Let me start off by saying that I’m guilty… or I was anyway. All this construction work you have been hearing about for the last months has all been done without pulling any permits. Yeah, I know. Not a great idea. But, as my building inspector just told me, “The important thing is that you did it right!” He was convinced that I had gotten some help or advice. I told him I’m just awesome… not really, but that would have been great. Dang it! You always think of the good responses way too late.
So,a few weeks ago I went in and pulled permits for everything I have been working on. That was terrifying. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Was I going to be required to undo everything I had already done? Was I going to have to take out my windows, cut out tile to look at the plumbing, tear off sheet rock to look at electrical, and completely re-haul my plumbing after I find out it’s not up to code (even thought it works perfectly fine). Does it mean I have to move out again while I fix everything? How much will it all cost in permit fees and additional work? How much longer will it take when I have a baby on the way who isn’t going to wait for me to finish the work. When baby wants to come out, baby comes out!
I spent a lot of time praying about everything. I went to bed confident that the next day I would go in and pull permits, but then the morning came and I wasn’t so sure that was a good idea anymore. I started thinking about everything that could go wrong and all the money and extra work that could be demanded of me. So, back to prayer I went.
I read about Noah who, “did everything exactly as God had instructed him.” So, I asked Daddy (the Heavenly one), “what do you want me to do?” Immediately and semi-clearly I got, “Go downtown and make this right.” I kept praying, wanting to be sure that this was the right thing to do. “Restore your integrity,” came to me. I started praying about how much this could cost me. “You’re not living for this world anyway… right?” came to me. Then I thought of some verses in 1 Peter.
Remember, it is better to suffer for doing good, if that’s what God wants, than to suffer for doing wrong. But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you. If you suffer for doing right and endure it patiently, God is pleased with you. So if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you. For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you.
(Random collage of verses from chapters 2, 3 & 4)
I want you to know that God’s favor rests on his children. Often he shows us unmerited favor that we completely don’t deserve it. I deserve to have been caught in my law-breaking, to pay double the fee for the permits, and to redo everything that I had already done on the house. I want you to know that as I have walked in obedience to His direction and done “everything exactly as God has instructed me,” I have been blessed. I was blessed first with peace. I was blessed second with favor with the building review official who saw the scriptures I was reading while waiting to see him and said, “I gave that same translation to my sons.” I was blessed thirdly with favor with the HVAC and building inspector who showed up at the same time and were extremely kind and did not require anything unreasonable. I didn’t have to tear anything apart for them, they only gave me tips, suggestions, and two requirements that were easy to accomplish. I was blessed by the electrical inspector who told me I had to move my bath fan (anything requiring going into the attic is not fun) but, other than that, he said it all looked good.
Finally it came down to the big plumbing inspection. This one was where the big hurt came. The plumber whom God had divinely connected me with told me that he was going to have to redo everything for the inspection since it was done according to “function” not according to “super-strict Minneapolis code.” He said it would have passed anywhere else, but since the inspector was on his way, we should redo it ahead of time. I don’t blame him for this at all. This was my decision to pull the permits and I was willing to do whatever or pay whatever it took to make it right.
So, Michelle and I slept overnight at a friends house since we had to disconnect all the plumbing to the existing bathroom in order to isolate the newly installed lines and put 5lbs of pressure on them for the inspector. The inspector was gracious, although not entirely happy that I had done work that he couldn’t completely see (like the shower basin/rubber membrane). In the end he said everything looked great and I was good to go! Praise God.
So, how much does it cost to restore 9 months worth of integrity in a matter of weeks? Well, for me it cost almost 2 grand and a month of work to get back to the “same place” I was at before-hand. Was it worth it? Definitely. The process alone of walking in obedience and uncertainty while trusting my Daddy to work it all out in the end was worth my effort in gold. That and the increased and sustaining peace as I responded to Holy Spirit! I would encourage anyone to take similar steps of faith to do everything with the utmost integrity, even if it looks as if you might “lose out”, all the while trusting that Father will provide everything else for you. He is a good Dad who knows how to take care of His kids. You can trust Him. He can easily provide everything I need monetarily, my only concern is to remain faithful to the Way of Jesus.
So if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you. 1 Peter 4:19
Courage in the face of fear,
Faith in the face of doubt
(This segment is where I get a little personal and share some of my doubts and fears)
Did anyone out there ever become obsessed with juggling for like, three weeks? I remember my high school friend, Collin, and I getting really into it for like a month. We were pulling off the, “under the leg” stunt, the “behind the back” extravaganza, and even the remarkable, “two-person juggling” craziness… yeah, we weren’t very good. Never could figure out how four balls were supposed to happen. We sure had a good time though!
Living a life of faith and ministry feels a lot like I’m juggling tennis balls, basketballs and raw eggs all at the same time. I have a lot of things up in the air, catching one thing in this hand while releasing that thing with the other hand. Certain things definitely have more weight, while other things are quite fragile. It’s quite a different kind of life. Not quite the 9-5 that I was used to.
Ministry opportunities always seem to carry a lot of weight and get prioritized. Not because it’s absolutely the most important thing in life, just that it has the most limited scheduling options. So when needs come up, people need someone to talk with, pray with, or laugh with, you take your opportunity and go for it. Other things get pushed aside. These are my basketballs. Currently I am juggling 7 basketballs. Prayer Resolution, Prayer Resolution training, Immerse Discipleship weekly meetings, mentoring 3 Immerse disciples, Connections Team at Substance, Prayer Captain at Substance, and teacher at Substance’s discipleship school.
Intimacy with my Father and time with the wife are always the most fragile things I juggle. Those seem to be more flexible, but entirely more important. If I don’t have my alone time with my heavenly Father, I am not doing anything out of the peace that is mine to take hold of. If I don’t get my date night with Michelle and we grow apart, I lose my most valuable teammate and vessel of so many of God’s provisions into my life. I am growing more aware of the value of a good marriage and how God has intended it to be a blessing and a strengthening. I am truly blessed. These are my two eggs. I’ve got to be super careful and intentional about these.
After all this I have the “other stuff.” These are my tennis balls. They’re fairly manageable and if I drop them they’re not going to break. These are the things that I often have to trust my Father with as I take care of the heavy and fragile things.
For example, I had the opportunity a few weeks ago to do 160 hours of Prayer Resolution in five weeks with two different people who were desperately in need of the Father’s intervention in their lives. The problem was that I had this “tennis ball” I would totally have to drop for almost an entire month. That tennis ball is the construction work I am doing on my house. So, I dropped it and committed to doing ministry. I love doing ministry. I love almost every opportunity I get to be involved in God’s workings with someone. The struggle comes not in the ministry but with the question, “If I’m taking care of everybody else, who’s going to take care of me?”
So, things are getting cold around here pretty fast. I have windows to install and bathrooms to finish. Winter is on his way and the baby is growing like a champ and will be here soon! While the rest of the world is speeding by, construction is simply slow-going. It gets pushed aside as God continues to provide amazing ministry opportunities for me. There is a harvest taking place. It’s easy to doubt and question what will happen if I keep seeking Kingdom stuff first all the time, but what about all those verses? Could they be true?
Another example is that for the last month Michelle and I have been trying to get on a MN health care plan and WIC (A nutrition program to help pregnant women and children). It’s kind of a big deal, but with everything else going on it keeps getting pushed aside. Not to mention, this stuff is like trying to learn a brand new language! Man, it’s simply confusing and frustrating. After heading out to Target tonight at 9pm to pick up more printer ink, I’m starting to see how expensive it is (time, emotional energy and money) to try to use these programs. It reminds me that the government is never efficient although they seem to be doing more to help the poor than the church is.
The biggest temptation in all this is to throw in the towel, go back to the old way of life, work full time, fix all my problems, focus back on myself and take care of my own needs. Believe me, I’ve been there. Sometimes I am there! And, it’s only been a year since I sent in my resignation to my old job, pursuing a life of ministry and faith. How far can one go by simply living on faith? What about all the unexpected stuff like the furnace going out (which happened this last week… Praise God for a more efficient furnace!)? Is our Father able to handle all that stuff? What about housing markets and greedy banks and oppressive mortgages? Is that beyond God’s strong hand? Honestly, I often don’t know… not in my heart anyway. But, I’m willing to find out. I have enough faith to keep going, and that will have to do to move this mountain.
In the last week two different people have approached us and told us that they want to help support us and our ministry with a very substantial one-time gift. I cried… it’s true! It’s a humbling and honoring thing to be on the receiving side of generosity. I can’t stress enough how meaningful both of those gifts are to Michelle and I. They were so timely. Michelle and I had been going through such a difficult time of uncertainty and doubt and God used both of those people to assure us that He’s still taking care of us. He is fighting for us. And, He still has people in the world who are listening to Him and responding with inconvenient generosity. God is good, He answers prayers, and His church is still alive.