Posts Tagged ‘relationships

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.

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12
Jan
13

Who’s Willing to Carry You?

In Mark 2, Jesus taught at someone’s house, and the house was so packed with people that no one else could squeeze in to hear what Jesus was saying. Even the doorway was crowded with people. But there were four men that day on a mission. They knew they had to get their paralytic friend to Jesus because their friend needed what Jesus had. And so, these men figured out what they had to do in order to get this dependent, needy person to Jesus for healing, body and soul.

But it struck me, that there had to be four people who were not just willing to carry this man to Jesus, but people who cared enough about him not to be deterred in their mission and who also came up with a plan to get him in when it looked impossible. They could have gotten to the door of the house, realized there wasn’t any more room, especially room enough for a person lying on a stretcher, turned around and made their way back home. But they didn’t. They took the roof off of the house and lowered him down to Jesus. They did what it took. And seeing their faith, Jesus forgave the paralytic man’s sins, and then He healed his body. This man was healed because of their faith, their persistence, their love. They were willing to carry their friend to Jesus.

And the question I ask myself– Are there people willing to carry me? Are there people willing to carry you? I’ m not talking about family here. I’m talking about the people we’re in community with. That means that we have to allow people into our lives so that they can see our needs, and we also have to be willing to let these people help. This means putting away our independent, self-sufficient attitude and pride and allowing ourselves in humility to be loved, to be helped.

The paralytic’s problem was obvious. His friends knew what He needed. But do the people around me know what I need? Do yours know what you need? It’s hard asking for help when pride and fear of rejection get in the way, when we’re so afraid we might inconvenience someone, or that they might not want to really help but feel that they have to out of obligation or duty. It also means we have to reveal ourselves and open ourselves up to the people around us and identify our struggles. We have to admit weakness. And in doing that, we’re admitting that we don’t have it figured out.

The flip question can also be asked. Am I willing to carry others? Once again, this means that I have to be in community with people. I have to be close enough to see people’s needs and be involved in their lives. Not only so that I can know what the needs are, but also so that those people could feel the freedom to ask. I don’t know if the paralytic man asked his friends to take him to Jesus or if these men volunteered, but  Jesus recognized their faith and healed their friend.

In carrying their friend to Jesus, these men demonstrated sacrificial love. They bore his burden. We all need community that can help carry us to Jesus at times…to bear our burdens; we need those people to show up and love us the way Jesus would, not just in word or speech but in truth and action. (I John)

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

20
Aug
12

Marriage: Being All In

A few months ago, we had a friend visit us. It was a timely visit for me because our friend was a huge encouragement.  One of the things that he told Jeff was that at some point in marriage, when the attraction and the passion and the romance may not necessarily be what they used to be, you just have to decide to be “all in.” You have to say at some point, “okay, I’m with this person.” It doesn’t matter how fat or sick or bald or whatever this person gets, you’re there. Period.

I have not always been emotionally present in my marriage or in my family. I’ve been physically present, but not emotionally there. For a very long time, I told myself the lie that there was something better out there for me; that there was another person who would fit me better;  that there was that ever elusive “soul mate” who could meet all my needs, and that I had somehow missed this dream of a man. For a very long time, I honestly believed that I had chosen the wrong person.  I was deceived, and I deceived myself.

It’s hard to be all in when you think the grass is greener elsewhere. And so I struggled with emotional affairs for many years. It was a form of escape for me. Emotionally, I didn’t have to be where I was if I always had a fantasy of a different life in my head. But a few years ago, Abba gave me much needed victory in this area. And I am grateful beyond belief.

But victory in this area didn’t resolve all my issues or the issues in my marriage. Because marriage is still supposed to be about two people covenanting together to sacrifice for the greater good of the other. And that’s just hard. Because I want my own way; I want my needs met. And Abba has had to strip away many things for me to see my own selfishness and greed.

Jeff and I just had our 20 year anniversary. And, I think, this year, by far, has been the hardest year yet.  Financially, we have really struggled. Jeff has had off and on work for three years, and I was just sick of this being our life. I wanted to be provided for; I wanted my children to be provided for. I didn’t want to have to worry about whether we were going to be able to pay the bills or lose our house or eat rice and beans forever.

But I think my real issue was with God. I was mad at God for giving me this man who couldn’t provide for me in the way I felt I needed to be provided for. And then questions and doubts about whether I was even worth providing for kept screaming in my head. Those were lies too. But it’s really hard to see the lies when you’re wallowing around in self-pity.

Honestly, in the last year, there were many times that I questioned whether or not this marriage thing was even worth it. I tried to convince myself that this wasn’t the best thing for my children either. More lies, because I had had enough of my needs not being met. This was more than I could handle and instead of supporting and loving my husband, who is in a tough situation, I threatened him and made demands and put pressure on him that only made things worse.

For me over the last three years,  Jeff’s main value became whether or not he was able to provide for our family. And so, what happens when the person you’re relying on doesn’t provide what you think they should provide? When the relatively “normal” no longer exists, what does the relationship look like then?  These difficult circumstances that were beyond my control really cut to the heart of what my relationship was all about.

I thought marriage was about having a companion who could meet my needs and who could  help me figure out who I am. I thought marriage was supposed to be this sentimental, exciting  romantic in love feeling forever. I wanted Jeff’s theme song to be “Everything I Do I Do It For You.”

Recently, I read Tim Keller’s book The Meaning of Marriage. In it, he wrote “self-centeredness is a havoc-wreaking problem in many marriages, and it is the ever-present enemy of every marriage. Self-centeredness is easily seen in the signs Paul lists: impatience, irritability, a lack of graciousness and kindness in speech, envious brooding on the better situations of others, and holding past injuries and hurts against others.” (56-57)

After reading Keller’s book, my paradigm of marriage shifted dramatically. I finally came to the realization that I don’t really know how to love and that I haven’t really understood marriage. It struck me that I bought into our culture’s view about marriage. I bought the movie version of what love and marriage look like, instead of the biblical view that Tim Keller describes by saying that “marriage was designed to be a reflection of the saving love of God for us in Jesus Christ.” (15)

What keeps the marriage going is your commitment to your spouse’s holiness. You’re committed to his or her beauty. You’re committed to his greatness and perfection.  You’re committed to her honesty and passion for the things of God. That’s your job as a spouse. Any lesser goal than that, any smaller purpose, and you’re just playing at being married. (123)

I was just playing at being married. Because, honestly, it just feels good to have someone around, someone there, until it doesn’t.  And then I had to ask myself, Do I really love this person? And not for what he can provide, whether it be financial security, romantic passion, a great father-figure for my children, a person to keep me from being lonely, but do I really love Jeff, in a Jesus kind of way? And I’m not talking about the “in love” feeling that quickly fades away when a few tough years come crashing into a marriage. But having Holy Spirit power to love and keep committing  to him when I want to scream and run away…run for higher ground, run for something better,  just run.

Because what happens when you realize you’ve made a vow but don’t want to do it anymore?

“This means we must say to ourselves something like this: Well, when Jesus looked down from the cross, he didn’t think, ‘I am giving myself to you because you are so attractive to me.’ No, he was in agony, and he looked down at us–denying him, abandoning him, and betraying him–and in the greatest act of love in history, he stayed. (109)

Because He stayed, I now have His power to love when I don’t feel it.  It’s because of Him and His love for me that this vow that I made 20 years ago before God and family and friends makes sense. It’s not about me. In a marriage, it’s about pointing each other to Christ…spurring each other on to love and good works…for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness , in health…till death parts us.

We’ve hit the “for worse” part and the “for poorer” part pretty hard at times. When Jeff said his “for poorer” part twenty years ago, he kind of laughed and winked at me as he said it…I think he knew something I didn’t. When you’re in your wedding dress on your wedding day and you’re happy and you’re young, and you say the words, but you don’t honestly think that that’s ever going to be you. And when it is you; when the poorer or the sicker or worse part becomes part of your life, what in the world do you do?

In any relationship, there will be frightening spells in which your feelings of love seem to dry up.  And when that happens you must remember that the essence of a marriage is that it is a covenant, a commitment, a promise of future love. So what do you do? You do the acts of love, despite your lack of feeling. (104)

I have to realize that my feelings will be all over the place at times. There will be hard days. And then, there will be even harder days. But I’m with Jeff. He is the man for me. I’m all in. I’m all here. Physically, emotionally, spiritually. I’m not going anywhere. And I’m beginning to get really excited about our future and the amazing person Jeff is becoming. And even though our financial circumstances haven’t changed, it doesn’t matter. I’m just humbled and grateful that Jeff”s all in too, even on my “for worse” days.

So, 20 years. Some good, some way, way less than good, but still good because all of them have brought us to this point in our journey. They’ve brought us to this road that I wouldn’t have been on any other way. It’s a long road sometimes, but it’s a road worth traveling; it’s a story worth seeing through. It’s my story. It’s Jeff’s story. It’s our story. But it’s also bigger than us too. And I’m grateful that  it’s a story that is being redeemed.

And don’t be wishing you were someplace else or with someone else. Where you are right now is God’s place for you. Live and obey and love and believe right there. (1 Cor. 7:17, MSG)

06
Apr
12

Hands Wide Open

I’ve been gone. Away. Not Here. Please Do Not Disturb.

I had lapses of faith this winter. I had questions of “Why are we in this situation?” and “Where is God in all of this?”.  Questions that I know other people contemplate but maybe don’t admit to others. Perhaps not even to themselves. I tried desperately to get over it, to mask my restlessness by reading one more book, watching one more movie, walking one more mile. It didn’t work.

In this process of my restless questioning, I hit the pause button on faith, hope, and love. I became kind of a hermit, did not want to see all that many people, realized that I didn’t really have all that much to offer anyone (not that anyone was expecting anything out of me).  But who wants to be around someone whose cup is empty most of the time? And all I had was resentment and bitterness. About a lot of things.

My downward spiral began when I started focusing on things that were beyond my control. But the lie was that I could control them. The enemy is sneaky in that way. I believed that I could make my own way and do my own thing and be okay, be better actually.  I soon lost hope and began to despair. Faith and love quickly fled out the back door as well. And some might question if they were really true in the first place if they can leave so easily. Maybe. Maybe not. I just know I was dry and brittle inside. And when I wasn’t angry, I was numb.

I don’t know what triggered release from all of that. If there is one moment or many moments of realization that draw a person back to God, to reality.  Or if my fingers had to be pried open from the idea of control I had grasped onto. I just know a few things happened to me lately that made me gaze up instead of in.

I recently saw an old friend. And she looked so beautiful…and I realized I wanted what she had. I could see it in her eyes. I could hear it in her story. And it’s what I’d been missing but had so desperately needed. And it’s something no medication of any kind will ever bring. Peace…The kind that goes beyond human comprehension…The kind that when the situation looks its darkest, there is still that. And, I realize  it’s not something I can strive for or buy or grasp at. It’s something I receive when everything else falls away. When hands are held up, not in despair, but in gratitude and release.

A while back, Jeff couldn’t sleep one night, and he felt like the Holy Spirit was giving him a word for me and for each of our children…the things that we needed. And the word for me was, “IT will be there.” At the time, I assumed that the IT was money, because that always seemed to be the most pressing need, the thing that I worried about the most, and for some reason, I always seemed to think that money would solve the problem and be the answer, even though I never would say that out loud. Convinced that money was the IT that the Holy Spirit was talking about, I was confused and resentful when the money wasn’t always there when we needed it.

But money wasn’t the IT at all. I didn’t realize that until a good deal later that the IT was peace. “Peace will be there.” And that no matter what happened to me or my family or my friends or my belongings, now or in the future, peace can always be there.

For me, peace is like letting go and twirling in a field on a sunny day with wildflowers all about, face looking up to a cloudless sky with hands and arms that are held out that go higher and higher and become lighter and lighter until I feel like I could touch the face of Abba. And laughter, of course…wild, silly, hopeful laughter.




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