Plus One

The greatest desire of my heart is intimacy with the Lord. As I shared in my last post, the scripture about the lukewarm Christian haunted me not just because I fear for the lost people in our churches, but because I recognize that so often I merely go through the motions with God. I have a very passionate personality. It is so easy for me to jump to extremes. For example I will either exercise non-stop consumed with the thought of the next run I can get in, or I will be such a lazy couch potato reminiscing of the good ol’ days when I used to run. I am either all in or all out. I need better balancing skills. In evaluating my life I realized that the only thing I am right in the middle with is my relationship with God. This really bothered me because Christ is the one and only thing that deserves my absolute extreme passion. I want to be completely sold out for Christ, no matter what that means for me. I got down on my knees and prayed that He would help me channel my full energy toward pursuing Him.

I wanted to fast from something since I felt like I was always too busy to have time with the Lord. I decided to give up watching TV and wasting time on the internet for 30 days. Though we do not have cable I would watch shows online here and there. It was never in excess but in my downtime when I wanted to rest I would throw a show on. Also I made the decision when Tatum went down for her nap the first thing I did was spend time with God. This sometimes meant I did not clean the house that day or even shower because as you mommas  know, nap time is the most sacred productive time of the day. But I figured who cares if my house is a mess and I stink (sorry Dave), as long as God is my priority nothing else matters. When I made this decision I was absolutely blown away by how much time I actually had for God. Since Tatum had been born my relationship with the Lord has been on the back burner because I was always so consumed with all that I needed to get done and do for her. But with the conscious decision to put God first, I some how gained so much more time in my day than I have had for a year! God is so good.

As I sought after God I clung to the verse “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you” (James 4:8). I held Him to His promise begging Him to speak to me. I was desperate for him to speak. I longed for and desired Him more than I ever have in my life. He began to reveal to me more of His character and teaching me His ways. Scripture became alive in a way I had never experienced before. This was all so wonderful, then about a week and a half into my fast something happened that I have only ever experienced once before.

Dave and I were at a church planting conference. We were sitting listening to a sermon when all of a sudden God spoke to me. I did not hear an audible booming voice but I felt something outside of myself take over my mind just for a couple seconds to plant a loud and clear thought. The closest thing I can describe it as was an actual voice in my head. If you do not already think I am crazy the message gets even crazier (don’t worry, hearing voices in my head is not a common occurrence). I knew it was God because I was trembling and ecstatic. I literally thought I was going to burst with joy because of the encounter, though I was not so excited about the message. God plainly told me “it is time to have another baby right now.”

“Wait what??? God you want me to have another baby right now? Haven’t I made it clear that I am going to adopt my next child and wait until Tatum is like 5? Don’t you know we don’t have the money right now? Don’t you know that this would be the last thing I want right now? God when I said I wanted you to speak to me this is not what I had in mind! AHH!” These are the thoughts that flooded my mind after the initial shock and excitement faded. We were at a church planting conference learning how ridiculously difficult and financially unstable this process is. I thought for sure I must have made this up. I mean I must have been hormonal or something right? But as I began processing this I realized there is NO WAY this thought could have come from me. The two days before this Tatum had the worst two days of her life. I literally thought I was going to go insane. I was exhausted and definitely not on a “my baby is so cute” kick. I truly did not want to be pregnant again, and I definitely did not want kids that close in age. And on top of all of that we do not have the money to have another child! I was torn because I knew this was God speaking but I thought He must be crazy!

As all of that was happening Dave noticed something different in me and asked what was going on. Since we were in the middle of a service I told him we will talk later. Had he not noticed and asked I probably would have not told him because of fear. But he was anxious to hear because as he explained to me later he saw a physical change in my appearance. He said he had never seen my face filled with joy as he did in that moment. So when the session ended I hesitantly told Dave, “I think there is something you need to pray about. The Lord told me it was time to have another baby right now.” I expected him to say something like “Woman you are crazy. It must be your period or something” (he doesn’t actually talk to me like that :p). But instead he lights up and says, “I knew it!! I feel like God has been telling me for a couple weeks that we were supposed to think about having another kid. I didn’t bring it up because I knew you would be so against it!” Wow..was not expecting that one.

Shizaam….we are pregnant!

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Transition of my heart

Let me begin by thanking everyone who has been so very encouraging to me about writing this blog. As I am sitting down to write, questions and doubt fill my mind as to why I started this blog. But through your encouragement I am reminded that God does have an intention with this, even if it is only so more people will be praying for us.  I am so grateful to be surrounded with so many people who love and pray for us.

What I want to capture is the transition of my heart moving from obedience to joyful surrender regarding the church plant. Though I can be very hard headed and stubborn, I think through my parents and my basketball career I learned quite well how to be obedient. I know how to follow rules and directions even if it is not what I want (all those ping-pong paddle spankings worked…thanks dad!) I am so grateful for the discipline my parents and basketball instilled in me. So when it came time to follow God and Dave into planting a church I was able to say yes I will follow, though that yes had conditions. I said yes I will follow  BUT I will not be happy. As Dave and I would dream, I could not get excited with him because all I could think about was what I did not want to happen. I never really liked going to church, so I did not want my entire life to take place in a church. Also, the pattern I commonly see with pastors is their wives are neglected and their kids are rebellious. This is usually because pastoring a church is a never ending job. There are always more people that need help and it is easy for pastors to slip into the savior complex. I was scared that I was going to sit at home raising my 19 kids and only see my husband once a week in passing. I admit I was a bit extreme, but my fear was valid. Dave seeing this fear in me decided we needed to address it.

I have to say that I have an AMAZING husband. I am truly thankful for the man he is. He is so gentle and patient with me. We sat down and listened to a sermon specifically addressing church planters in regards to how they handle their families. It was a very sharp straight forward exhortation to put Christ first, wife second, kids third and church fourth. The sermon explained that if a man cannot lead his family well, he has no right to lead a spiritual family. Knowing that I can often be a martyr, Dave made me promise to stand up for myself and tell him if he is ever putting the church above the family. He guaranteed that if I ever felt like the family was being neglected he would change the circumstances or give it up completely. With the assurance that Dave was going to take care of us I became more willing.

With that huge fear removed, I allowed God to start speaking to me. I never wanted to work with the pretty people in the pews, I wanted to work with the hardcore people on the streets. Church people were already saved and did not need any more work, so I thought. But the more I started to think about it the more I realized the desperate need for discipleship within our churches. A passion the Lord has given both Dave and I is the vital importance of discipleship in a Christian’s life. It is easy to listen to a sermon and pray a prayer, but it is not easy to learn how to study the Bible and see God for who He is. Yes the Holy Spirit does illuminate scripture to the believer, but  the system of discipleship is engraved at the core of Christianity. Just as a baby has to be taught to feed herself, we have to be taught how to read scripture. A child must slowly learn to walk and climb stairs with assistance, as a new believer (or even an old believer) needs help walking with the Lord. American Christianity is so lukewarm. There are more people sitting in the chairs of our churches who are not saved than probably any other country. It is easy to be a Christian in America because there is not much cost.  The Lord began to show me scripture that haunted me. In Revelations3:15-17 Jesus is addressing the church of Laodicea. He says, “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold of hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked.” How many lukewarm Christians do we know, whose lives look no different from those of the world? How many Christians are secure in their earthly comforts pursuing the American dream? It is not wrong to have comfort and things, but it is wrong if we think we are rich and prosperous because of those things. And if those verses are not scary enough Matthew 5:21-23 will kick you in the butt. Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you, depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'”  Do you catch the weight of this? These are people who actually experience the miraculous and still are not saved. Think about all the people who are nominal Christians who do nothing but profess belief in Christ. Yes, faith in Christ is the only thing that can obtain right standing with God and access to heaven, but true faith in Christ will always display a changed life. One cannot encounter Christ and live the same sinful life.

I say this very cautiously, not intending to sound arrogant or self righteous, but more and more churches today preach the message that it is all about you and what you can get out of Christ. I recognize that not all churches are like this, but it is not uncommon to go to a service and get a motivational speech on how to be a better you for your sake. Christ is just in your fan club. There is no emphasis on evaluating your life and turning away from sin. I personally went to a church once that would not say the word hell. The pastor said something like “If you don’ believe, you’ll go, well let’s just say it’s not a very happy place.” America has become such a politically correct place where it is difficult to speak truth without seeming condemning and judgmental. Christians are trying to make a happier more agreeable form of Christianity, when in reality they are completely misleading people causing Jesus to say, “I never knew you, depart from me.” Think about the parables of the different seeds sown in different soil, “A sower went out to sow.  And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.” Matthew 13:3-9. Three of the four seeds sown did not endure. Think of all the people in our churches who hear the gospel and respond with a confession of faith or even church attendance. Some think this is enough but as Jesus explains the parable, we see that not all seeds sown have fruitful growth. “As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.” Matthew 13:20-22. This is why discipleship is so vital. It breaks my heart to think of people who think they are saved, but are not.

A couple year ago I could not imagine my life in ministry. Today I cannot imagine my life apart from ministry. The Lord has given me a burning desire to help bring to light the praise and glory and honor Christ deserves; to help Christians respond to the grace we receive through Christ alone with awe, fear, thanksgiving and faithful following. This is our goal of the church plant. In everything we do we desire to bring glory to Christ alone.

“umm…a church plant?”

So why start a church? Well I can tell you I did not wake up one day and say “hey that sounds like fun let’s do it!” In fact the idea of starting a church made me cringe. Dave loves to dream big, and sometimes I think he does it just to watch me squirm. When we were first married he would talk about starting a church in San Francisco. Though I did not think he was serious I would adamantly insist that he was crazy. This big idea faded with time and I thought I was safe. I like to feel safe and comfortable in my nice bubble. But God has a way of popping that bubble.

Around October of last year (I may be off a little, I am terrible at timelines) both Dave and I started feeling like God was up to something. We felt Him preparing and challenging us to have greater faith. This is an exciting  place to be yet can be terribly frightening. Having greater faith usually means He is going to drop a bomb on you. I admit I was very afraid at this time because I had grown to really like my life just the way it was. I did not want change. There were a couple of opportunities that we thought might be from the Lord. We seriously considered taking in three teenage boys to live with us while their mom cleaned herself up. We were prepared to say yes, but the Lord showed us this was not what He wanted. As I took a sigh of relief, I could not help but wonder, “So if it is not this, then what?”.

It was a normal night in the Lockwood house when Dave got the phone call…dun dun duhhhh. Dave’s friend had called because he was planting a church in LA and wanted Dave and I to pray about joining them. As Dave explained the phone call I could see the excitement in his eyes glistening. Now I wish I could say I gently and humbly listened and replied “That sounds like a wonderful opportunity honey. I will prayerfully consider it.” I wish. But no…I threw a full blown tantrum! Have you ever seen a grown woman throw a tantrum? Its not pretty. I will spare you the details, but let’s just say I was not very open to the idea. Dave, bless his heart, is so good and gentle with me. He did not say “Woman your crazy. Snap out of it!”.  He carefully began to inquire why I had such a strong reaction to him simply reporting what was said over the phone. I told him when I heard him explain  his friend’s question I immediately thought, “Well this is the last thing in the world that I would want, so because I live in opposite land, God is going to make us do it!”. Talk about jumping to conclusions! After the tears had dried and the snot had crusted I began to think rationally again. And what scared me more than the thought of moving to LA was the fact that I was so resistant to the idea of God changing our life. My comfort and my predictable routine had become an idol that I was unwilling to give up. When I realized this I quickly repented and begged for forgiveness. I told God that if this is where He wants us to go then He will have to give me the strength. The Lord then showed us that this was not where He wanted us. Whew…dodged another bullet!! But the church planting seed had now been planted.

Dave’s friend invited him to a church planting conference in Arizona to better investigate if this was something we would be interested in. At this point we decided LA was not for us, but Dave was still very excited and curious to go to this conference. We did not have very much money at the time, so spending money on a plane ticket, hotel and the conference was not really an option. Dave started feeling God nudging him to start thinking about a church plant of our own. Dave was willing to spend the money feeling like it was a good use of our resources to allow God to teach and speak, I however was not so willing. As I look back I feel terrible because I was not encouraging to him. Dave being a wonderful husband decided not to spend the money against my will, but rather he prayed that if God wanted him to go God would pay the way. I was sure that this would not happen, but of course God provided a free plane ticket and a free place to stay. So off Dave flies to Arizona while I sit at home and mope,  afraid that this truly is from the Lord.

Dave came home lit up for the Lord. He believed that starting a church was what  God had been preparing us for. He gave me countless statistics of how and why church plants are more effective at reaching unbelievers/converts then churches that have been around for over 10 years. I have to admit I was surprised by the research done in this area. This was the only thing Dave would talk about for weeks. I began to see Dave truly come to life. When he talked about church planting he was lit up with joy and passion that I had never seen in him prior to this. Not wanting to shoot down his excitement I began to pray about this idea. The Lord slowly started to show me that this might be what He has been preparing.

Dave sought council and advice from the senior and associate pastor at the church Dave was employed. He wanted to make sure that this was something the other pastors approved of and saw as a good fit. We know we are young and foolish at times, so the council of mature believers is absolutely vital. Unsure of what the reaction might be, we were both surprised that the pastors responded with much encouragement.  They approved the decision, and the Lord lead us to resign. This was very scary because we did not have another job lined up and we were certainly no where near ready to jump into the new church.

Before taking the official plunge of resigning Dave made sure I was on board. Up until this point I was not very supportive, but the Lord convicted me of my selfishness and showed me the absolute need for more churches reaching the un-churched. I was reading a book by Timothy Keller who is huge on church plants. He talks about the need for Christians to be in cities. Cities generally have more people condensed in smaller spaces. And the more populated and condensed an area is, usually the more need of God there is. God put it on my heart to be obedient and follow Dave who was following Christ. I decided I was going to be obedient but not necessarily excited about what that would mean for me and our family.

We had no job lined up and the week we decided Dave should resign, we were given over $1000 from different random sources of God’s people. This was the confirmation we needed, God saying “Keep you life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper, I will not fear; what can man to do me?”‘ Hebrews 13:5-6.  God said go, do not fear, “Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about you body, what you will put on it…” Matthew 6:25-34.

So we took this step of faith and resigned not knowing how we were going to support ourselves. Praise God, He provided a job shortly after at a coffee shop. We are thankful for the position though it does not even cover our monthly bills. But thanks to our faithful church taking a love offering for us before we left, we are able to survive for several months. Thank you all who participated in that giving. The Lord has truly used you to bless us in our lives, and will be using that money to further the advancement of the Gospel. We are beyond thankful to you faithful servants!

I mentioned earlier that the Lord changed my heart from be unwilling to simply being obedient. Well I can joyfully say that He has now changed my heart from being just obedient to giving me my own passion and excitement for the church. I will share this transition in my next post! Now is when it starts to get good. Now is when I get to really talk about the Lord and what He was been teaching me!

Opposite Land

I think the best place to start with this journey is to give you a bit of history of my life. I mentioned in my introduction that most of my life takes place in opposite land. Most of this stems from 1: me being prideful, 2: God wanting to be completely in control, and 3: God having a sense of humor. This pattern started early on in my life. I am not not going to share with you all of the stories because I do not want to bore you, but I will share some highlights so you can get a feel of how God works with me.

When I was a senior in high school I drove the coolest car in my entire school (in my opinion of course). It was a lifted red Jeep wrangler with huge tires and a convertible top. This car belonged to my parents, but I took all the “cool” credit! My friend drove a particular car that I teased her for. I seriously thought it was the ugliest car on the road. I would say dumb things like “I would drive a shopping cart before I drove one of those!”   Well it was time for me to go to college, and give up my precious Jeep. I did not have a job, nor money, and my parents could not buy me a car. My mom said to me “If God wants you to have a car, He will give you one.” And I mumbled to myself “Ok, like God is just going to give away a car”, but I prayed anyway. Well lo and behold God GAVE me a completely free car! And yes it was the exact model of the car I used to tease my friend about, and not only was it the same type of car, it was by far the worst color of all the options out there! It was this flesh color and I called it the saggy boob because that is what it reminded me of (real mature huh?). When I received that car I could not stop laughing. I loved that car until the end, and it got me all the way through college! What a gift it was!

Fast forward a bit now. I wanted to be a career woman and not marry until my thirties or so (as a kid I used to say the only reason I wanted to get married was so that he would clean the dog poop). I wanted to be a parole officer because I thought it would be exciting to carry a gun and talk with criminals. I desired to be strong, independent, and successful. Yep, I got married just after I turned 21, straight out of college. And that is not even the worst of it. How I met my husband has got to be one of my biggest laughs in my laugh. I swore up and down, left and right that I would NEVER and I mean NEVER sign up on an internet dating site. Well, good ol’ eharmony matched my husband and I on “29 dimensions of compatibility”! Whew I cannot believe I just admitted that publicly. I am still in denial about it! And I would not have even looked at Dave’s profile because he was a pastor, and not only a pastor he was a youth pastor. But I was getting desperate to at least get one date to give me my money’s worth so I contacted him. I found him just a day or two before his subscription ended. Now I never wanted to marry a pastor, especially a youth pastor. Kids made me nervous. But on our first date I knew this was the man I was going to marry, and no kidding 5 months later we were hitched. I was thrown into church life and youth ministry, and I cherish every moment of it. I grew to love those kids as if they were family to me. I learned that they were just as afraid of me as I was of them :).  It was seriously a blast.

On our first date Dave and I talked about whether or not we wanted children. I was so excited to hear that he did not want children either. Of course on our 2nd wedding anniversary, to the date, POP comes a baby! Our precious baby girl was born . I praise God that He gave us this gift even when we were to immature to want it. We love this kiddo so much and it just goes to show that God’s plans are so much higher and better than our own. And now I am sure because I said “if I have children it will only be two”, Dave and I are probably on our way to becoming the next 19 and counting family!

So this brings me up to date to our current situation. We are embarking on the adventure of planting a church. This has probably got to be the last option I ever imagined for my life, but we are confident the Lord is moving us to go. This has been quite an emotional roller coaster for me and the Lord has taught me so very much. This is what I want to share with you through this blog. I want to be raw and tell you of my fears and failures and how the Lord has helped me through them. I will go into more detail in my next post because my sweet baby girl just woke up from her nap.

Introduction

I want to take some time to introduce the purpose of this blog. I am not a writer. I generally do not have the desire nor the time to sit down and write. I do not feel that I have eloquent words, and I do not like attention brought to myself. So obviously it seems like quite a contradiction for me to start a blog. But as I will share and you will learn, my life is categorized by opposite land. If I have said I never want to do it….I always end up doing it!! The Lord has such a sense of humor, and He is constantly taking me out of my comfort zone to throw me into what I think would be the absolute worst scenario, only to make me love whatever it is I did not want. With that said, I have felt the Lord nudging me to write, and not to just journal, but to share what He is doing in my/our life.

For those of you who do not know, God is taking our family on an incredible journey, and I do not mean a nice easy walk in the park, going bird watching and smelling flowers. He has us standing on the edge of a cliff with our toes gripping for dear life asking us to take the most extreme adrenaline rush plunge we could ever imagine. It is at many times incredibly scary, but through this time God has been shaping, teaching and preparing our hearts in areas I did not know we needed growth in. I want to write and share the things God has been teaching me. This is the most challenging time of my life, yet I have never been SO excited about the Lord as I am now. My greatest desire with sharing is to bring glory to Christ. I know He is doing extraordinary things in our lives, and I want others to see His faithful love and absolute power and sovereignty.

If you choose to follow along on this journey, I pray the Lord would use my words to encourage you. And as much as I am inclined to be a lone ranger and not ask for help, I do ask for your prayers for our family in this time. The Lord is showing us more and more that we cannot do this on our own. Thank you!

 

“For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you” Matthew 17:20