Recently I had the opportunity to do something I have never done, and that was visit the Bahamas. First of all, let me start by saying that the ocean in the Bahamas does not even come close to comparing to the Ocean in my normal spots ( Florida and New Jersey). It was breathtaking. However, I didn’t expect some of the things I encountered. Some seem silly now that I look back and think about them.
I found that as Jason and I started to walk out into the ocean, we encountered the coral reef, which is not comfortable to walk on. I kept thinking, “wow I wish I had some kind of shoe on so this wouldn’t hurt so bad.” And as we walked Jason kept leading me deeper and deeper into the water. Before too long, I was standing on my tip toes just to keep my head above water. My heart begins to pound, and fear begins to take over. I said to Jason, “Hey maybe we should go back to the beach.” He assured me we were fine, and I quote “Gina, Just relax!”
Let me pause right there, relax seems like a far-fetched idea that I like to think about and say that one day I will do but in practice, relax isn’t something I do well. Just ask the Chiropractor and the people who have tried to give me a massage. Where they tell me over and over “relax”.
So here we are in the most beautiful place I have been in my life, the water is clear I can see the fish swimming around me. I am with my favorite person and I am filled with fear! Then Jason has a brilliant idea. He thinks we should just lay on our backs and float. So… he attempts to help me with this. This becomes a comical scene in which I am sure everyone around us thinks I am crazy. (which we know already!) Jason finally lets go, and there I am floating in the Ocean looking up at the beautiful blue sky with traces of white clouds. It was then I heard His Voice (at first it sounded a lot like Jason- when he said “Gina’s that is what God wants to do for you!) As my heart begin to settle, God in his love for me- spoke.
In His still small voice, spoke my name. He began to break down some things that I had been struggling with and he ask me again- “Gina do you trust me? Do you trust me with your future? Your children? Your ministry? Do you really trust me to lead you and hold you when you feel like you will sink?”
The song Oceans came to my mind…
You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand
And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise, my soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine
Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now
So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise, my soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine
Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
Before too long the laughter turned to tears as my tears rolled into the deep ocean. I floated for a few more minutes. And we began to make our way back to the beach. I wish I could tell you that I was relaxed and filled with a renew trust. Instead I knew that this was the beginning of some work I needed to do. Or maybe perhaps a better way to say it would be work that God needed to do in me.
In Philippians 1:6 it says this promise to us… being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. God is faithful to complete his work in us.
And as we were walking back to the beach, we encountered that reef again. God reminded me- Gina you can swim. You don’t have to walk over this painful part- you can swim. It was such a profound moment for me. I started to swim. Something I hadn’t done in years. Something that I hadn’t found the time for, or thought I was good at. And instead of walking over the pain, I swam through it. Its funny the things we walk through that if we would just relax we could swim over.
This time in the Ocean- is still working in me. I believe God was preparing me for what was to come. Since I have come home, two people I loved have passed away. I have had to deal with family situations that were hard and continue to need wisdom, grace and courage. Professionally and in my ministry, there are things that have come up that I wasn’t prepared for and have sent me to my knees desperately seeking the One who calls me my name in the middle of the Ocean and sees me in the turmoil of my realities.
I came across a scripture again that I have read many times found in 1 Thessalonians 5. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not treat prophecies with contempt 21 but test them all; hold on to what is good, 22 reject every kind of evil. 23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.
Some great truths to remember there. But then verse 24- the One who calls you (me) is faithful- and HE WILL DO IT!
He has called me- and he made no mistake by calling me by name. And he is faithful. He will do it. I must rejoice always, pray, give thanks accept his will for me. I am who he says I am not who any one in this world says I am… and as he has confirmed so many times in my life. I am his masterpiece. (Ephesians 2:10)
And so are you!
I have more questions than answers tonight. I find myself typing this out with tears streaming down my face, and my chest feels so tight I think I might choke. I don’t understand and trust me, I get I don’t have to understand. I found myself today saying something I have said to a 100 people… our circumstances don’t take God by surprise! but man do they take us by surprise? I found myself angry, confused, tired, and ready to give up. And while all those emotions are still circling around my heart and mind I have to see them as they are… as emotions- feelings.
And I am wresting with what God is doing in this season. Pastors wrestle too. Pastors have bad days and bad weeks. We get overwhelmed and tired. Don’t worry I have heard from the Pastors who say they don’t or if you do then somehow you don’t love your job or aren’t called… or whatever else. But the reality is… I am fully human, I just happened to be a pastor. No superpowers here. Just a 40 year old wife, mom and pastor who every day is trying to figure this thing out called life. Every day wondering and praying I made the right decisions and discerned the right way the voice of Jesus.
And I am sick to death of the voices in my head, and the social media interactions, and the lack of return calls and messages being okay. Because they aren’t. I am sick of bantering be kind, stop the division, have healthy relationships, surrender all to God, because it is all his anyway, when none of it seems to matter…
Tomorrow will be better- I will be able to go through all my emotions, and questions and hopefully surrender and silence all the voices and chatter that doesn’t belong to God…until then I’ll soak up the birds chirping, the sunset and my favorite people in the world.
I found a piece of art recently and hung it in on my wall- it simply said “she designed the life she loved.” Everyday I look at it and it reminds me I have choices to make. Choices to make that will help me live a life I love. There are so many things I love! But the reminder each day staring at me helps me make choices that help create spaces and places for those things I love.
Over the past few months I have been processing through quite a bit. My reading list has included, Present Over Perfect, Breaking Busy, Uninvited, Surrender, High Impact Leader, Strengthening the Soul of your Leadership… just to name a few. They all have similar themes and through it I have found myself working on some things. Praying over even more and being pretty vulnerable before the Lord.
A couple of post ago I talked about doing something new, it was coming but I never fully said what it was. And the reality is the new thing is a work in progress, and it is slow and it takes some blood, sweat and tears. It is adding in something while subtracting some others. It is asking the right questions at the right time and being okay with whatever the answers are.
You see designing the life I love is a whole lot of being okay with things when they don’t go as planned. Finding the high road when life comes at you in waves of things that are hard, heartbreaking and amazing all at once. Designing a life you love is realizing that I control very little and trusting in the One who does it control it all.
In the process of all of that and turning 40 this year I am ready to conquer somethings on my list that have been there for way to long. I am giving up on some of the list and throwing them out. But the things that remain I am embracing in a new way, a new passion.
I am seeking the Lord with a new desire to be who he has called me to be- not anyone else. Because anyone else I try to be will not be all that God has called me too.
In the meantime, I struggle with the tension of where I am and where I am going. I wrestle with the tension of is and what will be. I embrace the tension that grows my faith and makes me a better version of myself.
She designed a life she loved…
What happened to us? Most days I feel like I live a in parallel universe. There is no respect for anyone or anything. Name calling and mud slinging are the normal behavior. We post it on our social media, we scream it on the corners and we march down the streets. We don’t listen to anyone who thinks differently than us because they are stupid. We live in fear of what if’s and what’s next. We live in fear of being honest with our thoughts or feelings in fear of being labeled something we are not.
Division is all around us, and it’s not new. I get that. What I don’t get is us, the church. We seem to be just as scared as those who don’t claim to be the church. We throw insults and naming call like it’s our right to do. I am white so that must make me white privileged. Which means I must be racist, a bigot, a homophobe and against all immigration just to name a few…in case you are wondering, I don’t like being labeled or called names.
If I think we should respect each other regardless of where we find ourselves in this mess we call a political arena then I simply don’t understand what is going on around me. I see one group of Christians post negative comments and disrespect toward the president elect and incoming administration.
I see another group post against current President and administration. There are too many direct quotes to put them all here…
I know, freedom of speech… I get it! I am thankful for it. It’s why I can write and post a blog. It’s why I can stand on a stage each week and speak freely. But where does that freedom become dangerous? When words hurt and destroy and create division. Is that what Jesus stood for? I thought he came to reconcile…
Then I hear the fears of a mom who adopted children from Mexico. Her adult children, who served in the military, being harassed by people on the street saying they were going to be sent back to where they belong. This is not okay! This is wrong! Please stop!
I have dinner with a family who immigrated here many years ago and hear their stories of sacrifice to give up everything to come to America.
I am not excusing bad behavior but both political parties are full of bad behavior, name calling and disrespect. Can we please not model this in the church? My hope has never been in the President of the United States. Some presidential elections the candidate of my choice wins while other times they don’t. I have not taken to the streets to protest. I have not called my neighbors names because they didn’t agree with me, and I for sure did not offer up disrespect for those who hold the office. I might not agree but it doesn’t give me the right to lay down what it means to be Christlike. I ask myself often, do I want to be right… or do I want a relationship with that person? And frankly I want the relationship. I want people to see Jesus, and he modeled respect, love, forgiveness. He said to pray for those in authority over us. Pray! It is really hard to pray for someone you are bad mouthing on the side, and it’s really hard to continue to bad mouth someone you are spending time in prayer for.
Hillary Clinton was not the hope of this world! Donald Trump is not the hope of this World! Jesus Christ is! And the church I serve has let me down and left me disillusioned in what our calling is. Then I remind myself I serve the God of the universe, he is the One who saved me, transformed me and called me by name. I rest in that!
My prayer tonight is that healing will begin. That we will fervently pray for neighbors, for our new President and his family. That we will pray that those things that have been broken by this election season will be healed. That all people will see Jesus flowing from those of us who call ourselves Christ Followers. That the Church will be the church, feeding the hungry, caring for the widows and the orphans, sharing the gospel of Jesus.
I have said it often that time goes very quickly. Sometimes when I turn another month in my calendar and see the year splashed at the top I can’t believe it. 2016. Jason and I have been married for 21 years and have found ourselves in some form of ministry or another for 19 of those. Some of those years have been served through local churches and some of it through non profits.
The reality is ministry is hard. When we started this road we neither one knew where it would lead. Jason was confident that his role in the local church was to support it – have a corporate America job and support the local church with giving and volunteering. I thought my job was a wife and mom. I believed in the local church, no matter how broken and messy it seemed to be at times. I would always be involved and be willing to walk wherever I was asked.
I didn’t ever see women lead anything but Children’s/Youth/Women/Worship. I didn’t see women pastors taking up the leadership role in our churches. So in my mind I was a woman and I could support, be a side kick, but never give leadership and vision. And really for the most part that was okay with me. I was doing what God had called me to: a wife and mom… children’s pastor, non-profit founder and PTA vice president. It was all good. Until it wasn’t…
When God calls us to something we have no choice but to walk in obedience. I remember the pull of my heart to go back to local church ministries after a few years away from it. It didn’t make sense. Everything was going okay I thought, but this desire for more, to reach more families and more people for Jesus, was growing. The kids were getting bigger, my role as mom was changing, and I was seeking God to discern what was next. That story is long and someday I will write it here but for now I will just say in that process God called me to be a pastor. To step out of my comfort zone into the unknown, to walk in obedience, surrendered to whatever His will was and would be.
Jason’s journey to ministry is different than mine, and I think he will be a guest writer on here very soon, so he can share it. Because it’s important to know why we are here in Allentown, PA. The details are nothing short of God designed moments, ordained long before Jason and I even knew.
That brings me to today. Last week we launched a new service at Trinity. In two short years, God has been blessing and expanding our church. People are coming to know Jesus. The de-churched and the un-churched are finding a place they can be in community and hear God’s Word and ask questions about this man, Jesus. God is at work. And when God is moving, we also see the attacks of Satan.
John 10:10 tells us “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
And that is our mission: to lead one percent of the Lehigh Valley to a full life in Christ. And we know that on the way we encounter the attempts of the thief to steal, kill and destroy… but we must stand united in our mission to keep pressing forward so that God’s kingdom is expanded and He receives all glory and honor! We have the hope and holiness this world so desperately needs! The hope and holiness we so desperately need! It is not us against them! It is us fighting for them.
Is growth and change hard? Absolutely! Is community messy? You bet! But church, if we can vow to stay together and value and love people, we can be a change agent in the Lehigh Valley. It will be uncomfortable. It will push us outside of ourselves and our own four walls. But on the other side of uncomfortable is eternal impact!
There are times as the pastor, as your pastor, I can sense your questions and fears. And I bring those to the Lord. I know that it will take us being bold and courageous to walk the obedience that God has called us to. I also know that God never intended the church to be a holy huddle of believers. The church, you and me, were called to reach those who are spiritually unresolved and bring them to Jesus. No one is exempt from that calling. Every week you and I should be sharing our faith with someone who doesn’t know Jesus. That means people who probably don’t think like you, look like you or act like you. It will mean building relationships and inviting people into your life so that you can show them truly and authentically who Jesus is.
But that’s just it… faith is taking risk. Faith is more than just saying a prayer and reading your Bible. Faith is believing in things you can’t see. It is walking outside of what you are comfortable with and doing things that God has called you to! Faith will be risky, and messy…
It means we will change our methods of reaching people, but we will NEVER change the message! Jesus Christ died on a cross, rose from the grave to reconcile us back to His Father. Our message is clear! Our methods are changing but God is moving. You are part of a movement of God, and He has called you for this time and place.
Look around this coming Sunday – whichever service you are in – and talk to someone you haven’t met yet. Invite them to coffee, or your life group, or to dinner. Walk through the doors expecting what God is going to do and worship Him with a heart of gratitude. Be grateful that you get a front row seat to life transformation!
Do not sit on the sidelines anymore. Join the team! Be part of it. Serve in Kidventure. Volunteer with Pulse. Be a greeter, or usher, or work in the cafe. Sign up for a Life Group at our Get Connected event this week or next. Invite your neighbor, your co worker, or that mom in the grocery store to join you.
Trinity, thank you for taking a risk on the Colburns two years ago. Thank you for allowing the leadership to dream big, God-sized dreams to reach the Lehigh Valley. Thank you for being open and willing to allow God to move us out of our comfort zone into this next chapter. I can’t wait to see what God is going to do in us and through us in the weeks ahead. I can’t wait to hear the many God stories of life transformation. Don’t miss it! We need you! I need you! The Lehigh Valley needs you!
Let’s reach the One Percent of the Lehigh Valley united together for His Kingdom’s sake…