowed me to experience more joy, peace and freedom than ever before, yet I chose to share the revelation in a harsh and often degrading way. I truly want to ask for your forgiveness and assure you that it was never my intent to hurt or offend.

We have also learned things over the last four years. Most notably, for me, has been the revelation that you can actually have peace and rest, no matter the circumstances. I have always marveled at the Bible’s account of Stephen’s stoning. He was not looking forward to the “end of this season” or wishing the pain to pass quickly, he was at rest in the middle of the most horrific situation. In the last eight months of our homeless season I learned to rest and truly be at peace, regardless of the situation. A lesson that Jenny and the kids had learned much earlier in the journey. I firmly believe that God asks his children to do hard things and intentionally puts them in challenging situations, but he does not intend for us to experience the stress and physical strain of those experiences. He offers peace and joy while we are in the training, not just when we make it through.

That is why we are excitedly looking forward to the next part of our journey. We are grateful to be in a house and have enjoyed the comfort of that experience, but we do not feel like we need to rest and recharge our batteries before the next season. As Paul stated in Philippians 4:12, we know what it is to be in need, and we know what it is to have plenty. We have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. In the last week we have gotten some very specific words from God regarding our future and are excitedly looking forward to where God is taking us next. Stay tuned for more detail on that.

As for me, I am going to focus on loving people. I now realize something that had been hidden in plain sight before. That is the fact that perfect love casts out fear. I am called to wake up sleeping giants and fear is the one thing that is currently holding that group back. Fear of leaving their current religion, lifestyle, friends or comforts. As far as I can tell the only way to conquer that kind of fear is with love. That is why I am so grateful for my bus driving job. I can not think of a better group to teach me about unbiased love and abundant forgiveness. It truly is a ministry, not from me to the children, but from the children to me.