Confession

I have a confession…
First, the back story. If you’ve read our previous posts, you know how God led us on the path to Nashville, and how He orchestrated putting us in the apartment we are currently in. A seemingly weird but successful way to get an apartment in a prime location! Well, when we dsc_0599-zoom.jpgmoved in, one of the first obvious things was the Parthenon – You can see it directly across the street from our front window.

Quick note about the Parthenon: It’s the centerpiece of our Centennial Park and is a full-scale replica of the original Parthenon located in Athens, Greece. Inside is a full scale, 42 ft. replica of the statue of the Greek goddess Athena. For many this is purely ornamental, but we later discovered there are some who sit at the feet of this statue and pray to her. Yes, we talked to a lady at a park event one time who said she does this very thing. So to break it down, this is a goddess temple, and it is certainly not one representing the name of Jesus.

Back to our apartment location. Within the first day or so of moving in, Tim noted he had read that the Tennessee State Capitol is in perfect alignment with the Parthenon. So let’s add this up: our apartment is in direct alignment with the Parthenon, which means our very apartment is in direct alignment with The Parthenon and the Capitol building. We’re on a hill higher than both of those locations so we can see the tops of both buildings. As soon as he mentioned that fact and I recognized it with my Tipsown eyes…something inside me shook and was like “Woah. This has to be significant for some reason.” I knew God placed this exact apartment into our laps as a gift and I knew that it was not a coincidence that it happened to be above and directly aligned with these two major buildings in the city. Notice how the building tips line up in the picture.

This fact boggled my mind and for a long time I kept asking God what was up with this. Why would He place us in this exact spot? I continued to ask but it wasn’t until over a year later that I finally felt like He answered. I was sitting on the front porch one evening praying for the city and talking to God about various things. I once again asked Him about this. Here’s my journal entry from that day:

Me: Why did you place us directly and perfectly aligned with the Parthenon and capital? What is the meaning of this?
Answer I hear: You are more powerful than the principalities and powers. Than the evil spirits and government. You are above all of that. In me, you are greater. Greater than the enemy. Greater than any other force. Greater than those that lead and govern. You, in me, have more power than all of that.

I believe that God set us here, living on this hill situated above and in line with the Parthenon and Capitol to be a constant reminder that there are many powers and authorities in this city but there is not one above Jesus. None greater or more powerful than our God! And the Spirit of God lives within us! This spot was more strategic than I could have imagined, and I have felt the call to pray with the authority of Jesus’ name over and for Nashville and all that influences it.

Here is where my confession comes in. Since the time of this revelation I have not taken full advantage of this strategic location and my authority in Jesus to pray over Nashville and its influencers. Sure, I pray for Nashville regularly concerning many different things, but not to the extent, intentionality, regularity, or intensity that I feel that God is calling me to. This location He has placed us in has been a wonderful blessing. Honestly, we love where we live! However, I want to use this strategic location, in this time, to pray powerfully and boldly for Nashville. Calling on God to reign, to demolish strongholds and barriers that are keeping the city from Him, to do away with evil spirits and powers that are at work, to pray for leaders and influencers, to proclaim His will and name over any other.

So why am I telling you this? Well, I do want to be honest, but also, telling you brings some accountability for me to walk in this calling to pray over the city. I also want to ask you to pray for us that God will continue to reveal to us his desire and heart for Nashville. That we will see His vision for the city and proclaim His power and way here. Yes, we currently have a specific mission in certain areas but there is also a city at large. God certainly has a greater mission for this city as a whole and I believe He wants us to stay reminded and keep our eyes in line with His greater vision.
~ Tiffany

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The Missional Incarnational Pathway – Imagination, Innovation, Improvisation

In a previous post, we shared a diagram that maps out a pathway for doing incarnational mission. The first step is Immersion – spending time in the neighborhood. 7-is-of-incarnational-mission-triangle The goal is to be present and quietly participate in the life of the community. We’ve been doing this for about a year now.

The next step is Interaction  with people. This is basically about connecting with people who live in that context. We’ve met lots of stakeholders in the community, people who really care about the future of that neighborhood, and people living there.

After spending time with people in that context, we pulled back and went through a process of discernment. We asked ourselves “What are we hearing?” and “What are we seeing?” We asked this from both a practical and spiritual perspective.  The goal was to observe, reflect, and discuss our insights about the cultural and spiritual realities of that context.

With that insight, we moved into the Imagination phase. We asked ourselves the question, “What would it look like for the kingdom of God to come in a fuller way here?” After a time of prayer and discussion, we felt like four focal points emerged:

  1. Live out a weekly rhythm of being present in the neighborhood. This would, over time, increase our capacity to model and minister the good news of Jesus.
  2. Participate in efforts to disrupt the school to prison pipeline. The reading levels of elementary students are low in that area, which is a major contributing factor to that pipeline. We wanted to demonstrate the restorative justice of God that we see so clearly in the gospel.
  3. Work on developing bridges between the neighborhood and the local hospital and health clinic. There are amazing health resources within a few blocks of that context, but after meeting with representatives from those organizations, we discovered that there is not a focused effort for creating awareness of those resources in that community.
  4. Partner with already existing organizations in the North Nashville context who is advocating for the development of that context, and the greater Nashville area. We wanted to walk and network with people who had experience of doing ministry in that context. Partnership is how God works, so we wanted to mirror that in our efforts.

Each one of those focal points provided us with a starting point for the Innovation process.  These are some of the things we started doing as a result:

  1. We’ve played basketball in the local park once a week.
  2. We started tutoring in the local elementary school.
  3. We passed out flyers in the neighborhood about free health screenings at the hospital, and hosted a OneLife table at the health clinic’s annual community block party.
  4. We started partnering with One Nashville, a non-profit of Christian activists in North Nashville who distribute food and supplies to local churches, schools, non-profits, and families, and mobilize participation in the local political process via City Council meetings and local elections.

Each one of these focal points has opened up opportunities for us to participate in what God is doing in this community.

After about a year and half, we are stepping into the Improvisation stage. This is where you look back at what you have been doing, and make adaptive changes based on what you have been experiencing. This too requires a process of discernment, so we want to invite you to help us do that. Here are 4 things we are requesting your prayers for:

  1. Despite our weekly presence in the park to play basketball, we’ve had marginal participation from kids in the community. There is drug activity in the park, and each time we show up, sometimes in less than 5 minutes (we timed it one day) one or two teenagers or young adults show up and “watch” us. We think it’s the local drug dealers doing surveillance of the area. We ask them to play basketball, but they always decline. Please pray that we can find a creative way to engage the youth in that area using the park. It’s a majorly under used resource in that neighborhood that could be used for so much good.
  2. The tutoring program we were involved in at the elementary school has been de-funded. 😦 We recently met with the schools community liaison and he was excited to see that we still wanted to find ways of investing in the school. Please pray for opportunities to add value to the school’s students and teachers.
  3. Building bridges between the neighborhood and the health organizations has been good, but there is still a lot that can be done. Please pray that we can hear from God on what we should do next in that area.
  4. The partnership with One Nashville has been super helpful in so many ways. The leader of the organization has been a person of peace for us. Please pray that we can discern next steps in our partnership with them.

Thank you for investing your time and prayers in what God has called us to do. You’re a blessing!

Hammock Moments

Hammock A

Since before we moved to Nashville I have had this thing with hammocks. We talked in another blog about a prayer retreat we went on that led us to move to Nashville. Well during my quiet time on that retreat I had an experience on an old hammock and the Lord used that to speak to me about our upcoming time here.

We were at our friend’s cabin and they had an old rope hammock hanging on the front porch. I decided to try it out and as I slowly put my weight into it… it kept sinking lower and lower and lower. Finally, I laid back and it held me up… but barely! My behind was just a few inches off the ground. I laid there sort of chuckling at the situation and was reminded how I would lay in the hammock back home (which was much more comfortable) and tell God that I trust Him. That is what my hammock moments had come to symbolize over the previous months…my trust in Him. 

As I remembered this symbol, I felt God start to speak to me. He said it (this new direction He’s taking us) is not going to be so comfy like the hammock back home. It’s going to be stretching. Even when it seems that He is barely holding me up… He will hold me. I must completely trust Him despite how it appears. I will be able to rest in Him and have peace because I know He’s got it. Then I settled in for a few more minutes and even dozed off. I was somehow at rest in the discomfort.

It’s hard not to tear up as I remember and type this because that hammock experience so well represents our experience here in Nashville and leading up to us moving here. We’ve had to exercise trust in God more than we ever have in our lives. It has been stretching at times and at times can easily seem like the Lord isn’t going to hold us up. Despite this, we are all in. Laid out on the hammock in complete trust. It’s almost weird the level of peace that I’ve been able to enjoy as we continually try to rest. Resting in our God. In who He is. In who we are in Him. In His promises to us. In His provision. In His love. In His faithfulness.

I’m writing this now because over the summer months the Holy Spirit has led me back into taking times in the hammock. In fact, recently, almost every week I feel the pull to go lay in the hammock even if I only have a few minutes. I use that time to tell God how I trust Him. Taking a moment to rest in Him. That no matter how our circumstances may feel or appear that week… He’s got it. He’s got us. He knows what He’s doing. I can rest securely in my God, knowing that He’s at work and will do what He said He’d do. There is no place I’d rather be. In complete peace.

Proverbs 3:5-6 is a verse that the Lord has given me to I read aloud daily, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

 Whether you have a hammock or not, I hope you will take a hammock moment soon… May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

Tiffany

 

Mission Weekend Part 2

As we mentioned in the previous post, we had the chance to have a mission weekend with some friends in late June! You heard from Dustin in the Part 1 post, but we also wanted you to hear from our two friends from out of town, Jason and Jon. Here are their interviews with Tim about their visit to Nashville.

 

Mission Weekend with OneLife Part 1

We had the amazing opportunity to do a mission weekend at the end of June. We had two of our friends from out of state, as well as our local friend Dustin who has been hanging out with OneLife for several months, hang out with us for a weekend of prayer outreach and prayer walking. Here is a video of Dustin talking about his experience from that weekend.

 

15 Years!

Tim and I recently celebrated our 15 Year Anniversary! People are often surprised when we tell them we’ve been married that long. I think that is mostly because they think we look too young but some say it’s because many couples don’t stay married long anymore. Personally, I think that 15 years doesn’t seem very long. I guess it’s long enough to have learned a decent amount about marriage but I’ve been blessed to know many couples who’ve been together much longer. So, I know there’s still so much room to grow in our relationship.

We got married when I was a few days shy of 22 and he was 27. Somehow, I think we both pretty much knew the type of person we wanted to be with by this time. We had known each other a few years and even worked together before we were both “available” and started being attracted toward one another.

I remember the first conversation in which we were sort of checking  each other out to see if there was any potential attraction between us. In 2002 we were at a summer camp where we took a group of youth from the Inner City Church in Montgomery. He was working full-time there and I interned (under him). One night, it was time for the kids to go to sleep and Tim asked me if I wanted to hangout on the front porch of the mess hall since we had more than one adult per cabin. In that conversation we talked about what we wanted to do with our lives, our goals and dreams, how we viewed marriage. I remember being impressed with how much our desires aligned with each other.

There were two big connecting points that I recall. We both viewed marriage as a team. Growing up my family always worked in everything as a team so I honestly expected nothing less. There are so many benefits to approaching marriage and family as a team and that could be a blog post by itself. The other main thing was that we both wanted to spend our lives devoted to the mission of God…whatever that looked like. I feel that we both have remained open to what God’s mission and ministry for us looks like.  I love that because He continues to lead us into new territory. After that conversation…the rest, as they say, is history. We continued to spend more time together. Tim proposed on New Years Day in 2003 and we got married on May 17, 2003!

The most obviously unique thing about our marriage is that we don’t have kids. We equally have chosen and really have felt called not to have children. Instead, our ministry has generally taken that place. Over the years, our mission at the given time has been what our conversations revolve around and where our extra time, money, and love go towards. I have so much respect for parents and I love kids but the potential of having many spiritual children as we grow old really excites me. Like many couples we are mostly opposite. We’ve spent a lot of time learning to understand the nuances of our differences and discovering through trial and error how those differences can work in our favor. That could be another post on its own too! It definitely takes effort and intentionality to work through those things but we are absolutely stronger together thanks to our differences.

There’s so much I could write about in 15 years… dark and difficult seasons, fun and exciting adventures, things we’ve learned the hard way and things we’ve done very well… but I try to keep these posts short. I am grateful that I can say that through it all our love and respect for each other has kept growing. We adore each other more now than we ever have. We work together so, so much better than we did in our first ministry job as a couple in campus ministry. As each of our relationships with God have deepened so has our intimacy with each other. Though we haven’t always been on the same page in our vision, over years God worked in each of us to align us in His vision for our lives. I’m thankful for the good and bad of these 15 years we’ve had together. I couldn’t be more excited about the next 15 years as we walk together in God’s path for our life!

Here’s a photo from our honeymoon in Nashville! Ha! It was taken at the Parthenon in the park across the street from where we now live. 😊 Funny how God works sometimes!

Honeymoon in Nashville

Serving the Community

Servanthood. This is one of themes that we felt the Lord emphasize at the same time He was directing us to move to Nashville. So, when we moved here, we knew that we were to be about serving this community. There are many ways to do that here so it was quite paralyzing at first. We’ve been able to take advantage of a wide variety of opportunities to volunteer and serve since moving here but God has slowly focused our efforts towards certain communities within Nashville.

Trying to serve comes with a temptation: it’s easy for us to assume that we know what a community needs or even individuals for that matter. We often walk in to a place thinking we know what’s going on. Sometimes we come with a plan of what WE WANT to do to help, not even knowing what the real issues are. Much less knowing where they’ve been, where they want to go in life, or what God is trying to do. I know we’ve certainly been guilty of this approach in the past, and that is why we’ve tried our best to go about things here in a different way.

In an attempt to serve well, we have purposefully taken a lot time to observe the people and places in our context, and reflect on what we see and hear. We’ve done this by interacting with key leaders and stakeholders, asking a lot of questions, and doing a lot of listening. We’ve heard a lot of stories and history, and have been invited to join in what others are already doing in that context to make a difference.

Some in our missional context have been surprised when we ask, “How can we serve you? What do you need?” Come to find out, they have become accustomed to groups coming in with their own answers and agenda. Below we’ll highlight some of the ways we’ve been able to serve over the past month.

flyer passoutAs we’ve interacted with General Hospital on a couple of projects, we started to learn about free services they provide for those without health insurance. So, we asked them what we could do to create awareness in the neighborhood across the street about those services. They gave us some flyers and we went door to door in the Osage neighborhood to let people know about free cancer screenings. This ended up being a great opportunity to meet people! We knew we were on the right track when one lady said, “Thank you for doing this. This is a service this community needs.”

hospital comfort boxThe volunteer coordinator at the hospital also told also us that they needed items to help build something they call “comfort boxes.” They’re given to give patients who end up staying in the hospital a while to help them manage their pain. Some of the items they needed were puzzles, adult coloring books, and color pencils. We told her “That is definitely something we can get!” We went out and purchased those items, and then brought them back to her office. Her face lit up with a smile. She wanted to know if she could call on us when the supplies ran out. We said “Absolutely!”

TIffany ServingWe had an opportunity to serve food at a local food distribution event. After the event was over, they allowed us to go out to the tractor trailer that brought the resources and we looked through some of the items that remained to see if we could find anything useful to donate to the Robert Churchwell Elementary School. To our surprise, we found several cases of Graham Crackers, several cases of Skin Moisturizer, and a case of 3 Ring Binders from Office Depot. The school was super excited to receive those resources.

teacher snacks

We are always asking the community coordinator at Robert Churchwell Elementary what we can do to help, and last week they needed us to volunteer as proctors for the state wide TCAP testing. They also told us the teachers don’t receive much appreciation 😦 So as a way to bless the teachers who are doing the testing, we took breakfast and snacks each morning when we went to help 🙂

If you would like to help us cover the costs of these purchases, you can make a tax deductible donation here or send a check to PO Box 330576, Nashville, TN 37203.

As we move through this journey of incarnational mission, we are learning to genuinely serve the community we are being sent to. What would happen if we just asked people “How can I serve you?”

OneLife Website

We’re excited to announce that the One Life website is now live! In addition to our online presence through social media, the website will give people an opportunity to check us out and see what we’re up to.  Stop by and take a look!

WEbsite pic 2

40 Days of Fasting and Prayer

As this new year began, the thought of fasting started to occasionally cross my (Tiffany) mind. Then one Sunday morning I woke up and got the sense that Tim and I should go to a certain church service in town. We were free at that time, so we went. The pastor got up to speak and it was all about… fasting and prayer. As we walked away I knew the Spirit was leading me in that direction, so I started asking God to show me what kind of fast I should do. I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t fall back to sleep right away, so I asked God what He was thinking about the fasting. As I asked questions, He gave me details about what I should eat… or not eat. Basically, no chewing, primarily fresh vegetable juices, hot teas, with some supplement like coconut oil.

I also got the sense that it’d be best to start as soon as possible and that it should last 40 days. Within the previous couple of days, I had read the account in Luke about Jesus fasting for 40 days in the wilderness and found most intriguing and inspiring that He returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit! After 40 days of fasting and temptation!

As I continued to process and pray about this the next day, my flesh said “What?! There is no way you can do that! You get “hangry” if you’re an hour late to eat lunch.” And that is so true! Tim can confirm it! Sure, I’ve done 2 or 3 day fasts before, but in a normal day I’ve never been able go a few hours without food and not get light-headed, weak, and cranky. The Spirit-led side of me said “Yes! Great idea! It would be a great time to pray for clarity and breakthrough in our mission with OneLife. Not to mention for breakthrough and growth for me personally and for those I love.”

I shared with Tim what I felt that the Holy Spirit was leading me toward. After praying about it himself, He thankfully thought it was a great idea to join in. We proceeded later that week to begin our first 40 day fast.

I, of course, knew this type of fast would not be a cake-walk but that, especially since God led us to do it, He would help us through. And the reward of seeking Him over food would in the end outweigh the difficulty. That was absolutely true! I’m pleased to announce that we made it through! Yesterday was the last day of our fast and today we are thoroughly enjoying actual food… though in small portions. There were definitely some very hard days, which played out differently for Tim and I – weird cravings, plenty of stomach growling, and yes more tiredness than normal – but overall it was more wonderful than I could’ve ever imagined. No doubt worth it!

Cleansing and Clarity

Throughout the 40 days, God sustained us and gave us energy to continue working on projects and in our mission. Also, we are walking away with more clarity and renewed faith in what God is calling us to here in Nashville! I had a fairly extensive list that I wanted to pray through each day. Even after a week or so I noticed that God was speaking to me, clarifying, guiding me…bit by bit… in various prayer points on the list. As my body was cleansed in fasting from food, I also felt He cleaned out some fears and insecurities within me. Opening my heart and spirit to more freely walk the path He is leading us on. It never ceases to amaze me how gently the Lord can do these types of things in us. His love and kindness are so abundant in these times as we open ourselves to Him!

Midway through the fast, Tim and I felt it would be a good time to retreat for a more focused time of prayer. During the retreat we revisited words God has already spoken over us and came up with a list of specific questions we wanted to ask Him for direction on. We each spent time apart, talking to the Lord about these things and then came back together to compare notes. There were too many questions to go through here, but we each received many similar answers from God. Not earth-shattering revelation, but mostly confirmation that we are doing what we are supposed to be… and that we should keep doing it prayerfully. This may not seem like a big deal but, as we are trying to follow the Spirit and chart new territory, this kind of clarity is quite encouraging. It has created more confidence and excitement as we walk out our weekly rhythms!

These last 40 days have proved to me once again how rewarding it is to go the Lord’s way. I surely would have never come up with this idea on my own! In fact, I previously thought I would be physically incapable of doing a 40-day liquid only fast. If I’d have limited myself to my way, I would’ve so missed out on opportunity for breakthrough and clarity… not to mention beautiful time with God. I’m so thankful for how the Spirit so wisely guides us, for Jesus and His example, and the Father and His loving and gentle way. They are absolutely the best and no doubt know the best for us.

~ Tiffany

Secret Santa!

As we continue to build relationships in our first missional context, God keeps opening up doors for opportunities to serve. The most recent opportunity was the 4th Annual Secret Santa Event at the Nashville General Hospital (NGH), which is literally right down the street from Robert Churchwell Elementary (RCE), the school we tutor at. Here’s how it went down…

We asked one of our new friends, Pastor Enoch Fuzz, founder of One Nashville Community Awareness (ONCA) if he knew of a way to provide Christmas presents to some of the kids at the school. He said “Yes!” We didn’t know it at the time, but Enoch happens to serve on the board at the Hospital, and each year they provide close to 40 kids from the community with a Christmas party, filled with pizza, presents and fun. Enoch asked if I wanted to help register kids for that event. I said “Yes!” So he introduced me to the Hospital staff in charge of the event, and we took responsibility for coordinating the registration of about 20 students from the school to participate. Here are some pictures from the event.

It was a great experience to serve as a bridge between the school, hospital, and local community. This is a great example of how local organizations can come together to make a positive impact on the community. Thank you Pastor Enoch Fuzz, ONCA, RCE, and NGH for being such amazing assets in the community!