Reflections…

Last week some pictures popped up on my google photo highlights from years past.

From 5 years ago…

From 1 year ago…

When I saw these photos, all I could think about is God’s faithfulness and provision. These two time periods – mid October of 2015 and 2019 – weren’t the easiest and were filled with uncertainty. In both of those years years we were completely committed to walking in God’s path for us no matter how weird it was.  And let me tell you…now from the other side…it was worth it!

5 years ago, we were in temporary housing and ready to move to Nashville. On a specific day God asked us to drive our truck down to Nashville (set up to sleep in.) He was sending us here to reveal where we should live but we didn’t know how long that would take. Turns out it only took a day and he gave us our apartment in west Nashville. It was a gift, just as he said it would be. We loved it there and it turned out to be not only a fun place to live but a great place to pray over and learn about the city! We went with no jobs or connections and with only the money we had saved up in previous years. And throughout the 4 years of living there… we used our savings as long as it lasted and He always provided. Always on time. Always enough. And in the mean time He taught me so many things concerning His provision, His generosity (and mine), and living life in His Kingdom economy.

Then last year we found ourselves in temporary housing again in the very same time of year. With little income we started looking for a new home since we had to vacate our apartment. It was a sad time since we enjoyed the location but because of God’s tremendous track record of providing over those 4 years… we knew He’d come through. And He did! And it seemed impossible! If you read the post from about that time you’ll know it was hard, and it took some time and work, but He made the impossible happen, and more.

In our new home we’ve had people over often, whether it’s T-group meetings (discipleship group), weekly group meals and gatherings, or just spending quality time with the people God has brought into our path. God has been so good to fill our home with people who are walking this journey with us.

Even now I’m sitting in my lovely patio typing this and my mind can hardly wrap around how good God has been. We bought our home last November which was a miracle in and of itself and on top of that God has provided so abundantly. It really blows my mind and has over the last months! We were able to fix up our house and make it our own. And even through all the Covid-19 craziness God has given Tim plenty of work. Work that uses his amazing gifts to build up churches and leaders and still leaves plenty of time to continue to grow OneLife here in Nashville.

So, as tears fill my eyes thinking on all of this, I guess I just want to write this to proclaim that God is faithful! I want to say that walking in His way for you is ALWAYS the best way. Yes, even when it doesn’t make sense or seems impossible. We are children of The King and His resources are unlimited. And it is so very true that if we seek first His kingdom and righteousness all of those other things will be added to us. God has been so good and I know I don’t want to go back to any other way of living! Thanks for listening to my reminiscent ramblings. I hope it at least makes you think on God’s goodness.

Clarity About Vocation

Many of you have been following our journey here in Nashville for the past 3 years. So we wanted to share a significant revelation from God about the nature of his calling in my (Tim) life, and the implications it will have for us moving forward.

God has confirmed time and time again that he has called us to this city. We love Nashville, the people, and are passionate about making disciples and starting new expressions of the church here. Our first assignment from God in that regard has been to start a missional community in the Osage neighborhood of North Nashville. While our progress has been slow, it has been steadily marked by God’s supernatural provision and favor. We know this is where God has anchored us, and we are anticipating a fruitful year in 2019.

While Nashville is the city God sent us to live in, make disciples, and start new expressions of the church, God revealed to us early on that we would be doing mission in multiple contexts. Initially, we weren’t quite sure what that meant. At the very least, we knew it meant the scope of our calling would reach beyond the boundaries of that neighborhood.

The first context God opened up to us beyond the Osage neighborhood was in Huntsville, AL – 120 miles away. My mother lives in Huntsville, so we were already making periodic visits(often monthly) to tend to her needs. Long story short, a church down there that had been experiencing a trended decline invited me to come in and help them work through some of the foundational challenges they were facing. Over the past two years I have been going down there once a month to invest in their leaders, set up leadership structures and discipling processes, and conduct various training’s and workshops focused on discipleship, community, mission, prophetic ministry, and women in leadership, to name a few. God has done absolutely amazing things in that church. Their leaders have been Spirit-led, courageous, and incredibly wise in the ways they have served and led the community there. Transformation is taking place, new life is emerging, and we are so excited to see how God will carry out his plans for this church.

ClarityAt the time I started walking with them, I really didn’t consider Huntsville as one of the “multiple contexts” that we would function in. Yet it seemed like God was opening up more doors in Huntsville than he was opening up in Nashville. In fact, for the past two years I have consistently asked God if he wanted us to move down to Huntsville. However, the more I asked God that question, the more he said, “No, stay in Nashville.” I was so puzzled by this. Why would God open up a door for us to work with such an amazing group of people in Huntsville, but not open up that kind of door for us in Nashville? In fact, when I would get really frustrated with how slow things were going in Nashville I would think to myself, “God should have sent us to Huntsville, not Nashville!”

It wasn’t until the end of 2018 that I started to understand what God has been up to all this time. As I was complaining to God one morning in my prayers, I heard him tell me to start reading 1 and 2 Timothy. For the next few weeks that’s all I read every morning. At first, I wasn’t sure why he had me reading these two books. So I asked him, “Why are you asking me to read these books?” I heard nothing. I asked him the same question over the course of the next several weeks…and still…I heard nothing. Then one morning, as I read these first two verses from 1 Timothy, “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the commandment of God our Savior and the Lord Jesus Christ, our hope, To Timothy, a true son in the faith…”, God revealed to me something really significant about the nature of my vocation. This is how the conversation went:

God: Did I command you to be an apostle like Paul?

Me: No…

God: Then why do you feel like you have to be that for me?

Me: ………….

God: You are a little “a” apostle, like Timothy, and the others. You don’t have to do what Paul did, or be what Paul was. I am releasing you from that burden. You answer to me. Your calling is from me.

This was a big revelation for me because I have always known that I had an apostolic gifting, but I had assumed it was of the Pauline variety – that my primary calling was to start new expressions of the church, from scratch, in multiple contexts.

Did I mention I had made an assumption?

God knows us better than we know ourselves. And to be honest, if God had spoken this to me a year ago I probably would not have been able to receive it. I assumed I was a Pauline apostle because I have always struggled to work at the center of an organization. I am drawn to the wide open spaces of the frontier. Also, there has always been a part of me that has thought the most effective way to participate in the mission of God was to start new churches from scratch. And to top it off, I really enjoy starting things from the ground up. If you leave me alone long enough, I’m going to start something. But God always knows when to reveal things to us, and how to reveal them in a way that we can receive it.

This insight about my apostolic gifting being like Timothy’s has opened up new levels of clarity as to how I most effectively participate in the mission of God. For example, I have really enjoyed the kind of work I have been doing with the church in Huntsville! In fact, God basically told me the nature of that work in Huntsville is very similar to the nature of Timothy’s apostolic work. For example, Timothy not only established new churches (with Paul, Silas and Luke), he was also sent into various fledgling and flourishing churches to examine the existing culture of the church (Corinth, Thessalonica, Philippi), encourage greater faith development (Thessalonica, Philippi, and Ephesus), exemplify what it means to live and lead as a disciple of Jesus (Corinth and Ephesus), establish new leadership structures (Ephesus), educate God’s people about the foundational mystery of the gospel (Thessalonica, Corinth and Ephesus), evangelize (Ephesus), and expose false teaching/teachers (Ephesus). Basically, Timothy’s work was focused on helping churches become both sustainable and scalable. When a church developed those capacities, Timothy would make an exit, leaving the church in that area more healthy and missionally fit than when he arrived.

Implications for Our Work in Nashville

The obvious next question I had for God was, “How does this affect what you have called us to do in Nashville?” This was God’s response, “It doesn’t. You are still called to Nashville. Keep moving forward.” We were excited to hear this! The next thing I asked him was, “Then what needs to change?” He said, “The way you measure your fruitfulness.” You see, as I mentioned before, our journey here in Nashville has been slow…sometimes excruciatingly slow. To be honest, at times, I have been really discouraged about this. In fact, when people have asked me how things are going in Nashville sometimes I often cringe because we do have “fruit” from our work here, but not a lot – numerically speaking.

By way of contrast, when someone asks me how things are going in Huntsville, I have all kinds of great stories to tell. The leaders in the church there are experiencing genuine transformation, they have established scalable leadership structures, and the church overall is developing a focused capacity to walk in the power and guidance of the Spirit. There is a real momentum starting to develop there.

Now that I know the scope of my ministry is larger than Nashville, my metrics for what counts as being fruitful is changing. I’m no longer just going to “count” what’s happening in the local Nashville scene. I’m also going to start “counting” what’s going on trans-locally as well.

I am still working out the practical implications of what it means to function within a Timothy model of apostleship. I’m confident the Father will reveal more about the nature and function my vocation as I continue to walk in it. My request is that you pray for me to fully receive this revelation so I can walk in the fullness of what God has called me to.

Tim

why we live where we live

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This post is meant to catch you up a little. I’m taking you back to October of 2015 to explain the story of why Tim and I live where we live. We had already sold our house and moved out. We felt like we were supposed to be living in Nashville by the end of the month.

“So what area of Nashville are you guys looking to move to?” People asked us questions like this over and over. These are logical questions but I cringed a little every time because my answer was something like… “don’t really know.” Truth is, we hadn’t even started to seriously look yet. Yep, you heard that right. We were already out of our house, supposed to be in Nashville in less than a month, and we hadn’t even started to look for a place to live. Normally we do a lot of research with any decision. We had driven around a lot of areas, prayed, and looked on Zillow a few times to get an idea of what the market was like. That was the extent of our search though. I don’t know how to explain it except to say that we didn’t feel like God had given us permission to look yet.

There was only one thing that we thought God was telling us to do. We were to drive down in mid-October and sleep in our vehicle until He opened up a door. The closer it got to this time, Tim felt like the 14th was a significant date. So, we set up some meetings with various folks in Nashville on the 14th and the next couple of days after that. We decided to take the pick-up truck with a camper shell. We set up the back to sleep in, packed a few clothes and necessities, as well as some food.

Now that you know the back story…here is what went down. We headed down on Tuesday the 13th to go to an evening meeting at the Nashville Entrepreneur Center. We went about our day, Wednesday the 14th, and worked on things at a coffee shop and met with people until the afternoon. That morning I had briefly looked at Zillow.com. This one apartment that had been posted the day before stuck out like a sore thumb to me because it was in the West End/Midtown area but was literally half the price of the usual rent in that area. It came to mind and I mentioned it to Tim so we decided to stop and at least check it out since it was on our way back towards downtown.

The apartment listed was F3, but they didn’t have that one ready to look at. So they let us into a different building to check out D2. As we walked up to the apartment, there was a young lady outside carving a pumpkin. She kindly answered all of our questions and said there had been quite a few people to come by and take a look. “They go fast here,” she said. It’s an older building and certainly not updated in recent times. We’re not picky so that didn’t matter so much to us, but the apartment that they showed to us was downright gross. I wish I would have taken pictures but I was a little shocked. It looked like it hadn’t been cleaned in years. The kitchen and bathroom were the worst. Just an example, most of the ceiling above the tub was covered in black mold! Not appealing to say the least.

We left and weren’t sure what to think. As we drove away Tim asked me what I thought about it.  I said “Hmmm, it’s definitely jacked, but I still don’t feel like writing it off for some reason.” To which he said, “Well, you usually get a pretty strong sense when we’re not supposed to do something and that doesn’t seem to be the case.” I said, “True.” We decided to pull over into a parking lot to discuss, pray together (and separately) and listen in silence. We did this for quite some time because neither of us could seem to shake this place off. “Lord, what do we do?” While I quietly prayed, one of the first things I said to God is, “This place is jacked up!” You know what He asked me, “Does that really matter?” Uhhh…He got me. I already knew this deep down so I just bowed my head and thought, “No. It really doesn’t.”

We asked the Holy Spirit for guidance and one of the first questions Tim felt led for us to ask was, “Do we now have permission to start looking for a place to live?” We both felt a strong Yes. We started to ask if we’re supposed to pursue this apartment. Over the next few minutes, F3 kept popping into my head and every time it did my heart fluttered. Silently I asked the Holy Spirit if we were to pursue apartment F3 (the one that’s listed)? I got a good feeling about it. I asked about D2 (the one we looked at)? “No, not that one.” “Okay, but we should look around some more though right, because we haven’t even checked out any other options?” “No, that’s not necessary.”

Tim and I discussed what we felt like the Holy Spirit told us. He also felt led to pursue F3 but not D2, except he got the sense that we were supposed to pursue F3 without even looking at it first. I thought… “without looking at it!!! After what we just saw?!” Shew, that was a little tough to swallow. The Lord also told Tim “This is my gift to you.” That helped it go down a little easier. It was still scary if I were honest. We continued to pray, seek, listen, and discuss a little longer. We both felt peace and decided that we should call right away and offer to pay 6 months in advance. A minor detail is that we didn’t have any regular income at this time, which would make getting a rental agreement a little difficult.

We spent the next few days filling out paperwork as they sent it. I half expected to be turned down each time we sent something in, especially the income part. We did everything they asked of us and waited. The next Tuesday, Tim told me they had called and asked us when we wanted to move in! They said we just needed to start by paying the deposit and first month’s rent. We didn’t even have to pay 6 months in advance! I couldn’t believe it! It was such super exciting news…minus the one little detail… that we hadn’t actually seen the place yet (as the other apartment lurked in my mind.) I admit that I was afraid and fully anticipated that I would have a lot of cleaning time in my future.

Tim was in Nashville a couple of days later, got the key, and went straight to check it out. He texted pictures to me and I was so thrilled to see that the tub was white…as well as the ceiling above the tub! Shew….thank you God! He really did give us a gift in this apartment. We never would have imagined living in this area because it is out of our price range. I still can’t believe the view out of our window! One of the biggest, most popular parks in town is across the street. So many things are in walking or biking distance, including one of Tim’s all-time favorite places to research, study, and write…The Vanderbilt Divinity Library. This is an all-around great location for us with much potential.

I have no idea how long we will be in this particular spot, but I am still praising God for this gift to us in this time. He’s such a good Father and the Spirit so faithfully led us to it. This experience caused me to trust Him even more than I did before. All I can say is, we could have never picked a better spot if we had tried to on our own. I’m so grateful! This neighborhood has many different types of people including college students and professors, homeless, hospital workers, white collar, young professionals, tourists, and more! We love it! Also, I feel that God gave us this view to keep our mind on the city at large. Many times it has spurred me, as I look out of the window or sit on the front porch, to pray for the city of Nashville. What are you doing here, God? How can we join in? Can’t wait to see!

Tiffany

Pictures from our window…

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Why Nashville?

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Tiffany: Back at the end of March, Tim and I went on a prayer retreat. Certain seasons in our lives were ending and we were sort of at a crossroads – or maybe more like it was clear God was opening the door and leading us into something new. After years with the vision to start a missional movement, was this the time? If so, would it be in Clarksville or somewhere else? Learning from past experiences of launching out on our own initiative, there was one thing we knew for sure: we weren’t about to do anything without first seeking God, asking what He was up to, what He was wanting. We wanted to allow the Holy Spirit to lead us into that. So we got away for a couple of days to just pray.

The Prayer Retreat…

It’s morning, and we decide it best to split up first. We each go to our own quiet spot to be with God with no plan of when to end. We just wanted to be with Him as long as needed. I lost track of time, but it ended up being several hours. During my time with the Father there were some personal things He was pressing into, as well as some time to just be in awe of Him and allow His sweet presence to fill me. I had lots of questions for Him too. What are we to do? Where? With who? What next? I did get the sense that it was going to be something bigger than what I was imagining. But each time I pressed for details, you know what He kept telling me?

“I’m giving those details to Tim and you need to trust him with that.”

Tim: Going off for several hours by myself to pray is not my idea of an exciting time. As an extrovert, I don’t do well with alone time (unless I have a killer book to read). Turns out, this prayer retreat was a pleasant surprise. Not only did I have a really life giving encounter with the Father, He spoke some very specific things to me about what was next for us. First, he said “I want you to go to Nashville.” There were a few times we went to Nashville and I felt God stirring some things in me about the city. However, up until that point, it was still a question mark. I did not want to move unless God was leading us. I had been waiting for a long time to hear him speak into this area of our lives. I then asked him “When do you want us to go?” I felt like he told me “mid-October.”

After several hours of prayer and worship, I walked outside and found Tiffany to see if she was finished with her time. We met back together and discussed what we heard from God. We were both excited, and somewhat shocked. We had been waiting for this kind of revelation from God for a long time, and now he finally spoke to us about what was next. To be honest, it was a bit surreal. One thing was for sure, our hearts were starting to be filled with expectation.

The funny thing about all of this, is that neither one of us knew hardly anything about Nashville. It was only later that we began to learn about what a significant opportunity Nashville is for the kingdom.