Joy for the Mobilizer

As a student mobilizer for a missions sending agency, I often get questions about what my job, how I came into this role and how I knew that God was calling me to mobilize students. If I’m honest, I regularly ask myself some form of these questions on a regular basis but this weekend, I saw firsthand the impact that the task of mobilization has made on my life and the joy that comes from watching others step into God’s calling in their life as well.

When I was in college, my life was greatly impacted by the experiences I had to go and serve in missions around the world. In the same way that I felt an urgency to share the message of Christ with others – which led me to serve in missions, I felt an urgency to share the impact that those experiences had on my life- and that led me to mobilize my friends. That was just the beginning. I was a mobilizer from the time my feet hit my home turf until I was sent out again and with each time, I was linking arms with more students and dragging them (sometimes literally) along with me. Mobilizing others has been a part of my story for as long as missions has been a part of my story – and that is because of others who mobilized me, to which I’m eternally grateful.

trainrideThis past week, my husband and I traveled out west to celebrate our 4 year Wedding Anniversary. We have this tradition where every other year, we fly out and spend a few days exploring a city we’ve never been while the alternating year is spent exploring a new spot in our home state of Tennessee. We have always talked about how fun it would be to move out west and this year we decided on Denver for our anniversary trip. We reached out to a friend from college who had moved to Denver with her husband a little over a year ago to join a church planting team. This friend isn’t just any friend but one whom we have both loved dearly and have always encouraged to use her gifts in ministry. To our surprise, it just happened to work out that the dates we had planned for our trip would allow us to attend the launch for their church plant.

I wasn’t prepared for how emotional I would be filling a seat in the first service of their church plant. I wasn’t prepared for how emotional I would be seeing my dear friend’s sweet smile greet me at the door of the elementary school where their church is meeting. I wasn’t prepared for how emotional I would be looking over my shoulder and catching a glimpse of her husband sitting next to someone whom we had been praying would attend the service that morning. I wasn’t prepared for how emotional I would be seeing our friends hugging the necks of people in their community who showed up for their first service.

I wasn’t prepared. And yet I was at the same time because it was God who had been preparing and molding us for this day since before we even met. It was God who ordained for me to meet this friend in January of 2009. It was God who, in his mercy, had always weaved our friendship back together through the ups and downs of life. It was God who allowed me to encourage her to serve in missions when we were in college and it was God who showed her the gifts that he had given her to be a part of his Kingdom work. It was God who knew the name of her husband even before I was praying that He would provide her with a partner who would push her forward and walk beside her in the ministry he was preparing or her. It was God. And we felt him that day in a new and exciting and overwhelming way that day.caseynrebecca

We came to Denver to celebrate how God had moved in our lives these first four years of marriage but he gifted us with an overwhelming joy that had filled our hearts as we celebrated the birth of a new church alongside our friends – and that was more than we could have ever asked or imagined. As we left their apartment that Sunday evening, I finally allowed myself to release the emotions that had been building inside of me all day and it was in that moment sitting behind the wheel of our parked rental car that I released the grandest emotion of them all through an outpouring of tears and choppy words – gratitude. I am so grateful that God has allowed me the opportunity to mobilize others over the years and that he has allowed me to do that as my job here in Memphis. It’s my job to mobilize students to take the gospel to the unreached around the world but beyond that, the task that the Lord has given me is to mobilize anyone and everyone in my path to know their gifts, to grow in Christ’s likeness and to go use those gifts where they are needed most.

 

I recently heard a quote from someone I have looked up to for many years while speaking to a group of students and I have tucked it away in my heart as a reminder in my own journey of walking in obedience to God’s call on my life – “God has already called us to go so that shouldn’t be our question. Instead we should ask him where we should stop.” As we flew back home last night, of course I carried home a great appreciation for the beauty of colorful Colorado and a sense of gratitude for our time away but more than anything, we both came away with an even greater sense of gratitude for the task that the Lord has set before us to equip, encourage, and yes, mobilize others to go until God tells us to stop.

blogimage2.PNG

Taking out the Trash

As our family has transitioned to a new city and as we have prayed through what ministry will look like for us in this new season, I have tried to take time regularly to pray through things I’ve learned over the last few years. I have been blessed to work under strong men and women over the last decade+ who have taught me so much about how to minister to college students and how to cultivate a life giving ministry on a college campus. But one of the most valuable lessons I learned was this: I learned how to take out the trash.

It’s not something you put on your resume and we’ve laughed about the mental list we’ve accumulated over the years of all the non-glamorous parts of ministry and that’s just one of the many. You’ll never find an article published by Lifeway Young Adults called “10 ways to take out the trash” or read a book of a similar title. They didn’t cover it in any of my seminary classes and it’s not something that esteemed ministers ever mention as one of their greatest ministry accomplishments but it still has to be done. And it was never something that was taught but something that was constantly modeled day in and day out.

As I continue pursuing the ministry that the Lord has for me for many years to come until He calls me home, there are many ministry objectives that I want to keep at the forefront of my mind daily. I pray that students feel equipped to share the gospel. I pray they pursue what God has planned for their lives and not what the world tells them will bring the most security. I pray they are mobilized around the world to take the gospel to those who have not heard. I pray they learn to love/serve the local church. But I also pray they learn how to take out the trash.

We live in a self-absorbed culture where young and old adults alike are not geared to naturally do the things that are uncomfortable or undesirable. We like to take the job that will pay the most money so that we can buy nicer things. We like to do flashy things that are going to draw attention to ourselves or make for an aesthetically pleasing post with the perfect caption to make sure to trigger a dopamine hit of likes and comments on social media.

But Christ came humbly to seek and save the lost – born in a manger and died on a cross. And no matter where the Lord takes our family or what our earthly ministry looks like, I pray that I am surrounded by more and more leaders who are modeling what true servant leadership looks like. I am forever thankful for all the lessons I’ve learned from those I’ve been blessed to serve under over the years. But as we make this transition, I’m reminded that I’m most thankful that they taught me how to take out the trash.

Pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest.

I have spent the last two years serving on staff with a campus ministry in TN while also serving this past year as a Student Mobilizer with the International Mission Board. It has been the sweetest ministry season in my life so far!! Between my two roles, I have spent a lot of time having conversations with college students over coffee about what God is doing in their life. I have also spent time discipling students one on one and praying with them as we study the bible about how God is calling them to be a part of his work among the nations.

This morning I had a notification from a closed facebook group where field workers in an undisclosed country update their loved ones. I do not know this couple personally but one of the students that has sat in front of me over more cups of coffee and pieces of cheesecake than I can count is serving with them for the summer.

The update had a picture of the American girls there for the summer and the students they have been discipling and the caption read,

“Many great things are happening on an island to the west of us where the ladies are currently serving. People are hearing the gospel for the first time, professions are being made, and new relationships are being established while students are being discipled – this is everything we hoped for! Pray that the team continues strong and proceeds with great wisdom.”

While I’m OVER THE MOON excited for the decisions that have been made this summer, the line in the update that moved me to tears was this – “this is everything we hoped for!”

Our field personnel are in the thick of Matthew 9:38. They are praying earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. They are praying right now for our college students in America to come and serve alongside of them for a semester or for the summer. All the while, our students are praying for ways that they can be used by God and people around the world are hurting, feeling hopeless and they are grasping for anything that might make them whole when what they need is someone to come and tell them about Jesus.

  • To the student that is reading this – our field personnel are praying for workers to come serve alongside of them. The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. They are praying for you. Never in your life will you have the flexibility to go and give your time like you will in college. Don’t miss out on how God wants to use you to take the gospel to the nations.
  • To the college minister who may be reading this – Your students are seeking ways to be used by God. They need to be challenged and stretched beyond their comforts and given opportunities to serve. Don’t let them slip through the cracks. There are mobilizers like me in cities throughout the US whose job is to connect with churches and come alongside ministry leaders to help mobilize students. Use them.
  • To the parents who may be reading this – I know how hard and how scary it is to even entertain the thought of your child going and serving in another country. But here’s the thing : God created you and your kids on purpose for HIS purpose and he LOVES them even more than you do. If your child feels called to go and serve for the summer, even when it’s scary, take a step back and recognize that the same God who created them is calling them to go and do great things. There are so many students who are struggling with a call to go and serve, not because of their own uncertainty or fears but because they do not feel the support of their family. Use this as a way to deepen your own walk with Jesus and with your student as you pray for your child and walk this journey of obedience with them. Don’t miss out on how God wants to use you to send your child to take the gospel to the ends of the earth.
  • To the pastors and church leaders who may be reading this – Students are thirsty for church family and true connection within the body of Christ. Invest in college students and seek out ways to better equip them to serve the church, the community, their campus, and to go out and join the work that God is doing around the world. As your church prays for our missionaries around the world, recognize that our missionaries are praying for our churches to send out workers. Be a church that invests in their students and that sends their students to go and make disciples.

 

May our knees be tattered and torn as we join in praying with our field personnel for workers to join the harvest and how we can be a part of both the going and the sending.

Cultivating Healthy Rhythms : 10 Tips to Help Establish Spiritual Disciplines

blogpic

I have never been a morning person. As a kid, my mom had the hardest time getting me up to get ready for school each day and I still struggle with that same battle today. I just really love sleep! 🙂 However, over the years I have found that when I get up early and spend time with Jesus I feel much more rested, I have a better attitude, I’m less distracted and I am just an overall better human being.

I have written out some practical tips to help create this daily rhythm of spending time with Jesus and digging into his word each morning. This doesn’t work for everyone. Not everyone is able to set aside time each morning but more of us are able than we like to think. Here are some tips that will help if you desire starting your day in the word of God.

Prep the coffee the night before.

  • Whether you’re a coffee person or not, you likely have some “First thing’s first” morning beverage or breakfast and you could easily prep the night before so that it’s easier to whip up when you first wake up. In our house, I prep the coffee maker where all I have to do is press a button and the coffee is ready in a couple of minutes. And if my husband gets up before me, he will even hit the button for me so the delicious smell helps get me out of bed. I know this may sound silly but this saves time and if you’ve prepped the night before, you will be more likely to get on up when your alarm goes off because you remember the prep work from the night before.

Get up at the same time every day.

  • This one was probably the hardest one to make stick. I’ve been that girl who sets her alarm based on when she needs to leave the house plus the shortest amount of time that she could possibly get ready for my entire life! Some of you already do this because you go to work/school the same time every day and so this would just mean setting your alarm a little earlier for the same time each day but more and more people are working from home, in school, working retail and their schedules are not as cookie cutter as we’ve known the norm for so long. Whether you’re a career professional and your schedule flexes on whether or not you’re going to the gym or if you’re a student working weird hours and have late classes – look at your schedule, find the day that you have to get up the earliest, add in the time you want to spend with Jesus on top of everything else you need to do in the morning and set your alarm at that time every day no matter what your schedule is. I have found that I sleep better overall by getting up at the same time each day and I have much more time on my hands to get stuff done.
    • Side note – the snooze button is the devil! He is a deceiver and he will lead you down the wrong path! 🙂 Just say no!

Find your spot.

  • I’ve always had issues with the term “quiet time” because it makes you feel like you need to go to the library or a coffee shop to spend time with Jesus but that’s just not the case. If your time with Jesus includes singing worship music at the top of your lungs – don’t go to the library. Find your spot that fits your needs for your time with Jesus. Some people like to go for a walk at the park and clear their mind before the Lord before they dig into scripture. I go to the guest room in our house with my cup of coffee and my dog where I leave my bible, journal and an array of pens by the bed. Find your spot that fits your needs.

Start small.

  • When you’ve just woken up and you’ve only had your first sip of coffee, your mind may need some stretching before diving headfirst into scripture. Figure out a good warm up routine that’s quick and aligns your heart with the Lord. I like to listen to worship music as I spend time with the Lord so I’ll turn on my playlist to get started but my favorite warm up activity is using my Write the Word journal from the Cultivate What Matters shop. This is the one I’m currently using. This journal gives you a place to jot down the date, something you’re grateful for and then prompts a passage of scripture that you write out. There’s also a page for just anything that’s on your heart and then a place for a word for the day. Think through what worship looks like for you and start there and start small. Your brain will thank you for the warm up and you’re so much more likely to get more from your time in scripture.

Read it twice.

  • If you’ve been following along with the New Testament reading plan @my.hearts.treasure than you’ve noticed that we have it scheduled out where you read 2-3 chapters of scripture a day and you repeat the same passage two days in a row. This is a practice that I began as a college student serving in Argentina for the summer as my team read through the book of Acts. There was something so special about receiving a new message from the Lord on the second day even though I was reading through the same passage from the day before. Give it a try!

Write it out.

  • Whether you live jotting notes in the margins or you are like me and just have way too many words and need a journal handy – write it out! Whatever the Lord is teaching you, whatever is on your heart, whatever confuses you or doesn’t make sense? Write it out.

Do it anyway.

  • We are imperfect, sinful humans and we are going to have days where we just don’t want to  spend time with Jesus. Do it anyway. I had a conversation last summer with a student who said she wanted to find a way to cultivate a stronger desire to read the bible and my advice to her and so many others is to read it whether you have the desire or not and the longing and the desire will come. The Holy Spirit is working in us and uses what we read for our good whether we want to meet with him or not. The only way to create a daily rhythm of spending time with Jesus is to do it daily whether you really want to or not. This sounds harsh but a relationship with Jesus requires the same commitment as a relationship with anyone else. Sometimes you spend time with friends/significant other/spouse/your children even when you may not want to because you care about that person and about your relationship with that person. We’re selfish at our core so even when you don’t want to get up and spend time with Jesus – do it anyway.

Stick to the basics.

  • There are tons of resources, books, commentaries, devotionals, blogs, articles, etc. that are made to help you with your study of scripture but when working to cultivate these daily spiritual rhythms, stick to the basics. Bible, journal, worship music, trusted ink pens. All of these resources are good but they are no substitute for the living and active word of God. Throwing in too many extras will just take up time that you’ve set aside to spend with Jesus – save the extras for later.

Share with a friend.

  • Whether you have a formal accountability partner walking alongside your faith journey or you call up a friend on the regular – having open dialogue with another brother or sister in Christ about what Jesus is teaching you in your time with him is so important. Community is not only healthy but it is necessary. Find yours. If you’re not in a season of life where you have people you can talk to, seek that out. The team @my.hearts.treasure would love nothing more than to pray for you in that and chat with you about how God’s working in your life. This faith journey is not a race against one another but a march forward with linked arms pressing onward together. Identify those people in your life that are a safe place for you to share openly and honestly – and share with them often.

Get a watch.

  • In a world where we rely on our phones for everything, we don’t always want to admit what a distraction they can be. Needing to keep up with the time does not have to be another reason to have a distraction nearby when you’ve gotten up early to read the word of God. Leave your phone across the room, in your bag or even at home when you go to spend time with the Lord. It just takes one quick check of a notification for you to wake up from your insta-slumber and realize you’ve spent 30 minutes scrolling. Get a watch – put the phone away. (This is a sermon to myself! I promise!)

I hope these tips are helpful and encouraging to you as you work to build those spiritual disciplines and put those rhythms in place.

My Heart’s Treasure

Last summer I began reading through the New Testament with a few students who had traveled with me to New Orleans on a mission trip. While we were there we had conversations about wanting to be more intentional about spending time studying the word of God. This summer I wanted to open this reading plan up to more women who have this same desire while also providing a space where we could all gather as a Gospel Community.

That birthed @My.Hearts.Treasure on Instagram as well as the Facebook Group where we are reading through the New Testament and encouraging one another along the way. Join us in either of those social spaces but more than that, join us in the word by following along with our plan and uniting with us in prayer for one another and that the Holy Spirit would penetrate our hearts and renew our minds with God’s Holy Word.

Download the Reading Plan here.

Wait in anguish no more.

Good Friday has ended and tomorrow we will celebrate Resurrection Sunday. Today we wait. We wait and we remember the events of the crucifixion and we recount the story of Christ’s resurrection to be celebrated at our sunrise services and Easter brunches tomorrow. But what about that Saturday?

What must that day have been like? What pain must have been felt?

My mind immediately goes to Peter because he’s my favorite disciple. How Peter must have replayed those denials of Jesus over and over in his head. How he must have thought, “if only I had done something, I could have saved him.” How he was awakened by the rooster crowing that Saturday morning and he remembered those words of Jesus telling him that even before the rooster crowed, Peter would deny him 3 times. And he did. How he would be haunted by the sounds of a rooster for the rest of his days. Don’t you know that in those moments on that Saturday that Peter and the other 10 were in complete anguish, completely unsure of what they would do next?

Do you ever think about the shame and guilt and pain that was felt by Judas as those 30 pieces of silver jingled as he ran back to the Temple to try to take it all back? Jesus had not even been crucified yet, only handed over to Pilate at this point according to Matthew’s gospel yet he was already full of shame. Matthew 27 tells us that when the chief priests and elders refused to reverse the deal made with Judas, to take back the money, and free Jesus as he begged, Judas threw the 30 pieces of silver to the ground in the temple and went and hanged himself. Even the chief priests would not take back the money because they saw it as blood money and they used the money for a field to bury strangers, calling it the Field of Blood. The money exchanged for Jesus’ life was used to prepare a field for the burial of strangers. I can’t help but see that as the way in which Jesus redeemed even Judas’ betrayal in caring for those seen as outcasts/strangers by the Jews.

When we read about Jesus’ burial in each of the gospels, we are introduced to Joseph of Arimathea. John 19:38 describes him as a disciple of Jesus who kept it secret for fear of the Jews. He went to Pilate and asked for the body and then provided a proper burial for his Jesus. Can you imagine the shame of always keeping his devotion to Jesus a secret due to his fear of the Jews? For staying silent? For never speaking out boldly in belief? As he went back home after securing Jesus in linen and placing his body in the tomb, how he must have wept.

Matthew’s gospel places Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary” at the tomb for the burial of Jesus. Much research has went into which women were actually at the tomb and you can read more about that here. This is of no surprise to me. That was their nature, to serve Jesus to the very end in ensuring that he was given a proper burial. Luke’s account in chapter 23, verses 55-56 reads, “The women who had come with him from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how his body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments. On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.” They rested. They recognized and observed the Sabbath according to the commandment. They didn’t work. They didn’t keep themselves busy as I would be inclined to do just to take their minds off the events they had just witnessed. They rested. And don’t you know they felt the anguish in the waiting? Don’t you know they wept? They grieved their Jesus on that Sabbath.

Today as we anticipate the celebration of the resurrection tomorrow, may we be reminded that just as the anguish in the waiting experienced by those closest to Jesus was redeemed that Sunday morning, so is ours. We do not have to sit in our pain because we know the Savior who conquered death and can wait, not in anguish, but in hope and expectation for his promised return again.

Maybe you find yourself in a season of waiting. Waiting for an answered prayer, waiting on healing, waiting for answers. Wait not in anguish but in joy because Jesus has proven himself faithful in the text of the gospels and in our own lives as those redeemed by the blood of the lamb of God who was slain. Wait in anguish no more. He has risen! And he will come again!

I encourage you to spend some time today reflecting on the pain felt by those who were mourning their Jesus only to be redeemed upon Jesus’ resurrection. All Sons & Daughters’ song “Buried in the Grave” is a great song about that Saturday between Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. It’s my favorite to listen to on repeat on this day each year and I pray that it encourages you heart today as well.

It’s about the heart work…

There are FEW things more special to me than seeing college students give their time to serve the Lord in missions and getting to serve alongside them. It’s so much more than just the work that is being done but the work in their hearts and within our ministry that is being done through the Holy Spirit as we walk in obedience.

It’s the deep conversations had while painting at an orphanage where chains are broken and hearts are set free. It’s the surrender of hearts that’s found in a quiet time with the Lord at a picnic table before the physical work for the day has begun. It’s the unity that’s formed among our team through the vulnerable sharing of hearts during worship each night. It’s the unlikely friendships that are formed through sweat and blisters on our hands as we shovel concrete and dig postholes. It’s in the prayers shared around a circle for one another, for the people we are serving while we’re away and for the hearts back home that need to hear the Gospel when we return. It’s in the voices and hands raised giving praise to the King of Kings who works all things, redeems all things, and restores all things for His glory and our good.

There’s hard work that’s done through blood and sweat but it’s the heart work that’s done through the moving of the Holy Spirit among the team that can only be fully understood by going yourself. So parents, don’t be afraid of the commitments that your students desire to make but trust that the Lord who created them and who began a good work in them is bringing it to completion. Support your students as they desire to give more of themselves for the sake of the Gospel. Church, give so that more students can go and experience the fullness of joy as they serve in missions. Brothers and sisters, link arms and lay hands over one another as they move forward in taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth. As they run their race, join them stride by stride by using the gifts that you’ve been given through your praying, giving, sending and going.

As a college student myself, a popular song moved me to tears each time I would lead it as I looked out on my friends who were making bold strides to take the Gospel to those who had never heard the name of Jesus. The second verse sings, “I see a generation rising up to take their place with selfless faith. I see a near revival stirring as we pray and seek. We’re on our knees.” I can’t help but believe in my heart that what I experienced in serving alongside 26 students this week was fulfillment of those words. College students today are making bold leaps of faith in following after what God is calling them to do instead of what the world and their families say they should do. It’s contagious and it’s a movement that would serve the church well to stand behind and push them forward as they step out in faith to proclaim the name of Jesus. The American dream will do nothing but leave us empty, seeking more of the world but the Kingdom dream that is being cultivated in the hearts of today’s college students will only give more of what this world truly needs – the love and the hope of Jesus Christ.

IMG_4455