One More Push

Life has been crazy!  I started this blog post a month and a half ago and I’m finally getting around to finishing it!  I pray it’s an encouragement for anyone reading.

Thankfully, all three of my deliveries were fairly easy ones.  Other than having a couple of somersault babies that wanted to flip in the opposite direction and a c-section that ended up happening a little earlier than planned, my labor and deliveries were pretty typical.  And for that I’m extremely thankful!  Unfortunately, I know that’s not always the case.  There are many women, a few very dear to my heart, who have experienced much more difficult pregnancies and births.  My heart aches for them and the pain they have endured.  Although I don’t know exactly what they’ve experienced,  I do feel like the last couple of months were a season I could liken to some of the general pregnancy woes.

It was my reading in Isaiah 37 several weeks back that really resonated with me.   King Hezekiah summed it up really well when he said, “today is a day of trouble, insults, and disgrace.  It is like when a child is ready to be born, but the mother has no strength to deliver the baby”  (verse 3, NLT).  Yes, yes, yes!!!

I. WAS. EXHAUSTED.  It had been 15 months, since I first heard the words, “take your family and move.”  Our “Limbo Living” had been an emotional tug of war, mental battle, and physically draining experience.  As a wife, a mom, and a woman, I was longing for stability and security but those 15 months had been nothing but the exact opposite:  upheavel in every direction.

With Matt starting a new job finally, FINALLY, there seemed to be motion stirring instead of just sitting still!  You would have thought I would have been raring to go, but instead I found myself completely overwhelmed.  As I was waiting for the next season to be “birthed” I was finding that I had little energy left to give.  Forget pushing!  It felt like I was trying to drag myself through a heap of sludge and my brain felt like complete mush.

Now listen, I know all the good Christian answers.  “When we are weak, He is strong.  He never changes.  He loves me no matter what”.  I get it, I get it….yes, all of that is true.  In fact, I believe all of those things!  Yet in the in-between space, the wilderness if you will, the struggle is real!!!  It’s the hardest when you know The Lord has called you out, told you to move and go but still the end is far from clear.  There are glimmers of what’s to come but there’s still a whole lot of uncertainty and questions.  And in the midst of that uncertainty isn’t it just like the enemy to stir up “trouble, insults, and disgrace” when you’re in that wilderness place?  When you’re weak, weary and barely holding on?  Stupid devil!!!

But in that final push, I really think The Lord allowed me to see MY need for The Gospel.   Even though I’ve been following Him for many years now, He’s reminded me how I need The Gospel every single day, every minute of the day!  He was calling me to reflect on His sacrifice often, to be broken over my sinful flesh, and be challenged to keep Jesus the main thing.  I mess it up every single day, multiple times a day – needing Him all the more!  It should be a revolving door of brokenness, repenting, and turning back to Him, yet so often I think we look at our salvation as a “once and done” event.

He also reminded me the necessity of having others around me to point me to Him.  Being a more introverted person I’m perfectly fine cocooning and living life as a hermit.  (I know, not the healthiest way to live!)  Yet He’s called me to live a transparent life connected with others.  In fact, community is vital.  Since our move to OK, being 1200 miles away from “my people” I’ve often felt disjointed and alone … causing me to retreat all the more, but God in His mercy and grace led us to one of our church’s community groups that met in our area.  These people have welcomed us in and offered a safe, encouraging place to voice our struggles.

It was at one of our first C-groups when the flood gates broke wide open for me.  It had been such a discouraging and difficult day.  As I sat there that night, still really new to the group, listening to prayer requests and serious situations that needed God’s intervention, I hesitated to speak up.  After all, we had a roof over our heads and warm beds to sleep in because of the generosity of wonderful family members.  We were clothed and well fed.  Why should I be complaining?!  But my dear husband realized the toll this season was taking on me.  He spoke up first and opened the door for me to share.  From there, it was an avalanche of emotions and tears.  The encouragement and support from these new friends was a blessing and a reminder to keep looking to Him.

Later that evening, Matt told me he’d pack us up and move us back to NC, I just needed to say the word.  But I knew, that was not the answer.  We were to stay the course… keep pushing and pressing forward.  As hard as it’s been, I know this is what God has called us to.  He’s stretching and growing us and I don’t want to revert back.  He’s brought us so far – literally and spiritually!

Wouldn’t you know it, it was the very next week, I had the keys to our rental house in my hand, I was writing a check for our first month’s rent, and Matt was flying back to NC to load and haul our stuff to OK.  Our official move-in day was October 1st!  Thank You, Jesus!!  I’m overwhelmed at God’s goodness!!!

So, all of that to say, if you’re in a difficult or wilderness place right now – God loves you!  He hasn’t forgotten you even though it might feel like He’s far away.  Keep leaning into Him, surround yourself with some faith warriors you can be real, honest, and open with, and think often upon The Gospel of Jesus!!!  More often than not, the plans He has for us look nothing like what we envision.  Just remember, He’s trying to make us more like Him.  Life is hard and messy but His yoke is easy and His burden is light!  Keep pushing ahead dear friends!


Connecting Dots

Just a few weeks ago, I took the pic above when I found myself sitting in a blue and orange tin can, flying 400 mph through the atmosphere, 40,000 feet above the soil of America.  Below me, the Blue Ridge mountains came rolling in like waves on the ocean.  Behind me, the great midsection of our country sprawled west toward the Rockies and, more meaningfully to me, toward my wife and kids back in Oklahoma City.

Ahead of me lay Raleigh, the city I never thought I’d leave, and the prospects of a 26 foot rental truck soon to be crammed to the roof with all our worldly belongings.  After 11 months of waiting, after 9 months of “living in tents”, I was on my way to bring the things that make a house a home across 1200 miles to my family.

It’s hard to believe the day had come.  I found myself tempted to ask the nice lady next to me on the plane to pinch me…but decided that might stir up a confrontation with the Air Marshall, and who needed that?

After all that time spent waiting and praying, the ball started rolling really quick.  Three weeks prior to this trip, I was still jobless, and we were struggling mightily to understand why God brought us out of all we knew and loved and into a completely new place.  I was personally in the throes of doubt and despair.  I was tempted to throw in the towel, load up the cars, and head back.

What was going on?  Had I really heard from God?  Was I really supposed to step down from my position as worship pastor, sell our home, and move halfway across the country?  Did any of this make sense to anyone?  Hello?  God?  Can you hear me?  Are you listening?

That despair reached a fever pitch one Wednesday night/Thursday morning.  Sometime in the middle of that night, I awoke and couldn’t go back to sleep.  I tossed and turned for a while, resisted the urge to turn on my iPhone, and finally began to pray.  “Lord, how long?  I’ve tried the best I know to be obedient to the call You issued.  We’ve left it all, gone west, and have waited (for what seemed like a lot longer than it was).  Can you please do something?  Can you please give me the next step?  Just the next step Lord.   That’s all I need.”

And I fell back asleep.  I awoke and started going through the motions of another day.

And then, I got a phone call.

It happened as I was on my way out the door to have lunch with one of our pastors.  I have to say how thankful I am for our church, Frontline, and how the leaders there have come alongside us, encouraged us, and poured into us on this journey.  I really can’t say enough about them, and how God has used them in our lives…but I digress.

The phone call was from a friend of mine with whom I had linked up with when we moved back in April.  Through a mutual friend in NC, we met years ago and had been reintroduced to one another all the way out in Oklahoma.  This was also the same friend who hired me to do some carpentry work on his house.  When I answered, Jason asked me what I was doing.  I told him I was heading to lunch with one of our pastors.  He said he didn’t want to keep me, but he wanted to know if I’d be interested in going to work for his company.

Say WHAT????

I was taken aback, pretty much like I’d been punched in the gut. Could this be happening?  Really?  I knew that Jason, who was hesitant to ask me to do work on his house for fear of getting in the way of what God was doing in our lives, wouldn’t ask me this question without some serious prayer first.  So, after composing myself, I asked him if I could call him back later to talk more,  then I hung up and headed out the door to meet our pastor, feeling pretty dazed and confused.

Chad and I met at a local Mexican restaurant (I know…what a shocker), and sat down to good food and good conversation.  Though he had been at our church for a few months and I’d heard him preach several times, this was the first time we had met.  Some mutual friends said we needed to get together and talk, which precipitated our meeting that day.  I decided not to mention the job offer, and just see where our conversation headed.

It was a great time of good food, but of even better conversation.  Ironically, we both had just moved back to Yukon, our childhood hometown, after being led by the Holy Spirit from positions in our respective churches and being called out to something else.  The big difference being Chad knew he was called back to plant a church, while I still didn’t know what God had called us here for, besides the very clear purpose of being remade, reformed, and rebuilt, and renewed.

As we talked, the conversation led to calling and ministry.  He reminded me that the greatest calling a man can ever have is to serve Jesus by loving his family and pouring into them.  THAT is a ministry every husband and father is called to, though we often neglect it for what we think are “bigger” things.  And yet, if a man doesn’t rule his own house well (and I don’t think that’s just talking disciplining your kids), how can he lead the church?  Then Chad looked at me and said “Matt, you’re going to be doing ministry wherever the Lord puts you, with whomever He puts in your path.”  God may call me to some type of “full time” ministry again, but it was obvious that those doors hadn’t opened yet.  So the call right now was to simply go and do whatever I find to do, and do it for Jesus.

Dude…I just sat there for a moment, thanked him for his words, and then told him about the job offer.  He smiled, shook his head and said, “Tell me that doesn’t sound like God connecting dots.”


Long story a tiny bit shorter, I called Jason, my friend, and told him I was definitely interested, but asked if I could have a week to pray about it and talk to Amanda (who was out of town visiting family and friends back in NC).  Obviously, we ended up in agreement that this was the direction we were supposed to head, and I took the job.

So now I’m learning how to do  communications for the oil and gas industry.  To say it’s an adjustment would be an understatement!  It’s like drinking from a firehose!  And yet I go to work every day in the beautiful  (and far more topographically varied than you imagine it to be) state of Oklahoma.  I work with a small crew of really good guys, and we’ve already had quite a few “wading pool” conversations on the job site.

That’s something I’ve learned (or maybe re-learned) this year.  Ministry doesn’t always take the shape you imagine.  It’s not just for pastors, and it doesn’t just happen inside a church.  In fact, it happens MOSTLY outside the doors of our churches:  in our homes, our streets, and our jobs.  It’s for all followers of Jesus, you and me included.  As a Christian, I’m called to be on mission, telling others about the Hope I have found in Jesus…regardless of what I do to earn my wages.

And if I don’t start with it at home, it’s never going to translate into the workplace.

So on the cusp of giving up, right at the 11th hour, God showed up.  It didn’t look how I imagined it.  It isn’t the way I planned it, but it is, like so many other things on this journey, undoubtedly a God-thing.  It is, in fact, the next step.

On the day I went to pick up my work truck and gear, my daughter Hannah rode along with me.  If you know her, you know she’s quite the old soul, with wisdom beyond her years percolating within.  She was sitting quietly beside me as we drove until she looked at me and said, “Dad, you know, if you’d never met Uncle E (one of my oldest friends back in NC, and the mutual friend my now boss and I shared), you’d have never met Mr. Jason, and you wouldn’t have this job.”

Indeed, my dear.

Now THAT’S connecting the dots.

Wishy-Washy Faith & a Steadfast God

There’s only so many blogs you can write about “waiting” but that’s exactly where we’ve found ourselves over the last couple of months, ehh…year.  It’s been a little reminiscent of my five year old’s constant repetition of questions and talking.  Seriously, from the time my son’s tiny toes hit the floor in the morning until his precious blanket sniffing routine lures him to sleep at night …. it’s constant chatter, over and over again, always the same thing.  That’s what it’s felt like with God lately.  He was consistently saying “wait, wait, and wait some more”.  And just like my son’s endless questions, sometimes it just gets old.  You get weary of hearing the same thing all the time!  One more time and you think you’ll scream!  Or crumble completely.

And that’s where we were three weeks ago.  While Matt was broken emotionally, I was feebly attempting to put a brave face forward.  Trying my best to reassure Matt I was with him 100%.  Reminding him that everything would be ok but all the while waging a war inside my own mind.  Doubts, fears, confusion, anger, frustration screaming inside my brain …. what in the world are WE doing?!?  God, what are YOU doing?!?

And yet again, God met us when we needed Him most.  A simple answer to prayer.  An opportunity for my husband to work!  God physically lifted Matt’s head that day and if that wasn’t enough, He reassured ME the next morning…

On several occasions during the week prior I had actually verbalized and recorded in my journal that I felt like my prayers were just bouncing off the ceiling.  It was like they were going nowhere and I was talking into thin air.  So when our pastor opened the message Sunday morning by asking the congregation, “Do you ever feel like your prayers are just hitting the ceiling and going nowhere?” I’m pretty sure I laughed out loud!  If I didn’t know any better I would have sworn they had bugged our room!  Ha!  But no.  No wires or bugs just the working and moving of The Holy Spirit.

He went on to share from Luke 18: 1-8, the parable of the persistent widow.  Right off, verse 1 tells us what the parable is about: “always pray and never give up”.  Whoa!  Ok, Lord.  In the midst of our waiting He was reminding me that He does, in fact, hear me.  He sees me.  He loves me despite my sin and refusal to trust Him.

Oh, why do I have to be so wishy-washy in my faith?  Back and forth.  Up and down.  It truly is a cycle.  One day I’m standing on God’s promises, believing that He’s working for our good, and trusting in His timing and then the next I’m forgetting the truth, doubting He has a plan and vying for control of the situation.  It’s in those moments of weakness, in the midst of my human frailty I lose perspective.  I lose sight of who God is and who I am in Him.

So who is God?  Even as I attempt to write this paragraph I struggle!  How in the world do you put into words the greatness of The Holy God?!!  I think so often I try to rationalize the mystery and wonder of God and by doing so I wrongfully confine Him to a box.  In my feeble attempts to understand I end up reducing Him down and diminishing the size of who He truly is!

We’ve been singing a song at church off the newest Passion album called “Worthy of Your Name”.  I think it might be a new favorite.  The song speaks of God our King: “no ear has heard or eye has seen the image of the Father until Heaven came to live with me, a rescue like no other”.  Fully God, fully Man…that alone is mind blowing!  He’s so much higher than I can even fathom.  I think it’s the bridge of the song that’s my very favorite though…

My Author, my Maker, my Ransom, my Savior, my Refuge, my Hiding Place.  You’re my Helper, my Healer, my Blessed Redeemer, my Answer, my Saving Grace.  You’re my Hope in the shadows, my Strength in the battles, my Anchor for all my days.  And You stand by my side and You stood in my place… Jesus, no other name!  YOU ARE WORTHY OF YOUR NAME!!!!  

The list could go on and on, on and on…  Yes Lord, You are worthy of Your name!  And if that isn’t enough, the cherry on the top: HE. DOES. NOT. CHANGE!!!  In fact, it’s impossible for Him to.  Over and over in scripture and throughout history we see the constant motion of change – our surroundings, our circumstances, our hearts, our actions … yet He is unwavering and completely steadfast!  He is the same yesterday, today, and forever!  Amen!


Whether I’m grounded in the the knowledge of my faith or floundering in doubt and sin, He loves me.  Period.  There’s nothing I can do to make Him love me any more or to love me any less.  It’s because I’ve placed my faith in Jesus and He’s forgiven my sins (and continues to forgive my sins) that I am called His own!  It’s only through His grace that I belong to Him.  I’m a daughter of the Most High God.  I’ve been purchased, redeemed, and sealed with His Spirit.  Nothing, absolutely nothing, can snatch me from His hands!!!  And if “He who did not spare even His own son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?” (Rom. 8:32)  Wow, that’s humbling!!!  In that case, I can trust Him to provide what I need, when and how I need it.

Oh my goodness, I’m so thankful He doesn’t parent the way I do.  Where I’m prone to run low on patience and want to scream or shut down because of one too many questions He says “come to me”, “never stop asking, never stop praying”.  He knows my faith will falter, He knows I’ll lose perspective of who He is and who I am in Him yet He wants me to come near.  He continues to welcome me, always there with open arms, ready to receive me even in my wishy-washy faith.

“Come near to God and he will come near to you.  Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”  James 4:8

Shiplap and Simplicity

Sometimes the answer we need most is not the grandiose one, but the small, simple one.

Three weeks ago today, I hit rock-bottom emotionally.  We had just passed a year on our little journey into the unknown, and while many answers had been given, we were still playing the “waiting” game.  We had been in Oklahoma since Easter.  We had found an incredible church, were enjoying time as a family and with our extended family here, but a job was still proving elusive.

I played the Linked-In game, the Monster job search game, the send-out-your-resume’ game, but nothing seemed to be working.  The hardest rejection came not from a person, but from the Lord.  The interview process for what seemed like a “God-thing” job was going so well, but then the Lord quite clearly told me “No…sit, wait, and heal.”

And the months went by.

Which brings us to three Saturdays ago.  Amanda and I were sitting on my sister’s back porch enjoying our morning cup of coffee and reading our Bibles (this has become a staple for us this summer, and are again so very thankful to my sister and brother-in-law for putting our crew up and encouraging us to continue to seek the Lord).  As we talked about what we were reading, and what was going on in our lives, something broke in me.  I don’t know what it was, but something Amanda said burst the dam within, and the tears began to roll.  I felt completely overwhelmed, completely inept, completely…broken.

“Why did You bring us here, Lord?! Why are you keeping me from getting a job?!  Why aren’t the answers we sought forthcoming?  Why has the Word seem to dry up like the Mojave Desert of late?  Could You give us something, anything…some clue as to what to do next?!!”

There was no answer, save for the touch of my wife’s hand on my shoulder, and her head laid against mine.  We sat there for a bit, not saying anything.

And then we got up.  Isn’t that how it always is?  Life happens.  Things to do, places to go, people to see.  Sometimes, the only option available is to get up and face whatever the day holds, right?

Well, this day held coffee with some good friends.  In the midst of this crazy season of change, one thing I’ve become ever-so-thankful for is the precious gift of fellowship with friends and family.  On this particular day, we were meeting a couple that we had NC-ties to in a little town north of Oklahoma City.  As we sat huddled over our respective cups of coffee (really good coffee, btw), I shared how things were going for us.

We then drove out to check on their progress on the home they’re building outside of town.  As we walked around, my friend shared how his work was keeping him too busy to get much done on the house, since they’re doing as much of the work as possible on their own.  He then asked me a question that hit me right between the eyes:

“Would you be willing to come out and do some of the work?”

WHAT?  Did he just ask what I thought he asked?  Did he just offer me a job?  Wait…Lord, can I take this one?  Is it ok? And while I didn’t hear an audible voice, I felt the gentle release that, yes, this was ok to take.  I told him I would be glad to help them out in any way I could!

When we got back in the car to drive home, Amanda said, “Matt, I prayed this morning that the Lord would give you something today to lift your head.”  Boy, did He ever.  To say I was overjoyed would be a considerable understatement.  For the first time in 9 months, I would be working again.

Many days, I’d find myself talking to God about how I needed a job to provide for my family, only to hear the still-small-voice say “You don’t provide for them…I do…sometimes I just use you as the means.”

And while this type of work wasn’t what I had in mind at this stage in life, I can tell you it is exactly what I needed at exactly the right time.


That first week back, it took the kids a few days to adjust to dad being gone all day.  Over the past 9 months I’ve been there every morning when they got up, and could spend pretty much every day with them.  My boy, in particular, wasn’t sure how to handle the  change at first.  However, by the end of that first week, Amanda told me it felt like as close as we’d come to normal in a long time.  And making a bank deposit instead of a withdrawal for the first time in a long while wasn’t too bad either.

For me, there was an incredible sense of joy in just being able to feel useful again.  I remember watching some friends go through being unemployed over the years, and while I always felt for them, I couldn’t really grasp what they were dealing with.  I can now.  For a man, there is a need to work, to do something, to feel like you’re useful.

Before you get on me about being useful at home to my family, trust me, I’m thankful for that opportunity!  I’m not talking about getting my identity from my job (that’s another post for another day), but rather the feeling that comes from an honest day’s work, the feeling of being bone tired at the end of a long, hot day…but knowing you did something with that day.

Most days, I was cutting and putting up shiplap, that “Fixer Upper” staple that my friends were using in lieu of sheetrock in their new home.  I’m dreaming in shiplap right now, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the simplicity of measuring, cutting, and nailing up piece after piece.  As I finished each room or section, it felt good to go “I did that.”

It felt really good.

Now many of you may read this and be unimpressed.  Some may even scoff at it a little.  “A former pastor now doing carpentry work?  Hmmmmm…he must have missed it.”  I must admit, I came out here with sights aimed higher than being self-employed doing carpentry, but as we’ve said through this entire endeavor, God’s ways are not our ways.

He has told me, repeatedly, to sit, wait and heal.  In many ways, I believe the past nine months have been a sabbath year for me (it would have been my seventh year on staff at church back in NC).  The Lord took me out, sat me down, gave me rest and time with my family…all things that were prayers I found myself writing in my journal over the previous year.  God just didn’t answer them in the way I pictured:  no job, no home, dependent on His provision and the hospitality of family.

He has now allowed me the opportunity to work, and He has begun to open other doors in the same field, too.  The tendency for me is to project this out to “THE job” and put all my eggs in this basket, and He hasn’t told me that.  All I know is it’s what I’m to do now…but tomorrow, a week, a month or two away?  Only He knows.  Like everything on this journey, this is the next step for us right now.

And this is a baby step in the long march back to “normal.”

19 Years


19 year ago today, Amanda and I were married.

19 years…I’ll spare you every time cliche’ in the book, but it truly does go by fast.  Incredibly, blurringly fast.

Year #19 has been one of the toughest but wonderful years we’ve experienced.  From a year ago to today, pretty much every aspect of our lives has changed.  There has been the pain of leaving behind the life and friends we had built over the previous 18-plus years as we set out on a new adventure (one that we were not expecting AT ALL).  It has been a year of cutting away, both in the outward and the inward.  But in the midst of the cutting away, there has also been joy, healing and restoration.

Strange how God works sometimes.

I can’t even begin to put down enough words or phrases to explain what Amanda means to me.  I am so very thankful for my wife.  As the years have gone on, she has continued to amaze me.  She is an amazing woman.  She loves Jesus, loves His Word.  She loves my kids and pours into them, even on the tough days.  She becomes more beautiful to me with each passing day, and I love her more than I could ever say.

19 years…we’ve been through a lot of good, some bad (much of which was my fault).  We came through the incredible pain of losing of two babies, but also we’ve experienced the supreme joy of our three amazing kids.  We’ve gotten through the hurt of hidden sin (also me) and felt the healing balm of restoration…not easily gotten, but oh-so-precious.

We have poured sweat equity into 4 houses over the years, seen them become “home” for our growing family, and then cried as we’ve walked out the doors to the next thing.  Never has that been as tough as the last one, leaving the only home all 5 of us have shared for…well, for what only God knows is next.

We’ve made many friends over the years as we’ve moved.  Some relationships stay strong, others fade for a while, only to be rekindled again with time and chance.  We have endured, up to this year, only one church change, quite a few job changes, but when you move 1200 miles away, all of those take on a whole new level of starting over.

Everything has changed.

And yet, through it all, I’ve had this amazing woman by my side.  The only constant in our marriage has been Jesus, and each other.

Thankful doesn’t really begin to say how I feel.  We were united on July 18th, 1998, at 3pm in the afternoon.  While my best-man, my brother Ted, sweated and huffed and puffed at the length of the ceremony and the heat in the church, my father-in-law walked us through our vows and pronounced us man and wife, united as one before God and all those witnesses.

Two made one.

And yet, like the process of sanctification that begins when Jesus saves us and moves toward completion slowly, with each passing day, on that afternoon we were united as one in God’s sight, but the process of becoming truly united was just beginning.  It’s still going, 19 years later.  I think that’s why so many marriages experience such stress and pain in the initial years, because it’s the dying of two selves in their union as one.  Each one must take the lower place to love and serve the other, subduing our own selfish desires in order to help the other.

The way up is down.  The way to unity is through becoming less, thinking more of your bride than you do of yourself.  Paul said it in Ephesians 5:

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for her.” 

That don’t happen overnight.  It takes time, and a daily dying to self.

My wife has taught me so much about that.

It’s a journey…and on our current leg, we’ve experienced a new closeness that only comes from the trial.  The unity continues to be made reality.

19 years.  Blessed.  Thankful.  Joyful.


I love you, Amanda…more today than yesterday, but not as much as tomorrow.


Straining to See

(This is another post by my amazing wife as she shares her thoughts on the journey we’re on.  Once again, I am so thankful for her willingness to step into this and open her heart up)

I’ve been in complete denial.

You see, just about eleven months ago I had one of those milestone birthdays.  Yep, the big 4-0!!!  Although, I think my denial started prior to that birthday, it only intensified once it rolled around.  At first, I blamed it on poor lighting, microscopic print or an eyelash in my eye, but no matter how hard I strained or squinted, the letters and words on the page would NOT snap into focus.

Even though I’ve worn contacts since high school my suspicions were confirmed after a recent  routine eye exam:  it was time for a pair of “readers”.  Blegh!  Already?  I thought I had at least a few more years to go!  So over the last couple of weeks I’ve been adjusting to this new accessory of sorts.  I’m armed and ready with several pair, stashed in various spots, I can pull out in a moments notice in order to see clearly!

This minor little thing has been only one of the many adjustments and changes over the last year.  Boy, there’s been so many!  Some big, some small.  Lots of ups and lots of downs.  It’s been a crazy ride!  And to be honest, I’m tired.  I’m ready for the ride to be over.  We all are.  I read it on the pages of my journal, I see it on Matt’s face and I hear it in my kiddo’s voices.

I told a dear friend the other day, as much as I’m grateful for God’s Word and the confirmation and encouragement it brings, I find myself feeling like it’s “all talk and no action”.  (And yes, I’ve taken that complaint to God, too!)  We continue to seek, pray and wait and nothing is happening.  Sure, it’s been all the right verses at all the right times but I want to SEE something!  Show… me… the ACTION!  I want something tangible.

We’ve taken steps of faith.  We’ve tried to follow His leading and obey His call.  We left when He said “go”.  So, now what?  “When, Lord?  When will all the pieces start to fall into place?  You do remember that there’s the matter of a job, a house, and a life to settle into, right?”

And then one day last week, He led me to Psalm 119, verses 81-82 (NLT):

“I’m worn out from waiting for Your rescue, 

but I have put my hope in Your word.  

My eyes are straining to see Your promises come true.

When will You comfort me?”

Oh My Goodness!!!  Yes, yes, yes!  I’m worn out.  I’m straining to see Your plans unfold, Lord!  The plans You have for me and my family.  Just as I strained to see those words on the page without my readers I’m desperately looking for the next step.  Left or right?  But I feel like everything is so out of focus right now.  No matter how hard I try to make sense of it all or will things into motion, everything continues to be hazy and fuzzy without a clear answer in sight.  And yet a couple days later, He reminded me in John 20 that in His timing all WILL be seen.

The passage tells us it was the Sunday after Jesus had been crucified and died a horrible, brutal death.  His disciples, undeniably, were confused, full of doubts, grieving, and striving to understand what they had just experienced.  It’s in the midst of all their emotions God allows them to see the tangible.

They saw… the stone rolled away.

They saw… the empty tomb.

They saw… the linen wrappings and the folded head cloth.

They saw… the two angels.

They saw… the one they thought was a gardener.

They… saw… JESUS!

Just a few days ago He was dead yet there He was living and breathing!  He had conquered death and escaped it’s grip to offer them a chance to see and believe!  He even made an appearance to doubting Thomas, the one who would not believe unless he saw the nail scarred hands and pierced side.  Jesus let Thomas see the tangible and urged him to be faithless no more.  Just believe!  In fact, in that moment He gave a promise to those of us who didn’t physically see that day.  “Blessed are those who believe without seeing me” (John 20: 29).

It was then in my Thomas-like doubt and confusion He came renewing and filling me with a fresh hope.  Jesus reminded me in the midst of all my straining to see, He is my tangible!  He knows our needs and even our wants and His plan will be revealed in due time.  His time.

I’m not guaranteed an answer to every question I pose and I may not even understand it all this side of eternity, but I know The One who does, and I can trust Him.

As we prepared to take Communion at church on Sunday, I couldn’t help but smile as our pastor invited the congregation to “feast on the tangible”.  The bread and the wine representing His body and blood.  Ordinary elements so simple yet so profound.  Something right in front of my eyes to remind me/us what He did, giving strength and power to keep going on.  If He loves us so much to lay down His life and then raise it up again, surely He can light the path before us and set it all into motion at the right time.

And I think in my straining to see, He’s giving me the grace to begin to see clearly.

Some Coffee, Dr. Stanley, and the Goodness of God

“Charles Stanley…you know who he is, right?”

I smiled at the gentleman addressing my friend and me at Starbucks.  He was probably in his early 70s, had a large study Bible in his hand, and I guess he figured two “young” dudes like us might not know the legendary preacher from Georgia was.

“Yessir, I know who he is” my friend said, at which time the man turned and looked straight at me and said, “Charles Stanley said ‘When God’s says wait, it’s because He’s got something better coming.’ ”

I almost laughed out loud, as did my friend.  We had just been talking about the craziness of my life right now, and how God had been doing some crazy things to confirm He was in control.  This gentlemen had obviously seen my friend in the coffee shop before, and came by to say hello.  Then he dropped the Stanley-bomb on us.

“When God says wait, it’s because He’s got something better coming.”

I don’t know if those are Dr. Stanley’s exact words or not, and that’s not really the point.  What I do know is they were words the Lord meant for me that morning.  In many ways, and through many people, He has been quietly reassuring me that He has this, and us, and that I just need to trust Him.

If you’ve been following along with us on this adventure, you’re probably reading this and going “Matt…you haven’t learned THAT lesson by now?!!”

Well…evidently not.  I’m a tad hard headed.  And I’m thankful that when my hard-headedness rises up to full stature, Jesus has such a kind and loving way of meeting me where I am and reminding me, yet again, of His goodness.

Here is a snippet of some of the things the Lord has done the last few weeks:

  • I was sitting on the porch one morning, drinking my coffee (have you noticed the common denominator of coffee in most of these posts????) and praying.  Instead of communion with God and quietly trusting Him, my mind was filling with concerns, worries, and what jobs I need to be applying for today when a still, small voice whispers “Trust Me…I’ve got this.”  I stopped and sat for a moment…and then started to spout out my “but what about” when, again, that still, small voice whispers “Trust Me…I’ve got this.”
  • Three times in the last ten days, the Lord has drawn my attention to Isaiah 30:18-21.  Once, in my devotions.  Then the same day, a text from a good friend with a picture of those very verses.  Then this week, my sisters shared with me that she was reading through that chapter, and when she did,  thought of us.  What are those words, you ask?  “Therefore the Lord will wait, that He may be gracious to you; and therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you.  For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for Him.” 
  • Friday night, I received an email from a friend back in NC who wanted to share his own journey with us.  Reading his story brought tears to my eyes, as it is the same story as ours, when you get right down to it: waiting on the Lord.  In my friends words, as he was waiting on the Lord to guide his decisions about work and family, the Lord reassured him that, “When I step in, you will know it.”  He shared with me that “When He steps in, you, and all of us who have been waiting, are going to know it.”  That couldn’t have come at a better time.
  • And then there was the day that some of the leaders of our church here in OKC prayed over me, and for our family.  The Lord put words on their hearts and in their mouths that only He would know, things that only the Holy Spirit could reveal to them, and thus striking a deep chord within me that resonated on and on: “I’ve got this, Matt…trust me.”

And if that wasn’t enough, for the last three weeks we have prayed a prayer from Lamentations 3:21-26:

My soul still remembers and sinks within me.
This I recall to my mind,
Therefore I have hope.

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I hope in Him!”

The Lord is good to those who wait for Him,
To the soul who seeks Him.
It is good that one should hope and wait quietly
For the salvation of the Lord.

But one of the smallest, yet coolest ways the Lord reminded me that He has us this week was the morning He brought me back to Isaiah 41:10, and to a little note in my margin that reads “10-7-16  Thank You Lord“.  You see, that was the day last fall that I awoke early to find my wife’s side of the bed empty.  I went downstairs where she was sitting in “my” chair, curled up under a blanket, writing in her journal.  This was a week or so after “The Push“, but we hadn’t taken any steps yet.  I was afraid of what the “next step” would be, as I knew it would require my stepping down from ministry and from my job.

Amanda looked up at me that morning, tears in her eyes, and said “Matt, I don’t know how much more of this I can take.”  Remember, this journey had started earlier in the year, and we had been through a LOT of waiting and praying by this point, coupled with a lot of clear signs that we were about to go through some major changes.  It was weighing on both of us, but especially my wife.

That morning, I knelt beside her, grabbed her hand, and prayed.  I pulled a Gideon, putting out a fleece, as it were, asking the Lord that, if I was supposed to go and talk to our senior pastor, I needed Him to make it absolutely clear.  Well, long story a little shorter:  I arrived at church for our staff meeting, and a few minutes in our pastor looks at all of us and says, “Listen, if the Lord is moving any of you in a different direction, please come and talk to me about it.  I want to help.”

Uhhhhhhhh…we got through the meeting, I called my wife and shared with her, and then I opened my Bible to read in Isaiah 41.  These words leapt off the page and into my heart:

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you.  Yes I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

And from there, this journey began, and as I sat at my sister’s table this week and read those words again, I smiled.

 “Wait…I’ve got something better.”  

 “Trust me…I’ve got this.”

“When I move, you’ll know it.”

Ok, Lord…ok…my thick head is starting to get it.  You’ve got it.  I trust You, because I know You’re good, and I know You love us.  You’ve reminded me again and again, just this week.