Blog, God + Spirituality, Guest Posts, Ministry + Missions, Personal Growth + Wholeness

Life is an Unexpected Adventure [Check out my Alumni article]

As alumni of the Orillia Christian School, I was asked to write an article on what I’m up to and what God has done in my life, to share with other staff, students, parents and alumni. I thought I’d share about the unexpected adventure that God has taken me on and the beautiful experiences I have had traveling the globe seeing the beautiful nations and people of the world.

Click the link below to download the short PDF newsletter/article p.3:

Article: Life is an Unexpected Adventure [Alumni Article for OCS Mind & Soul Newsletter May 2013]

Here’s a little snapshot of the article below, but if you find that difficult (or impossible) to read (!), download the article link above to read it full size :)

full alumni article

Blog, God + Spirituality, Guest Posts, Ministry + Missions, Personal Growth + Wholeness

Lessons I Learned on my Sabbatical – Part 2

Here’s the second and final article in my 2-part series on the things I’ve learned on my sabbatical. I’d recommend it for anyone to read, whether you are in full-time Christian ministry or not. If you’re a human being, it’s good stuff. Basically, they are life lessons for humans.

(If you didn’t get a chance to read the 1st part, check it out here: Part 1)

candle_light

Lessons I Learned on my Sabbatical – Part 2

If you missed Part 1, check out The Intro, Lesson #1, Lesson #2

Today I’m continuing to share some of the things I’ve learned through my fumbling attempts at “being on a sabbatical” right smack dab in the middle of my prime years of ministry. So often the things that God brings into our lives seem like very, very inconvenient interruptions to our well-laid plans. In the end, though, He is proven very wise, indeed. I’m so glad I listened…

Lesson #3: Don’t expect to feel awesome. Expect to feel insignificant and unproductive.

Taking a sabbatical will press all your “significance” and “identity” buttons. If you’ve got issues with these things, which I discovered I did, you’ll have some “fun” times of kicking and screaming and throwing your fists up to Heaven.

When you’re not earning money, working a public job, or have no official ministry title or role, can you still accept yourself? Can you still think your life is okay? Can you still feel that you are ‘enough’?

Can you believe that you are significant just for being alive and being yourself, without anything else to cling to?

Do you feel that life is okay, if all you have to hold onto is God Himself?

These are the questions that hit you square in the face on a sabbatical. During this time, you won’t feel awesome about yourself and your contribution to society. You certainly won’t feel productive (but that’s the point of Sabbath rest… to take a break from your productive work!)

Oh, and to top it all off, you’ll feel totally out of control!

I think that’s the point God’s trying to make, though. You aren’t the Savior of the world. You are not the V.I.P. of the nations. You are not in control of the universe.

He is.

Yes, you are significant, but not that significant.

Taking a sabbatical gave me a more realistic perspective of my own life and opened my eyes to my own self-obsession, self-absorption and over-inflated sense of self-importance. The humbling that happens just by being taken out of the game (so to speak) is quite real and quite uncomfortable. But it’s actually a relief to come to this realization – it’s not about me! I’m not that important. Phew. What a relief!

And the sneaky thing about God is that He’ll push you past your breaking point, when you think you can’t do it any longer. He wants you to wrestle with the restlessness. Wrestle with the questions. Wrestle with that sense of insignificance and discomfort with being so unproductive. Wrestle with your fear of man and the fear of their opinion of you. Wrestle with the pain of not being seen or noticed. Wrestle with the winter season where some things must fall off the branches and some living creatures must go into hibernation – all to prepare for a greater fruitfulness come springtime.

That’s the great thing about a sabbatical season: if you invest yourself in it, eventually you will feel awesome again. That’s the point! You’ll come out the other side more firmly grounded in your secure identity in God – a security that has nothing to do with titles, roles or the applause of man.

Lesson #4: Investing in the heart-stuff will cost you, dearly.

You haven’t let God interrupt your entire life, just for you to stay the same! To me, that’s the most torturous thing in the world – to waste a tough season and not grow from it! Change requires much time, but it also requires expending much energy and effort and experiencing much pain. Change requires that you invest something that costs you something – something that will probably hurt to give it. Most often, it will require putting your wallet on the table and making its contents fully available.

You’ve got to settle it now: you’ll do whatever it takes to see lasting transformation in your heart and life because real change is always a worthwhile investment.

The heart doesn’t just change in a vacuum, and rarely does it change on freebies. At least, that’s how it’s been with me. Transformation has not come on a free-ride. It’s cost me, dearly.

So, don’t be afraid to spend the money. Don’t think that everyone else somehow magically changed in an instant, without the mess, and without the moola.

If you’re going to do this thing, why do it cheaply? You don’t know when you’ll ever have this time again in your life. If it was worth the time it took to stop your entire life, spend the money you need to make the stop worth it.

Most often, the money will be for investing in the time of other people. People are valuable and their time is precious. You’re going to need other people to help you through this time of change. You need to open up your schedule to people. You need to get them in your face so they can ask you good questions, poke you, prod you, challenge you and mess you up a little. You need to invite friends and mentors and new people into your life to give you wisdom. Spend the money to drive or fly or take a bus to get to them. Take them out for coffee. Have them over for a meal. Pay for their fuel to get them to drive up to see you, if they live far from you! Pay their phone bill so you can get in touch. All this costs money! You’ll also want to invest in some books (or check out others’ book collections and borrow some!), go to seminars, sign up for a course or two, or commit to going to a counselor or therapist over a significant length of time.

Ka-ching. Ka-ching.

Real change will cost you.

Lesson #5: Don’t isolate yourself on a sabbatical! Get dependent!

You can’t “do” a sabbatical on your own, as an island. You just won’t make it if you disconnect from the Vine and the Body. Yes, you may go on a few retreats in this time (which I highly recommend… silent retreat… no-technology retreat… no-food fast… etc), but “retreating” is not meant to be the majority of your time on a sabbatical. You may be backing off from certain types of ministry or work roles, but you are still one part of one Body. If you are a mouthpiece, you cannot find refreshment when you are disconnected from the lungs! In some ways, you may actually need to retreat less and engage more!

Get connected. Get in community. Don’t hermit yourself away. It’s a big mistake if you think you can “take a break” from close fellowship with the church and fellowship with God. If you are already connected, get connected in an even deeper way through greater levels of intimacy and vulnerability and relationship with others. I would say that this is most likely a time where you need to prioritize relationships over work. It’s more about depth of relationship vs. productiveness at work. If you are not connected currently, I urge you to take this time to become a part of the Body! Ask the Holy Spirit to show you what this looks like in your life and in this season. It will look different for all of us.

Find a mentor or spiritual father or mother or counselor to process things with. You are going to have many things going on inside of you and many things shifting. You can’t process this season alone. You need others. You need Jesus-with-skin-on.

And you need Jesus Himself like never before! You desperately need Him! He’s been trying to get your undivided attention and desires your wholehearted affection! I would say that the most significant reason for taking a sabbatical would be to simply return to your “first love”, Jesus Christ. In the busy-ness of ministry, we can often lose sight of the very One whom all of our ministry is for! One teaching that has gripped my heart and recaptured my “first love” for Jesus is this powerful teaching by Allen Hood. ( http://hopetauranga.org.nz/podcasts/?sermon_id=31 )

A sabbatical is not a vacation from God. It’s a time to “come away with God” into a greater interaction and fellowship with the Holy Spirit, your great Counselor, Companion and Comforter.

It’s only in the presence of God that you will find that rest, refreshment and newness of life that God has interrupted your entire life for! So, get in God’s face! Burrow yourself inside His beautiful heart! Don’t isolate! Don’t get independent! Get more dependent!

Your life depends upon it.


If you want a refresher, go back and check out Part 1

Blog, God + Spirituality, Guest Posts, Ministry + Missions, Personal Growth + Wholeness

Lessons I Learned on my Sabbatical – Part 1

I decided to reveal some of the hard-won lessons I’ve learned on my fumbling attempt at a ministry sabbatical. If you’re in full-time Christian ministry or missions, this is a must-read. If you are not “in ministry” but you are a human being, this is a must-read. I think that these are timeless lessons for all people in all walks of life.

on-beach

Lessons I Learned on my Sabbatical – Part 1

So, I’ve been a missionary overseas for about 8 years. I had taken breaks here and there throughout the years, in between assignments, but nothing really intentional. I didn’t think I needed it.

Last year, I was rarin’ to go after a couple quiet years of ministry service. A sabbatical was the last thing on my mind. This was when God so lovingly disrupted all my “go-ye-into-the-world” plans and loudly said, “STOP!”

Say what, God?!

I was adamant in my resistance, at first, but finally accepted the call to stop and take a “sabbatical” from ministry, even though it did not make total sense to me. I just couldn’t ignore the voice of God. I had to heed His word.

I went back to my homeland of Canada. I royally freaked out, to be honest. I fumbled and fell my way through it in the early stages. Being on this sabbatical broke me, first, before it was able to bind me up and heal me.

A majority of the time, the impatient “gotta-produce-some-tangible-results” part of me felt like I was completely wasting my time. The “idealistic-and-perfectionistic” part of me often felt like a failure, as if I had this unattainable image of what “The Ideal Sabbaticalizer” would be doing on their sabbatical, and somehow, I was surely doing it all wrong. It’s funny to think back on this now, but at the time, it was not funny at all! It was like I was looking for some kind of “blueprint” to guide me through my sabbatical, when all God wanted was for me to put my hand in His and trust Him step by step, with no backup plan.

Sometimes you’ve got to have all your buttons pressed (and I mean EVERY button) in order to receive a greater insight and wisdom that will truly help and direct the rest of your life.

Sometimes you’ve got to be taken off the radar and brought into a place of complete obscurity, in order for God to get your attention, so He can show you what’s really going on inside of you, to produce some real, lasting transformation within you.

Sometimes you’ve got to be taken past the point of breaking, where you think you can’t take one more week of “feeling-like-you’re-wasting-your-life-away-in-the-prime-years-of-your-life!” (I may or may not have said this very thing about a million times on my sabbatical…)

Would God really shut you down and hide you away in the very years that Jesus came out of hiding and had His public ministry? Yes, yes, He can. And He does. And He did it with me. And maybe He wants to do it with you.

3 Reasons to Take a Sabbatical:

I strongly encourage any of you in long-term missions or ministry to take a sabbatical. It is wise and it is healthy to do so. “How” you do it is totally up to you and the counseling-nudges of the Holy Spirit, but I’ll give you a few reasons why I’d recommend it. None of my reasons are proven in “sabbatical textbooks” or backed up by any “sabbatical theologians”, so take it all with a grain of salt. Here’s what I personally think are the 3 main reasons (or purposes) for taking a sabbatical (and if you do it for only 1 of the 3 reasons, it will totally benefit and bless you):

  1. For rest and refreshment – physically, emotionally and spiritually.
  2. For real heart transformation, change and redirection
  3. For greater intimacy in relationships, first with God and then with the people God has given you.

If you can identify with one, two or all three of these reasons, maybe God is trying to get your attention. All I ask is that you consider it.

With that said, I thought I’d share some of the things I’ve learned on my “so-far-from-perfect” sabbatical, and maybe you can get a nugget of gold from it. Maybe you’ll discover that it hasn’t been a waste of time at all, but rather, absolutely necessary and extremely fruitful.

Lesson #1: It is a labor to enter into the rest of God.

Does that sound like a contradiction? In a way it is! It is work to enter into rest. You don’t just sleep your way into rest. You have to make an effort to re-orient ways of thinking, and re-position ways you’ve lived your life, in order to make your life more restful. You have to make it more restful. You don’t just fall your way into a state of rest. There is a really significant line that I’ve heard Laura Hackett sing, a worship leader from IHOP-KC,

“I labor to believe Your word, that I might rest in You.”

I agree. You labor in faith to believe what God says, and this brings you into the rest of God. I have discovered that the most fruitful times on my sabbatical, where I experienced great peace and rest in my heart, were when I invested my time and my energy and labored to seek the face of God and experience His presence in the Word of God.

Lesson #2: If you break the Sabbath, it will break you.

God is serious about Sabbath. I didn’t know how serious, until He interrupted my whole life to tell me. I hadn’t realized that I was entering my seven-year mark in full-time missions and ministry. God’s biblical pattern of Sabbath is to work the land for six years and then rest it on the seventh.

It is never convenient to take a Sabbath (sabbatical). It is always an interruption. If it was convenient and easy to enter into Sabbath, everyone would do it. And sadly, most people have forsaken this all-important season of life. When you take a sabbatical (or a weekly Sabbath) you must trust God with all your unfinished work. Six days labor. Seventh day rest. You must leave your work undone until the next week begins. It takes trust to let God interrupt your work-flow and follow Him into a sabbatical. I certainly felt the weight of it. Right in the prime of my life, when I was so ready to “GO YE”, God said, “STOP” and “REST”. Majorly inconvenient, God! Not funny!

But God gives us the Sabbath because He loves us. God so seriously values the Sabbath for our own sake. It’s not just one more rule to keep. It exists to give us more life. He knows that if we break the Sabbath, it will break us. Meaning, we will eventually burn out and have a breakdown without it. Something “not-good” will happen to us if we don’t take the “good gift” of Sabbath that He is giving us.

We just won’t flourish or thrive long-term without rest. It’s as simple as that. We may look okay for a little while on the outside, but over the long haul, we’ll fizzle out (or be miserable). And if there’s anything I’ve learned on this sabbatical, it’s that we reproduce who we are and what we value. Why would we ever want to reproduce driven, miserable, burned-out workers for God? If God values rest, let us value it as well. We want to reproduce what He’s about. And He’s about Sabbath rest.

Then, out of our refreshed and restful heart, we will work and we will labor for Him.

(For the final 3 lessons, check out Part 2)

 * Photo by: idlphoto

Blog, God + Spirituality, Guest Posts, Ministry + Missions, Personal Growth + Wholeness, Relationships

Rethinking Relationship [Guest Post]

I’m super stoked to introduce my friend, Tyler Cox, to all of you! Tyler and his lovely wife, Heather, co-lead the church plant, Legacy Life Centre, that I am a part of. I’ve been bugging him to write for me for a while now because he has such depth of wisdom and humility (a great combo) and, most of all, he loves people well. I think you’ll see what I mean as he shares his heart on the topic of relationships here…


I think if you were to ask most people what the most important thing in life is, the thing at the end of life they would want to have experienced, their answer would have a lot to do with their relationships. Most people, when they breathe their last breath would wish to be surrounded by their closest family; they would want to laugh and cry and share a few more moments of intimacy before they leave.

If you think about the most significant things in your life, they are more than likely attached to your relationships. This is what we were created for, every one of us: close, intimate relationships, full of unconditional love. When we don’t have these relationships, things can go really wrong. We can miss God’s purpose for our life.

Our purpose always runs through a person, or better, through a people. God has a home for every one of us, a place where our roots go deep and where we grow big, strong and healthy. These are the places where we find our destiny. If it is through relationship, both with God and others, that we find and fulfill our destiny, then in a lot of ways we need to redefine the way we think about relationships. The people we are close with aren’t a means to an end or a ticket to success; they aren’t just there for a season and then gone for the next. They are the people God wants us to do life with, the people we are called to. Psalm 92:12-14 says,

“The righteous will flourish like a palm tree,
they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;
planted in the house of the Lord,
they will flourish in the courts of our God.
They will still bear fruit in old age,
they will stay fresh and green.”

Being planted means we are established as part of a local church. It means we are steadfast, faithful and immovable. God loves when our roots grow deep because we stay fresh, we don’t lose our vigour and we always produce fruit for His kingdom.

Think about it.

Have you ever seen a tree just pick up and move, dragging its roots along with it? It doesn’t happen because the tree would die if it uprooted itself.

In many ways, when we are constantly on the move, hopping from church to church or refusing to settle down, we stop producing fruit. We can grow tired and disillusioned and, at worst, we become a poor representation of our King and His kingdom.

The beautiful thing is God is always wooing us to become a part of something more than ourselves; He will always give you an opportunity to partake in the sweetness of fellowship. (Psalm 55:14)

Here are some good examples of what I am talking about:

Joshua was strong because he refused to leave Moses. He found his destiny because he submitted his heart to the mission of his spiritual father.

Ruth became Jesus’ ancestral grandmother because she found a home with Naomi.

Elisha was used as a powerful vessel for God’s kingdom because he stuck by Elijah, even when Elijah told him to beat it!

Jesus was at home in his earthly father’s house, working as a carpenter until the age of 30, and we all know what happened after.

Paul and Timothy, David and Jonathan, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the Bible is full of the kind of relationships that are grounded in faithfulness and steadfastness.

God Himself is Father, Son and Holy Spirit in complete undisrupted unity for all time. Unified relationship is the model of heaven. We always pray for heaven to come to earth; I don’t think it has to look very complicated. It looks like people who love each other, who stick by each other through thick and thin and who pull the Kingdom of Heaven to earth together. We can do good things alone — we can do great things together.

Perhaps the reason the entire world has not yet seen the full power of the kingdom of God is because His sons and daughters are not acting like sons and daughters.

Our roots are shallow because we skip to one place and hop to the next, trying to catch the next ‘wave of the spirit’ or the next great move of God. Sometimes we act like Holy Spirit chasers instead of recognizing the gift of God and the power at hand right in front of us.

We lack the intimacy (into-me-see) sons and daughters know. Intimacy heals us and when we don’t have it we can never truly be made whole. We are hurt in relationship, but when we are in the right ones, we are restored and made whole.

I think the world is waiting for a generation of Ruth’s who will rise up and say to each other,

“Where you go I will go and where you stay I will stay.”

If there is one thing the people of the kingdom of God need to manifest now more than ever it is a love for each other so deep the world can’t help but take notice. The world is starved for authentic, pure love; for a long time, kingdom people have been starving for the same thing. God is putting an end to independent ways of living and thinking. And that’s really good news for us.

 

[Featured Photo: Creative Commons, WackyBadger]


About the Author:

Pic_Tyler_Heather My name is Tyler Cox. My wife Heather and I, along with a bunch of other awesome people, started a church in Huntsville, Ontario in October 2012. We live in Huntsville with our 6-month old son. Our heart is to see the earth look like heaven and to see His kingdom come through fathers, mothers, sons and daughters walking together in oneness. (Facebook, Twitter)