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 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…
I walked out the door of the church tonight and immediately was hit with the sound of crickets chirping, the pale light of the moon peeking behind the clouds and the smell of grass.
I walked the few feet between the church and my house soaking in the whole scene. Looking up and seeing a few stars not hidden by the scattered clouds and just listening. I noticed by the time I made it to my back door my heart had calmed and my steps were lighter. I knew immediately what that was… that was God. That was allowing my mind to stop even if for a minute so that I could take in God’s perfect creation.
I miss so much of that, because I am always thinking about the next thing, or checking my phone or sending a text, email, snapchat or whatever. My mind rarely stops and I am working on allowing it too. I am working on being present. Not just physically but mentally, emotionally and spiritually!
As I am processing through things and continuing to be a pastor to people, I am hit with how important it is to stay humbled before the Lord. Lately, I have found my need for him to be so overwhelming at times I know of nothing else I can do but to fall face down before him and pour out my heart to him. I am finding that the more honest I am with him of my need, the more need of boundaries in other areas of my life he points out to me.
I have not ever been very good with boundaries or authority in my life. But I am learning, ever so slowing I am afraid, of how valuable these things are… and life giving. Boundaries allow me to rest, laugh, play and be… Boundaries help me regroup after hurtful words both intended or unintended. Boundaries help me regain perspective and wisdom. Authority in my life keeps me accountable, and points out my blind spots and helps me be a better version of myself. My submitting to HIS ultimate Authority gives me peace when I question all the stuff!
You see the new thing its coming and it might be surprising in how it reveals itself. But the new thing is so good and even holy. Yes holy! God ordained for his purpose.
Teach me your ways, O Lord, that I may live according to your truth! Grant me purity of heart, so that I may honor you. 12 With all my heart I will praise you, O Lord my God. I will give glory to your name forever, 13 for your love for me is very great. You have rescued me from the depths of death. Psalm 86:11-12
This book, these words, have undone me. Three books that I have completed this year have been a combination of conviction, grace and celebration. (Present over Perfect, Breaking Busy, and Ordering Your Private World) I am undone by what God is teaching me in this season. I am at a place where I am vulnerable before the Lord, seeking him with a new passion and letting go of somethings I have been holding on to so tightly.
I am learning to look for the tangible expressions of grace that are on display all around me each day. I am learning to breathe deeply. I am learning to create the margin that God has been asking me to create for so long. The new thing, like I said before, is both big and small. It is a thousands of choices some yes, some no. It is about rediscovering who I am in Christ and who he created me to be.
Maybe all of this is in part because my role is changing. The role that I longed for, to be a mom, is changing. Three of the four have left home for college. I am learning how to cook for half the people, and laundry that can be done in 3 loads. (Yes 3 loads! This is cause for celebration!) I am redefining my role in their life, while still mom, I don’t have control of their schedules or their choices. I pray more, I wrestle with what has been done and what was left undone. And I mourn the time I wished away, while celebrating the memories we have and those yet to be made.
My role is changing at the church I pastor… yes still lead pastor… but the church is growing and expanding quickly. And how I lead is different than when I came. I have to make tough decisions and lead people authentically and with integrity. The decisions I make daily effect eternity. And that might sound dramatic but yet the weight of that is real. The next few months are going to be pivotal for our church and how I lead is important. If I have ever needed Jesus… it is now.
So with all the changes and pieces of me waiting to be put back together I find a lot of peace in the quiet of my home, my favorite candle burning and the hum of life around me. I don’t need to rush to do something or be someone I just need to be. I need to find the gentle rhythms of grace all around me. I will practice what I preach… I will not sacrifice my family on the altar of ministry or busy one more minute. I will rest, find a new normal and I will find that God is there and working.
This season of change is going to require a little more of Gina dying to herself and coming more alive in Christ. Its going to require a sorting of what is important in this season and what can be let go of. This season will also require sacrifice. Again, so much I can’t share about this new thing but it will require sacrifice. And there are moments when I wonder if I am strong enough for it, if I will really be able to do it. And then I am reminded that His strength is perfect…
My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:9 MSG
I am a wife, a mom, daughter, sister, friend, pastor and most importantly daughter of the King. He knows my heart, the good, the bad and the ugly. He sees me…just as I am. He knows who I want to be and he points me to a better version of myself. He gives grace, he forgives, he offers to hold me when it all seems to big and he goes before me. You see this I know, that as the new becomes a reality he is already there.
One of the things that Shauna Niequiest ask in the book is “if given a blank calendar, and full bank account what would you do?” I ask the question of myself before I even read her response… and it was almost the same. I would just be. (she says stop) and I get it. Yes! If my calendar was empty and my bank account full I would just stop. I would just be. I would not keeping running to try to achieve whatever… I would sleep. I mean sleep and rest and read. Read books that I love. I would have a porch swing and watch the birds, and soak up the sunsets (and sometimes the sunrise). I would rediscover all the things I have forgotten that I love and that breathe life into me.
In 3 years there has been so many things to process and go through. There have been many, many God moments and answered prayers but there has also been hurts, stresses and things that were so big and crushing at times I was sure we would not make it through… and yet here 3 years later we did survive. But not without cost… So now I am working on letting God sort through those places I have buried, Those places that I have not properly dealt with, Those lessons that I didn’t fully learn. Its time…
So what is this new thing… this is part of it… Margin…finally! I have spent most of the last 6 evenings at home, unscheduled. Not running, not filling every second with something. I realize that something might suffer… I get that. But I don’t think it will be the important things. Because I think what is happening I am focusing more on what is important. Becoming crystal clear in my purpose and mission. I am seeing God in a new way.
This process is painful. Its peeling away and allowing what is good and holy to be front and center. It enjoying every minute with my last child at home. It is realizing that I can’t wish time to slow down so I am enjoying the ride. But even though it is a little painful, its absolutely freeing! At almost 40 years old I realize I don’t care about somethings like I used too. And at this phase of life, I want to love God more and be all that he has called me to be and it doesn’t matter if I ever achieve the status that I once thought I had to have.
There are so many more things that I am learning, and slowing I will share those ( for those few readers- HI Mom! Hi my sisters). And perhaps for the first time in a long time I will experience all that God has intended for me. Its trusting him a little more and resting in him… I will walk boldly into this new thing ,step by step…
I have talked about it…
I have wrestled with it…
I have prayed about it…
I have denied it…
I have thought about it…
I have avoided it…
I have loathed others who had it…
I have sought after it halfheartedly…
But today I am committed to it…
I want to share but not yet. And I know that is vague, and leaves you wondering then why even write about it at all if you aren’t going to share. Because I need to write. Writing is part of it. Being open and honest in this space is a glimpse of the new thing.
For far too long I have wanted this and have avoided the hard work it takes to achieve it but now (knocking on 40 and empty nest) I must get it. But to get it I must let go of every expectations and to do list and be silent. (Silence is not easy for this “life of the party”, extrovert, I need people person) But silence is what it is going to take.
Psalm 46:10 “He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
Do you know what Be still means? Let go. I am letting go of some things. I have to in order to make room for this new thing.
I am learning to let go and peel away my hands that so desperately want to control and there I find trust, or lack there of.
So today the only thing I am holding on to is Jesus. I have thrown everything else up in the air and ask Jesus to guide me, prepare me for this next chapter of my journey with Him. I am excited, I am terrified, I am vulnerable, I am waiting and I am for the first time in a long time confident of this step. No more just talking about it… the time is now.
So for the sake of my family, my walk with Christ, my sanity and the calling he has placed on my life… I submit to this new thing. And at the end of this process I believe I will be a better wife, mom, pastor but more importantly Daughter of the King.