Monday, September 29, 2008

Kenosha vs. Kirkland

We were wondering, and we thought you might be wondering, what are the real differences between the home we’re leaving and the home we’re headed to. Since we leave tomorrow morning, let’s see what we can find out…

ROUND 1 - Population
Kirkland: 45,740
Kenosha: 96,240
Kenosha knocks Kirkland out in 40 seconds with more than double the population. Who could have expected that?

ROUND 2 - Geography
Kirkland: Borders Lake Washington
Kenosha: Borders Lake Michigan
Kenosha the clear winner of that round. Lake Michigan is WAY bigger, colder, and more famous than Lake Washington!

ROUND 3 - Google Fight!
Kirkland: 14,500,000
Kenosha: 7,360,000
Kenosha slips as Kirkland triple punches Kenosha in the jaw...

After three rounds, Kenosha is the clear winner. We can't wait to get there and find out if it's true.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Growing Up...

This is officially our last week in Kirkland, for a while anyway. The shipping company came and picked up Tony’s Bronco today and then we had a great little “Good Bye” get together with some of Tony’s family this evening. It is definitely feeling very final at this point. There are still quite a few details to figure out, and there is a ton on our minds. For instance…

Have you heard this one before: “If He calls you, He’ll equip you”? This phrase has brought me much comfort and strength in the past. I mean, it seems logical, reasonable, and definitely encouraging. There are plenty of stories in the Bible of God asking people to do something that seemed impossible, and then He provided a way for them to do it, strength to get through it. I believe it’s even happened in my life where I felt God was asking, urging me to do something that I never thought I could do. Then, when I stepped out to actually do it, I found I had more strength than I could have mustered on my own… that the Holy Spirit was with me to help me accomplish something that seemed impossible. I’m not talking about lifting a burning mini-van up off of a trapped baby. I talking more about forgiving someone I never thought I could or would forgive. I knew it was something God wanted me to do, never thought I could or would do it, and then with His help I did.

If He calls you, He’ll equip you…

Do you think the opposite is true? If He doesn’t call you, will He not equip you? If you haven’t read our last dilemma about calling, you might want to check it out. I am still thinking and praying about it. Now I’m wondering about this "call you-equip you" saying. I call it a “saying” rather than a verse because I couldn’t actually find this in the Bible. I know there are a ton of you out there who are more scholarly than me (or is it, I?), so if you know where to find this saying as an actual Bible verse, I would love the help. But, since I can’t find it, it makes me wonder if it is really in a list of clichés we’ve made up. You know the ones I’m talking about…
Cleanliness is next to Godliness
God provides for those, who provide for themselves
The higher the hair, the closer to God

So, I’ve been wondering… if He didn’t call us… is there a reason He hasn’t actually asked us to help launch Great Lakes Church? I mean, are we these people who volunteer to do something we think is a good idea, but really… maybe it isn’t? Are we these people who give your four year old daughter a puppy, because we know she’ll love it, and because we love her, and somehow we can’t see past our noses to realize we have just cursed your house (and your carpet) rather than blessed you?

You see, having desired to follow Jesus Christ for the past 7 years, I have had my fair share of experiences with obedience. I learned early on that obedience is better than sacrifice (1 Samuel 15:22). I also, for all of my life, have known what it is to disobey or live in rebellion. I am familiar with guilt and shame, and I am familiar with the joy that comes from doing what I know I should do. But, this Great Lakes Church thing, as we’ve said before, is not an obedience thing. It’s something else…

As kids, we rarely did anything we did not want to do without being asked. There were plenty of times I knew my room was a mess, but didn’t even consider cleaning it up until I was told to do it. Oh, and if I was told to do it, and then didn’t do it… yep, disobedience. Disobedience = BIG TROUBLE! But that’s normal, right? Nobody expects a child to clean up without being asked. It’s a precious little miracle if they do.

I knew a woman once who, when dating a guy, would occasionally take him to a jewelry store. She’d show him the things she liked, try them on with him there, talk about what she wanted him to get for her. (I know, not my idea of a good date.) Then, in a matter of weeks, or the next time there was some sort of gift giving occasion, she would receive in a pretty box the very piece of jewelry she’d shown him. How lovely, right? A guy who would do what he was told?

... Hmm… Would you like to pause and raise an eyebrow with me? If you’re thinking what I’m thinking… Wouldn’t it have been better if he’d thought of the gift all on his own? Wouldn’t it mean more, and wouldn’t she maybe feel more loved, if he’d decided that he wanted to get her something special and then he went, like a big boy, and picked it out himself? It’s like she never even gave the guy a chance! Or maybe she thought if she left it up to him, he wouldn’t show her love the way she wanted.

So, we know we are not going to help launch Great Lakes Church because God specifically asked us. At first that thought is quite scary. We wondered, and still do sometimes, if God will really provide for us, equip us, since he didn’t actually ask us to do this. (We’re not giving the kid a puppy, are we?) But now, it’s getting kind of exciting. It’s this feeling that maybe we’re not kids anymore, kids that can really only respond with obedience or disobedience. Maybe we’re growing up just a little bit, and learning to love God in a new way. It’s exciting to think we have this opportunity to do what we can, not because we were asked, but simply because we love God and we want to give Him something of ourselves. Our Father has always taken the initiative toward us. We love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). He has pursued us, initiated the relationship, forgiven when we did not deserve. We know we cannot out-love Him. But, I wonder if maybe he hasn’t given us that assurance of a specific calling or conviction in order to give us room, give us a chance, to pursue Him and give all we can just because we want to.

Maybe this is our opportunity to truly love Him back.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

“Thank You” feels like a cliché

I don’t deserve the generosity I’ve received. There have been so many amazing people in my life… so many events that I can recall feeling unworthy of. These things I’m talking about outweigh any amount of thanks or appreciation I can dish, and that makes me concerned that I’ll never be able to totally repay the people who have blessed me. Michelle and I would spend the rest of our lives writing thank you notes, giving hugs, inviting people to dinner, and still wouldn’t come close to expressing our gratitude.

I won’t bore you with some lengthy acceptance speech, but I do need to tell you about a few moments in the last month or so that have taken my breath away.

I won’t use any names… but you know who you are… and you’ve made a difference. Thank you.

First off… we’re moving… everything we have… across the country… somewhere we’ve never been… and it’s going to cost money to do it. I have a job lined up when I get there, but Michelle doesn’t quite yet. Right when concerns for our finances start to arise, we receive a couple of cards from some friends of ours with checks totaling over $1000! We didn’t ask for it… we never would have… but it’s an answered prayer before we got around to praying about it.

Next… Michelle has a great idea and thinks that we can raise a little money and shed a few moving pounds by having a “Kenosha or Bust” moving sale. I'm thankful for the friends that helped us put it all together. It also was great to see so many familiar faces. I’m thinking the max we should see out of this is $500. Michelle says that if we could hit the $1000 mark, it would truly be God behind it, and I agreed. Well, through the generosity of some of our close friends (having donated 95% of the items we sold that day) we ended up counting $2300 at the end of the sale! Let me explain a little further… we sold stuff that DID NOT BELONG TO US! Not only so, but there was a couple we had met just once who heard our story and delivered incredible furniture and items to support our efforts. Generosity… undeserved.

This next one is pretty close to my heart.

Since I started playing guitar, I have always dreamed of the day I would own a Larrivee acoustic guitar. I would watch ebay and wait to see if one would reach a price that I might be able to afford, but that never happened. Once, I took my entire tax refund and found a Larrivee that I could afford, so I drove out to the sellers house to play it. He was reluctant to part with it, so I told him I’d give him some time to think about it. My car broke down right after that and I couldn’t afford it anymore. I hope you’re getting that this is my DREAM guitar… something that is almost unreal to me. So, just this past Sunday, we had a little get together with some friends from church. A friend of mine who I’ve known for less than a year walks in and walks straight up to me. He says “Hey man, you forgot your guitar at church” and puts his Larrivee in my hands. That is… by far… the most amazing gift I have ever received. I’m not saying that simply cuz it was an expensive guitar, it’s so much more than that. What’s more, Great Lakes Church doesn’t own an acoustic guitar and I would need to go find an affordable solution… but now I can start this band off with the right tools. There are over a dozen more ways why this instrument is perfect for my needs right now… so if you wanna geek out with me, ask me the next time you see me. Or, if you’re curious to get inside my head, you can spend 10 minutes to download THIS video from their site, and about 20 minutes watching it. I am still amazed by this gift. Great Lakes is gonna ROCK!

Along with an iPod fully loaded (which we’ll need for Great Lakes services), an inflatable bed (which we were already going to buy for our week on the road), money, prayers, opportunities to work and earn more, stories, time, discounted rent, help, and words of encouragement, I think I finally understand what Michelle means when she says “I am definitely God’s favorite”. There is a point at which we just begin to feel spoiled. We know that God’s resources are unending, it is so humbling to be on the receiving end.

It has been our desire to practice generosity. We often “joke” with our friends when we go to dinner or coffee… “We’ll take care of it, we’re rich. Don’t worry about it!” We joke, but we also have believed it. Not that we earn more money, necessarily, than anyone else we know. But, we have recognized that God is our provider and as we share what we have and bless others, we’ll be fine. At this point, friends, neighbors, strangers… they’ve all out done us. They remind us that God’s people are generous, and more than that, He is generous.

2 Corinthians 9:6-11
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written:
"He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever. Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.

So, we thank God for you.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Problem of Calling...

We find ourselves in an interesting place in time and geography. Tony and I are moving to Kenosha, Wisconsin to help launch Great Lakes Church with Pastor Dave Nelson and his family. This will be the first true daughter of our home EastLake Community Church. We made the decision in a matter of just a few days and now it's all set, everything else is just details.

The responses we've received since making this decision have been amazing. Some people are sad we're going, which is nice. Some are excited we're leaving to do this ... which is also nice? The one thing that we commonly hear is something along the lines of this: "It's so exciting that you are obeying your calling and stepping out in faith to do this!"

There have been times in my life when those around me would say, "I'm called to the ministry", or "I've been called to lead men", or "I am NOT called to children's ministry, so I can't help there", or "You should ask God what He is calling you to do, then do it." I began to believe that everyone had a very specific "calling" and that my life in Christ wouldn't probably begin until I found out what mine was. There were also times that I thought I must not be that good of friends with Jesus, since He hasn't "called" me.

None the less, He did call me out of darkness (John 8:12). He did call me to love Him and love people (Matthew 22: 36-40). He did call me to look after widows and orphans in their distress and to keep myself from being polluted by the world (James 1:27). He called me to lose my life, my preferences, my possessions, that I might find my life in Him (Mark 8:34-36). He called us all to pray that workers would be sent out to reach people (Matthew 9:35-38).

The thing that seems so great about a calling is that it can give you purpose and direction. If I knew I were called to missions in China, I might be more motivated to learn to speak Chinese, make connections with others going to China, pray that God would help me see how I would accomplish all of this. There is something comforting about that calling. You know why you are doing what you're doing, it's because you've been called. It could even be something you were created or meant for. In a way, the planner/preparer/organizer in me envies those who are called.

I don't know about you, but it is very rare that I have ever felt like God said something very specific to me. Along with the rarity, it has happened that I have heard God, but misunderstood the meaning behind what I thought I heard. The danger there is that if I wouldn't recognize that the misunderstanding was mine, I might think God had lied to me. I don't think I have ever called God a liar, but I have asked Him if He's tricked me...

And then I get another email: "We are so proud of you for being obedient to what God has called you and Tony to do." So, I generically respond, "Thank you". But, what I want to say is this...
Dear Loving Friend,
Here's the thing... We prayed about it, we asked God for clarity on whether we should go or stay, and neither of us got any clarity about it. We're pretty sure we are not "called" to go to Kenosha to help plant a church. We both, separately and together, got the sense that God loves us and would not be disappointed whether we stayed in Kirkland or gave up everything to move to Kenosha. Tony and I believe we have complete freedom and choice in this situation. Neither of us have any conviction or nagging in our hearts about this being an issue of obedience or disobedience. Yet, somehow, we've decided to go. I hope you'll still be proud of us.
Love always,
The Petersons

So, as much as I wish we were called to do this, I am finding meaning in that we are not. The problem of calling is this: If you don't hear it or you misunderstand what you think you hear, you may never step out to try anything at all. If you are only doing what you are called to do, how very many opportunities you may miss to fill a need and do something great.