Tuesday, September 14, 2010

UNEMPLOYED? ...or now fully in ministry?

Last Wednesday around noon, as I was making final preparations to speak at a Women's Retreat this weekend, Larry came home. In the first seconds after he rounded the corner of our basement office, I hoped he was just home for lunch but, since he's been in the banking industry for 9 years and the last 3 years have been very challenging, my heart tends to skip a beat whenever he comes home unexpectedly during the day. On this day, one look at his pale face said it all. His job as Vice President of Consumer Lending had been eliminated. For bank security reasons, an employee was required to watch him pack his belongings, clean personal things off of his computer and then leave.

Grief. Fear. Anger. Relief. Anticipation. Disappointment. Shame. Confusion. Hope. Exhaustion.

We were both feeling a range of emotions. And, I'll admit, we looked at each other in those first moments as the news was sinking in and said, "Really, Lord? You're going to do this too?" Honestly, we were laughing and crying. With heads shaking and tears streaming, we both found it almost comical that this would come at such a time. The last 9 months have been unusually difficult for us as a couple and family. From health issues and depression challenges not typical for us to decreased earnings and the increasing weight of old debts, this has been a long year already. It seemed we could only hold each other and wonder what delightful things the Lord was going to do next. Yes, I say delightful with some sarcasm. But I can honestly say that we really do have a certain excitement about what new thing(s) may be in store.

Several years ago, a study of Joshua 3 and 4 powerfully illustrated for us that God is FAITHFUL. The Israelites were, once again, arriving at the Promised Land. This time, however, after 40 years of wandering around in the consequences of their rebellion, they would actually enter that awesome place they had longed for. But first, God required they step into a raging river at floodstage. In fact, they were to walk right in to that river carrying the Ark of the Covenant! God was faithful to provide a way to cross. As their feet hit the water's edge, it parted and He showed them which way to go to a new life in freedom. This is a story Larry and I delight in over and over again. Our ministry — WALK RIGHT IN Ministries — is inspired from it.

The first time the Israelites' experience touched our hearts was when the Lord was prompting us to take a step of faith and begin a new therapy program with Carly. God quickly showed us a sort of "Promised Land" in that experience and we are continuing to live in the joy and progress and abundance of that yet today. But on another level, especially financially, we have yet to experience the healing and progress and joy that we have hoped for. It is very hard to believe that God has a "Promised Land" for us in that way also.

We feel at a crossroads. I want to reach out and touch the hem of Jesus' garments and have all of this go away. I want to step into the proverbial "river" and see God "fix" it all. I want a JUBILEE year! I crave the opportunity to be free from the bondage of ANYTHING that could hold Larry and I back from doing exactly what He is calling us to do, whether that is full time ministry or corporate jobs. Certainly, our heart's desires are to do as much ministry as possible. I have to say, as I stood among over 100 women this weekend sharing Christ with them, I felt BORN for that very moment. I felt the overwhelming privilege to be standing there alongside my husband having all of our talents, experience, skills as well as our relationship colliding together in an way that was being used beautifully for God's glory. I want more of that. It feels impossible.

I know many of you reading know all too well what it feels like to be in place of financial and vocational stress or confusion. We share your burden and anticipate with you that God is ready to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine (see Ephesians 3:16-20)!

Larry and I desperately want to be responsible stewards of all the resources God has given us. We are prayerfully trying to understand what to do with this closed door because our hearts and minds get caught in the tug-of-war between what seems practical or responsible and what seems like it could be God's prompting to take what sometimes seems like one of the most absurd steps of faith we have ever pondered taking.

Is it no coincidence that we are within just a few weeks of releasing the Group Discussion Guide which is a companion to Finding Glory in the Thorns? Also, the original book, Finding Glory in the Thorns, will be available in Apple's iBookstore and Amazon's Kindle in October. Last night Larry wondered, are products like these and speaking engagements going to be like the "tentmaking" part of our vocations — the part that provides foundational financial support so that we can continue in ministry without being so dependent on charitable giving (which has been virtually non-existent)?

Please understand, this is NOT a guilt letter or a plea for money. Yes, we WILL be asking people for contributions towards our ministry but this "blog" is not about that. Today, it is just about sharing from the raw truth of my thoughts. It is about sharing our life vulnerably with you in hopes that you will both pray for us and be inspired by us to draw nearer to Jesus in your own needs for strength and comfort.

Would you please pray this prayer for us from Colossians 1:9-14 (NLT)?

So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better. We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light. For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins. THANK YOU, JESUS! —AMEN

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