Destiny Church in the Making
Off into the Sunset

Almost a year ago, we rode off into the sunset in our beat up car in pursuit of a dream. The wall in front of us seemed unscalable. The view beyond our fears was blurred with tears and unknowns. We cried. We wrestled with God and then we cried some more. Our doubts shouted loud as our three kids on that three day drive.

On the Sunday of the first Destiny service, Chris and I were both sick to our stomachs. Presenting Destiny Church to Jacksonville was like sending a child off to school for the first time. The emotion was overwhelming. The insecurity of being preacher, worship leader, children’s pastor, and all else was hard to ignore. If someone didn’t like Destiny, we knew they didn’t like us. We desperately missed the comfort of home...the ease of being known.

That first sun set many nights ago and now we call the sunshine state home. The palm tree in the front yard reminds us when we start to forget. I've found that I like wearing flip flops in December. I don’t mind a little sand in my car and I still smile when I cross the river. I love this city. I love our people. I even didn’t mind that a lizard ran out from under the Christmas tree as we opened our gifts the other day. We didn't bother trying to catch him. We've come to find it’s a futile pursuit.

Many things on this journey have been easier than we expected, but we were severely unprepared for a few. The transition was difficult but God’s grace was and still is more than enough. Our life is fuller than ever but the yoke is easy and the burden is light in the shadow of His call. More than ever we can see that God has us hemmed in behind and before. We can see the loops He’s knit to connect our past to our future and all the while holding us together in the present. He has been so faithful to the work He began in us. We are spoiled by His goodness. We are overwhelmed by His love. We consider this call a gift...and we even like ours with lizards on top.

 

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Between the Rain


Seven months into our church plant and we continue to be extremely blessed. We have an amazing group of people. We have strong leaders that show up every Sunday morning when dew is still on the ground to help us get ready and a whole bunch of servants that flood the theater hallway at around 11:40 to clean up. Those of us watching the movie times at Regal on Sunday will get that. We also have several families that feel called to help the vision throughout the week. We are very blessed, but I would be lying if I said we didn’t all grow weary at times. There have been many Sunday mornings that, like I often say to my children, “Someone woke up on the grumpy side of the bed.” We have all felt the sting of routine more than once, and I am the chief of all sinners.


Lately, I have been camping around the warm light of Galatians 6:9, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” I’ve pitched a tent and I’ve been challenged by the need to rough it. Routine and the constancy of it can make me feel like I’m living in the haze that follows a chocolate, marshmallow, and graham cracker sugar high. I am reminded that the majority of life seems to be spent in-between the reaping, in the not growing weary, in the doing good, and in the not giving up.


Deuteronomy 11:15 in the Message says that God will “take charge of sending the rain at the right time, both autumn and spring rains…” In Israel, there are about six months of the year that go without rain. During these seasons, the land is dry and parched. God is in the rain, but He’s also in-between the raindrops. We are told in His Word to “live in his presence in holy reverence, follow the road he sets out for [us], love him, serve God, [our] God, with everything [we] have in [us], obey the commandments and regulations of God that I’m commanding [us] today—live a good life” (Deuteronomy 10:12-13 Message). “A good life” is not just marked by abundance and ease. It is in following “the road He sets out” no matter the season.


When I grow weary, I wonder if my good works matter. I compare and contemplate giving up. In those weak moments, God’s convicting power reminds me that my works are my “holy reverence” to Him. They shouldn’t to be dependent on how I feel or what the climate of my life is at the moment. I don’t obey and love just for the harvest. I love because He first loved me. It is my service to Him…my holy act of worship. If I do what I am called to: continuing to do good out of love even when I see no results, then God will do what only He can do: bring a harvest.


In the seasons between the rains, I have to fix my eyes on God and not my surroundings. First Samuel 12:21 in the Message warns us not to “chase after ghost-gods.” When in the desert seasons of life, often we focus on vain imaginations…ghost-gods...things that aren’t real. God’s Word is truth and completely trustworthy. In that same chapter, Samuel tells the Israelites, “I’m staying right here at my post praying for you and teaching you the good and right way to live” (vs.23). I believe that is our prescription in the waiting. God is telling us over and over (if you don’t mind my paraphrase), “There will be a lot of waiting. There will be many things that don’t look right, but I will come through for you. What you cannot see is more real than what you can.” He is still here in the waiting, changing the atmosphere even when the forecast stays the same.

 

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Still All In


So, we went the way of most city dwellers and traded our gluttonous 10 miles a gallon spacious vehicle in for a much more compact one, at 29 miles a gallon (on a good day and when your foot isn’t made of led). This crossover is pretty much identical to every other one on the road. It has three rows, but it was really made for two. We have at least one more child than the average family buying these things so we needed the extra seats. Fortunately…or probably more unfortunately, you can reach out and touch everyone in the car.

Obviously, I was a reluctant sale on this change. I normally am toward any type of new adjustment, but this time my husband was a little more than disappointed that I didn’t do a cheer when he came home with the conquest. My old vehicle and I were very acquainted with each other. I knew her abilities. I knew her limits. I liked being high up on the road and being able to haul a stroller, beach chairs, boogie boards, and groceries all at the same time.

I really am not whining. I promise. The old car made sense in our old life, but we drive a minimum of 500 miles a week now. Staggering isn’t it? This car is good stewardship for our family and finances. This was one of our last steps toward fully letting go of our old life and embracing the one we now have. This church plant has been the hardest thing we’ve ever done. It has stretched us and challenged us more than we ever wanted to be, but we’re happy and life is good too. This car is a symbol that we live in the city and pastor a mobile church. It’s a banner (soon to be complete with destinychurchjax.com on the windshield) driving down the road and proclaiming, we are still ALL IN. Lord knows we’ve wanted to quit more than once. We’ve grown tired at times of the repetition of setting up and taking down…just to do it all over again. We’ve wondered if we’ve lost our minds…maybe we have a little.

But here’s the thing God is speaking to me in a loud voice: If I’m focused on what I once had and how it compares to what I have now, I’ll miss what God is doing right in front of me. It will be different and it might even be harder, but it will be better. He is a God that takes us from glory to glory. This doesn’t typically mean from 1995 Sedan to 2013 sports car but it does mean from captivity to freedom. I am finding that in order for God to free the areas of my life that are still bound, He normally has to change my circumstances. I invite the freedom, but I seldom welcome the change.

I drove down the road today with a smile on my face. I may have slammed on the breaks a couple times and misjudged my parking but all in all I am adjusting. It’s not the car, the house, the job, the clothes, etc. that make me happy anyway. I’ve found the more intimacy I experience with Jesus, the less I even care about the stuff. He is more interested in what’s going on inside me than around me. So, I will embrace this moment…raising young children, balancing marriage and ministry, accepting that I’ll never meet everyone’s (or my own) expectations, not having a church building to do all we want… I could go on and on, as I’m sure you could about your life, but I’m going to try to stop focusing on all that is hard and fix my eyes on all that is good.

You too may find yourself experiencing a little change. We all do eventually. If so, I invite you to celebrate today with me. Let’s celebrate that He is an active God with an active plan for each of us. Let’s celebrate that God is constantly doing a new things and He invites us to do it with Him.

Lord, I’m all in for Your plan. I’m all in for freedom. Let the change, change not only me but my children and those I have influence over as well. It was for freedom that You set me free. The things changing in my life are with that freedom in mind. Have Your way even when I don’t like the way the change feels.

 

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Following

 

Last year, before we moved to Florida, I wrote about following the cloud of God’s presence. We waited on Him for His timing all through our move. Chris spoke a couple of Sundays ago about following the cloud to a new building. Here we are…still following the cloud. All of life really is all about going where He leads…waiting on His presence to supply all we need. May we never tire of waiting on Him. May we never anxiously or selfishly move ahead of Him. This is what sets His people apart. This is what makes and keeps us His. May we never return to our bondage because we stop doing the things we once did. Our deepest desire in the plant of Destiny Church is that we not only start well but that we also continue and finish well.

God has a great plan for each of us to follow. I find it most often feels like dirty dishes, laundry, cleaning, and a whole list of other things that don't seem the least bit exciting. Planting a church has been no different. Following the cloud is not typically glamorous. He’s reminding me that we are anointed to do the mundane and the exceptional. It’s all important to Him. Usually, there’s a lot more ordinary than glamour in life. Too often, because what we do doesn't give us goose bumps we miss the holy ground we stand on. We strive to impress rather than bless and then we can’t see the fire clear enough through our rose colored glasses to take off our shoes and soak up His presence. I am guilty.

Today, I am so aware of who I would be without my precious Savior. I am mindful of my weaknesses and the gaps in my character. Without Him I have nothing to say to warrant listening. He is the rhythm that leads me. He tunes my ears to hear. He trains my eyes to see. He prompts my starting. He closes doors to stop me. He is my guide. I have prayed for His anointing for more years than I can remember. I forget that His anointing is also here to change those diapers, to keep my mouth in check, to react in love, and to just be who He created me to be.

My beginnings were humble. They are humble still. May they always be. May I not grow arrogant in His strength in me or too insecure in my failings to try again. May I not miss the cloud over me because I’m so consumed with the work in front of me.  All things were created by Him, through Him, because of Him…for Him. May I never strive to impress. We have way too many people living their lives to do just that. May I live to bless. You, sweet Lord, have blessed me beyond what I could have ever imagined. I am no longer who I used to be and it is because of You. I owe You my life. I am money in Your hand. Spend me how You wish. Help me to rejoice in the spending even when it isn’t how I’d choose. May I always be a follower of the cloud. In Your presence is where I belong.

 

 

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Seasons

 

This life is made up of what seems like an endless string of seasons; phases of growth that supply our collection of memories. Almost always, I head into each new one with reservations and maybe just a little resentment for making me leave behind a place in time I’ve come to revere. Then, in the blink of an eye, my apprehension subsides and I settle comfortably into the fresh season I’m in. I always hate to say goodbye, but in retrospect the new place is always a welcomed gift.

As I glance back over the seasons of my life, I see this same progression over and over. Chris and I just celebrated 15 years of marriage. Where has the time gone? I guess it too is filed away with the seasons that define me, who I’m still becoming. Many people plan to grow up or forge their path before they marry. We needed our marriage in order to do both. We’ve grown up together. I am so thankful for the growth. We are living our dreams, the plan God has for us. It took us being together to find it.

One thing I’ve come to learn about the seasons of life, the good and the bad, is that if you choose better instead of bitter, the hard stuff seems to melt into the cracks and act as a cement.  The difficult part, the parts we don’t like and we often resent become the glue that holds it all together.

A phase of Destiny Church is already coming to an end. When we first moved to Jacksonville we were very homesick. It’s funny how I didn’t recognize the moment that apprehension faded and comfort spread. I didn’t notice when Jacksonville became home. The memories of this time have already taken their place in the story of my life; they are now part of me.

Now we head into a new season. A new building. Reinforcements. Jesus, where you go I will follow. Even into the unknown when I am hesitant. As I look back over the seasons of my life, I see You in every memory. In every comfortable place. In all the rough spots. You have been my constant companion, my faithful friend. Thank you for giving me the partner in life that I needed, thank you for family, thank you for friends, and thank you for Destiny Church.

 

 

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