Letting Patience Work

That’s my boy, camped out in front of my parent’s door, waiting for me to come home from visiting some friends before we left NC.  For a kid who repeatedly says, “But I don’t LIKE to be patient!” he sure seemed to exhibit it that day, waiting so long that he finally gave up and fell asleep.  I talk to him all the time about being patient, about waiting (Lord knows, we’ve had plenty of examples of it lately).  My little man is a mini-me in more ways that his looks, its seems.

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience, but let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect, complete, lacking nothing.” James 1:2-4

I’ll be honest…this is not one of my favorite group of verses in the Bible.  Truth?  I’d like to pretend it wasn’t there, but that’s like wishing the sky wasn’t blue or that water wasn’t wet.  It’s there, whether I like it or not.

This morning I told my wife that I must not have grasped the lesson I needed to learn over the past 6 months, because here were are again in a period of waiting.  As I’ve said before, waiting is not a passive thing, but it’s an active hope of what is to come.  Waiting, it seems, is part and parcel with faith, the substance of things hoped for, but not yet seen.  James’ words above serve to reinforce this idea.  The trial, whatever it may be for you and me, comes and tests our faith.  The testing of our faith, the examination of it’s quality, serves to help us learn to be patient, and patience works in us to make us perfect.

That you may be perfect, complete, lacking nothing.

For months, the journey involved waiting on the Lord to show us the where of this journey, the place He was sending us, and He has indeed led us out of North Carolina to, quite literally, a broad and spacious land (Psalm 118:5) in Oklahoma.  Yet now that we are here, we are waiting again, this time on the why.  Why move us from the home we loved?  Why take me out of a church and a ministry that I loved?  Why bring us here to, essentially, start over?

I’ve found that I’m in a place where it is very easy to rely on the flesh, to lean on my own understanding, to try to use my own means, instead of being patient and relying on the Holy Spirit to lead, as He has all along this journey.  As a man, providing for my family weighs heavily on me.  I’m putting in job applications, doing the “Linked In” thing for the first time (I seriously always thought it was just spam…you learn something new every day), putting out feelers, as they say.  Scouring job openings wondering how in the world I could fit into them.

In the midst of this, the still, small voice whispers, “Patience Matthew…patience.

That you may be perfect, complete, lacking nothing.

Letting patience work is not my strong suit, and yet James says I’m to count it all joy.  I struggle not to go crazy in the waiting, and I’m supposed to consider it joy?  The only way I know how to handle this is to continually remind myself of what God has already done.  I’m so thankful I’ve kept a journal through all this, because I am prone to forget.  I try to remember how far He has brought us, both in actual distances and spiritually.  I return to those little stones of remembrance that I set up in my mind, those little monuments of His faithfulness up, again and again.

That you may be perfect, complete, lacking nothing.

In the waiting, in the patience, God is teaching us to listen to the Holy Spirit as He speaks to us in the Word, and in the day-to-day circumstances of life.  To really stop…wait…and listen.  He is teaching us to trust Him, even when the way doesn’t make sense to our human minds.  He is teaching us to obey when He says “go”, and to…sigh…sit still when He says to stay.

That you may be perfect, complete, lacking nothing.

I’m not there yet, y’all.  I suspect you aren’t either.  I have to remind myself daily this journey we are on is not primarily about moving to a new city or finding a job, or about any of the myriad things we all deal with in our day-to-day lives.  Above all, it’s about Jesus.  It’s about His will, not mine.  It’s about how the Holy Spirit is doing the work of making us more like Jesus through the journey, through the trial.

And it’s also a reminder that we never really arrive in this life, but continue on a long journey that will only be complete when we see Jesus face to face.  As John, one of Jesus’ closest friends, wrote:

“…and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” (1 John 3:2)

I long to see Him, more and more with each year of life.  And one day, I will.  One day…but not yet.  One day, faith will be sight.  One day, the waiting will be over.  One day, I won’t struggle with doubts, with fear, with worry.  One day.  Until then, like my boy waiting on my return, we wait for Jesus to come and make all things new.

We go on letting patience do it’s work in us so one day we, too,  may be perfect, complete, lacking nothing.  

Stay on the Path


This is another post by my amazing wife, Amanda.  Watching her draw near to the Lord through this journey has been one of my greatest blessings.  I knew she was an amazing woman already, but my love for her has grown exponentially as we’ve walked this road together.  She is the kind of wife Proverbs 31 speaks of, and I am unbelievably grateful. – Matt

Well, I’ve accomplished a first.  After 20 years of going back and forth from North Carolina to Oklahoma, last week I drove the entire distance by myself!  Of course that may not sound like a major feat, and granted it wasn’t one of our marathon straight-thru drives like we’ve done so many times in the past, but never-the-less it was 1,172 miles all by myself.  We loaded up both the cars with barely enough room for even our own kids, and set out on our great adventure.  Matt and one kid in the “White Mamba” & me and the other two in “Silver Streak”  (Yes, we’ve named our cars).

Whew!  Y’all!  That’s a long time behind the wheel of a car!  Thankfully, it’s a pretty straight shot.  Head west on Interstate 40 all the way to Oklahoma City, just follow the signs.  However, I knew this would be a difficult trip, not just because I was driving the whole way myself, but also because I was leaving the only home I’ve ever known for completely new territory.

A little over nine months ago, God made it abundantly clear that we were to take our family and move, to step out into the unknown.  And now, finally, after months and months of waiting and more confirmations the day had finally arrived.  We were to “get moving”, “break camp and move on”, go back to the land we had “scouted out”..back to Bethel and dwell there.

Tears were shed as we took that right turn onto I-40 West, but I also had an incredible, unexplainable peace that only comes from The Lord and the power of His Holy Spirit.  Although day two rolled around and came at me with a vengeance, and it wasn’t long before the tears started flowing and the doubts started flooding my mind.  “What in the world are we doing?  I’m 40 years old!!!!  I’ve left behind family, friends, familiarity….I’m 40 years old and starting from scratch!  Who wants to do that?!  What if… what if…what if…”  Over the two day drive, I wrestled back and forth, up, down, and sideways with every emotion possible.

It was about the time we crossed the Tennessee/Arkansas border that we landed in the middle of a sea of 18 wheelers.  For at least a solid hour and a half we were literally the only two cars in the midst of those big trucks.  I have mad respect for those people who drive those things (my brother being one of them).  They work crazy long hours, driving in all kinds of weather and traffic but I do NOT want to be driving neck and neck with them for any length of time.  This time was certainly no different.  In my mind I thought, “if only there was another way, a different route.”

And just like that, that still small voice reminded me of a verse I had read just the week before.  One of the many verses The Lord had used to confirm it was in fact, Oklahoma.

“Stay on the path that the Lord your God has commanded you to follow.  Then you will live long and prosperous lives in the land you are about to enter and occupy.”  Deut. 5:33

Stay on the path, Amanda.  And in this case, not just I-40 West.  Remember what The Lord, your God, has shown you through His Word, confirming over and over these last nine months. And what about nine days ago, heck, nine hours ago?  I walk by faith not by sight (or my feelings).  Keep on the path, Amanda.  For He who hems me in on every side and carries me each new day in His arms Who goes with me.  Repeat after me… “God said it…I believe it…That settles it”.

You know it wasn’t long after that when the sea of 18-wheelers parted and I was able to breathe a little easier again,  and just up ahead I noticed the Ozark Mountains for the very first time.  I don’t think I’ve ever really seen this stretch of land before on any of our previous trips, and it was beautiful!  Green rolling hills, trees growing tall, sweet farms with red barns, mama cows with their babies…like a pastoral painting in the middle of Arkansas!  Of all the places!  If we had gone a different route other than the tried and true path of I-40 West I would have missed that peaceful scene.  Yes, it was a little scary and nerve racking for a while, but oh! The beauty that was to follow!

I want to stay on the path!  His path.  His way might not be the easiest but it’s always the best.  Lord, help me to keep my eyes fixed on You and Your Word, the promises and whispers you’ve spoken to me!  Not just to those who have gone before me but to me, 40 year old, Amanda, who’s starting from scratch.  So I press on, by the grace of God, aiming to stay the course, looking to what’s ahead.

Follow Me

How do you explain the feeling?  How can you find the right words to convey what is going on within you?  How is there a way to really get someone to know what it feels like?  How do you really explain when Jesus calls you to follow Him?

I have wrestled with this question for a week now.  I have thought over the last year as I read through my journals and over this blog.  I have worked through it as I’ve talked with my wife and kids, and as I’ve tried to share with family and friends.  Even in person, even when time is not an issue, even when your words aren’t limited by how much someone will read (or not), it’s so hard to tell exactly what it feels like.  It’s so hard to convey the truth of it all.

Thinking through all of these things, I was reading in John chapter 1 tonight, and verse 43 jumped out at me:

“The following day Jesus wanted to go to Galilee, and He found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow Me.’ ” 

Think about that.  Jesus found Philip (not the other way around), and then spoke two words to him.  Now think about how those two words changed Philip’s life forever.  Think about what this call meant to Philip.  He could ignore it, right?  I mean, he could have just stayed in Bethsaida and continued his life as it was.  That’s comfortable, right?  That’s what we all want to do, really…be comfortable…keep things where we can manage them, keep the status quo.

Or, as crazy as it sounded, Philip could follow this Man into an adventure unlike any the world had seen before, an adventure that would literally change the world. He could follow in the footsteps of the Master, trusting Him, learning from Him…being completely transformed by Him.

Is there really even a choice between those two things?  Really?  When Jesus calls us and says, “Follow Me”, do we really even want to consider the option to stay where we are?

Well…yeah. We’re human.  We have family here, family we love and are extremely close to, and leaving family is never easy.  We have some incredible friends, friends who have been with us in trial and blessing, thick and thin.  We have been a part of the work that Jesus is doing in saving the lost, equipping the saints, and expanding His kingdom.  Our kids were born here, made friends here, learned to ride bikes here, started growing up too fast here.

And then one day, a day like any other, Jesus says, “Follow Me”, and He begins to stir something new in me, and in my wife.  From that day on, that stirring grows and grows inside you, like the light grows in the east when a new day begins to dawn, from the first sliver of grey until the bursting of the burning ball appears at the edge of the horizon and the entire sky is blazing with it’s light.  You can’t ignore it; you have to respond.

And you have to go.

I could share all the ways that Jesus has done this in us, and Amanda could do the same.  We could list all the times God has blown our minds through His Word, or when He has spoken in a still, small voice by His Spirit working in us.  We could write out a day-by-day time line of how the call to follow Jesus grew and grew and grew until we either obeyed, or stayed.  But staying really isn’t an option, not really, once Jesus has your heart. 

So no matter how much it hurts to go, we must.  Though the goodbyes are more painful than we’d imagined, we must go.  We no longer have to wonder where He has called us, because He’s made that clear to us.  We’re moving to Oklahoma City, to a place I once called home, and while we loved to visit, I never thought I’d return there to live.  This city that was home to my parents and all of their 5 kids for just over a decade is where, nearly 3 decades later, Jesus is calling my family to.

There is no job that is calling me.  There is no house with a down payment waiting.  There isn’t an assurance of anything but this:  that Amanda and I have within us the assurance of a peace that passes all understanding (because we don’t understand!) that this, this city and this time, is where Jesus is calling us to follow; that this is what He has been stirring in us for over a year now, that this is what He has for us…right now.

Philip didn’t know what was in store for him that day Jesus called him to follow, and neither do we.  But the cool thing about following Jesus is this:  He goes in front of us.  We just have to follow in His footsteps.

The Journey is the Destination…Sort Of

I don’t mean to brag, but I’m pretty good with directions.  I know…I know…most guys think that, but ask my wife, she’ll tell you it’s true.  Even in a new city I can usually find my way around pretty quickly.  I can always figure out north, south, east and west and get my bearings.  And before you ask, I was like this before we had GPS and smartphones.

The trick, you see, is keeping my eyes and mind on the destination, the place we’re heading, and not letting other things get in between me and that goal.   Keep the main thing the main thing, if you will.  And that works, most of the time.

For most of my life, and all of my kid’s life, we have made a periodic journey to visit family in Oklahoma.  I’ve made that trip more times than I can count, but one thing I know:  I have never just taken my time and enjoyed the journey.  For the most part, my mind was set on the unspoken gauntlet that all of my family has  thrown down, the gauntlet of “who can make it the quickest.”  For what it’s worth, I had the record in hand during college…only to have my alternator go out 2 hours from Oklahoma City.  That’s a technicality.  But I digress.

The trip along I-40 is 1200 miles through some of the most beautiful country in the world.   We pass through western NC and the Blue Ridge Mountains.  It goes across the entire length of Tennessee, from the beauty of the Smokies, the glam of Nashville, until crossing the mighty Mississippi.  Then there’s Arkansas.  I’ll leave that there, although they have finally finished most of their road projects, and there is a Taco Bueno in Conway, which is definitely a redeeming factor.  Finally, you cross into Oklahoma and through the Ozark mountains (hills, really) and onto the majesty of the Great Plains.

Most of this I experienced only through the windshield or in brief pit stops over the years.  I saw it, but I didn’t enjoy it, I didn’t take it in.  I would usually make the trip straight through (18 plus hours of it) only stopping as needed.  If we had 7  days to spend, then 2 of them would be spent driving out and back, two of them would be spent recovering from the drive, and 3 would be spent with family.  I jest…but only sort of.

Until this last trip.  For the first time in my life, I had no timetable, no urgent occasion to arrive for, and nothing we had to get back in a hurry to.  It was literally open- ended (I have never, ever traveled like that before).  We decided to take our time, to see the sights, to “stop and smell the roses”, only it was late January, so there were no roses…speaking figuratively, you see.  We took our kids to see Chimney Rock in NC.  It was closed, but we skipped rocks in the river and sipped coffee in pretty much the most beautiful surroundings you can imagine.

We took in the lights of Nashville and showed my boy the home of the Nashville Predators (his new favorite hockey team…sorry Hurricanes).  We walked around historic Franklin, TN on an insanely cold and blustery day, showing our kids the places their folks had visited a month before.  We had a good portion of the Natchez Trace parkway to ourselves, and as we drove along it I marveled at the size of this wilderness so close to Nash-Vegas.  We stopped at the largest Bass Pro Shop in the world, housed inside the Pyramid in Memphis, and Si and I rode the elevator to the top (see pic above), and gazed out on the wonder of the Mississippi.  Even Arkansas looked pretty from there.

The whole trip only took 2 days, but it was so much more fun, more relaxed, and more enjoyable than any we had made before.  All because we decided to make the most of the journey and not get so hung up on “getting there.”

Hmmmmm….application?  A big smack upside the head.

On the bigger journey we’re on, it was a reminder not to get so hung up on the place we end up that we forget to take in all the amazing things happening along the way.  It’s incredible easy for me to elevate our destination to the ultimate goal, but when I do that, I miss what Jesus is doing in and for us today.  The big picture can make me forget  the little things that are happening along the way.  It’s easy to forget that all those things we go through in our lives, every little leg of our journeys, is designed to drive us to Jesus, to show us His glory, to show us His wonder, His power, His goodness…His love.  In the big and the small, the routine and the extraordinary, the triumphs and the trials, we are being shaped and formed, molded into the image of Jesus.  Paul, wrote to the church throughout Galatia:

“Oh, my dear children!  I feel as if I’m going through labor pains for you again, and they will continue until Christ is fully developed in your lives.”  (Galatians 4:19, NLT)

And that’s what I meant when I said the journey is the destination…sort of.  Christ fully formed in us…that’s the real destination, the one I’m looking for, but it happens one day, one hour, one moment at a time.  When I get in a hurry, I’m liable to miss Him, just like I missed all those sights along I-40 for years.

Now, let me be honest:  We cannot WAIT to find out where we are going.  It would not be a stretch to say there is not one hour of any day that goes by in which we are not thinking of where we’ll end up, talking about it with our kids, day-dreaming of it, or praying about it.  With each passing day, the tendency to dwell on it increases, the longing for a home grows, the intense desire to finally be there, wherever there is.

The waiting, however hard it is, is not the worst thing.  Even if we have to continue on waiting (Lord, please don’t let that be, though!), the worst thing that could happen to us would be to find out where we’re going, to get, and to think “this is it!  We have arrived!” For us to get to that point and miss Jesus…that would be the worst thing.

So we’re learning to take each day, each moment as the Lord brings it (thanks Ms. Deb for that reminder!), trying our best not look too far ahead, but at the same time keeping the end goal in sight.  And just like that trip to OKC, it’s so much better this way.



Even in the Storm

When I was 12, my family went on vacation to California. It was the only time I’ve been to the Left Coast in my life.  One evening we all trekked down to the beach for a swim. At the time, I was only familiar with the “waves” of the Gulf of Mexico which, it turns out, are mere ripples in comparison to the stuff the Pacific was churning up.

I remember going in to body surf, all 100 pounds of my scrawny self. The first wave caught me, flung me forward and slammed me down into the sand. At that point, for the first time in my life, I understood undertow. It began dragging me back out, then I’d get flung forward again and slammed into the ocean floor.

I don’t know how long this lasted, but I remember thinking “I’m not going to make it.” At what seemed like the last possible moment, a pair of strong hands reached down, grabbed my arm and leg, and flung me back towards the shoreline. It was one of my brother’s friends who somehow got ahold of me and pulled me out.

And though I escaped with only a few cuts and scrapes, I’ve never forgotten the feeling of helplessness as those waves broke over me again and again. There was nothing I could do to get out, nothing I could do to stop the relentless crush as they pounded on me. All I could do was get drug along.

When you step out like we have, there is an accompanying pressure that travels along with you. Whether it’s from without or within, I feel it.  Like those waves pressing down on me in the cold pacific long ago, I feel the crushing pressure to make something happen, to do something, to get results, to prove that I’m not really crazy and I really am following the Lord’s leading.

There’s the pressure to read something into every situation, every verse of Scripture, every song during worship and every line of every sermon.

There’s the pressure to go just pick a state, find a house and hunt for a job when you know He’s telling you to wait.

The pressure to give up and go back. I can’t begin to tell you how huge that wave is. That one comes in pretty frequently.

“Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls; all Your waves and billows have gone over me.” (Psalm 42:7)

That verse is in the middle of a famous song.  It begins with “As the deer pants for the water books, so pants my soul for You, O God.”  If you’re like me and grew up in church the 80’s, your mind probably goes right to the old chorus we used to sing.  My mind always went to some nice and peaceful scene, of a meadow and a deer bending down to take a drink from a cool mountain-fed stream.

In reality, the psalmist is crying out to God, begging for the Lord to show up, to save, to quench his thirst.  He’s in a dry and thirsty land devoid of water.  It’s not the tranquil mountain scene I used to think of.  It’s a very real place where so many of us find ourselves:  when the rug gets pulled out from under us, when the diagnosis comes back, when the job ends, when the child goes prodigal.  It’s the place when the waves just keep pounding and pounding and pounding, and you don’t know what else to do.

“I will say to God my Rock, ‘Why have You forgotten me?’ ” (v. 9)

Last week, the waves came in so quick and so heavy I was literally overwhelmed.  I did the only thing I knew to do:  I got in the car and went and found a quiet place where I could just cry out to God. And though my words weren’t as eloquent as the psalms, they came from the same place.  It’s a place of complete and total helplessness, like when I was caught in those waves as a kid, just being pulled along and hoping that someone would get to me.  I poured out my soul to the Lord, my fears, my anger, my anxieties, my complete inability to “fix” this situation, and my absolute and total dependence on Him to rescue.

“Why are you cast down, O my soul?  And why are you disquieted within me?”

Why?  Well, see the previous 4 months of blogs, but that’s not the point. In my desperation, in my need, the Lord was right there with me.  Psalm 42 ends with this reminder:  “Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.” 

You see, in that storm, in that moment of complete desperation, Jesus reminded me that He was right there with me.  He had never left, in fact, I just took my eyes off Him and focused them on the waves.

It’s easy to do.  Peter did it (famously).  I’ve done it more times than I care to admit.  And Jesus knows.  Every time.  He knows.  And He’s there.  And like Peter crying out when the wind and the waves grew “boisterous”, when I cried out “Lord, save me!”  He did.

There’s another story about Jesus and waves, found in Luke 8.  Jesus is with the disciples out on a boat in the Sea of Galilee.  After a long day of ministry, He’s worn out and He falls asleep.  Well, a great storm blows in, and the disciples are freaking out as the waves grew and the ship took on water, so they ran to Jesus and exclaimed “Lord, we’re dying!!!”

And Jesus got up, rebuked the wind and waves…and they stopped. And then the Lord looks at His friends, the guys He chose to do ministry with, the guys He was going to use to change the world forever, and says “Where is your faith?”

I used to hear that in a condescending tone.  That’s because I didn’t know Jesus.  I now hear that in the voice of my Lord, the One Who loved me so much He gave His life for me.  I hear in those words nothing but Love, and a reminder of where my faith lies.

Jesus is with us in this boat.  He’s the One that told us to get into it.  He’s well aware of the waves, of the wind, of the uncertainty, of the storm.  He’s with me, and He just wants me to trust Him, to keep my eyes fixed on Him and not on the waves, and to walk out on the water He’s led us to.






From Generation to Generation

(This is another post by my beautiful bride as she helps chronicle this journey the Lord has us on.  I am so thankful for her willingness to share her thoughts here, as I know this isn’t easy for her to do.  I couldn’t be more proud of her, and more thankful for how God is using her.)

My kids LOVE a good story.  Especially if it’s one that we tell over and over again.  I think I first realized this when my oldest was three or four, she had a slight obsession with The Three Little Pigs.  Every day, she and I would make up silly stories based loosely off of the timeless tale. (In fact, that might be why she’s so terrified of wolves to this day, ha!).  I’d always start off with “Once upon a time, there were three little pigs”…  and from there the possibilities were endless.  We’d name the pigs and send them off on wild, grand adventures.  Each day came a new adventure but she never seem to tire of our storytelling sessions.

Fast forward six years and while the story itself has changed, the love for details, characters, and verbal story telling has not.  Made up, imaginary fantasies or real life occurrences, it makes no difference.  And now, all three kids seem to perk up when there’s a story to be told.   But the ones they really enjoy hearing are the ones usually involving something from our past or a story of when they were babies.  And no matter how many times they hear it, somehow it never seems to get old.

Whether you realize it or not, each one of us is smack in the middle of our own story.  And as Christians we have the most amazing, beautiful tale of redemption and love.  A story to be told and proclaimed!  The Creator of the Universe left the splendor of heaven for a wretch like me!  For all of us!  He doesn’t want anyone to perish but that all come to repentance.  If we turn to Him, asking for forgiveness, He takes our sins and washes us clean, making us whole and new!  And all who receive Him as Lord and Savior will one day be in His presence, face to face, for all eternity!  What a glorious thought!  When I think of this beautiful story that I’m a part of I’m reminded of that old wonderful hymn by Fanny Crosby…

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!

Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!

Heir of salvation, purchase of God,

Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.

This is my story, this is my song,

Praising my Savior all the day long; 

This is my story, this is my song,

Praising my Savior all the day long.

As marvelous as that is, our stories just don’t end there!  Until we are in the presence of The Lord, He continues to write the pages, record and number our days.  A dear pastor friend reminded Matt and me a while back that God doesn’t write boring stories.  It’s impossible!  Isn’t that the truth?!  We needed that reminder.  We needed to remember that the last ten months are just another chapter in our story.  The twists, turns, suspense, heartache and waiting are all part of the story He’s writing and crafting for us until He calls us home.

From early on, we believed that God was not only stirring things up for our lives but also for the lives of our children.  I’ve often prayed the prayer, “Be real to my kids, God.  I don’t want them to think of You as some character in a far off, fantasy-like story but give them opportunities to have a real deal personal encounter with You.  Let them see You.  Let them hear You”.  Be careful what you ask for, right?

Now we knew, it wouldn’t be in our kids best interest to know every single detail of our predicament but sharing the highlights of the ups and downs would work.  As parents, that’s when it’s crucial to seek The Lord and know your own kid(s).

So with this opportunity right here in front of us, we’ve tried to be very honest and open with them regarding this season we are currently in.  I pray that one day, they will think back to this time and have their own stories to share.  I pray that just like the Israelite children after the Exodus they will remember Matt & I telling them about God’s love and the evidence of His goodness.

I pray they will say:

“Hey, remember when God told Mom & Dad to “take your family & move“?”

“Remember during that time, God so faithfully provided and blessed us as a family?”

“Remember when we prayed and prayed and at just the right time, God answered our prayers?”

I pray they understand that God had a purpose for it all.  Yes, I pray that this will be an opportunity for them to KNOW Him!  The King of Kings, Lord of Lords, The Great I AM.

Christians, we have a story to tell!  And each one is beautiful and unique to only you.  Never, has our world been so desperate to hear our stories which in reality all point back to The Greatest Story, the story of Jesus!  Far too often we go about our lives (I’m speaking to myself here, too) without a desire to make Jesus known to those around us.  It’s time our generation praises His works and declares His mighty acts to the next generation. (Psalm 145:4)

Mamas and daddies, tell your stories to those babies at home!  They need opportunities to see God up close and personal and to know Him like never before.  Begin a dialogue with your kids.  Let them see and hear you calling out in times of trouble and rejoicing and praising The God who saves our souls.  Live out your faith in front of their little eyes!

You know, I love how each of our stories are different and set apart from the next but yet they have one thing in common.  The hero and main character in each is all the same.  His name is Jesus.  He makes them all epic, timeless and never boring!  They’re not some fictional tale of something unobtainable.  And no matter how many times they are told, somehow the stories never seem to grow old.  The next generation needs to hear our stories – go tell yours!

“How, then, shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed?  And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?  And how shall they hear without a preacher?”   

Romans 10:14

Back to Bethel

Since my bride was honest in her last post, I figured I might as well be honest, too:  this has not been easy on me.  It’s been 3 months now since I’ve gotten up and gone to work in the morning, 3 months since I’ve had the privilege of standing before our church and leading them in worship, 3 months since I’ve had to do anything.  Now, let me tell you, that sounds great when you’re in the midst of the craziness of everyday life, family and ministry.  And, again to be honest, it has been great in so many ways:  I’ve had a ton of time with my family, some time to just rest, room to breathe, time to think.

One of the things people have said to us as we’ve walked out the path before us is “Man, you guys have such faith!”  I often wonder if what’s being said out loud hides what they’re really thinking: “You guys are absolutely nuts!” Either way, when I hear that, I cringe. Faith?  Us?  My faith is so small!  I doubt constantly. I wonder if I heard wrong, if all this was just bad pizza. I get scared. I feel like a loser. I feel like a failure.




It’s hard.  And when, over and over and over, we keep hearing God say “wait”, well, it’s enough to make you lose your mind.  To me, waiting is an action that’s really the absence of action; it’s the complete opposite of action!  What, Lord?  Do nothing?  Just sit here?  Just wait?  We’ve had every tie that bound us to our community severed:  our home, our church, my job, daily contact with friends….and we’re just supposed to wait???   

Yes.  Wait.

And as we’ve waited, trying to keep an ever shrinking ember of hope alive, one word has kept popping up:  Bethel.  House of God.  Bethel in our devotions.  Bethel in our kid’s school work.  Bethel on road signs.  Bethel on church signs.  Now, I’m not usually given to seeking meaning in every little thing, but Bethel was coming up so frequently, we’d have been crazy to ignore it.

One of the few constants on our journey, actually the only constant, has been the Holy Spirit’s use of the Word of God to guide, direct, and confirm.  As we’ve navigated the waters He’s placed us in, we’ve gotten directions to stay, directions to wait , and at times, the push to go.

So when Bethel kept coming up in the most unlikely of ways, we did what anyone in our situation would do:  we Googled it.  If you’ve never done that, let me assure you, there are a lot of places named Bethel.


Yet I knew a Google search wasn’t where we were going to find the answer.  Like always, it was in prayer and going back to the Scriptures that we’d find the next step.

Bethel was the first place that the Lord God met Jacob and spoke to him.  It was at Bethel that Jacob slept on a rock pillow and dreamed a little dream of angels ascending and descending a ladder between heaven and earth.  At Bethel, God promised Jake the land of his father Isaac and his grandfather Abraham.  It was during this first encounter at Bethel that Jacob set his heart to follow the Lord.

Then sometime later, Jacob goes back to Bethel (Genesis 35). This time, the Lord told him to go.  He told him to go there, to dwell there (that means to abide, to remain), and to build an altar there (to worship).  And Jacob went, and the Lord appeared to him again (Gen 35:9-12), changed his name from Jacob to Israel, and reaffirmed the promise He made to give the land to Jake’s descendants.

You know, sometimes, in order to go forward, you have to go back.

Sometimes in order to find the thing we’ve lost, we have to return to where we last remembered having it.  After praying about it, talking about it, thinking about it, we realized we were to go “back to Bethel”, back to where all the stirrings and unsettledness kicked into high gear, back to where the Lord really started preparing our hearts for this move.  We were going back to Oklahoma.

So we packed up the car and we headed west on I-40.  We took our time, wanting to enjoy the trip across the country with our kids, to take in the sights.  We climbed on boulders in the river below Chimney Rock.  We gawked at the neon lights of Nashvegas.  We drove along the breathtaking beauty of the Natchez Trace parkway.  We rode and elevator to the top of the Pyramid and gazed on the Mighty Mississippi in Memphis.  And finally, after 1200 miles and two full days, we arrived back where it all began:  Oklahoma City.

Thanks to the kindness of my sister and brother-in-law, we’ve had a place to unpack our bags and rest for a bit.  They have made us feel completely at home, and have given us the unrepayable blessing of time to pray and seek the Lord.  For the first time since October, we have worshipped at the same church for 3 consecutive Sundays.  If that sounds insignificant to you, I’ll pray for you.  I can’t explain how HUGE that is for me, for us.  I’ve been able to show my kids around the land I grew up in, the land I left 3 decades ago.

It’s been great, but it hasn’t been easy.  We had hoped for a quick word once we got here, something that would give us clarity about the next step.  Is it here?  Is this where we’re supposed to be long-term?  This was not what we had planned.  And each time we seek an answer we get the one we’ve gotten for so long now:  wait.

So…again…we wait.

Funny thing to close this chapter:  on the way out west, as we were driving in Western North Carolina, I texted a close friend and pastor that I served with at our church.  I let him know we were heading west to seek the Lord.  Immediately, he called me back and said we had been on his heart a lot lately.  That very morning, the Lord had spoken to him in prayer that we needed to go, to get out of NC, to take the next step.  He said he was going to call and talk to me but got into the office and got busy.  It was so awesome to hear that, to receive that confirmation that we were on the right path.  I hung up the phone with tears in my eyes.

Then we passed an exit sign that caused me to throw on my hazards, pull off the side of the highway, and slam the car in reverse to read it again:

Bethel Road.

Ok Lord…we’re listening…while we wait.