January 14, 2012

God Still Speaks... and It Is Well

Well, we've been back in Indiana now for five days, the bags are all unpacked and the kids enjoyed a 2-hour delay from snow yesterday.  All is well in the Dahlgren home, or is it?!

The holidays are usually filled with awesome times, amazing food and great fellowship.  We did enjoy Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's, but also had some more discouraging days than we've had in a long while.

It's been 11 months now since we received the word from ReachGlobal that we were accepted as missionary candidates to Lyon, France.  Wow!  Who could have imagined that God would take us through so many winding roads and lead us to such a place as this - the brink of serving overseas.  I (Chris) had hoped for this over 22 years ago, but it was not yet the time.

After our acceptance, we were so full of excitement and faith.  We believed that the same God that moved mountains and healed the sick would also rain down provision for us to be moving to Lyon by the summer of 2011.  Six months isn't too difficult for the God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills!  Do you know how hard it is to teach faith to your kids and then teach about God's timing rather than yours???  Well, it's so very hard!

All the same, we began this school year and set out to believe God would provide for our support needs so we could begin serving in Lyon by the summer of 2012.  He just needed to provide enough financial partners by Christmas so we could begin the next phase of training.  Well, once again His timing is not ours.

God did provide, however, an amazing opportunity for Steve to begin working part-time so he could spend more time in ministry partner development.  This began December 1st.  God answered this prayer in such an amazing way and we are so very grateful.  Yet, December proved to be a very slow month.  People are busy with all their shopping, parties, family gatherings and church commitments.  We know.  We've been there many years of our marriage! :)

And, though we had some special times getting together with friends and family during our two weeks in California, the limited times to meet with people to share about the need for Christ in Lyon took it's toll.  By the end of our 2nd week we started questioning whether God really wants us to serve in Lyon.  So many questions ran through our minds... why would God ask us to go to such a costly place and not provide the means to get there? How long is too long to raise our support?  Did we hear Him wrong?  Should we be looking for something else?  Are we crazy?  Why did God lead us to the ministry in Lyon when we never thought of serving in France?  Why didn't God just call us to a less expensive country like Haiti?  Why has God given us such a heart for the French people now if He may not want us to go?  Why?  Why?  Why?

ReachGlobal has developed such an amazing culture for their missionaries.  One such practice is for everyone to set aside one day per month as a Personal Retreat Day.  We learned about these but haven't yet been very good at putting them into practice.  We decided to take the family to the park last Saturday for a few hours of personal "Time Alone with God" - reading His Word, praying, reflecting, listening.  We then came back together and talked through what we learned during our time.  It was an awesome time as a family.  We still didn't have any definite answers by the end of our time, but dedicating that time to seek Him was definitely special for all of us.

The kids also enjoyed feeding the ducks powdered mini-donuts at the park!

As we came home our thoughts and conversations leaned more toward giving up and seeking where else God would want us to serve.  We definitely still felt like we were to serve in some sort of full-time ministry... maybe a church would take us???  Our intent was to spend this week studying and praying for God to clearly show us what His plan was for our family.  Monday through the day and night while flying and driving, I kept pleading with God that He would speak very specifically and clearly to both of us THIS WEEK to let us know what we were supposed to do.  (Now realize, my faith is still strong, but I don't trust it quite as much as I did 11 months ago since God hasn't answered my prayers the way I have wanted.)

Tuesday morning came... we returned to school and work.  Wow, was it hard to get up Tuesday morning when we didn't get home until 12:30am that morning. :)  So, although we were lacking sleep, we trudged ahead into the week seeking God's smack-over-the-head-speaking-at-the-top-of-His-lungs answer to our prayers.  It really is funny how God does really answer prayers just when we need them to build up our faith and remind us that He does hear and care.

Tuesday afternoon... I was at work, still discouraged and pleading for a sign from God.  I decided to take a few minutes to read Moody's "Today in the Word" devotional.  Sorry, Wes (my boss), but I really needed to spend a few minutes in the Word and didn't have time before heading to work.  I had just come across Moody's devotional page last month while looking at their website with Morgan.  I haven't really read more than a couple of the devotionals, but had bookmarked it in case I needed a quick "pick-me-up" in the middle of the day.  This was that type of day.

Since I didn't know what day to read, I thought I might as well read the devotional for that day - Tuesday, January 10, 2012.  The month of January's devotionals are focused on no longer being afraid when we walk in the fear of the Lord.  Psalm 27 was the passage to read. We tend to like The Message translation so this was the translation I read.  The whole passage is excellent and was perfect for me that morning.  I love where it reads,

Listen, God, I'm calling at the top of my lungs:
"Be good to me! Answer me!"
When my heart whispered, "Seek God,"
my whole being replied,
"I'm seeking Him!"
Don't hide from me now!

That's exactly what I was praying... over and over again, "Please God, answer me!"  Then the final verse just hit me...

I'm sure now I'll see God's goodness
in the exuberant earth.
Stay with God!
Take heart. Don't quit. I'll say it again:
Stay with God.

To be honest, I didn't like these verses when I read them.  Yes, I wanted to stay with God, but I also wanted to quit.  This was just getting too hard.  It's so easy to feel like we're building barriers between ourselves and our dear friends rather than building bridges.  We imagine people noticing our phone number on their cell phones and not answering so they don't have to meet with us.  We worry that people think we only want their money.  Steve worries that people think of us now as multi-level marketing missionaries.  All of these are so FAR from the truth. 

We just want to share about how God has been working in our lives - through the good and the bad and the ugly - to bring us to this amazing place where He wants to use us to share His love to those who have never heard.  What an awesome privilege!  We also just want to share how desperately lost and hopeless the French people are.  People often just think of the wonderful things about France - amazing vacation destination, delectable treats, historic structures that date back to Christ.  Oh, to be "living the life" in France! (That was actually spoken to one of our kids.)   But we, as Americans, don't realize how desperately hopeless and lost they really are.

So, back to the scripture I read on Tuesday...  God spoke quite clearly to me, "Stay with God!  Take heart.  Don't quit."  I thought I'd wait to see how Steve's afternoon went before I shared with him what I read.  When I came home he told me that he thought we shouldn't give up yet.  He knew that we were supposed to keep on keeping on!  How frustrating!!! :)  I asked him how he came to that conclusion.  He said that when Easton came home from school, he asked Steve if he had a good afternoon and had set up any appointments to meet with people.  Steve told him more about our concerns and that we were seeking God to make clear what we were supposed to do.  Now, remember that although Easton is willing and prepping himself to go to France, he reminds us often that he would rather stay here.  Well, he blurted back to Steve in a rather matter-of-fact tone, telling him that we can't give up now.  We've come too far and shouldn't quit.  Then Spencer came home a few minutes later and walked in on their conversation.  She got quite persistent with Steve that she felt that we were to keep on with our ministry development.

When Steve shared with me about these conversations with the kids, I shared with him what I read in Psalm 27.  I knew we had our very clear answer, pretty much word-for-word from God.  He gave the same message to me through His Word and to Steve through our kids.  DON'T QUIT!  I've taken the last few days to reflect and let it soak in.  I was also waiting to see if God would have an even clearer message of a different sort leading us elsewhere, just in case. :)  We feel renewed and refocused on the ministry He has called us to in Lyon, France!

Now if He will just take care of the extremely-above-and-beyond-our-own-ability-to-raise monthly support needs so we can make our way to Lyon!  All in His own time... I know!

So, as I begin a weekend where we celebrate Easton's 14th birthday, I am reminded of this amazing song, It Is Well with My Soul.  And, since we love Hillsong, you can enjoy their rendition of it!

January 2, 2012

Reflect and Resolve

Can you believe it's 2012 already?  So many people are setting resolutions for the year.  Have you set yours yet?  I've not been too good at completing resolutions in the past so the past few years I haven't even bothered.  Sad, I know.  It just seems easier; that way I don't fail.

In 2011, God directed us to ReachGlobal and led us to the ministry openings in Lyon.  As we took each step through the process, we trusted God would open the right doors along the way.  We are so excited and ready to begin serving in Lyon, France with the Lyon City Team.  To get the "green light" to go, we must be 100% funded.  That means every person or family who God is stirring to do something more will join our team as financial/prayer partners.  It's so exciting to realize that the Lyon City Team will NOT consist of 4 family units but rather it WILL consist of 600-800 family units partnering together to reach the lost and hurting in Lyon!  Isn't God so cool?!

This past year has been filled with many emotions - fear, excitement, discomfort, anxiety, joy... on and on.  Emotions (mostly negative ones) often want to control our actions when we know that life is so much more than our emotions.  Philippians 4:5-7 helps to remind us to pray and praise instead:

"Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life."

So, what resolutions am I setting for 2012?  Well, here's what I've come up with:
  1. Worry less
  2. Pray more
  3. Praise God for all He provides
  4. Seek God
  5. Spend more time with God
  6. Learn what He is trying to teach me
  7. Trust Him completely
  8. Move to Lyon! :)

Romans 4:4-5 hit me this morning:

"If you're a hard worker and do a good job, you deserve your pay; we don't call your wages a gift. But if you see that the job is too big for you, that it's something only God can do, and you trust Him to do it—you could never do it for yourself no matter how hard and long you worked—well, that trusting-Him-to-do-it is what gets you set right with God, by God. Sheer gift."

Only God can bring together our partnership team!  This is a difficult lesson to realize, but is also quite encouraging.  We know we don't have the ability to do this in our own strengths.  Our ministry partners are sheer gifts that only He can provide!!!

What are your resolutions for 2012?  How is God working in and through you?  Will you pray with us specifically that God will provide all of our needs so we can begin serving in France in 2012?