Confessions of a Church Planter: There is no where to hide

May 2018 I graduated with my masters and the next day left on a 14 day camping road trip to the west coast. The day after coming back I drove a moving truck up to Rochester, MN where I signed the closing documents on a house and started a new job that Monday. A crazy whirlwind, too crazy to send updates on Facebook… my family let me know that.

December 2016 our church decided to go on a church plant to Rochester, MN and asked me to join. For many reasons, I became convinced I could take this step with confidence that this is where God was leading. It was closer to home in Wisconsin and my heart was carrying a sense of homelessness where I was. It was time to go. From December 2016 to May 2018 God did several things, the main thing being to delay my expected graduation day and lead me into and out of a sort of dating relationship both of which caused me to surrender my fears of the unknown and even surrender of NOT going on the church plant. With confidence I began to trust that there was no where on earth I could put myself where God would not still be beside me.

Finally May 2018 came around and I was one of the last few people to move up to join the church plant. I can imagine any large transition like this, whether for a church plant or just a move, is difficult for everyone and loneliness becomes a faithful companion to many. But it has been sweet to see the Lord faithfully bind our hearts together as family and bring both new believers and faithful servants into our midst.

We went from meeting in homes, to meeting at a small college, to meeting at a school where we tear down and set up every Sunday. Now we are getting into the groove, but it sure gets exhausting. In a good way. One thing I am realizing that is not so obvious with a larger church family, is that there is no room for quarreling, disagreements, or pride. It really ought to be this way with any size church family, but in my experience previously, when there was disagreement between two people it was easy enough to ignore them and go and bond with outher friends because there was enough people. You could join a different small group or start hanging out with people from a different house church. When you’ve got seven or eight single people in your church and theres a disagreement amongst two people, there really is no where to go. The Lord has given me these people to lean into, build up, confide in, conflict with, and reconcile to. You can’t simply find other friends because we’re all we’ve got. And there’s something sweet and encouraging about that.

“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Philippians 2:1-4

Advertisements

New Foundations

For my faithful readers, you have been following a roller coaster ride on the relationship with my mom. I started this blog around 2011…. I think. (Just did a quick archive check… yup, November of 2011)

To do a quick recap (and for anyone that may be stumbling across this for the first time)… at that point in my life I was really struggling with a lot of anger towards her, a lot of temptation to blame her, and a stone cold heart. She’d say mean things to me, blame me for things, tell me I’m wasting time at church; I’d lie about how much I loved her and treated her like a jerk. But, at that time God was really knocking hard at my stone heart, knocking down walls and shining light into deep, dark infected places. The deconstruction began followed by this long, slow rebuilding of a relationship. The ministry of reconciliation that God has called us to mainly comes in sharing the gospel (reconciliation with Him, through faith in Jesus’s sacrifice and resurrection), but I believe it carries out in our relationships with one another. Specifically, I believe God has called ME to be reconciled to MY MOM. (2 Cor 5:11-21, Rom 12:18)

I was not convinced she was a believer at that time in 2011. It wasn’t until her boyfriend who’d been living with us for five years was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer and died a month later. It was during that time that the gospel became the most important truth, especially for Jeff. The need for Jeff to believe it allowed us to have conversations that resulted in her accepting, believing, and affirming that the Lord Jesus is her Savior and she will spend eternity with Him in heaven.

After that, everything changed. But, the one thing that was different was I found myself wishing she wasn’t saved so she would suffer for the things I’ve suffered through. Harsh, right?  I think Jonah probably felt similar, but I am ashamed…

So it was clear to me by my attitude that there was a lot of work to do in my heart. So God continued to deconstruct and renovate my heart like the good carpenter he is. This covers the last two years. There’s high points and low points, but it wasn’t until this last Christmas Break that I reached the lowest point and considered giving up on the relationship all together. “I’m done! This woman is infuriating!” I told the Lord on my 5 hour drive home.

I was driving back to Iowa to a conference in Des Moines called “Faithwalkers” where we gather and hear teachings and encouragement from our sister churches all over the midwestern USA. God always has a way of using that time to redirect my life. A pastor of ours shared about trials and how the key to overcoming trials isn’t their finish, but in our endurance. That to endure is God’s prime objective. (Rom 5:3, Heb 10:36, James 1:2-3, Col 1:9-11) If we don’t… what does that say of our faith? So I was encouraged as it says in Colossians to pray this:

 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.

May you be strengthened with power… so that you may have great endurance and patience…

I was really struck by that and considered that maybe God wasn’t calling me to give up, maybe this was a lowest of the low points. Maybe God is calling me to endure through the highs and lows of this journey to reconciliation. What I needed was to pray to persevere! God put it on my heart to do a little book study with my mom via the phone, so I mailed her some materials (because at this point I was all too frustrated to talk with her on the phone) and I thought if any thing could help this relationship, surely it was God’s word.

I thought Maybe I can’t trust her yet, and that’s ok. I can rest in the safety of God’s word. 

So each week (it’s been 3 now) we call each other on the phone and for 2 hours or so we study through the gospel answering questions about how Jesus claimed to be God and how we can have assurance for eternal life through faith in the blood of Jesus. There’s questions at the end that ask you to reflect on what you just read and there’s nothing sweeter than hearing my mom say “I’m so grateful for God’s mercy and I’m so glad I know I have eternal life because of Jesus.”

This breaks my heart of stone.

In all of my attempts of reconciliation, I never once realized how what we really needed wasn’t heart to hearts of disclosing past wounds (though there is time for that) or taking unsafe chances of sharing my life with her. What we need is a new foundation built up from the truth of the gospel. It’s there I find courage to confess my sins, to share how the truth impacts my life, to open up about who I am. Its there I build trust with a women who has the Holy Spirit living and active inside of her. It’s possible all of my attempts that seemed more harmful than good to reconcile weren’t useless, but it’s possible (and I pray so much for) that rebuilding our relationship on the word through studying it together will yield greater fruit than my plans to relive and bring up the past ever could have. I don’t mean to say there aren’t things we need to talk about or that everything is forgotten, but rather to allow time for God to knit our hearts together and to allow His word and His timing to reconcile our relationship. By having a relationship built on the trust of the Lord and His word, it makes it possible to talk about past hurts and pains in light of the gospel. It may be that the most glorious thing God will do with my life is to reconcile my relationship between me and my mom. And I pray for that. I’ve always prayed for that… that I would see His glory.

And a glorious thing it will be. Please pray for me. I am encouraged at what God has done in 3 weeks, but I need to depend on the Lord for strength and love and I can’t do it alone. Thank you!

In His love,
Teresa

 

There’s No Other Way

Lord, I lie awake in the night thinking of your truth.
Of your justice, of your ways.
I think of those who have weaker faith,
denying your ways, denying your stakes. 
I hear them saying “Ours and no other way”
How can they attribute their lives to their truth
all the while denying… you?
How are they righteous, to what peace do they pray?
 
Rescue them from the lies they spread
the truths they simply cannot comprehend. 
“Be strong for those of weaker faith.”
I can’t deny it, but I’m in disgrace. 
Is it merely their lack of understanding?
But then what doubts run through my head!
The truth is too firm here, for me to bend. 
Rescue them, before they all turn over dead. 
 
And what people we are to claim what you’ve done
Yet, we all walk around like we’re someone else’s son.
Bring truth to our lives and what it means to be free,
because of your blood… oh how disappointed you must be.
People question the truth you see, by the lives of those living
in      the      name      of      Thee.
Let us stand tall and firm, with the spirit in Him.
Not another God, but our God within. 
 
Help me understand how it possible too see, three in one.
Not one of three… like so many believe… 
Because, that too even to me, would outright be blasphemy. 
But their banner keeps marching, high and bright.
And it makes me question who are these off in a fight…
To prove what is right…but what about our iniquities?
Who then would pay the price?
It was ours to pay… it was ours to die. You took that strife.
 
There’s no other way. “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”