Personal Growth, Prayer, Timing, Uncategorized

Day 14: “Pray for Your Work”

here am IFor most of you, your work is a major part of your day. Sadly, more than half of Aussies hate their jobs but you do it for the pay check. You have difficult colleagues and supervisors. You travel and miss time with your families. You don’t earn as much as you think you’re worth. You haven’t received a raise. You might own your own business and the constant weight feels like chains around your wrists. You may be juggling more than one job; you’re under a lot of pressure.

Whatever your situation, it’s important to have a proper perspective around your work. 

Spend time praying God will guide you to the job he has for you in this season. Talk to the Lord about the hard parts and thank him for the easy ones. Ask Jesus to show you what you’re supposed to be learning each day at work.

Pray for your boss. Pray for your co-workers. See your workplace as a ministry opportunity every time you go there… you represent Christ and can impact his Kingdom through whatever earns you a living.

Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail” (Isaiah 58:9-11 NIV).

Contentment, Inspiration, Personal Growth, Timing, Uncategorized

How Many Pages?

IMG_3213Every night, my 6 year old (who dislikes most things about school and sitting still), reads a book as part of his home reading program. He’s doing well, but every time he opens the book, he gets that disgruntled pout on his face in anticipation of how lengthy it will be. The inevitable moan comes with, “how many pages are in this book?”

Sometimes, there are only one or two sentences on a page, but there might be 40 pages total. This makes him VERY UPSET! So much so, that I can hardly persuade him to keep going. It wouldn’t matter if every word was easy to pronounce and the plot of the story was thrilling.

The mere thought that there are a lot of pages makes him cringe. If there are tons of words on each one but only 15 pages in total, Sam is happy to proceed… even if the words are challenging and he doesn’t quite understand the storyline.

He equates the length of the book with its difficulty level.

Confession: I’m the same in this chapter of my spiritual journey. If a goal seems like it’s a long way off, I tend to lose heart. I get discouraged and I find it arduous to concentrate on the day ahead, even if its pages are filled with fun! I worry more and find myself dreading what’s to come, rather than embracing the “now.”

However, if I must tackle something really difficult but I know it’s tomorrow or the next day, I’m ready to flip the page and bring it on. I don’t shy away. I’m ready for the fight.

Somehow, I, not unlike my 6yo, have fooled myself into thinking the future, that which is out of reach, is more difficult than the “now.” However, the future becomes the now in a few days time. We have to go through it either way.

There are spiritual principles at work as we navigate the stories of our lives, today and everyday. The pages of life keep turning and sometimes our issues stare back at us like the bad 1980s photography in some of Sam’s home readers. We don’t want to look at them!

I’m aiming to be at peace even when the words are unfamiliar.

Our most desperate times, the moments when our worlds are blurry and our endurance is tested, are no different than the more concise, easily simplified issues of today. If we believe God is with sometimes, then we must believe he is with us always.

Full Stop.

Finding rest and peace when our externals seem formidable can be challenging. Trusting a God who exists outside of linear time is hard too. But, if we pause, breathe, take life one page at a time, line by line, not rushing ahead or dreading the future, rather enjoying the present, we will make it to the end.

God doesn’t come and go. God lasts.
He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine.
He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath.
And he knows everything, inside and out.
He energizes those who get tired,
gives fresh strength to dropouts.
For even young people tire and drop out,
young folk in their prime stumble and fall.
But those who wait upon God get fresh strength.
They spread their wings and soar like eagles,
They run and don’t get tired,
they walk and don’t lag behind. (Isaiah 40:28-31 MSG)

Australia, church, Prayer, Timing, Uncategorized

Plant, Water, Grow

Last weekend, we had the privilege of ministering at Greg’s Aunt and Uncle’s church in a small country town a couple of hours outside Melbourne.  I preached their annual women’s event and Greg the Sunday morning services.  We had the best time with cousins we didn’t know, their children, our children, Susan and Ron, and Generations Church.  If we went there under the pretense that we were going to be a blessing, we left being much more blessed by all of them.

The influence of Generations Church on its community is astounding.  For a town of only 4000 people, the church has 400 members!  They are planning to build a 500 seat auditorium and have turned an old squash court into a beautiful facility.  The name “Generations” is fitting.  From the youngest child to the oldest lady, Pastors Susan and Ron have committed to taking people on the JOURNEY to find their gifts and purpose.  They have provided an environment for those gifts to be used and God is doing a mighty work.  Their own grown children are worship and children’s pastors influencing the people growing up in Tatura.

Young men with drug addictions in re-hab come to the early service sharing testimonies of God’s redeeming work in their lives.  Teenagers are playing guitars, drums, and harmonicas.  Retirees are staying up till midnight sweeping floors and making coffees after events.  People are honoured for their service and encouraged to go out and reach more people for Jesus.  I can see why kids move away for University and then come back!

We learned from Susan and Ron’s 20+ years of experience.  We walked away with leadership training and inspiration of what Lift Church can look like down the road.  However, the most meaningful part of our weekend for me was seeing Greg’s aunt’s dreams come true before her very eyes.

See, she accepted Christ in 1984 and as the only Christian in her family, began praying for everyone else.  If you don’t know Greg’s background, he left Australia at age 19 to go to America to play baseball and had ZERO belief in God.  Greg surrendered his life to Jesus at age 26 (in 2000), served God in full-time vocational ministry in Texas, and is now planting a church back in his homeland. Unbelievable!

Watching Susan talk about how much she loved Greg when he was born (he was the first baby in the family) and seeing her watch him preach was beautiful. A “full circle” moment.

I believe it was the seeds Susan and Ron sowed in prayer across the ocean for all those years that actually brought us to this place.  Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 3:7-8, “It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work.”

When we pray, we partner with God to bring things to pass.  We come into alignment with his perfect will.  Seeds have been sown in prayer for us over many many years.  I can name hundreds of instances where people watered them.

And all along the way God was making them grow.

We didn’t know about those prayers.  Now, here we are.

I am so thankful for Aunt Susan.  I’m more convinced than ever that our God answers our cries.  And, I’m inspired to spend more of my day planting prayers, pouring life into people, and standing on God’s promises for a great harvest!

You faithfully answer our prayers with awesome deeds,
O God our savior.
You are the hope of everyone on earth,
even those who sail on distant seas. (Psalm 65:5 NLT)

divine appointments, Faith, Inspiration, Newcastle, Timing, Uncategorized

We Got a House!

My learning curve on rental house hunting in the Newcastle area was fast and furious.  Although I envisioned hiring an agent to find a home, the market works differently with rentals in such high demand.  We were on our own locating properties online.  Every week, we narrowed down a list of houses and inspection times, weighing out the two hour drive from where we are living with Greg’s family against our interest on each property. Our 15 minute inspection coincided with every other Tom, Dick and Harry who also had interest in the property.  With as many as 20 other families inspecting a property, the process was intimidating.  After all, we were peeking in closets and whispering to each other about where our furniture would go right next to the “competition” and his wife.  Afterwards, we applied and hoped the the owner picked us.

My extensive applications including letters of reference, photos of our TX home, bank statements, and offers to pay the bond (deposit) plus three month’s rent up front were an effort to stand out from the crowd.  After the first denial, I was starting to stress.  I knew God had the perfect house for us; deep down, I honestly was worried about how we would find it. My cover letter needed to be just right, with the perfect “one-liner” to get the owner’s attention.  I think this striving went on even in my sleep.  My fretting over finding a home that would fit our furniture, was constant.

Every day that went by in Forster, I felt a little more concerned.  I didn’t expect house hunting to be so difficult.  Week before last, we had two properties to see with inspections on Wednesday and Friday. I really wanted the Friday house because of its proximity to the lake and primary school for Brett.  We drove down two hours each way twice and applied for both homes.

The following Monday morning brought much disappointment as the owners decided to sell the house near the lake instead of lease it. A wasted trip and wasted hours of application preparation.  But by afternoon, our situation had changed.  We had been approved for the home we viewed on Wednesday in Charlestown!  Our four week wait was over; we decided to take possession of the house and sign the lease on Friday.

God had other plans for us, however.

Our SUV was packed to the hilt on in preparation for the trip down.  Our plan was to enroll Brett in school, sign the lease, and shop for appliances.  An hour before leaving, Greg got a phone call from a golf mate about a guy he knows who has a four bedroom home in Belmont North. Greg called to inquire about the house even though I was in the background saying, “NO! We are signing our lease at one o’clock today.  We have a house now and are not interested.”

Needless to say, the man who owns the home is a Christian and felt like our connection was, in his words, “a God thing.”  He had put the house up for sale five days prior, but for some reason agreed to rent it to us for a year at $200 less per month than the Charlestown home. Belmont is a much more desirable location for us and this 2 year old house sits on a flat private street with a shared pool and BBQ right in our front yard.  Perfect for meeting our neighbors and beginning our life in Oz!

I am so thankful Greg answered the phone that morning.  It reminded me:

God is in control of everything.  Proverbs 16:9 says “In his heart, man plans his course, but God orders his footsteps.”  We felt like the property management companies were controlling our steps.  I even fooled myself into thinking I was making my path by creating outstanding applications and having cash in hand.  Our heavenly father knew exactly what he had in store.  We were not forgotten in a pile of paperwork on a stranger’s desk.

God is never early and never late.  He is always on time.  In this case, the phone call came literally one hour before we were leaving to sign for the other home.  I think of Lazarus (John 11) dying because Jesus was “too late” to heal him. In actuality, Jesus raised him from the dead in his own timing. God cut through a majorly time consuming process and gave us a house with one short phone call.

God wants us to be flexible.  I hate changing course midstream.  In this case, I had been shopping for rugs and bar stools for the Charlestown home.  Our suitcases were packed and the car was loaded with cleaning supplies and other necessities.  The last thing I wanted was an interruption of MY PLANS!  Even if it seems like a detour to us, God wants us to trust him at every turn.

God opens doors we don’t even know are there.  Greg was just playing a round of golf last weekend.  He met Tom who knows Matt who rented us his home two hours away.  Greg must have made an impression that allowed Tom to put in a good word for us.  Greg is excited he has evidence to prove playing golf is ministry!  I have evidence that God, my advocate, is endlessly working on my behalf.

God wants to give us the desires of our heart (Psalm 37:4). Most of our home searches over the month were near the Belmont suburb for its proximity to hiking and biking trails, the beach and lake.  I wanted a flat street (Newcastle is VERY hilly).  Brett has been praying for a pool since before we left Texas.  We were willing to let go of all of that and take the Charlestown home, but in the end, God gave us what we wanted.

God wants to be glorified by our lives.  I love testifying to the Lord’s goodness in my life.  Being open to this last minute opportunity allowed room for this “God story!”  In the end, we didn’t even need an application.  We didn’t need three month’s rent up front.  We didn’t even give our driver’s license or proof of income.  All we needed was a willingness to go out of our way to let God show us His.

ARC, Faith, Lift Church, Timing, Uncategorized

April 21

Almost exactly one year since we decided to plant a church in Australia, we have our move date.  April 21 is when our family will fly ONE WAY to our new continent!  God has moved miraculously this year.  Looking back at his amazing provision provides the fuel we need for the next leg of our journey.  Let’s celebrate together some of the milestones:

February 2011:

  • Greg attended the C3 conference in Dallas where he felt he heard from God that we are to plant a church in Australia. (You never know when God will bring revelation to you.)

April:

  • Our Pastors, Joe and Lori Champion, fully believed in us and supported our “call.”  (Promotion comes from God’s house.  Affirmation from your spiritual leaders is important before stepping out of one thing and into the next.  If it’s God, your timing will align.)
June:
  • We transitioned from our role as campus pastors with support from our volunteer team and congregation.  God provided the right leaders to take our place and the campus is thriving. (Handling communication during a transition is critical to ensure success.  Telling the right people at the right time is vital to any major move.)
  • Greg was able to remain on staff at Celebration Church, a blessing both financially and in ministry experience. (Even if you know your time somewhere is temporary, give God your best.  He will honor you and bless your faithfulness.)
August:
  • We went on a two-day retreat, just the two of us to seek God and brainstorm what kind of church we felt God is calling us to plant.  We got the name for our church: LIFT! (We all need times where we can get away from the normal distractions of our days in order to clearly hear from God.)
September:
  • We were able to go to ARC training where we clearly got a handle on “church planting timelines” and all of the steps on our way to planting our church. (Even if you feel like you know what you are doing, remain teachable.  Surrounding yourself with leaders who have been where you want to go will reveal blind spots. You will also avoid making some mistakes by learning from others.)
  • God began assembling a team of people who feel called to come with us. (Where there is VISION from God, he always brings PROVISION, both in people and finances.)
October:
  • Submitted all paperwork and applied for my visa to migrate to Australia. (Don’t let overwhelming and/or expensive processes keep you from moving toward your goals.)
November:
  • We were able to go to Australia for an entire month to research, network, investigate, and envision our new life in Newcastle. (Believe God for opportunities to explore and gather information.  He doesn’t expect us to operate in total blind faith.)
December:
  • Greg’s role on staff at Celebration ended at the end of the year.  We also were able to make financial arrangements for our AdvoCare business going forward. (Eventually, old doors must close in order for the new ones to open.  Don’t be afraid of this part!)

January 2012:

  • Our website launched enabling us to easily share our vision and start fundraising. (Even if you hate technology or social networking, learn to use it! It isn’t going away.)
  • We started the year with a 21 day fast. (Some things do not come but by prayer and fasting according to Mark 9:29)
February:
  • My visa was approved only four months after I applied (the embassy told me many times that it would take between 5 and 12 months). (God’s timeline can look much different from ours.  Be ready for anything when believing for a miracle!)
  • Purchased airfare confirming our decision to leave on April 21. (It is easier to stay in the planning phase.  At some point, you have to step out of the boat.)

As we have sixty-one days until we leave (who’s counting?), I plan on doing everything I can to prepare myself both spiritually and financially to make the move.  On a personal note, my heart is heavy with sadness sometimes for the many things we will be leaving behind.  Namely, Celebration Church, dear friends and family.  We are thrilled God is moving the pieces into place for us to leave; and, we are determined to make the most of these last days creating memories and celebrating what we have here.

Timing, Uncategorized

Visa Approval

Last week was a huge milestone in our journey to start a new life and church in Australia.  One of the big hurdles for anyone wanting to move overseas is obtaining permission from the foreign government to do so (a visa).  Many people inaccurately think you can automatically go if you are married to someone from that country (like I am).

I applied for a partner migration visa back in October.  After a month-long process of gathering documents including a notarized stack of birth certificates, marriage certificate, copies of passports along with obtaining about 4 new passport sized photos for each family member, my application and the $2200 was mailed off to the Australian Embassy in Washington D.C.  I still had to wait on the state of Texas and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to reply with a piece of paper saying I had no criminal history on record.  The process also included a trip to Dallas with the kids to obtain medical checks, chest x-rays, and blood and urinalysis to declare us all healthy.  I accomplished each of these final application pieces mid-December.  And the waiting began.

Everything I had researched said the provisional visa takes anywhere from 5-12 months to be approved.  I would be able to stay in Australia and work legally as well as acquire health insurance.  After two years, I could then apply for a permanent visa to live there as long as I want.  Then, I could even apply for citizenship (I would be a dual US/Australian citizen).

After checking on the status of my application in January, I was told the same 5-12 month timeframe from when my application was received (October).  Our entire future plans rest on this visa being approved.

Well, (drumroll please)… I am thrilled to announce that my visa was approved last week!  Yes, only FOUR months after I applied!  What a relief!  Not only is my visa approved, but I have a deadline for entry which is October 10.  Meaning, I MUST move by October or my visa is void.

Secondly, an unexpected blessing is that the type of visa I was approved for is a PERMANENT migration visa.  This means the two-year waiting period has been waived.  I can apply for citizenship, work legally as soon as I arrive, obtain medical benefits from the Government health plan, and even receive free English language tuition (which I might need!).

God is so good.  He is faithful.  He is never late and never early.  He is always on time.  The fact that my visa took less time than expected means we have work to do and he is paving the way for us to get there and get started.

Australia, church, Newcastle, Timing, Uncategorized

Preparing the Way

Just as God sent John the Baptist to “prepare the way” for Jesus on this earth, we are continually amazed at what God has and is preparing for us in Australia.  As we are stepping out to follow God’s voice for our future church plant, we have discovered some exciting things about the Hunter region where we are going.  With an approximate population of 645,000 people, this area extends from the North side of Sydney about 75 miles.  The city of Newcastle and Lift Church are going to be centrally located within this area.

When we picked the place we wanted to re-locate and plant our church, we asked God to close the doors if He didn’t want us there.  So far, there have been nothing but green lights.  We never had any super-spiritual reasons for choosing it.  We like where it is on the map in relation to Greg’s family and Sydney.  We like the population, weather, and proximity to the ocean.  That’s about it.  Well, we are continuing to be amazed by how much God is positioning us for an exciting time in the region.

While visiting Australia last month, everywhere we went, people were raving about the Newcastle economy and growth.  We found out 200,000 people are predicted to move to the Hunter region in the next decade.  Housing developments are thriving out West of Newcastle with projected growth in just one suburb already mapped out for the next seven years.  The mining industry is booming.  As a matter of fact, this was the front page of the newspaper the saturday before we left:  

The article says “the Hunter is defying an alarming industry trend to cement its position as the most productive region in Australia.”  While 53,000 people lost manufacturing jobs in 12 months across Australia, 4000 have gained a job in this sector in the greater Newcastle area during the same 12 months.

It is exciting to be in a city where there’s a buzz and energy about the future.  People love living there and are positive about the years to come.  The economy is thriving and there is an undercurrent of something great that you can “feel” in the city.

The growing economy is just one area God is touching in the region.  He is laying the groundwork and “going before us” to prepare the way for people to hear the Good News about Jesus Christ.  The Bible promises that the LORD himself goes before us and will be with us. It says he will never leave us nor forsake us (Deut. 31:8).    We are continually being reminded that this endeavor is not about us. God is moving in Australia.  Revival is coming.  We are just being allowed to be a part of it.  Rather than looking at what we are doing as a way to pat ourselves on the back for our great faith, or to promote ourselves as church leaders, I am daily being humbled at the fact that God would choose us to play a small part in what He is doing in the Hunter region.  We declare the promises of Isaiah 55 that we “will go out in joy and be led forth in peace.”