Posts Tagged ‘God

03
Feb
14

when stuff unravels

Jeff and I are in the middle of something that we had not anticipated. It has nothing to do with our family or our church family or us as a couple. From our perspective, it’s huge and troublesome and overwhelming. But the crazy thing is that it’s really nobody’s fault, and for that I am grateful. I tend to be a “blamer,” just like Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. But this crazy, unexpected thing, I cannot blame anyone for. We could not possibly have seen this coming. We could not have prepared for it or even fixed it. We just had no idea. But here we are anyway having to deal with something way beyond our control, something that a few years back would have left me a panicky mess.

I have a few options when I get to these dark places that threaten to overwhelm me and make me want to “numb out,” freak out, and figure out someone to blame. But I’ve been here before. Maybe not exactly the same situation, but I’ve had similar feelings in my gut, and I’ve seen God do some amazing things in those dark times, so I’m trusting that this is another opportunity for growth. We don’t necessarily get opportunities like these every day.

I see God in the middle of this. I trust that He is here with me at all times and lean heavily into Him. This is not something I can make better; not something I can manufacture with an “It’ll be fine” attitude; it’s not something I can ignore or make go away. It’s something that has to be faced head on but can be faced with confidence, knowing that Jesus is walking with us through it and allowing Him to do His good work in us. And eventually when others go through this too, we will be able to comfort them in their struggle…been there, done that; God is good, especially in the middle of it because His mercies never cease. He is truly kind and gentle.

So pray for us. Not that the situation would get easier or go away, but that we would face it with God’s strength. I spent one night last week watching DVDs for hours curled up on the couch, bone-tired and burdened. Today is a new day, and I can face it with Jesus as my strength, and these are not just words that I throw around to make myself feel better or appear especially “religious.” With me, what you see is what you get, and if Jesus weren’t real to me, I wouldn’t be talking about Him or depending on Him as my very life. For me, life is all about relationships…the relationships I have with God, with my family, with friends, with those I come into contact with, and when my relationships are out of whack…any of them, I feel it deeply. Thankfully, God and God alone keeps me grounded. He tunes my heart to sing His grace.

And just as James says to rejoice in trials because they allow us to endure and then become more mature in God, I want to welcome this struggle, realizing that we will be able to see God work this out for His glory and our good, as well as see Him grow us up a bit more. And these days, that’s what I long for most, to be fully alive, completely depending on my Abba.

01
Jan
14

Surprise Gifts

Jeff just recently became the pastor of a small church in our community. And when I say in our community, I literally mean two streets over from our house (.5 miles on the odometer).  In fact, Jeff walks over there routinely.

For the past few years, we got to know some of the people at Trinity. I went to most of Trinity’s children’s events with my kids, and our family did some community service projects with them. So when Trinity started their pastor search in April, one of my friends from the church emailed me to pray for them as they began their search. But it absolutely never occurred to me or to them that Jeff would be the person to fill the pastor position.

One night in September, we were over at Trinity for a Neighborhood Watch Meeting, and God, in His funny kind of way, had me thinking “what if this is actually a possibility?”

Because I had no idea how Jeff would respond to this idea, I kept this God-nudge to myself longer than I keep most things to myself.  Much to my complete amazement, God planted the same thought in Jeff as well. Once we threw our thought out to our friends at Trinity, then it was just a matter of trusting that God would direct everyone the way He wanted. I had this peace about the whole thing that was surreal. I really wanted to be at Trinity with those people, but I knew God had this thing, whichever way it went.

So when the church called our family to come be a part of Trinity, it felt much like a surprise gift, an unexpected gift that I had not seen coming. Maybe the best gifts are actually the ones I don’t see coming, the ones I haven’t picked out for myself, the ones I trust God to gift me with.

Without being overly dramatic, I just want to say that I love this…the way God led us here, this church body, getting to “be the church” in our very own neighborhood, the crazy bigness of God.

And I absolutely love what God has called me to do: to know and love these women, these families. I feel that this is what God prepared me for…especially after all those months sitting in my backyard, praying and searching and singing and reading and listening, but I feel like this is also the path that He’s been leading me down my entire life. Nothing is ever wasted.

I keep looking at the opportunities that Jeff and I have had over the years,  and I’m surprised (I really shouldn’t be) at how God prepared us for what we are now called to. I never saw this coming. But I believe now more than ever that this is my calling, my purpose in this short life God has given me…to love God, love my family, love this church family, and walk with all of these people toward Jesus.

For those who have done church work forever, I know like this may seem overly optimistic and hopeful in a very naive kind of way. But, honestly, my hope isn’t in the people in our community or in Jeff or even in myself, but my hope is in a God who knows and loves us all very much and has called me to this community, this mission, this life. And I’m grateful.

The hard stuff will come. I know church can get weird and people are messy (me included), and I won’t stick my head in the sand when tough times come, but I don’t want to brace myself against anything either. I just want to be and let it come as it will. And really trust that God is good enough to lead everyone through the places that He chooses.  I know that the struggles and the trials are gifts from a gracious God too. This is faith for me, real and simple.

Above all else, I have to stay grounded, and that means that I have to fix my eyes on Jesus. I can’t make it one single moment without Him. And out of that and as a result of that, I’m called to “maintain an intense love…since love covers a multitude of sins.” As I walked into Trinity Church that first Sunday, I felt a deep sense that the people just wanted to be known and loved. And I know the God who can do these things, and I’m blessed beyond belief that He has chosen to pour His love through me, through Jeff, through our family. 

And, really, that’s all I’ve got. But I’m pretty sure that’s all I need. My life, my heart, my hands are wide open these days, trusting that God will fill them with His good and perfect gifts.

23
Sep
13

gifts

I decided that I needed to take a day and sit outside, praying, reading, thinking, letting go, receiving. I set up different areas in my backyard so that I wouldn’t get too bored being in the same spot. Between that and trying to dodge the sun throughout the day (this 42-year-old girl doesn’t need any more sunspots), this worked pretty well. But the day I kind of planned out in my mind ended up being different, better. A gift.

Before I even ventured outside, Jeff told me that there was a song he felt described me, my relationship with God, anyway. He had left our bedroom quickly that morning because he felt that there was something for him, and sometimes my voice drowns it out. (He would never say this; I just know it to be true :)) And the something that he received was, in fact, for me.

It was a John Denver song that got stuck in his head, and whether or not you like John Denver, the song fits me, not in terms of human love. because I realize this is impossibly sad for someone to try to fill, but in terms of my relationship with God. And it was perfect for my day.

You fill up my senses like a night in a forest
Like the mountains in springtime like a walk in the rain
Like a storm in the desert like a sleepy blue ocean
You fill up my senses come fill me again

Come let me love you let me give my life to you
Let me drown in your laughter let me die in your arms
Let me lay down beside you let me always be with you
Come let me love you come love me again –“Annie’s Song”

I made a copy of the song, took it outside with me and started softly singing this song in my chair, next to my table, piled with my books. By the second verse, I was weeping. I couldn’t even get the words out. I sang it over and over and over. I was grateful that Jeff was the recipient, the messenger. Another gift.

All day, I sat in the backyard with books and Bible and journal and songbook and coffee and tea and water. It was chilly and then warm and then chilly again as night came on. I soaked in God’s presence and His abundance. I heard the birds and the crickets, almost deafening at times and watched and heard the tall grasses in the field behind our house blowing in the wind. I saw butterflies flitting and birds flying. Clouds in the sky came together in one instance and then moved quickly to another position, followed by a cloudless, bright blue sky. Another gift.

For some of the time, I sat under a tree that was just a little taller than my husband when we moved here six years ago. He thought about chopping it down at the time because it was little more than a bush and rather scrawny at that. Jeff wants things to look more manicured. I love overgrown and tangly and crazy. And now, this tree offers shade from the sun. By the end of the day, the tree was raining sap down on me, on my chair, on my books, and now I have sticky dots to remind me of this day. A gift.

This was the Psalm for me for that day.

…I have calmed and quieted myself like a little weaned child with its mother…

That’s what it was like. I felt content, satisfied to just sit and soak in what God had for me, not demanding that He meet my needs, not demanding that He feed me like a child who is desperate to be fed, but I felt content, happy to just be in His presence. Calm and quiet. A gift.

I noticed my tea bag held a special message for me that I never noticed before. On the little piece of paper connected to the string of the teabag that is supposed to sit outside the mug, it said “Be heard.” For me, I always thought asserting myself was presumptuous, and that I had nothing to say. This was a lie that I believed for years. We each have a story; we each have a gift to bring to this world, a gift that no one else has, and it is okay to be heard. My presence matters. A gift.

Jesse came out to check on me around 3 o’clock, and we talked and laughed for a while. He didn’t plan on staying but ended up pulling up a chair and hanging. Jeff came out after a while. And we all talked. Another gift.

As night came on, Jesse came back out to see if I needed a jacket and then brought me a blanket. Julia and Jeremiah came out later, read with me, and we sang “Amazing Grace” together. Julia did numerous cartwheels, and we belly laughed because she was so dizzy that she almost hit the table every time. Then, we watched the stars come out and sat quietly, mostly. A gift.

Jeff took care of the food that day. From my husband. From God. To me.

Solitude. Relationships. Beauty. God. All gifts.

16
Mar
13

Not the Path I Would Have Chosen

When Jeff and I moved to Nashville almost six years ago, we came here to help a struggling school. When that school closed down four years ago, we had no idea what to do with our five children (ages 4-12 at the time) who attended that school. It was sad to see so many families struggle with where they would send their kids to school, as well.

Feeling like we had no other options, we went ahead and homeschooled. We had homeschooled several years earlier when our older boys were younger, so I knew we could do it, but I didn’t really want to, to be perfectly honest.

After the school closed down, my plan was to home school our kids for a couple of years and then find a  private school our kids could attend. So, for me, homeschooling was a very temporary thing, to say the least. I love my kids, but I didn’t want to hang with them every day, all day long.

We survived homeschooling for two years, and then that next summer I begged God to release me from homeschooling my kids. I was done. When I realized He was not answering my prayers for release, I realized I might be in this for the long haul, and instead of fighting it, I chose to embrace it.

I had a decent relationship with my kids. I was physically present and took care of them, but I struggled with being emotionally present a good deal of the time. For years, I struggled with emotional affairs, always looking for greener grass elsewhere and not satisfied with God or what He had given me.

But a few years ago, God really began doing His healing work in me, and I began to have victory in an area that I thought I would struggle with for the rest of my life. As a result of His healing, I now had the time and the emotional energy to invest in my kids and began being in real relationship with them, not just passing them in the hall or cleaning up after them or even teaching them school.

We began talking and haven’t stopped yet…real conversations about God, about the stuff that they feel and what they’re going through on a daily basis. We laugh; we joke; we play games; we talk. Jeff and I love sitting in our dining room in front of the fire talking and hanging out with our kids. It is truly one of the best parts of my life.

I’m not a creative home school mom who comes up with fun activities for my kids to do, and my kids would probably say homeschooling is pretty boring for the most part. But what I’ve found in being around my kids all day long and them being around each other is that I would not exchange the relationships I now have with them and the ones they have with each other for anything in the world. It’s a gift from God. And I am just so incredibly grateful.

I would not have chosen this path for myself, but I’m thankful for my loving Abba who chose it for me and gently pushed me down it. He really does know what best for me, for all of us.

And those years the locusts ate…they’ve been reclaimed and restored many times more than I could possibly have imagined.

I will lead the blind by a way they did not know;
I will guide them on paths they have not known.
I will turn darkness to light in front of them
and rough places into level ground. (Isaiah 42)

02
Mar
13

Knock, Knock! Who’s There?

When Moses received the Ten Commandments, the people of Israel were afraid to hear from God directly. They saw the smoking mountain, the thunder and lightning and stood far back even though Moses told them not to be afraid. God wanted to speak to them, but they were too afraid to hear what God had to say to them. “The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.” (Exodus 20)

In Deuteronomy 5, God said to Moses, ‘I have heard the words that these people have spoken to you.

Everything they have said is right. If only they had such a heart to fear Me and keep all My commands…’

Jesus says the same thing about the Pharisees in Matthew 15.

These people honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.

Something’s up with some of us who call ourselves believers in our culture. Because we don’t really seem to be following the Christ I see in the Bible. And I don’t really think Jesus is talking about following Him by going to church every time the doors are open or even giving money or bringing someone to church every once in a while. These are small, insignificant things that don’t amount to much according to Jesus’ standards.

The Pharisees were doing a whole lot more than this in the New Testament, and Jesus and John called them a bunch of snakes. He knew their hearts; He knew their lives. In Matthew 7, the ones that Jesus says He doesn’t know and are cast out are the ones who prophesied and drove out demons and did  miracles in His name. And Jesus responds to them  ‘I never knew you! Depart from Me…’ I think His ideas for following Him are much, much higher, starting with listening to Him and then obeying.

In our American church culture, lives don’t seem to be changed by the power of God or His Word. Jesus cannot be treated as an add-on, something used to make lives easier, more comfortable, more enjoyable.  He is not here to fix us but to change us into a new creation, which is painful, and I don’t think people really want that Jesus. Following Him requires time and commitment and love, and we don’t seem to be in abundance of any of those things. The Israelites were afraid, but in our culture we’re not afraid; we’re just too busy, distracted, disobedient, self-centered and indifferent to follow Him. He talks about people like us in Mark 4. We’re the people represented by the seed sown among the thorny soil.

...these are the ones who hear the word, but the worries of this age, the seduction of wealth, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.

And the unfruitful ones? What happens to them at the end of the age? They’re thrown out and destroyed. Even the ones who did all kinds of things in His name didn’t make the cut. Because Jesus said that you will know those who are His by their fruit.

So what do we do with this? How do we know if we are His and are producing good fruit, fruit that Jesus will recognize? In I John, disciples of Jesus are the ones who love Him, and you see the love they have for Him because they are keeping His commands (not man’s laws or standards, but God’s commands). We begin by loving the people around us.

Some say all the right words and do all the right things but  don’t really know Him, and He doesn’t know them. But there is hope; it’s His kindness that leads us to repentance. He’s given us Himself and His Word. And as John and Jesus both said, Repent (turn from sin by the power of the Holy Spirit) and believe; become a true follower of His by listening to Him and by following His commands.

Therefore, ridding yourselves of all moral filth and evil (repent), humbly receive the implanted word, which is able to save you. (believe)

Although the road is narrow, and there are not many who choose to take that road, it is the way of life and truth and real meaning. But His way is also the way of the cross and death: death to self, death to the ways of the world, death to comfortable, safe lives. Jesus says, If you lose your life for my sake, then you will find it. But if you try to hang on to your life, that’s when you lose everything. There’s no middle ground here, no straddling the fence.

You’re either in the process of working out your own salvation with fear and trembling, or you’re not. (Philippians 2:12)  We’re all busy following something, someone. And we intently listen to the people we’re following; we follow them on Twitter, on Facebook, on any other social media we can get our hands on. But are you a true believer and follower of Jesus, or have you deceived yourself and don’t know His power or His Word? Are you following Him by listening to His Spirit, by reading His Word? And not books that people have written about Him. Jesus told the Sadducees, “You are deceived, because you don’t know the Scriptures or the power of God.”

He loves us so much, not only in how He sent Jesus and the Holy Spirit to us,  but also in how He reveals Himself to us moment by moment as we open our hearts, hands and lives to receive Him.  We don’t want to be like the children of Israel who when God wanted to speak to them, they refused to come and listen but rather had someone else (Moses) tell them what God had said. We are deceived when we think we need someone to interpret God and the Bible for us, whether it’s a pastor, a Bible study teacher or Christian author.

The anointing you received from Him remains in you, and you don’t need anyone to teach you. Instead, His anointing teaches you about all things and is true… (I John 2)

We have the Creator of the world who longs to speak with us through His Word and through the Holy Spirit. We don’t go to the Bible to find more facts or knowledge or because we’re guilted into it. We go to the Bible so that He would reveal Himself to us in all His beauty and majesty and righteousness. We go to the Bible in order to follow Him in obedience and love.

Pray that He would give us wisdom and discernment and that the eyes of our understanding would be enlightened. Pray for ears and hearts to listen to and long for what He is saying. Psalm 40:6 says, You open my ears to listen. And pray for the courage to follow Him in obedience to His Word and Spirit. He’s looking for followers. He’s looking for people who will listen and obey. It’s just that simple. The true worshipers worship Him in Spirit and in truth.

According to Hebrews 12, we no longer have to go to the smoking mountain like the children of Israel did. And God is no longer in the darkness. “Instead you have come to the city of the living God…to Jesus. Make sure that you do not reject the One who speaks…”

10
Jan
13

Community, Discipleship and Courage

Jeff and I are called to do two things. We are called to start small communities that meet in homes, and we are called to do discipleship. We believe that both are vital to living in God’s kingdom here and now.

These communities consist of 20-50 people. The people within these communities eat together, pray together, love each other,  and commit to one another. These communities are small enough so that all the people in the community are able to bring their gifts to the table and use them for the Body’s benefit and for God’s glory.

This is not a spectator sport, where we cheer others on to do the work. We all do the work together. No one gets lost or ignored because these communities are small enough that each person is equally important. These communities meet in people’s homes, where life takes place. Simply put, a Community Group is an extended family following Jesus together by doing life with missionary purpose.

We have an active community that we are already involved in. We share a meal together weekly, help each other, and support each other by being an active part of each other’s lives. The relationships within our community are covenant relationships that require time, energy and commitment.

Our community started as the Holy Spirit called on us to do the small acts of obedience in opening our homes and lives to each other, and this community has become our extended family where each week it feels like a family reunion in the very best sense of the word. I long to be with these people, and I miss them when I’m not able to.

We are looking to start other communities similar to this one as God brings together people who are desperate for Him and who desire to share their lives in community. These groups will be similar but also very different in that they will be led by people who have different missional outreaches. We are ministering in such a way that these communities can be started all over Nashville and led by the people God raises up. Once a few community groups have started up, we will have celebration gatherings where this network of communities, who want to serve Jesus and the people around them, will come together for praise and worship and times of teaching. These groups will be the basis for New Life Church Network.

Jeff and I are partners in this work God has called us to. Really, our whole family is doing this work together. We are seeing our children embrace the people in our community. And they are active participants in loving and serving those around them.

The second part of what Jeff and I are doing is discipleship. The way of growth in the New Testament was discipleship. Jesus chose His disciples, and He spent three years discipling them as they walked with Him. At the end of Matthew, Jesus said to His disciples that He had been given all authority and then commanded His disciples to go make disciples. We believe that we are following Him in obedience by doing discipleship with people, Jeff with men, me with women.

Discipleship is NOT a Bible study.  Discipleship is meeting on a weekly basis with 1 to 2 other people who are reading the same Bible passage, NOT to study the passage but rather to go to the Word to see what God is calling them to do in repentance and obedience. It goes back to John the Baptist’s and Jesus’ message:  “Repent and believe. The Kingdom of God is here.”

Discipleship is simple in that anyone can do it. We are discipling and training our children, because we believe it is essential to growing and maturing in Christ. We have already seen lives changed because of what Jesus and His Word can do with people who are willing to submit themselves to Him in obedience and humility. When Jesus came and took  on our flesh, He emptied Himself, took on the form of a slave and became obedient to the point of death.  He calls us to do the same…to come and die.

Simply put, discipleship is listening to what God is telling us to do in the context of community. It is following Jesus. And it really comes down to two basic questions. What in my life do I need to repent of? And what is God, not man, telling me to do about it? Neil Cole calls this process exhaling and inhaling: exhaling our sin in repentance and then inhaling the Word of God and seeking Him in obedience. We have to expel the junk and sin of our lives before we can breathe in the Gospel.

Eugene Peterson talks about this in his book Eat This Book. He says, “Obedience is the thing, living in active response to the living God.  The most important question we ask of this text (the Bible) is not, ‘What does this mean?’ but ‘What can I obey?’ A simple act of obedience will open up our lives to this text  far more quickly than any number of Bible studies and dictionaries and concordances.” (71)

Community and discipleship work together. It’s meeting people where they are and growing up and maturing in Christ together. We’re walking side by side with people in their journey to Him. I have this sense of urgency and mission within me to do discipleship with others, because I now see hope where there was none. It’s hope in a God who changes people, not fixes them or makes their lives better, but actually transforms them into a new creation.

We can spend years trying to figure out who we are with numerous self-help books, but change can only happen when we’re ready to come to Him in repentance and belief. The same message that John the Baptist and Jesus preached still applies now.  Six or seven months ago I said to Jeff, “I’m not doing that discipleship thing.”  I know He can change lives; He is changing mine.

Please pray that we would be courageous and obedient and let God do His work in us and through us. We also need God’s people to come along side us and support us in this thing God has called us to. We are all called to serve and make sacrifices in the kingdom of God. And we are excited that others are joining us  in their prayers and with their money. We are, in fact, spurring each other on to love and good works. And that’s what kingdom living is all about. So, thank you, for acting courageously and sacrificially on our behalf and on behalf of the kingdom.

Soli Deo Gloria…to God alone be the glory…

Jeff and Kim Darnell, 1045 Fontaine Drive, Goodlettsville, TN 37072

lovegracepeace@gmail.com

14
Nov
12

act two: on the other side of this wild ride

Last year, my story was the age-old story of walking around and around the wilderness, like the children of Israel, bemoaning the fact that I couldn’t leave but trying my best to get out, sort of.  I couldn’t stop wallowing around in my own brokenness and believing the lie that Jesus wasn’t enough.  I couldn’t release the idols that I had begun to think were part of me. And I was thirsty but refused to come to the well. And then, I couldn’t even find it anymore and complained that it had been moved. I felt numb and unable to pray or really even care.

But, enough with the clichés about where I was…

This is act two of my continuing story, and this is the story of freedom and grace. This is a story of the love of God and His marvelous work. This is a story of being set free.

I can’t tell exactly when this happened.  I can’t give a prescribed treatment of how this all started or how to get here. It’s not like I did something. I certainly didn’t earn my way here.  It’s God who led me back to the well. And I can’t get enough. I think God just started breaking me apart little by little. And because of His great love, I slowly began to lean in again.

I’ve been in this spot before. I’ve tasted His goodness. I’ve had my hands open to what He has. But this time, I realized I had people to lean in with. And I think that’s what made the difference. I have this little bitty community covenanting with me to love and good works. Other believers are so very, very important to what we our called to do. We need each other so desperately in the Body of Christ, and yet we don’t act like we do. We’re called to encourage each other daily so that we won’t succumb to the enemy’s lies and sin’s hardness. And as long as I’m grounded in the things of God, others can lean in too, because He cannot be shaken.

For we have received the good news just as they did; but the message they heard did not benefit them, since they were not united with those who heard it in faith. (Hebrews 4:2)

So, the  isolation that I assigned and resigned myself to for the last year was not a God-thing. It was my own selfishness, refusing to reach to God and to others for help. I was the one who was needy and struggling, and I was disobedient  and threw a whopping big pity party. I believed the lies. But, I believe, everything can be redeemed.

A month ago, I got on my face, and I repented of my sin of isolation and lack of trust. I trust God, and I’m in process of letting go of everything but Him. It’s uncomfortable at times, but He is making all things new and absolutely beautiful. I’m so thankful for this God, my Abba,  who loves me this much to draw me back  to Himself and to His people.

Go in peace to love and to serve…And take to the world this love, this hope and faith; Take to the world this rare, relentless grace; Go, and go far; Take light deep in the dark; Believe what’s true; He uses all, even you. May the bread on your tongue Leave a trail of crumbs To lead the hungry back to the place that you are from.  -Derek Webb

But we can’t give away what we don’t even possess. So, I’m here. Ready to receive once again from His hands what He has…no matter what. It’s His burden, His yoke, and I’m having the time of my life walking in that, but this time I’m not walking this thing out alone…welcome to act 2.




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